Gooey Glastonbury brownies

Brownies — a classic, undoubtedly, but deceptively difficult to get right.  There are a lot of rich chocolate cakes knocking around masquerading as the real deal.  They’re very nice, but they aren’t brownies.  A gooey, very-almost-liquid interior finished with a cracked, shiny top is the order of the day here — lifted out of the oven tantilisingly close to being raw and perfectly squidgy once cooled.

So why Glastonbury brownies?  This recipe is from Nigel Slater who has a glorious knack for describing his culinary creations.  Although Nigel calls these his ‘very good chocolate brownies’, and they are, it’s his subtitle that has stuck (pun intended?) with me — ‘a 24-carat brownie as dense and fudgy as Glastonbury mud’.  Yes please.

N.B. This recipe is fairly forgiving — 70% cocoa solids are delicious, but it works just as well with Asda’s own brand plain baking chocolate. The caster sugar can be replaced with bog standard table sugar, and a mix of brown sugars you have to hand if need be, or if you’d prefer it.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 250g butter
  • 250g plain or dark chocolate
  • (Optional) 50g white chocolate
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
  • 60g flour
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 180c, 160c fan or gas mark 4 and line a 23cm by 23cm baking tin with grease proof paper
  • Using a handheld mixer (or a stand mixer if you’re lucky) beat the sugar and butter together for a few minutes until light and fluffy — keep going until it’s creamy
  • Set 50g of the dark chocolate aside, then melt the rest however you like (I find bain-maries a faff, and luckily one of my mother’s life lessons was how to melt chocolate safely in a microwave. It burns easily, but the key is checking the chocolate often, and stopping when there are still some chunks unmelted — stir to melt the rest.)
  • Chop the remaining dark chocolate (and white chocolate if using)
  • Break three eggs into a small bowl and add the egg yolk before beating lightly with a fork
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and a pinch of salt.
  • With the mixer running, gradually add the egg and beat well after each addition
  • Fold in the melted chocolate, then the chopped chocolate, with a large spoon
  • Finally fold in the flour mix without knocking the air out (gently but firmly)
  • Scrape into the tin, smoothing the top
  • Bake for about 30 minutes.  It’s worth checking at 25 minutes, and then again every 3 minutes – you want a skewer to come out slightly sticky with some moist crumbs, just not completely coated in raw mixture.  Remember the brownie will keep solidifying as it cools, so err on the wet side.
  • Serves 12, or one after a bad day

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Listening to Twist and Shout by The Beatles, Respect by Aretha Franklin and Your Song by Rita Ora.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

Sunken apple and honey cake

Well hello there. You’re looking lovely today. I know it’s been a while… But I have to say I’ve made my peace with falling firmly under the ‘occasional blogger’ category. And for me — a resolutely all-or-nothing, perfectionist kind of human — that’s actually something rather special. But I will admit I’ve missed it (and shout out to the lovely Rhonda who says she misses me too!) so here I am with a recipe I hope you’ll love and an overlong introduction you might appreciate less.

I’ll cut to the chase (finally) and say this cake is delicious. The sponge is simple and not overly sweet, but combined with soft apple and a slightly salted honey glaze it reaches new heights. Enjoy!

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Ingredients

For the sunken apples

4 smallish apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Cake mixture

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup runny honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated
2 decent pinches of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
160g plain flour

Honey glaze

1/4 cup honey
A generous pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F/175c/155c fan.
  2. Coat a 9-inch springform tin with butter or a nonstick spray.  Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper.
  3. Prepare your apples: place each quarter core side down on a chopping board, and use a knife to create parallel thin slices only cutting halfway through the apple so it holds together. If you accidentally cut all the way through (I did!) then just reassemble once you come to put on top of the cake in a minute.
  4. In a bowl, gently toss your apples with lemon juice and 2 tablespoon granulated sugar.
  5. Prepare cake mixture by beating the butter and sugar together in a bowl with an electric whisk until fluffy.
  6. Add the honey and beat until combined.
  7. Add your vanilla and egg yolks, beating until just combined.
  8. Sprinkle salt and baking powder over the top, and mix for just 5 seconds until they disappear.
  9. Add flour, half at a time, mixing only until just combined each time
  10. In a separate bowl with hastily cleaned and thoroughly dried beaters (unless you own two sets, you domestic goddess you), beat egg whites until stiff.
  11. Stir 1/4 of them into the cake mix to lighten it a little.  Fold in the rest in three additions. It will seem initially like it’ll never combine — persevere with gentle, patient folding. Only fold the last addition of egg whites until it has mostly disappeared — a couple of faint streaks is fine.
  12. Spread the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smoothing the top.
  13. Arrange apple quarters face down over the cake mixture.  You don’t need to smush them in, just nestled on the top is fine. Pour any extra lemon juice and sugar in the bowl over the apples.
  14. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let rest on a cooling rack for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edge to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan at all, and unhinge the sides. Let cake cool completely.
  15. Before serving, if you’d like the glaze to look glossy, or whenever the cake is cool, if you don’t mind if the honey sinks into the cake, make the honey glaze. Warm 1/4 cup honey and a good pinch of sea salt until it thins to a glaze consistency — this will take less than 30 seconds. Brush honey-salt mixture over cooled cake and enjoy.

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Original recipe from yep, you guessed it, Smitten Kitchen.  All photographs and the ramblings at the top are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

Neapolitan cupcakes

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Up until a couple of days ago, it seemed that summer had well and truly arrived in Britain. We had weeks of glorious sunshine, and when I was invited to my first BBQ of the year, it was the perfect excuse to bake something wonderfully summery. I was inspired by this beautiful neapolitan cake on Ellie Bee’s blog to create a cupcake version.  And here it is. These little beauties consist of a layer of chocolate cupcake topped with a layer of vanilla, and then finished with the best strawberry frosting I’ve ever tasted. The fact it’s made from real strawberries probably explains this.

Everyone loved them at the BBQ, and plenty of people sheepishly sidled over for a second one. (N.B. I wasn’t guarding my cupcakes, I just happened to be standing near the food table for most of the evening. That’s where all the best people are during parties, right? *awkwardly eats another Dorito*)

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Ingredients

Chocolate Cupcake

1/3 cup (35g) cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (80ml) boiling water
1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
3/4 cup (150g) and 2 tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (you can save the white for the vanilla cupcake mixture)
1/4 cup (60g) double cream
1 cup (140g) plain flour

White Vanilla Cupcake

1 1/2 (210g) cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
7 tbsp (100g) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
Seeds of 1/2 large vanilla bean
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup (120g) milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Strawberry frosting

1 cup + 4 tbsp strawberry puree (Unless you can get hold of this, you’ll need to start with a little less than a punnet of strawberries. Yes, just less than a punnet is a legitimate measurement.)
1 1/2 cup (345g) unsalted butter at room temperature
5 – 5.5 cups (625g – 690g) powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
A few drops of red food coloring (optional)

Directions

For the chocolate cupcake
– Preheat oven to 180c (350F) degrees.
– In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and baking soda.
– Pour in the boiling water and whisk until the bubbling subsides and everything is well blended, then allow to cool for 5 minutes.
– In another bowl, blend together melted butter, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt with an electric hand mixer until well combined.
– Stir in the egg and egg yolk, saving the egg white.
– Blend in the cocoa mixture, then blend in the double cream.
– Gradually mix in the flour and blend until well-combined.
– Divide the mixture between the 22 muffin trays — around a generous teaspoon in each.  Spread the mixture into an even layer and set to one side.
For the white vanilla cupcake
– Sift the plain flour into a medium-sized bowl.
– Add the baking powder and salt and stir until well combined.
– Using the handheld electric mixture, whip together the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds until pale and fluffy.
– In a separate bowl whisk together milk, egg whites and vanilla extract until well blended.
– Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture until completely combined. Mix on a high speed until the batter reaches a fluffy, almost mousse-like consistency.
– Now divide the chocolate mixture between the cupcake cases, spreading gently into an even layer so that the mixture reaches the sides of the cases.
– Bake for about 16-19 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
– Leave on the tray to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the strawberry icing
–  If, like me, you can’t find strawberry puree, you’ll need a little under one punnet of strawberries. Using a hand blender, blend your strawberries until you have 1 cup and 4 tbspn worth of pureed strawberries.
– Add the puree to a small saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 6 tbsp. It should take around 10 – 14 minutes (it’s worth measuring the mixture and if it isn’t quite 6 tbsp then return and continue to simmer until it has reduced enough).
– Pour into a small bowl, then pop in the freezer, stirring every so often, until cool. It shouldn’t take long.
– Whip the butter with the electric whisk until nearly white.
– Add an initial cup of icing sugar, then blend in the puree. Keep adding the icing sugar until you reach a good fluffy consistency — it needs to be relatively stiff to pipe.
– Once the cakes are cool, either pipe or spread the frosting on top. Et voila!
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Oh, and this was my first time piping – too! It’s a little wobbly, but not too bad for a first attempt, right?
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Listening to I get around by The Beach Boys, Sunshine of your Love by Cream and The Curse of Curves by Cute is What we Aim For.

This recipe is from Cooking Classy.  All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Breakfast Club: Banana, blueberry & almond smoothie

Everyone loves a good smoothie. The beauty of the smoothie is that you can bung most things (within reason) into the mix and it’ll taste fine. However, all smoothies were not created equal, so here’s the yummiest combination of classic smoothie ingredients I’ve found. The Greek yoghurt, almond milk and honey give this one the creamy edge of luxury, while the banana and frozen blueberries keep it tasting fresh. It’s so simple that I do kind of feel cheeky calling it a recipe though…

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Oh, and it’s a pretty colour too

Ingredients

1 banana, in chunks

A handful of frozen blueberries

2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt (optional, I guess, but it makes it oh-so-creamy)

4 tablespoons Almond milk (you could use another type of milk, but I like the subtle almond taste)

1 teaspoon honey

Directions

–  Add all of your ingredients to your smoothie creator of choice (I use a handheld blender and jug combo) and BLITZ AWAY until your smoothie is… well… smooth.

– Now drink your smoothie. That’s it. I told you it really was embarrassingly simple.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Christmas Baking: Mince Pies

I never used to like mince pies. But this year I’ve warmed to them considerably, for whatever reason. The shop bought ones we had in work were suddenly moderately enjoyable. But then I came home and had some of my mum’s. And they’re AMAZING. I know Christmas day has been and gone, but I recently learned in a Christmas quiz that apparently you’re meant to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas for good luck. But feel free not to limit yourself to one a day. In fact if you make these, I challenge you to limit yourself to one a day. Oh, and the crowning glory of a good mince pie has to be brandy butter. So I’ve included my mum’s recipe for that as well. She is, after all, the Queen of Baking herself. (Step aside, Mary Berry).

The amounts here make a lot of pies (six dozen i.e. 60, to be precise) so you might want to halve the amount if you’re not confident you’ll get through them all. Although they do freeze really well, and make lovely presents. Am I overselling? Never.

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You literally have no idea how long it took me to get that swirl of brandy butter to look aesthetically acceptable

 

Mince Pies

Ingredients

For the pastry

1lb/450g plain flour
6oz/175g lard
6oz/175g margarine
4oz/110g icing sugar
Grated zest and juice of one orange

For the mincemeat

1lb/450g cooking apples – peeled, cored and finely chopped

2 stewed apples*

8oz/225g shredded suet

12oz/350g raisins

8oz/325g sultanas

8oz/325g currants

12oz/350g soft dark brown sugar

Rind and juice of two oranges

Rind and juice of two lemons

4 tspn mixed spice

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

*I don’t know if this is a universally recognised ingredient, or a Daley family thing. It’s just cooking apples which have been cut into chunks and cooked on a low heat with a bit of sugar or syrup until they’re really mushy. You might need a tiny bit of water if they start to look like they’re drying out before they’ve reached a decent mush.

Directions

– The day before you want to bake your mince pies, you’ll need to make your mincemeat. I know this is a time-consuming process, but that’s a big part of its beauty.

– Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.

– Cover with a cloth and leave for at least twelve hours, covered with a tea towel.

– If you intend to make all of the mincemeat into pies straight away, or within the next week, then it’ll keep fine in an airtight container in the fridge.

– If you want to store it for longer, then you’ll need to place it a baking dish loosely covered with foil, and warm it in a cool oven at 120c for about three hours. This slowly melts the suet and allows it to coat the rest of the ingredients, which prevents fermentation from taking place if too much juice seeps from the apples while you’re storing it.

-Then allow it to get cold and spoon into clean, dry jars. Cover with waxed discs and seal.

– On the day selected for mince pie making, preheat the oven to 180c.

– To make the pastry, rub the fat into the flour and icing sugar

– Add the grated rind and enough juice to make a pastry consistency

(If you’re a pastry newbie, then check out this tutorial from Delia Smith for a better guide.)

– Wrap in cling film, then rest in the fridge for at least half an hour

– Roll out the pastry (again, the tutorial from Delia above has a few tips)

– Now use a circular cutter to make the discs that’ll hold the mincemeat, and stars for the tops of the pies (or you could use another disc if you prefer, but I like the less- pastry approach since it’s lighter and more interesting to look at).

– Place the discs in the bottoms of the cupcake tray, and push down gently so that they mould to the ‘cup’ shape. You don’t need to grease the trays since there’s a lot of fat in the pastry that’ll stop the pies from sticking.

– Divide the mincemeat equally between the cups, then top each with a pastry star.

– Brush the top of each star with a little milk, then bake for 10- 12 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

To serve, whip up some brandy butter. It’s very easy- in fact, it’s barely a recipe.

You need to make some buttercream by creaming together butter/ margarine and icing sugar. I don’t use a recipe for this, I just tend to start with some butter, then gradually add icing sugar until it’s quite a stiff buttercream. Then I add brandy to taste. To quote my mum directly, there’s only enough brandy when it ‘catches at the back of your throat’. So er, that amount. Beat it all together until lovely and smooth, and dollop generously on top of whatever you feel like; it goes well with anything Christmassy- Christmas pudding and Christmas cake as well as mince pies.

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The artistic bite

And now you can officially scorn shop bought mince pies. And forever wear the smug smile of somebody who ‘handcrafts their own mince pies, actually.’*

*I don’t actually recommend saying this out loud. It would make you an unbearable Christmas guest…

In terms of credit, the pastry recipe came from a family friend who was an amazing cook- she recently passed away, so it’s nice to make these and think of her and how she used to care for people by cooking for them. The mincemeat recipe is the one my mum has used for over twenty years, which she cut out of a supermarket recipe magazine, and has since adapted a little.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.