Salted Caramel, White Chocolate, and Cocoa Nib Brownies

Happy Valentine’s Day y’all. Not that I’m planning on doing anything exciting, probably just an evening of curling up with sticky, gooey brownies, bemoaning the end of War and Peace.

I’ve got major War and Peace withdrawal symptoms. My Sunday evenings just won’t be the same without those stunning costumes and James Norton’s brooding silhouette. The only cure for my BBC period drama-itis will probably be the eventual return of Poldark, but in the interim, brownies instead.

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For the past year, A has gotten a huge hopeful grin on his face every time I suggest baking salted caramel brownies again. Unfortunately for him, talk has never turned into actual baking of the aforementioned brownies, until now. Behold, salted caramel heaven!

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These are supposed to be a homemade version of Paul A Young’s famous salted caramel brownies from his veeerrrry expensive chocolate shop. I had the pleasure of finally sampling this illustrious brownie, and boy it was good. Mightily expensive at £5.95 a brownie but I can quite honestly say it was one of the most delectable brownies to have passed my lips.

The homemade version are a bit squidgier than the official version, and I can’t quite replicate the exact chocolate flavour – probably because Paul A Young uses a particularly fancy chocolate. I used a combination of Waitrose continential, and my stash of Valrhona.  The recipe is pretty much lifted directly from Poires au Chocolat, this time I sprinkled on some white chocolate chunks before baking.

They are really rich brownies, so a small square goes a long way. They have a smooth, dense texture that with each mouthful slowly melts in the mouth, releasing an intense shot of chocolate and caramel flavour.

It’s maddeningly tricky photographing brownies (and in fact, most chocolate/brown baked goods) so they appear photogenic, but I think I just about managed to refrain from making them look like somebody scooped them up from the soil outside. I think my next bake will definitely have to be something iced and pretty! Got to get round to using my stash of flowery cupcake cases after all.

I don’t tend to bake especially for Valentine’s Day, but if you are feeling particularly romantically inclined, I’ve stuck a couple of luuurvely (haha) links underneath to dive into:

Felicity Cloake makes the perfect chocolate pots for two.

Date and rum cookies, just perfect for wooing and twoing.

If you want to get out and about, biscuit icing classes for two with the Biscuiteers.

Or if you’ve been on a January diet, and are still somehow managing to avoid all things biscuity and carb-filled, how about buying the love in your life this custard-cream cushion? 🙂

My Favourite Brownies

I’ve had two missions in life lately. Number 1: bake some deliciously lip-smacking brownies. Number 2: bake them successfully in my rickety gas oven that burns everything on the bottom.

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I tried out the Ottolenghi recipe last week but it just wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Instead, I went back to a recipe for brownies that I have been baking since I was at university. They were basically the only foodstuff I could combine ingredients together and cohesively turn into something edible. Over the years, I’ve refined the method a little, upped the quality of the ingredients, and along the way they have stayed my favourite brownies.

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I found a tip online about baking the brownies at the very top of a gas oven to help with the heat distribution, and I think it noticeably helped, so no more baking on the middle shelf round here!

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This recipe is best baked in a rectangular tin. I used to only have a square tin, and there was always a little batter leftover for a mini microwave brownie. Here, I find each slice has just the right amount of crust to goo ratio. I cut this batch into fifteen, all slightly different sized rectangles. Even the corner squares have a delightfully meltingly soft centre, a characteristic that will make A happy.

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I love throwing in a handful of milk and white chocolate, because the little nibbly nuggets form such a delicious contrast to the melting richness of the brownie itself. I can’t wait to make a chocolate-orange version with a little orange zest and some chopped up orange-flavoured chocolate.

Recipe from the Hamyln Student Cookbook, found here

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On a side note, I’ve re-vamped the blog layout recently, and gone with something that I find easier to read – with a plus of bigger photos so even more to look at! Hope everybody likes it.

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? 🙂

Salted Caramel and Cocoa Nib Brownies

It was last weekend. A was sat on the sofa, intermittently groaning, immersed in the rugby. I was sprawled on the floor, pondering brownies. Priorities, priorities.

These brownies are serious bites. Each one comes with a rich seam of golden, salted caramel, and a sprinkling of bitterly dark crunchy cocoa nibs on top.

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I was inspired to bake these after salivating over the brownie selection in Paul A. Young’s chocolate shop. However, they’re pretty expensive, so I thought I’d have a go at the recipe on Poires au Chocolat instead.  Not to mention that they’d use up some of my cocoa nibs. You know when you buy all these exotic baking ingredients and never get round to using them up? Yeah that happened. Anyone got any other good uses for cocoa nibs?

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They taste every bit as good as I expected them too, rich nuggets of dark chocolatey flavour, crammed full of silky buttery caramel, and the sprinkle of cocoa nibs perfectly balancing the rich buttery sweetness from the other ingredients.

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Texture-wise, they’re very different from any other brownie I’ve made before. These are baked for only 20 minutes on a rather low oven temperature of 160˚C. This makes them very soft at room temperature, the interior of each piece sticky and gooey. After a stay in the freezer overnight, they firmed up considerably, with the dense, smooth texture of homemade fudge.

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Although I think that the aim of the cooking instructions is to achieve this textural state, I prefer my brownies to be a little firmer. So I baked a second batch, throwing in a little more flour, at a slightly higher temperature for longer. They’re more robust once cut than the originals, and a tiny bit cakier around the crust. However, they’ve still got that smooth dense fudge-like texture inside, and just as much rich chocolatey flavour that I love.

My brownies are a little on the tall side, as I don’t have a good eye for measurements, and the cake tin I thought was 20cm squared all along is actually a tad smaller at 18cm. It simply makes these bites even more truffle-like, rich and decadent so I’m not complaining too much!

Salted Caramel and Cocoa Nib Brownies

Adapted from Poires au Chocolat

For the salted caramel:

  • 75g caster sugar
  • 50ml double cream
  • 10g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

For the brownie:

  • 100g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 75g golden syrup
  • 275g dark chocolate, chopped finely
  • 4 eggs
  • 90g plain flour
  • small handful of cocoa nibs

Make the caramel. Toss the sugar in a dry saucepan, and gently heat until it melts and turns golden brown. Take off the heat and whisk in the cream bit by bit until it is all incorporated. Then stir in the butter, followed by the salt, until smoothly combined. Scrape the caramel into a bowl and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Line a 20x20cm tin with baking paper.

Using the same saucepan for the caramel again, gently heat together the butter, sugars and syrup until melted and combined. Take off the heat and add in all the chocolate. stir until melted and uniform.

Lightly whisk the eggs in a separate bowl, then gradually incorporate them into the brownie mixture, whisking together to combine. Then add the flour and beat everything together until smooth and glossy. Pour into the prepared tin.

Spoon/drizzle the cooled caramel evenly over the brownie mix and use a skewer/sharp knife to lightly swirl it through. Scatter the cocoa nibs on top.

Bake for 25 minutes, then take out and leave to cool. Once cool, freeze or refridgerate overnight until solid. Cut into squares.

Hummingbird Bakery Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie

So now that we are into February, and the month of luuuuurve, the shops are full of Valentine’s Day themed cards, gifts, edibles and whatnot. It’s the time of year when, in theory, I like to go all-out and bake a bazillion pink cakes festooned with love hearts and sprinkles.

Anyway, thanks to getting distracted by all the other delicious things to bake out there, the pink/hearts/sprinkles thing never really happens. So this year, I decided the blog needed something V-day themed, but would happily satisfy my cravings for all other things cakey, chocolatey and so on.

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I remembered these raspberry cheesecake brownies, first tasted at the Hummingbird Bakery oh, approximately seven years ago (ugg feeling old) and a favourite of mine until they somehow dropped off the radar.

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I had a pack of cream cheese, some whipping cream, chocolate, plenty of eggs…so hey, it was as if it was fate.

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Last time I was somewhat health-conscious so used low-fat everything and sugar alternatives. This time, I just went with the full whammy. You only live once, eh?

The recipe for these is pretty much all over the internet. You can find it here and on various blogs where everybody raves about what a great brownie/cheesecake/raspberry cream/mysterious thing-of-joy it is. I divided all the ingredients by three, and baked it in a loaf tin. Otherwise there would be far too much raspberry cheesecake brownie lying around for our own good! They’re tasty, perhaps not as amazing as I remembered but then I’ve come down with a bit of a cold so my tastebuds are a little faulty this week.

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Want some other Valentine’s Day themed bakes? Check out my red velvet cupcakes, baci di dama or decorated sugar cookies.

Hazelnut and Crystallised Ginger Brownies

Gently crackly, with nuggets of fiery ginger to settle the post-indulgence stomach, and a sprinkling of hazelnuts, for their warming golden flavour notes.

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These hazelnut and ginger brownies are warmly indulgent, yet full of bright flavours. Perfect for this time of year. Whatever some people say about January resolutions, and diets, I think chocolate should have no part in that. Eat plenty, and counteract those post-Christmas blues.

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January a sad month? Nah. Let’s make it Chocolate Month instead?

Hazelnut and Crystallised Ginger Brownies

  • 100g butter
  • 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 heaped tbsp flour
  • handful crystallised ginger, chopped into small pieces
  • handful of toasted hazelnuts, chopped roughly

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bain-marie until totally melted and liquid. Set aside to cool.

When cooled, mix in the sugar and eggs, followed by the cocoa powder and flour. Then add the ginger and hazelnuts. Bake in a lined square tin for around 25 minutes until the top is just set. Leave to cool down, then cut into squares.

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Triple Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownies

This is just a quickie post, with a phone picture too, but they were so tasty I couldn’t miss them off the blog. I made them as a way of using up some spare ingredients from the Nutella Torrone, but it’s easily tasty enough to be worth making even if you don’t happen to have the ingredients handy anyway!

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It’s a sticky, gooey sort of brownie, with that crispy sugary top, and is sure to go down well with everybody concerned, and you can play around with all the ingredient quantities too – the recipe is pretty flexible! It’s so easy that you can bung all the ingredients in one saucepan too, for minimal washing up. This brownie absolutely makes up for all the stress I had with the pâte sucrée of my previous post! Anyone else have those times too?

Triple Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownies

Makes 16 pieces

  • 100g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 65g dark chocolate
  • 60g milk chocolate
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g plain flour
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100g roasted skinned hazelnuts, chopped roughly
  • 100g nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • 50g milk chocolate, chopped into pieces
  • 50g white chocolate, chopped into pieces

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line a brownie tin with baking paper.

Put into a saucepan the butter, sugar, 65g dark chocolate, 60g milk chocolate, and golden syrup. Heat gently until all melted together. Set aside to cool.

When cooled, stir into the chocolate mixture 2 eggs, and then follow with flour, ground almonds, baking powder and cocoa powder. Then stir into this brownie mixture most of the chopped nuts and chocolate, reserving some for sprinkling on top. Pour the brownie mixture into the baking tin and smooth.

Next dollop spoonfuls of chocolate hazelnut spread over the surface of the brownie and use a knife to gently swirl into the mixture. Finish off with a sprinkling of chocolate and finely chopped hazelnuts. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until no longer wobbly, and leave to cool completely before cutting into pieces.

Dark Cocoa Brownies

The house is burstingly full of sugary treats right now. There’s a tub of M&S brownie mini-bites, some leftover fairy cakes from a decorating session with the little ones, a salty chocolate cake, and now this too! I feel a little as though I may be on the brink of diabetes…

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These are the richest brownies you can make without recoursing to the delights of melted chocolate. In fact, these don’t use dark chocolate at all, relying entirely on the powers of good cocoa powder. These aren’t squidgy sugary fudgy brownies, but dense solid brownies that deliver a richly satisfying chocolatey kick. They’re particularly great for a quick bake when you haven’t got that many ingredients handy. Even better, you can pretty much make everything in one bowl, minimising washing up.

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The brownie recipe is based on a good old Hummingbird Bakery one, but I’ve dialed back the sugar, and thrown in a handful of white chocolate chunks instead. Blissful. They went down swimmingly at work and home!

Dark Cocoa Brownies

Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Makes 16-24 squares

  • 4 large eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 120g plain flour
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • 200g unsalted butter, melted
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped roughly into chunks

Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Grease and line a brownie tin.

In a bowl, whisk together the 4 eggs, and the sugar until frothy. Then add the flour and cocoa powder, and mix in. Melt the butter until liquid, allow to cool, then slowly pour this into the mixture, beating as you go. Add half the white chocolate, and mix in well. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared tin, and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the surface with the remaining chocolate chunks.

Bake the brownie for around 20 minutes until it is just set. Leave to cool in the tin until barely warm, then slice into squares.

Skinny Peanut Butter Brownies

Now I am running a bit more, I’m trying to kick off with some healthier changes to my lifestyle. Salads are cropping up again, and with the glorious sunshine outdoors, it’s been no hardship eating all things juicy, crunchy, and fresh.

Now, I know. Baking cakes doesn’t really constitute healthy living. It’s been a while since the black bean brownies incident, but I’m still fairly traumatised by it. However, my interest was piqued by yet another “skinny” brownie recipe, which this time, had loads of rave reviews. And this time, no pulses were involved. Given my last experience, I had such low expectations about this recipe. I was expecting flat, cardboard-flavoured disappointment.

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I was so wrong.

These brownies are a full-on miracle. They contain no butter, no oil – but they are gorgeous. Sticky, fudgy, intensely chocolatey, and totally luscious. I practically licked a square off the sheet of baking paper, and my taste-testers gave the seal of approval too.

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The main alteration I’ve made is mixing the peanut butter into the batter instead of swirling it on top. I used crunchy peanut butter, so I got some tasty nuggets interspersed throughout. I’m so excited to have found this recipe, and I can’t wait to get experimenting with almond, cashew, and hazelnut butters, and other additions like freeze-dried raspberries and chopped white chocolate….yay!

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Skinny Peanut Butter Brownies

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

  • 120g peanut butter
  • 170g plain yoghurt
  • 60ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 64g cocoa powder
  • 40g rolled oats
Preheat oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a square 20 x 20cm baking tin. Place all of the dry ingredients into a blender and whizz into a powder. In a jug, mix together milk, yoghurt, peanut butter and the egg. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and blend to combine into a smooth paste. Pour the batter into prepared baking dish. It will be thin, don’t worry. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool down completely before slicing into squares. It is a very squidgy brownie, so if you want very cleanly cut squares, first pop it into the freezer to get firmer.
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Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies

Despite not having the budget to match, I really like the posh parts of West London. The King’s Road in Chelsea is blissful for shopping. There’s a warm rather than stuffy atmosphere with a great variety of shops. Despite the wealth (haha) of extremely expensive stores, you can quite happily splash out without breaking the bank.

I popped into Marks and Spencers and came out unexpectedly with a cute skirt, cut above the knee with a simple floral print just right for cooler summer days or autumn. I’m planning on wearing it with casual tees, some simple necklaces, and black ballet flats.

On my way back from my shopping trip, I headed to my old favourite the Hummingbird Bakery, and picked up a slice of their heavenly raspberry cheesecake brownie. It was so good that I just had to get out my recipe book and make it at the weekend.

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Doesn’t it just look like the bakery version? So happy with how it turned out. This version was made with Philly light and Truvia (some artificial sweetener), but I couldn’t tell the difference. I’m not sure I’d use the Truvia again as I do feel a bit uneasy about artifical sugars, but the Philly light is definitely getting a repeat running!