2016 holiday baking

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how did it get so late so soon?
it’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
my goodness how the time has flewn.
how did it get so late so soon?

– Dr. Seuss

is it any wonder i ask myself every december how it has come to be december already from all the times the earth had revolved around the sun and it had started to get dark and yet i wasn’t one gibbous moon closer to a yearly goal or that i hadn’t set myself any. this december wasn’t any different. except i made time to do some holiday baking, the beneficiaries of which happened to be my colleagues at work. this is what i managed to put together.

chocolate brownies from the famed ‘baked’ bakery brownie recipe

ingredients

  • 155 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 310 grams dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 230 grams) butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or 1.5 teaspoons instant coffee granules)
  • 1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (100 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

instructions

  1. preheat the oven to 180C. line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. in a medium bowl, whisk the flour and cocoa powder together.
  3. put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. the mixture should come to room temperature.
  4. add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk just until combined. add the vanilla extract and stir until combined. don’t overmix at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
  5. add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and fold until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
  6. pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. cut into squares and serve.

this is my definitive brownie recipe i swear by and one that has satisfied many a happy mouths. make sure you use the finest dark chocolate around because that is what lends its taste to the final product. and use 50-60% minimum dark chocolate for best results.

nutella and walnut fudge from olive magazine

ingredients

  • 240 g salted butter
  • 250 g condensed milk
  • 300 g nutella
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300 g icing sugar
  • walnuts

instructions

add the salted butter and condensed milk to a pan and stir on low heat until the butter has melted and blended. remove pan from heat and add in the nutella and vanilla extract. pour this mix over a bowl of icing sugar and mix well. pour the mix into an 8×8 tin lined with baking parchment and sprinkle a handful of crushed walnuts over.refrigerate for upto 4-6 hours. cut into squares and place in an airtight container. these remain refrigerated for upto a week or longer. if they’re kept at room temperature they may not hold their shape depending on your climatic conditions.

ginger-nut biscuit fudge adapted from here


ingredients

  • 200 g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100 g butter, diced
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 x 400 g tin condensed milk
  • 250 g mc vities ginger nut biscuits, each biscuit broken into thirds
  • line a loaf tin with cling film and set aside

instructions

set a heatproof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. add in the chocolate and butter and allow to melt, stirring now and then until it’s smooth. remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the espresso powder, then pour in the condensed milk, stirring well to combine. add in the biscuits and stir until they’re evenly distributed in the chocolate. pour the chocolate biscuit mixture into the lined loaf tin, pressing it down evenly and firmly with a spatula. smooth the top with the spatula, then place in the fridge for about 3 hours, or overnight, until set. cut into thin slices or small cubes (it’s very rich) to serve. wrapped tightly in clingfilm, this will keep for a couple weeks in the fridge.

Christmas fruitcake from goodhousekeeping



ingredients

  • 500g or more mixed dried fruit such as apricots/prunes/figs/black currants/dates
  • 100ml brandy/cointreau/rum
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 175g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 175g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 125g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice powder

instructions

1. put the fruit, orange zest, and juice, cointreau and vanilla into a large non-metallic bowl. stir, then cover with cling film and leave to soak for at least 24hr or for up to 2 days.

2. put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat with a handheld electric whisk for 2-3min until light and creamy. gradually whisk in the beaten eggs, adding a little of the flour if the mixture starts to curdle. fold in the remaining flour, cinnamon, cloves and mixed spice.

3. tip the soaked fruit mixture into the bowl and stir well, then spoon into a greased and lined deep round cake tin and level the surface (there’s no need to make a dip in the mixture).

4. bake at 150°C mark 2 for 1hr 40min or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. leave to cool completely in the tin, then remove from tin (keep in its parchment paper) and wrap in a double thickness of foil. store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.

5. if you want to feed your cake in the run-up to Christmas, after it has been left wrapped for 2 weeks, prick the top of the cake all over with a skewer and sprinkle over 1tbsp brandy or cointreau. rewrap and store as before. feed every few weeks for a more intense flavour.

comfort reading and everyday brownies

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when i joined Instagram way back in 2011, it introduced me to a world of food, and with it, food bloggers, stylists, photographers and recipe developers. and following one led to another. i had with time compiled my list of chosen handles, of which the talented prodigy Kamran Siddiqi (@kamrantsg) was one. so it is little wonder when he was out with his first cookbook, i knew i had to bag myself a copy, which i also have to say at first was met with a lot of resistance from having to add to my stockpile of cookbooks, most of which i hadn’t even looked at in a while, leave alone the many recipes in my ever-increasing to-do list. now i know you must not judge a book by its cover but i think exceptions can be made with a cover that looks like this! before i knew it, i had ordered myself one.

when it finally reached me from the long shipping wait-time, it took me all of two nights to read/ogle my way through each recipe/picture trying so hard not to lick each page clean (how does he on earth get his bakes to look so good in print?).

  

  

if that wasn’t enough i ran through his blog sophisticatedgourmet only to find most (which at one point felt like all) of the recipes from the book already listed on his blog. *sigh*? well, no. because in a world where nearly everything has come to be digital, i still like my books. don’t get me wrong – i’m no bibliophile or bibliomaniac. but i still like taking a good book to bed. i like how the pages of a newly bound book smell. i like to feel each page, turn them over and insert a paper bookmark from where to take over next. the sensory experience of reading a paperback or a hardbound cover book is much too much to forego for an artificial light emitting e-reader.

i have to confess i don’t get around to trying recipes off cookbooks that easily. sometimes i’m short on time, sometimes on ingredients (in which case i would just give the recipe a miss ‘coz if it’s not made off simple pantry ingredients, i don’t even want to bother) but most of the times, it has to do with a case of extreme procrastination. today, i wanted to make an honest sincere attempt at overcoming that with these everyday brownies from the amazing cookbook i just babbled about at length. although i have only two definitive brownie recipes that in all honesty i swear by namely the baked brownie recipe and these cocoa brownies by alice medrich, i must say these ones by Kamran are unique for two reasons – one, they call for a small measure of dark brown sugar and two, they recommend using eggs straight off your refrigerator! now who wouldn’t prefer a recipe that does not have you preparing in advance getting all of your baking ingredients to meet strict room temperature standards?! moreover Kamran actually advocates the use of cold eggs for fudge-y brownies and room temperature eggs for cake-y brownies – a well guarded secret by some of the most renowned world test kitchens i say! and i must confirm it to have worked with these brownies turning out to be insanely chocolatey and fudgy while still holding their shape. everyday brownies, everyday exotic!


ingredients

  • 1 cup / 225 g unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups / 300 g castor sugar
  • 1/3 cup / 65 g packed dark brown sugar (i used dark muscovado sugar)
  • 1 1/2 cup / 130 g unsweetened cocoa powder (i used dark cocoa from carrefours)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, cold
  • 3/4 cup / 90 g flour
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional, i left these out)
  • 150 g roughly chopped dark chocolate (optional, i left these out)

instructions 

line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper. melt the butter in a microwave oven on low power in bursts of 20-30 secs depending on how cold/solidified it is. with a whisk or wooden ladle, mix in both the sugars and cocoa. the mixture would look gritty at this point. stir in the eggs and the vanilla extract. whisk until a smooth batter is formed. fold in the flour gently just until it is incorporated, do not overmix. stir in the chopped chocolate and nuts if using. pour into the lined pan and bake in a preheated 165 degC oven for 40-45 mins or until a skewer reveals moist crumbs. let the pan cool for about 10 min. transfer the brownie square onto a wire rack to cool completely. i baked these in the night and left them wrapped in foil overnight to be cut the morning after. these will keep well in an airtight container for upto a week.