What the hell is it with Blondies and Brownies just makes me unable to photograph them well? I mean, nights are setting in so I cracked my lighting kit out for the first time this “Autumn” which didn’t help as I was only starting to get used to it before so now months without practise haven’t been good. I baked this back when Autumn was first starting up. There’d been a chill in the air for about a week or so, with a few cold days on top of the crisp mornings. I welcomed it. Summer is overrated. To quote Brand New (who I was seeing on that Friday)); The time has come for colds, and overcoats. Which is why I’ve made my first vaguely autumnal recipe of the year; Pecan & Caramel Blondies. (Since this I’ve done a ton more and they’ll be coming up over the next few weeks).
As a few of you know from the past, I sometimes send out boxes of my bakes. These started because of a depressed friend needing a cheer up last year and have been erratic since then, usually for a similar reason or for the prize of a giveaway. Since the start of the year I have however been sending at least one out a month. I’ve a list of people who have asked about them, and if you want to get on it, give me a shout. My priorities are however; Friends that need cheering up, a special occasion, a commission (coming to that) and then if none of those have been met I start on the list!
A few weeks ago I took two of my favourite and simplest recipes, and put them together. I took my ultra-indulgent Chocolate Brownies and my Salted Caramel, covered one in the other pre-bake, and made Salted Caramel Brownies. Damn, they are good. Really good. I think I’ve reached peak brownie. They all got eaten before a single photo could even be taken. So I had to re-bake them (such a shame, I know). The trick is to layer half of the brownie mix, then add some caramel, top with the rest of the brownie mix and then enthusiastically drizzle more caramel on top before you stick it in the oven.
I’ve also (finally) got myself a new lighting set up. It’s a bit late, as the days are actually getting longer, but it now means I can take photos on an evening without having to rely on pesky yellow light/half light. It’s been particularly awkward since moving to London. I used to take photos on my lunch break in Leeds, but just can’t do that here, what with not being able to come home at lunch anymore.
Also, I’m looking for a London based Gin buddy. Applications accepted in the comments below. Must be keen on adventures, museums, gin and cake.
- Jar Salted Caramel (Store bought or home made)
- 250g unsalted butter
- 250g best dark chocolate
- 115g plain flour
- 53g cocoa powder
- 4 large eggs
- 370g golden caster sugar
- Melt together the butter and dark chocolate, by placing a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir the mixture together as it starts to melt, over a low heat. (You can do this stage in the microwave, but I don’t own one). Set the mixture aside to cool to room temperature.
- While it is cooling, preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan assisted) and grease/line your tin.
- Over a medium sized bowl, sieve the flour and cocoa powder in together.
- Roughly chop the white and milk chocolate into chips and set aside.
- Break the eggs and caster sugar into the bowl of your electric mixer and whisk on high speed until it looks thick and creamy. This can take anywhere between 3 and 8 minutes. When you take out the paddle, as it dribbles onto the surface and leaves a trail for a second or two then it’s perfect.
- Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Slowly folding it until it’s completely incorporated. You want them mixed without knocking out all the air you just added in to the mixture with the whisking.
- Sift the flour mix into the egg/chocolate mix and mix until it’s completely combined. Again, being careful not to knock the air out. Followed by the chocolate chips.
- Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin. Dribble a layer of Salted Caramel (I warm it to make it easier) over the bottom layer. Pour over the rest of the brownie mixture and spread it out gently. Dribble more Salted Caramel on top. How much is up to you.
- Place in the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 25 minutes (20 if using the smaller pan). You’ll be able to see if it is done by wobbling the tray slightly. If the middle wobbles it needs a little longer, so put it back in for another 5 minutes.
- Once cooked, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack, still in the tin and leave to cool completely before removing and dividing in to squares.
Our oven is fixed. This is the best thing that has happened since I moved to London (OK, that’s a lie, but what you gonna do about it?). I can now bake things to my heart’s content. And by bake things, I mean cook pizza. To say it’s been broken I’ve still managed ok, once I got the hang of the temperature. I managed to make a Pumpkin Spiced Loaf and a Victoria Sponge for my flatmates birthdays. The sponge came out better as I’d had the practise with the Pumpkin Loaf. After the loaf I had a large amount of pecans left over. So spent some time flicking through some suggestions on Tastespotting (I spend far too much time on that site, it’s brilliant/it makes me hungry). I eventually landed on this recipe, for Maple & Caramel Pecan Pie Bars.
Proper Pecan Pie has been on my list for a very long while, but to do it properly I’ll need to do it when I’ve got more time as I want to make sure the pastry is absolutely spot on. These bars use a very, very, basic base that isn’t quite pastry, so it can be thrown together quickly and doesn’t need chilling etc. In fact I chucked all of this together despite getting in from a burger place with my workmates at about 8.45.
Make sure you don’t overbake the base. You are going to be putting the whole thing back in the oven once you’ve added the topping so the last thing you want is for it to be overcooked or burnt. Another thing I must confess is that I bought the Salted Caramel from the shop. I wouldn’t usually, for instance you can find my recipe for caramel here. But as I explained, due to time constraints and doing this on a bit of a whim I didn’t have time.
- 128g all-purpose flour
- 75g brown sugar, packed (light or dark)
- 115g unsalted butter, very soft
- 1 large egg
- 75g brown sugar, packed (light or dark)
- 80ml maple
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- pinch salt, optional and to taste (consider omitting if nuts are well-salted)
- 200g pecans (I used raw, unsalted, whole pecans; use halves and pieces, salted and roasted, or your favorite type)
- about ¼ cup salted caramel sauce (homemade or storebought), for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 180°C(160°C fan assisted). Line an 8x8 tin with greaseproof paper. These get sticky.
- For the crust, rub the butter into the flour and sugar, rubbing/cutting in until there are no large lumps.
- Turn the mixture, which will have started forming in a dough, into the base of the prepared tin and, using a spatula, flatten it out evenly across the base.
- Place in the center of the pre-heated oven and bake for around 15 minutes, until it has coloured slightly. Don’t overbake as it’ll be going back in the oven.
- While it’s baking make the topping. In a large bowl combine the sugar, syrup, vanilla and egg. Mix in the pecans and set aside.
- Once the crust has baked gently spread the topping over the top and place back in the oven. Make sure they are spread evenly.
- Bake for between 16-19 minutes. When you try gently shaking the pan the mixture should be set.
- Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before you drizzle the salted caramel over the top.
- Slice and serve.
Chocolate Swiss Roll with Buttercream filling & Salted Caramel
So the Great British Bake Off has started up, and there is totally a guy stealing my vibe coughIaincough. Now a great many of you pestered me last year about applying, my friend Matt even said he was going to send in my application for me. I didn’t, and I am glad I didn’t. Yes, I can bake, but what I bake is all relatively niche and just the very first episode of this years highlighted a few things to me. I am not experienced at a great many of the more traditional techniques and bakes which are seen as “standard” things to bake.
My first example of this, the Swiss roll. I haven’t really considered making one before, and it wasn’t until they did last week that I thought; “You know what? I’m gonna give that a go.” So I’m starting with a simple one. None of the faff that some of those entrants attempted (I assume in a desperate attempt to be “impressive” in the season opener), but simply a standard chocolate Swiss roll. I’ve even gone and bought a new tray and everything.
I am pretty pleased with how it turned out for a first attempt. It cracked a tiny bit while I rolled it, partly due to rushing it and partly due to (ever so slightly) overbaking. It still held very well and rolled properly in about 95% of it. I’ve a decent amount of Salted Caramel leftover so I think I’m going to try again later in the week. I’m also tempted to give some of the biscuits a go from this week’s episode. I’ve made Caramel before on the blog but wanted to go for the saltier kind this time around.
- For the Caramel:
- 200g granulated sugar
- 90g salted butter
- 120ml heavy cream
- Salt to taste
- For the Swiss Roll:
- 3 large eggs
- 75g caster sugar
- 50g plain flour
- 25g cocoa powder, plus extra to dust
- For the Buttercream
- 75g butter, at room temperature
- 125g icing sugar
- Start with the caramel, preferably the night before. In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt the sugar. Stirring with a rubber spatula. Lumps will form but keep melting and stirring until it becomes a see through syrup. Be careful not to let it burn.
- Add in the butter, it will bubble at this point so be careful. Stir until it completely melts and combines.
- Pour the cream in slowly, again, it will bubble. Mix and boil until it reduces slightly. Be careful not to let it catch. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. This will last in an air tight container for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
- For the Swiss Roll. Preheat the oven to 200°C(180°C fan assisted) and line a swiss roll tray with paper. Whisk together the sugar and eggs for 5-10 minutes until it forms a pale, creamy mixture. The whisk should leave trails.
- Sieve in the flour and cocoa powder and mix well. Be careful not to knock the air out but make sure it is well combined with no clumps.
- Spread the mixture out evenly into the prepared pan. Using a palette knife to ease it into the corners. Place in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes (or until the cake is springy to the touch. I could have baked mine for a minute or so less).
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan, covered with a damp cloth. In the meantime, lay out a large piece of greaseproof paper and dust with cocoa powder. Transfer the cake to this.
- While it cools on the new parchment, make the buttercream. Cream the butter until smooth and add the icing sugar. Beat until combined.
- Using a palette knife evenly spread the buttercream onto the cooled cake. Top with the caramel, again smooth evenly.
- Using the greaseproof paper, slowly roll it up.