Chocolate

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Almost Everything Free Brownies

Published July 3, 2016 by Storm

I was baking brownies to share this weekend and, because we all have different dietary requirements, they needed to be everything free. Well, not everything free, but dairy, gluten, and soya free, and ideally palm oil free as well.
The gluten free need was easily met; if I don’t have time to risk an experiment not being good enough to share or if I just want a quick and easy substitute flour for a recipe that would usually use wheat I fall back on a gluten free flour blend I know I can rely on. Avoiding dairy, soya, and palm with fat that would behave a lot like butter was a more interesting challenge. I decided to try coconut oil. You don’t have to buy expensive virgin coconut oil for these though, there’s no way you’d be making my brownies as part of a health food kick, I used the cheapest I could find and it worked just fine.

I may experiment more with different flours and maybe adding walnuts or chocolate chips but given that these were squidgy yet slightly crumbly, with a thin, crisp top I’m happy with how they turned out, and given how rapidly the pile on the plate went down I think others were happy too.

The recipe

Makes 12-16 brownies

  • 5 oz Dark Chocolate (a bar and a half of the 71% one I like, leaving me some to eat while brownies bake)
  • 3.5 fl oz coconut oil
  • 7 oz granulated sugar
  • 4 oz gluten free plain white flour blend
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 medium eggs

Pre-heat oven to 170ºC fan oven (I think that’s about 190ºC without fan or Gas Mark 5).

Grease and line an 8″ square baking dish or tin.

Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together in a double boiler.

Mix the sugar, flour, and baking powder together in a large bowl.

Beat the eggs and whisk thoroughly into the dry ingredients.

Stir in the chocolate and coconut oil.

(Add any extras you fancy like chopped walnuts or dried cherries at this stage).

Transfer the mix to your baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes (it should be crisp on top but still slightly soft.

Allow to cool in the baking dish for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

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Tidying up 2014’s goals, starting 2015’s

Published February 4, 2015 by Storm

Ending my recipe challenge with a flurry of treats

I may not have found time to write about doing so but I did find time to keep trying new recipes throughout December. My final three efforts of 2014 were Turkish Delight, French Chocolate Cake, and Beer and Mustard Bread.

I’ve been wanting to try making the Turkish Delight since being given Gifts From The Kitchen a few years ago, it just took me a while to brave my first attempt. This was a mixed success, it tasted good but I definitely didn’t have the texture right; boiling for longer at the final stage is obviously required but it had reached the point that I was struggling to stir it and was getting blisters. The recipe was reasonably easy to follow and although it is time consuming and wasn’t a great first attempt I probably will try again some time as I do love Turkish Delight. 

The French Chocolate Cake, from the simply titled Chocolate, was a greater success; just as well as I was baking this as a gift. It was more complicated than my usual ‘throw all the ingredients in the food processor then chuck the mix in a sponge tin’ approach to cakes, but the recipe was well written and easy to follow and the results were (so I’m told) good.

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Beer and Mustard Bread, from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking, was very easy to make; using the bread machine still feels a bit like cheating but it’s a nice sort of cheating. I baked this as part of a Boxing Day buffet and I think it’s fair to say it was good as I’ve never seen a loaf disappear so rapidly. Possibly the perfect bread to eat with cheese.

Which leads into

2015 Goals

  1. Try a new recipe from one of my cookery books each month.
  2. Try a different bread recipe every time I bake.
  3. Learn something new with each knitting project I do (the two projects I’m carrying over from last year are exempt from this).

January saw me start all three of these goals!

The recipe I tried was Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin from Vegetarian Classics. I cheated and used a bag of broccoli and cauliflower florets rather than chopping my own, this was a mistake as they weren’t well enough matched in size so I had to choose between extra firm cauliflower or soggy broccoli. I wasn’t particularly keen on the yoghurt and cheese mix used a a sauce either, I think I would have preferred simple grated cheese or a more classic cheese sauce, the yoghurt flavour dominated. Not one I’m going to be making again.

The bread was far more successful than the supper dish. Chickpea and Peppercorn Bread from the same lovely book as the Beer and Mustard Bread. This doesn’t use gram flour (which you might expect) but combines white flour with tinned chickpeas. The chickpeas blend into the dough and create a rich bread with a moist, slightly heavier crumb. It’s delicious and filling; it also seems slow to go stale, I baked it on Saturday and it hasn’t started to dry out yet (maybe that’s partly thanks to the bread bin I was given for Christmas). I will bake this again but will probably omit the peppercorns to give myself more choice what I eat with it.

The knitting was the first of a string of selfish projects, a hat for myself.

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The pattern is Sandra Dee’s Nymandus Draculea and the yarn is King Cole Galaxy. King Cole seems quite a fine DK so I used 4mm needles, not the 6mm called for in the pattern, and put in an extra pattern repeat. The new, to me, technique was cabling; little, baby cables where just one stitch crosses another, but there were quite a lot of them. The cables don’t show as well as they might in a slightly heavier and plainer yarn, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! I know that I was a bit clumsy with my cables at first, though they got neater as I became more used to doing them, so having a yarn that distracts from the slight unevenness of my cabling isn’t such a bad thing. It took me about ten evenings to knit, I might have finished a little faster but I decided not to work on it when I was tired as I didn’t want to risk too many mistakes (feline assistance led three or four dropped stitches I needed to rescue without adding sleepiness into the equation). I’m happy with my hat, I might even knit it again in slightly chunkier yarn, and, having bought more yarn than I needed, I have the next project queued to start using galaxy; the Railway Modeller will just have to get used to me in stripes!

Simnel Cake and an Imprecise Pudding

Published March 21, 2014 by Storm

Simnel Cake

Let’s be completely honest, The Railway Modeller and I both like cake; we probably like cake more than we should really. I thought the next celebration cake was due for an April birthday, then I discovered that Simnel Cakes were traditionally baked for Laetare Sunday (probably better known as Mother’s Day in the UK); obviously I decided to bake one. I found a recipe in one of my books and a bit of research suggested two weeks would be adequate maturing time, so this week I’ve made a cake. I’ll write more about it when we’ve actually tried it. In the absence of more to say about cake I’m writing about a pudding instead!

Steamed pear and chocolate sponge

Earlier this week I was given a bag of very ripe, slightly bruised pears. This classes as a treat because pears usually seem to be sold under-ripe and even the smell of good ripe ones is cheering. Obviously the bruising meant there would be some wastage so I needed to use them in something I would be chopping them for; my usual dish for pears like this would be a crumble but I thought my hands would probably object to tickling the crumble topping into being at the moment so decided to come up with a sponge pudding instead. This was a good decision to make, my crumble is probably healthier but this was pure comfort food. It’s a slightly imprecise recipe in places and while my scales mean I weigh ingredients in ounces the chocolate content is given in grams because I used half of a 100g bar, it made sense when I was throwing things together in the kitchen.

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Ingredients (Serves 6-8)

A large knob of butter

1 dessertspoon golden syrup

50g dark chocolate (I used a 70% cocoa content one)

3 or 4 pears (I used the unbruised bits of six very ripe ones)

3oz self-raising flour

1oz cocoa powder

4oz butter, margarine or spread suitable for baking (I use sunflower spread)

2 eggs

4oz sugar 

About 2 tablespoons milk or single cream (I used 1 tablespoon goats’ double cream and 1 tablespoon water)

Method

Grease a 1¾ or 2 pint pudding bowl.

In a saucepan, melt the knob of butter over a low heat. Break the chocolate into chunks and add the chocolate and golden syrup to the pan with the butter. Stir continually until everything is melted and evenly mixed. Pour this chocolate sauce into the pudding bowl.

Peel and chop the pears into roughly 1cm cubes, discarding the cores, and drop into the pudding bowl on top of the sauce.

Mix the remaining ingredients, except the cream or milk, in a food processor.

Add the milk or cream a little at a time until the mix looks smooth and spongy but not runny. Spoon the sponge mix on top of the pears in the pudding bowl.

Take a sheet of greaseproof paper and lay a sheet of kitchen foil on top of it, pleat the two together down the centre. Cover the pudding bowl with the greaseproof paper and foil (paper side to the pudding) and secure with string. Trim any excess paper and foil.

Place the pudding bowl in a steamer and steam for around 1¾hours.

Turn pudding out onto a plate and serve hot with cream or custard, alternatively serve cold as an indulgent cake.

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