Category Archives: Brownies

Best of G’Town: Milkshake hotspot

Mmmm milkshakes. I used to think that Bar One milkshakes was about as extreme and amazing as you could get (there is no disputing that they are fabulous, though). Then I found Red Café, and I was completely blown away.

Peanut butter milkshakes to blow you away, strawberry and banana smoothie (Pam thinks she's healthy). Bar One milkshake next to a peppermint crisp milkshake which tastes just like the dessert.

Peanut butter milkshakes to blow you away, strawberry and banana smoothie (Pam thinks she’s healthy). Bar One milkshake next to a peppermint crisp milkshake which tastes just like the dessert.

They have your traditional chocolate and vanilla, but then they also have Milo, Horlicks, and even peanut butter milkshakes! It’s like a perfect peanut smoothie, but it’s a milkshake, so it’s better. Then they have Dessert Milkshakes, which include peppermint crisp (Peppermint Surprise for those students who live in res at Rhodes University), Bar One and Oreo (cookies and cream is always a winner). They also serve smoothies if you would prefer to appear healthy, but they taste so great that it’s hard to believe it’s healthy fruity ingredients.

They have a charming breakfast menu, but the food menu is dominated by tramezzinis and baguettes. Their tramezzinis are definitely the better option, though, as they crisp up nicely, while the baguettes are rather bland… They also do salads and cater for certain fussy diets.

Breakfast wrap and a breakfast tramezzini, same filling, different outside. The wrap itself was somewhat bland, so it is better to have the cheese, scrambled egg and bacon in it's crispy tramezzini form.

Breakfast wrap and a breakfast tramezzini, same filling, different outside. The wrap itself was somewhat bland, so it is better to have the cheese, scrambled egg and bacon in it’s crispy tramezzini form.

They have a charming breakfast menu, but the food menu is dominated by tramezzinis and baguettes. Their tramezzinis are definitely the better option, though, as they crisp up nicely, while the baguettes are rather bland… They also do salads and cater for certain fussy diets.

Darren enjoyed a chicken mayo tramezzini, which was full to bursting with more than just a chicken mayo filling - there was cheese and I think they even crammed some mushrooms in there. The chocolate brownie was one of the greatest in Grahamstown for sure

Darren enjoyed a chicken mayo tramezzini, which was full to bursting with more than just a chicken mayo filling – there was cheese and I think they even crammed some mushrooms in there.
The chocolate brownie was one of the greatest in Grahamstown for sure

My first port of call, though, is the sweets and treats, obviously. Brownies, millionairs shortbread and an assortment of cakes go down a treat. My latest delight there was a chocolate brownie that was delicious. I couldn’t figure out if it was a especially gooey brownie, or slightly under-done; either way, it totally worked.

Red Café is definitely under-appreciated, though it does receive a steady amount of business by the sounds of things. It’s a pity about their open times, but it is understandable for a café to not be open for dinner; their menu doesn’t lend itself to that as much. Their food is consistently improving, providing reliable deliciousness – keep it simple and you’ll definitely get it right more often. Their location and set up is also ideal – the balcony overlooking the high street is quaint and cool (under the shade at least) for a hot summers day with a shake or a smoothie.

They have a unique balcony with a charming view. Here I enjoyed a roast chicken and cheese baguette with an Oreo milkshake.

They have a unique balcony with a charming view.
Here I enjoyed a roast chicken and cheese baguette with an Oreo milkshake.

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Jay Bay for a Day

Although I am not a huge fan of staying in the remote isolation that is Grahamstown, staying in the Eastern Cape does have a few perks. It can be especially beautiful, and staying in G’Town means I’m not too far away from places that offer much in the way of aesthetics (well, until I go back to Gauteng, which happens to be this coming weekend).

One weekend, we casually decided to pop on over to Jeffrey’s Bay. It’s less than two hours away, so it is perfect for a day visit (or a night over, if you have the time). Unfortunately, we went on a day that was particularly dull, so we didn’t get to see J-Bay in its true glory.

Let's go to the beach, beach, let's go get - oh wait...

Let’s go to the beach, beach, let’s go get – oh wait…

Obviously, I was most excited to have new foods to try. I was in my element, and I nearly bought a brownie at every place we stopped. But that is why we have budgets. It was a charming and new culinary experience, and J-Bay certainly had a bit to offer.

Love Food Cafe had a perfect menu for my tastes, but unfortunately don't cater for gluten intolerant folk

Love Food Cafe had a perfect menu for my tastes, but unfortunately don’t cater for gluten intolerant folk

The motivation for going to this beach town, known to me for its surfing reputation, was the factory shopping. RVCA, billabong, and other cool outlet stores were calling (after all, summer was meant to arrive soon, which means bikini season!). I am almost as obsessed with bikinis as I am with brownies and food, so endless cheap bikinis was like a tiny slice of heaven. Bikinis tend to be more expensive than brownies, which is unfortunate, but not too much so when you’re in J-Bay! Though, you can’t have both at the same time with maximum effectiveness, if you know what I mean. Why can’t we have our cake and eat it? Because there are only so many hours in a day that one can spend exercising.

Factory shopping is the best kind, am I right?

Factory shopping is the best kind, am I right?

I love to shop, but I never buy anything. I think I have a fear of the commitment to the clothing, because I just love to look at it all, but I am scared to try new things. So I didn’t buy anything, but that doesn’t mean that the retail therapy didn’t work.

We were also fortunate enough to see a little bit of a surfing competition, but by this stage the weather was really rubbish, so we returned to our backwards little G’Town.

Junior Surfing competition

Junior Surfing competition

Everything thing brownies

Have you ever done the everything thing? I’m at the stage in my life where it is happening very often, and it makes sense: I have so many big choices to make, and everything seems to have culminated into this period of my life. Never have I been faced with so many options and life paths, and it’s getting almost overwhelming.

So I decided to bake of course.

These were originally meant to be “kitchen sink brownies” but as I realised how much these brownies were becoming a metaphor for my life at the moment, they became Everything Thing brownies.

Baking Everything Thing brownies to distract myself from life choices

Baking Everything Thing brownies to distract myself from life choices

I am finishing up my Bachelor’s degree in a few days (couldn’t be more excited for it to be over!) and I now have the potential of the big bad world ahead of me. Let me just warn you that University pretty much doesn’t really prepare you for real-world activities, only life can do that. I am scared that wherever I decide to go, I will end up having learnt all about the industry, but not enough about how to do a job in it. Well, these are just my concerns and fears for the future. And then there’s the fact that I don’t even know what I’m going to do with my life.

These are the contents, not the ingredients of Everything Thing Brownies. The Snickers were strong, bordering overpowering, and the Rolo's disappeared. The Creme Caramels also disappeared, but that's because I ate them before they made it into the brownies

These are the contents, not the ingredients of Everything Thing Brownies. The Snickers were strong, bordering overpowering, and the Rolo’s disappeared. The Creme Caramels also disappeared, but that’s because I ate them before they made it into the brownies

I am going to London in two weeks time (looking forward to more travel pieces, yay!) and I am going to be spending time at a cool company there. I am meant to be returning to South Africa mid-January to start my honours degree back home in Johannesburg, which is cool because there’s not as much real life when you’re a student, however, yet another year of studies? It better be good. This obviously depends on whether or not I get accepted into my chosen University.

Looking back, though, I am heartsore to be leaving my current student life behind. I have recently met a huge number of wonderful people. I made biscuits for one of them with some cool new cookie cutters that I ordered online. I need some practice with them, but I am very pleased with my purchase. It’s going to suck leaving all these awesome people in this crazy little town.

Cookie jars are the cutest gifts I think <3

Cookie jars are the cutest gifts I think ❤

"Hi Pam"! "Pam and Chris". It's easier to make cookies like this for someone else rather than admitting just how lonely the future could be...

“Hi Pam”! “Pam and Chris”. It’s easier to make cookies like this for someone else rather than admitting just how lonely the future could be…

As far as the taste of the brownies are concerned: matched my life as well. They seemed like a really good idea at the time, and I was accumulating the ingredients and building up to and enjoying the idea of these little gems. They looked like they would work out, everything was great on paper. When I finally got around to it, it was actually pretty disappointing. The Snickers kind of ruined them on the first bite, because of the intense peanut flavour and the way that the caramel went quite hard… Once I got over the initial surprise of the flavour though, things got better. So that’s where I am right now: initial bite was rough, but I know it can only get better. Especially if you make the most of the other cool things going on in there, like Oreos and M&M’s.

Everything Thing Brownies (ET Brownies) are officially a thing. Just incorporate everything that makes you happy, and your life will match up eventually <3

Everything Thing Brownies (ET Brownies) are officially a thing. Just incorporate everything that makes you happy, and your life will match up eventually ❤

Brownie bake-off…

… a quest to find the best brownie recipe of them all!

Which one will it be? Which brownie recipe is Brownie of them all?

Which one will it be? Which brownie recipe is Brownie of them all?

Brownies are definitely my thing, so I was determined to find the best brownie recipe out there. I have some favourite blogs and some recommended recipes that I had to give a go, so I set them all up against one another and had a day-long brownie bake-off. I made six batches of brownies (obviously in my absolute element!) and got a bunch of my friends to rate them and decide on the best one. 

Batch # 1: Yuppiechef

Batch # 1: Yuppiechef

The first batch I made was the one from the online shop, Yuppiechef. They are certainly my favourite online shop because they sell cooking equipment to heaven and back and I just want to buy absolutely everything on that site! You will see the brownie pan that I bought from them in later photos, it was very handy, producing cute little individual brownies.

The judges’ opinions: Softer, cakier, moist, not dry and not too sweet (however a later test group noted that they were sweeter than Batch #2, which is contrary).

Batch #2: Food.com

Batch #2: Food.com (in my Yuppiechef brownie tray)

I had this recipe at a baby shower I went to once and it was beautiful. They had been baked perfectly. I do love my fudgy edges, and those didn’t have them that time, but wow, not too cakey, not too fudgy, they were fabulous. This batch turned out quite nicely as well, but perhaps somewhat less chocolate-y than the first time I had them.

Judges’ opinions: soft inside, chocolate-y, with a crunchy coating. [I would say the crunchy coating is a bit of an exaggerated description, but they were somewhat fudgy on the outside]

Yammie is my favourite food blogger, possibly because we have a lot in common, but also because she produces some superb and truly delicious recipes. All her posts have so much character and her recipes are easy to follow. These brownies have proved a huge success in the past, when I used them in my slutty brownies and when I made a brownie pizza once as well. They are really great.

Judges’ opinions: Cakey, doughy and hard. Crunchy [They were more dense than crunchy]. One judge thought they would be good with tea, but that is because they are dense and chocolate-y.

These brownies are flourless and dairy-free, which means that they cater for a large number of people. And they taste fantastic as well! They have added coffee, which intensifies the chocolate flavour, and they still have great structure, even though they don’t have any flour. They are quite dense and a little bit sticky, but if that’s how you like your brownies, then that shouldn’t be a problem.

Judges’ opinions: Bitter [from the added coffee], dark and gooey [from the lack of flour and added coffee].

Batch #5: BBC Good Food

Batch #5: BBC Good Food

This recipe sounded absolutely fabulous! And it would have been too, however, by this time I was slightly limited. I no longer had a sieve (note the lumps of cocoa powder) and I was using a new oven. A new and extremely hot oven. We cooked them at 110 degrees Celcius (instead of 160), for 15 minutes instead of 25, and they got burnt to an absolute crisp. It was a sad day; I had been so looking forward to them. I managed to save the remains and everyone got to taste a sliver at least.

Judges’ Opinions: “How a brownie should taste”.

Batch #6: How Sweet It Is. These ones didn’t make photo-time unfortunately.

I love this blog as well. She has a lot of character and got me really into reading food blogs. What I liked when I first came across her page was that there is more than just food in her posts (similar to Yammie), she also had stories and you could really see her personality. She now posts some very interesting and different recipes. I am particularly keen to try this sandwich of hers.

IMG_6739

“But, what do you mean you don’t like this one? It’s the best!”

IMG_6738

“If you don’t like it, I’ll have it!”

IMG_6745

Brownies to last the week of studies

IMG_6742

So the final verdict…

Final brownie results

Final brownie results

In order of the best:

1st place: BBC Good Food (even though they were dinky and a tad burnt. Such a pity!)

2nd place: Food.com

Tied 3rd place: Yammie’s Gluten Freedom (see, gluten and dairy free can still be delicious) and Yuppiechef

5th place: Yammie’s Noshery

6th place: How Sweet It Is 

Marshmallow frosting and quick Oreo truffles

While trying to come up with a title for this post, I was hit by a disgustingly sweet and delicious bit of inspiration… It’s going to be amazing, even better than these wonderful and fairly easy treats, which, for the moment, don’t go together (unless you really want them to…).

Oreo truffles are easy and delicious

Oreo truffles are easy and delicious

Omnomnom. Slutty brownies are her favourite treat, hence choosing to top those with this amazing frosting

Omnomnom. Slutty brownies are her favourite treat, hence choosing to top those with this amazing frosting

Slutty brownies were the request for the evening (I don’t blame them) but marshmallow frosting was just like sugar overload and excessive but amazing of course.

Cupcake versions of the slutty brownie worked pretty well

Cupcake versions of the slutty brownie worked pretty well

The Marshmallow frosting is something that I am still working on – it was delicious, but it needs a bit of refining. I will share the recipe with you, give it a try, maybe it works out better for you (but how wrong can you go with that much sugar and egg whites? Meringue is one of the best things in the world!).

Mmm foamy...

Mmm foamy…

Meringue and marshmallow is so satisfying when it is a success

Meringue and marshmallow is so satisfying when it is a success

Not enough sugar in the marshmallow stuffed choc chip cookies from this recipe, apparently more frosting was required on the top as well

Not enough sugar in the marshmallow stuffed choc chip cookies from this recipe, apparently more frosting was required on the top as well

I ended up with a fair amount of leftovers, so obviously we had to get rid of it in the classiest manner possible

I ended up with a fair amount of leftovers, so obviously we had to get rid of it in the classiest manner possible

The Oreo truffles are the easiest little gems to whip up – super delicious, practically fool proof, and a very short list of ingredients. And the flavours complement each other spectacularly: you have the sweet Oreos mixed with the almost-savoury cream cheese, and dipped in a bitter dark chocolate which offsets the extreme sweetness of the Oreos. Well, this is what I have heard, I didn’t think the Oreo centre was that sweet at all, but I’m just not as sensitive to that sort of thing. Go ahead, give me more sugar!

I may have a slight Oreo addiction

I may have a slight Oreo addiction

I've only recently learnt to truly appreciate cream cheese (glad it didn't happen even later in my life, I would have missed out on so much!)

I’ve only recently learnt to truly appreciate cream cheese (glad it didn’t happen even later in my life, I would have missed out on so much!)

Neat little balls of Oreos and cream cheese

Neat little balls of Oreos and cream cheese

I used my new chocolatier to melt my chocolate - it's a seriously handy little device!

I used my new chocolatier to melt my chocolate – it’s a seriously handy little device!

Marshmallow frosting inspired by Martha Stewart’s High Hat frosting

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups Caster sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (not tartaric acid which almost happened in a lapse of concentration)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Place sugar, water, egg whites and cream of tarter in a heat proof bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until foamy
  2. Place bowl over a pot of water simmering at low heat. Continue to beat on high speed for about 10 minutes until stiff peaks start to form
  3. Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract
  4. Pipe onto whatever tickles your fancy, and a bit of toasting might go down well as well

Oreo Truffles

Ingredients

  • 16 Oreos
  • 110g Plain cream cheese
  • 110g melted Bournville (or dark chocolate of your choice – Bournville is still nice and sweet and not too bitter)

Method

  1. Crush the Oreos – liquidize them or place them in a plastic bag and beat with a rolling pin if you feel like letting off a bit of steam
  2. Add the cream cheese to the crushed Oreos, mix well (can be done in the mixer) until there is cream cheese all throughout the mixture (it mustn’t be too white and visible though)
  3. Form into balls
  4. Melt the chocolate, and dip the Oreo balls in the chocolate, ensuring they are fully covered
  5. Leave to set on wax paper or

Finally made Slutty Brownies

Holidays are a tough (yet wonderful) time for me because I tend to overindulge in all the wonderful things that I don’t generally have access to in the little isolated town of Grahamstown. You may also be aware that I don’t have easy access to a kitchen, which makes baking and cooking pretty difficult. However, I was recently lucky enough to be offered kitchen facilities in my Warden’s flat, and I took the opportunity to make something so wonderful and delicious, that I will most certainly be baking them again within the next two weeks.

The name is interesting, but they’re just so delicious and indulgent, that everyone wants a piece. Slutty brownies have been on my “To-make” list for a while, and I now see that I was not mistaken in choosing this recipe.

The Slutty Brownie is made up of a base layer of chocolate chip cookies, a layer of Oreos, and topped off with a fudgey brownie layer. Those are basically the three most wonderful treats in the world, right?

I chose to stick with simple box mixes, which made it cheaper and fail-proof. I didn’t want to end up with a dud layer of choc chip cookies and a perfect brownie on top, that would have been such a waste!

Just some casual ingredients waiting to become something awesome!

Just some casual ingredients waiting to become something awesome!

The three main components: cookie dough (delicious as is, by the way, who cares about Salmonella...?)

The three main components: cookie dough (delicious as is, by the way, who cares about Salmonella…?)

Place the cookies into neat rows to make sure you get evenly distributed Oreo-goodness

Place the cookies into neat rows to make sure you get evenly distributed Oreo-goodness

Try not to notice the fact that I was 1 Oreo short...

Try not to notice the fact that I was 1 Oreo short…

Add your brownie layer

Add your brownie layer

Pop it into the oven

Pop it into the oven

I would advise that you bake for a few minutes longer than the recommended time to cook the brownies, because they are quite thick, and all that baking heat needs to get deep down through to the cookie layer. Your cookies are not that likely to burn, just beware if you are using a metal cooking dish.

See the lovely layers, so inviting and tempting

See the lovely layers, so inviting and tempting

Ooey gooey delicious finished product

Ooey gooey delicious finished product

They could possibly have stayed in the oven a little longer, but then the ooey gooey-ness of the brownies would have been lost. The softer brownie also offsets a crispier cookie layer, so you really get to enjoy the textures. The Oreo layer is like a small burst of happy in your mouth, a pleasant surprise each time you come across one with that characteristic sweet frosting inside.