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.

Hazelnut and Nutella Cupcakes

You know you’ve had enough of working when you find yourself day-dreaming about food. It happens to me way too often, which makes me wonder whether I’m rubbish at what I do or just love food a bit too much. Probably a bit of both. Anyway, today I got thinking about baking and chocolate and since my favourite chocolate (by far!) is praline, the Hazelnut and Nutella cupcake was born!

These are the most amazingly nutty cupcakes I’ve ever eaten. And they’re gluten-free. And like all cupcakes, really really easy to make. The recipe I was aiming for was the simple cupcake recipe with half the amount of flour substituted with ground hazelnuts. Maths got a bit complicated when I realised that the gluten-free cake flour I was using contained sugar.

Hazelnut and Nutella Cupcakes

Ingredients (for approximately 16 cupcakes)

3 large eggs
6oz butter
6oz sugar
3oz flour (if your flour mix contains sugar like my gluten-free one, reduce the amount of extra sugar appropriately- I only added 3oz of sugar rather than 6)
3oz ground hazelnuts
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
nutella for filling

I like doing my cakes without using a food processor or a hand mixer since I find they become fluffy enough if you just hand-whisk them. And there is less to wash up. So, I softened my butter, added the sugar and mixed it into a uniform paste with a wooden spoon. Next, I added basically all the remaining ingredients (dry ones first, although it probably made no difference) and whisked until smooth.

The idea with the Nutella was to have a little drop of it sitting in the middle of the cupcake, so I put half of the mix for each cupcake in the cases, topped it with a little spoonful of Nutella and then added some more cake mix on top of it. It didn’t work as well as I would have wanted, so maybe I needed to dilute the Nutella with something (milk? cream?) to make it less dense and force it to stay liquid even after baking. Any ideas welcome! Having said that, the flavour was amazing and I really had to stop myself from eating them all before managing to get a photo!

I’m sure you can do similar things using different types of nuts, but I like the matching hazelnut-nutella combo and I find that, although almond is nice, it is not strong enough. Here, the hazelnut taste was coming clearly from the whole cupcake, rather than just the nutella centre (ok, bottom).

I couldn’t find any ground hazelnut so I got some whole roasted ones and put them through the food processor. Apparently, if you do that with a bit of sugar it stops them from getting too greasy and forming lumps. I only found out about that when it was too late. It was still fine and I think it turned out nuttier that it would have done if I had used ready-ground ones, because of all the juices they released.

I’m definitely becoming more of a baking fan, and I’d like to think that I am getting better at it too. I try and bake gluten-free whenever I can, because of my friend Aimee, and in most cases you honestly can’t tell the difference. I “cheat” by using a flour mix, which includes all the essentials for gluten-free baking, like xanthan gum and I also find that using a bit of ground nuts helps with texture.

I also had my first successful loaf of bread baked today and I might post a few pictures if I can get over the fact that the lighting is horrible. That’s what happens when your kitchen is a basement and you mostly cook in the evenings! I’m not a very patient person either, which means I will not spend ages trying to get the perfect picture, especially when the food smells so good! And I clearly lack the equipment which means I have to deal with a lot of rejection from sites like Tastespotting or Foodgawker (but not Tastestopping)! Wait, what do you mean they don’t reject anyone?