White Chocolate and Pistachio Blondies.

I found these white chocolate, pistachio and nougatine bars in the local Carrefour supermarket when I was on holiday in France

A couple of weeks back I was on holiday in France and spotted these scrumptious sounding bars of chocolate in the local supermarket.  I love anything with pistachios in them and slipped two of these 100g bars in my trolley.  Once back at the villa I had to put them in a cool place as it was so hot.  Then when I was packing my case to go home I was wondering if the chocolate would last the flight home!  Thankfully it did. Both bars were intact and nothing had melted!

I was wondering what to do with the bars and then last week I chose to bake Blondies with them.  I bake brownies a lot but have only ever tried peanut butter and white chocolate ones before.  They were delicious and didn’t last long in our house. I adapted My Favourite Brownie Recipe by substituting the two bars of white chocolate for the dark chocolate and the nuts/ chocolate chips.  Instead of cocoa powder I made up another 15g of plain flour instead.

I have to tell you but these Blondies were heavenly.  As soon as they came out of the oven I was tempted to get chomping on one.  Thank heavens I had to wait until they had cooled down.  They were devilishly gooey inside, just as Brownies and Blondies should be.  With treats like this they get snaffled up in no time and I was worried they would go before they were meant to be eaten at Sunday lunch when we had family round. Luckily we had enough!

These Blondies are perfect as a pudding with ice cream or on their own with a cup of tea or coffee.  I’ll definitely be making them again if I can find white chocolate with pistachios like this in the UK.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx.

White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Blondies

074
Peanut and Chocolate Blondies- meant to have white chocolate in but thanks to someone helping themselves they became dark chocolate ones instead!

Last Monday afternoon I got in from work and finished my jobs.  It was one of those afternoons where I had an urge to bake something.  It had to be something quick that I could sling together and chuck in the oven before disappearing off to collect my kids from school.

Brownies or blondies work well for me as I make them such a lot, you get it down to a fine art and they don’t take long to whip up and in the oven.  So, for this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge where I am baking a recipe from every chapter of Rachel Allen’s Bake, her recipe for White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Blondies would be just the ticket.  In the recipe introduction Rachel says “Fed up of brownies? Try blondies! These little squares are great on their own, eaten with ice cream they are simply sinful!”  Well we all need a pick me up or a little treat to help us get through life don’t we?

I looked in my baking cupboard knowing that I’d bought a packet of white chocolate chips a couple of weeks back and would have enough to go in the blondies.  But when I opened the cupboard.. they just weren’t there!  I can only put it down to my kids helping themselves! So frustrating, but I couldn’t prove who had took them! Luckily though I had a packet of dark chocolate chips and they would have to do instead!

To begin with I creamed some butter and crunchy peanut butter together in a large mixing bowl. When this was done I sifted some plain flour and bakingpowder in another bowl.  To the peanut butter bowl I added soft brown sugar, egg and some vanilla extract.  Finally in went the bag of chocolate chips.

As for the tin, I used the square one I always use for my brownies.  It’s a either a loose bottomed one I bought a few years back in Lakeland or one I bought at a Jamie At Home party which isn’t loose bottomed but still worked as well. Either tin always makes either 16 small square brownie bites or 12 large ones.  No problem again here, the dough went into the tin fine and 25-30 minutes later out it came after being baked in the oven at 170oC (electric fan oven here).

After about 1/2 hour’s cooling time I attempted to cut up the blondies and quickly hid them in a box in the cupboard away from my family.  They were going into work to share with my work colleagues and I thought if my family knew there were blondies about there wouldn’t be any left the next day.

I thought I’d got away with it as it was an afternoon when I was at home and my kids were still at school.  I had hidden the evidence but when we got in from the school run my daughter started sniffing when she came back in. She said “Have you been baking? I can smell chocolate!” My kids have baking radar but I lied and said she was imagining things!

071
The blondies cut up easily into 12 large pieces.
073
The blondies were packed up in a box and taken into work to share with my colleagues. They all disappeared by about lunchtime and everyone said they were delicious.

The Speculaas Spice Company- Chewy Speculaas Blondies and Speculaas Cookies.

I enjoyed my baking session using the Speculaas Spice miz.
I enjoyed my baking session using the Speculaas Spice miz.

I must admit I’d not heard of speculaas spice before.  So when Steven from The Speculaas Spice Company asked me if I would like to try a sample of his special Speculaas spice mix I was intrigued.

A little package arrived in the post last week along with some background information about The Speculaas Spice Company.  Speculaas is a special spice mix that originates from The Netherlands and many families had their own spice recipes.  Steven grew up in Amsterdam and wanted to recreate the smell and taste of the Speculaas biscuits his own mother baked at home.

The special Speculaas Spice mix packet and background information sent to me from The Speculaas Spice Company.
The special Speculaas Spice mix packet and background information sent to me from The Speculaas Spice Company.

The spices used in the VanDotsch Speculaas spice mix are organic or Fair Trade wherever possible and do not contain any preservatives.  There are nine different spices in the blend including ginger, cloves, cinnamon and six other aromatic flavours.

If you want to find out more about The Speculaas Spice Company then here are the details:

Steven Dotsch, The Speculaas Spice Company

www. speculaasspice.co.uk

Email: info@speculaasspice.co.uk

Tel: 020 8374 8718

To follow on Twitter: @vanDotschSpices

There are some delicious recipes to try out on the website but I was keen to try out the spices in two recipes I’d always fancied baking from the very first Edd Kimber book “The Boy Who Bakes”.  One  recipe was for some mouthwatering Blondies, also containing chocolate and hazelnuts, the other for some aromatic Speculaas cookies.  I thought that the Spice mix would transform the bakes onto another level. There were enough spices to bake both recipes and as soon as I opened the little packet the wonderful smell escaped out into the kitchen.  It made me very hungry.  One of my favourite aromas in the world is the smell of gingerbread men baking and I was immediately transported back to my childhood.  I am sure the Speculaas spice does the same for lots of Dutch children!

Edd Kimber says in his recipe introduction that he is “in love with speculaas.. what’s not to love?”  I have baked blondies before but not with spices added to them, this was going to be very interesting.  So, I greased an 8″ square tin and got stuck in!

016
I used about three teaspoonfuls of speculaas spice mix in the blondies.
017
Some butter was melted in a small pan.
018
The spice mix was added to the melted butter, cooked for a couple of minutes and then I added some brown sugar to heat through.
019
The melted butter, spice mix and brown sugar. This was taken off the heat and left to cool for a few minutes.
020
The other ingredients were added. First the dry ones, such as plain flour, baking powder and salt were folded into the melted butter mixture. Then I added in a bar of chopped white chocolate and some hazelnuts.
021
The batter was poured into the prepared tin and then baked in the oven for about 35 minutes. It took a little bit longer as I used a square tin and not a longer rectangular one. 
024
The brownies had more depth than the ones in the picture because of the size of the tin. I had to adjust the baking time, it needed about 10-15 minutes longer than Edd suggested. This didn’t cause any problems, the blondies came out gooey and chewy as expected.
028
The finished blondies- cut up and on a serving plate. The smell was absolutely gorgeous and it took all my courage not to scoff the lot there and then!

I was very impressed with the Speculaas spices and I hope to buy some more in the future.  I can see the comforting  spices working very well in cookies, gingerbread and other bakes that you would eat or make in the Autumn and Winter months.  As I was so entranced by the spices I decided to use the rest of them up in a second recipe from The Boy Who Bakes.  This time it was a recipe for Speculaas cookies.

Edd also says in the biscuit introduction that this is a “spicy biscuit with plenty of crunch” The recipe he states is not a traditional one but has the flavour.

022
First, I put plain flour, the remainder of the spice mix, some salt, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl and mixed them together.
023
To this I added cubed butter which I rubbed in to the flour and sugar mixture.

After this I added in one whole egg, another egg yolk and binded the mixture together to form a large ball of dough.  After this, Edd says to cut out the dough shapes and to chill them on a baking tray.  I didn’t have time to do this so I baked them straightaway as soon as I had cut them out.  The biscuits in the picture were circular ones but I fancied trying out two different shapes. I cut out plain circles and also a fluted rectangle.  The recipe went very far and I got loads of biscuits out of the dough.

025
The finished circular Speculaas cookies warm out of the oven, deliciously aromatic and sprinkled generously with caster sugar.
026
The rectangular biscuits.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx