Gifting Christmas Brownies

It can come as no surprise that I love baking. It is without a doubt my number one hobby. But as much as a love it, it does come with its downfalls; what is made has to be eaten and it usually doesn’t last. I know what you’re thinking – that doesn’t sound like a downfall at all..? But when people are on diets around you and you know you should be eating healthy yourself it can be very hard to justify baking so much.

So I always try to make the most of special occasions, whether that’s making Banoffee Cake for Thanks Giving, Chocolate Nut Bars as a house warming gift or a three tiered Baby Shower Cake! The best kind of baking is baking to share.

Last weekend we had our annual Christmas dinner gathering with what Ben and I dub the ‘Aussie Crew’. An affectionate name for the first group of friends we made when moving to London nearly five years ago. They’re mainly Aussies but of course there is us and some locals too. Every year we celebrate with a boozy pub dinner before people start flying out for summer Christmases (there is always someone in a big group of expats).

This year I took the chance to make everyone little parcels of brownies. I made the tags from Christmas themed images I have collected over the years. I struggle to throw anything remotely reusable away, so it’s always good to be able to make use of the little bits I’ve kept.20161126_friends_christmas_lunch_0040The brownie recipe I used was, of course, Edmond’s. There are two recipes for brownies in the Edmonds Cookbook; Chocolate Brownie which uses cooking chocolate and Coconut Chocolate Brownies which uses cocoa. As I didn’t have enough cooking chocolate I decided to make the coconut ones and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. The universe had other ideas though and I burned my first batch to a crisp, so I still don’t know what the Chocolate Coconut Brownies taste like. As I had used the last of my coconut, I remade the recipe without it and luckily, they still turned out well.

^^^ I asked Ben to try and capture the icing sugar dusting as I thought it would make a nice photo. I should have thought more about the background though.. oops!

Here is the recipe:

Coconut Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients

125g of butter

1/4 cup cocoa

1 cup icing sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Method

Melt butter in a medium sized saucepan. Add cocoa. Stir over a low heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and coconut. Sift flour and baking powder. Stir into mixture. Pour into a greased and lined shallow 20 cm tin. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 30 – 35 minutes. Leave in tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Cut into bars and dust with icing sugar.

Note – It definitely did not need 30 minutes in my oven. We are slowly learning that our new oven is on the hot side though and especially on a fan bake option that is going to be a lot hotter than the oven that this recipe was written for. I would check after 15 minutes to avoid disaster – an overcooked brownie is the worst!

Oh and here is us in our festive hats and jumpers…

I can highly recommend these Racing Santa Christmas Crackers from Sainsbury’s too.

^^^ It all got quite competitive

I hope you all enjoyed your brownies guys. See you in the New Year!

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Peanut Brownies for my Dad

20160814_Peanut_Brownies_0700Today is my dad’s 60th birthday. Happy Birthday Dad!

Over the weekend I was messaging my two sisters who live at home in New Zealand as they were buying presents and getting ready to bake dad’s birthday cake. It’s always these times I find the hardest about living so far from home; the times when families and friends gather and celebrate. These are the times when I feel most homesick. Also when Whittakers releases new chocolate flavours and my Marmite supply runs out, but mostly on big occasions for the people I love and 60? Well that’s a big occasion!

So rather than wallow in my homesickness  I got up on Saturday morning and made my dad’s favourite biscuit, and of course it’s an Edmonds Cookbook recipe, Peanut Brownies. I haven’t made this recipe since I lived at home but luckily they turned out alright, a little less chocolatey than I remember them. But still sweet and nutty and good.

I don’t remember when I first learned to bake, but my sisters and I were always baking something in our house growing up. There can’t have been many weekends where someone didn’t make something and that would often be Peanut Brownies at dad’s request. Dad is a huge fan of peanuts so there would always be bags of them in the house ready for snacking on or baking with.

20160814_Peanut_Brownies_0733The quality must have been hit or miss though, revisiting this recipe made me realise how far I had come with my baking. I’m sure I used to melt the butter for this recipe, although it calls for the butter and sugar to be creamed. I even remember accidentally cooking the egg in the mixture by adding it to the hot butter and sugar too early. The egg white whitened in the mixture and you could see flecks if it throughout like you do in egg friend rice. Mmmm.. eggy… I have always been weary of doing that since.

When baking these on Saturday all I could find were roasted salted nuts in the supermarket, I thought the salt would be too much so rather than being defeated, I bought them anyway and took them home to wash them. All I did was rinse all the salt off through a sieve then places the sieve in the pre-heating oven to dry off while I made the mixture. It worked a treat. I think at home we would quite often make this with peanuts with the husks on too, it gives them a bit more texture and the skin would go crunchy in the oven.

20160814_Peanut_Brownies_0736Peanut Brownies

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 11/2 cups standard plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa
  • 1 cup peanuts, roasted and husked

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa together. Mix into creamed mixture. Add cold peanuts and mix well. Roll tablespoonsful of mixture into balls. Place on greased oven trays. Flatten with a fork. Bake at 180 degree Celsius for 15 minutes or until cooked. Makes 20.

20160814_Peanut_Brownies_0708Dad I wish I could just pop over there and share these with you and give you a big 60th birthday hug. But know that I’ll be thinking of you as you celebrate this huge milestone.

See you in four months, and if you’re lucky I’ll make you another batch then.

Love you xx

Banoffee Cake

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I can’t believe it has taken me this long to share this with you guys. I wrote this post after first making this cake back in November for Thanksgiving. I didn’t get any pictures at the time though so I held the post. I have since made this three times and the latest creation, which is the one I got pictures of, was for our friend’s 1st year wedding anniversary celebration.

Here are my post-Thanksgiving ramblings:_MG_0006

Guys, I think this is an amazing idea! I’m not claiming it’s very original, but I haven’t seen it done before and man it is so good you have to try it.

I was invited to my first Thanksgiving dinner this year and told simply to bring dessert. Our hosts were going full American with a huge turkey and all the trimmings. So I got thinking about American desserts.

When I think of American dessert I always think of pie. Pecan pie, pumpkin pie, key lime pie and of course banoffee pie. To me these are quintessentially American desserts and are a must for the Thanksgiving table. My problem with this was though, I have never made any of them before. In fact, until Thanksgiving I had only ever tried a banoffee pie so although I am very keen to try them all, to make something for a big group of people without even being able to be sure if it was vaguely right was too much of a challenge.

As Thanksgiving got closer and closer and I was still toying with the pie idea I hit on a compromise I thought might work and save me the pressure of feeding pie to Americans. Feed them cake!

So, I pimped out a banana cake, American style. Banana and caramel always go awesome together so why not in a cake? And guys – it totally worked and tasted pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

I make banana loaf all the time. I’m obsessed, I wrote about my love affair with the loaf in one of my first blog posts. I make banana cake very rarely so it was a nice change for me. My banana cake recipe is an Edmonds Classic too and it is a nice change for the loaf as it’s a much lighter and sweeter texture. Mmm sweeter is always good.

Here is the recipe for those following at home:

NZ Banana Cake

  • 125g softened butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons hot milk
  • 2 cups standard plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add mashed banana and mix thoroughly. Stir soda into hot milk and add to creamed mixture. Sift flour and baking powder. Fold into mixture. Turn into greased and lined 20cm round cake tin. Bake at 180°⊂ for 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Leave in tin for 10 minutes before turning on to wire rack.

I made 2 layers by splitting the mixture evenly between two 20cm round tins. Bake at 180°⊂ but reduce baking time to 25 minutes.

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How to pimp it: The Banoffee Makeover

Now for the fun part!

As I had two layers I started by layering salted caramel on the base layer. I used store bought but I’m sure homemade caramel would be next level awesome. Then dollop whipped cream on top. Don’t be tempted to add any sugar to the cream as this cake seriously doesn’t need any more sugar. Add the next layer on top and then drizzle over chocolate icing.

I have also done this with one layer of cake by topping with whipped cream, drizzling caramel sauce over the top then sprinkling with dark chocolate shavings.

Delicious.. I’m taking birthday cake orders…

 

 

 

My first Carrot Cake bake

_MG_0061In high school two of my good friends used to make a carrot whenever they got together, sometimes weekly. They even once made a carrot cake at one’s family house, then walked up the hill to the others’ and made another one there. For them, a carrot cake meant cream cheese icing. Lots and lots of cream cheese icing! Because that’s what a carrot cake is all about right? A thick layer of glossy, fresh, lemony icing. Yum!

_MG_0006I often wonder who came up with this recipe. Who had the idea of putting vegetables in a cake? Because it is a good one. The carrots offer a subtle flavour to the cake and keep the texture light and moist and not as cloying as cakes with more refined ingredients can be.

_MG_0067I was so impressed by the Edmonds recipe, it turned out really great, exactly as a carrot cake should be. I wish I hadn’t avoided it so long. I think when I was younger I dismissed carrot cakes as I thought there was no way that the batter of this cake would taste good.

The batter was a key consideration for me in my younger baking, I loved licking the bowl, I think it was one of my main motivations for baking, second only to eating the product of course. So a mix without creamed butter and sugar? That was totally out of the question.

_MG_0073Nowadays it’s not only carrots in cakes. You hear about all number of healthy vegetables being corrupted by surroundings of sugary, fatty cake batter. I think my next attempt will be pumpkin, once I get over making carrot cakes that is.

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Are these photos tempting you to try it? Go on… do it. And then invite me over so I can enjoy all the cream cheese icing with you. _MG_0083

The Edmonds Challenge

This blog is all about expanding my horizons and pushing myself just that little bit further to get where I want to be. But it’s not just on this big things. I want to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and do just a little bit more.

_MG_0099So I’m starting with baking. This is my number one hobby and go to for everything in life from comfort and stress relief to creativity and expression. Not a weekend goes by where I’m not whipping something up for some reason or another. But what I have realised recently is that the ‘something’ I’m making is usually one of two things, banana loaf or Afghans. It is time to branch out and that’s what my Edmonds Challenge is about. I want to bake at least two new things from the Edmonds cook book  per month. Sort of like Julia and Julia with a lot less time pressure.

_MG_0094I’ve chosen the Edmonds book as it is a bit of a New Zealand institution. I learned to cook through my copy of The Edmonds Junior Cook Book, which had step by step pictures and warnings on every page ‘Careful, the pan is hot’. It is a New Zealand tradition to receive a copy of The Edmonds Cookery Book from your Mum when you first leave home, the copy I am using was my boyfriends departing gift when he moved to Wellington to study. It’s a book that has been around for ever, first published in 1907 and the biggest selling book ever published in New Zealand. It’s a staple in every NZ home so it’s not a fad to pass like cronuts and cake pops. It’s simple, plain and hopefully delicious cooking. Also, if my two signature bakes come from it, surely there are more to be discovered.

So, what’s your favourite Edmonds recipe? What should I try out first?