Tag Archives: baking

I made bread…

…and it was wonderful!

Perfect buttered bread

This time last year, I was baking brownies. Brownies upon brownies upon brownies! It was definitely my thing.

This year, I am at home, with my own oven, my “own” (mother’s) kitchen, and I don’t need to borrow a kitchen from someone, where I would have to take all my own ingredients that were stored in the top of my cupboard above my clothes and linen in my bedroom… Yeah, it’s definitely good to be home!

It’s both a blessing and a curse though. Now I get to cook all the time. Which I love but which is also really bad, especially now that I am writing my final honours exams (from Monday. OMG I’m going to die! Wish me all the luck!). So, in between all the studying, and sometimes even instead of all the studying, I bake. And that is how this loaf came about.

I love cookery books. Aren’t they pretty? I really should use them since I have so many! It’s my “post-exams resolution”. That, and tidying up all the clutter in my room that has accumulated since I have had more pressing things to do (like “study”, which can be seen here and here). I have all these exciting cooking plans for the end of exams, it is so difficult to actually wait until they are over to start! Hence, procrastibaking.

Procrastibaking

 

So cookbook number 1 is a really cool baking book which I will share with you soon, once I have tried and tested a few more of its recipes. It is very educational, which, of course, is the whole point of me baking and sharing my lessons and experiences with you here on my blog! It doesn’t have enough pictures though, but I feel like complaining about that makes me sound like a child complaining over the quality of their picture book (or why grown up book are so boring). Time to grow up and get this honours degree I guess. Real world next year, bring it on!

 

Simple white bread loaf

Ingredients

  • 400g white bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 300ml warmish water

Method

  1. Place flour in a bowl. Place the salt in on the one side of the bowl and the yeast in on the other (don’t let them touch just yet)
  2. Add the water and mix well. Don’t be afraid to get your hands in there!
  3. When all the ingredients are well-combined (but don’t over-mix!), place the ball of dough in the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave for 10 minutes
  4. Remove dough from bowl, place on an oiled surface (not floured), and knead, 6-8 turns (not too long)
  5. Replace dough in bowl, and leave for 10 minutes. Repeat twice more
  6. On final kneading, leave the dough in the bowl for 45 minutes to increase in size (still with a cloth over the bowl)
  7. Remove the dough, and place onto a floured surface. Shape into an oval, or a weird circle, or whatever shape you manage to get out of it, no one will judge you if it’s not perfectly oblong
  8. Place almost-loaf onto the pre-floured pan that the bread will cook on, cover with a cloth, and leave to prove (increase in size) for around 45 minutes
  9. Preheat oven to 220ºC, dust loaf with a bit of extra bread flour, slash it down the length, not too deep, and place in the oven for 35-40minutes. Mine took 35 minutes, but ovens may vary
  10. Remove from oven, allow to cool a bit, then lather with butter and devour, making sure you save some for soup later (there is still a springy nip in the air at the moment after all!)

 

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Zucchini brownies? Not for me thanks!

Alternative title for this post: How to get kids to eat more vegetables. Or: How to mess with your friends who say they don’t eat vegetables. Or: A slightly healthier brownie recipe (but still includes sugar).

Not your typical background props for brownies

Not your typical background props for brownies

Zucchini was stalking me. It was like a green veggie monster lurking in every corner of my life saying “Eat me, eat me!” (In the creepiest veggie monster voice you can imitate). I was like, “ew, no! Vegetables!? Too much green! Too much health! Too much not chocolate!”

That peanut butter stripe... That melted dark chocolate... That richness that looks like it translates to goodness...

That peanut butter stripe… That melted dark chocolate… That richness that looks like it translates to goodness…

I figured though, since I had given in and made the carrot cupcakes, I would just have to give these babies a shot. Problem is, zucchini isn’t the same as it is overseas. We have mini zucchini, which I took an unfortunate while to realise is what we refer to as: baby marrow. I assume it’s the same thing???

I follow quite a lot of blogs, and there was a week where every single one of those blogs sent me some form of zucchini cake/brownie/muffin/savoury-thing recipe, and they all looked so amazing! But still… Vegetables… When I got this one from Yammie’s Gluten Freedom, I decided that that had to be the one. Her recipes are reliable, and her brownies have always come out tops in my books. Alas, my trust has been broken!!

Box of brownies

Just kidding, she will always be amazing, and these brownies aren’t half bad. The peanut butter topping definitely makes them worthwhile. My major complaint with this recipe is that they kind of taste like vegetables… Kind of a lot… We gave some to a friend though who refuses to eat veggies – we didn’t tell him – he actually said he enjoyed them, and that they had a nutty flavour. So the key to this recipe is: deception. Obviously, as the baker, this didn’t work so well for me, and all I could taste was green…

Zucchine, baby marrow, grown up marrow, courgette, by any other name does not belong in a brownie

Zucchini, baby marrow, grown up marrow, courgette, by any other name does not belong in a brownie

Zucchini brownies – made in SA

Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely grated baby marrows/courgettes/zucchini (I used the zester to grate mine superfine – I didn’t feel like having huge chunks of the stuff)
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1 ¹⁄³ cup applesauce (mine was a good jar of the stuff)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ²⁄³ C oat flour/food-processed oats (ground down to a flour)
  • 1 C cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Additional: chocolate chips of whatever degree of healthiness suits your taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC, and line a 11×11″ baking tray/dish
  2. Mix the sugar, eggs, apple sauce, vanilla and baby marrows
  3. Mix the oat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and salt together
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix well, ensuring there are no floury dry bits
  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan/dish
  6. Bake on the middle shelf for 1 hour
  7. Remove and leave to cool before frosting – I frosted mine with melted chocolate and a mix of melted chocolate and peanut butter

“Kendra” brownies

That is, “Kendra” after me, not the Playboy bunny, in which case these brownies might be more appropriate..

Just: chocolate <3

Just: chocolate ❤

These brownies are SO me – can you say 4 (FOUR!) different types of chocolate in these babies?! It’s no wonder they came out tops at my brownie bake-off last year, even though they got a bit burnt in a dodgy oven (thankfully, Pam has since had that fixed).

White chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. And of course, a whole load of cocoa powder.

White chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. And of course, a whole load of cocoa powder.

I made these for my classmates because I promised I’d make them these peanut butter brownies from Yammie’s Gluten Freedom. They looked incredible in the photo, but in all honesty, they are not to everyone’s taste, since they have basically no sugar in them. They are healthy (well, healthier) though, so I want to rework the recipe a bit, then I’ll be sharing it away with them. In the meantime, I had kept them waiting far too long, and it was time to deliver some baked goods to my class of Biokineticists (people who are supposed to promote health and wellbeing… Good job, guys!).

This recipe is from BBC Good Food, but their instructions are so detailed, it’s a bit difficult to follow. So I have simplified it for you, because everyone needs this much chocolate overload every now and then (/as often as possible).

 

Best Chocolate Brownies ever! 

Ingredients

  • 185g dark chocolate (Bournville works pretty well
  • 185g salted butter
  • 275g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 85g flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 50g milk chocolate chunks
  • 50g white chocolate chunks

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (or 160 degrees in a fan-assisted oven)
  2. Melt butter and dark chocolate together in the microwave (stirring often) or over a pot of simmering water. Leave to cool.
  3. Sift flour and cocoa powder together into a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat sugar and eggs together until thick and creamy – mixture must be pale and will have doubled in volume.
  5. Fold the chocolate-butter mixture into the egg-sugar mixture, until it the two become a mottled brown colour. Careful not to over-mix and lose the air you just beat into the eggs.
  6. Resift the flour-cocoa mix into the wet ingredients mixture, and fold in until just combined with no dry patches.
  7. Stir in the milk and white chocolate chunks.
  8. Spread mixture out evenly into a 20cm square tin that has been prepared with non-stick spray or baking parchment.
  9. Set on middle shelf of the oven for 25 minutes. If the brownies wobble in the middle when you try take them out, put them back in for a few minutes, though take care not to overdo them.
  10. Once removed, leave to cool for as long as you can bear it, and then devour them as gracefully as you can manage (that’s a challenge!)

Freshly brewed cake

I am finally in England, and I finally have my degree! Could that be any more exciting?

Brace yourself

Winter is certainly not coming, it is most definitely here. Feel it! It is wonderful. Before I tell you anything about the most perfect cake in my life right now, I need to give you some advice, especially if you are not from a cold country. Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean you need to be cold too! I arrived with my South African winter coats, bracing myself against the cold. I expected the cold, and I was ready to deal with it. Little did I know that you can actually wear a genuinely warm jacket, and you don’t have to feel the cold at all. You can also get really stylish jackets too (fancy that…), so there is no excuse! This revelation has saved me, and I look forward for my next few weeks in this bitter yet beautiful city.

Another great thing about being here in the big city is all the new coffee opportunities. I can continue to hone my skills in the brewed art, however finding a good cup of coffee has been surprisingly difficult thus far. And my English Granny complains about the coffee in SA? She clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about. One coffee that does not fail, however, is this delicious and delectable coffee cake.

This espresso sponge cake with mocha buttercream frosting is truly the best cake recipe I have stumbled upon yet

This espresso sponge cake with mocha buttercream frosting is truly the best cake recipe I have stumbled upon yet

As I must have mentioned before, this blog is largely about me learning to cook and bake, and become a better food photographer. You are joining me on my learning experience, my delicious food-journey, venturing into the unknown as I experiment with new foods and techniques. Obviously, this learning takes some proactivity, so I started an online cooking course, which turned out to be super handy and educational! It was kind of basic, but there were definitely a few technical tips in there that I picked up and they did have some great recipes that you had to complete as part of the course before you could move on. That includes this amazing coffee cake, which has literally become my favourite cake recipe ever thus far, and some amazingly simple sugar/butter cookies that are easier and simpler than mine.

Pam agreed with me on the coffee cake and on the biscuits. Hi Pam

Pam agreed with me on the coffee cake and on the biscuits – delicious. Hi Pam

The coffee sponge is so light and fluffy, with just enough coffee that it’s not overpowering but that you still get sufficient coffee flavour. The instruction video describes the ‘beautiful caramel coloured cake batter’ but I thought it looked basically the same as normal cake batter. It was still a very tasty cake batter (had to make sure there was enough coffee in there of course… There was).

It was literally the largest cake tin I have baked in - it was unnecessarily large, and I ended up with a single layer cake, contrary to instruction

It was literally the largest cake tin I have baked in – it was unnecessarily large, and I ended up with a single layer cake, contrary to instruction

I made this cake during my final exams, and it certainly kept me going for a portion of my studying. Unfortunately, it sat beside me, smelling wonderful, and it didn’t keep me company for long enough. Made for a good study snack of course at least.

Make sure to let your cake cool...

Make sure to let your cake cool…

The other problem with a single layer cake was that there was just too much icing for it, but there would have been just too little for a double layer one. I topped the cake with toasted walnuts the first time, but was disappointed by their flavour (which I was pretty new to), so I used pecan nuts the second time. I need to find a way to use pistachios, those are amazing (and addictive…).

The walnuts looked pretty good on this single layer espresso cake, but I do prefer the pecan nuts, as I used earlier in this post

The walnuts looked pretty good on this single layer espresso cake, but I do prefer the pecan nuts, as I used earlier in this post

The cookie recipe is one for the books; or one for your mental recipe book, as it is that easy to remember and execute. They use a really basic 3-ingredient cookie recipe, that works according to a ratio, and can be adapted to your tastes. In these, you add a dash of lemon zest, which gives them a perfect dash of flavour. The cookies are straightforward and reliable, as a genuine cookie should be.

Christmas sugar/butter lemon cookies

Christmas sugar/butter lemon cookies

Happy Christmas indeed!

The recipes are both from my favourite online shopping site, and they can be found here and here. Enjoy!

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