Caramelised White Chocolate Blondies

 

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As this is my first recipe of the year that I’m posting, I had to make sure it was a really good one – after an 8 month or so wait average just wouldn’t cut it.

These blondies are something that had been a niggling idea at the back of my mind for a while and when the thought wouldn’t go away I knew they had to be made.

I’ve done a few versions of blondies before (these peanut butter blondies and these strawberry blondies are two of my faves) but none that have quite matched up to the texture and delicious fudgey, dense, chocolatey-ness of my favourite brownies.

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I figured this was because none of the recipes I’ve made previously have included as much melted white chocolate as brownies tend to have melted dark chocolate. This is probably because it would make them too sweet but it got me thinking that maybe caramelised white chocolate, with a hint of saltiness, might be just the right balance.

If you haven’t heard of or tried caramelised white chocolate before, it’s basically white chocolate that’s roasted over a low heat, stirring frequently, until it turns golden brown, with a pinch of salt added in at the end. For step by step instructions, David Lebovitz is the man.

To make these blondies I used 200g of the caramelised white chocolate melted into the batter and another 100g chopped up and added to the mix, which made sure the flavour came through really strongly.

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The texture was exactly as I’d hoped and the salt balanced the sweetness. The taste testers in my office loved them and even my boyfriend who insists he doesn’t like white chocolate or brownies really liked them too.

These blondies will definitely be made again at some point, possibly with some different add-ins, but the simple version really does work well and if you haven’t baked with caramelised white chocolate before, I highly recommend you give it a try.

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Caramelised white chocolate blondies

  • 300g caramelised white chocolate
  • 140g butter
  • 180g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt
  • 100g milk chocolate chunks (I used Galaxy Counters)

Break 200g of the white chocolate into chunks and melt with the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Once completely melted, remove from the heat and stir in the sugar.

Add in the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla, beating with  wooden spoon to combine. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt then fold into the mixture. I like a salted dessert so I used quite a bit, but if you’re not sure how salty you want it be conservative and you can always sprinkle some more on top before baking.

Stir in the milk chocolate chunks and the rest of the white chocolate, chopped into small pieces. Pour into a 8×8″ square baking tin lined with baking paper and bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer comes out with crumbs on, but not liquid batter.

Leave to cool then cut into squares and serve!

 

A wedding and a resurrection

Hello!

This is my first post in something like nine months, so in case you’re wondering if I’m still alive the answer is yes! And if you’re a little less melodramatic and simply wondering if I’m still baking, the answer is also yes albeit less regularly.

The very short and sweet update is I am super busy with a great job and also surrounded by people who – for their sins – like dieting and are less keen on being force fed cake every week. Fools!

This means I’m making less frequently and not having the time to write about it, although if you follow me on Instagram (@natblachford) you will have seen some of the bits and pieces I have been knocking up in the kitchen.

One of the most significant things I’ve failed to mention on here is my biggest challenge to date – I made a wedding cake!

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A friend contacted me to say he was getting married and he wondered if I’d be interested in making the cake. There’s a cute backstory, as it turns out he proposed on his now wife’s birthday when he’d commissioned me to make her birthday cake and so they wanted the same cake re-made for their wedding.

You can see the original cake here – it’s a chocolate and raspberry extravaganza and, dare I say it, quite a lot tastier and more indulgent than your average wedding cake.

To turn it into a wedding cake that would serve 150 people, some tweaks were made to the recipe and I decided to go a bit more traditional in appearance with white chocolate collars rather than the dark chocolate used previously.

I used my new go-to chocolate cake recipe without any whole raspberries in and refined the raspberry sauce to remove the seeds – the verdict from my taste testers at work was that it was better without. I used a white chocolate buttercream (also a go-to recipe) to cover the cakes, before finishing with the chocolate collars and fresh raspberries on top.

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My life was made a lot easier by the fact the couple already had a cake stand to suit their countryside wedding theme so I didn’t have to worry about tiering. They also had their own lego wedding topper ready to pop on top – the perfect finishing touch.

It’s been so long since the wedding that I don’t even have the original photos any more, which is why I’ve had to salvage a few from Instagram to use here.

The most important thing was that the bride and groom were thrilled with the cake and it got eaten, which is good because in my mind nothing is sadder than a neglected cake left sat in the corner!

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So thank you Charlie and Sarah for letting me be a part of your big day and hopefully this blog post won’t be the last of this year – I’ve got some exciting recipes to share with you all and it feels like time to write again so the resurrection is here…

Raspberry, white chocolate and Prosecco truffles

Since my last post, quite a lot has changed.

I’ve moved house – from lovely, sunny, beachy Cornwall, to flippin’-miles-from-any-seaside Guildford. And all because of a boy, I must be mad…

I’ve got a new job, which I started back in July, and *touch wood* it’s going pretty well so far.

My new job is exciting for many reasons, but not least because one aspect of it is editing and photographing recipes for a pastry chef. A Michelin starred pastry chef no less!

In preparation for the first set of recipes I had to edit, I spend many hours looking at a sample feature in ‘Cake Craft & Decoration’ magazine, which said recipes were destined for.

One of the featured recipes was these truffles, which really have everything. Chocolate, good. Raspberries, good. Prosecco, makes me slutty good.

As recipes go, this one looks easy, but is in fact hugely time consuming – from starting making these to actually eating them took five days! Ok, part of that was putting off the last stage for three evenings, but still.

It was worth the effort though, as they went down well with all my taste testers, and as I now work with a bunch of foodies I trust them to be harsh in their feedback!

If you have a bit of time on your hands and want to make a bit of an indulgent treat, I would definitely give these a go. And if you happen to be left with 700ml of Prosecco… well, it would be rude not to have a glass or two…

Raspberry, white chocolate and Prosecco truffles (from Cake Craft & Decoration)

For the truffles

  • 350g white chocolate
  • 50ml double cream
  • 15g butter
  • 50ml Prosecco
  • 1 tbsp freeze dried raspberries

To decorate

  • 200g white chocolate
  • 1 tbsp freeze dried raspberries

Melt the white chocolate, double cream and butter in a bain-marie or microwave and stir until melted. Add in the Prosecco, then whisk with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth.

Crush the freeze dried raspberries in a pestle and mortar, then stir these through the truffle mix and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Once the mixture has set, spoon little balls of it onto a tray or plate – it should make about 30. Roll these between your hands to make them nice and round, then chill in the freezer. I found the mix to be quite soft (heavy handed with the Prosecco perhaps…) so I had to do this in stages, returning them to the fridge in-between.

When the truffles are really cold, melt the remaining white chocolate and crush the raspberries in preparation. To coat the truffles in the melted chocolate, I found it easiest to use two spoons to roll the truffles around in the chocolate. The original recipe says wear gloves and do it in your hands, but that sounds too messy to me.

To finish the truffles, place them on a sheet of baking paper and sprinkle a few of the raspberry bits on top of each before they start to set. Chill in the fridge, and serve cold.

Blueberry Mousse Cheesecake

Since returning from my travels, I’ve been getting back into the swing of baking slowly – a few cookies to take into the office here, using up an old box of cake mix there – but nothing too extravagant or challenging.

I decided it was time to step it up a notch for my mum’s birthday, with this blueberry mousse cheesecake.

She’s not a cakey-cake sort of person, and definitely prefers fruit desserts to chocolate, so a fruity cheesecake seemed ideal (not to mention that it’s my favourite thing to bake).

I made a sponge base, because I think it’s a nice change to biscuit sometimes, a fairly standard fail-safe new york cheesecake recipe, and then a slightly more troublesome blueberry mousse on top.

I wanted to make the mousse without gelatine because it scares me a little, so decide to try a sort of fake mousse with melted white chocolate and whipped cream, which I’ve used to fill cakes before.

To give it the blueberry flavour and colour, I boiled down a pack of frozen blueberries and strained to make a coulis, then added this in – half into the melted white chocolate and half into the cream, for no reason other than I didn’t know which way would work best.

After pouring the mousse on top of the cheesecake I started to have doubts about whether it would set, so scraped it off, added more melted white chocolate, whipped it up some more and put it back. I really needn’t have done that, as left overnight it would have set up just fine, but lesson learnt I suppose.

I decorated the cake with the leftover blueberry coulis, and it looked rather nice I think.

My mum liked it, and even had a second slice for breakfast, and my dad and step dad seemed to like it too. I’d like to have another go and make a raspberry one to perfect the mousse, and I think you could come up with some great combinations if you changed up the flavour of the cheesecake as well.

Note – I made a 6″ cake because there were only going to be four of us eating it, but you could totally double up to make a 9″ one and the method would be exactly the same.

Blueberry Mousse Cheesecake

For the base:

  • 50g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 40g self raising flour
  • 10g desiccated coconut

For the cheesecake:

  • 300g cream cheese
  • 100g caster sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 75ml creme fraiche

For the mousse:

  • 300g frozen blueberries
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 150ml whipping cream

To make the base, beat all the ingredients together until smooth then pour into a greased and lined 6″ round tin. Bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden. Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and level the top – you only want the sponge to be about 1cm thick.

For the cheesecake, beat the cream cheese to soften then add the sugar and lemon zest and beat to combine. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and beat; then the eggs and beat; then finally the creme fraiche. And beat.

Put the sponge back in the bottom of the tin and pour the cheesecake mixture on top. Bake at 170 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 120 and bake for another hour. I always have a tray on the shelf underneath with about an inch of water in, this creates steam and helps to stop the cheesecake cracking. After baking, leave in the oven to cool, then transfer to the fridge.

To make the mouse, start by heating the blueberries in a saucepan until all the juices have been released and it’s starting to thicken. Blend either in a food processor or with a stick blender, then pass through a sieve to get rid of any lumps.

Melt the white chocolate and leave to come to room temperature. Whisk the cream until it’s lightly whipped. Add a couple of spoonfuls of cream into the chocolate to loosen it, then add the chocolate back into the cream and fold in gently. Add the blueberry coulis a few spoonfuls at a time until you get a good flavour and colour, taking care not to add too much in case the mousse becomes too runny, and remember to keep some back for decoration.

Remove the cooled cheesecake from the tin, then line the tin with cling film and put it back in. This is a thousand times easier to do with a loose bottomed tin so you can keep the cake on that. Pour the mousse on top of the cheesecake and spread level, then leave in the fridge overnight to set.

When you’re ready to serve, gently lift the cake out of the tin, remove the cling film and transfer to a serving plate. Drizzle the remaining coulis on top and make it look all pretty, then you’re done!

 

Mango sticky rice

It’s been a while, but I am back!

Six and a half months of travelling are now sadly over, and it’s back to reality in the UK.

I’m not quite ready to forget my exotic adventures though, and so I have a super summery recipe from my time in Asia to share with you.

As I mentioned in my previous post, while I was in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, I took part in an all day cooking course at an organic farm.

(This photo is skinny me – I’ve come home a good stone heavier and now am on a serious diet and exercise kick to lose it again!)

After a starter of coconut soup with shrimps, delectable mains of sweet and sour stir fry and a green chicken curry, plus pad Thai to take home, we set to making a traditional Thai dessert – perhaps the most well known of all – mango sticky rice.

You can find it on the dessert menu of any restaurant in Thailand, and it’s as simple as it sounds, just fresh mango with coconut sticky rice.

I don’t actually like sticky rice, it’s far too chewy and dense, but when the texture is loosened a little by the coconut milk, sweetened with palm sugar balanced with a pinch of salt, and paired with the mango, it’s sort of ok.

What I like most about it though is the presentation. You can do it how ever you like, but with a little natural blue colouring in the rice, sesame seeds scattered on top and a flower to decorate, I was more than pleased with how mine turned out.

The recipe below is from the cookbook I got to take home, and if you happen to be in Chiang Mai I would highly recommend the school I went to, which was Thai Farm Cookery School.

Mango Sticky Rice

  •  1 cup steamed sticky rice (there are some good instructions for cooking here)
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) coconut milk
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp palm or brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp roasted mung beans
  • 1 pandan leaf (this might be tricky to get outside of Asia, so you could substitute with a vanilla pod)

Put the coconut milk and pandan leaf or vanilla pod in a saucepan and heat until boiling. Remove from the heat, take the leaf out, and add the sugar and salt to taste.

Transfer to a bowl and add the steamed sticky rice, mix well. You can add some food colouring if you like, we had a blue flower for ours, but it isn’t essential.

Put the rice on a plate and sprinkle with the mung beans. Add the sliced mango and arrange to look pretty, using flower or leaf garnishes if you have them.

Taking a food blogging vacation

This is the longest I’ve everyone without blogging, and while it’s entirely possible no one has even noticed, I thought I better explain why.

As I’m writing this, I’m sat in the sun on a veranda over looking a river, drinking from a coconut with Bob Marley as the soundtrack to my blogging.

I’m in Luang Prabang, Laos, and three weeks into a six month trip around the world.

I started in Thailand and have 11 more countries on my itinerary – which means a long time with no baking to write about!

What I can do is tell you about some of the food I’m eating while on my travels, which so far has been outstanding.

My favourite thing so far is probably the fruit shakes, sold street side everywhere in Thailand for as little as 40p – fresh fruit, ice and that’s it, but they are so refreshing in the heat that’s all you need.

I have discovered a serious love for Pad Thai, which is also simple but delicious, and another street stall favourite.

Eating on a budget here is easy, restaurants are cheap but street food is even cheaper. If you like meat you’ll be in heaven with fried and barbecued skewers everywhere, as well as curries sold in ‘Thai Tupperware’ (plastic bags), rotis (Thai pancakes with a tonne of butter and condensed milk) and lots of fresh fruit.

If you’re looking for something a little different, how about deep fried grasshoppers, bees and cockroaches? Mmmmm….

In Chiang Mai, the capital of Northern Thailand, I did a fantastic cookery course featuring five classic dishes; coconut soup with shrimp, green curry with chicken, sweet and sour stir fry, Pad Thai and mango sticky rice.

With the course held on an organic farm, everything was so fresh and all the ingredients and techniques were explained well, and with the recipe book I left with I’m pretty confident I can treat friends back home to some authentic Thai when I’m back.

If you want to read more of my travel adventures, visit http://www.travelfails.wordpress.com, or I’ll update on here when I have more food news. Recipes will return when I’m home!

Double chocolate raspberry rose ombre cake

I’ve been incredibly slow in posting this, so apologies to anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram and first saw this several months ago…

This cake was made for a colleague who was going on maternity leave – and as you may be able to guess from the colour and decoration, she was having a girl!

I used what’s become my go to chocolate sponge from Charlotte White, combined with a fresh cream and raspberry filling and a white chocolate icing.

This is the first time I’ve attempted rose swirl icing, and I have to say I was rather pleased with the results. The icing was a little too soft, and the day a little too warm, to pipe the swirls on the sides of the cake as well, so I gave up and just spread that normally, but keeping with the ombre effect going from light to dark pink.

I won’t write the recipe for this as I’ve written the cake before and the icing is the same as the triple ginger cake I made a little while ago, but if you want to have a go you basically need to make three times as much icing so you can pipe the swirls, and use about 100ml of whipped cream for the filling, plus half a punnet of raspberries.

To pipe the roses, you need  star shaped nozzle – I believe mine is a Wilton 2D – and just start from the centre of the cake, adding a little more food colouring to the icing for each concentric circle of roses.

It’s a technique I’m definitely going to be trying out again, and the cake went down a treat too.

The Stable, Falmouth

Earlier this year, I was very kindly invited to review a new pizza and cider restaurant in Newquay called The Stable.

The concept was simple but executed well – an extensive and unusual pizza menu featuring lots of local produce, with names related to local landmarks, and a cider menu with 80 bottled and draught ciders, included several local brands.

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If you read my review you’ll see that I was very impressed, and so when I heard that a new branch of the South West chain was going to be opening in Falmouth, I was more than happy to say yes to an invite of the launch which took place last night.

One thing all of the Stable restaurants has in common is being located in interesting and special buildings and locations. While the Stable in Newquay has stunning panoramic views of Fistral Beach, the Falmouth restaurant has taken over the old custom house overlooking the harbour, and is a building with real character. The Stable team have spent a year restoring the building to have it ready for opening, and the time and effort spent on it definitely shows.

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Along with some hungry and thirsty friends, I arrived last night and headed straight into the upstairs restaurant to try out some of the ciders.

If you’re indecisive like me, the tasting board is ideal – five 200ml glasses for £7.50, with a card explaining which is which. As I was driving, I shared the board with my friends, and their opinions were split on which were the best – one was a  fan of the Apple Slayer, while another preferred the sparking ciders, especially the Stable Drop Gold.

We were also big fans of one of the local bottled ciders on sale, Cornish Orchards Vintage – it’s a 7.2% cider, more commonly known as ‘night wrecker’…

Pizza was being handed out on boards by waitresses (and very young children) walking around the room. Between us, we tried the West Country Porker, with chorizo, mozzarella and rocket; the Lamb Roast with lamb, sweet potato and goats cheese; the Hawaiian with ham, pineapple and avocado; the Red Ruby Rustler with ground beef, chorizo, mushrooms and ham and the Smithick Scorcher, with chopped pork and Naga chillies.

Our group favourite was the Lamb Roast, but all were good with lots of toppings on thin and crispy bases – as I said before, a lot better than you’ll find in any other pizza chain around here.

The launch evening was extremely busy, with a band playing in the downstairs room which also houses the impressive cider display behind the bar – seriously, try choosing from all of these!

The Stable in Falmouth opens to the public tonight, and I’m sure it will be a great success – the one in Newquay is ALWAYS super busy, and with the same quality of pizza and cider I’m sure the Falmouth one will be the same.

Chocolate rum truffle cake

A little while ago, a friend of mine was approaching his 30th birthday.

If you asked him, he would say it was the worst thing in the world, he didn’t want to celebrate it, and no one would even remember. Yeah, right.

Instead of ignoring it, our group of friends decided to plan a surprise birthday afternoon/evening, taking him out for food, drinks, music and more drinks, and banishing the old age depression for one day at least.

Obviously, I had to make a surprise cake, and considering that near enough every time we’ve been in the same room one of us has been drinking rum, deciding the flavour was easy.

I used my new favourite chocolate cake recipe from Charlotte White, with each layer brushed with rum, and a chocolate rum buttercream inspired by this one from Oh Sweet Day.

It took me a while to decide how I wanted the cake to look, as a lot of my ideas were a bit too girly for this manliest of men. I settled on chocolate shards sprayed gold and placed all around the sides, and a pile of chocolate rum truffles on top (just in case this monstrosity of a cake wasn’t tall enough already).

I managed to transport the cake in secret to the place we were eating, and then bring it out after the meal. Even though we had all eaten insane amounts of food already, most people tried a bit of the cake and the feedback was good – my personal favourite comment was “I’ve never had an orgasm over a cake before, but….” – a decent if slightly weird endorsement, I think?!

Chocolate rum truffle cake (adapted from Charlotte White’s Burlesque Baking and Oh Sweet Day)

  • 220g dark chocolate
  • 220g butter
  • 160ml water
  • 125g plain flour
  • 125g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 480g caster sugar
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 125ml buttermilk
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp golden rum

For the icing:

  • 170g dark chocolate
  • 3tbsp cream
  • 225g butter
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp rum

For the ganache:

  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 50g double cream

For the truffles and decoration:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 50ml double cream
  • 1-2 tbsp rum
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • Edible gold shimmer spray

For the sponge, melt the chocolate, butter and water in a saucepan over a low heat then set aside. Sift the two flours, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and oil. Slowly pour this into the dry ingredients, and beat it in to create a thick batter. Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir until completely combined, then divide between 3 greased and lined 7″ round tins (the original recipe is for an 8″ cake, but I wanted it to be smaller and taller). Bake at 160 degrees (140 fan) for 35-40 minutes, or until risen and a skewer comes out clean.

When the cakes are cooled, slice off the tops of the cakes to level the layers, then brush the rum all over the tops. To make the icing, melt the chocolate and cream and leave to cool. Beat the butter to soften, then gradually beat in the cocoa powder and icing sugar until completely combined. Add the chocolate and rum and beat until light and fluffy – taste as you go with the rum, I like a strong flavour but you might prefer a little less.

To make the ganache, simply melt the chocolate and cream together and stir until smooth.

To make the truffles, chop the first 100g of chocolate finely, then heat the cream and rum to almost boiling. Pour this over the chocolate, leave for a minute to melt the chocolate, and then stir until smooth. Chill in the fridge until completely firm, then roll into small round balls. With the remaining chocolate, finely grate about 15g worth and use this to roll the truffles in before spraying them with the gold shimmer spray. Melt the rest of the chocolate and then spread fairly thinly onto a large sheet of baking paper and leave to set.

Spray the chocolate with the gold shimmer spray, then break it up into small shards. Assemble the cake by spreading icing between each cake layer and all over the outside. Place the shards of chocolate all over the sides of the cake, and then spread the ganache on top (if it’s cooled down and gone too thick you may need to give it 5 or 10 seconds in the microwave). Leave for 30 minutes to set, then place the truffles in a pile in the middle of the cake.

This is one of the longest methods I think I’ve ever written, but it’s worth it, trust me! Once assembled, keep the cake in the fridge until serving – it’s so rich that I think it tastes best colder.

Chocolate peanut butter swirl brownies

Want a deliciously dense and fudgy brownie? The base recipe for these is all you need.

Want to take it to a new level with a swirl of one of the most addictive food products I’ve ever tried? Keep reading.

When I first spied a jar of chocolate peanut butter, I knew it would be love. What I didn’t realise was that it would be so good I would eat about a third of a jar in one go, spoonful by spoonful.

Yes I am a massive fatty.

When I needed to bake something to take to a party, that would be relatively quick and simple, didn’t need a long time to cool down or be iced, and that could be served in bite-sized portions, brownies were the obvious choice.

Inspired by these Nutella swirl brownies, I decided to buy another jar of the chocolate peanut butter and swap that in instead – a brilliant decision, if I can say so without sounding too boastful!

I used my favourite brownie recipe as the base, then just swirled the slightly warmed chocolate peanut butter on top.

Because I was in a rush, I cut the brownies while they were still slightly warm, which meant the chocolate peanut swirls were gooey and the process was rather messy, but the end result was totally worth it.

If you like the chocolate-peanut combination, you must try these, seriously. Writing about them and looking at the photos has made me realise how much I miss them, and another batch may have to happen soon.

Just as long as the chocolate peanut butter doesn’t mysteriously disappear from the jar first…

Chocolate peanut butter swirl brownies (adapted from Apple and Spice)

  • 140g butter
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 150g chocolate peanut butter

Heat the dark chocolate and butter over  a pan of simmering water until melted and stir to combine. Remove from the heat, then stir in the sugar. Beat in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until well mixed and glossy. Sift in the flour and baking powder, mix until fully combined, then stir in the chopped chocolate.

Spread the brownie mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin. Heat the chocolate peanut butter in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, just to soften it up a little. Spoon in dollops over the top of the brownie batter, then gently swirl in with a knife or skewer, making sure not to over-mix.

Bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) for 25-30 minutes, until the brownies are crisping on top but a skewer still comes out with some crumbs. Leave to cool for as long as you can, then cut into squares and serve.