Thursday, 26 May 2011

Extremely chocolatey brownies

I've been quiet for a little while but I'm back to baking again! I had a baking session on Saturday afternoon in order to provide a cricket tea on Sunday, so there'll be a couple more posts to follow after this one.

The first thing I made was chocolate brownies. I have made these so many times but they never fail to impress. The recipe is adapted from the one in The First Time Cook by Sophie Grigson (who is fabulous - this book is well worth a look, even if you're not new to cooking or baking). I chose to add chocolate chips rather than nuts as I don't really like nuts in brownies (and more to the point, neither does my other half!). They are really simple to make and don't require too much preparation.

The recipe is not as heavy on chocolate as you might expect, but it does contain a lot of sugar. It calls for a combination of caster sugar and light muscovado sugar, and it is the latter which helps give the brownies their gooey, dense texture. Not very good for diabetics but an indulgent treat for everyone else!

These brownies will not disappoint - they are rich, dense, gooey and very chocolately. Everything you could want from a brownie!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Easter Simnel cupcakes

So I'm a little late in posting this - but better late than never! My Granny always used to make a Simnel cake at Easter - a lovely fruit cake, with a layer of marzipan through the middle. Several years ago, knowing my Granny was starting to find it harder to do such things, I asked her for her recipe and said that I would make the Simnel cake that year. To my amazement, my Granny then produced three different recipes and explained that she used a combination of all three, using the ingredients she liked and omitting those she didn't, and sometimes basing the recipe on the ingredients she had in the house.

I looked through the three recipes, tried to decide which bits I liked and which I didn't, and then to come up with a final recipe which contained the right proportions of the different types of ingredients. To my surprise, the cake turned out far better than I had ever hoped and tasted very like the cake my Granny usually made - we were definitely both on the same wavelength!

This year I made caramel cupcakes for Easter and so I didn't make a Simnel cake. Somehow, though, it didn't feel right not having one! With the amount of cake and chocolate we had over Easter, we in no way needed a full-sized cake, so I took inspiration from a recipe I found on the BBC food website and decided to make Simnel cupcakes. I used my own secret recipe though (which I had, thankfully, written down the first time I made it up). I used a quarter of the recipe quantity, which was enough to make four large cupcakes.

For Simnel cupcakes, you fill the muffin cases halfway, then add a disc of marzipan, and then fill the case up with cake mixture. Once the cupcakes have baked and are cool, I added a disc of marzipan to the top as well. I broke with tradition for the cupcakes and instead of decorating the top with marzipan balls, I used a couple of foil-wrapped chocolate eggs and then sprinkled some edible silver stars over the top.

When you cut or bite into the cake, you find a moist, light but rich fruit cake. It's also a little gooey in the centre where the marzipan has cooked into the fruit cake mixture. If I'm honest, the cupcakes were almost a little too large as the fruit cake is quite dense - the recipe I came up with uses a large quantity of fruit. The amount of fruit is what makes the cake so good; it is truly a fruit cake and not a cake which just contains some fruit. I think half a cupcake at a time would have done me though. Maybe next year I'll end up making my full-sized cake, but if not, you can be sure that I'll be making these again!