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.

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Blueberry cheesecake brownies

Along with the peanut butter cup rocky road, which went down a storm, I also made these blueberry cheesecake brownies for my American-themed party last weekend.

The original idea was something red, white and blue, so I thought that red velvet cheesecake brownies with a few blueberries thrown in would do the job perfectly.

Unfortunately, I seem to be incapable of making a red velvet anything that actually turns out red.

This time I used Dr Oetker gel colouring, in the past I’ve tried liquid food colouring and even beetroot for a natural version, but nothing seems to produce the vibrant red I’m after. If anyone has any top tips of the best colouring to use, please let me know, I am determined to crack it one day!

Anyway, despite being more mahogany than red, I was actually quite happy with these – the brownie layer was fudgy, the cheesecake layer was distinct, and the flavours all worked well together.

An added bonus of making these is that they reminded me just how amazing blueberries are to bake with, so you can expect to see a few more blueberry treats coming soon!

Blueberry cheesecake brownies (adapted from Foodtastic Mom)

For the brownie layer:

  • 115g butter
  • 55g dark chocolate
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tbsp red food colouring
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1/2tsp salt

For the cheesecake layer:

  • 225g cream cheese
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 100g blueberries

Start by melting the butter and chocolate together in a small bowl. Beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and food colouring together until light and fluffy, then add the chocolate butter mixture and beat until combined. Sift in the flour and salt, fold into the mix, and then spread into an 8×8″ square tin, greased and lined.

For the cheesecake layer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla together until smooth, then pour over the brownie mix. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly on top, then bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for about 35-40 minutes, or until the cheesecake has just set but still has a slight wobble. Leave to cool completely, then slice into bars and keep in the fridge until serving.

Happy New Year, and a healthy new recipe

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and New Year – mine was a little hectic with moving house as well as lots of baking, but it was definitely a good one.

For New Year’s Eve, I headed up to Oxford to visit friends for a house party, and made the cake pictured above to take – a cinnamon sponge with milk chocolate filling and white chocolate frosting. I didn’t get any photos of the inside, so I’m going to make it again and wait until then to share the recipe – it’s a good one though, I promise!

For now, I’m going to give you another recipe, which I think is rather fitting for my first post of the new year – healthy chilli chocolate butternut brownies.

(Pro photo courtesy of http://www.seangeephotography.com)

I made several attempts last year at making healthier vegetable-based brownies, using a butternut squash recipe from Delicious and a sweet potato recipe from Dan Lepard at the Guardian.

I wasn’t entirely happy with either, but I think I finally cracked it with this recipe, which uses butternut squash to replace the fat, and can also easily be made wheat and gluten free by swapping the 25g of flour for more cocoa powder.

Cut into 12 slices, it comes in at 200 calories per slice – ridiculous for such a decadent tasting treat, and perfect for anyone on a new year health kick.

I also added a quarter teaspoon of scotch bonnet chilli mash, from the Bad Boy Chilli Company, which is based not far from me in Lostwithiel, Cornwall. You only need a tiny bit of the mash to give the brownies a really fiery kick, so use with caution!

Although the chilli does pack a spicy punch, the sweetness of the white chocolate balances it out, and these were a big hit with all of my taste testers when I made them.

I would definitely recommend giving this recipe a go, whether or not you’re starting 2014 with healthy intentions. I’m not planning any huge changes to my diet (cakes aplenty!) but I am going to be trying out some new classes at the gym to try and tone up and increase my fitness – I’ll keep you updated with how it goes…

Healthy chilli chocolate butternut brownies (loosely adapted from Delicious)

  • 330g butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • ¼ tsp Scotch Bonnet Mash
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 65g cocoa powder
  • 25g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped

Start by microwaving the butternut squash for about 10 minutes, or until you can cut through it like butter.  Stir in the dark chocolate until melted, then blend with a stick blender to get rid of all lumps. Add the chilli – if you’re worried about it being too hot start with less and add more if you think it needs it.

Whisk the eggs with the caster sugar until the mixture triples in volume, then fold in the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder.  Finally, fold through the chocolate squash mixture and the white chocolate chunks and spread the mixture into an 8×8” square tin, lined with baking paper.

Bake at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until just set. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares to serve.

We_Should_Cocoa_V3

As this is the first time I’ve baked anything with the Bad Boy Chilli Company’s Scotch Bonnet Mash, I’m going to enter them into this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge, hosted by Linzi at Lancashire Food, who chose ‘new ingredient’ as the theme. I love trying out new things, so this may not be my only entry, we’ll see!

Salted dulce de leche brownies

Salted dulce de leche brownies

So, something a little less fancy than my previous post!

Sometimes simple and easy produces the best results, and this recipe delivers on that both in the making of the brownies themselves, and in the making of the homemade dulce de leche.

A little while ago a friend mentioned that they loved dulce de leche, so when I knew I would be seeing them I decided it was the perfect time to bake something with it.

Sure, you can just buy it by the jar and that would be the ultimate easy option, but it’s kind of expensive for what it is so I decided to have a go at making my own from condensed milk.

I think most people have heard of the boiling the can method of turning condensed milk into caramel, but I’ve never been willing to take the risk of it exploding all over my kitchen.

David Lebovitz suggests baking the milk instead, which sounds far less risky but rather time consuming. I figured that if thee basic principle was ‘condensed milk + heat = caramel’ the same effects could be achieved in the microwave in a much quicker time.

Kind of surprisingly I was right and it worked! Short bursts of heat and frequent stirring produces a golden caramel in under 10 minutes – win! Warning – you need to use a bigger bowl than you think, because it will bubble up a lot, but as long as you do it’s so quick and easy you’ll be wondering why you haven’t used this method forever.

I added salt to the dulce de leche because salted caramel always beats regular, then referred back to David Lebovitz for the actual brownie recipe.

Super simple brownie mix, swirl in the dulce de leche, bake, et voila – deep, fudgy brownies bursting with pockets of salted dulce de leche. Simple but delicious.

Salted dulce de leche brownies (recipe adapted from David Lebovitz)

  • 1 400g tin condensed milk
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt
  • 170g dark chocolate
  • 115g butter
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 140g plain flour (I reckon this could be reduced to 120g for fudgier brownies though)

To make the dulce de leche, pour the condensed milk into a large bowl, then microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring in between each time, until it thickens and turns a golden caramel colour. Add in the salt a little at a time to your personal taste, then set aside while you make the brownie mixture.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a suacepan, over a low heat. Once the chocolate has melted, take off the heat and beat in the cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, sugar and then flour, scraping down the sides of the pan between each addition.

Pour half the mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin, then dollop half of the dulce de leche in on top. Spread the rest of the brownie mixture over evenly, then dollop on the rest of the dulce de leche. Swirl it through the mixture with a skewer or knife, being careful not to mix it in too much.

Bake at 170 degrees for 25-30 minutes – the original recipe says 35-40 but mine were done way quicker. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin, slicing into bars and serving.

tea time treats

I’m entering these into the September Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked. This month’s theme, chosen by Karen, is flapjacks, oats, and traybakes – I did have an oaty recipe bookmarked but just haven’t had time to make it, so hopefully brownies will count as a traybake instead!

Cake and Bake Show, London 2013

Cake-and-Bake-Show-13th-15th-September_trend_main

When I was approached by the lovely PR team behind the Cake and Bake Show to ask if I would like a pair of press passes, it took me all of a second to fire back an email saying ‘yes!’

I’d never been before, but from what I’d heard it would be a baker’s heaven – all the sweet and savoury treats you could wish for, baking supplies and equipment to set you up for life, tonnes of expert demos, and a great opportunity for spotting the rockstars of the baking world.

Ok, so I had to get up at 4.30 in the morning, drive an hour and a quarter to get a coach to London, then get the coach back at 11.30 at night, and not arrive home until 7 in the morning, but it was SO worth it.

My brilliant friend Becky was willing to go along with my insane travel plans, so we turned up at Earls Court and were pretty pleased to see that despite the show being sold out on the Saturday there weren’t any big queues to get in.

While trying to track down the press room, we caught a glimpse of all the amazing goodies on offer – it was pretty overwhelming!

We were kind of hungry when we arrived, so took advantage of the bread, cheese and cakes in the press room. After scoffing down some food, I turned around to see none other than baking GOD Dan Lepard sat at a table. Internally, I was ridiculously excited about this, but for some reason too embarrassed to just go over and say hi – massive wasted opportunity!

The celeb spotting continued throughout the day – pretty much everyone from the current series of Great British Bake Off was there, along with previous winners John Waite and Edd Kimber, and loads of top professional chefs.

We were offered the chance to take part in one of the ‘Classrooms’ – private demonstrations for groups of around 50 people on a wide range of different topics.

Burlesque Baking with Charlotte White

‘Burlesque Baking’ immediately caught my eye, so we went to the session hosted by Charlotte White of Restoration Cake, who was absolutely fabulous – I’ve never seen anyone look quite so glamorous or wear such skyscraper heels to bake in but she totally pulls it off!

She showed us how to ice and decorate a cake in her signature vintage style, which takes inspiration from burlesque artists. Her tips were brilliant, everything from the best way to pick up the sugarpaste and lay it over the cake to piping perfect strings of pearls around the sides – I was inspired, and am going to be attempting to recreate her cake here very soon!

Charlotte White dessert table

Charlotte was also one of the bakers to create a dessert table for the show – basically a showcase of each bakers signature style. Along with the cake catwalk and the ‘wedding cake of the future’ area, this was the place for professional bakers to really show what they can do, and Becky and I were both stunned by just how creative, intricate and fabulous they all were.

Here are a few of my faves…

A lot of the food stalls at the show were giving away free samples, which combined with the food we found in the press room meant we didn’t actually have that much room for buying and eating anything on the day.

Paul A Young brownies

One of the things we just had to try though was Paul A Young’s now infamous marmite brownie, just to see what all the fuss was about.

Becky was definitely not convinced, and to be honest I still haven’t quite made up my mind – on first taste I thought the marmite was way too overpowering, but it was also strangely addictive – put half in the fridge but couldn’t resist going back for sneaky extra bites…

On Cafe macaron

I also bought some macarons from On Cafe – passionfruit and mango, cassis and my favourite, champagne pink peach, as well as a couple of water ganache truffles from The Chocolatier.

We left the Cake and Bake show feeling absolutely stuffed, but also inspired to bake – for anyone with even a slight interest in baking, I would highly recommend you go! Whether you want to stock up on equipment, gape at stunning sugarcraft, learn from the experts or just gobble up some freebies, it’s well worth a visit – I’ll certainly be going back next year!

Healthy, fudgy, avocado brownies

Avocado brownies

Not long after being sent a giant box of veg from Riverford to bake with, including a bag of avocados which ended up in a chocolate fudge cake, I found myself with another avocado desperate to be used.

Coincidently, a few days beforehand I had seen these avocado brownies posted by Averie and, well, it just seemed like fate!

I’ve made a few variations on healthy brownies with ‘secret’ ingredients before – mayonnaise and black beans probably being the strangest – but these were by far my favourite and cut into 12 squares they are a virtuous 175 calories each – practically health food!

You would honestly never guess that there is avocado in these, or that they are healthy – they are just straight up delicious, fudgy brownies.

If you have an avocado going spare, I would seriously recommend giving this recipe a go – the reaction when you tell people what’s in them AFTER they’ve tried them is worth it alone!

Avocado brownies (recipe adapted from Averie Cooks)

  • 70g avocado flesh (approx. 1 small avocado)
  • 60g Clover light, melted (or butter if you don’t care about calorie count)
  • 1 large egg
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp strong black coffee
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 30g plain flour (I used gluten free)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 85g dark chocolate, chopped

Start by pureeing or mashing the avocado – I find a stick blender does this best. Add the melted butter, egg, sugar, coffee and vanilla and beat well with an electric mixer, until completely smooth. Sift together the cocoa powder, flour and salt and fold into the mixture until just combined, then stir through the chopped dark chocolate.

Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin, then bake at 170 degrees for 25-30 minutes – make sure you don’t overbake or the brownies won’t be fudgy. Leave to cool completely before trying to cut – then eat in amazement.

Grasshopper squares

These grasshopper squares have been on my to-bake list for an incredibly long time, but I think I’ve always been a bit put off by the ingredients list – 250g dark chocolate, 200g white chocolate, peppermint extract, green food colouring all bought in one go would be a bit expensive for one batch of brownies!

This week I found myself with a bar each of dark chocolate and milk chocolate that had gone unused the week before, I had peppermint extract leftover from making homemade after eights as Christmas gifts, and green food colouring going back to the crocodile cake I made ages ago, so it seemed fated that it was finally time to give grasshopper squares a go.

I adapted the recipe a bit, more to keep the calorie count down than the cost, and reduced the amounts of chocolate – these are still incredibly rich even when cut into smaller squares than the recipe suggests so I definitely don’t think you miss out on any of the chocolatey goodness by using less!

I though 2 tsp of mint extract would be too overpowering so I added it bit by bit, but actually it was fine and I think I even added a little extra. I changed the top layer to be pure chocolate so it would have a bit of bite to it rather than having three soft layers and I think that worked well too, although it does make them a bit harder to cut neatly.

The pony loves these, and I have to admit I do too – I don’t normally go for things this chocolatey but the mint pulls it all together and makes them rather addictive!

I’m glad I finally got around to making them, and I have a feeling they will be made again…

Grasshopper squares (adapted from BBC Good Food)

For the brownies:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 15g cocoa powder

For the topping:

  • 150g white chocolate
  • 50ml single cream
  • 2 tsp peppermint extract
  • green gel food colouring
  • 125g dark chocolate

Start by melting the dark chocolate and butter for the brownies together and set aside to cool. Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy, then pour in the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and spread into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin. Bake at 170 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until cracking at the edges but just set in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin while you make the topping.

Heat the cream until just starting to simmer, then pour over the white chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and then add in the peppermint extract to taste and enough green food colouring to turn it a pale minty green (I thought I’d added too much green but once it was sandwiched between two dark chocolate layers it was toned down a bit). When the mixture has thickened but it still pourable spread over the brownie base and chill in the fridge to firm up.

Melt the dark chocolate, stirring regularly and checking to make sure it doesn’t get too hot. Working quickly, spread over the mint layer – because it’s been in the fridge it will make the dark chocolate set really fast. Cut into squares using a hot knife then store in the fridge. If they last long enough that is!

Chilli chocolate brownies (GF)

The other weekend, my next door neighbour Jo invited me around for a chocolate tasting session. I have the best neighbours!

One of the selection of chocolate bars, from the Eden Project, was a dark chilli chocolate. I quite liked it, but Jo thought the chilli was a bit too strong, so very kindly donated the rest of the bar for me to bake with.

The idea was that the chilli would be toned down a bit if it was used in baking, and it worked – these chilli chocolate brownies have just enough chilli to give a nice kick, but definitely not too much to be overwhelming.

The brownie recipe itself was also a great success – it’s wheat and gluten free, and has a very high proportion of chocolate to all the other ingredients which is bound to be good!

I adapted the original from David Lebovitz a little, by swapping chopped nuts for chopped chocolate, but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter – especially heeding David’s warning to beat the mixture for at least a minute or risk crumbly brownies!

Chilli Chocolate Brownies (adapted from David Lebovitz)

  • 75g chilli flavoured dark chocolate
  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 85g butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3tbsp cornflour
  • Optional – 1 tsp chilli powder (depending on how strong your chocolate is and how strong you want the brownies to taste)

Roughly chop the chilli and normal chocolate and mix the two together, then set aside 75g of it. Heat the remaining 225g of chocolate with the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, then remove from the hob and beat in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until well mixed. Sift together the cocoa and cornflour (and chilli powder if using), then add to the chocolate mixture. Beat for at least a minute so the mixture is smooth and shiny – this is apparently a very important stage!

Fold in the remaining chopped chocolate, then spread the mixture into an 8×8″ square greased and lined tin. Bake at 180 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until just set. Leave until completely cool to remove from the tin and cut into squares.

Coffee iced brownies

Coffee is one of my absolute favourite partners for chocolate (and one of my favourite things in general) so there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to enter this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge, guest-hosted by Lucy of The Kitchen Maid.

Unfortunately, the past month has sped by in a blur and so it’s one day before the challenge deadline that I decide to finally get my act together and bake up some chocolatey coffee goodness, in the form of these coffee iced brownies.

I’ve had the original recipe from The Curvy Carrot bookmarked for ages so I’m also entering these to Bookmarked Recipes, hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes – although I did make a couple of tiny tweaks…

I thought brownies with added buttercream would be rich enough without the chocolate ganache on top so I swapped that for a dusting of cocoa powder, and added a teaspoon of coffee into the brownie batter just to enhance the flavour. I couldn’t really get away with calling them triple-layer brownies after getting rid of the ganache, hence the re-naming!

I also struggled with the icing as I ran out of butter and had to improvise quite a lot – it worked out well in the end though!

Coffee iced brownies (adapted from The Curvy Carrot)

  • 85g dark chocolate
  • 113g butter
  • 1tsp coffee granules
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g plain flour
  • 1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 70g chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips

For the icing:

  • 1tsp coffee granules
  • 1tsp cold water
  • 50g creme fraiche
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 35g white chocolate, melted
  • cocoa powder to dust

Start by heating the 85g chocolate, butter and coffee granules in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, remove from the heat and beat in the caster sugar. Add the vanilla and eggs, beating again until smooth and glossy. Sift in the flour and bicarb, fold until all the flour is mixed in, then stir in the chopped chocolate. Pour into a foil-lined 8×8″ square tin (leave an overhang of foil so you can get the brownies out easily), and bake at 180 degrees for 25-30 minutes, then leave to cool.

To make the buttercream, dissolve the coffee granules in the water and set aside. Beat together the creme fraiche and icing sugar, then add in the coffee and melted chocolate. Spread on top of the brownies, then dust a little cocoa powder on top. Remove from the tin, cut into squares and serve.

 

Cocoa-only brownies

I wasn’t planning on making brownies last weekend.

If I had been, I probably would have made one of the many recipes I have bookmarked with all kinds of exciting additions – coffee, peanut butter, cream cheese, mint, raspberries – the list goes on.

But as it happened, I decided that I needed brownies to make the battlements for my Rapunzel Castle, and laziness dictated that I would make them with ingredients I already had.

Without any chocolate on hand, I adapted the recipe I used for cinnamon blondies, which produced a nice fudgy result without any melted chocolate.

The results, without wanting to brag, were pretty much awesome.

The brownies were lovely and fudgy, with a crisp top, exactly how I like them. They were ever so slightly on the thin side, but perfect for the castle, and the extras went down very well with the pony.

I don’t know how soon I’ll make them again, as I do have such a huge list of brownie recipes to work through, but it’s defintely a useful recipe to have for no-chocolate emergencies!

Cocoa-only brownies

Makes 16 squares

  • 115g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 120g plain flour

Put the butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl and microwave in short bursts, stirring until all the butter has melted. Beat in the vanilla and egg – the mixture should be nice and glossy. Finally, stir in the flour, then spread into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin. Bake at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until crisp on top but not overcooked. Leave to cool, then cut into squares and serve.