Fruit Brownies: A Chocolatey Alternative to Traditional Fruitcakes

Well I was lazy in making traditional fruitcakes a few months ago. Actually, that’s not the only reason for not making traditional fruitcakes: the recipe I’m familiar with uses treacle which comes in huge cans, but I’m only using 2tsp for the recipe!? Somehow, I can’t find other uses for treacle. So in the end, I put off making traditional fruitcakes, although it is not difficult to make and that recipe produces delicious fruitcakes.

A few days ago, as I was flipping my newspaper cuttings of recipes, I came across a recipe for fruit brownies, which touted itself as an alternative to Christmas fruitcakes. Since I already regretted not doing traditional fruitcakes and I had all the ingredients on hand, plus I had to fulfil a pot-luck dish, I made the fruit brownies….

I was quite worried as the mixture turned out quite watery. So I added more flour. The verdict: luckily the brownie didn’t turn out dry; instead it was cakey and fudgy at the same time. The brownies also didn’t turn out to be too sweet…. Thank goodness…. I also think it’s a good alternative to traditional fruitcakes…I thought of some improvements and am keen in trying them out!

Marble Cheesecake: Orange and Dark Chocolate

Brother requested for a cheesecake…and he was certainly specific about what he wanted: a marble cheesecake flavoured with orange liqueur, streaked with dark chocolate. Orange and dark chocolate – a heavenly combination

I bought Cointreau for this purpose and added to the vanilla portion. I was in an alcoholic mood: added Tia Maria to the chocolate portion. Then, I found that the chocolate batter was not chocolatey enough….added more cocoa…Result: chocolate portion tastes a little bitter 😦

Also the chocolate batter was too heavy: I didn’t mix enough vanilla batter with the melted chocolate. As a result, instead of a marbling/streaky effect, there are 2 distinct layers: vanilla on the top and chocolate at the bottom. At least now I know how to create double-decker cheesecakes. Hee!

This time, I tried a different method: I separated the whites from the yolks; added the yolks into the cheese mixture; whisk the whites with some sugar till soft peaks; fold the whisked whites into the cheese mixture. The difference is in the texture: when the eggs are mixed in gently into the cheese mixture, the cheesecake is creamy and dense; whilst the cheesecake made with whisked whites was still creamy, it was lighter, not so dense.

(pardon the untidy cheesecake…I didn’t use a hot knife to cut the cheesecake)

(So sad that I can’t recreate the nice browning I previously had. At least the cheesecake didn’t crack….)

Calla’s notes

  • I used 65% chocolate. The batter didn’t taste chocolatey, I need to have faith….
  • Need to mix enough vanilla batter with melted chocolate, such that the vanilla batter and chocolate batter have the same consistency; unless the intent is to create 2 distinct layers.
  • To try baking at 150 deg C for at least 1.5h to 2h. Cheesecake seems a little too soft, no matter how long I refrigerate it….

Black Forest Log

As mentioned previously, I made a Black Forest Log for Christmas. I adapted Delia’s recipe, but made my own brandied cherries using Rose’s recipe. As usual, the rolling was messy, but at least it didn’t really look like “wuthering heights”. Hubby’s rolling skills have improved!

Some felt that the cocoa powder topping was too bitter – hence need to reduce. Perhaps the key is to lightly dust, as what Delia says. Otherwise, I could try dusting with drinking chocolate powder, or even Milo powder (hee!). The brandied cherries were delicious. I plan to buy more fresh cherries and use the remaining Kirsch….

Thankfully it was well-received: Hubby requests this to be made for his bday cake next year; and surprisingly, Mummy likes the cream more than the cherries itself….

Calla’s notes:

  • To lightly dust with cocoa powder. Otherwise, can try drinking chocolate powder or Milo powder
  • If the chocolate mousse filling hardens, heat it up in a bain marie till it melts – be careful not to overcook it. Otherwise, heat up over bain marie till it barely melts, then add milk, bit by bit, to reconstitute to spreadable consistency.
  • Try to make this the day before. After doing the filling, put in the freezer overnight to firm up the filling and cake. Bring to refrigerator a few hours before serving to soften the cake slightly.

Curry Puffs and Pies

This weekend’s project is curry puffs. Hubby prepared 2 fillings: curry chicken and sardines.

Curry chicken

Sardines.

Both are yummy on its own. If I make my own buns, I believe they would make delicious fillings.

To prepare, I read up about crimping (see side bar for links), but found it harder than it looks. Lack of a suitable sized cutter for the curry puff, as well as the hot weather (makes it tough to roll out the dough), I decide to make pies and rolls instead.

Unbaked sardine puff. The only one with a nicer crimping.

A baked sardine puff. Need to improve on the glazing.

Mixture of sardine puffs, sardine pies and sardine rolls. The rolls and pies are glazed with milk and produced a matt finish. The puffs are glazed with egg yolk, which produces a shinier finish, but was cracked. Maybe the oven was too hot…

The curry chicken pie. For such a rustic pie, need to bake on a baking sheet, rather than a pie dish. Baked a little too long and therefore burnt the lattice tops 😦

Some notes:

  • The temperature dial was between 160 and 190 deg C mark. I baked the puffs, rolls and mini pies for 20 min and the big pie for 30 min.
  • The lattice covering for the curry chicken pie prevented the eggs from being too rubbery. To consider putting the eggs in the middle of the filling if not covering the filling.

Orange & Cranberry Cupcakes

Well, I didn’t like the outcome of these cupcakes. Taste-wise, it’s good; sweetness was just nice. But presentation-wise, it’s bad. Plus I find it a tad too oily. I’m going to look for another cupcake recipe plus read up on techniques! Anyway, here are some pictures to share:

This is a recipe I used (adapted from my secondary school home economics textbook):

Orange & Cranberry Cupcakes

Ingredients

100g unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

1 large egg (60 – 65g)

1 tsp vanilla essence

2tbsp orange juice

Zest of 1 orange

75g dried cranberries

100g self-raising flour, sifted

Method

  1. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy
  2. Add egg and vanilla essence and mix till combined. Don’t worry if mixture curdles
  3. Add orange juice and mix till combined
  4. Fold in flour.
  5. Add orange zest and cranberries. Mix till cranberries are evenly distributed
  6. Spoon batter into cupcake moulds, about 2/3 full.
  7. Bake at 190 deg C for about 20 – 25 min

Christmas Gifts

It’s the time for gift exchange at the office Christmas party…I decided to take a different approach from prior years: home-made chocolate chip cookies. I bought the jars and the cellophane bags from Daiso and spent an entire afternoon baking the cookies. The chocolate chip cookie recipe was previously blogged about here. This time, I used a ½ tbsp measuring spoon, instead of a 1 tsp (5ml) measuring spoon. The cookies are now a little bigger and there’s no noticeable change in cooking times. I personally prefer the cookie moulded using the ½ tbsp spoon. If I use a ½ tbsp spoon to mould, 1 recipe can yield about 60 cookies. Sharing with you the Christmas bakes 🙂

I hope the recipients will like the gifts 🙂

Brandied Cherries

Ha! My Christmas kitchen is really up and running again….

I’m thinking of doing a Black Forest Roll Cake for Christmas Eve dinner, using this recipe from Delia Smith, but I will make my own cherry filling. I’m using Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe for brandied cherries (pg 346 of the Cake Bible). I’ve used fresh cherries and kirsch bought from Germany. It’s now sitting in the pantry….with the cherries absorbing all the kirsch goodness.

By the way, pitting the cherries was no easy task! I think this is a pretty good website to teach you how to pit cherries. I also watched those youtube videos on people pitting cherries and am amazed at how fast they pit! After trying to pit, it seems to me that their speed is unbelievable. Certainly, practice is required….The initial attempts didn’t yield pitted cherries whose shapes were preserved….but never mind, these cherries were put into other uses.

If you don’t own a cherry pitter, don’t fret – Rose recommends using the looped end of a large metal hair pin. I was thinking of using a paper clip (because the clip also has a looped end), but I couldn’t find a paper clip. In the end I used this:

The following instrument is too “soft” – cannot be used:

I will trying the flat end of the orange peeler the next time:

Hubby recommends making a “X” insertion at the stem of the cherry, to minimise creating too big a hole that may cause the cherry to become misshapen. The cherry stone is usually deeply lodged somewhere in the fruit, so one has to be patient in slowly twisting and digging the stone out, otherwise the cherry will become misshapen. The people in the youtube make cherry pitting look soooo easy – sigh!

Here’s the Kirsch I used – but the cap won’t screw back….so got to use a stop-gap measure, till I find a cork…. By the way, brandy can be used instead of kirsch. But I thought kirsch would be more suitable for a black forest cake.

Can’t wait to see how the cherries will turn out!

Brownie Muffins

(My project to document observations of past bakes)

I finally tried baking these brownie muffins and using a silicon cupcake/muffin tin. The recipe was from Stefanie who posted it in the Kitchen Capers forum (thanks, Stefanie!). I varied the fillings: some I used Reese peanut butter cups, and the rest I used prunes and chocolate chips. As for the results…only the prune & chips muffin were presentable….the Reese peanut butter cups were less good-looking…

This is the first time that I used a silicon tin and I wasn’t sure whether I had to use lower temperatures or adopt other changes when using a silicon tin. Got to read up on using silicon tins…

Some notes:

  • I reduced the sugar to 150g and added it into the chocolate butter mixture while the chocolate and butter were half-melted. Next time I would try melting the sugar with the butter, then add the chocolate to see whether there’s any difference. I remember reading from somewhere that melting the sugar with the butter can give a shiny crust to a brownie.
  • I sifted the flour, cocoa, baking powder & baking soda into a bowl, mixed it thoroughly with a whisk, then sift it into the chocolate mixture. Wonder whether this would contribute to a light and fluffy muffin…
  • I filled up the patty tin 2/3 full (including the fillings). The resulting muffins had a nice dome shape…
  • The bottom of some of my cupcakes were burnt…think I should try baking at a lower temperature, e.g. 160 – 170 deg C. Not sure whether this was because I was using a silicon pan…On the other hand, I forgot to leave an oven thermometer in the oven…so….In any case, I need to experiment with temperatures and times.
  • I think I would still use paper cup liners, even for a silicon tin…so that it’s easier to remove….

Brownies

I love brownies because of the intense chocolate flavour. Well what else could be more heavenly than fudgy chocolate cakes 😛

But sad to say, many of the brownies out there are soooo sweet (imho). I did some research from my various cookbooks and found a recipe (by Mary Berry from her Ultimate Cake Book pg 50) which seems to be less sweet.  There are 2 other contenders (Dorie Greenspan: pg 88 of Baking from my home to yours and James Peterson: pg272 of Baking) whose recipes I intend to try the next time.

It was really less sweet and batter was delicious!  The coffee really makes a difference – I tried the batter before adding the coffee liqueur; my heart sank a little because I felt that it was a teeny-wheeny to sweet for my liking; but after I added the coffee liqueur, the sweetness reduced to an acceptable level and the chocolate flavour was more intense!  Phew!!

I first baked the brownie for about 15 min (with both the upper and lower heat turned on), turned off the oven and left it in the oven to continue to cook in the residual heat and then cool on a cooling rack. I did this because I saw the crust was done but the interior was still very fudgy. When completely cooled, I found that the brownie was still very fudgy, so I baked for the second time for about 25 min. It was initially more fudgy than before, but after cooling down and putting in the fridge overnight, the brownie firmed up and show distinct layers of cake and fudge – ah…my desired outcome.

Verdict: not too sweet; intense chocolate flavour; quite rich; has layers of cake and fudge

I still need to tweak the baking times. I think I shall try the following method the next time:

  • Bake at a lower temperature than 190 deg C, e.g. 170 or 180
  • Bake at upper and lower heat for about 15 min or till crust appears
  • Bake at lower heat only for the next 15 – 25 min or till moist crumbs cling on a toothpick when inserted into the brownie.

Here’s the recipe I used:

Brownies (adapted from Mary Berry)

Ingredients

225 g unsalted butter

225g caster sugar

350g dark chocolate – at least 75% cocoa; leave to cool till room temperature and chopped to small pieces (original recipe called for plain chocolate)

3 large eggs

2 tbsp coffee liqueur – I used Tia Maria (original recipe called for 2 tsp of instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp of hot water)

1 tsp vanilla essence

75g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp salt

40g unsweetened cocoa powder (original recipe did not call for cocoa powder)

Method

  1. Preheat oven till 190 deg C. Line and grease an 8″ square pan with paper hanging over the sides of the pan ( to easily remove the brownie from the pan).
  2. Melt butter over double boil.
  3. Add sugar and dissolve over double boil. Stir with whisk continuously.
  4. Add eggs and whisk over double boil till combined. If you wish to have a shiny crust, whisk vigourously after eggs are added (based on a tip by Shirley O. Corriher); otherwise whisk till just combined.
  5. Remove mixture from double boil. Add chocolate and stir with whisk till chocolate melts and combined.
  6. Stir in coffee liqueur and vanilla essence.
  7. Fold in self-raising flour, salt and cocoa powder.
  8. Pour batter into pan and smoothen surface. Bake for 40 minutes at 190 deg C, or till ready. The brownie is ready when all of the following occur: (a) brownie pulls away from the sides; (b) dull/shiny crust appears (depends on how vigourously the whisking was done after eggs were added – see step 4); and (c) moist crumbs cling on a toothpick when inserted into the brownie.

    Pointer: need to monitor temperature carefully….

  9. Leave to cool in tin on a cooling rack. When completely cooled, leave in fridge for a few hours, preferably overnight. Cut into squares.

Sharing with you a slice of chocolate heaven

After 1st bake and cooled

See the shiny/lighter-colour crust above the brownie.  According to Shirley O. Corriher, this is a meringue-like crust caused by a mixture of egg white and sugar.  Whether brownies have a crust on top depends on how much/vigourously you beat the batter after the eggs are added.

After 2nd bake and overnight refrigeration

White Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Cookies

Christmas is coming…So I thought of trying a more Christmassy cookie.  I’ve seen this cookie recipe by Tyler Florence which is posted on Epicurious. It was a little too sweet, but it’s great with cold milk. I also like the texture: crisp on the edges and chewy in the middle. Sharing with you my cookies:

I hope to try with a ½ tbsp to spoon the dough, as I would like a slightly smaller cookie.

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