Back to the real world…

After a lovely 4-day weekend, it’s time to go back to work.  Funnily enough, I’ve not really felt the weekend blues as much.  I think I needed the long break from work to gain perspective about things (that and to catch up on my ironing!).  I’m not dreading the early wake up call to get ready for an hour-long commute on the lovely Greater Anglia trains to get to my desk.

I’m thankful for the break, thankful that I’ve had time to reflect about my faith, come to terms with it and what I have to do to continue to nurture it, how to reconnect with that side of my personality and how to accept that everything that happens to me is something that isn’t part of what MY plan is.  My plans may or may not coincide with what God’s plans are for me.  Short of singing “Jesus take the wheel” at the top of my lungs, I am easing myself into the idea of surrendering to a higher power.  Because when I allow God to take control, it is His plan that I am following and not my own wilful heart.

I am thankful for the blessing that is Easter.  I am thankful for the rest it affords my body.  I am thankful for the rest it affords my brain (I wasn’t, at all, tempted to do anything work related – mind you, do and think about work are two different things!).  I am thankful for the rest that it has afforded my spirit and the chance to be alone with my thoughts about God, my faith and the way my life should reflect my beliefs.  I am thankful in the knowledge that I am an Easter person (because I am resurrected and I am renewed).

I am also thankful for the treats that have nourished my body (and to be honest, my spirit as well!).  Have you found all your Easter eggs?

Chocolate crinkles

Over a week ago, I gave in to the urge to finally make chocolate crinkles.  It’s a popular cookie in the Philippines.  It’s rich, indulgent and fudgy.  It’s something that might just make you go mmmmm.  I approached the idea of making crinkles with a little trepidation.  I always worry that my memories of what things taste like in Manila is different from reality.  But I did manage to work up the courage to finally make crinkles!

Chocolate crinkleI’ve written a recipe that I’ve tweaked below and I know that it works.  I would love for y’all to make chocolate crinkles and let me know if the recipe works for you.

Ingredients:

  • 150g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ salt
  • 150g icing sugar

Directions:

In a bowl, using a balloon whisk, mix the flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the cocoa powder, sugar and oil.  To mix, I’ll use a free-standing mixer.

Chocolate mixtureWith a paddle attachment, on the lowest setting (just so that the cocoa powder doesn’t fly all over the place), start mixing the cocoa powder, sugar and oil for about 2 minutes.  Once the mixture forms a thick paste, increase the speed and mix for a further 2 minutes.  The mixture should turn shiny and smooth.  Add each egg individually and mix until the mixture is again shiny.  Once all the eggs are added, add the vanilla.

Chocolate and egg mixAdd the flour mixture and mix until well-incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

Chocolate and flour mixCover the mixture and chill in the fridge for at least 2½ hours (I initially only chilled it for 1½ hours and it seemed to be okay), the longer you chill it, the better.

Chocolate mixPreheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).  Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  I like to use a small ice cream scoop or a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon.

Chocolate crinkle mixScoop a generous 1 tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into a ball.  Coat each ball with icing sugar and place on the lined sheet.

Crinkles in icing sugarBake for 10-12 minutes.  Once the cookies are baked, take them out of the oven and allow to cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring them onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Crinkles for bakingThe cookies have a recognisable cracked surface and that’s how you know it’s a chocolate crinkle!

Choccie crinkleThis recipe makes about 40 crinkles.

The power of the crinkle

I comfort eat.  Now I know psychologists and nutritionists and every healthcare professional reading this will be gasping and tutting and shaking their head right now.  Comfort eating is a terrible coping mechanism and will have far reaching consequences.  Ha!  How highfalluting and technical-sounding is that sentence, eh?  Mind you, I am very aware my comfort eating has allowed me to balloon and gain a whole child in terms of weight since I moved to the UK.

Apart from the comfort eating, I’ve been comfort cooking and comfort baking.  I’ve been trying to recreate in my kitchen the food that was readily available to me in the Philippines.  My favourite English proverb (which helps me justify my kitchen sessions) is: “Necessity  is the mother of invention.”  Mind you, the food that I produce in my kitchen aren’t necessarily my own inventions.  Sometimes it’s a result of me trawling the internet for tips on how to cook Filipino food.  Since Filipino food isn’t readily available to take away or to buy at the nearest convenience store, I’ve got to learn how to make things myself if I miss eating them.  I’m quite pleased that I’m able to make things that I would normally just go out and buy if I was in the Philippines.

I finally gave in to a long-standing baking to-do: making chocolate crinkles.  Chocolate crinkles will feature in most Filipinos’ top 10 list of their favourite cookies.  I’m not entirely certain whether it is a Filipino invention but it is certainly readily available in the Philippines, everywhere.  Say the phrase “chocolate crinkles” to a Filipino and you more often than not will hear them say “Awww chocolate crinkles!”

For those of you who don’t know, chocolate crinkles are soft, fudgy chocolate cookies that are slightly firm, almost crispy, on the outside and moist and cakey on the inside.  It’s covered with a generous coating of icing sugar outside and when you bite into the cookie, it’s rich and indulgent.

I’m going to share the recipe here once I’ve tried another test run, just to make sure that the recipe works properly.  Any taste testers available?

Chocolate crinkle

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Brownie points

Who doesn’t like chocolate?  Apart from chocolate cake, one of my favourite chocolate consumption delivery systems is the good old chocolate brownie.  And after trying all the ways to make a brownie, looking through so many recipes, I have finally settled on my own.  Because I’ve made the brownie this way several times now and it comes out with that thin, shiny, crackly film on top, which I firmly believe is a sign of a good brownie!  Of course, other opinions are welcome.

brownie2ways

So, if y’all are interested in trying it out, my brownie recipe is written down below.

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark chocolate (at least 56%), roughly chopped
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 150g plain flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (350°F).  Grease and line a brownie pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a heat-proof dish and place the bowl over boiling water, making sure the boiling water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.  Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally to make sure the butter doesn’t burn.  Once butter and chocolate are melted, take off the heat and set aside.  Allow to cool to room temperature, making sure you stir occasionally (I usually add the paste made from 1 heaping teaspoon of instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water at this point when I want to add a slightly different flavour to the chocolate).
  3. In a free-standing mixer with a paddle attachment (you can also do this by hand with a wire whisk, but it’ll take a bit longer), beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture becomes a very pale yellow mixture (will usually take about 7-10 minutes, depending on the mixer, about 15-20 minutes by hand).
  4. Add the flour in three additions, making sure that the flour is incorporated each time.  Add the melted chocolate mixture to the batter ensuring that you scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure that everything is well-combined.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared brownie tin and level with a spatula.  TIP:  I place a baking tray (or cookie sheet) in the oven whilst it pre-heats and I place the brownie tin on it so that the brownie cooks evenly (raw brownie batter is lovely but bad for the tummy!).  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Brownie is baked when a crackly film forms on top and a skewer/toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Serving suggestions:

  • Plain, just sliced into squares (sized definitely according to preference)
  • Topped with caramel and salted roasted peanuts
  • More melted chocolate
  • A sprinkling of icing sugar (if you can handle even more sweetness), add a little coffee or cinnamon to add  different dimension to the taste

TIP:  Caramel cheat – in a deep saucepan, boil water and add a can of unopened condensed milk (sans paper label), yes the whole can.  Boil for 3 hours.  When you open the can (after it has cooled enough to touch), the caramel will be ready to spread on anything!

 

Chocolate Guinness cupcakes!

Finally!!!

I was feeling a bit stressed out because the days were rushing past me and I hadn’t started on the Cake Book Challenge yet.  I had only 25 weeks to accomplish this goal to begin with!  But finally, the Cake Book challenge has officially begun!

1 recipe down, 49 more to go!  23.5 weeks left!

I chose to start with the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes recipe (page 44 of the book) because I love Chocolate Guinness cake.  The recipe was similar to my favourite choccie Guinness cake recipe (the Hummingbird Bakery recipe is ace and is a great go-to cake) so it wasn’t going to stress me out.  Plus, I get to drink the left over Guinness (which I did!)!

Chocolate Guiness cupcake recipe

One thing I did realise is that my hands are horrible and I have no icing talent!  The hands were wobbly and I couldn’t control the piping bag as well as I would’ve wanted to.  Also, attempting to ice anything with cream cheese frosting in this heat is generally a silly idea.  The minute I’d finished icing the cupcake, I could see the frosting softening ever so slightly!  I think the necessary tweak would be to add more icing sugar.  Maybe!  I may scrape off all the icing and start over again!

Maybe.

Chocolate Guinness cupcakes

I will be making Carly’s holiday cake today as well (I am hoping to accomplish this with all the good will and positive thinking in the world!).  Today’s baking mantra: I will manage my time properly!

Beetroot brownies

I bring this brownie to work all the time and, more often than not, the brownies go, within minutes.  Sometimes people are taken aback at the “beetroot” element of the brownie and  I always say that this is a “healthy” brownie and I always joke that beetroot that’s in it can count towards one of your five-a-day.  But there is a large element of truth in that statement because there is a considerable amount of beetroot in the recipe — and beetroot is a vegetable!  I know that most people are pleasantly surprised at how good the brownies taste.  I think they expect the traditional beetroot taste to hit them, but in this recipe, you can’t really taste the beetroot.  If anything, the beetroot enhances the taste of the chocolate.

I tweaked a recipe that I found in a supermarket’s magazine.  I added more beetroot and reduced the amount of sugar in it.  The brownies come out very moist and very fudgy.

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark chocolateBeetroot brownies
  • 200g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 250g sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 300g vacuum packed cooked beetroot, grated

Directions:

  1. Break the chocolate into sections and together with the butter, place in a heatproof dish and stand over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl didn’t touch the water.  Leave to allow the chocolate and butter to melt, stirring occasionally.  Once the chocolate and butter are melted, set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 180C.
  3. In a bowl, mix together eggs, vanilla and sugar.  Beat until the eggs are light yellow in colour.  Beat in the melted chocolate until well-combined.  The mixture will thicken slightly as you mix the chocolate into the egg and sugar mixture.  Gently fold in the flour and beetroot..
  4. Spoon the mixture into a prepared pan (greased and lined with parchment paper) and bake for 40-45 minutes.  It is done when a toothpick inserted comes out relatively clean.  Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then remove from the baking tin and cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. Will make 16-24 squares, depending on how big you slice your squares.

Pecan and chocolate banana spice muffins

I’ve been looking back at the first 53 days of the year, I haven’t really baked much.

So the first bake for 2014 is banana muffins.  I love banana loaves and treasure my banana bread recipes.  My favourites are those that translate into wonderful muffins.  Most cake recipes will be great cupcake or muffin recipes anyway, with a little ingredient tweaking and oven watching as cupcakes and muffins, obviously are smaller and will bake quicker.  I’m sharing another one of those “tweaked” recipes.  This recipe happened because I was a little too enthusiastic with random inclusion of ingredients.  I was a bit worried about how the spices would work with the dark chocolate, but according to my lovely taste-testers at work, the chocolate studded spiced mixture works!  Hurrah!

Now, if you’re brave enough to give my little concoction a try, here’s the recipe!  What’s great about this recipe is it’s a little lighter because I don’t use butter but vegetable oil.  This also makes exactly 12, count em, 12 regular sized cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 220g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powderPecan and choccie banana spice muffin
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 bananas (preferrably at least medium sized), mashed
  • 100g chocolate chips
  • 150 g chopped pecans
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 75ml vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C (180°C fan).
  2. In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt together and set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, mix oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla and the mashed banana together until the mixture is smooth.  I love my mixer (my nearly 3-year old Kenwood Chef) because I can just bung everything in (including unmashed bananas! the lovely machine does it all for me!) and it gets mixed beautifully!  Add the chocolate chips, pecans and the flour mixture and mix until well-incorporated, scraping the sides of the mixing bowls occasionally.
  4. Spoon the mixture into a muffin tin lined with muffin cases.  For more evenly sized cupcakes, I use an ice cream scooper.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  The muffins will be ready when a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  5. Take the muffins out of the oven and leave to rest in the muffin tray for 5 minutes before letting them cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. Makes 12-14 muffins, depending on the size of cupcake cases that you use.