My Favourite Brownie Recipe

I just love baking brownies and they’re one of the first things to go when I have a stall.  Not that I’ve done many stalls recently.  My family love my brownies and they’re always popular when I’ve taken them into schools where I teach in the past.  I still laugh my head off from the marriage proposal I got once from a man who bought a pack of my brownies from my stall.  He came back about half an hour later having eaten the brownies, bought another pack and asked if he could marry me!  Sorry, but I’m already taken!

Anyway, it’s always fun baking brownies and I bake loads of different versions.  My most popular varieties are the plain ones, my Maya Gold ones and the Oreo cookie ones.  I experimented with using Green and Blacks Maya Gold chocolate in them a couple of years back and loved the taste.  I now have a baby niece called Maya so one day maybe I can teach Maya to bake them!  The Oreo cookie ones are so naughty but nice as well, though.

SmartCookieSam’s Favourite Brownies

100g  good quality chocolate of your choice

150g unsalted butter

125g plain flour

15g cocoa powder

300g soft light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large, free range eggs

100g chopped nuts/ chocolate chips/ dried fruit, Oreo cookie pieces/ Smarties or similar.

This recipe is so adaptable.  For instance if you want to have mint brownies, use a good quality bar of mint chocolate.  I recommend Lindt Intense or one similar where the mint flavour comes from crispy bits, not fondant like an After Eight Mint.  Instead of vanilla extract, use a good quality peppermint extract. Just remember to keep the quantities the same.  Let your imagination run wild!

Preheat the oven to 180oC/ 350oF/ Gas 4.  Grease and line the base of a loose bottom square baking tin (mine is about 8″ square). I swear by Wilton Cake Release available from Lakeland to help here!

Break up the chocolate into squares and add the butter in cubes. Melt the butter and chocolate over a saucepan of barely simmering water or if you prefer use the microwave.  I must admit I use the microwave. I put the chocolate to melt for 1 minute, then take it out, stir it and put it back in for 10 second intervals. Works for me.

Allow the chocolate to cool slightly and then sieve the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder and salt into another mixing bowl.

In yet another mixing bowl, beat the eggs and add the brown sugar in, along with the vanilla extract.  Stir the ingredients together but until they are just combined. Make sure there isn’t any flour visible.

Finally, fold in the melted chocolate along with any additional ingredients, such as Oreo cookies.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes.  Brownies should be chewy and gooey inside, so don’t overbake them.

Let the brownies cool in the tin before you cut them into squares.  I usually get 16 squares from a batch.  Now try to keep them from being scoffed all at once!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

 SmartCookieSam’s Christmas Baking.

I dream about baking and love any excuse to get in my kitchen.  But the week before Christmas I just couldn’t get into it. I knew I had lots to make but every time I thought “Right, let’s make that fudge,” something would happen and it would get pushed to the wayside.  I started off the week with a thumping fuzzy headache.  It was brought on by having to get everything I hadn’t done sorted out in three days flat because of all the work commitments leading up to the end of term. In the end I decided I would have to get up at 5.30am and get cracking on what was needed for foodie presents and for our own Christmas food.

It was a very long day and by the time I sat down at 10pm having cleaned the kitchen floor, I was ready for bed.  These photos showed what I made.

My Gingerbread House Bundt Cake baked as an alternative to Christmas cake.
Using a recipe from the Sugar and Crumbs website I made their simple fudge using Salted Caramel icing sugar, condensed milk and butter. So easy to make.
Brownies always go down well for foodie presents and I baked three different batches, starting with these Mint M&M ones.
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Brownies baked with Oreo Cookies inside, yum yum!
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Some baking for us: Mince Pies and homemade sausage rolls.
For those who don’t like mince pies I baked some peanut butter M&M cookies.  

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Gingerbread Cupcakes using the scrumptious and delicious smelling Sugar and Crumbs Gingerbread Icing sugar in the buttercream.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Baking With Reeses Peanut Butter Chips.

Here’s yet another blog post I’ve forgotten to write about over the past few weeks.  I had only been in my new job a couple of weeks and baking was the last thing on my mind.  Though I do like to bake a cake or a pudding on a Sunday to go with our lunch.  I don’t know how they’d managed to stay in my baking cupboard as my two teenage kids are always nicking things out of it!  I had found a large pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips back in January and sneakily hid them behind a bag of flour hoping my kids wouldn’t look behind it!  I intended to do lots of baking with these little beauties!

My family adore brownies and they always go down well for pudding on a Sunday.  I put half the packet of peanut butter chips into my regular brownie batter. What’s more is that the chips did not melt but you got an instant hit of peanuts which contrasted beautifully with the dark chocolate in the brownies.  I insisted on putting the remaining brownies in the freezer or else we would have scoffed the whole lot there and then!

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Chewy and gooey Peanut Butter brownies baked with Reeses Peanut Butter chips into the batter.
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Chocolate and peanut butter heaven…. don’t mind if I do!

If that wasn’t enough peanut butter to be going on with, I had half the packet to finish off.  So a few days later I thought about what I could bake with the remaining pieces. I adore peanut butter cookies and could eat them all day long.  So I planned to bake some cookies to stick in the freezer.  But they didn’t quite get there.. well some of them did!  I adapted a recipe I had for peanut butter and chocolate cookies but was angry to find that the bar of dark chocolate I had in my baking cupboard had now turned from a 100g one to a 50g one! So I had to add something else to the chocolate, I ended up tipping in 50g of raisins instead.

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Gorgeously moreish peanut butter and raisin cookies.

I was very impressed with the cookies.  They tasted chewy and there was a good balance of the peanut flavour against the sweet chocolate and raisins.  I ate a couple with a cup of tea and although they tasted fab I regretted it thinking of all the calories in them.  So I saved some for my family and the rest got stuck in a box and put in the freezer before I demolished those as well!

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Only half the cookies made it to the freezer!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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

Cookie Dough Brownies- John Whaite Bakes At Home.

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Cookie Dough Brownies- another example of heaven on a plate!

My family are obsessed with brownies and who can blame them?  It’s just heaven to sink your teeth into some chocolatey gooiness.  My fourteen year old son loves any excuse to bake or eat brownies and had he not been at school when I baked them, I’m sure he would have been in the kitchen with me hovering around to lick the bowl out!

So,  last Friday when I planned to bake John Whaite’s Cookie Dough Brownies from his latest book John Whaite Bakes At Home, I knew I would be popular.

  I realised l I couldn’t bake the brownies straightaway as  I’d forgotten to buy plain chocolate!  So off I went to the shop, came back with what they had to offer plain chocolate wise (Bournville) and got ready to start.  It wasn’t a quick recipe to knock up but it was worth it!

So, once I was ready to get down to baking I started on the cookie dough part of the recipe. I then realised this was going to take much longer than I thought as the cookie dough has to be frozen in little balls first before you get round to making the brownie batter.  Thankfully I didn’t have a deadline for baking them or I would have been in trouble.

The cookie dough was quickly made up using a rubbing in and getting the dough together method then I separated the dough out into about 16 walnut sized balls.  These were then put in my freezer (easier said than done, my freezer is tiny!) on a lined baking tray.  I had to move everything about to fit the two small trays in.  I yearn for one of those massive American fridge freezers sometimes that fits more than a bag of peas or a pint of milk in.

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The cookie dough balls put onto the lined baking tray and ready for the freezer.

After a couple of hours in the freezer it was early afternoon and I wanted to get on with the brownies before my son came home from school.  I got on with making up the brownie batter.  Usually my brownies are made with Green and Blacks Organic plain chocolate but I couldn’t find any in the local shop so I had to use Bournville.  I like Bournville, though I know some chocolate snobs would be horrified to hear me say that!

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The chocolate and butter were melted gently in the microwave.
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To this I added in two free range eggs..
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and then some mayonnaise! Yes, you read right, mayonnaise! Well I know it sounds an odd ingredient for a cake but then again it does contain eggs and oil!
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Now for some milk and some vanilla extract along with some sugar.
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Finally, I folded in some plain flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Just look at that, yum, yum!

Out came the cookie dough balls which had frozen well and these were then put in the bottom of my greased square tin. I spaced them well apart, thinking that there would be about 12-16 pieces of brownie, so you would get at least one large cookie dough ball in it!

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Cookie dough balls in the greased tin.
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The brownie batter was then carefully poured all over the top of the cookie dough balls.

The brownies baked in the oven for about 25 minutes and the kitchen smelled wonderful.  I had been so careful eating healthily so far this week but the brownies would soon be my downfall.  I hoped I could hide them so that I wouldn’t be tempted.

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Cut up on a plate to share round the following day. Just how I like brownies, all fudgy and gooey inside with the cookie dough flavour and texture complimenting the brownies.
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It was very difficult to see the cookie dough in the cut pieces in the photo as they were inside the pieces of brownie. But believe me they were there and they were just sublime.

When my son came home he begged to have a brownie there and then.  He wasn’t very happy when I said no but he could have one for tea.  He kept trying to wheedle one out of me but I was having none of it.  Finally we ate one for pudding, I succumbed to the temptation and it was wonderful.  The other pieces went in the freezer for another time.

Well John Whaite, you have created a winning recipe with these brownies and I am sure my family would love me all the more if I made them again and again, thankyou so much!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Blooming Brownies from Lorraine Pascale’s “A Lighter Way To Bake”

I have always been a huge fan of Lorraine Pascale ever since I first saw her TV series “Baking Made Easy” a couple of years back.  Since then I have bought her books and enjoyed making her no-fuss, yet utterly delicious recipes.  We love both her savoury and sweet recipes and can’t get enough of them.

So a couple of months back I was excited to hear that Lorraine was bringing out another baking book and it would be featuring “favourites that you could enjoy everyday”, in other words it would be a baking book that features our best loved classics but made a bit lighter so we can enjoy them without feeling that we are being naughty.  As a serial dieter who manages to lose a few pounds and then promptly puts them back on again, I thought this book sounded like a great idea.  I will be reviewing the book in the next week or so, so watch this space!

The front cover of Lorraine Pascale's fab new book "A Lighter Way To Bake".
The front cover of Lorraine Pascale’s fab new book “A Lighter Way To Bake”.

Of course this does not mean you can trough the whole plate of brownies or cookies- far from it. It just means you can enjoy one and it is a little bit better for you than a standard bake.  I absolutley detest shop bought “low-fat” type cakes and biscuits.  They taste awful, are usually packed with extra sugar and other rubbish to compensate for the lack of fat and are usually so sickly sweet you are left with a huge headache after eating them.  I would rather have something small and home-made instead.

So, last Sunday afternoon for our usual Sunday lunch pudding I decided to put one of Lorraine’s “Lighter Bake” recipes to the test.  I chose to go for the “Blooming Brownies” on page 164.

Lorraine says in the recipe introduction that “the outcome is a much lighter brownie, with a slightly more cakey taste, but it’s still the right sort of naughtiness to feel that you are getting a tasty treat,”

Here’s how I made the Blooming Brownies.  I made mine into a Mint Chocolate version as I had a bar of Lindt Chocolate Mint Intense in my cupboard and no plain chocolate left.

First butter was melted in a small pan over medium heat.
First butter was melted in a small pan over medium heat.
I used a bar of Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense pg of good quality milk chocolate. This one was from Waitrose.
I used a bar of Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense pg of good quality milk chocolate. This one was from Waitrose.
Once the butter had melted and was taken off the heat, I added in the chunks of chocolate.  These melted from the heat of the hot butter.
Once the butter had melted and was taken off the heat, I added in the chunks of chocolate. These melted from the heat of the hot butter.
Three whole eggs plus two extra egg whites were whisked with my hand held electric mixer. Sugar was added bit by bit and mixed in carefully.
Three whole eggs plus two extra egg whites were whisked with my hand held electric mixer. Sugar was added bit by bit and mixed in carefully.
Here's the melted chocolate- gorgeous!
Here’s the melted chocolate- gorgeous!
The wet ingredients were then folded in with  some wholemeal flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda.
The wet ingredients were then folded in with some wholemeal flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda.
The mixture was poured into a well greased and lined loose bottomed square tin.
The mixture was poured into a well greased and lined loose bottomed square tin.

The brownies were baked in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
The brownies were baked in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
The brownies were cut up into 16 squares. I dusted them with a small sprinkling of icing sugar.
The brownies were cut up into 16 squares. I dusted them with a small sprinkling of icing sugar.
The leftovers were put into an airtight container to go into the freezer though my son did take a couple before they got put in there!
The leftovers were put into an airtight container to go into the freezer though my son did take a couple before they got put in there!

So, the verdict?  Lighter Bake Brownies versus my own “standard” ones?  Lorraine compares her lighter version with another recipe she has in Baking Made Easy for her Oreo Cookie Crumble Brownies.  These have been a massive hit when we have made them in our house before.  My own brownie recipe I use uses much more sugar but less eggs, more butter, less chocolate and less cocoa powder but more flour. The result is definitely more fudgy and chewy.  Lorraine was absolutely right in saying that these are more “cakey” but this did not put me off. In fact it was great to have the delicious chocolate hit without the over powering sweetness or the artificial “low fat” shop bought taste.  The rest of my family loved the brownies too and couldn’t tell the difference.  I thought one square at 165 calories was great, you could indulge without feeling “naughty”.  I had to hide the rest though!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx