#Recipe Candycane Brownies

 

 

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And now January has set in. Tinsel and lights have been packed away. Christmas tree carcasses litter the sidewalks- emaciated reminders of festivities past. On the whole January would appear to be a pretty “grey”- The Month of M’eh. Each mouthful of chocolate or candy is now succeeded by a guilty pang of remorse. “December was pretty indulgent, I really shouldn’t be eating this”…said no one in my kitchen. Ever!

“Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Erma Bombeck

There’s usually a surplus of sweet treats of some variety in my house after the festive season. This year is was candy canes. Having fulfilled their duty of adorning the christmas trees for the best past of a month (and surviving the voracious eyes of my children!) it’s now time to put them to an alternative, and somewhat tastier, use.

For something so small and simple candy cane have an assortment of end uses in the kitchen. Aside from having a good ol’ fashioned chomp on them, there are recipes available for flavoured vodkas, cupcakes, and hot chocolate. I opted for using them in one of my favourite flavour combinations- mint and chocolate. My Candy cane Brownies are rich, indulgent treats laced with peppermint and studded with chewy, mini nuggets of stripped cane and chocolate chumks. Just for good measure there’s an extra sprinkling of smashed candy canes topping each brownies with extra festive whimsy.

Having arrived in our new home of Canada just ahead of the festive blitz I had little time for baking and experimenting with the new array of ingredients that have since become available to me. New brands, varieties and flavours lined shelfs, all there for the taking in my greedy mitts. The cocoa powder I used here, Fry’s (which is a Dutch processed cocoa), resulted in a much darker and richer chocolate flavour compared to those I’ve used in the UK. I’d highly recommend trying to get your hands on some if you can! So this recipe provided the perfect excuse for not only using up the excess candy canes but also as a trial for using unfamiliar ingredients. I hope you like them. And yes I know it’s strictly speaking a christmas recipe and the festive season is done and dusted, but just them of them as a legitimate excuse for resurrecting it for a brief few minutes. Enjoy!

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Candy cane Brownies

makes 12

Unsalted butter 185g, cubed

185g Bakers unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces

1 tablespoon Nielsen Massey peppermint extract

3 eggs

275g caster (superfine) sugar

85g plain flour

½ teaspoon salt

50g Fry’s cocoa powder

50g Bakers semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small chunks

50g peppermint candy cane, broken into smalls pieces

To decorate

75g peppermint candy canes, smashed into irregular pieces

  • Set your oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line a deep 12″x9″ baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt.
  • Stir the peppermint extract into the cooled chocolate mixture, and the fold into the egg mixture.
  • Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together.
  • Mix in the chocolate chunks and candy cane pieces. Fold again until well combined.
  • Pour your mixture into the lined tray and gently spread to level the surface. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. To test- insert a skewer into the mixture about 1 inch from the edge of the tin and it should come out clean.
  • To decorate-sprinkle the top of the brownies with the smashed candy cane pieces and gently push into the surface so the stick.
  • Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares, and serving.

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#Recipe Rum Salted Caramel Stardust

 

all-change

It seems a lifetime ago that I posted my last post bidding you all farewell before I flew off into the maple colored sunsets of Toronto. So here I am, almost 2 months to the day of that post, typing amidst the glow of christmas tree lights and festive smells of cinnamon  & maple, typing from my kitchen in Toronto. As is typical of this time of year (and no doubt like so many others amongst you) I get to reflecting on how MUCH has actually happened in 2016. It’s pretty much like we’ve well and truly stepped through the looking glass. I mean serioulsy….WTF has happened!?!?

Let’s face it folks this past year has hardly been note-worthy for the right reasons. I can’t exactly see Richard Curtis penning his next movie as an ode to this past time. But I’m not going to sit here though and drag up all the mishaps, tragedies and losses of 2016- we’re all well aware of them. Christmas as well as a time of reflection is also a time of giving, in whatever shape or form.

 

As part of last year’s festivities I decided to try out the whole “Homemade Gifts” approach to the festive season.This went from filling stockings to bundle boxes to arranging hampers all with the common theme -any of the foodie gifts enclosed were made by  my own fair hands in Mr. Mom’s Kitchen. The Christmas season has a way of side-blinding me with a hearty dose of nostalgia. One waft of pine, or shimmer of tinsel and it’s “Hey-ho, here we go down Memory Lane”, a sucker punch from the Ghost of Christmas Past indeed! Amongst the goodies made last year were my (by now) family favourite Christmas Cookies, laced with sweet heady spices and spritzed with orange water; a deeply rich and moist cake combining the flavours of festive fruit, chocolate and Port; mincemeat laced with port, rum and studded with almonds and pecans. Last, but by no means least, I also included bottles of rum-spiked salted caramel sauce, in which edible gold stars floated, winking enticingly from the sweet, velvety liquor.

All of these evoked a certain memory of the festive season for me, from childhood days to feature occasions of later years, each a sensory landmark in my Yuletide roadmap. The last of those mentioned, otherwise known as my “Rum Salted Caramel Stardust”, is an homage to a particularly potent chewy caramel sweet from the Christmas sweet boxes of  my childhood. It an absolute doddle to make, taking no time at all and the effects and beaming smiles will linger long after it’s been scoffed, licked and spooned.

rum-salted-caramel-sauce

Rum Salted Caramel Stardust

200g brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark rum

50g salted butter

200ml double cream

100ml single cream

1/2 tsp- 1 tsp Maldon sea-salt (to taste)

Edible star glitter, Wilton

You’ll also need up to 6 x 250ml “retro” milk bottles (clean these in a hot cycle in your dishwasher first to ensure sterilisation)

caramel-sauce

  • Combine the double and single creams in a jug and set aside for later.
  • In a heavybase saucepan combine the brown sugar and rum and heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Increase the heat and allow the sugar mixture to deepen to an amber color.
  • *Excercise care in these next few steps!
  • Remove the saucepan with the melted sugar from the heat and add in the salted butter. Whisk briskly and carefully so that it melts and becomes incorporated into the sugar mixture. It may hiss and spit so please take care.
  • Next add in he combined creams and stir to fully incorporate. Again take care at this point.
  • Stir in the sea-salt, to taste.
  • Finally stir in a couple of teaspoons of edible stars. The amount is to your personal preference for the final look.
  • Pour into the individual milk bottles and seal with the caps. 
  • And that’s it! The final caramel sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks in your refrigerator. I find it’s best if removed from the fridge about 30 minutes before serving to allow it the return to full “saucy goodness”.  Serve it over ice-cream, brownies, pecan pies…you name it!

 

This post came about from reflection and giving and so there would seem no better way to wrap it up than with this…

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

And with that I’d like to wish you all a very warm, safe, and Merry Christmas.

Christmas Cake Parade

This December saw me at my busiest in the kitchen. In fact it’s safe to say that the festive month positively came and went in a flurry of flour and icing sugar. Word of Mr. Mom’s seems to have spread from which I am truly grateful to you all.

However, it wasn’t cupcakes that had me in a baking flurry- for some reason there was a run on the traditional Christmas cakes. Needless to say me being me I decided a little experimentation was in order. Not with the overall cake mix- that would be a travesty even I couldn’t bear! So I decided to push the envelope in other areas – increasing size; changing structure; and trying hand-painting to name a few.

Now I know the festive season has come and gone, and we’ve all had our fill of turkey, stuffing and figgy pudding (after all the Easter eggs are already on the shelves don’t you know?) but I couldn’t resist gathering the cakes together for a final look. Now that I don’t reek of brandy and dried fruit!

Holly & Ivy

“The Holly & The Ivy” traditional Christmas cake

Holly & Ivy detail 1Fondant “Holly” detail

Holly & Ivy detail 2

Fondant “Ivy Detail”

The Night before xmas“The Night before Christmas traditional Christmas cake

The North Pole

“The North Pole” Christmas cake

Painted Fondant

Hand-painted fondant detail

Gingerbread Hatbox

“Gingerbread Hatbox” tiered traditional Christmas cake

Gingerbread Stars

“Gingerbread Extravaganza” 12″ square Christmas cake

Large Holly & Ivy

“The Holly & The Ivy” 12″ square traditional Christmas cake

Winter Starfall

“Winter Starfall” traditional Christmas cake

Winter Bouquet cake

“Winter Bouquet” traditional Christmas cake

Winter Rose detail

Fondant “frosted rose” detail

Last December also saw me baking my Christmas cookies en masse. Crisp, spiced and with just a hint of orange these are as close to a secret family recipe as I have. I’ve lost track of the original recipe I used for these thanks the number of preferential additions, omissions and tweaks I’ve made along the way.  Having now baked these each Christmas since my husband and I have been together they really are woven into the fabric of our family. A sidebar annotated with dough flour fingerprints along with scribbled and smeared amends stands testament to their enduring popularity in our house. I will, in fact, confess to having moments of misty-eyed sentimentality, standing in wafts of clovey aroma as the cookies bake,  where I think of passing the recipe onto my children (one of which seems to have an affinity for baking whilst the other is wholly interested in the end product alone!) I think in total there was over 250 baked this year, and there’s still 2 batches of dough in the freezer- that is another experiment waiting to happen!

Cookies 3

Cut and ready to go

Cookies 4

About to go for the bake

Cookies 2

Spicey, zesty and warm – Christmas in a bite!

Cookies 1

I hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll down Santa Claus Lane? Thanks for stopping by. Wishing you all a (belated!) happy New Year and here’s to 2015!

In the meantime, “Remember Mom’s the word- that’s Mr. Mom’s!”

“Repeat the sounding joy…”

This will probably be my last blog post of the festive season so I’d like to wish all my friends, followers and readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. In what has proven to be a very busy year Mr. Mom’s has taken some huge steps forward and I can honestly say I can’t wait to see what the new year brings. I’d like to thank you all for the words of support- the FB likes and the Twitter retweets are like little nods of encouragement in the late-night glow of the oven. Special mention also needs to go to my family- my husband for being a “Baking Widower”; my sister (-in-law) for her endless sampling duties and my children for not crossing “the kitchen line”.

Just in time for the festive season and if you haven’t already had your fill of festive baking here’s my recipe for a festive take on the classic brownie. An indulgent twist combining the classic festive flavours of chocolate and orange. If you want to make this “child-friendly” then omit the Cointreau. In the course of research I have discovered what I would now call me ideal Christmas dessert – a slice of this brownie pie, gently warmed, topped with my Christmas cake pimped ice-cream*, and served with a glass of Alcoyne Tannat dessert wine. Serve, pop on your favourite Christmas movie (mine being The Family Stone – hence the title reference)  and put your feet up.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Festive Brownie Pie

FESTIVE BROWNIE PIE

Cinnamon Shortcrust Pastry
500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g icing sugar, sifted
250g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 large free-range eggs, beaten
1 splash milk

Brownie Pie Filling
185g unsalted butter, cubed
185g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3 eggs
275g caster sugar
85g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2 tablespoons Cointreau
2 Clementines, zest and juice
100g dark chocolate chunks
100g Pecans, toasted and chopped roughly

Fesive Brownie Pie

Method

To make the pastry
Sieve the flour on to a clean work surface and sieve the icing sugar and cinnamon on top. Work the butter into the flour and sugar using your thumbs and fingers until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture.

Add the eggs and milk to the mixture and gently work it together till you have a ball of dough. Flour it lightly. Don’t work the pastry too much at this stage or it will become elastic not the crumbly, short texture you want. Flour your work surface and place the dough on top. Pat it into a flat round, flour it lightly, wrap it in clingfilm and put it into the fridge to rest for at least half an hour before using.

Set your oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
Spray a 23cm fluted pie dish with release spray. Roll out your chilled pastry and line the pie dish. Blind bake in the oven for 15 mins lined with baking beads. Remove the baking beads and leave to cool while you make the brownie batter.

To make the brownie filling

Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once cooled stir in Cointreau and clementine juice.

Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, and mixed spice. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together.

Fold in the chocolate chunks, pecans and clementine zest.

Pour the batter into the blind baked pastry case and place in the oven to bake for 25-30 mins until a “papery” crust forms on top. You’re looking for firm edges and a slightly wobbly centre.
Remove from the oven to cook and while warm dust the top with icing sugar. For an extra seasonal touch try a flavoured icing sugar like vanilla or cinnamon.
Serve with lashings of cream or a huge dollop of pimped ice cream.

 

*Christmas Cake Pimped Ice-cream

If, like me, after making a glut of Christmas cakes you find yourself swamped in offcuts and trimmings one tasty use of the surplus is my pimped ice-cream. Takea 2-litre tub of vanilla ice cream and leave to soften at room temp for about 1o mins. Crumble about 350g of Christmas cake offcuts into a bowl. Add in the softened ice-cream and mix well to combine. Once fully combined return to the ice-cream tub and place in freezer to re-freeze.

“It’s comin’ on Christmas…”

Well that time of year has rolled around again. From the kitchen stream the dulcet tones of Joni pining to skate away from her uncomfortable familiarity with the festivities. But also coming from there is the heady, luxurious smell of maturing fruit cakes- rich, enrobing and comfortably nostalgic. This year has seen me churn out the grand total of 8 christmas cakes. Not bad going for someone who’s not exactly their no. 1 fan!
Making these it struck me again how much I had unwittingly absorbed in the kitchen as a child. From my mother’s hip I watched as she wove Yuletide magic steeping and stirring; trimming and tying. I loved being in the kitchen at Christmas time whilst growing up. It was one of best places to forget whatever trials and tribulations had occurred. Christmas was always peak season for arguments in our house (I dare say as probably in most). That mix of self-imposed stress and duty mixed with excitement was a delicate scales in which the looming frenzy of the Christmas day often tipped the balance.
It was in these time I could loose myself in my mother preparing and baking the festive season’s fare. From cakes to puddings; mince pies to brandy butter- they were all homemade weeks in advance. It’s somewhat sheepishly that I admit to having a bizarre fascination with the latter. I don’t just mean over-indulgence. I mean smearing it in everything from toast to biscuits- even eating it like yogurt from the reclaimed tubs. There was nothing quite like a spoonful of that sugary paste melting sublimely on my tongue. The things we do as children! In a rather paradoxical turn of events post-puberty I cannot stand the stuff. Eating it with pudding or cake is bad enough but to have it “raw” (as I used to think of it when younger) absolutely beggars belief for me! To quote my Scottish family it “gie’ me the boak”.
So parking the idea of brandy butter and the associated puddings this year I decided to have a go at making mince pies and mincemeat. Basing my only knowledge of these so far solely on childhood memories, I always thought of them as being too complicated and time consuming. All those ingredients together and THEN you have to bake them. Who on earth had the time to do that normally – let alone at this time of year? I also have to confess to not being a particular fan of mince pies (come to think of it dried-fruit bakes in general- horror I know!) However there’s usually one that will find it’s way on to my plate in flurry of “devil may care” festive abandonment. I prefer it unadorned- no cream; no custard; no brandy butter (!) In contrast to my husband, who will throw every diary-based condiment at a mince pie thus turning it into a festively Frankenstein Iles Flottantes, I prefer to let the sweet waftings the of cinnamon sugar dusting speak for itself.
And since it be the Season of Giving ….

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This is my first venture at making my own mincemeat and having passed the test with husband & children I’m mighty please with the results (even if info say so myself!) Wonderfully festive and lip-smackingly fruity it beats the shop-bought jars any day.
In this recipe the pastry is the one thing I will succumb to shop buying. It’s Christmas and who has all that time to stretch out yard upon yard of micro thin pastry! I use filo pastry as it allows the full, juicy flavour of the mincemeat comes through. There’s also something about the contrast between the crispy, flaky casing with the sweet, fragrant filling that just adds an extra “oomph!” to the pies.

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FILO MINCE POINSETTIAS

For the mincemeat
200g Sultanas
200g Currants
175g Dried Figs, chopped
100g mixed peel
75g stem ginger, chopped into small pieces
150g suet
1 large Branley Apple, chopped into small pieces
Zest and Juice of 2 Clementines
Juice of 1 Lemon
35g chopped almonds
35g pecans, toasted and chopped
4 tablespoons Dark Rum
5 tablespoons of Port
4 tablespoons Brandy
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
225g Dark Muscavado
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the poinsettias

12 sheets of Filo pastry
25g unsalted butter, melted
Cinnamon Icing sugar (for dusting)

  • Mix all the ingredients, except the alcohol, in a large saucepan until well combined. You want to make sure everything is covered in both sugar and spice. Heat over a gentle heat until suet has melted.
  • Remove from the heat, add in the alcohol and stir well.
  • Cover and leave to cool and infuse overnight (longer if possible) stirring occasionally.
  • Place into sterilised jars and store in a cool place. Once in jars the mincemeat will last for up to 6 months.
  • That’s it! This recipe will be good for 36 of the mince pies mentioned below.

For the mince poinsettia pies carry on to the next steps.

  • Preheat your oven to 180c/ 160fan. Spray a 12-hole muffin tin with cake release spray or oil.
  • Lay the sheets of filo pastry out on top of each other and cut them in half across the width. Then cut each half in half again to give four stacks, roughly square in shape. Using a pizza wheel-cutter makes this job a lot easier!
  • Line each hole of the muffin tin with a mini-sheet of filo. Brush with a little melted butter.
  • Repeat the above step until you have 3 sheets of filo in each hole. Rotate the sheets slightly so that the overlay each other staggered. Gently push the filo down into the hole so it takes the full shape of the tray. The edges of the sheets will drape over the holes giving the “poinsettia” effect. After repeating 3 times there will be 12 mini-sheets left, keep these under some damp kitchen paper for now.
  • Please the filo-lined trays in the over for about 5 mins, until pale golden.
  • Place 2 tablespoons of mincemeat into each pie case.
  • Using the remaining filo mini-sheets, scrunch one over each pie filling making a “cap” for the pie. You don’t need to be neat as the “scrunched up” / folded look adds to the effect.
  • Brush the new filo tip with the remaining melted butter.
  • Bake in the oven for 10mins until golden and crispy.
  • When ready remove the pies from the oven and place in a wire rack. If using, dust the hot pies with the cinnamon icing sugar and bask in the unmistakably festive fragrance!

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