Chocolate brownies at the NEC…

We all need a bit of a treat when we have to stand up for about four days at the NEC Hobbycraft exhibition – so we thought maybe chocolate brownies would be the answer… and it certainly seemed to go down well with everyone that tried them!

One tip – by trying to save time and melting the chocolate in the microwave on batch two, I would say it definitely did not improve the mix. So I’d suggest staying with the slow but sure method of melting the chocolate over hot water!

The only thing I can’t vouch for is the healthiness of this recipe – I think it comes under the naughty but nice category!

And one other hint – I used foil roasting tins from Tesco – means you can fold them up and throw them away rather than washing up after you have finished. Also, the thin tinfoil keeps the brownies cooking evenly rather than getting a burnt outside and too gooey inside – these were just divine all the way through!

Ingredients.

  • 150g dark chocolate (I used 79%),100g of milk chocolate
  • 300g golden caster sugar, 3 large eggs, 250g of butter
  • 120g plain flour, 60g cocoa powder (I used Green and Black’s)
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder, pinch of ground sea salt
  • Icing sugar to dust after baking

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Line the tinfoil roasting tray with greaseproof paper and butter the paper slightly. It makes the brownies easy to get out once they are cooked.
  2. Melt the butter, dark and milk chocolate in a large bowl over simmering water.
  3. Beat the eggs in a cup and in another separate bowl sift the flour.
  4. Add the sugar to the warm chocolate mix and stir thoroughly. Add the eggs and mix. Finally add all the other ingredients and fold and mix everything until you have a good consistency.
  5. Pour the mixture into the tray, bake in the oven for about 20/25 minutes. Oven temperatures vary so keep checking. Use a skewer or knife and stick it in the middle of the brownie, it should come out a tiny bit sticky which means they are done. Cool in the tray for about an hour so they are 100% set. Then dust with icing sugar.

 

 

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Breakfast ‘to go’!

So many people skip breakfast as they “just don’t have time” well these have to be the fastest options ever! I thought it would be fun to share them with you… It takes precisely 2 minutes (oh and the time to crack an egg!) – go on give it a try!

Breakfast Cup

  • As completely as possible, line the bottom and sides of a microwaveable teacup or small bowl with a single rasher of bacon (streaky or back).
  • Carefully break into it a fresh egg. Prick the yolk with the tip of a knife so it won’t explode.
  • Microwave the cup on high for 1 minute. Allow to rest for 1 minute, then check to see how cooked it is. Zap it again in 15-second bursts if necessary.

Veggie breakfast Cup

Substitute a medium-large fresh tomato for the bacon. Cut off the top, the remove and discard the seeds and any loose flesh from the centre. Place this in your teacup and break the egg into it – piercing the yolk as before. You may find it takes as much as a minute longer to coo due to the thickness of the tomato.

Variations

  • For a ‘full English’ use the bacon and the tomato, with a few extra seconds of cooking time.
  • Try adding some grated cheese while the egg is still warm, or a dash of sauce if you like it spicy.
  • Try a ring of thinly sliced pepperoni or ham instead of the bacon.

 

 

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Cod, basil & tomato with a potato thatch

What is it about fish pie that is so warming? I don’t know the answer, I only know it is! With a green salad, this makes an ideal dish for lunch or a family supper.

Serves 8

You will need:           

  • 1kg/2lb smoked cod
  • 1kg/2lb white cod
  • 600ml/1 pint milk
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • 1 sprig lemon thyme
  • 75g/3oz butter
  • 1 onion peeled and chopped
  • 75g/3oz flour
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil

For the thatch

  • 12 medium sized old potatoes
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 300ml/2 pint milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley 
  1. Place both kinds of fish in a roasting pan with the milk, 1.2 litres/1 pint water and the herbs. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Leave to cool in the liquid for about 20 minutes. Drain the fish, reserving the liquid for use in the sauce. Flake the fish, taking care to remove any skin and bone.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan, add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until tender but not browned. Add the flour, tomato pure and half the basil. Gradually add the reserved fish stock, adding a little more milk if necessary to make a fairly thin sauce. Bring this to the boil, season with salt and pepper and add the remaining basil. Add the fish carefully, and stir gently. Pour into an ovenproof dish.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Boil the potatoes until tender. Add the butter and milk and mash well. Add salt and pepper to taste and cover the fish, forking it up to create a pattern. If you like, you can freeze the pie at this stage.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with chopped parsley.

 

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Cupcake heaven

We have been really inspired by a cupcake site on the internet www.carinascupcakes.co.uk and so I bought various PDF guides that they sell. These cakes were created by Jo, our accounts person, using inspirations from Carina and also some ideas of her own.

Cupcakes have a wonderful way of making people smile – often on a glum day. Offering round a plate of cakes in the office brings out smiles from all of us! My younger daughter, Emily, is a huge cake making fan and she had said that making people at university and her current job placement, pretty cakes has had excellent results!

Vanilla cupcakes recipe:
(makes 12 cupcakes)

  • 110g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 110g self raising flour
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tbsp milk

Buttercream:

  • 140g butter
  • 280g Icing sugar
  • 1-2tbsp milk

Cream the butter and sugar – add the eggs a little at a time. Then add the flour and vanilla, add a little bit of milk. Pile into cake cases and bake for about 20 minutes in a medium oven. Allow to cool thoroughly before icing.

The variety of ways that these are decorated all use sugar paste but they have had touches of the metallic food paints and decorations that we sell. Our cake department is growing every week now so if you enjoy playing with cakes it might be worth a browse around!  

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Doggy treats!

Now if I ever wanted to launch these as a commercial product – I know one little chap that would happily endorse them – if only I could keep his nose away from them long enough to show them on TV. These liver treats are Welly’s idea of heaven.

Forget tedious old store bought goodies in bone shapes or sticks – better even than rawhide or smelly socks (yes another bad habit Wellington). These treats are simple to make and I have yet to find a four legged friend that doesn’t go crazy when they are near enough to smell – Welly can find them even when they are sealed in a plastic bag! 

  • Cover some thinly sliced liver with boiling water and boil for about 15 minutes or so.
  • Rinse the liver well as it looks a bit manky (technical term?) and improves when you give it a good rinsing.
  • Arrange the liver flat onto a baking sheet and bake in a moderate oven for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Once they have cooked – break into bite sized pieces and store in an airtight container… which the dog can’t reach!

As you can see from our photo shoot, Welly was driven mad by the smell and when we pretended not to be looking… sneakily photographed him in
 the act of stealing the goods!!!

 

 

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