Another Brownie Recipe

Since my brother is back for holidays, I took the opportunity to try another brownie recipe. This time, I used James Peterson’s recipe (from this book), which holds great promise for the features I look out for in a brownie: an in-between brownie (i.e. cakey and fudgy at the same time) which is not too sweet.

By the way, I like James Peterson’s book: Baking. His instructions are clear and concise and there are accompanying pictures to guide you along. Great for a novice baker who wishes to expand his/her repertoire, imho.

Now, back to the brownie….The brownie is indeed not too sweet, but it is more fudgy than cakey, even though I baked it till the there’s-no-crumbs-when-toothpick-is-inserted stage. Wonder is it because I swapped ¼ of the flour for cocoa powder and added 1 tsp of Tia Maria….

Anyway, I think it’s still a great brownie! 😀 To all fudgy brownie lovers, here’s sharing with you a slice of brownie heaven….

The next brownie recipe that I will try: Dorie Greenspan’s classic brownies…One day, I shall do a taste test to find out my favourite brownie recipe!

Chocolate & Banana Cupcakes

I’ve been wanting to try new cupcake recipes, as I felt that the one I’ve been using is a tad too oily….So, this week’s de-stress project is baking chocolate and banana cupcakes, using a recipe from London’s Primrose Bakery (Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery).

I used 136g butter (didn’t want to have leftover butter), 507g bananas (the recipe says use 4 bananas) and increased the plain flour to 275g. The first few batches, while were cooked, were a little too moist and did not have a golden hue. Subsequent batches were baked slightly longer to achieve more firmness (but still very moist) and a golden hue.

I’m happy with the results: it’s not too oily (unlike my previous cupcakes), not too sweet. While baking, the homely fragrance of baked bananas wafted through the air. Now, all I need to improve is the amount of batter to fill into the patty tins in order to achieve fuller cupcakes and tweak the amount of bananas so that it’s not like a sticky banana cake (I wonder how heavy is 4 bananas in England??). This recipe is really a keeper and I can’t wait to try out the other recipes in the book.

Calla’s notes:

  • Although the toothpick test reveals that the cake is cooked and the top is springy to touch, if the cake doesn’t look golden brown, bake it longer till it’s golden brown, otherwise the cake may be a little too soft (sides do not feel firm). Do monitor carefully, as it’s often a matter of seconds that burning occurs.
  • I used 507g bananas, but I think there’s too much banana, such that it makes the cake like a sticky banana cake (although to me, the pictures don’t seem to be so). I would experiment with lesser bananas to create a less sticky cake.

  • Although recipe calls for 70% chocolate, I used 53% with no adverse results. The cake wasn’t too sweet. Overall the sweetness is alright.

My Latest Favourite Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – Finally!

I was really into the groove of baking today: after baking the coffee & walnut sponge, I proceeded to bake chocolate chip cookies. After watching Michael Smith’s Chef at Home (S6), Hubby was fascinated about adding corn syrup into chocolate chip cookies to create chewy ones and urged me to try.

I was initially lazy to do it…but I’m really glad that I made it. I think these are the best chewy chocolate chip cookies I’ve made to-date. The dough is easy to handle – it doesn’t go too soft. Not sure whether it is due to using cold butter, as opposed to soft butter, to cream with the sugar. Although it’s a little too sweet, I still like it and it’s great with milk! I realise that American recipes tend to be sweeter and I should have listened to my inner instincts to increase the level of salt or reduce the sugar. I usually decrease the sugar to reduce the sweetness. But I found that decreasing the sugar tends to alter the texture and taste (other than the sweetness) of the cookie slightly. Next time, I shall double the salt in the recipe instead, following Dorie Greenspan’s advice….

The recipe can be found here.

Notes:

  • Plain flour was used
  • Salted butter was used
  • Hershey’s mini chips were used. I used the entire 12oz pack…
  • Corn syrup was replaced with golden syrup. If corn syrup is not available, you can make your own corn syrup at home. I haven’t tried this out though.
  • The yield is about 72 cookies. I used a 1/2tbsp measuring spoon as a mould. I scooped out rounded spoonfuls of dough onto the baking sheet.
  • My dear oven’s thermostat has gone bonkers. The oven dial is at 160 deg C and the cookies were baked for about 10 – 12min with upper and lower heat turned on. I think I overbaked it in the later batches: though it’s still chewy, but I think the texture was nicer when it wasn’t that brown….

The earlier batches: not so brown but a better chewy texture (imho)….

The later batches: lovely golden brown, but not so good chewy texture (imho)….

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

The first bake of 2010! I adapted from the white chocolate chip and cranberry cookies to make these chewy chocolate chip cookies. I also reduced the brown sugar and caster sugar by ¼. It’s now not so sweet, but there’s a more pronounced eggy aftertaste which I don’t really like. So I’m back on the drawing board again – to find my favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Update: the cookies have improved in flavour and texture after keeping for a day: no more eggy aftertaste (not sure whether anything’s wrong with my taste-buds :() and it’s become more chewy and less cakey :)….

The cookies are the puffy, cakey and chewy type. Anyway, here are some pics to share:

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.

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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