Smashing mini egg cookies with brown butter and a mini tutorial on brown butter

Mini egg cookies

As I write this post, there is another Easter egg cookie recipe that is currently trending on the socials. The Domino’s (yup famous for their pizzas) cookie stuffed with a Creme egg. Although I normally find Creme eggs too sweet, the cookies looked like they might be fun to bake. However, before I jumped on the bandwagon, a friend, who had made them recently for her kids, reported back that they were overwhelmingly sweet. So instead, I’ve decided to make these mini egg cookies. I’ve been thinking about making them for the past three years at Easter, but was side tracked by baking hot cross buns. As a quick aside, I’ve now baked five batches this year trying to perfect Ravneet Gill’s recipe.

I wanted to make a recipe that’s simple, not overwhelmingly sweet and delicious. One that would please children and that you could make with them. Therefore I played around with my trusted cookie recipes on the blog to create this one. And as I realised how expensive a small bag of mini eggs can be, I decided this recipe had to one that could be made with one small 80-90g bag. You can, of course, use Cadbury’s mini eggs, or, like me, choose a cheaper supermarket alternative. Additionally, I wanted each of the cookies to have a whole mini egg in them. In the five times that I’ve tested this recipe, I’ve counted out between 15-17 mini eggs and set them aside, thinking that I’d get that many cookies out of the dough mixture. What a surprise then, when the medium cookie scoop kept going and presented me with more (normally 16-18)! So, what is one to do? My compromise was to leave some without, but of course you could lightly smash the eggs in half.

This is where the boob cookie nickname came in. I took them into work one day in a container which had them stacked in two columns. As I looked at them, each cookie containing one mini egg, I realised that they just looked like boobs. If ever, you’re doing some baking to raise awareness of breast cancer, then please bake these! If there are no mini eggs around, then perhaps you could substitute them with Smarties or M&M’s?

Bake and share these please for a breast cancer awareness

Anyway, back to creating this recipe and feel free to skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know the details. For example, in the process of making this recipe, while I was choosing between my basic chocolate cookie recipe and my brown butter one, I consulted Ravneet Gill’s The Pastry Chef. As I calculated the ratio of flour to butter, I found that the basic chocolate cookie and Ravneet Gill’s recipes have an identical flour to butter ratio of 1.78… That must be significant, right? But could someone explain to me why? So I chose to begin with the basic chocolate cookie recipe as my base. Then, as it’s been a bit cold for butter to soften in our kitchen, I decided to melt half of the butter and why not make it into brown butter while I was at it? So, of course I did because brown butter makes everything better, in my mind.

Brown butter with the delicious brown bits

I’ve included two videos on browning butter below as I know that if this is a new thing, it can be off-putting. And I don’t want you to be put off because, remember, I set out for this recipe to be simple. I’ve always done this on a stove top, never in the microwave, so I don’t know if you can. All you are doing is evaporating the water off the butter and as the milk solids brown, it magically releases a nutty flavour. Its French name alludes to this. Beurre noisette, literally translates as hazelnut butter. You will find that I repeat a summary of this in step 1 of the method. First, you melt the butter in a saucepan on a medium heat. The butter will begin to cackle and froth as it melts (listen to Video 1). As the water continues to evaporate, it will make a gentler frothing sound (listen to Video 2). Use a spatula to stir and scrape the bottom so that it doesn’t burn. It is ready, when it is “silent as a ninja” (I quote Stella Parks) (also in Video 2). Then take it off the heat and let it cool. There are two ways really to do this. Option one is to carefully place the pan in some cold water taking care not to splash any water into the pan. This is what I do to save on washing up. Option two is the more orthodox method of pouring the butter into a heat proof bowl, taking care to scrape all the brown bits into the bowl and letting it cool.

Video 1. At the beginning, the butter will cackle and froth as the water begins to evaporate
Video 2. It then makes a gentler frothing sound. It is done when it is “silent as a ninja”.

A quick word on equipment. My happy discovery whilst making this recipe is that I can use a pestle and mortar to smash the chocolate and mini eggs. It’s much easier and less messy. The mini eggs don’t roll away as you’re trying to cut them. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, you could place them in a bowl (that won’t break) and smash them gently with the end of a wooden rolling pin. I’m going to keep on using this. I’m also using my latest kitchen equipment purchase – Vollrath’s #30 cookie scoop, as I’ve chosen to make them medium sized. Each one weighs between 40g-43g. I share this with you because I searched the internet to find something good to replace my previous OXO #40 cookie scoop after it died. It appears that OXO UK don’t offer the #40 cookie scoop anymore, but the larger one instead. Finally, I’ve made them in a stand mixer but you could easily make them using a hand mixer or by beating the mixture by hand.

Smashing mini eggs with the pestle and mortar
Cookie dough scooped, side by side and ready to go in for their rest

Recipe for Smashing mini egg cookies with brown butter

  • 140g butter, 70g cubed and 70g to melt into brown butter
  • 110g white sugar – granulated or caster
  • 120g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 230g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 160g total of chocolate
    • I used a 80g bag of mini eggs – pick out 15-17 whole and lightly crush the rest – and 80g of 70% dark chocolate roughly chopped. Alternatively, you could use 80g of dark chocolate chips.

Method

  1. First make the brown butter. Melt 70g butter in a small saucepan on a medium heat. It will froth and cackle as the water evaporates. This is normal. Scrape round the sides and the bottom of the pan so that it doesn’t burn. When it is silent, then it is ready. Take the saucepan off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile in a medium sized bowl, measure out both the sugars, the remainder of the butter and bicarbonate of soda and then pour in the brown butter. Remember to scrape all the brown bits into it too. Then mix it together until they’ve all combined.
  3. Next, add the egg and vanilla extract and mix to combine.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, crushed mini egg bits and the dark chocolate chunks. Add this to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix on slow so that the flour doesn’t all fly up.
  5. Next the cookie dough needs a rest for at least 12 hours in the fridge/freezer. Get a medium sized baking tray and line it with baking paper/silicone baking mat. I like to use a medium sized cookie/ice cream scoop for this next bit to measure out and shape the cookies. If you don’t have a cookie scoop then measure out a golf ball sized ball of cookie dough and roll it into a ball. Place the balls side by side on the baking tray. Once you’ve done that, take the whole mini eggs that you’d reserved and firmly push one into each ball.
  6. I like to cover them with an empty, used cereal packet that is large enough for the baking tray to go into, and then carefully place the tray in the fridge or freezer so that the cookie dough balls rest overnight. This is important for creating chewy cookies so don’t hurry this step! The magic happens here the sugar in the dough hydrates and allows it to caramelise when baked. If I freeze them, the next day I empty the frozen balls into the cereal packet to store.
  7. When you come to bake them, preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F/Gas mark 3. Line a baking tray with baking paper and place the cookie balls on the tray, spacing them out by 2-3 cm as the cookie will spread out. Sprinkle the balls lightly with salt and then bake in the middle of the oven for 14 minutes if they’ve been in the fridge, 16 minutes if they’ve been in the freezer until they are puffed up and golden. I turn the baking tray round halfway because of hot spots in my oven. Allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes, in which time they will deflate and be crispy on the outside and still gooey inside. The 5-10 minutes cooling wait time before eating is also so that you don’t burn the roof of your mouth. I speak from experience. Enjoy.

The verdict? They are smashing! The sprinkling of salt and addition of dark rather than milk chocolate keeps them from being overly sweet. I have tested and tweaked this recipe 5 times before I hit publish. I’ve given them away at work, aerial, and to whoever walks in the door, young and old. The general consensus is that they are delicious, which is good as I’ve still got a stash in the freezer.

My scooped cookie dough going on a baking tray in a cereal liner about to go in for an overnight rest

Peanut butter brownies

A slice of brownie with peanut butter in the middle held in a hand
Delicious peanut butter brownie

Do we need another brownie recipe? It’s a 100% YES from me, when it includes peanut butter in a chocolate brownie. The salty sweetness from this combination is marvellous. For 4 years on and off, I have been thinking about how to make this, buying various peanut butter brownies to explore what it is that I’m after and testing out various recipes. Then, Smitten Kitchen’s peanut butter swirled brownie recipe gave me the step up I needed to get to this recipe. I don’t know why I didn’t search her recipes earlier, to be honest.

There are a few lessons that I’ve learned on the way. Firstly, if you use peanut butter straight from the jar, with no addition of sugar or egg, it dries out in the oven and goes claggy in your mouth. Then I read (and dismissed) various probably wonderful peanut butter recipes that used milk chocolate, or incorporated the peanut butter into the batter because I realised that I wanted to eat distinct peanut butter bits. Next, I tried Smitten Kitchen’s swirled approach and I realised that I preferred the peanut butter evenly spread out, rather than marbled through. Lastly, if you chill the peanut butter mixture in a fridge or preferably in a freezer, it is malleable and less messy to shape.

For this recipe, I’ve combined my fudgy brownie recipe and adapted Smitten Kitchen’s peanut butter batter. I had followed her recipe going on what she says about acknowledging the high sugar level but promising that it won’t taste excessively so. However the family (including the kids) I live with, all found it overly sweet and rich. So, I’ve pretty much halved the sugar, not just because I’m a ‘let’s halve the sugar’ fiend. Mind you, I wasn’t using her brownie recipe, so perhaps that’s where it made a difference.

I’ve made this gluten free quite easily by replacing the plain flour with a plain gluten free flour mix. I double check the peanut butter to make sure that there are no hidden ingredients in there that gluten-free people can’t eat. I’ve yet to find one…

Ingredients for 16-20 mini peanut butter brownies, adapted for Smitten Kitchen and my infinitely adaptable fudgy brownie recipes.

Peanut butter mixture

  • 190g smooth or crunchy peanut butter
  • 80g soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt (ONLY if there is no salt added in your peanut butter)

Brownie batter

  • 150g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 150g dark chocolate (at least 60%), roughly chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 100g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/355°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a deep tin. For this quantity, a 20cm square tin or a rectangular 27x20cm or 28x18cm will work.
  2. First, make the peanut butter batter by adding all the ingredients into a small bowl and mixing it together with a spatula. Then put it into the freezer for 10-15 minutes so that it becomes stiff but still pliable. If you remember to, mix it once halfway through.
  3. While the peanut butter batter is in the freezer, melt the chocolate and butter together and just after t has melted, add in the salt and vanilla extract and leave it on the side to cool down. There are various methods you can do this, which I’ve detailed in my previous infinitely adaptable fudgy chocolate brownies recipe.
  4. Measure out the flour and cocoa powder into a small bowl. Sieve it if there are lots of lumps in the flour and cocoa. Otherwise, I use a whisk to loosen and mix them together.
  5. As soon as the chocolate/butter mixture is off the heat, crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl, or a stand mixer bowl, and add the sugar. Use a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer on high speed to start whisking the eggs and sugar until they are at a ribbon stage. Ribbon stage is when the egg and sugar mixture is a pale yellow colour, doubled or even tried in volume and when you lift the whisk over the mixture, the batter will fall slowly and leave a trail like a ribbon that will hold its shape for a few seconds. It will take about 10 minutes. I often use a timer to make sure that I whisk them for long enough. Don’t start whisking the eggs and sugar together until the chocolate and butter have melted because this needs time to cool down.
  6. While the eggs and sugar are whisking, it’s probably time for the peanut butter batter to come out of the freezer. It should be sufficiently hardened but pliable (like the consistency of soft plasticine or play dough). Roll and shape it between two pieces of baking paper, so it is even and the size and shape of the baking tin (see photo).
  7. When the eggs and sugar have reached a ribbon stage, reduce the speed to low and add the melted chocolate and butter mixture to the eggs and sugar. Whisk until it all appears to have mixed together. You may want to use a spatula around the sides and bottom to check.
  8. Now fold in the flour and cocoa powder using a spatula, or a spoon until it is well combined.
  9. Pour half the mixture into the baking tin. Then carefully position the peanut butter batter layer on top and peel away the baking paper. Then add the other half of the brownie mixture on top, creating a peanut butter brownie sandwich (see photos).
  10. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes. They should be firm to touch at the top but still wobble when you shake it. Leave to cool completely in the tin and if you can bear it, cover them and leave them overnight in the fridge. They will be easier to cut and the flavours will have deepened.

The verdict? It is everything that I’d hope for in a peanut butter brownie. 4 years is a long time to be thinking about a recipe, but I can say that it was worth persisting. Normally, I say to leave it overnight but even I couldn’t resist cutting a little square to check if I’d found my peanut butter brownie recipe. Only – if like me you don’t want to wait overnight, perhaps wait an hour or so. I may not have waited and burned my mouth. 😂 Enjoy.

Step 6 – roll it between two baking sheets into the shape of your baking tin.
You can’t smell this, but it smells irresistible. Assuming you like chocolate and peanut butter of course.

Double Chocolate Muffins (vegan)

The final recipe test for vegan double chocolate chip muffins

I decided to lean into vegan baking last month, it being Veganuary. I came across a recipe book at the library, The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town by Mellissa Morgan, of Ms Cupcake (a London vegan bakery which sadly closed 2 years ago). First off, this is a fantastic recipe book if you are new to vegan baking. She includes a Quick Start guide with explanation on ingredients, which is useful if, like me, you’ve felt overwhelmed by them, and a guide to baking without eggs and dairy. There is an additional section on substitutions (e.g. if you want to go gluten-free and refined sugar free) and trouble shooting common vegan baking problems. However, as the best way to review a book is to test out the recipes, I duly borrowed the book and tried out the Victoria sponge cake, which turned out very well. Then when my vegan colleague mentioned that she craved muffins, I set out to make them.

Now, there is no double chocolate chip muffin recipe in the book. Therefore, I adapted her mint chocolate chip cupcakes. The first iteration were incredibly good. The texture and the flavour were spot on. I made the first batch with soya milk and another with almond milk. They both worked and the type of plant based milk didn’t make enough of a difference. However, I calculated the amount of sugar in each muffin and at the original 200g in the recipe (which makes 12) that was just over a tablespoon of sugar per muffin. That’s without the additional sugar from the chocolate chips/chunks. A little high perhaps? Thus began a series of experiments to reduce the amount the sugar in the recipe. I detailed it in a little table for you.

Amount of sugar in the recipeSugar per muffin (approx) without the addition of chocolateTexture/FlavourAdditional flavouring
200g16.67 (just over a tablespoon)incredibly good1.5 tsp instant coffee
180g15g (1 tbsp)incredibly good1.5 tsp instant coffee
150g12.5 (2.5tsp)still yummy2 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp instant coffee
120g10g (2 tsp)denser texture, slightly too bitter1 tbsp vanilla extract
Results of sugar reductions in double chocolate muffins

I took it as low as 120g, which then changed the texture of the muffin so that it becomes denser, slightly stodgy and began to taste a bit soapy and bitter. The chocolate chunks in the muffin masked that unpleasantness. However, let’s be frank. When you bite into a double chocolate muffin, you want it to taste good, not healthy.

So, in the recipe below, I’m going to suggest that you could add anything between 150-180g of sugar. Consult the table above to decide how much sugar you’d like and how to adapt the additional flavourings. I think coffee always complements and enhances chocolate. The vanilla extract brings out sweetness without adding any sugar.

In the end, as I was testing out many variations of this recipe, I decided that I’d halve the recipe each time. That is one of the joys of this particular recipe. It’s pretty simple to scale up or down.

By the way, I like making this in a large measuring jug. It is easier for pouring the mixture into the muffin cases at the end, but a medium sized bowl also works. I alternated between using a whisk and a metal spoon/spatula to mix, but I prefer the whisk for the quantity below.

Top tips: mix until it has just combined and bake them immediately.

Fill the muffin cases and then tap to release the air bubbles

Ingredients for Double Chocolate Chip Muffins, adapted from Mellissa Morgan. It will make 12 muffins.

  • 200ml unsweetened plant based milk – I tend to use soya milk
  • 20ml cider/rice vinegar or lemon juice
  • 150-180g caster sugar (my favourite is 180g*)
  • 170g self raising flour (or 170g of plain flour and 2tsp of baking powder and omit the 1/4tsp of baking powder that follows)
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder (omit this if you’re using plain flour + 2tsp of baking powder)
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 150g 70%+ dark chocolate roughly chopped up, alternatively use dark chocolate chips (check to see that they are dairy free)
  • 80g vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp instant coffee granules/powder*
  • 2tsp of vanilla extract*

*When using 180g of sugar, add 1 tsp of instant coffee but no vanilla extract. Unless you really want to.

Method

  1. Mix the soya milk and the vinegar together and set aside for 10 minutes. This makes a soya buttermilk. Then add 1tsp of instant coffee so that it has a chance to dissolve. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4 and line your muffin tray with muffin cases.
  2. In a large measuring jug or a medium sized bowl, measure out the dry ingredients, that is the self raising flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarb of soda, salt and the roughly chopped dark chocolate. Whisk it together so that they are all combined thoroughly.
  3. Add the vegetable oil and the vanilla extract (if using) to the curdled soya milk mixture and whisk to combine. Then add this to the dry mixture and mix quickly until just combined. It’s important not to work quickly and not over mix it. If there are a few lumps, that is okay. If it is lumpy, on the other hand, I’d continue mixing it for a few more seconds.
  4. Tap the jug onto the surface. This stops the raising agents from working too quickly. Then pour or measure out the batter evenly into each of the muffin cases. Tap the muffin tray hard on the work surface to pop the bubbles, then bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. They’re ready when a skewer comes out without cake crumbs but may have a little bit of melted chocolate hanging onto it. Let them cool in the muffin tray for 5-10 minutes before taking them out to cool completely. They will store in an airtight container for 5 days, maybe more..? Honestly, they haven’t made it any further than that in my house.

The verdict? Incredibly good. The texture is airy and light, and the chocolate chunks in the muffin are so satisfying. I always think that almost every chocolate baked good will taste better the next day. So, make them at night and have one for breakfast the next day. 😉

On the note of vegan chocolate. I’ve observed a greater selection of vegan chocolate, which is great. However, they are often much pricier. A lot of dark chocolate, 64%+, is dairy free. I will always check the list of ingredients on the packet before using. I prefer to chop it up roughly and then add it. I haven’t ever checked to see if dark chocolate chips are dairy-free. If you do, then please let me know in the comments.

The brown butter chocolate chunk cookies aka Crack Cookies

Tonight as I was wondering which recipe to share with you (it was between apple crumble and poached eggs), I remembered that I’d been baking a lot of cookies recently and posting photos of them on Instagram. It’s time, isn’t it. The time has finally come to share my crack cookie recipe that I’ve been promising for a while.

Top tip: Keeping cookie dough balls in the freezer are an investment in your future self’s happiness.

There are variations of that sentence around the internet and social media. That’s my paraphrase above. It is one of the reasons why I love making these cookies. This recipe will make enough so that you can store some away (like squirrels do with their nuts in preparation for winter) for a moment when you really want to eat a cookie, or bake something but have no energy for it. That was me two nights ago. I arrived home from work physically and emotionally exhausted, wanting to be fed and then to sit down with a home baked biscuit to watch episode 2 of the Great British Bake Off – Biscuit week. Fortunately I live with a family who will let me do all those things and I had frozen cookie dough balls stashed away in the freezer.

a sauce pan with butter browning and foam
As the butter melts, it foams as the water evaporates.

I went through a phase when I was obsessively recipe testing chocolate chip cookies in Phnom Penh to perfect that American style cookie of soft and gooey on the inside, with crispy edges. This was a pretty happy time for those around me. Being around so many more internationals opened up a whole other world of baked goods, their expectations of them and their tastebuds. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to recreate those baked goods that they were nostalgically craving that I had never tasted before. And then of course selling them.

Photo credit to @pipcree who took this photo at one of my final pop-ups in PP.

I learned stuff as I researched which I’ll share with you because that’s what this blog is about:

  • THE MOST IMPORTANT part is to REST the dough so that the baking magic can happen. Firstly, it allows the flour to absorb the fats and the liquids and thus create that puffy, crispy texture. Secondly, the sugars get a chance to chill out and mellow out resulting in richer flavour. In some baking chemistry magic by resting them, they will taste sweet but not overly sugary. It’s a minimum 2 hour wait if you’re impatient, but preferably overnight.
  • I often use a stand mixer to make this but the joy of this recipe is that as all the butter is melted, it is easy to do in a large bowl and a spatula/large mixing spoon.
  • Allow the brown butter to cool down. Sometimes I don’t and it results in a more delicate, tender cookie.
  • Remember with a cookie recipe, you don’t want to cream the butter and sugar together. We just want to mix them sufficiently, not beat air into them.
  • Mix up different types of chocolate to create a more complex chocolate profile, that’s why I use dark and milk chocolate. I read somewhere (I’m sure it was on Serious Eats but I can’t find the link) that if you use one type of chocolate then your taste buds get used to and stop tasting it. However, if you vary different makes or types of chocolate, your tastebuds will continue to taste them.
  • My recipe testing pales in comparison to Serious Eats. I am still learning.
  • Brown butter creates a rich, nutty flavour which I really enjoy.

Why do I call them crack cookies? That’s the nickname that my friend Grace gave them and it caught on. These cookies are really more-ish, sweetly addictive, soft but slightly crispy and satisfyingly not overly sweet. The brown butter gives a slightly nutty flavour, without any nuts, and the two types of chocolate means that each mouthful is a flavour party. I made two batches of these cookies for the soft opening of her store, Ginger and Grace. For some reason, they didn’t make it onto the tables but her friends discovered them later that evening and ate through an entire batch of them. I guess that cemented their reputation as crack cookies.

Now I tell people that these brown butter, chocolate chunk cookies are my best work.

The cookie recipe comes from Ambitious Kitchen. I haven’t made any major changes to it, except I like to weigh everything so obviously here I’ve converted it into grams. There’s a very similar recipe on Joy the Baker. The differences are that Monique browns ALL the butter, uses dark brown sugar, uses two different types of chocolate, adds in a tablespoon of greek yoghurt and doesn’t use nuts. Joy uses light brown sugar but adds in 1 tsp molasses, adds pecans and uses dark chocolate only. I prefer the Ambitious Kitchen version.

Making a double batch of cookies

Ingredients for Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies very slightly adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

  • 227g butter
  • 100g white granulated sugar
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp natural yoghurt or greek yoghurt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 140g dark chocolate cut into small chunks, or the chocolate chips, or round discs*
  • 140g milk chocolate cut into small chunks, or the chocolate chips, or round discs

*for prettier looking cookies: if using round discs of chocolate, keep around 21 discs aside to firmly place on the cookies after they have baked. The chocolate will temper as they melt and thus have a nice shine making them prettier to eat.

Method

  1. First brown the butter. Add all the butter to a medium-sized saucepan and place over medium heat. It will start to froth and cackle. That is the water evaporating. Continue and stir the sides and scrape the bottom a few times so that it doesn’t burn. When it is ‘as quiet as a ninja’ (quote from Stella Parks) it is ready. Take it off the heat and either pour the butter in a bowl to cool down, not forgetting to scrape the browned bits from the sides and bottom. Or as I often do, fill up the sink with cold water and carefully place the hot pan in there to cool down.
  2. Add both the sugars into a large mixing bowl and the cooled brown butter and mix for a minute or two until they are combined. I use the paddle beater (K-beater on the Kenwood). Don’t discard the egg white. Store it in the freezer for a cocktail or macaron/meringue baking on a later date.
  3. Now add in the vanilla extract, yoghurt and the large egg and egg yolk and mix again for a minute. It will look and smell like toffee.
  4. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and whisk to mix. Then add this to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix slowly so that the flour doesn’t fly up.
  5. When it looks like the flour has just about combined then add in the chocolate chunks and mix again.
  6. At this stage, I prefer to measure out into 2 tablespoons of cookie dough (I like to use a medium ice cream scoop) and roll them into balls and place them on a lined baking tray so that the cookie dough can chill out in the fridge for at least 2 hours before baking them. Sometimes, I will cover them and leave them overnight in the fridge to bake the following morning. More often, I will cover them and put them in the freezer overnight and then store the frozen cookie dough balls in a bag.
  7. When you’re ready to bake them, pre-heat the oven to 170°C/350°F/Gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet/tray with baking paper. Space them out so that there are 5 cms between each dough ball as they will spread. Sprinkle the cookies with a bit of table salt. If baking from chilled, bake for 11-13 minutes. If baking from frozen, bake for 14-16 minutes. The dough will spread out and go a golden brown colour. The middle will be gooey so when you take it out, it is important to leave them to cool and harden for 15 minutes on the baking sheet. Otherwise it will split into many pieces and chocolate goo will cover your fingers. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it. Haha.

You’re welcome and enjoy.

My favourite way of portioning out the cookie dough is with a medium sized icecream scoop.
In the absence of a scoop, weighing scales works. Preparing them for their overnight stay in the fridge hotel.

You can vary the flavour and texture. I added 140g dark chocolate and 140g chopped pecans to the cookies at the top of the post. You could substitute the pecans for walnuts or hazelnuts if you like. Play around with it and let me know how you get on.

Cheesecake Brownies

Two baking trays with brownie mixture. The one on the left hand side has salted caramel, the one on the right hand side is cheesecake
Salted caramel and cheesecake brownies side by side

You may have picked up already that I really enjoy playing around with the different flavour combinations in a brownie. When I ran a home baking business, as my side hustle, in Phnom Penh, I’d sometimes put a poll out on social media. What brownie flavour would you like next? Cheesecake was a popular request. Cambodians generally really like cheesecake but I made very few to sell because the ingredients were pricey. Thus when this hybrid worked out, it turned out to be a happy compromise. As I am me, I found ways to play around with more flavours and ingredients. I’ve listed them at the end of the cheesecake ingredients.

cake box with cheesecake brownies inside, a green business card with love, Han-Na
Cheesecake Brownies were a popular order

Last month, I wrote about how I’d picked up a painful thumb injury which I was trying to let heal. It is mostly better now so I made cheesecake brownies and a giant cookie this weekend.

When I posted a picture of this cheesecake version on the post about the infinitely variable fudgy brownies, I said that I’d give you the recipe later as it involves a few more steps. Since then, my brownie recipe and story have featured on TheBrightApp (which is a new social networking site that someone I know is involved in – go check it out). There was a comment that the variations could feature as a different recipe post each time, which is kind. I’m not sure if that will be possible, but here’s the cheesecake brownie version in the meantime.

Ingredients all lined up
Cheesecake Brownie ingredients all lined up ready
All the swirls

I adapted this from Smitten Kitchen’s Cheesecake-Marbled Brownie recipe. I wanted to use my more recent whisking to ribbon stage brownie method, so I took note of the cheesecake ingredients and the marbling instructions but combined it with my chosen brownie method. However, you could use my simpler, no frills or ribbons, brownie recipe too. There are more detailed instructions in the previous posts on how to make brownies in general. I’ve added photos below the recipe to expand on the addition of cheesecake.

Ingredients for Cheesecake Brownies, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Brownie ingredients

  • 150g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 150g dark chocolate (at least 60%), broken up, roughly chopped
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white*
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract

Cheesecake ingredients

  • 150g full-fat cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk from the egg in the brownie ingredients*
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract, or replace with
  • Optional flavour ideas – zest of an orange, 1 tbsp of dark rum or plum wine.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/355°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a deep tin. For this quantity a 20cm square tin or a rectangular 27×20 or 28×18 will work.
  2. Start preparing the brownie mixture. Melt the chocolate and butter together and just after it has melted, add in the salt, vanilla extract and leave it on the side to cool down. Ways of doing this are on a previous post.
  3. As you keep an eye on the chocolate and butter melting, prepare the cheesecake mixture. Put all the cheesecake ingredients into a small bowl. Save the egg white for the brownie mixture. Mix to combine until smooth. I often use a hand mixer, but you could beat with a spatula. See photos below.
  4. Turn your attention to readying the rest of the brownie mixture. In a stand mixer bowl (if using) otherwise a medium bowl, crack the two eggs and add the saved egg white into the bowl and add the sugar. Use a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer on high speed to start whisking the eggs and sugar until they are at a ribbon stage. Ribbon stage is when the egg and sugar mixture are a pale yellow colour, doubled or even tripled in volume and when you lift the whisk over the mixture, the batter will fall slowly and leave a trail like a ribbon that will hold its shape for a few seconds. It will take about 10 minutes. I still use a timer to make sure I beat them for long enough. Don’t start beating the eggs/sugar until the chocolate/butter has melted because the chocolate/butter mixture needs this time to cool down.
  5. As the eggs and sugar are whisking, measure out the flour and cocoa powder into another bowl. Sieve it if there are lots of lumps in the flour and cocoa. Otherwise, use a whisk to loosen and mix them together.
  6. When the eggs and sugar have reached a ribbon stage, reduce the speed to low and add the melted chocolate and butter mixture to the eggs and sugar. Whisk until it all appears to have mixed together. If you are using an electric hand mixer, you may need to turn off the mixer, add the chocolate/butter and then switch it back on again to avoid a mess. I speak from experience.
  7. Now fold in the flour and cocoa powder using a spatula, or a spoon until it is well combined.
  8. Pour all the mixture into the baking tin. Debs says that if you want to create an even more marbled effect, then reserve some brownie batter to dollop on top of the cheesecake before swirling them together. I’ll let you experiment.
  9. Use a tablespoon to dollop the cheesecake mixture evenly into the brownie mixture. Use the back of the spoon to swirl the brownie and cheesecake together. I like to go up and down vertically and then again horizontally. See photo below.
  10. If you want to add in any texture (such as crushed biscuits) or fruit (such as raspberries or blackberries), do it now and push them into the marbled mixture.
  11. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. They should be firm to touch at the top but still wobble when you shake it. Leave to cool completely in the tin and if you can bear it, cover them and leave them overnight in the fridge. They will be easier to cut and the flavours will have deepened.
ingredients for the cheesecake element
The ingredients for the cheesecake mixture – see step 3
Cheesecake mixture beaten until smooth
Beat the cheesecake mixture until smooth – see step 3
a table spoon dolloping cheesecake mixture into the brownie mix
Cheesecake mixture being dolloped – Step 9
the end of the spoon going up and down to create a swirling effect between the brownies and the cheesecake mixtures
Begin to swirl – step 9
frozen raspberries added to half of the cheesecake brownie before baking
I added some frozen raspberries to half of the tin because I fancied some raspberry cheesecake brownies. I didn’t measure it out, but I’m guessing 45g for half a tin?
4 cut up brownies.  The two nearest are raspberry cheesecake brownies and the two further away are vanilla cheesecake brownies
Tada – two variations from one tin. At the forefront there is raspberry cheesecake brownies and at the back, vanilla cheesecake brownies

Brown Butter Hazelnut Chocolate Blondies

Tower of hazelnut chocolate blondies
Some hazelnut and chocolate blondies

Rarely will I just make something up and immediately conclude that it is amazing. Those who know me will testify to how I critique what I make, and recipes go through several iterations before I am happy with them. As I write, I’ve suddenly realised that this recipe also had several predecessors as a cookie re-enacted as a blondie. Wow – I had dismissed that because I hadn’t been trying to tweak that recipe. Nonetheless, this blondie came about with happy accidental happenstance.

Basically, a couple of Mondays ago, I decided that I wanted to bake brownies or blondies. On the Tuesday I ate a rich peanut brownie from Chocnroll, which satisfied my craving for brownies and so I turned my mind to blondies. When Wednesday evening happened, I had finished disseminating the findings of the first round of testing we had done on a major project I’m working on at work, written a lot of action points and very much needing to bake as therapy. Does anybody else do this? I know that I’m not alone in this.

Baking has often been a creative outlet that helps me to complete the stress cycle and thus switch off my buzzing work brain. I listened to Brené Brown’s podcast with Emily and Amelia Nagoski’s work on Burnout and how to complete the stress cycle and doing something creative is a way to complete the stress cycle and so now I feel very much validated.

I mentioned before that I have been working on another – yet unfinished – blondie recipe and I set out to make that. However this time, I added in another egg for extra hoped for fudginess, so that it mimicked my fudgy brownie recipe. As I browned some butter, I realised that I had no pecans nor white chocolate. So the substitutions began and a new blondie was birthed.

Once roasted, rub the hazelnut skins off with a tea towel – Step 2

I’ve since seen on the internet other recipes that call their version of a hazelnut and chocolate blondie a gianduja one. I’ve since thought about grinding up hazelnuts to make a chocolate hazelnut butter that I add in as a layer in the middle or on top. Then in consultations with friends, I decided that this added layer of complication takes away from the simple joy of baking blondies. Admittedly the browning of the butter may be a step too far for some, but it is so essential for the flavour! I promise you that it will be worth learning a new technique that you can use over and over again.

Ribbon stage
Ribbon stage – Step 4

Ingredients for Brown Butter, Hazelnut and Chocolate Blondies

  • 200g butter which I then browned
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 150g chocolate. I used 100g of milk and 50g dark chocolate.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C or 170C fan.
  2. Roast the hazelnuts first for 10 mins using the baking tin for the blondies, until the skins come off them. Use a dry tea towel to rub the skins off the hazelnuts, then chop just over half of them. Don’t miss out this step.
  3. Brown the butter: melt the butter in a medium saucepan on a medium heat and it will start to froth and cackle. That is the water evaporating. Continue and stir the sides and scrape the bottom a few times so that it doesn’t burn. When it is ‘as quiet as a ninja’ (quote from Stella Parks) it is ready. Take it off the heat and either pour the butter in a bowl to cool down, not forgetting to scrape the browned bits from the sides and bottom. Or as I often do, fill up the sink with cold water and carefully place the hot pan in there to cool down.
  4. Now whisk the eggs and sugar together until it is at a ribbon stage. I used a stand mixer on a medium setting (3 on a Kenwood) for about 8 mins. I have instructions on whisking to a ribbon stage in my fudgy brownie recipe
  5. As the eggs and sugar are whisking, line the tin. I used a 20cm square tin.
  6. Now on the lowest setting, continue whisking but pour in the butter and add the salt. Whisk again on a medium setting until combined. I’m always amazed by the reaction and how it goes to almost like a buttercream consistency.
  7. Fold in the flour, chopped hazelnuts and chopped chocolate.
  8. Pour half the mixture into the tin, sprinkle over the unchopped hazelnuts and pour the rest of the mixture into the tin.
  9. Bake in the middle of the oven for 17-20 mins until cooked on top. If it looks a bit jiggly, that is ok. It’ll harden up as it cools.
  10. Allow to cool completely. I like to leave mine overnight. And then cut into 12-16 pieces.
Hazelnuts added as a layer
Hazelnuts added as a middle layer – Step 8
Baked blondies
The baked brown butter, hazelnut and chocolate blondies

And the verdict? Suitably more-ish, dense and fudgy. Surprisingly not overly sweet with the milk chocolate because of the dark chocolate. Lastly, it is always worth roasting the hazelnuts because it improves the texture and flavour.

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies: infinitely adaptable

Experimenting with peanut butter and salted caramel brownies.
Experimenting with peanut butter and salted caramel brownies.

Recently, I was asked in an interview, “what do you contribute to a team?” The first thought that popped into my head was brownies. However, perhaps that wouldn’t be such a professional way to answer the question? So, instead I answered something about how I am a really good team player and the many different skills I’d bring to the team, rather than saying that my contribution is a baked sugar high laden with chocolate. I meant to mention my excellent brownies at the end as an aside, but I forgot.

Immediately once the interview was over and as I reflected on how it went, I wished that I had led with the brownies though because it would have revealed more of my true self. My flatmate and colleague concurred (now assigned to the status of previous flatmate and colleague: that teaching job contract having just ended and we’ve moved out). Though, we then agreed in the next breath that my crack cookies are my best work. So, another time, I’ll be that little bit braver, relax and say, “brownies and cookies.”

The first time that I made these during lockdown was at the beginning of marking many, many student essays whilst living at my sister’s. I’d broken a personal record and spent 5 hours on a paper, checking for plagiarism and looking up citations, and still hadn’t finished it when thoroughly fed up and discouraged, I decided to put it down until the next day. A WOD (workout of the day) with 100 burpees and an evening spent singing, baking these brownies put me in a better mood. I left it out on the side to cool down and develop even more flavour overnight. My sister said that her contribution to my happiness was not diving into them that night. I shared a photo of them on a work group chat and subsequently made friends with a colleague who wanted the recipe.

Pretty Raspberry Brownies
The raspberry burst brownies which fuelled the essay marking

Awkwardly, I didn’t have the recipe at hand to share. It lived in the form of an excel spreadsheet, a hangover from my baking business days. Instead, I sent her a link to my raspberry burst brownies and made a mental note that it was time to publish this recipe.

I created this recipe in Cambodia whilst supplying brownies for a cafe because I wanted to create a brownie with more height and volume that I could adapt with a variety of fillings, such as cheesecake and salted caramel. In addition, my usual go to, very easy brownie recipe which the raspberry burst brownies are adapted from suddenly stopped working for me after I upgraded my oven. They were coming out cakier. Some people prefer their brownie consistency like that but I much prefer them to be fudgier with that delightful cracked top. The timing of it might have been purely a coincidence and have nothing to do with me switching from one of these electric toaster ovens to a standing oven cooker. I’ve shared the only decent photo that I appear to have of my toaster oven for you. If you’ve always lived in the UK, then you may have no concept of what I’m talking about. In most parts of S.E Asia, ovens do not come standard in a furnished kitchen. This is the oven in which I began my baking business and I used it for the first 2 years. It only allowed me to do one tray of cookies, a cake or brownies at a time and by the end it wouldn’t heat above 150°C. When I moved and invested in a new oven, it was a game changer.

My toaster oven that lived on the floor
My toaster oven lived on the floor. I’m piping coconut churros.
my new oven
I moved apartment and my new oven fitted into this space perfectly. This was taken the day the oven was delivered and fitted. If you look carefully you can see I had to buy extra long wiring because the power socket was on the other side of the room.

Anyway, it gave me an excuse to try out a new brownie making method for me that I’d seen Ed Kimber use in this video in which you mix the eggs and sugar for about 10 minutes until they form into a ribbon stage (I’ve explained what ribbon stage is in step 4 of the method) and then add the melted chocolate and butter. Mixing the eggs and sugar for that long, creates volume and structure and I deduced, would help me create that dense fudgy consistency and crinkly top each time. It did. At the bottom of the post, I’ve also included for you, a few photos of the different flavours that I’ve played with and how I’ve adapted them.

I played around with the sugar quantity. Most brownie recipes ask for larger quantities of sugar, but I’ve always liked the challenge of seeing how little sugar I can add to baking and it still taste good. From experience, 150g is too little but anything between 200-230g is perfect. I’ll adapt it depending on the additional flavours I want to add. For example, with salted caramel, I use less because of the added sweetness from the caramel. With raspberry I use more to counteract the tartness of the raspberries.

Brownies components ready to mix together
All the components ready to mix together

I prefer to make these in a stand mixer using the whisk attachment because it is easier to leave the stand mixer running during the egg and sugar whisking part whilst getting on with other tasks, rather than holding an electric hand mixer for 10 minutes.

Top tip 1: if using an electric hand mixer, place a tea towel underneath the bowl to keep it stable and stop it moving around.

Top tip 2: once baked, leave these to cool down completely, cover and place in the fridge overnight. Not only will they taste better as the flavours mature and deepen, but they will also be cold. Cut them with a sharp knife and you’ll get those beautiful clean lines.

So here’s the recipe for the Infinitely Adaptable Fudgy Chocolate Brownies. They’ll make between 12-16 brownies or 20 mini brownie bites.

Ingredients

  • 150g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 150g dark chocolate (at least 60%), broken up, roughly chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200-230g caster sugar (depending on how sweet you’d like them and the additional flavours you want to add)
  • 100g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of instant coffee granules (optional) – I use it because it helps bring out the chocolate flavour
  • And then whatever flavours* you’d like to add, or not.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/355°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a deep tin. For this quantity a 20cm square tin or a rectangular 27×20 or 28×18 will work.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together and just after it has melted, add in the salt, vanilla extract and the optional instant coffee granules and leave it on the side to cool down. There are various ways you can melt chocolate and butter.
    • The more cautious, ahem proper, approach is to use a bain marie, that is put the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl that can sit on top of a saucepan with simmering water. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water in the saucepan. Slowly melt the chocolate and stir regularly. This way you won’t burn the chocolate.
    • Another easier way is to use the microwave. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, place a paper kitchen towel on top of the bowl so that butter won’t pop out as it melts. Melt it in 20 second bursts, stirring each time.
    • My way, is to use a heavy bottomed saucepan. I put the chocolate and butter in it and melt it at a low heat, stirring regularly. I take it off, just as the last few chocolate/butter bits aren’t quite melted because they will melt in the residual heat of the saucepan.
  3. In the meantime, measure out the flour and cocoa powder into a small bowl. Sieve it if there are lots of lumps in the flour and cocoa. Otherwise, use a whisk to loosen and mix them together.
  4. As soon as the chocolate/butter mixture is off the heat, crack the eggs into a medium sized bowl and add the sugar. Use a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer on high speed to start whisking the eggs and sugar until they are at a ribbon stage. Ribbon stage is when the egg and sugar mixture are a pale yellow colour, doubled or even tripled in volume and when you lift the whisk over the mixture, the batter will fall slowly and leave a trail like a ribbon that will hold its shape for a few seconds. It will take about 10 minutes. I still use a timer to make sure I beat them for long enough. Don’t start beating the eggs/sugar until the chocolate/butter has melted because the chocolate/butter mixture needs this time to cool down.
  5. When the eggs and sugar have reached a ribbon stage, reduce the speed to low and add the melted chocolate and butter mixture to the eggs and sugar. Whisk until it all appears to have mixed together. If you are using an electric hand mixer, you may need to turn off the mixer, add the chocolate/butter and then switch it back on again to avoid a mess. I speak from experience, haha.
  6. Now fold in the flour and cocoa powder using a spatula, or a spoon until it is well combined.
  7. Pour into the baking tin.
  8. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes. They should be firm to touch at the top but still wobble when you shake it. Leave to cool completely in the tin and if you can bear it, cover them and leave them overnight in the fridge. They will be easier to cut and the flavours will have deepened.

*You can add various flavours to this, or not if you want them plain. I’ve given you a few of suggestions and photos below. Do let me know how else you adapt them.

For raspberry burst brownies 2.0, I add 90g of raspberries. I mix in half before I pour it into the baking tin and then scatter the remaining half where there are spaces.
For raspberry and white chocolate, do the above and add 100g of chopped white chocolate. Mix half the chocolate into the batter with the raspberry and then fill the spaces with the remaining 50g.
Walnut Brownies
For nutty ones, I use 100g of nuts. For this one, I’ve used walnuts. I pick out 12-16 walnut halves to place on top for evenly then roughly chop and mix in the rest to the mixture before I pour into the baking tin and then place the remaining walnut halves on the top.
Salted Caramel and Hazelnut Brownies
For hazelnut and salted caramel. I made these to use up leftover ingredients as I was packing to return to the UK. Use 100g of roughly chopped hazelnuts and 100g of salted caramel. I mixed in half the hazelnuts into the mixture, then after I poured it into the tin, I blobbed salted caramel with a teaspoon evenly and scattered the rest of the hazelnuts over the top.
Swirls of cheesecake in brownies
Swirled cheesecake brownies, but I’ve realised that the salted caramel and the cheesecake ones are a little more complicated, so I’ll post those recipes another day.

What happened next with that interview? How many points have I accumulated? In this current job hunting cycle, I racked up 103 points. Incidentally, I got offered that job, even without the promise of these brownies. So, I’m currently in the throes of transition once again and relocating down to the Midlands.

Dark Chocolate Cashew Almond Butter Cookies

I meant to publish this recipe a few months ago, but I didn’t have the photos ready.  I still don’t have the perfect photo sequence for how to make these cookies.  But it’s the middle of the Open and these cookies were thought up between a few crossfitters so better like this than never, right?  Besides, what better timing than the middle of the CrossFit Open Games to tell you how I got started on CrossFit and baking paleo cookies.

The ingredients for the cookies minus the bicarbonate of soda

I started CrossFit in February last year.  I had been given a tough teaching schedule at my school and they weren’t letting me push back on it.  As I despaired, I felt God say to me, “Han-Na, you’re stronger than you think you are.” Since I often experience God in physical activities, I decided to also translate that into trying out CrossFit to see how strong I was.  This was after months of pushing back on my coaches because I was very happy in the Bootcamp classes and not interested in getting stronger.

Pretty soon, it was clear to my coaches, that I had the potential to lift heavy weights.   I, on the other hand, intimidated by lifting anything vaguely heavy and the technicalities of the lifts, really did not enjoy the barbell work for the first few months.  Not long ago, one of them encouraged me, as I was going for my 1 rep front squat max, that I had the ideal physique of a squatter.  I’m not entirely sure what he means by that, do you?  Still, I managed 72kg that day, which I was delighted with.

Then one day, one of my coaches asked me when I was going to bake some paleo cookies for her.  I told her that Christina (of Joyfully Nutty) and I had just been talking about how to use cashew almond nut butter in baked goods and so why not try them in a cookie.

So, thank you Minna and the CrossFit community for pushing us into trying to make these paleo cookies.

I use the Dazed and Cashewed, cashew almond nut butter from Joyfully Nutty.  You could make these with a cashew nut butter or an almond nut butter, it comes down to preference.  I went off the back of Julie Wampler’s recipe from Table for Two, and experimented with reducing and changing the sugar to make it suitably paleo.  I was also baffled as to whether palm sugar is paleo or not.  It would appear that the paleo community embrace coconut sugar but differ on palm sugar.  The little personal research that I’ve done suggests that palm sugar is produced in the same way as coconut sugar, and therefore is paleo.

Then I discovered this delightful nugget.  With the addition of different spices, I could halve the sugar or omit the sugar completely and they would still result in tasty ‘sweet’ morsels, that are soft yet chewy.  Curious, I tried a sugar free version, which admittedly, is more delicate and will thus crumble more easily, but because there’s a lot of dark chocolate, you hardly notice that the sugar is gone.

Top tip: by adding spices, you can reduce or omit the sugar.

I believe that you could make these vegan by replacing the egg with flaxseed or chia seed but I’ve yet to try it.

Baking these is a cinch (read the method below), which is another reason why I like them.  You want to satisfy that cookie craving but don’t have to wait 24 hours to rest the cookie dough.  From start to finish, you could be sitting down with a cookie (or twelve) in 30 minutes, or less.

So here is the Dark Chocolate Cashew Almond Butter Cookies, adapted from Table for Two.

Makes between 12-14 cookies

  • 1 large egg
  • 60g palm sugar (*optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 250g cashew almond nut butter
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g dark chocolate*, broken into chunks. Or you could use dark chocolate chips. I use small round discs of chocolate.
  • *use one that is at least 65%.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF or gas mark 4.  Line a large baking tray (or two depending on size) with baking paper.
  2. Whisk the egg, sugar, salt, cinnamon and turmeric together in a small mixing bowl.
  3. Add in the cashew almond nut butter and the bicarbonate of soda and mix until it is all combined.
  4. Stir in the dark chocolate.
  5. Place generous tablespoon dollops (sort of ping pong ball sized) of the cookies on the baking tray.  I use a 1½tbsp cookie scoop for the sake of ease now.
  6. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 12-15 mins, or 10-12 mins in a fan oven.
  7. They will have puffed up a bit and be lightly golden brown in colour.  As they cool they will collapse slightly into themselves.  At this point, I like to place a chocolate disc on top of each cookie because I like how it looks.  Allow them to cool completely on the baking tray and then store them in an airtight container.
  8. In Cambodia’s humid climate, they’ll keep outside the fridge for about 3-4 days.  I normally store them in the fridge and they’ll happily chill out there for 2 weeks.  Or they freeze well.  But you know, they’re pretty tasty straight out of the freezer too.

The verdict?  You’d never know that this was a gluten free, dairy free cookie.  Soft  in texture and rich in flavour.  I get orders for these, with sugar, without sugar, without chocolate… hehe.  So you know that they’re customisable.  I like them as a pre-workout snack.  I also like them because it’s such an easy recipe.

Raspberry Burst Brownies

IMG_9721
Raspberry Burst Brownies

I don’t understand why I’ve never put raspberries in a dark chocolate brownie before.  The flavour combination is ingenious!  These brownies have quickly become my signature bake since I decided to bake them 7 weeks ago, popping out my oven week in-week out.

IMG_9675

I meant to follow BBC’s Good Food’s Best Ever Chocolate Raspberry Brownies and duly noted that they suggested mixing half of the raspberries into the mixture and reserving half of the raspberries to scatter at for the end.  However, I couldn’t quite understand why I’d want to put milk chocolate into the batter and dilute the intense dark chocolatey-ness that I wanted to couple with the raspberry flavour.

IMG_9676

IMG_9677

So, I reverted back to my default brownie recipe.   This time, I have no microwave.  (However, I’ve kept the microwave bit in the instructions, in case you do).  I really wanted to demonstrate how the brownies can be made using one pot.  In all honesty, I never expected that this brownie would have it’s own post.  But when Sarah and I bit into one, the first occasion I baked them, a raspberry just burst in my mouth.  I laughed, said that they were amazing and promptly named them, Raspberry Burst Brownies.

IMG_9678

Ingredients for Raspberry Burst Chocolate Brownies adapted from Usborne First Cookbook.

  • 4oz/100g dark chocolate
  • 4oz/100g butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4oz/100g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 6oz/160g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 or 2 tbsp of milk if the mixture is too firm.
  • 85g-100g frozen or fresh raspberries (I find that 85g is enough)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.  Line a square baking dish with baking paper. I use a 20x20cm baking tin.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter together on a gentle heat, in a heavy bottomed pan.  Alternatively zap them in a heatproof bowl in the microwave.

3. As the chocolate and butter is melting, or being zapped in the microwave, measure out the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into another bowl.  Sift the flour if you want to, but it’s not necessary.

4. Add the vanilla extract, salt and sugar to the chocolate melted goodness and mix well.

5. Add the beaten eggs and keep mixing to combine it all.  Don’t worry – they won’t scramble.

6. Gradually add in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder so that the whole mixture is well combined.

7. Mix in half of the raspberries now.  With the remaining half, scatter them over the top to fill in any deficit spaces before you put it into the oven.

8. Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins.  The secret is to take them out when the top is firm to touch but still wobbles when you shake it.

Verdict?  They are amazing!  Sarah actually told me off for not telling her how amazing they were, when she ate one a few weeks later.  (But we’d taste tested them together that first time…) They are that combination of sweet but sour, and a perfect flavour partnership between the dark chocolate and the raspberry.  But what I love best about them is that the whole raspberries burst in your mouth as you eat them.  Bliss!
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Oh so yummy, festive, orange, cranberry and chocolate bread

oh so yummy, festive orange, cranberry and chocolate bread

Merry (belated) Christmas everyone!

It’s funny the foods that you crave.  I keep surprising myself with what my tastebuds hanker after.  My latest three cravings are mature cheddar cheese and milk chocolate digestives.  Those two cravings kicked in a year after I moved and as I didn’t buy or eat a lot of cheese in the UK, can you see why I surprised myself?!

My friend Hannah came to spend Christmas in Cambodia this year.  I asked whether she’d like to bring out a selection of cheeses out with her so that we could have a cheese and wine evening.  And she did!  She had an unexpected 24 hour delay in Doha, and amazingly the cheese survived!  I don’t think that I’ve ever relished the flavours of each of those cheeses, as much as I did that evening!  Thank you, Hannah.

A selection of beautiful english cheeses, trying to disguise themselves as pac men. Thank you Hannah!
A selection of beautiful english cheeses, trying to disguise themselves as pac men.  The camembert is baking in the oven. Thank you Hannah!

Hannah and Esther waiting patiently for me to take this photo and finding it very funny!
Hannah and Esther waiting patiently for me to take this photo and finding it very funny!

I said three, right.  Well, there’s this bread…

I’m pretty sure that Sainsburys does an AMAZING chocolate, cranberry and orange bread at Christmas time.  I’ve eaten it pretty much every year since discovering it.  Except last year.  Last year, was my first Christmas in Cambodia and I couldn’t find any cranberries, frozen, fresh or dried in the whole of Phnom Penh.  Not that I could search very far and wide because of my poorly left knee.

orange, cranberry, chocolate bread

I’ve been thinking about this eating this bread for a couple of months now.  So in November, I bought a bag of dried cranberries whilst I was in Australia to bake it as my festive loaf.

dark chocolate chunks dried cranberries

I couldn’t find a recipe for this bread online.  So, I modified Richard Bertinet’s cranberry and pecan bread recipe from Dough to recreate one of Sainsbury’s festive bread creations.  I loved it.  Hannah loved it.  (She’d never heard of or eaten it before – WHAT?!?!? and she lives in the UK!)  It smells intoxicating and the flavours balance and complement each other perfectly.  We were happy to eat it, just as it was.  No spread, it doesn’t need one.  If you want to, you could try eating it with cheese, like we did.   Surprisingly it works.

Three things:

  1. Make sure that you use chocolate chunks and not chocolate chips.  Chocolate chunks are bigger and taste more satisfying than chocolate chips.
  2. Make it a white loaf.  It’s meant to be a festive treat.  Don’t spoil it by adding more fiber to it.
  3. The chocolate makes it a messy bread to cut and eat.   That could be because it’s just a wee bit warmer in Cambodia than the UK at this time of year… But I dare you to resist eating it when it’s fresh out of the oven!

Finally, finally (and this isn’t late!).  Hope that you have a wonderful New Year’s Day celebration and wishing you all the best for 2015.

orange zest

orange, cranberry and chocolate dough

Ingredients for my oh so yummy, festive Orange, Cranberry and Chocolate Bread.

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 7g fast action yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 350g water – you can do 350ml but weighing it is always more accurate I think.
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 100g dark chocolate cut roughly into chunks
  • 100g dried cranberries

Method

1. Put the dark chocolate, cranberries and orange zest in a small bowl and give it a good mix.  I discovered that the orange zest actually starts plumping up the cranberries while you’re making the dough – cool!

2. In another medium sized bowl, weigh out the flour, add in the yeast and give it a quick stir to mix it into the flour.  By mixing the yeast with flour first, I don’t worry about the salt touching the yeast and thus deactivating the yeast.

3. Now add in the salt, give it a stir.  Then add in the water.   Use a dough scraper, or your hands to combine the water and flour together as much as possible before turning the mixture out onto your work surface.  It is quite a wet dough to begin with, so don’t worry.

4.  Knead until the dough is springy and smooth.  This probably takes about 10 minutes but it depends on what method you use and how wet the dough was to begin with.  I use Richard Bertinet’s slap and fold method.

5.  Now transfer the orange zest, cranberries and chocolate into the medium sized bowl you used for the dough mixture.  Then, lay the dough on top and spread it out so that it envelops the entire surface.  What you’re going to attempt to do next is wrap the dough around the chocolate and the cranberries and mix it so that you can combine them with the dough.  Doing it this way in the bowl makes it a much neater, efficient process, than if you were to do it on a work surface.

6. Once the chocolate and cranberries are combined with the dough, turn it out from the bowl briefly.  Add a little bit (about a tablespoon) of vegetable oil to the bowl to prevent the dough from stick to it as the dough rises.  Cover with cling film or a wet tea towel and leave it rise.  I leave mine to rise in the fridge for a couple of hours so that the flavours have longer to mature.  You could leave it at this stage, in the fridge, for a couple of hours to 2 days.

7.  Prepare a baking tray by lining it with baking paper, or covering it with a layer of semolina so that it doesn’t stick to the tray.  Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto your work surface.  Push your fingers firmly into the dough to leave dents.  This is a much gentler way of knocking the air out.  While you’re doing that try to shape it roughly into a rectangle.

8. Next, strengthen the dough.  Mentally divide the dough into three sections.  Take a third of the dough to the centre and push it down firmly in the middle with the heel of your hand.  Then take the other third of the dough to the centre and push it down firmly with the heel of your hand.  Finally fold the mixture in half and again push it down firmly with the heel of your hand.

9.  This next bit is up to you.  I cut my dough into two halves and shaped one into a circle and the other into a square-ish loaf.  You can shape it into one or as many loaves as you wish.    Cover with damp tea towel or oiled cling film.  Let them rest until they have doubled in size again.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 250°C/480°F/Gas Mark 9.

10.  When the dough is ready, cut deep, clean incisions in it to help create shape and release gas.  I made a hash (#) sign on one loaf and cut three slices on the other.  I then sprayed the tops of them with water to create a bit of steam as they bake.  (My new electric oven doesn’t like it when you spray the inside of the oven with water.)

11. Whack them in the oven.  After 10 minutes turn the oven down to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7 and bake for 40-50 minutes.  Check that the bread is ready – it should sound hollow when you tap it’s bottom.  If not, set the timer for another 5 minutes and check again.  Let them rest for at least 5 minutes before you enjoy and devour it.

orange, cranberry, chocolate bread

 

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