Salted Caramel and Pretzel Brownies

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Not a very good picture- taken in poor light but it doesn’t do justice to these gorgeously calorific treats.

I love baking brownies.  They are so easy to make yet are so naughty but nice at the same time.  I used to make loads of them when I had cake stalls as they were always popular with customers.  One man was so taken by my brownies that he came back and bought some more and proposed to me!  No, it wasn’t my husband! It was a joke though it was nice that he liked my brownies!

Last week I had some ingredients I wanted to use up and I had a free afternoon at home.  I had a packet of Cadbury’s Chocolate Pretzels and some caramel sauce which originally was going to be for my daughter’s birthday cake.  In the end she had cupcakes for her birthday but I didn’t get round to using up the other stuff.  If I left the caramel sauce in the fridge, well it wouldn’t be there as I could imagine my kids fishing out spoonfuls of it!

I’ve always wanted to try Salted Caramel Brownies and looked through my recipe books for ideas.  I would take the brownies into school to share with my work colleagues.  I found exactly what I was looking for in Miranda Gore Browne’s latest book “Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can”.  Her recipe is the Salty Dog Brownies.

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Miranda Gore Browne’s recipe for her Salty Dog Brownies in her latest book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can was a great source of inspiration for these brownies.

  I used my own  standard brownie recipe for the bottom layer using some Lindt dark chocolate and Green and Blacks cocoa in the mix.  I then swirled in the caramel sauce which was some Bonne Maman Confiture de Caramel.  I expect you could make it with Dulce de Leche or make your own using condensed milk.  I used the same quantities of the sauce as Miranda did, which was about 6 tablespoonfuls.

Then to the mixture I added the topping which was flavoured with sea salt and like the same texture as the brownie minus the chocolate.  I could see the calorie count going through the roof here!

The brownies came out of the oven after about 30 minutes and I couldn’t wait to cut them up and see if they were squidgy and gooey.  They were exactly what I wanted them to be like.  As soon as they were nearly cool I cut them up into 16 large pieces and topped them with the chocolate pretzels.  These complemented the brownies beautifully.

When my  kids got home they wanted to eat some and I told them that they weren’t allowed, they were heading off into work.  I knew if I left them at home I wouldn’t see them for dust and if there were any around I would polish the lot off!

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The recipe produced enough brownie mixture to make 16 large pieces. They had a big depth to them and I baked them in my large Alan Silverwood traybake tin.
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The Cadbury’s Chocolate Covered pretzels went perfectly with these salted caramel brownies.

The verdict? Well I took them into school and they went down very well with the staff.  I took a small piece to eat at playtime and wished I could have eaten more.. too addictive!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Hairy Dieters’ Banana and Sultana Muffins.

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Who says you can’t have muffins on a diet? You can if you bake these banana and sultana muffins from the Hairy Bikers’ diet book.

I have a long running diet problem.  My weight goes up and down by the same two stone like a yo-yo.  The reason  why? I have a sweet tooth. I had a long chat with my hubby and he said the answer is simple: “Stop baking!” To me, to stop baking would be like someone who loved playing football to be told they couldn’t play or even watch a game.  Baking is therapy to me, a real stress buster and I hope when my children are older to go back to baking cakes professionally.  It is something I enjoy doing and although I need a lot of practice in some techniques, I like to think I’m good at what I do.

In the meantime, I had ripe bananas to use up.  The kids never seem to eat them as much as they used to and I didn’t want them to go to waste.  It was last Friday afternoon and we had to be up on the Saturday morning at 3am as my daughter was setting off on a school trip to New York.  This involved being at school for a very early coach trip down to Heathrow.  I don’t know about you but I can’t eat that early on in the morning, just a cup of tea or coffee is fine for me.  Same goes for my daughter but I was worried about her not eating breakfast.  So these muffins seemed a perfect idea.

The original recipe for the muffins is in the breakfast chapter of the second Hairy Bikers’ diet book “Eat For Life” which is the yellow one published last year.

The muffins are so easy to make and as Si and Dave say “These little beauties are lower in fat and sugar than the standard and are still nicely naughty. They don’t have the same texture as a shop bought muffin but they are still tasty and filling”

At only 119 calories a muffin they would be ideal for anyone who needed to be out and about for an early start and then you could eat something like a piece of fruit later on in the morning to keep you going.  Or if you’re like me, you’d drool at the smell of a bacon buttie…..

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These banana and sultana muffins tasted great and not like “diet” food!

 To bake the muffins I started off by sifting self raising flour, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. This was then mixed up and to this I added some grated lemon zest. After this I added in two medium mashed bananas and some milk.  Then this was followed by some sultanas.

The lower fat content is created by using egg whites only in the mixture and there isn’t any other fat such as butter or oil added. The sweetness comes from the flavour of the bananas and there is a sprinkling of brown sugar on top of the muffins themselves.  It’s a whole tablespoon that has to be divided amongst 12 muffins though!

I had to whisk three egg whites with my electric stick whisk until stiff peaks formed then this was quickly folded into the mixture until it was easily incorporated.  Into the oven they went after spooning the mixture carefully into some muffin cases.  The ones shown in the picture come from Waitrose, love the pretty pastel colours.  There were green ones in the packet as well but they’ve all gone now!

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The banana and sultana muffins fresh out of the oven. Baked in some pretty cases from Waitrose.

The muffins baked for about 20 minutes and rose beautifully in the oven.  I was desperate to eat one but had to wait until the next morning. My daughter didn’t eat one but my son and I enjoyed one.  I was pleasantly surprised. They did taste different from the muffins you get in the shops but then again I don’t really like them anyway. Much too sweet for me and too big! These tasted delicious and not like “diet” food.  Just the right size too.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Update! September and October’s Cooking The Books Challenge.

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I’m doing a Cooking The Books Challenge.  This started off well back at the start of the year but then as life got in the way! I logged on to update SmartCookieSam and realised it’s been well over a month since my last post. I haven’t been quiet on the baking front though.  It’s mainly been trying out recipes from The Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Baking  cookbook that came out to accompany the latest series.

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The front cover of the latest Great British Bake Off Book- Big Book Of Baking. I intended to blog a review of it but never got round to it.

So the idea of this post is to share with you some of the bakes I’ve made from the book.  Here goes!

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Golden Carrot Traybake.

I love baking traybakes as a little goes a long way, especially at coffee mornings or fairs.  The Golden Carrot traybake was a big success at my school’s MacMillan Coffee morning.  I had to put pieces aside for the staff before they all got sold!

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Irish Brack.

I also baked the Irish Brack recipe from the Bread Chapter of the book. It was very similar to the Yorkshire Tea Loaf recipe I regularly make.  This went along to the MacMillan Coffee morning and about half of it sold, not as popular as carrot cake!

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Somerset Apple Tart.

For one of the Sunday lunch puddings over the past few weeks I’ve been trying out various recipes from the Bake Off book.  When on holiday in Normandy several years ago I loved the melt in the mouth apple tarts you could buy in the local patisseries.  The tart is called Somerset Apple Tart in this recipe because it calls for Somerset Apple Brandy if you have it. Mine was Normandy Apple Tart as it had genuine Calvados in it. I love Calvados in cream to go with mince pies at Christmas but would struggle to drink any, too strong for me! Of course I would not get a job as a patisserie chef with my offering.  When blind baking the pastry case I left it in the oven a bit too long and the sides burned.  At least Mary Berry would be impressed that the tart didn’t have a soggy bottom though!  My two kids, especially my son weren’t impressed by the tart.  They said “Yuck, cooked apples!”  Everyone else enjoyed it though and all the better with a splodge of whipped cream on the side.

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Cheddar and Mustard Loaf.

Being a sweet toothed monster I thought it was about time I tried out some savoury recipes and I wanted to try out the cheese and mustard loaf.  I thought it would be perfect on an Autumn Saturday along with a bowl of warming soup.  So last Saturday I baked the loaf to have with some homemade vegetable soup.  Again, my son wasn’t complimentary about my baking saying “Why do you have to put cheese in it? Why can’t you just cook some “normal” white bread?”  Been there, done that, wanted to try something else!  Both my hubby and I enjoyed a big slice with our soup though.

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Norman’s Farthing Biscuits.

My hubby is a cheese lover and would prefer cheese and biscuits instead of a pudding if we go out anywhere.  He reminds me of Wallace when he says “Got any cheese?” so the other day I bought some Harrogate Blue Shepherd’s Purse Cheese and had a go at Norman’s Farthing Biscuits from the Bake Off book. I thought Norman was a lovely guy, one of my favourite contestants from this year’s series.  His quote about Tiramisu “I can’t even spell it” or words to that effect makes me smile.  So I was keen to try out his recipe for Farthing Biscuits although mine seemed to puff up a bit in the oven.  They tasted great though and even my fussy son liked them.  Thankyou Norman, will be baking these again!

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Hot White Chocolate Puddings with chocolate sauce.

Another Sunday dinner or lunch dessert.  These individual puddings were made in my Alan Silverwood Pudding Moulds which I think I bought from Lakeland.  They are massive though and I should have shared one with my hubby.  Anyway both of us were feeling greedy and had one to ourselves.  No wonder I am struggling with my weight and was up half the night afterwards with heartburn.  It did taste like heaven though; white chocolate sponge topped with a chocolate sauce.  The chocolate sauce is plain chocolate, cream and butter heated together.

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Sticky Apple Sponge Pudding.

I was given some apples to use up from a neighbour so I incorporated some of them into this Sticky Apple Sponge Pudding.  Very like the flavours of a Sticky Toffee Pudding but with sliced apples added to the bottom of the dish.  A hit with all of the family despite the kids pulling the sliced apples off the cake. Apart from that it was scrumptious.

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Grassmere Gingerbread

I love anything with ginger in it so I just had to bake the Grasmere Gingerbread recipe in the Bake Off book.  I can’t get enough of Grasmere Gingerbread but the original recipe is a closely guarded secret.  I bet this is as near to it as you get though.  The gingerbread was going to be taken with me into work to put in the staff room but it never got there.  All my family kept nibbling!

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Morello Cherry Bakewell Tart.

I also love anything with almonds in, so I was keen to have a go at the Morello Cherry Bakewell Tart.  I’ve had a go at Bakewell tart a few times before but always used raspberry jam in it.  I bought some Morello Cherry Jam in the supermarket and baked this version for another of our Sunday lunch desserts. I was surprised when my son said he liked it!  I nearly passed out cold on the floor!  HE ACTUALLY LIKED SOMETHING I BAKED! Well, I know it’s a winner then.  Again I managed to overbake the pastry.  Why is it that there’s always something else going on?

In the true spirit of the challenge I haven’t baked everything I set out to bake.  I really wanted to have a go at some of the more complicated bakes such as the Princesstarta, the Kouign Amann’s and a couple of the savoury pies.  But it has been so busy recently and I have really struggled to fit these bakes in around my day job and what I’d actually need them for.

Watch this space for November’s challenge:  I’m going to be changing things a bit so I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve worked it all out!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam