Ready for greatness | Baller Brownies

Everybody loves brownies. They’re in every cafe, every bake sale, every morning tea. A good, fudgy, chewy brownie is everything that is right in this world.

So how do you make a great thing better? Fill it with all the best, tastiest tidbits you can get your hands on. Today, that’s two kinds of chocolate chips and crunchy nuts. Are you ready for greatness? Because these brownies are.

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Many years ago, I was commissioned to make 100 white chocolate mud cake cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream. Several trials and more than 200 cupcakes later… The smell of white chocolate makes me instantly queasy. Can’t do it. This recipe takes boring old white chocolate and turns it into golden, caramel-ey goodness. Roasting the chocolate low and slow imparts a deep caramel flavour that can be used anywhere you’d use the white stuff. And the smell? Heaven. I can’t get enough.

This recipe is made better by the quality of chocolate you use. Lindt is the best supermarket-available chocolate, and I like to use the Smooth 70% and Touch of Salt, because it’s not overly sweet, it’s not overly bitter, and the salt just lifts everything and makes it better. Buy it when it’s on sale, and you’re onto a winner.

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Baller Brownies

Adapted from Delicious

150g unsalted butter, chopped
250g dark chocolate (I used 200g Lindt 70% Smooth dark, 50g Lindt Salted Dark), chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
250g caster sugar
50g plain flour
100g white chocolate, chopped
50g Lindt Salted Dark
100g pistachios, chopped

Heat the oven to 120*c. Place the white chocolate in a Pyrex roasting dish, then place in the oven. Stir the chocolate every 10 minutes or so until it’s a deep gold in colour and caramelised in flavour. It’s okay if it looks lumpy, it will smooth back out. Set aside to cool and solidify.

Increase the temperature 10 180*c. Line a brownie pan with baking paper and set aside.

Place the chopped dark chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl, then place the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.Stir occasionally until melted together, and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixture until light and fluffy, a couple of minutes. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and combine, then stir in the flour. Crumble in the caramelised white chocolate, pistachios and additional dark chocolate, folding to evenly combine.

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Pour the mixture into the brownie pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until a crust forms. Remove the pan from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature, then place in the fridge to chill and firm.

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On My Shelf | Spiced Apple Cake

If you’ve ever been to Melbourne and you haven’t been to Burch and Purchese, you’ve been wasting your life. It’s the closest thing to a Wonka-wonderland that we’ve got, and it’s utter magic.

Darren’s first book covered all his patisserie’s signature cakes and general fancies. It’s a thing of great beauty, but perhaps not the most practical thing to work from. His second (and brand new release) is a much more everyday kind of thing, with the perfect kind of bakes for afternoon teas, through to some more professional (but not impossible) looking desserts that would impress the pants off your next dinner party. And if you get a little stuck, there are some pretty handy how-to and troubleshooting sections to get you through. The book hit my desk last week and it it’s just beautiful. I haven’t been inspired by a book in a while, but this is something that deserves space on your shelf.

This was the first thing that spoke to me when I opened the book. The recipe belongs to his wife, Cath, who had it given to her by her mother. Darren calls this a cake, except what holds together a dozen apples is pastry, but not a proper pastry. The spices elevate the whole thing, and it’s not overly sweet. Kind of imagine a pot pie, but with apples. I don’t entirely understand what’s happening here, all I can tell you it is thoroughly fucking delicious.

I made this over the recent long weekend, while all my friends were gallivanting in the South West – Pemberton, Margaret River. The apples I used are a mix of green and red, which prevents the cake from being too sweet. Plus, they all came from WA’s  Southern Forests region, so while I couldn’t be there,  I could still enjoy their magnificent produce. They don’t pay me to say that, it’s honestly the best food you’ll ever eat, I promise!

 

Spiced Apple Cake

From Lamingtons and Lemon Tarts by Darren Purchese

120g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon

12 apples, peeled and cored
1 vanilla bean
finely grated zest and juice of a lemon
150g caster sugar

1 egg whisked
Extra caster sugar, to sprinkle

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, cream together the sugar, butter, and salt. Add the egg, beat to combine, then add the spices and flour. Mix gently until there are no floury bits. Wrap the dough in cling film, and stick in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Cut the peeled and cored apples into quarters, and then each quarter into four pieces. Place the apple pieces in a pot with the sugar, juice, and zest and vanilla bean and pod, then place the pot over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the apples are soft, but still holding shape. Remove from heat and leave to cool completely. Remove and discard the vanilla pod.

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Heat the oven to 160 degrees Celcius, and grease a springform cake tin.Take two-thirds of the pastry, and roll it into a circle that’s about 5mm thick. If it’s too soft, place it in the fridge to chill and firm up a bit. Press it into the cake tin and up the sides, and leave just a little overhanging the edge. It’s a super forgiving pastry, so don’t worry if it tears, just smush it back together or patch it with some extra pastry.

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Pack the apple into the pastry as firmly as you can. Roll out the remaining dough into a pie lid, place over the apple, then fold the overhang and smoosh to seal. Brush with the whisked egg, then sprinkle sugar over the top. Place in the oven for 45 minutes, turning halfway through cooking.save-new-1

Leave to cool for 15 minutes in the pan before carefully releasing the springform tin. Serve with a thick custard. It’s delicious both hot and cold. Or eaten straight from the pan eight hours later. Because that happened. Seriously.

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How-To | 5 Tips To Bake Like Katherine Sabbath

They tell you that you should never meet your idols, because you’ll almost always walk away disappointed.

I had no such luck when I recently met Katherine Sabbath. That lady is a dream.
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Katherine was brought to Perth for the first time by Kitchen Warehouse for a series of demonstrations to make her iconic melted ice cream cake.

I’m not going to lie to you – I got there 40 minutes early so I could nab a seat in the front row, like the dork that I am. I’m going to say this – and I just can’t emphasise it enough – she’s just so damn nice. While waiting for other attendees, she was happy to answer questions, talk about Instagram and her breakfast (Stimulatte in Subi, for those playing at home) and rearrange the bench to make sure no body missed out on seeing what she was doing.

Before long, it was show time.

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First and foremost: Her aprons are from Gorman. They are gorgeous. Buy them here.

Two: “If I want a chocolate cake, I want the richest chocolate cake I can. I definitely believe in only making a cake that you’d want to eat yourself,” Katherine says.

In fact, if you took away nothing else from her demos, let nugget of advice be it. She believes that by making cakes you want to eat, you’ll buy better ingredients, your passion will show through, and you’ll end up with a better cake as a result.

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Three: Time and patience.If you’re trying to make a towering masterpiece, try and give yourself 2-3 days to do it, so you don’t end up in a panicked, crying mess on the floor (I have no experience in that…), especially if it’s your first attempt. It also goes without saying that if it is your first time making something, do not mess with the recipe. 

Cakes come together best when they are cold, so throw every layer into the freezer for 15 minutes before you add another – it will help your cake hold its shape.

Four: Think you can’t recreate one of her cakes? THINK AGAIN. All of those cakes you see on Instagram are made in her tiny home kitchen. Even more impressive is that she’s only just invested in a Kitchen Aid. Yep, all of those incredible cakes were made with an electric hand mixer. The take away: if she can do it, so can you.

What I love most about home-taught chefs is that they know how to make do with what they’ve got. No Thermomixes, no Vitamixes, no ingredients that you need a chemistry degree to be able to pronounce. Those flawless sides on her cakes? Achieved with a cement scraper her dad bought her from Bunnings 10 years ago, when she couldn’t find or afford professional tools to keep up with what she needed.  (Something kind of like this)

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Home cooks also probably have jobs outside their craft – Katherine taught high school kids until this year, while whipping the internet into a frenzy. Your saving grace when you promised someone a cake for Friday night, but can’t skip work during the day? Your freezer. Katherine recommends making double batches of cakes or Swiss meringue buttercream next time you hit the kitchen, because both freeze beautifully for up to 3 months. Simply pull them out to defrost in the fridge overnight, and assemble the next day.

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Five: The fun part of cakes is obviously the decorating. Katherine recommends fresh and freeze dried fruits, Americolor pastes, edible flowers, chopped nuts, Valhrona crisp pearls, edible glitter and plenty of sprinkles. The key to those delicious signature drips? Colour melted white chocolate with either a gel paste or special chocolate colouring (supermarket water-based colours will seize the chocolate and ruin it), and gently coax the chocolate off the sides of a chilled cake with the back of a spoon.

Experiment! Have fun!

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Places to shop:

Additional tips and recipes:

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Throes of Winter | Spiced Strawberry Ricotta Cake

The last few weekends have been pure Bri-bliss. Grey, cloudy, rainy, general miserable weather. Monday’s small talk around the coffee machine end in my gleeful recounting my weekend tales – ‘I didn’t leave the house once‘ – and then my colleagues looking at me like I’m mildly crazy and back away slowly.

You see, that is my heaven. In the throes of winter (as much of one as we get in our fair city), you bet your ass I’m going to build a nest on my couch, read books and drink more cups of tea than recommended.

I was struck with idea lightning on one of these weekends – all the tea I was drinking needed a side of cake to go with it. The idea came to me fully formed: I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen (it was a really good book I was reading), I wanted the lightness of ricotta, nothing too sweet, but maximum Wintry spice flavour. And so, this came to be.

This is one of those perfect cakes that you serve up for a friend who’s come over for coffee and a catch up. Then, once they’ve gone home, it just sits on the kitchen bench, and every time you walk past, you cut off a sliver to munch on as you go about your business. Sliver by delicious sliver, the cake won’t last the weekend!

Spiced Strawberry Ricotta Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit

1½ cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1½ cups ricotta
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
57g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup strawberries (or any berries, fresh or frozen), halved of large
Icing sugar, to dust.

Preheat oven to 180°c. Grease a springform cake pan with butter or oil, and line the bottom with baking paper.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.

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In a medium sized bowl, beat together the eggs, ricotta, and vanilla until smooth. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the butter, and again fold to combine.

Pour the batter into the cake pan, and then poke the strawberries evenly into the mixture.

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Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then cool completely on a wire rack. When ready to serve, dust with icing sugar.

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Hand Made Heaven | Salted Caramel Apple Crumble

I have a lot of cook books. Like, a lot. I’ve just realised that, of the bookshelf that is entirely dedicated to cook books, it’s full. I have come to the conclusion that I can never ever move from my current house, because moving the books is just too damn hard.

Whether you have overflowing selves like me, or no shelves, or you just want a book that covers all your day-to-day baking needs, get your hands on this. Hand Made Baking is an instant classic, and will be your go-to bible for years to come. Everything is practical, within reach of beginners, but with enough finesse to please a more seasoned baker. His tag line of simple, sophisticated, delicious is just about the perfect description for every recipe.

And Kamran? He writes over at The Sophisticated Gourmet, a gorgeous blog that I’ve been following for a little while now. Oh, and he’s 22. That’s right, TWENTY BLOODY TWO. To be so good, so young, Kamran quite simply had to be born to this. And we are all the better for it.

The forecast for Perth this weekend is pretty monstrous – storms, wind, rain, and cold, AKA Bri’s dream weather, on the proviso I can spend it in bed with books and movies. And probably a bowl of this, because why wouldn’t you? 

This apple crumble is perfect all on its own, but I couldn’t help but add lashings of salted butter caramel that I had tucked away in the fridge. There are few recipes that I make more than once, but I made this every weekend for a month, for the guys at work, for Rob, for friends at a party, because there is no one who won’t love this recipe.

P.S. Kamran’s tip of using half sweet apples and half tart is the perfect way of getting a balanced, not overly sweet crumble. Genius.

Salted Caramel Apple Crumble

Adapted from Hand Made Baking by Kamran Siddiqi

2 tsp lemon juice
6 apples, cored and thinly sliced
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup caramel sauce (store bought is fine, or something like this)

120g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch of cinnamon
85g cold unsalted butter, chopped
150g traditional oats
70g brown sugar

Heat your oven to 200*C. Spray a brownie pan with oil, or grease with butter.

Combine the sliced apples in a large bowl with the lemon juice. Combine the sugar, salt and cinnamon, then add to the apples and carefully stir to coat. Pour into the baking dish, scatter tablespoons of caramel over the apples.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl large enough to get your hands into. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the oats and combine.

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Cover the apples with the crumble, then bake for 20-25 minutes until the crumble is golden. Serve with custard or ice cream

 
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Sexy AF | Chocolate Cake

Guys, it’s time to get sexy.

There is nothing in this world so reliable as good ol’ chocolate cake. But over the years, it’s earn itself a reputation as bland, dry, even boring. I mean, I get it. Cheap cocoa powder is no one’s friend. Neither is tins of pre-made frosting (or anything out of a box, for that matter).

But this, this is none of those things. This is the moment in the movie when the nerdy girl takes off her glasses, shakes out her hair and Robert Palmer kicks in as she werks it down the high school corridor. Be prepared to have your jaw drop.

The book that this recipe is from called it The Little Black Dress cake. I get it, it can be dressed up or down, it’s always a winner. But I really don’t think that title really encapsulates just how good this cake is. It is, without question, sexy. as. fuck.

I mean, look at this. It’s gorgeous. It’s pretty hard not to feel very Nigella Lawson while slowly stirring that melted chocolate until it’s all thick and glossy.

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The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of liquor, and this is a good time to get creative, or see what’s in the cabinet. Dark rum and brandy taste expensive and rich, coffee liquor (or just espresso) adds depth, Frangelico or Grand Marnier add a little fun. You can leave it out entirely if you prefer. It definitely could do with a little bit of double cream, because screw it. Be bad. Enjoy it.

 

Sexy AF Chocolate Cake

From Delicious. Simply the Best

500g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
125g unsalted butter, chopped
6 eggs, separated
90g caster sugar
150ml thickened cream
2 tbsp liquor
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

450g good quality chocolate, chopped
175g unsalted butter
600ml thickened cream
1/4 cup liquid glucose

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a springform cake tin and line it with baking paper.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in either a microwave proof dish or in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the two together until smooth, then set aside to cool slightly.

With an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale. Add the cream, liquor, vanilla and chocolate mixture and stir until well combined.

In a clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mix in 3 batches. Do this carefully, you want to keep as much as air in the mixture as you can.

Spread the mixture into the cake pan, and bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out with a couple of crumbs. Leave to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To make the ganache, melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl in a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. In a saucepan, bring the glucose and cream to just below boiling point, then remove from heat, pour over the chocolate mixture and stir until combined. Chill for 30 minutes until thick. Spread the ganache over the cake and decorate.

Now, how you decorate the cake is up to you. While the those little silver cachous are pretty, they’re a chipped tooth waiting to happen. Stick to edible gold or silver leaf, or for a more modern touch, caramel popcorn.

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She’s my… |Bourbon Cherry Pie

It’s no secret that one of my favourite things about summer is eating myself sick on stone fruit. I spend all winter dreaming of grilled peaches, poached nectarines and tiny plums

So, when my market was selling cartons of cherries before Christmas, I went a little crazy. Let’s be honest, I don’t make great choices under pressure. What I really wanted, was the recipe for Varnish on King’s Cherry Whiskey Sour, which is probably my favourite cocktail of all time. Sadly, Jamie isn’t giving up the goods, so I settled for putting that cocktail into pie form which was probably just as delicious, and with slightly fewer next-day regrets.

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Pie is a kind of dish that you walk away from feeling accomplished. No one can ever accuse you of it coming from a box, or ‘cheating’ in any way. From having to pit the cherries, to wait for the dough to chill, you earn this pie every step of the way. Should you have any worries that it’s a lot of effort for nought, let me assure you that the final result is nothing short of completely worth it.

Yeah, you bet I played Warren on repeat while I make this sucker. There was hip swaying, and kitchen dancing, and a rollicking good time was had by all (me). In fact, I heartily suggest that you do the same.

 

Vanilla Bourbon Cherry Pie

From Half Baked Harvest

1.3 kilos fresh cherries, pitted (I really only had about 900g, which was fine)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornflour
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed from the pod
zest from 1 lemon
1 egg, beaten
demerara sugar or granulated sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

 

Make your favourite pastry recipe – mine is this one from Smitten Kitchen, and it’s perfect. It’s pretty much foolproof, so if you’re a beginner, it’s a great place to start.

Once dough is chilled, let it sit on your bench for 5 minutes or so to soften enough to be rolled. Grease/butter a 22cm/9-inch pie dish, and heat your oven to 220 degrees C.

On a floured bench top, roll out one half of the dough to a 30cm/12 inch round. Very carefully, lift it into your pie dish. Trim any excess dough from around the edges, then prick the base all over with a fork.

Roll out the second half of the dough on a floured bench in to a 30cm/12 inch round. Transfer onto baking paper.

To decorate the crust: now, it’s up to you how you do this – you can punch stars or holes into the crust, or cut it into strips and go the traditional weave crust – be creative, this is the fun part! If you’d like ideas, check out here. Once done, place the dough in the fridge to firm up.

Add the cherries, sugar, cornflour, bourbon, vanilla and lemon zest in a large bowl, and toss them together to make sure it’s really well combined. Scrape the fruit and all the delicious juices into the pie dish.

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Carefully place your pie crust over the pie and remove the baking paper. Crimp the bottom and top crusts together to seal in all the goodness, then brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Whack the whole thing back in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm.

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When ready to bake, place the pie dish on a baking tray (this catches any spills when the pie bubbles up and makes your oven easier to clean – trust me on this), and bake for around 30 minutes, until the crust is golden. Reduce the temperature to 180 degrees C, and bake for another 50-60 minutes to get the juices bubbling.

Leave to cool on a wire rack for a good 4 hours before tucking in, and serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.

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