Hazelnut and Nutella Brownies

When it comes to brownies, everyone has a very specific idea of what the perfect one should be like. Apparently there are three schools of thought – the cakey, the fudgy and the chewy. I ignore the first one as nonsense, and usually find the second one a bit too rich for my liking. And nuts or no nuts? Too much choice.

But as a lover of Nutella, I wanted to top these with a drizzle of the good stuff, and figured some hazelnuts would compliment it well. “The Boyfriend” moaned.

Hazelnut and Nutella Brownies (adapted from here)

Ingredients (makes 16 small squares)

4 oz. salted butter (plus a bit more for the tray)
4 oz. dark chocolate
1 cup (225 gr) caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup (110 gr) plain flour
3 tbsp cocoa
50 gr hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Nutella, for drizzling on the top

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 170 for fan assisted) and lightly butter and flour a tray. I used a square one, about 20cm each side.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a pot over low heat. Let it cool slightly and add the sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until they are incorporated. Add the flour and cocoa, mix for a minute or two using a spatula or spoon and, finally, mix in the nuts.

Empty the mix into the prepared tray and drizzle/pour Nutella over the top. I warmed up the Nutella slightly by placing it on the radiator for a few minutes. Alternatively, you could spoon out little blobs of it and randomly throw them on top of the mix. You get the idea.

Bake for 35-45 minutes. You can test after half an hour by inserting a knife; it shouldn’t be completely clean but have a few small crumbs on it. Cooking times will depend on type and size of tray used and every oven works differently so keep an eye on it – you don’t want to overcook them.

So it turns out that these ended up being somewhere between chewy and fudgy – I might have slightly undercooked them but we did enjoy the texture a lot. The best of both worlds. I loved the hazelnuts and the Nutella topping. I’m making these again tonight and I have a feeling this will be my staple recipe from now on.

Chocolate and Banana Muffins

I (finally) bought Nigella’s Kitchen last week. I spent a bit of time looking at it and I’m loving it so far – I think I might actually cook from it quite a lot, for a change!

I chose to make these muffins first as I was running out of most types of food in the house but had everything for this recipe. Well, almost everything: I stole the bananas off the housemate and, embarrassingly, substituted the sunflower oil for olive oil. Bad times. They tasted very odd, really olivey, and my first attempt at cooking from Kitchen had been a failure.

Not wanting to be defeated by a recipe and my stupidity, I attempted them again a few days later. I bought sunflower oil, upped the sugar and added some extra chocolatey goodness. Result!



Chocolate and Banana Muffins (adapted from Nigella’s Kitchen)

Ingredients (makes 12)

3 ripe bananas, mashed
125ml sunflower/vegetable oil
2 large eggs
150gr dark soft brown sugar
225 gr plain flour
5 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp bicarb of soda

Optional: white chocolate chips and/or Nutella

Add the oil, eggs and sugar to the mashed bananas and beat using a hand whisk. Mix the flour, cocoa and bicarb in a separate bowl, pass through a sieve and add it to the banana mixture. Continue beating slowly until all the flour has been incorporated.

At this point I spooned half of the mixture into another bowl and mixed in the white chocolate chips. I then spooned the mix into 6 muffin cases.

For the Nutella muffins, spoon mix into 6 muffin cases but only half way up to where you normally would. Add a spoon of Nutella on top of that layer, and more muffin mix on the top.

Bake everything in a preheated 200 degree oven (mine was only 180 as it’s fan assisted) for 15-20 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean from the centre.

I’m not sure which ones I prefer. Even with 50% more sugar than the original recipe, the muffins are not sickly sweet so the white chocolate chips are a great addition. But I have a soft spot for the Nutella/banana combination and I loved the soft gooey Nutella blob at the middle of each muffin. Since the muffin mix is a bit thicker than the cupcake mix, the Nutella didn’t sink to the bottom like in the hazelnut cupcakes.

Take your pick, or make both.

Orange and Chocolate Cake

My love for Nigella is no secret- her recipes always produce great tasting food with not much fuss. But it’s more than that. Her shows are almost addictive, and her over-the-top, almost sexual attitude towards food makes them more fun. I doubt she actually does get up at 3 in the morning, makes some french toast and strawberry coulis and then, leaving the kitchen in a mess, goes back to sleep. I don’t believe it, but I like it. It would be fun if you could do it, not get fat and not wake up to find a filthy kitchen.

I’ve only got one of her books, Feast, although I’m coming to believe that Nigella Express is one of the must-have cookery books. I love reading Feast. I haven’t cooked much from it yet, but I’ve probably read it cover to cover. The way she talks about food would make anyone fall in love with it.

Last year I discovered her Guinness Chocolate Cake and loved it. So dark, with a great texture and the Guinness influence, although not strong, adds an earthy flavour to it. It’s become a favourite and everyone who has tried it has loved it.

A year later, I found myself looking for a recipe for another chocolate cake, for the same friend’s birthday. In Feast, I found the recipe for an Orange and Chocolate cake, a combination that I really like. It looks so simple, it’s almost worrying.

You see, what you have to do is boil some oranges, then pop them in the food processor, and then add all other ingredients in there too. Oh, and bake it. Gregg would stuff it in his mouth and then proclaim that “cooking doesn’t get easier than this”.

Orange and Chocolate Cake (from Nigella)

Ingredients

2 oranges, weighing approximately 350 gr
6 eggs
1 heaped tsp baking powder
50g cocoa
200g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
Half tsp bicarbonate of soda

optional: orange peel to decorate

Boil the oranges (whole) for about 2 hours or until soft. Cut them in pieces, get rid of any seeds or hard bits and pop them in the food processor. Meanwhile, line and butter a round cake tin (23 cm) and preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Pulp them until smooth. Let cool for a bit (I left it in the fridge for a few minutes) and add all other ingredients. Mix until you have a smooth batter.

Place in the tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour. When it’s ready, place it on a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

Have you noticed that it has no butter and no flour? Perfect for the gluten intolerant and, although I’m not going to pretend this is healthy, it’s certainly not as bad for you as other chocolate cakes. The oranges make it so moist you won’t able to tell there’s no butter in there and the taste is quite strong, unlike other orange cakes that only use juice or zest. You can make a ganache for it if you like but I don’t think it needs it. Some ice cream would be nice with it, although we had it plain and it was gorgeous.

Chocolate bread and butter pudding

Sometimes I get a craving for chocolate. I keep some in the cupboard for emergencies. But it has to be of the non-dangerous kind, i.e. no praline, no mini eggs and no chocolate hobnobs.

And more often, I crave carbs. Apparently that’s a sign of winter depression, lack of sunlight, etc. I’ll blame it on that. My main addiction is pasta, but I wouldn’t exactly turn down some crusty bread or a toasted crumpet with loads of melting butter on top.

You see, I am not really very good at resisting temptation. I can pretend I’m not going to finish that box of cookies, but then I’ll spend half hour thinking about them. And then I’ll be angry that I’ve wasted so much time thinking about cookies. And so I’ll eat them. Once, I had to throw a bag of hobnobs in the bin because I couldn’t stop eating them although I was feeling sick. It’s a good thing I live in a shared house and people help me finish off everything I bake, or I would be twice my size.

The reason I’m saying all this and making myself sound so greedy is to explain how I got round to making this intensely rich pudding.

I read this post on Life’s a Feast.

It’s Jamie’s fault.

Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding (from Delia)

Ingredients:

9 slices of stale white bread, no crusts
150 gr good dark chocolate
75 gr butter
425 ml whipping cream
4 tbsp dark rum
110 gr caster sugar
3 large eggs
pinch of cinnamon

Cut the bread slices in 4 triangles. Place the chocolate, whipping cream, rum, sugar, butter and cinnamon in a bain-marie until everything is melted, and give it a good stir. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, then pour the chocolate mixture over them and whisk very well.

Spoon about 1/2 inch layer of the chocolate mixture into the base of a shallow dish, about 7 x 9 inches, which you have buttered lightly. Then, arrange half of the bread triangles, add half of the remaining chocolate, then the rest of the bread and finally the last bit of chocolate. Make sure the bread is well soaked by pressing down into the chocolatey liquid.

Ideally, you need to leave this outside the fridge covered with clingfilm for a couple of hours, and then in the fridge for a day or two to let the flavours develop.

Cook it (without the clingfilm!) on the top shelf of a preheated oven (180 degrees) for 30-35 minutes or until the top looks nicely crispy. Be patient and wait for 10 minutes when you get it out of the oven as it will be very hot. Serve with cream or custard or ice cream. Or all of them.

We didn’t manage to finish it on the first day as it was so heavy, but it was possibly even better for the next couple of days and the texture developed into some kind of rich fudge cake with a layer of crunchy chocolatey bread on the top.

The concept of Monthly Mingle was new to me, but I couldn’t resist Jamie’s invitation to make something combining two so special ingredients and when I looked at the recipe I realised it would be a winner: really, you can’t go wrong with chocolate, cream, bread and eggs. If you like bread and butter pudding, try this version – I’m sure you’ll love it. And let me know how it went!

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Cookies

Well, you don’t really need an excuse to bake when it’s so cold and miserable outside (or ever, in fact) but the Bonfire Night seemed like it needed a little bit of a treat to celebrate. Celebrate what? I don’t really understand why there are so many fireworks and bonfires to remember that someone tried to burn down the Houses of Parliament but failed. No one really does the same for other failed terrorist plots. Maybe it’s just too early, you don’t really want to provoke terrorists too much.

Anyway, poor Guy Fawkes has been burnt so many times that I felt that Bonfire Night deserved some kind of contribution from my part. Not really sure about what kind of food is traditionally made on this day, I just decided to make something I’ve been craving for a while, some kind of cookies with salted caramel.


Salted caramel sounds quite pretentious and it is annoyingly all over the place, having emerged as a food blogger’s favourite. I am not one to steer clear of cliches though and, to be honest, the salty-sweet combination is more common than it appears at first: brie and cranberry, meat and chutney and most of Chinese food are only a few examples! I love all of these and I think the combination of the two tastes manages to bring the best out of both of them. Did I mention Wotsits dipped in melted chocolate? Try it.

If I was a proper “foodie” (how I dislike this word!) I would make my own caramel sweets. But I’m lazy. I came back from the department late and had about 45 mins before the fireworks to make these. I used Cadbury’s caramel bites for that batch, which was not caramelly enough, and fudge bits for the one I made today, which turned out to be too sticky. Next time make your own caramels, foodie.

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Cookies (adapted from the Kitchenist who adapted them from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients (makes about 20 cookies)

230 gr dark chocolate
60 gr butter
100 gr flour*
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
150 gr brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup caramel chunks (toffee, caramel bits, homemade caramels etc.)
sea salt

Melt your chocolate with the butter, making sure it doesn’t burn! You can do it on the hob, in the microwave or using a bain-marie. Just do it slowly.
Whisk the eggs with the sugar and the vanilla extract until light and fluffy (in a food processor if you like) and add the melted chocolate. Add the flour mix (flour and baking powder) and mix with a wooden spoon until it’s fully incorporated. Finally, add the caramel chunks.
Place spoonfuls of the mix on baking paper and sprinkle with sea salt on the top. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 mins (maybe less, depending on how big your cookies are) at 170 degrees.

The top looks a lot like the shiny, crackly top of a good brownie and the cookies are chewy and very very chocolaty. They disappeared very quickly. By the way, I didn’t make the fireworks. I got lazy and decided to stay in, eat cookies and get drunk on beer, together with some other lazy people. Fireworks are overrated anyway.

*I made these gluten-free again by substituting the flour by equal parts of gluten-free flour, cocoa powder and ground almond for texture.

Note: I forgot to mention that they turn out better if you chill the dough first. I know many people are in the habit of doing that anyway but I’m quite lazy and impatient so I normally skip it. It really helps here!

Yaaaar!

This weekend I was supposed to be writing a talk. Instead, I spent all of Saturday baking a cake and all of Sunday recovering from a hangover. I thought it might be more interesting to talk about the first one.

It was a friend’s birthday a few days ago and his girlfriend decided to throw a surprise party for him. Apparently, the friend with the birthday likes pirates (hmm..), so there was a theme. Sophie and I spent ages getting excited about the prospect of making a cake in the shape of a pirate boat, although I have to admit I was terrified that it would be a complete disaster. Hoping for the flavour to compensate for appearance, I suggested we made one of my favourites, Nigella’s Guinness and Chocolate Cake.

It is a really easy cake to make, and I think it is also quite a safe one too, given that the first time I made it I managed to put the oven on 110 degrees rather 170 and only realise after it had been in there for half an hour. It still turned out great.

So, the recipe (from Nigella’s website):

Ingredients:

250ml Guinness
250g butter
75g cocoa
400g caster sugar
142ml sour cream
2 eggs
275g plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons bicarb of soda
vanilla extract

Basically, it’s a one-pot cake. You melt the butter with the guinness. At this early stage, it looks disgusting. When it’s all melted, take it off the heat.


Then, you add cocoa and sugar and whisk, and it’s starting to look amazing, really really dark and smooth. Next, you beat the eggs with the sour cream and the vanilla extract and add to the mix. Finally, sieve the flour and bicarb soda and whisk until smooth.

We made an extra 50% to make two cakes. The recipe is supposedly for a 9″ tin and that will give you a tall cake. We made two of them.

Then, the fun started!

Basically, we cut each cake in half, stuck the two halves together with chocolate icing and put them in the freezer for an hour or so. That gave us the two boats, which looked a bit like this after we covered them in chocolate ganache:

At that point I was just a bit worried that no one would be able to tell what our cakes were supposed to be, and that they would probably be put off by the way they looked too. But thanks to Sophie’s creativity it turned into a real ship battle!


She decorated the rest of the table too. It was a great party, especially after Phil decided to make some more punch. But that’s a different story.