Caramelized White Chocolate Brownies

Caramelized White Chocolate Brownies

Squidgy chocolate brownies packed with caramelized white chocolate

The simple magic of an oven will never cease to amaze me.

Subjected to its heat, pudgy rounds of dough become crusty loaves, liquid batter rises into golden-crowned cakes, pastry puffs, biscuits bake and incredible aromas escape around the edges of its door.

Normally baking requires some sort of skill, an understanding of the alchemy of ingredients and an ability to weigh, whisk, beat and blend. Butter, sugar and flour are combined, flavours and textures far greater than the sum of their parts created. Whether an amateur cook or a professional chef, it’s satisfying to know that baking is both a science and an art. Continue reading

Phish Food Brownies

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Fudgy brownies swirled with salty caramel, marshmallows & little chunks of chocolate

When I received an ice cream maker for my birthday back in July, I was convinced I’d never buy ice cream from a shop again. I promised myself – and possibly all my readers in one of many excitable ice cream-related posts – that owning this machine would open a world of possibilities, of infinite exotic flavours, wonderful organic ingredients and not an E-number, stabilizer or acidity regulator in sight.

The majority of the time that promise holds true; we don’t eat a lot of frozen food so I hardly ever encounter those extravagant little £5 tubs that dominate that particular section of the supermarket. If I do spend money on eating ice cream out it’s usually in an amazing gelateria like Gelupo, or the mobile offerings of the incredible La Grotta Ices, but there is one shop-bought ice cream I’ve somehow retained an unaccountable weakness for; Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. Continue reading

Toasted Hazelnut Cheesecake Brownies

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Decadent, dark chocolate brownie beneath a rich, creamy cheesecake

Last weekend snow descended on the UK. After one of the mildest winters on record, including un unseasonally warm Christmas Day, we’re finally being reminded what it feels like to be cold. As is always the case in a country where we’re as unprepared for annual snowfall as we are surprised by the heatwaves that regularly occur in the summer, lots of things ground to a halt; thousands of flights were canceled, trains came out of service, motorways slowed to a standstill.

While snow always brings a certain element of chaos, it also adds a sense of peace and tranquility. The world is a different place under its blanket of snow; smells are crisper, scenes softer and sounds swallowed by the heavy sky and thickly carpeted ground. In London the snow never lasts very long – delicate flakes of ice are little match for the combination of traffic, heat and hundreds of thousands of feet pounding the pavements – but for a few hours at least, the road outside our flat stayed covered in a pure, snowy blanket. Continue reading

Death by Chocolate Halloween Tombstone Brownies

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‘Death by chocolate’ brownies with edible white chocolate skull & crossbones

The majority of my Halloween memories can be measured in food. Whether bobbing for apples or dipping them in sticky toffee, biting doughnuts from a string or simply counting through a treasure trove of trick-or-treat sweets, my relationship with this spooky celebration is all about the edible.

And reading through some of my favourite foodie sites in recent weeks would suggest I’m not alone. There’s hardly a blog out there that hasn’t produced some kind of Halloween-themed treat; from  spooky spiderweb cupcakes to ghostly meringues, witch’s finger biscuits to candy corn and more variations on toffee, apple and pumpkin (think pies, cheesecakes, fudge, brownies, muffins and more) than you could make in a lifetime. Continue reading

Chewy chocolate brownies

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A fudgey layer topped with a shiny, crispy crust

When I was young, an old lady at the bottom of our garden used to bring us brownies. Not literally, of course – she lived on the next street along and her house backed onto ours – but I used to love the silly image this reference conjured up; a little old lady tucked away amongst the shrubs and fairies, happily baking brownies somewhere between the garden shed and the compost heap.

This neighbour of ours lived alone – her kids had worked abroad, eventually settling in the States – and every so often she’d come round to babysit, armed with a plate of dark, chewy brownies. I don’t know if it was something to do with the seeming exoticism of her far flung family, but I always associated these treats with America. I knew they were brownies, but their crisp crust and chewy texture felt a far cry from the cakier, fudgey version I sometimes made with my Mum.  Continue reading

Chocolate Beetroot Brownies

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Do you have a best ever brownie? Most people I know either have, or are looking for, the ultimate recipe. There’s a lot of debate as to what constitutes this holy grail of tea-time treats, with opinion generally split between the crumbly cakey camp and fans of a dense, more fudgey fix. I side with the latter – I like my brownies rich and dark with a gooey chocolate centre and slightly crispy crust.

When I was a child our go-to brownie recipe was a Jocelyn Dimbleby classic that ticked all the boxes. Copied onto a piece of paper long before the internet became a household staple, it lived (and probably still does) folded, dog-eared and smeared with sticky chocolate fingerprints inside an ancient Mrs Beeton cookery book on our kitchen bookshelf. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve made that recipe, and it’s been passed on to people we know around the country, feeding family, friends and multiple generations (ok, that sounds a bit epic but it is a bloody good recipe…)

Continue reading

Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Brownies

dulce_de_leche_chocolateIf you’ve read many of my previous posts on this blog, you’ll know that I love chocolate and I love baking. It’s been a while since I last made brownies, and a pre-Easter dinner party at a friend’s flat this week seemed like the perfect excuse to try a new recipe. I’ve been reading David Lebowitz‘s gorgeous blog for a while now, and amongst a number of delicious looking recipes, I’d bookmarked these amazing looking Dulce de Leche brownies.

If you’ve not tried Dulce de Leche before, now is your moment. Literally ‘milk sweetness’ or ‘milk candy’, it’s an unctuously thick caramel-like sauce made from sweetened condensed milk, and one of the most delicious things you’re ever likely to put in your mouth. Continue reading

Joe Allen restaurant review

covent_garden_diningGone are the heady days when publishers’ lives were filled with star-studded outings and long boozy lunches. In fact, they’re so long gone that in the short time I’ve been working in the industry, I’ve become more accustomed to a packed lunch at my desk than the kind of liquid lunches publishing history is made of.

Having said that, occasionally we do get to wine and dine our authors, and this week I was taken to Joe Allen. The last time I went was with my family as a teenager after seeing a West End show. I remember the bustling atmosphere, even as we sat down to eat after 10pm, the sultry lighting, friendly staff and generous servings, variously accompanied by giant stacks of fries or slabs of ice cream. Maybe the short supply of media types willing to splash their cash on a daily basis has had an effect on Joe Allen, because this time round, it seemed to have lost a little of its magic.  

joe_allen_american_restaurantTucked away in a darkened basement on Exeter Street, this restaurant has been a theatre-land stalwart since before I was born. The walls are lined with vintage posters, famous faces and wooden panels, and these, combined with the soft lighting and pianist tinkling away in the corner, make for a fun, if a little tired, dining room.

We were  party of nine, arriving for dinner on a quiet Monday night. Ushering us through to a cosy corner, the waiting staff were friendly and helpful, and quickly brought water, wine and bread to the table. The bread basket was nothing to write home about (by strict little loaf standards. . .), but crusty and doughy enough in equal measures to keep me happy until our starters arrived.

The menu at Joe Allen is pretty comprehensive. Divided into Starters, Salads & Eggs for those in more of the mood for brunch, Main Courses, Sides and Desserts, there’s something for everyone. Gilt head bream and tiger prawns sit alongside chilli con carne, mutton cobbler and macaroni & cheese and, as you might expect from such variety, some dishes do better than others.

A starter of (very little) asparagus, red onion and blood orange was little more than a glorified side salad. The ingredients, while all nicely flavoured and fresh, lacked an extra something to bring the whole dish together. A chorizo starter was better, although the tiny nuggets of sausage again made this feel more like a side dish than the star of the show. Caesar salad and a plate of gravadlax did what they said on the tin; not hugely exciting, but nothing to complain about either.

Mains fared much better, although my overall feeling was that the food was good, not great, for these kind of prices. Grilled gilt head bream fillet was delicate, and the accompanying caper and parsley salsa was a nice contrast to the crispy skin. Four oversized chips served in a line seemed a bit pretentious for a restaurant that serves steaming bowls of chilli in simple white bowls, but they tasted pretty good. The chilli con carne with plain boiled rice was warm, comforting home-style food, and, in the restaurant’s favour, the lower price point of £9.50 showed that they recognised this. The Barnsley chop was huge, while a plate of scallops were tiny, which made me glad I hadn’t opted for this main (I adore scallops but the raisin couscous had put me off – raisins and savoury, I just can’t do it).

After a large meal and a very small pause, we barely had time to undo our top buttons before the waiter was ready to take our order for dessert. It being Monday, and the start of the working week, we quickly made our decisions, although a slight breather before pudding would probably have been a better idea.

Puddings were giant, and mostly enjoyable in the sickly sweet way that giant puddings are. We demolished sticky pecan pie, a chocolate brownie and an enormous dish of rich chocolate and vanilla ice cream, but were left bemused by a slightly bizarre cheesecake. Snowy white, and with hardly a hint of crumb or crust, it tasted of very little apart from a strange salty tang. It felt like the kind of dish that might once have been a signature, but now fell slightly short of the mark in a restaurant that is just a bit long in the tooth.

Joe Allen’s New York brasserie style comfort cooking was never going to win it any major awards. And situated in the heart of theatre-land, its pretty much guaranteed that it will continue to pull in a reliable stream of fairly uncritical punters. This is a  restaurant that’s more about the atmosphere, history and location than incredible food, but I don’t think that should mean they become complacent. My meal was ok. The company was good. But at knocking on £40 a head without wine, I think it could be better.

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Easy chocolate brownies

Fudgey_Chocolate-Brownies

Easy chocolate brownie

I love chocolate. I love brownies. And I’ve used the same tried and tested recipe for as long as I can remember. Dating from when my mum had to test it for a cookery book years ago, ‘Best Ever Chocolate Brownies’ is a recipe that is lovingly scribbled on a piece of A4 paper in my eight-year-old handwriting, smeared with the chocolatey remains of numerous baking sessions over the years, and lives folded in half inside at old Mrs Beeton at my parents’ house.

Now I’m a big bad grown up with my own kitchen. When I wanted to whizz up a batch of brownies to take round to some friends, I couldn’t remember the exact details of that sacred recipe. So, in the interests of trying new things for this blog, I googled around, pinched ideas from various recipes I found and combined them to produce this quick, simple, one-pot (almost) batch of brownies.

They’re so easy to make, and completely delicious – these photos definitely don’t do justice to their squidgy, dark, chocolatey joy. Served warm they ooze outwards, bulging and baring their barely cooked centres. Cooled they transform to pack a more intense fudgy punch.

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Out of focus, but totally delicious!

Easy chocolate brownies
250g salted butter
200g dark cooking chocolate
100g white chocolate chips
80g cocoa
65g flour
350g soft brown sugar
4 large free range eggs, beaten

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F
  2. Grease and line a 24cm sq. tin
  3. Melt the butter and sugar together over a bain marie. Leave to cool
  4. Sift together cocoa, flour and baking powder then stir in the sugar and cooled chocolate and butter mixture
  5. Add the beaten egg and stir all ingredients to combine
  6. Bake in the oven for about 25 mins. You want them to stay fudgey and gorgeous, so take them out earlier rather than later, and before an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Enjoy :-)