Category Archives: Small treats

It’s Beginning to Taste a lot like Christmas….

Good afternoon folks and welcome to the last post of the year!

This year I’ve tried to be good about Christmas baking. In other words, I’ve tried not to go overboard! As Mr Bandit is working away from home at the moment, its just me and the dog at home, and we don’t need an excess of biscuits! However, I couldn’t go completely without. I love the smells and tastes of Christmas baking. Whilst I like chocolate and caramel as much as the next person, my favourite flavours are those warm, spicey tastes that come with baking at this time of year. I really wanted to try and make pfeffernusse, which have been a firm favourite since I was about 5 (known in my family as knee biscuits – I’ll leave you to work out why!), but I haven’t found a recipe I like enough to share. Instead, I thought I’d offer up two contrasting tastes of winter. The first I don’t find very Christmassy at all, but I’m told they are all the rage across the pond. The second I consider proper Christmas fare, full of spice and all things nice….

 

PECAN TASSIES – A Taste of America

The other day I wanted to make something quick and simple that gave a flavour of the holiday season but without the time and faff that most of my staple Christmas recipes take. These are wonderfully light, sweet and delicious. Don’t have too many though or you’ll feel a bit sick! Also do not fear at the sight of making ‘pastry’ – it isn’t really pastry at all and is very simple. (adapted from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com)

Pastry Ingredients: 50g pecans, 50g soft cheese, 50g soft butter, 50g plain flour and a bit extra for dusting.

Filling Ingredients: 90g pecans, 1 egg yolk, 50g light brown sugar, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp butter (melted).

 

  • For the pastry, put the pecans in the food processor and whizz as small as they’ll go. Then throw in the other ingredients and mix until combined. The ‘pastry’ will be quite sticky and thick – not pastry like at all!
  • Scrape the mixture out onto a work surface (make sure it and your hands are flour dusted) and divide the mix into 12 equal sized balls.
  • Get a fairy cake tin, or another small bun tin. Then drop a ball of pastry into each hole. Use your fingers to push the mix up the sides of the tin to form little bowl shapes. Its easy to manoeuvre but don’t spread it too thin or there will be holes. Mine didn’t come all the way up the sides of the tin and that’s okay.
  • Put this in the fridge while you get the filling ready and preheat the oven to 160 (fan).
  • For the filling, dry fry the pecans on a low heat until they warm and crisp a little. You’ll know they’re done when they start to release some oil and smell good!
  • Pick out 12 good looking pecans, and chop the rest up roughly.
  • combine the chopped pecans and the rest of the ingredients until well mixed.
  • Put the pastry cases in the oven for 5 minutes. When you take them out some might have gone a bit puffy, but just use the back of a spoon to press them down. Don’t use your fingers – these are fragile at this stage and you’ll go through it.
  • Spoon the filling mix evenly between the cases and top each one with a whole pecan and a sprinkling of sea salt (optional).
  • Bake for 15-20 mins.
  • Leave to cool for a few minutes before taking them out the tin but I do recommend you take them out whilst still warm, and leave them to cool completely on a rack. When cold the sugary filling will go hard where it has spilled onto the tray and they will be difficult to extract in one piece.
The finished product. Delicious while still warm as a dessert with some cream. Or anytime you fancy!

The finished product. Delicious while still warm as a dessert with some cream. Or anytime you fancy!

I do like these, and I’ll certainly make them again, but they just aren’t at all festive to me. There’s too much sweet and not enough spice, not enough of the smells of the season. So, my baking needs left unsatisfied, I moved on to a classic….

 

SUGAR AND SPICE GINGER BISCUITS: A taste of Winter

I make these every year. They are so unbelievably simple, can be adapted to your tastes and are the essence of festive cooking. They double up as tree decorations if you fancy (although not in our house as dog + tree biscuits would equal disaster!). Also a brilliant way to pass the time with kids, who will particularly love the decorating part! (adapted from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com)

Ingredients: 140g butter, 100 dark muscovado sugar (although a lighter brown sugar would work), 350g plain flour, 3 tbsp golden syrup (or you can use 2 of golden syrup and one of treacle for some extra punch), 1 tsp of bicarb, 1 ball of stem ginger, 2 tsp of ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of ground all spice.

  • Heat the oven to 180 (fan) and get two baking trays ready with baking paper on them.
  • Put the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan over a low heat and melt together.
  • In a large bowl sieve the flour, bicarb and spices. The spices quantities are a guide – go with what you like!
  • Stir the chopped stem ginger into the melted mixture, allow it to cool a little and then pour into the bowl of dry ingredients.
  • Mix thoroughly until it forms a stiff dough.

Strangely, the trickiest bit is cutting out the shapes! This dough is fragile at this stage. A top tip is to break off a section of dough and roll it out directly onto the baking tray. Using cutters of your choice, cut out biscuits to any shape you fancy and remove the excess from around them. If you are making smaller shapes this mix can make as many as 40 biscuits. I bake 4 trays worth in total.

  • Bake for 10 minutes. When you remove them from the oven they’ll still be soft, so wait a minute for them to cool and harden before you remove them to a cooling rack.
Decorate them however you fancy!

Decorate them however you fancy!

There’s no need to decorate these – they are lovely as they are! However, I decided to decorate these simply with a little fondant icing. Just follow the packet instructions to get a thick but liquid consistency. Pop it in a pipping bag and away you go! I kept it very simple but you can use different colours, glitter, whatever!

The smell around the house while these are baking is divine, and they just look properly festive. So apologies to our American cousins but these win every time!

I hope everyone has a wonderfully festive time over the next few weeks. Bake and be merry my friends!

 

BB x

Celebration Cake Part 2: The (Passion Fruit) Filling

Hello all and happy Monday!

Well the party was a great success, the birthday cake applauded and everyone had a wonderful time. I have to pay special homage to my cousin’s wonderful chocolate cheesecake, which was my personal favourite of the dessert table! Now that I’m back home, back to work (boo!) I thought I’d update the blog with two posts to complete this celebration cake bonanza.

Once the cakes from part 1 are ready to go, you need a filling. Now previous posts about the joys of lemon curd hint at my favoured cake filling, but I wanted something that was a little more exotic for a special occasion. Passion fruit always make me think of my grandparents. My granddad is South African, my grandparents lived there for a bit in the 1950s and the flavours of the southern hemisphere were always present in their house – or at least in their fruitbowl! So what better way to fill my grandma’s birthday cake.

Passion fruit curd adds an exotic zing of sweet and sharp and works well with the lemons in the cake and the sweetness of the icing. This recipe is adapted from the ever trusty and reliable bbc goodfood.

INGREDIENTS: 9 ripe passion fruit, 3 large eggs, 140g butter, 200-250g caster sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons cornflour, a few squirts of lemon juice to taste.

TIP: The passion fruits must be ripe to get the right sweet/sour balance, so you might want to buy them about a week before you plan to use them. The wrinklier the better – a smooth skin is an under-done fruit!

The ingredients (minus a lemon which I added as a later addition!)

  •  Cut the passion fruits in half and scrape all the seeds and pulp into a food processor. Pulse it a few times, which will separate the pulp from the pips. Then pour the mixture through a sieve into a saucepan set over a low heat. Use the back of a spoon to push as much of the pulp through the sieve as possible.
  • PIPS OR NO PIPS? Now, at this point, most recipes I came across suggested reserving a few spoons of pips to put back in at the end. I’m not a fan of this personally, but you can do if you fancy. Pip look nice in a jar of homemade curd given as a present, but they are a tasteless and crunchy annoyance that is most likely going to get stuck in your teeth. As this curd was going into a cake (where you most certainly don’t want a crunch annoyance) I didn’t bother.

Passion fruit: A burst of colour inside and out!

  • Add the butter, cornflour, eggs and sugar to the pan and continue to stir over a low heat until everything is fully dissolved/melted.
  • TIP: The reason I’ve given a range on the quantity of sugar is because it’s all about taste. If your fruits are still a bit too sharp you’ll need more sugar, if they are very sweet, you’ll need less. If you are unsure use about 225g and then use the lemon juice to adjust the taste.
  • When everything is dissolved and you have a smooth mixture you need to keep on mixing. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to get it all thickening quicker. All you will make that way is scrambled egg. Keep mixing, remembering to scrape along the edges of the pan, and after up to 10 minutes (maybe more!) your mixture will thicken nicely.
  • TIP: If you are making this curd to spread on toast, or stir into porridge, you might want a runnier consistency than I needed for filling a cake, so use 1/2 tablespoon less of cornflour.
  • While it is thickening taste it. If you think it’s too sweet, use some lemon juice (a dribble at a time) to balance it out. If it’s too sharp use a little more sugar but make sure it dissolves. Don’t be tempted to squeeze in a whole lemon straight away – it’s a strong flavour which will take away the passion fruit taste.
  • When its a good thick curdy consistency, take it off the heat. Unless you are going to use it immediately, when it has cooled decant into jars (remember to sterilise them!) and it will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

Top Tip: When you are leaving the curd to cool, place clingfilm over the surface to avoid a ‘skin’ forming.

And there you have it! An exotic but homely passion fruit curd all ready to be spread in a cake, or eat on toast, in yoghurt… the possibilities are endless!

Happy stirring!

BB x

Sweet and Spice: Ginger Flapjacks with Salted Fudgey Icing

A few weeks ago a friend of mine called me up and asked if I fancied going to the Gallery of Modern Art here in Edinburgh. Now, anyone who knows me knows that this is code for ‘let’s go eat some cake!’. The National Galleries of Scotland do a mean scone, but on this occasion I had a ginger flapjack. It was immense (both in size and taste) and I decided that this was something worth recreating. However, the original was a bit hard, so I was after a slightly less chewy, possibly a bit more nutty, flapjack base, and a topping with a bit more of a kick to combat the sweetness of the golden syrup. Then last week a found a recipe for something that looked vaguely similar, and decided to recreate that amazing gingery-sticky-gooey moment of goodness. This is adapted from a GoodFood recipe.

The flapjack base: all the basic ingredients of a traditional flapjack, including enough butter to block all your arteries.

INGREDIENTS: 350g butter (sadly that is not a typo – quite literally not for the faint hearted), 200g light muscavado sugar, 5tbsp golden syrup, 250g rolled oats (porridge oats are fine), 140g plain flour, 50g pecans chopped into small pieces, 50g desiccated coconut, 1tsp of ground ginger.

  • Turn on the oven, set it to 180 (fan) and grease and line a tin. I used one that is about 25cm squared and the flapjacks are quite deep, so you could easily use a bigger tin and make smaller pieces.
  • The great thing about flapjacks is that they are the baking equivalent of one pot cooking! So start by putting the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan over a gentle heat. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to speed the process – you’ll just get a burnt mess.
  • Once the butter is melted give it another minute so that the sugar is totally dissolved, then add in the flour. At this point I make sure hob is on the lowest setting – you want the flour to mix in and cook a bit but you don’t want anything to burn or stick. Give it a couple of really big stirs.
  •  Mix in all the other ingredients. Turn off the heat and stir until everything is really thoroughly combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Its quite runny for a flapjack mix but don’t worry – it’ll all sort itself out!
  • Pop into the oven for 35 mins. It’ll still be really wobbly when you take it out, but as it cools will set hard. Leave it in the tin.

You don’t need to wait for it to cool to ice it, so once you’ve removed the tin from the oven get going on the icing.

Fudgy-gingery-salty icing – yum!

INGREDIENTS FOR ICING: 175g butter (basically two packs of butter for the whole recipe), 200g icing sugar, 4tbsp golden syrup, ginger to taste (I used 4 heaped teaspoons but I like it quite strong), maldon salt flakes and whole pecans to decorate.

  • Put the icing sugar, butter, golden syrup and ginger in a pan and slowly melt over a low heat. If you aren’t sure how gingery you want it to be, put 3tsp of ginger in, stir it through and then taste before deciding whether or not to add more. 4tsp makes for quite a gingery kick.
  • Pour the icing over the flapjack (still in the tin) and let it all cool down together.
  • While it is still warm sprinkle over the salt flakes. Don’t overdo it but you want enough to balance out the sweetness of the icing.
  • Work out how many squares you are able to cut it into, and pop a pecan in the middle of each one. This is really sweet, so I suggest small portions. The pecans look pretty and make it easier to cut as they offer up a guide! I made 16 squares.

All iced and ready to cut into portions. The pecans are a good cutting guide for even sized pieces!

Once you have cut up your portions you can pop them in the fridge to harden up the icing, but make sure you take them out at least 15 mins before you want to eat them so that they aren’t as hard as rocks! You can also keep them in an airtight container out of the fridge and they will last quite happily for about 3-4 days.

All ready for eating! The icing will be thicker on the middle pieces as the centre of the flapjack will sink a bit as it cools. These pretty pieces will look the best presentation wise so its worth putting them at the top of the pile!

In the end, I think these were actually better than the ones in the gallery cafe as they were slightly less chewy and had a better depth of flavour. Anyone else like a bit of spice or salt with their sweet?

Happy baking my fellow bandits,

BB x

Pedal Power!!: Flapjacks on the Move

Good evening my fellow bakers! Autumn has more definitely arrived here in Edinburgh, although we’ve been lucky enough to have some glorious autumn sun the last few days – long may it last! At least autumn heralds the return of comfort food – and baking!

While I’ve pottered about the house the last two days, Mr. Bandit has been pedalling around the north of England. Before he went on his merry way, I made some flapjacks for all the boys taking part, to keep them going as they cycled along. These are utterly delicious sweet treats for any time, but have the added bonus of the slow-release energy of the oats, dried fruit and nuts, and are quite robust – a good thing in a cycling jacket pocket! This recipe has been modified from the BBC Goodfood website:

You will need: 140g unsalted butter, 120g soft brown sugar, 3tbsp of golden syrup (or honey if you prefer), 175g porridge oats, 75g pistachios (shelled and unsalted), 140g dried apricots chopped into little pieces, packet of white chocolate drops (from the baking section of the supermarket – you can use buttons or half a bar of white chocolate if that’s easier).

  • Start by melting the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan. Keep the heat low and make sure that the sugar is totally disolved. Don’t let it start bubbling or you’ll end up with a very sticky pan!
  • While that’s going on, chop up the nuts and mix with all the other ingredients in a heatproof bowl. It looks lovely even like this!

Doesn’t it look healthy and pretty?! This is before all the butter and sugar….

  • Once the mixture in the pan is completely melted, let is cool a little, then pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients. It’ll be very stiff, but make sure it’s all mixed in properly.
  • Then spoon into a lined 20x20cm tin, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Pop in the oven at 140/160 degrees for 35 minutes.
  • When you take it out the oven it will be runny, so don’t try and take it out the tin. Leave it to cool completely, then remove from the tin and cut into pieces. I went for nine good-sized portions.

Make sure its cold before removing from the tin, or you’ll have a very sloppy mess! It hardens quite quickly. Line the tin well so that you’re not scrubbing burnt sugar off your pans – who wants to be doing that?!

These are quite sweet, and would be just as nice without the white chocolate if you prefer something less tooth-decay inducing! If you leave out the chocolate, up the sugar a little bit to 140g.

I also made some bourbon biscuits (so much better than shop bought!) which would be equally good for an energy boosting snack on the move. Don’t they look scrummy?

Chocolate buttercream filled bourbon biscuits. Delicious!

My next baking experiment will be a biggy – its my grandma’s 80th birthday and I’m making the birthday cake! I feel I better do a test run, so I’m going to use it as an excuse to make a scaled-down version of the lemon wedding cake I want to use. Two birds…one stone… you get the idea! So cross your spoons and wish me luck!

BB x

Quick Sunday Treat: chocolate, banana and caramel tarts

The problem with baking is that it often leads to more baking. Yesterday I blogged about delicious triple nut cupcakes. As a result of these little morsels of loveliness, I ended up with a load of unused chocolate ganache. Not wanting to waste, and not wanting to resort to eating it with a spoon in the middle of the night (experience tells me this could happen), I decided to make some quick little treats that Mr. Bandit and his work colleagues could enjoy to cheer up the inevitability that is Monday.

I didn’t want to do too much work though, so I came up with these little, quick tarts. Who doesn’t like a tart after all?

INGREDIENTS: A quantity of sweet shortcrust pastry, leftover chocolate ganache, a banana, a can/jar of caramel. THAT’S IT!

I would buy sweet shortcrust pastry in the supermarket, rather than bother to make it, because the supermarket ones are really good these days and, frankly, who wants to make pastry on a Sunday? Sadly for me, I couldn’t find any, so was forced to make my own. So if you do want to make it yourself I use the following recipe:

  • Put 100g of cubed butter (straight from the fridge – cold is important!) and 200g of sifted plain flour into a food processor and whizz until you get a breadcrumb consistency. It should only take a second.
  • Whisk an egg, and pour half of it into the food processor and whizz again. This may be enough, but if the pastry doesn’t start to come together, add a bit more. Its not an exact science and depends on your eggs. The mixture will start to come together but will be quite dry.
  • Use your hands to form it into a ball and cover in cling-film. Pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Once you’ve got your pastry, and its cold, you need to choose a tart tin. I don’t have proper tart tins, so I used a muffin tin. You want them to be deep enough to keep the filling in, so don’t go for something too shallow. In the end, I went for a muffin tin and an 8cm pastry cutter to make the tart bases.

  • Roll out your pastry as thin as you can without it breaking, and use a pastry cutter to make big enough circles to give at least 1.5cm in height once you pop the pastry into the tin. Fill as many holes in the tin as you need and prick the bases of each tart.
  • Cover each hole in pre-scrunched baking parchment (makes it pliable) and then fill with baking beans or rice.
  • Pop in an oven set to 180c for 15 minutes, then remove the paper/beans and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes. The tart cases should be crisp on the bottom with some colour. (if you wanted to make one big tart, blind bake for at least 20-25 minutes with the beans in before you remove them for 5-10).

Before and After: The empty tart cases should be deep enough so that the filling stays in. You know they are done when the underside is a little brown.

That is the hardest bit!

  • Get a teaspoon full of caramel, and plop it into each tart, spreading it all around the inside. The add a slice or two of banana. If you fancy, add a little more caramel over the bananas, but make sure you leave enough room to cover the lot with chocolate.

The cases on the left are much flatter but the ones on the right turned out much better for this recipe. You want a good ratio of filling to pastry.

  • Then just pour the chocolate mix over the top until the tarts are full! If you had the ganache in the fridge, pop it in the microwave for 50 seconds to melt it down.

The finished product!

Just pop them in the fridge until the tops set. They’ll keep for a few days, but I suggest eating quickly to preserve the crispness of the pastry. Take out the fridge about 20 minutes before eating so they’re not too cold.

If you fancy some variations, maybe use a cherry mixture instead of the banana and caramel (cherries and chocolate mmmmm), or add some sea salt to the caramel and leave out the banana – that is delish!

 

So there you have it, a quick treat to enjoy on a Sunday. Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend.

Happy Baking!

BBx

Holiday Inspiration: triple nut and chocolate cupcakes

Hello lovely blog readers and welcome back! Well, I should be welcoming myself back really after a little holiday related hiatus. Folowing a couple of crazy weeks of work, Mr Bandit and I spent a fabulous week on holiday in France. There was cheese, wine, sun, swimming and a LOT of eating. You see we went on holiday with my WHOLE family (well, a fair portion of them anyway), and everyone enjoys cooking, but mostly we all enjoy eating :). I wish I’d had the wherewithal to take pictures of the amazing French tarts (only bad innuendo I promise) and the scrumptious al fresco meals we enjoyed together as a family. But I didn’t, because I was too busy stuffing my face! I even found time to bake, although I forgot to take a picture of that too. I made a strawberry cheesecake pie. Perhaps I’ll make it again at some point or just post the recipe, it was a real crowd pleaser.

Anyway, as you’ll have realised by now, I have rather a sweet tooth, as does my mum, and one of our favorite things to eat when in France is sweetened chestnut puree. You can get it in the UK, but the really good stuff comes from France. It was on this holiday that we can across one of the best things ever, the credit for which needs to go to my gran. She found sweet chestnut puree in a TUBE! It was like a drug – a little sugary hit you could squeeze onto the end of your finger whenever you needed a hit. Amazing. Sadly I didn’t spot it anywhere, so had to settle for bringing home a big jar of the stuff (what a shame!).

Marron puree – joy in a jar

So then the big question was, what to do with it? And the answer seemed to be – bake! Now I’d come across a few recipes that use chestnut puree, but none of them sounded quite right, so this was a bit experimental. I’m not normally a huge lover of cupcakes – they have too much icing and tend to be style over substance. However, I decided that as these were rather rich, making them in small portions would be best. I’ve used almonds and walnuts instead of flour, and so the triple nut (quadruple if you count the ‘nut’ in nutella) cupcake was born! In the end, the chestnut puree gives a lovely subtle flavour that could be strengthened by increasing the quantity of puree or adding chopped chestnuts instead of walnuts.

So here’s what to do….

INGREDIENTS! Don’t panic – these cupcakes are supposed to be flourless.

  • Heat the oven to 160 (fan) or 180 (conventional) and line a muffin tin with cases.
  • Crack the six eggs into a mixing bowl and pour in the sugar. Using an electric whisk, beat until fluffy and pale. You want it really beaten – don’t skimp this stage because there are a lot of eggs and they will make the cakes light and lovely.
  • In another bowl, poor out the chestnut puree. I had a runny one, but if its a thicker mix, use a fork to whisk it a bit until its smooth.
  • Add half the egg mixture to the chestnut puree and mix carefully – don’t beat the air out of the eggs. It looks a little grim at this stage but have faith…
  • Add the almonds, walnuts and baking powder to the chestnut mix and combine. Then add the rest of the egg mix and fold in. You’ll be left with a runny mess that looks like this:

It looks sloppy but worry not – it’ll all come good in the end!

  • Use a ladle to fill the cases – its much easier! I found about half a ladle worked, but I guess it depends on the size of your ladle! Fill the cases about 2/3 full. I made 17 cupcakes, which was a bit of a random number.
  • For an extra hit of naughty, I plopped half a teaspoon of nutella into the top of each cupcake. I was hoping it would sink, but it didn’t. If you want the nutella in the middle of the cupcake, I suggest using the spoon to push it down into the mix at this stage. Then you’ll have this:

All ready for the oven!

Just pop them in the oven for 30 minutes and hey presto!

I wish blogging allowed you to transmit smells – these made the house smell wonderful!

 

Last but not least was the icing. I decided that a chocolate buttercream would be too rich/sweet, but it would work fine if that’s your preference. I decided to go for a decadent, dark ganache.

Ganache is even easier than icing – only three ingredients!

  • Put all the ingredients in a pan and let it all melt. Leave it on a low heat until everything is completely melted, but keep stirring or it’ll stick and burn. I decided at the last minute to add 3 tbsp of icing sugar, because I used very dark chocolate, but use a 60% cocoa solid chocolate and you won’t need to – unless you want to of course! Just make sure you sieve the sugar or you’ll get lumpy icing. PLEASE NOTE! This made a very generous amount of icing and I have leftovers in the fridge, so if you only like a thin layer, make half.
  • Once everything is melted, pour it into a bowl and leave it to cool. You can pop it in the fridge for a bit to thicken up, but don’t leave it too long or you won’t be able to get it out the bowl – it’ll set hard!
  • Once the cakes are cool and the icing thickening, spoon onto the cakes. You’ll have something like this:

The finished article!

 

These will need to be kept in the fridge, but take them out about 20 minutes before you want to eat them, because they’re better at room temperature. Any spares will keep in the fridge for a few days – if they last that long!

These were not only delicious, but have helped stem the post holiday blues a little. I suppose they aren’t French in the slightest, but they’re very yummy! Besides, I bet you’re glad I didn’t choose the pate we also brought back with us as my inspirational baking ingredient!

Happy Baking!

BBx

Things Don’t Always Go to Plan…. Chocolate and Raspberry Brownies.

Recipe adapted from the BBC Good Food Magazine.

I discovered this weekend that when it comes to baking, no doesn’t always mean no (although at 2am when I’m trying to sleep and Mr. Bandit comes in reeking of booze and kebabs it certainly does). Having told me not to bake anything for a while because he was enjoying the cake a bit too much, this weekend, in his hour of cakey need, I was told that just because he said don’t make anything doesn’t mean I should have listened. So I sent him off to the shops and moments later was busily making chocolate and raspberry brownies.

I love soft fruits and at this time of year and generally find brownies a bit cloying so a hit of lovely tangy fruit was just what the doctor ordered. Mr. Bandit likes white chocolate with raspberries so I adapted the recipe a bit for him.

Now I was debating whether or not to blog about these brownies, because, frankly, things didn’t go to plan. But baking doesn’t always go to plan and even when things aren’t quite right, they are often salvageable. That’s what happened with these, so here’s what happened….

Whatever the final outcome, there’s still always a fight over who gets to lick the spoon!

  • For the brownies you need 200g dark chocolate, 100g milk or white chocolate, 250g butter, 350g soft light brown sugar, 4 large eggs, 140g plain flour, 50g cocoa powder, 200g raspberries.
  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a tin about 20 by 30 cm with baking paper. Or, for ease, use two smaller tins.
  • Put the sugar, dark chocolate, half the white chocolate and butter in a pan and heat gently until the sugar has disolved and everything else melted.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and when its cooled a little, add each of the eggs one by one and whisk them into the mixture. Don’t do this when the mixture is too hot or you’ll get scrambled eggs.
  • Sift in the flour and cocoa and stir with vigour!
  • Stir in half the raspberries and then pour the mix into the tin/s. Scatter the rest of the raspberries over the top and do the same with the remaining white chocolate (but chop it into chunks first!).

Looking delicious even before they’re cooked!

  • Pop in the oven for 40 minutes and then check. There should be a spring in the brownies, you don’t want them too cakey, but they shouldn’t be runny either. If they’re still too runny, put them in for another 10-15 minutes but keep an eye on them.

So here’s what happened to mine. The original recipe said to cook for 30 mins. This was WAY too short a cooking time for the size of the tin. So the middle was still totally raw. However, I wasn’t paying attention, took them out the oven and left to cool, assuming they’d harden as they cooled. It was not to be – when I cut into it an hour later it was still totally runny in the middle. 😦

So, back into the oven it went, and 15 minutes later – because I’d let it cool in between – it still wasn’t completely cooked. However, by this point we’d been smelling the amazing chocolatey goodness for too long and we were too impatient. So out it came and we decided to dig into the hot, squidgy sort of finished brownies for a dessert.

Hot and squidgy – yum!

So, although this didn’t quite work initially as brownies, they made the most amazing dessert. The image doesn’t quite show but the middle of the piece is still a wee bit too gooey. However, the eggs are cooked so its totally ok to eat. This was like a giant chocolate fondant and would make an amazing pud with some ice cream or creme fraiche.

I then put the rest of the brownie tin back into the (now switched off) oven for 20 minutes and then they were cooked perfectly.

Despite not turning out quite right initially, we still managed to eat a good sized chunk!

So, these brownies didn’t quite work initially, but I’m pretty sure that 40 minutes in the oven followed by a check and then possibly another 10-15 minutes would work perfectly, or just 40 minutes if you fancy them as a dessert. Remember that even when cooked, they don’t properly harden until cool. I will have another go at these in the future and will update this post on cooking times once I’m 100% sure what works best. If you placed the mix in two smaller tins, 30-40 mins would be fine. These will keep in the fridge for a few days.

And the most important thing? It worked in the end and I discovered a very nice dessert in the process! And I also learned that in baking, no doesn’t always mean no. Having said that, Mr. Bandit is off to France next weekend, so I might have a weekend off baking then.

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend.

Bake well my friends

BBx

Sweets for Your Sweets: Lemon Meringue shortbread

Today I had the pleasure of visiting my lovely friend and her extra scrummy new baby girl. I wanted to take a present that was as sweet as her sweet baby, so yesterday I had a lovely afternoon concocting in the kitchen. I turned up the radio and made a LOT of mess.

These little treats are based on Mr. Bandit’s love of lemon meringue pie. I wanted to find a small and pretty way of getting that taste without having to make a full-blown dessert. Whilst I’m a fan of the biscuit base for the pie version, these little mouthfuls needed something less crumbly, so I’ve gone for a shortbread base. Here’s what I did….

Shortbread base: 75g butter, 125g plain flour, 25g ground almonds, 25g icing sugar, one egg yolk (hang on to the white!)

  • Sift the flour, almonds and icing sugar into a big bowl – big enough to get your hands into!
  • Cut the butter into small cubes – it should be straight out the fridge and cold. Plop the cubed butter into the bowl and using your fingers start squidging the butter into the flour until you get a mixture like breadcrumbs. I find that rubbing the mix between my hands is very effective. Just make sure you’ve got really clean hands!
  • Break up the egg yolk and then plop that into the bowl too. Use your hands to work the egg into the mix. It’ll form a dough quite quickly. Keep going until its smooth and forms a nice ball.
  • Flatten the ball of dough a bit and wrap it in clingfilm. Pop it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Get the oven ready by heating it to 150 (for a fan oven, maybe a tad higher if you don’t have a fan oven). Once you have your shortbread chilled, you need to work quickly. As soon as it warms up it gets much harder to work with. Roll it out to about 1/3 to 1/2 a centimetre (not too thin or you won’t be able to get them onto the backing tray), and then use your cutter of choosing to cut them out. I used a fluted round 4cm cutter, but anything that will produce a similar size will work. You could even cut the dough into strips rather than circles. Place all your cut out pieces on a baking tray, on baking parchment, and then stab them all over with a fork (not too violently!).

When you have all your cut out shortbread, get dolloping with the lemon curd. I made my own lemon curd (I’ll post the recipe for that too) but you can use a good quality bought one if you don’t fancy making it. The cheap stuff out of the squeezy bottles is no good because it runs, rather than sets, in the oven. You should have something like this….

Spread the lemon curd over the shortbread. This is what makes the meringue stick, so if you just leave it dolloped in the middle, the meringue ‘hats’ will come off. Be as generous as you like. I think I was a little mean with this batch – I’d up the lemon curd content next time.

Meringue hats: whites from two eggs and 100g of caster sugar.

  • Put the egg whites in a clean bowl that’s big enough to get a hand mixer or a whisk into. Whisk them until they form stiff peaks.
  • Now SLOWLY add the sugar as you continue whisking, and keep going until the mixture goes all glossy and the peaks stiffen again (oo-er).
  • Top Tip: don’t try and add the sugar before you’ve got the egg whites to stiff peak stage and don’t try and add the sugar all at once. Both of these things will leave you with a gooey mess that won’t stand up.

What you do next all depends on how much of a faff you can be bothered with. I put the mixture into a piping bag with a large star-shaped nozzle and swirled the meringue onto the top of the shortbread. You could just snip the corner off a freezer bag and use that as a home-made piping bag (I’ve done it many times, its very effective) or you can use two teaspoons and put a blob of mixture on each shortbread.

Put your little treats in the oven and leave to bake into wonderful goodness for 30 minutes. You should be left with something that looks a bit like this….

These would make a wonderful gift at any time of year, although they are particularly summery. The lemon could be swapped for all sorts of things, and if you have a favourite shortbread recipe, just use that instead. This recipe makes about 25 of these little beauties. They are quite delicate, so if you’re giving them away maybe put them in a small bowl and then wrap that in brown paper – looks lovely! I love these so much, I’m thinking about using them at the wedding….

Bake well my friends

BB x