Oreo Brownies

IMG_0755Oreos have got to be one of my all time favourite cookies. Fond childhood memories featuring the biscuit include going on a friend’s family holiday where we visited one of the magical wonders of the world that is Costco, solely to stock up on the legendary American snack, in bulk, for dunking into milk later. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been one of those weirdos in the adverts who twist the oreo apart, separating the outer biscuits to ‘lick off’ the icing. Considering the icing is practically welded to the chocolate base it is rather difficult to create enough traction to separate the two, and why would I want to eat my oreo in its multi components anyway?! This has forever baffled me. The one and only road to oreo induced heaven is to dunk the whole shabang into a glass of ice cold milk, leave it for as long as you dare and pop it all in.

Or crush em up and shove them into a pan of gooey chocolatey brownies!

IMG_0744Ingredients

  •  200g dark chocolate
  • 175g butter
  • 325g caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 16 oreos

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a 9×13 inch brownie tin with greaseproof paper. You can use an 8×8 inch tin for even thicker brownies, but increase the baking time. Break up the chocolate in a large glass bowl with the butter and melt slowly over a pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth.IMG_0745Take the bowl off the heat, add the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Add the flour and stir. Finally, crack in the eggs and beat until silky smooth (look at my lucky double yolker! These beautiful brownies were touched by the hand of an angel).IMG_0747Using a rolling pin, bash the oreos in a sandwich bag until they are a mixture of big and little chunks. Gently fold in half the biscuit crumbs into the batter and pour into your prepared tin.IMG_0751IMG_0752Don’t forget to sprinkle the remaining oreos over your calorific masterpiece before putting it in the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until flaky on the top but still fudgey and dense in the centre. IMG_0754Be careful not to overbake these brownies otherwise the edges will be hard and crunchy, and nobody will have the happy moment of finding the middle of their brownie ever so slightly raw. In my book, that is a prerequisite of all brownies, otherwise it just tastes like a sad, old and dry chocolate cake.IMG_0756Let them cool completely, slice em up and dish them out to all those who deserve a treat. If you’re feeling extra fancy (like myself one lonesome midweek eve), pop a brownie into the microwave for 30 seconds and enjoy with a dollop of M&S’s finest Ultimate Madagascan Vanilla Ice Cream. Feel super smug all night long.IMG_0791_2

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Almond St Clement Cake

IMG_0727“Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement’s”

The lovely people at The Book Boutique held a Facebook Bake-a-Long last week, and I was lucky enough to win a fabulous cookbook called ‘Konditor & Cook: Deservedly Legendary Baking.’ If you live in London, you may have stumbled across one of Gerhard Jenne’s string of successful bakeries, with the first shop opening on London’s South Bank. The book itself is filled with sweet German delights, most of which I’ve never heard of but am dying to try my hand at. Aside from the beautiful photography and enticing recipes, the book offers a very interesting insight into the baker’s career, and how he affectionately named his bakeries after the German work for pastry chef – Konditor.

This recipe jumped out at me because the author himself proclaims that when asked for his favourite cake, he responds with this Almond St. Clement Cake. It is lighter than light, made from the pulp of oranges and the rind of lemons, giving it a superbly intense citrus flavour. My family, believe it or not, have now christened it their favourite cake, too!

Ingredients (makes one 24cm cake)

  • 3 large unwaxed oranges
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 325g caster sugar
  • 60g flaked almonds

Method

Remove the zest from all the oranges and the lemon and set aside.IMG_0716Juice the lemon plus one of the oranges and set that aside too. Place the remaining two whole oranges in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for one hour, then remove the oranges from the water and leave them to cool.IMG_0717IMG_0719Make sure to leave them for a good 5 minutes, or you will burn your fingertips to kingdom come (I’m quite sure my fingerprints are now non-existent due to my impatience). At this point you can preheat the oven to 165°C and line the base of a 24cm springform cake tin with greaseproof paper. Peel the oranges and reduce the flesh to a pulp, using a food processor.IMG_0720Add the eggs and the reserved zest, and blitz until completely smooth.IMG_0721In a very large bowl, mix the ground almonds, baking powder and 250g of the sugar.IMG_0718Add the orange and egg mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. I say use a very large bowl because mine was most definitely not large enough – there was some serious sloppage going on.IMG_0722Pour the mixture into the lined tin and sprinkle the edge with the flaked almonds.IMG_0723Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, on a wire rack. I’m totally unsure why, but my carefully placed flaked almonds gravitated towards the centre of the cake as it was baking. It must have been some sort of seismic pull.IMG_0724To make the glaze, place the remaining sugar and the reserved orange and lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer over a medium heat for 5 minutes to make a syrup. Remove the cake from the tin and brush the hot syrup all over it, then you can leave it to cool until serving.IMG_0727The book instructs to ‘Enjoy its juicy fruitiness plain, or add some Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit or a quick summer berry compote.’IMG_0735Seeing as though crème fraîche was the sole potential cake accompaniment presiding in my fridge at that time, we went for a dollop of that and it was positively heavenly! So I would absolutely recommend.

IMG_0736‘Konditor & Cook’ is jam packed full of gloriously decadent looking bakes, and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into them. Just not before baking this gem a few more times – it is simply one of the most beautiful cakes I have ever tasted!

Cinnamon Glazed Pumpkin & Walnut Muffins

IMG_0691These spiced pumpkin muffins are your best friend if you’re in a rush, running out the door and need something delicious to grab on the go. In my dream world they are to be eaten whilst wearing something tartan and cosy, because they seem to compliment each other rather well (I had this thought mid bite, as I was sporting my new tartan skirt). Bake your own Starbucks treat and revel in the knowledge that yours contain none of those chemical preservative or nasties, and all of the goodness and flavour of a lovingly home baked muffin.

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins)

  • 220g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 220g pumpkin puree
  • 120ml vegetable oil
  • 80ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 50g white chocolate chips
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 20ml milk
  • more cinnamon

IMG_0683Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with cases. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, and put to one side. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the brown sugar until combined. Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, milk, vanilla extract and whisk again.IMG_0684Pour the wet batter into the dry ingredients, carefully fold with a wooden spoon until nearly no flour pockets remain (some are fine, just be sure not to overmix the batter or your muffins will be sad little flat things), adding your walnuts and chocolate chips to the mix too. Spoon your batter into the muffin cases until about two thirds full.IMG_0685Sprinkle a few chopped walnuts onto the top of each muffin, or more chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds…whatever tickles your fancy. The walnuts work well because they become lovely and toasted, giving a satisfyingly crunchy topping.IMG_0687Bake in the preheated oven for 18 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave them to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, before popping on a wire rack to cool completely. To make the cinnamon glaze, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add splashes of milk until it becomes the consistency you are after (not too thick that it doesn’t move, and not too runny that it drips everywhere!) Add a sprinkling of cinnamon for flavour – I used about half a teaspoon.IMG_0689Drizzle the glaze artfully over your muffins, and dig in. Best enjoyed immediately alongside a steaming mug of chai tea! Yum.IMG_0690

Delia Smith’s Wholemeal Bread Rolls

IMG_0665Being brutally honest, and killing the dreams of hard working bakers far and wide, I have to admit that ‘bread week’ on the Bake Off has always been my least favourite. This is probably an opinion shared by most, because what exactly is so exciting about a nicely bulbous shaped loaf with a thick crust and a hollow sound when you knock on its underbelly? Not a lot, really. Not at all exciting compared to a lusciously whipped buttercream smothered atop a sweet and light sponge, sandwiched together with crème pâtissière and topped off with a miniature architect-designed building made of spun sugar.

Until recently, all I’ve been obsessing over in the baking department is sweet, sweet and more sweet. The truth is, aside from the occasional banana loaf, I’ve never actually baked a loaf of bread. Since being so lucky as to win a beautiful cookbook in a giveaway, simply entitled ‘Bread’, I decided to have a stab at a basic recipe to sort of ease myself into this new world of savoury bakes. Who better to call on than good ole’ Delia! As always, she did not let me down. These rolls were absolute perfection – enjoyed immensely eaten straight out of the oven, spread generously with salted butter.

Ingredients

  • 225g strong wholemeal flour
  • 225g strong white flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 10 fl oz hand hot water
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 7g sachet of yeast, or 2 tsp
  • 1 tsp butterIMG_0647_2

Method

Measure the flours and the salt into a large bowl and mix together. Pop this into a warm oven (50°C is the lowest mine can be) while you carry on with everything else. I’m entirely unsure why, but whatever Delia says, I do. She can do no wrong!

IMG_0648_2Pour 10 fl oz of hand hot water into a jug, then pour out half into another jug or bowl to save for later. Into one of the jugs, sprinkle in the brown sugar and yeast. Mix this together and set aside for 5 minutes until a frothy head has formed.

IMG_0650_2Take your nice and toasty flour from the oven and rub in the butter until it’s completely distributed. Form a well in the middle, pour in the yeast mixture (after giving it a little stir) and use the rest of the water to swill out the remnants of the yeast and pour that in too.

IMG_0651Use a wooden spoon to bring the mixture together, then use your hands to combine it until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl clean. Tip it out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-6 minutes, until you have a smooth elastic dough. Take out all your frustrations – the bread rolls will thank you for it.

IMG_0656_2Weigh the dough, divide it by 12 and use your scales to separate it into evenly sized balls. Usually I would wing it and end up with all different sized buns (variety is the spice of life) but I’ve recently got these brand spanking new scales from Amazon and am using them at every chance I get. Goodbye cups, I will no longer be victim to your haphazard accuracies!

IMG_0658_2IMG_0659Delia advises to flatten each ball into an oblong. Fold one length into the middle, and the other over the top of that. Now slap until it becomes a ball. These instructions to me were a tad ambiguous, so I half followed it but more or less you simply use your hands the best way you can to make them ball shaped. I’m not convinced any form of oblong needs to be made.

IMG_0660_2Place the rolls onto a well oiled baked tray, and cover loosely with cling film. Leave them in a warm place (an airing cupboard works wonderfully) for 35-40 minutes, or at room temperature for 90 minutes until they have doubled in size. Magic!

IMG_0661_2IMG_0662Preheat the oven to 220°C near the end of their proofing time. Sprinkle the rolls with a dusting of plain flour, and pop them in the top shelf of the oven for 20-25 minutes.

IMG_0663_2When cooked, they will be a glorious golden brown, and sound hollow when tapped. Cool them on a wire rack, but make sure to taste one freshly baked – there really is nothing better! I’m going to freeze some of my batch, and save the rest to have buttered with soup during the week for my lunch. Once the aforementioned cookbook all about bread arrives, there will be many more loaves to come, particularly his Spinach, Pumpkin, Cumin & Feta Damper bread which sounds delicious!IMG_0666_2