Gooey chocolate walnut brownies – guaranteed to be great

I never realised how many different variations there were to a chocolate brownie recipe, I found some with enormous quantities of sugar and others with very little of anything in them, yet they all seemed to make a similar number of brownies. I was dubious of them all and decided that today I wanted a guaranteed good result rather than an experimental bake. I have already had an experimental bake this week with a poppyseed and chocolate cake, and that didn’t turn out too well – but that’s for another post.

These brownies tasted amazing, with a very gooey centre and crisp nutty crust, they were also incredibly light for such a dense looking brownie.

This recipe has been taken and adapted from ‘Breakfast lunch tea by Rose Carrarini‘ Hazelnut brownies (Page 162):

  • 120g Walnuts
  • 250g Unsalted  butter
  • 250g Roughly chopped chocolate
  • 380g Caster sugar
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1tsp Vanilla extract
  • 150g Sifted, plain flour
  • Pinch of salt

The recipe requires a 20x28cm baking tin. (I used a 23x23cm silicone tray)

Makes 15-20 squares (I made 16 generous squares – we don’t like small bits of cake here!)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4

  1. Butter and line the baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Slowly melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, slowly add the butter while the chocolate is melting then remove the bowl from the heat and cool slightly.
  3. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract for a few minutes until the mixture is combined, allow the mixture to reach a light white colour.
  4. Combine the chocolate and egg mixtures, before folding in the flour and salt.
  5. Pour the mixture in to the tin, then scatter the walnuts over the top and press them in lightly. Bake for 25-30 minutes. They will still be slightly moist in the middle, however as they cool they will firm up.
  6. Cool in the tin, and cut into slices when cold. Store in an airtight container, these will taste even better as they age over 2-3days (if you can get them to last that long…)

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Food for thought

I recently went into London to take a look at what the bakeries, patisseries and cafes had on offer as I am still interested in one day owning a cafe. However, I was also just interested in what people are making and eating for lunch currently, as it is all too easy to get stuck in a rut of ham/cheese/tuna sandwiches. These are a few of the places I either ate at or found interesting:

My first stop was Herman ze German, which is near Charing Cross Station, they had a really interesting range of pretzels and cakes that are freshly made each day. I tried the crumble swirl which was a lovely sweet dense sponge with a crumble and icing topping (shown on the left of the bottom shelf). Next time I go there I will definatley be trying the chocolate twist pretzel (pictured next to the chocolate dipped crossiant) as this looked delicious. For lunch they also offered a range of rolls, which had many typical German fillings, such as a salami, cheese, boiled egg and salad roll. It is very common in Germany for many different fillings to have egg included with them. Their range of drinks was also very interesting, all of them were German and they included flavours such as: apple and rhubarb, apple and beetroot and a very high caffeine cola.

I then came across MD’s yummin’ it up in Covent Garden, I didn’t try anything here but their food looked amazing! The window display showed a range of different small pieces of bread that formed an open sandwich. There was a huge range of toppings from roast beef and tomato to caviar, boiled egg and tomato. All of the toppings were very neatly placed onto the bread, with some of the spreads being piped on, which made them look lovely. Next time I am in the area at lunchtime I will, try them out and see if they taste as good as they look.

For lunch I stopped at Leon in old compton street, after reading one of their cookbooks I was intrigued as to what their food would be like. I ordered the chicken club wrap with the slaw and fresh home-made lemonade; the wrap was nice with big chunks of meat however, it would have been a lot better had they not smothered it in a very spicy chilli sauce. Someone I was with ordered the meatballs and they looked lovely and apparently were delicious, so I would be more inclined to recommend them and will be trying them next time I am in the area.

I also visited the Soho Hummingbird bakery and I found this very disappointing, I had wanted to visit for a long time and was excited to finally get the chance. While the cupcakes looked pretty they didn’t appear to be worth the £3.55 price tag! I also thought it odd that they put no descriptions next to any of the cakes as many of the names are not in the slightest descriptive e.g. red velvet, black bottom cupcake etc. and while there were staff available they seemed to just be pushing the ‘cupcake of the day’ but even then the description only went as far as ‘delicious’. I tried the red velvet cupcake as it was one I had remembered hearing many good things about, the sponge was lovely and light but the cream cheese frosting was a bit too cheesy for me, I am used to them being sweeter.

I also saw bakeries that had lovely rustic looking rolls, tarts and quiches, as well as amazing looking cakes; there were soo many places that offered beautiful looking food. One of the things I found from looking at these places is that if ever I owned a cafe/bakery I would ensure that for lunches the bread and rolls I used were of a high quality and looked good. As when I was walking around I found it was the look of the bread used that made me want to try things before I even looked at what was within them.

Poppyseed crumble cake (mohn streuselkuchen)

After doing very little baking over Christmas, I decided today was the day to get back into it, and seeing as I’m currently visiting family I left it open to what they fancied. This is not something I would normally make, but it is something I have always enjoyed on trips to Germany. The recipe is very simple, and if you do not have access to the poppyseed filler then I would definitely recommend the German Deli shop, or a quick Google search shows there are many ways to make the filling using dried poppyseeds.

Here is the recipe:

Pastry:

  • 185g plain flour
  • 75g butter, cut into cubes
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Poppyseed filling:

  • 300g poppyseed filling (mohnback) – available from The German Deli in London
  • 227g curd cheese
  • 75ml sour cream
  • 10g Vanilla sugar

Crumble topping:

  • 110g butter (softened)
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
Icing:
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 15ml water
This requires a 26cm circular springform tin.
Preheat the oven to 190C
  1. To make the pastry, add the flour, butter and icing sugar to a food-processor bowl, and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the  egg and pulse the processor until the dough forms a ball. Bring all the dough together, wrap in cling film and chill for around 30 minutes.
  2. To make the poppyseed filling thoroughly combine all of the ingredients.
  3. For the crumble topping, place all of the ingredients in a food-processor bowl and pulse briefly as the crumbles should remain relatively large.
  4. Roll the pastry out thinly and place in the buttered tin. Then smooth the poppyseed mixture over the pastry and lay the crumbles on top. Lightly compact the crumbles into the mixture, before baking.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 25-30minutes. Remove the side of the springform and allow to cool completely, preferably overnight.
  6. Lightly glaze the top of the cake with icing and leave to set before serving.

Mary Berry’s Frangipane mince pies

My most recent bake was this new take on a mince pie, and I have to say it was a very simple and forgiving recipe! Even when an extra egg was mistakenly added to the pastry, a little extra flour and icing sugar to restore the consistency and everything was fine. I left out the apricot glaze after cooking as it seemed unnecessary and served them cold rather than warm, as is recommended. However, they were still the absolutely delicious and went down very well with my family 🙂

Here is the recipe, taken from here:

PASTRY

  • 175g plain flour
  • 75g butter, cut into cubes
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten

FRANGIPANE

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 level tbsp plain flour
  • 1⁄2 tsp almond extract, or to taste

FILLING AND TOPPING

  • just under 1 x 411g jar mincemeat flavoured with about 2 tbsp brandy
  • a few flaked almonds
  • apricot jam to glaze
  • lemon juice
Makes 18

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

  1. To make the pastry, put the flour, butter and icing sugar into a food-processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Take the dough ball, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Before cleaning the food-processor add the butter and sugar to it, process them until they look smooth and creamy. Then add the eggs, almonds, flour and almond extract and process until combined, occasionally processing throughout adding the ingredients. This is the completed frangipane mixture.
  3. Then roll out the pastry thinly on a floured work surface and cut it into 18 x 6.5cm circles. Use the circles to line the tins. Spoon a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pastry case and top with the frangipane mixture, lightly spread this mixture over the mincemeat to ensure it covers the mincemeat but foes not overfill the pastry cases. The frangipane does not have to be neatly spread out as it spreads itself during the baking process. Sprinkle a few flaked almonds on top of the cakes.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, watching carefully. Remove from the tins and allow to cool on a wire rack.