Mint Chocolate Brownies

Who else out there likes brownies? I don’t know many people that don’t. I would love to know what it is that brownies have that send people into raptures, is it the chocolate?  The fact that there’s rather a lot of sugar in them? Or that the chocolately gooey gorgeousness just melts in the mouth.  

At the Yorkshire Bakery we make lots of plain chocolate brownies to sell on our stalls. They are also popular as orders for family get-togethers and parties.  The brownies sell out really quickly along with all the other chocolate products, perhaps I should retrain as a chocolatier!  
I first started making brownies about 5 years ago when I developed a tried and tested foolproof recipe which I’ve used ever since.  I was delighted at one of the first stalls I had that a man came up to me and proposed to me after buying a bag of my brownies. He then bought another bag, no I didn’t take him up on his offer as I am already happily married to Mr Smith!  
Now, as I am having a go at this Primrose Bakery recipe book challenge I was interested to see that there was a recipe for brownies in their second book.  My mouth was watering looking at the accompanying photo.  Brownies, for me are so useful.  They are great for an afternoon tea, they make a fabulously indulgent dessert and you can also use them as gifts placed in a pretty tin.
Yesterday lunch time was the time to test them out.  My mum was staying with us for the weekend and I decided to have the brownies for dessert after roast beef with all the trimmings.
The information given with the recipe said that the Primrose Bakery didn’t often serve up brownies in their cafes.  I am most surprised about this, they would be popular.  I bet they would disappear very quickly.
I like to adapt recipes to suit what I have in the kitchen cupboard.  I had two bars of Lindt Mint Intense chocolate to use up. I usually make Mint Crackle cookies with them in the winter but I had a huge craving to bake mint brownies.  The recipe called for using 275g chocolate (I only had 200g spare!) and extra chocolate chips.  I used a bag of dark chocolate chunks as well.  Another substitution was that I used organic cocoa powder in place of expresso powder and peppermint extract in place of the vanilla extract. I was concerned that the mint flavour would be overpowering, but it was worth a try.
The method for making the brownies was exactly the same as I already do and I enjoyed the melting of the chocolate and butter in the microwave first. It was torture seeing the melted chocolate in the bowl, I just wanted to dive into it!  
It was also time to reuse a fantastic cake tin my mum had bought for me a few weeks back.  It is a special brownie pan with a loose bottom with a special rack which divides the brownies into 18 equal squares.  I was thrilled to bits with it as I am a sucker for new gadgets, this will definitely get loads of use!
The brownies were slightly deeper than the usual ones I make as the quantities of ingredients were bigger.  I was very nervous as they were baking in the oven as I had completely forgotten to set the timer.  
Finally the brownies were ready to come out.  The surface had cracked across the top and I let the brownies cool down before cutting them with the divider.  I then placed them on my white cake stand ready for dessert.
Mr Smith had bought some mint choc chip ice cream when he had gone shopping earlier, which perfectly contrasted with the brownies.  We had a tiny piece with a small scoop of ice cream and were very pleased with it.  I will definitely bake more brownies like these!
The remaining brownies were divided into two. I gave some to my Mum to share with her work colleagues and was intending to keep some for later in the week.  However, when I started to divide them I noticed we were four down!  My mum spotted telltale chocolate crumbs in the dining room near my son’s XBox!  He had scoffed the lot although as expected he denied it!  In the end we kept only 4 so we could have another piece at tea time with a sandwich.
Thankyou to the Primrose Bakery for such a lovely brownie recipe and we will definitely be making this one over and over again.
Mint Chocolate Brownies adapted from a recipe in  the Primrose Bakery CookBook.
Happy Baking!
Sam xx

Chocolate Labradors- "Charlies"

As you’ve probably gathered if you’ve been reading my previous blog posts is that along with my baking for customers I’m also attempting to bake my way through the two Primrose Bakery recipe books.  These two books are rapidly becoming cake mix spattered with sticky bits of icing sugar on the pages.  I am becoming addicted, waiting for my next baking fix.

Each time I look through the second book my eyes kept being drawn back to a cookie recipe.  As my business started out making cookies before the cupcake craze took over, I couldn’t resist the cute Sausage Dog cookie recipe.  In the book, the chocolate shortbread dog biscuits are shaped like sausage dogs because they are made to look like the owners’ dog Charlie!  Well I have my very own Charlie too at home, it must be a popular name for a dog!  My Charlie is an 8 month old black labrador puppy, who is the apple of my eye and my 3rd child!

My puppy Charlie at 6 weeks old when we went to choose him (or did he choose us?)

I needed to make some hand decorated cookies to sell on my stall last weekend.  I usually make very highly decorated cookies using royal icing or fondant icing.  However I did not have as much time last weekend to make them, so the idea of the Chocolate Charlies came about.

In my vast selection of cookie cutters I found two Labrador shapes, one was more detailed than the other and had thinner legs. I thought this might make the legs break so I found a more simple one from a set I bought in Lakeland about 5 years ago that had 101 plastic cookie cutters in it.  I think this cutter was used a couple of years back when I made dalmatian cookies for a friend’s son.

I made up the dough in my Kitchen Aid using the dough hook attachment then let the dough chill for about 1/2 hour in the fridge.  When it was chilled it rolled out much easier.  I got about 35 cookies from the mixture.

They baked well in the oven for about 12-15 minutes then once cooled I set about icing them.

According to the picture in the Primrose Bakery book you can use any decorations or sprinkles you have lying about.  I wanted to use a mixture too so that I could use up leftovers.  I had some mini heart sprinkles left, some lilac sugar sprinkles, some yellow sprinkles and finally some pink and white sugar balls.  I had fun decorating the biscuits, just putting some fondant icing on the top of the cookies around the neck to make a collar.  Then I tipped loads of sprinkles on, making a huge mess all over my work top and the floor!  My hubby always moans about this, he says it’s painful when you stand on a silver ball with no shoes on!

This is a rubbish picture as I’m always forgetting to get my camera out at the right time. I put the cookies into clear cellophane bags with 4 at a time.  The eyes were quickly piped on with a dot of royal icing.
The Chocolate Charlie biscuits worked out well in the end and I’ll definitely be baking these again! 
Happy Baking.
Sam x

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

Who can’t resist the lure of chocolate? Me, me, me!  As I sit down typing now, the rain pouring down outside, the miserable dark sky is making me long for comfort. We shouldn’t be thinking of comfort food in July, we should be thinking of barbecues and salads!  Well this is the UK I suppose.

I’m just thinking about a couple of mint infused bars of chocolate in my cupboard that need to be used up, they will make fab brownies but in the meantime I found myself thinking of the chocolate cupcakes I baked last weekend for my RSPCA stall.

Once again I found myself looking towards the Primrose Bakery recipe book, this time the first one all about cupcakes.  I always find my chocolate items sell out first on my stalls, the Rocky Road is a winner, then the Brownies and followed by my chocolate cupcakes.  I don’t know why this is but I do know I love chocolate.

I baked my chocolate cupcakes in my usual way, using brown muffin cases from Morrisons.  I always find the supermarket cupcake cases do a fantastic job, they never come away from the side of the cake. They are not greasy and they do not lose their colour. Why pay loads of  money for cases with a fantastic design only to find they don’t do the job?

From stall to stall I try to vary the design on the top of the cupcake.  I always use the same type of chocolate frosting, the Primrose Bakery one is gorgeous. I always make double the quantity though and it tastes yummy because it uses real chocolate in the mixture, not cocoa powder.  At the moment I have a lot of mini fudge chunks which I bought from Lakeland in a tub.  They’re lovely to sprinkle on cupcakes or bake in cookies.  I’ve even caught my 12 year old son nicking some to put on top of his ice cream!

I was pleased that the chocolate cupcakes also sold out on my stall along with the carrot ones from my previous post.

 My chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate icing sprinkled with Lakeland Mini Fudge chunks.  I also put some sugar animals on the top of some of the other cakes, this was to fit in with the RSPCA theme of the stall.

The chocolate cupcakes on my stand along with some carrot cupcakes.  

Carrot Cupcakes With A Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes I find it really hard baking cakes for a living.  I agree it can be stressful meeting deadlines, hoping and praying that the hard work you’ve put into your project is appreciated by the customer.  No, what I mean is that there is temptation all around you!  The odd stray Smartie or Malteser, a broken piece of cookie that might have snapped in half as you take it off the oven tray….The list of tempting treats is all around you at all the time!

Take last week for instance.  I was baking for a stall at a local Summer Fair in aid of the RSPCA and found myself in the kitchen with all the usual attractions.  I had so much to do and cram in to the day that I did not find time to sit down and have a proper lunch, instead I ate two pieces of toast!  No wonder at 4 o’clock I was desperate to eat anything, even my dog’s IAM’s were beginning to look appealing.

Last Saturday I felt even worse as I attempted a real favourite of mine from the Primrose Bakery Cookbook – Carrot Cakes with a Cream Cheese Frosting!  I ADORE carrot cake and decided this was a great recipe to try out along with the other things I usually offer on my stalls.  It was a crying shame to not be able to sneak one!  I was pleased they sold out along with my chocolate ones.

The only time consuming part of making the carrot cupcakes is the carrot grating.  I usually do it with the grater attachment of my food processor but I couldn’t be faffed to get it out of the cupboard and to be cleaning it up afterwards!  I just used my hand cheese grater, it took ages and I nearly grated my fingers but it was worth it.
The rest of the mixture was easily combined: golden caster sugar, flour, free range eggs, sunflower oil, vanilla extract and raisins, then the carrots were folded in.  There was enough mixture to comfortably fit into a dozen large cupcake cases.  These orange ones were from a set of rainbow coloured cases bought from Lakeland. I thought they looked lovely instead of the usual brown ones I use for carrot cakes.
I was delighted with the result and the smell was heavenly.  My sister in law who was staying with us asked if there were any leftovers, sadly there weren’t in the end!  I’ll just have to make some more on her next visit!

The Primrose Bakery suggested teaming the carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing.  I usually do this as I find buttercream is a bit too sweet for my liking.  In the Primrose Bakery recipes they usually add their own swirl with a pallette knife but I prefer to do my own swirl with a star shaped nozzle.  I also added some ready made sugar carrot decorations that I had in the cupboard.

Et voila! Here are the carrot cupcakes on show at the Summer Fair along with some chocolate cupcakes I made to fit on my metal stand.
Happy Baking.
Sam xx