#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.

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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.

#Recipe Cranberry, Pear & Dark Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

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Okay- I’ll come clean. I don’t actually like hot cross buns. Well- hot cross buns in the “traditional” sense. Dried fruits of sultanas, currants and raisins do absolutely nothing for me and hot cross buns I place firmly in the same category as Christmas Cake. I’ll accept them to be civil, I’ll bake them to experiment and I’ll eat them under duress. So it only seems fitting that this Easter season I come up with something  a lot more palatable, even to the those of us prone to outbursts of “inyaphobia” (yes, it’s a thing I jest you not…Google it).

I can’t quite put a finger on where my malaise with dried fruit comes from. It probably has its roots, like all else culinary for me, in my childhood and my mother’s kitchen. Each festive season, whether it be Easter, Christmas or Halloween was heralded with a routine palette of sensory ticks…the flat clanging of baking trays on kitchen surfaces, the heady scent of dried fruit steeping in brandy, cold tea or whatever liquid was to hand, and the frequent blistering blasts of heat from oven. It’s the smell of the dried fruit steeping that sticks with me, permeating memory as much as clothing. Like anything in life familiarity breeds contempt, and boy did my mother like a fruit cake!

Hence my deviation from hot cross buns with their traditional sultana/mixed peel combination. Instead I give you an almost “regal” combinaton of cranberries and pear (yes, I’m aware they’re dried too but far more tolerable in my view) laced with dark chocolate studs. Chocolate makes everything better. Except fish- that’s just wrong! So best you stick to making these hot cross buns instead.

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Ingredients
500g strong white flour
85g caster sugar
2 tsp mixed spice powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
10g fine salt
14g fast-action dried yeast
1 tbspn vanilla extract
40g butter
300ml whole fat milk
1 egg, beaten
65g dried cranberries
65g dried pear, chopped into small pieces
65g dark chocolate chips
Cross marking
50g plain flour
80ml cold water

Cross marking
50g plain flour
80ml cold water

Glaze
2 tbsp golden syrup

Method

  • Line a baking sheet/ tray with baking parchment and set aside for later.
  • Combine the flour, sugar, spices, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Make sure the salt and yeast are on opposite sides of the bowl.
  • In a pan combine the milk, vanilla extract and butter. Heat over a medium/low heat until the butter has melted. Allow the mixture to cool until tepid.
  • Add 1/3 the tepid milk mixture to the dry ingredients, along with the beaten egg. and use your hands to bring the mixture together. Add in the second 1/3 of the milk mixture and continue forming a dough, taking any stray flour from the sides of the bowl.
  • Finally, slowly add the remaining milk until you form a soft pliable dough. Take note here as you may not need all of the milk.
  • Tip the dough out on to a lightly oiled work surface. Knead by hand incorporating the fruit and chocolate chips into the dough. Lightly knead for 10 minutes until silky and elastic and the dough is smooth. (This part can also be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, this usually takes about 8 minutes.)
  • Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in it, covering with oiled cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
  • Tip the dough on to a lightly oiled surface and divide into 12 balls. (I usually do this by rolling it into a thick sausage shape, apx 40cms long. Divide into 2, then divide each half into 6 equal pieces and roll them into balls.)
  • Place the balls on the tray, placing them fairly close together and flattening them slightly.
  • Cover the baking tray with a clean polythene bag and leave for an hour until the balls have doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
  • For the cross marking, combine the flour and water in a bowl. Mix together to make a paste and spoon into an icing bag.
  • When the buns have risen remove the tray from the bag, snip the end of the piping bag (making a hole about 3mm) and pipe a cross on each bun. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pale golden-brown, turning the baking trays round halfway through.

To finish

  • Warm the golden syrup in a pan and while the buns are still warm, brush the buns with a little syrup to glaze. Return to the wire rack and allow to cool.

Serve with fresh butter. They can be lightly warmed in an oven for tasty seasonal breakfast treat. Enjoy!

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“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.