Ottolenghi Chocolate Brownies

Brownies are like the ultimate hedonistic treat. Sugary, buttery, full of chocolate, and easy to whip up in less than an hour.

I’ve got a whole spectrum of brownie adoration. From these salted caramel brownies that are soft and truffle-like, to these cakier cocoa ones, to the full on wham-bam-so-much-chocolate ones of yore. With such a whirl of recipes out there, it’s impossible to choose a favourite, but still I keep testing out new recipes, curious if this will be the life-changing ultimate brownie

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These brownies are from Ottolenghi’s first book, and are based on his recipe for white chocolate and macadamia nuts. I didn’t have any macadamias handy, so simply omitted them from the recipe. It’s a chocolate-rich recipe, using up a whopping 300g in total. You also add some instant coffee to further enhance this full-on chocolate flavour.

The batter for these brownies was astonishingly thick, with an oily appearance, and needed some deft spoon manipulation to fit it into the tin. I entertained fears of it splitting on baking into brown slop and oil, but thankfully they didn’t turn out looking like that.

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These are really dense rich bricks of brownies. One slab might send you into a chocolate-induced coma for at least half a day before you pick yourself up to eat another one. They have a surprisingly high quantity of flour. and this probably contributes towards the dense, slightly crumbly texture.

At work, the brownies quickly disappeared mouthful by mouthful until only a smattering of sticky crumbs were left behind. A felt they were a little too cakey in his preference for gooey brownies. I’d say that these Ottolenghi brownies were good, but they weren’t the ultimate. They teetered very close to the too rich/sickly side of some brownie recipes, and didn’t quite live up the hype I expected from them.

I think I might bake a batch of my old favourite brownies again, just to compare the two. A is hankering after the salted caramel version. Or perhaps I should try out another new recipe altogether? Decisions, decisions. Which to choose? 🙂

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Caramel Banana Cake

Mornings are distinctly autumnal now, cold and crisp, with a haze of mist hovering over the seafront. I’m excited about blackberry picking, windfall apples, and cosy nights in.

I spent the weekend luxuriating in precious free time, and baked banana bread.

I’ve noticed my focus in baking has really shifted this year, and I haven’t had much time for complex French patisserie-style recipes, focusing instead on quicker, more familiar cakes and treats. I suppose I’m starting to think that those recipes aren’t worth all the effort and faff. The reward at the end is not necessarily equal to the work. Let’s face it, there are so many stunning patisseries out there, perhaps it’s time to let others do the hard work!

That’s not to say I won’t always have room for a home-baked cake, it’s just more likely to come as two layers rather than six, and one cream filling rather than three!

Anyways, this banana bread has already been baked in several incarnations. I baked one last weekend which was so popular at work I spend all week willing my bananas to ripen more quickly so I could bake another one. My first run was with all dark brown sugar which turned out quite treacly, almost like gingerbread. The second time I changed it to light brown sugar – both are really tasty.

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This version is mostly based on Mary Berry’s banana bread recipe, but I had some leftover caramel buttercream in the freezer so threw that in too, which added a whole extra level of caramel flavour and was scrumptious. Granted, not everybody has a handy spoonful of caramel buttercream lying about so you could probably substitute a spoonful of ordinary caramel without any problems.

Caramel Banana Cake

  • 100g butter/margarine
  • 175g dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp salted caramel buttercream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a loaf tin. Beat the butter, sugar, and salted caramel buttercream together until soft and fluffy, then whisk in the eggs followed by the mashed bananas. Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda, fold into the batter, then fold in the milk. Bake for around 45 minutes until risen and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool, and wrap up overnight. Tastes best the next day (if you can wait that long!).

Fruits of the Forest Cheesecake

Thank goodness the weather decided to perk up a little bit this week. I was starting to get horribly down in the dumps about the rain, but a little time out in the countryside, some sunshine, and of course, loads of sleep, have worked their magic.

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This cheesecake was one of the desserts I made for the housewarming party. I love unbaked cheesecakes for their simplicity, creamy texture and deliciousness. In fact, I love them so much I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to making the baked kind!

Anyway, at the housewarming party itself I never got round to taking a photo of the cheesecake, but it went down very well, and I still had plenty of ingredients leftover, so I of course, made it again.

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It was quite dark by the time I finished making it, so out came my camera to attempt some artificial light photography. I’m pretty pleased with the results!

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It’s just right for a crowd. I’d probably size it down by half if I was baking it again for just two – A and I managed to manfully eat our way through a large slice every day for a week.

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I’m a bit cheesecaked out at the moment, but as the festive season gets closer and closer I will be excited about thinking up some other variations, including peanut butter, baileys or even a spicy ginger version. Yum.

Summer Berries and Cream Cake

Small happy thoughts towards the end to the rather wet summer…

A fresh coat of scarlet paint on my toenails, an upcoming trip to the Royal Opera House, the anticipation of annual leave in just a few weeks time, and with it, opportunities to go and explore the beautiful South Downs.

More in the present (or rather, the past, by the time this post goes up) is the prospect of delicious cake. I have lost count of how many times I have baked variations on a theme of sponge cake this summer. The combination of buttery sponge, cream and fresh fruit has an utterly delicious scent and is just irresistable to a cake-fiend like me.

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On the bank holiday weekend, A and I held our first flatwarming party. I went bake-crazy and made a grand sum of two kinds of macarons, a lemon and raspberry cake filled with lemon curd, raspberry jam and cream cheese, pumpkin pie, mixed berry cheesecake, and two kinds of chocolate tiffin. Then after all that, I had a wobble when the cheesecake base went soggy, made a second cheesecake, a backup sponge cake, and bought a pear tart from the patisserie just in case all the above wasn’t enough.

I think the moral of this story is don’t make quite so much next time!

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My parents ended up being the recipients of this, the backup cake, and very tasty it was too. It’s a very simple victoria sponge, unflavoured, and filled with whipped double cream, raspberry jam, and topped with a profusion of late summer fruit. I overwhipped the cream so it looks aesthetically less pretty, but actually I prefer it that way in terms of taste and texture.

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I was surprised to find out that my parents’ lawn was a lush verdant green, rather than the scorched gold I tend to expect at this time of year. One positive from the excessive amount of rain lately.

Sadly I didn’t actually take any pictures of the bakes at the housewarming itself! I’ll definitely be making the lemon sponge again though, as the pink lemon curd in the centre was just so girlishly pleasing. Summer might be coming to an end, but the cakes are just going to keep coming!