Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Stationary Saviour

Do you ever see something in a shop and instantly think “I need that in my life. That one object will make me happier than anything else I have ever bought. Ever.” Ok, so a little dramatic perhaps but it comes close to how I feel about my new recipe book.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Perfect Chocolate Brownies

Hello Everyone!! How’s your week going? Mine’s going pretty well, get things done and planning for the weeks ahead, with Easter, Mothers Day and my mum’s Birthday coming up it going to take some serious organisation to get everything sorted. I feel particularly motivated at the moment and I think it may have something to do with Spring being just around the corner.

Last weekend was the first time this year I have been able to relax, with helping Patch move house various trips to the country and to Brighton – see here - and sorting out my own life it was a welcome change to plan to relax and enjoy the sunshine. You’ve got to make the most of it as we all know that it won’t stick around very long.

Anyway, on Saturday morning I decided that an indulgent its-ok-because-I-deserve-it weekend was nothing without an equally indulgent treat to go with it. I got out my recipe book and finally decided on these chocolate brownies. Now I know that the title claims ‘Perfect Chocolate Brownies’ but don’t be put off, I don’t blame you for being hesitant -a brief scroll through Pinterest and you will find hundreds of recipes claiming to be ‘Perfect’ or ‘The best’ but believe me these really are.

I can say this with 100% certainty due to the fact that no matter how many tweaks and changes that I try to make, I always prefer the original. I am not ashamed to say that this is not my recipe, all glory should be directed towards Hummingbird Bakery for these beauties.

The perfect mixture of a chewy, slightly crisp crust that cracks slightly when bitten into and a dense, gooey, fudgy chocolate centre that is the epitome of any brownie. Best served with ice cream (I chose raspberry sorbet as that what I had, but a high quality vanilla would go great here as well) and slightly warm from the oven.

What you’ll need:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 325g caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • Icing sugar or ice cream to serve

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 170 celcius (325F)

Weigh out your chocolate and butter and melt them together over a saucepan of water. A gentle simmer is enough here as you don’t want to burn the chocolate, just melt it.

Give it a quick stir and your butter and chocolate should turn beautifully glossy and smooth like this:

Mmmm just look at that chocolate, silky and enchanting...

Once you’ve torn yourself away from scooping up the melted chocolate and letting it drizzle off the spoon in a come-hither fashion, you’re going to need to add the rest of the ingredients.

Add your sugar, 3 eggs and the flour into your chocolatey goodness. The end batter is quite thick so it is best to incorporate the ingredients into small stages – I stirred in the sugar, then the eggs and then the flour in three separate stages in order to ensure it was mixed well and there were no pockets of flour lurking within.

Spoon into a buttered baking tray (mine was 33 x 23 x 5cm) and let it bake in the oven for 30-35mins. You want to bring it out when the bottom third of a toothpick comes out clean, mine took 30mins. This will ensure that your brownies are beautifully gooey when cooled. Once you take it out of the oven, let the brownies rest in the baking tray for 5-10minutes and they should release easily.

Cut into thick slabs and serve to hungry friends. Believe me the smell of freshly cooked brownies brings them from far and wide.

This recipe made 8 very large brownies, which I later then cut into 4 to make cute little bitesize pieces for a BBQ we had that afternoon.They went down a treat!


P.S. I’d love to see if any of you try these
– post your pictures on twitter and don’t
forget to tag @bakeitblonde so that I can see!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Great Escape

It was time for a break. The buzz of Christmas seemed like a far off memory and waiting around for Spring to shine through the clouds was becoming exhausting. Everything pointed to a weekend away and for once England delivered; Brighton called and we answered.

We hopped on a train and before we knew it the beach was stretched out before us, welcoming us like an old friend into his warm and sunny embrace. We walked along the shore, chatting and feeling the stress of the city melt away until the sun went down.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel and after a luxurious night’s sleep I sauntered down for breakfast overlooking the sea and a hot stone massage in the spa.

Feeling energised and rejuvenated I headed out on my next mission – chocolate. I couldn’t go to Brighton without visiting Choccywoccydoodah.

Their name preceded them and I wasn’t disappointed. An Aladdin’s cave filled to the brim with delicious chocolaty goodness formed into exquisite works of art.

Say hello to this little guy, I named him Albert. Doesn’t he just look like the most adorable, wise old man in puppy form?

After a sun-filled afternoon exploring the labyrinth of shops that Brighton had to offer we finally tore ourselves away and boarded the train back to reality.

A wonderful beach side break and home in time for dinner, a rather perfect way to spend a weekend.


Thursday, 6 March 2014

Grange Park Opera

Last week I attended the Grange Park Opera party at the Royal Academy of Arts. The Royal Academy is a beautiful building and I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening listening to performances from Christina Petrou and Alberto Sousa on the grand steps, and sipping on G&Ts and Moscow Mules (listening to opera is thirsty work).

Apart from having a good time chatting and listening to some damn good singing, the purpose of party was all about reigniting (or in some cases *me* igniting) a love of opera within the younger generation. And who better to persuade you of your love for the Arts than Stephen Fry?

He gave a delightful speech at the event and I was really impressed by the passion with which he spoke about his support for Grange Park. They are one of the few organisations that are truly dedicated to making the arts accessible for people of all ages and budgets. In their own words, they have a “commitment to promoting international and rising talent, introducing British audiences to little heard operas and bringing in a new audience to hear opera for the first time. To help develop the next generation’s love of opera”.

In order to do this, they run schemes which offer free tickets to young people and reduced prices for those under 35. Even if you are not opera’s biggest fan (I myself have only ever been once) I thoroughly recommend having a look at their website. The location is stunning, set in a 17th century country mansion just outside of Winchester and with the intervals being over an hour, it is positively encouraged to bring a picnic and a bottle or two to share with friends in the lavish grounds.

Tickets are on sale now and with Spring just around the corner I can’t think of anything better to look forward to than an evening at Grange Park filled with Opera, picnics, good wine and friends.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

2-Ingredient Healthy Pancakes

I do realise that healthy and pancakes aren’t two words that usually go together, and no I haven’t gone insane. These pancakes are healthy and delicious.

I’m going to be honest here, these are not the fluffy, decadent pancakes that you see stacked up and drizzled in syrup - and with only two ingredients they never will be. What they are though, are a damn good alternative.

The trick here is to use about 3-4 tbsp mashed banana per medium- sized egg. For us, this worked out to be roughly one banana per egg. Looking up recipes online, some suggest adding a little baking powder to give them some extra lift but I skipped this and they still turned out really well. Golden brown, stacked up high, with fresh raspberries on top.

Decorate with your favourite topping and enjoy your pancakes – guilt free!


Monday, 3 March 2014

The Jam Man

Have you ever been to Herne Hill Farmers Market? No? You should. And here’s why - the Jam Man. Every three Sundays or so the jam man heads on down to Herne Hill and sets up his stall selling jams, marmalades and chutneys.

The jams he sells are amazing, I mean seriously good. Patch and I went a little overboard and bought 5 pots between us - he does only come every three weeks so we thought it wise to stock up! After a lot of deliberation and a lot of taste testing, we decided on Plum Jam, two Apricot and Lemon conserves, Raspberry and Apricot conserve, and Strawberry conserve.

Here they are in all their greatness:

And with Pancake Day just around the corner I knew exactly what to pair them with!

Here’s my recipe for perfect pancakes:

What you’ll need
  • 110g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs (medium or large)
  • 200ml milk (I prefer to use almond milk as I think it adds extra depth to the flavour)

What to do:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and add the salt
  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs
  3. Begin to whisk the eggs and the flour until they form a thick paste (this is important to you don’t end up with too many lumps in your pancake batter)
  4. Gradually add small quantities of milk and whisk until the batter is smooth
    *at this point it helps to let the batter rest, leave it as little or as long as you like but I would say a minimum of 10 minutes. I often mix the batter and then leave it in the fridge (covered) overnight so that it is ready for when I need it in the morning. Give the batter a quick mix if it separates a little.
  5. Melt a knob of butter or a little oil in your frying pan, it needs to be a medium temperature so take care not to let your butter burn
  6. Pour a ladle full of batter into the frying pan and then swirl the batter so that it coats the bottom of the pan in a thin layer
  7. Once the batter is semi-cooked ontop and the surface is peppered with small bubbles (about 1-2 minutes depending on the thickness of your pancake) flip the pancake and let it cook on the other side for a further 2 minutes.

It should look golden-brown and delicious.

Serve with whatever toppings take your fancy – lemon and sugar, banana and nutella, ice cream, golden syrup. For me it was a no brainer – jam!

Happy Pancake day everybody