You know what I love about cooking? The sounds. The clink of the spoon against the bowl, the bubble of boiling water, the hiss of escaping steam (beware escaping steam!) the whirr of the oven, the crackling of the plastic packaging, the crunch of the salt grinder.
I love music. I love a lot of different music, you may have even noticed a few songs I picked out to share with you on this blog, and I love cooking to music. Music’s a big part of my life. It helps us to connect to others, it takes us to another place.
It’s important to hear the music in everyday life. The sounds of baking delicious, egg-free brownies, the calling of one friend to another, click clack front and back, train choo choo, all of that. It’s important to listen to the cadence of another’s voice.
The science of noise is fascinating and completely confusing (although click here for a really cool, funny, not-too-confusing intro) but what interests me is how we all connect to it. We are all searching for something, but the weird, sometimes comforting, other times frustrating thing is that someone else has probably felt it before you, and even if you feel like you are all alone in the world, chances are that someone out there cares. It may be someone who’s been down your particular black hole before and so therefore can empathise with you, or it may be someone who’s seen someone not come back.
Perhaps it’s just that you don’t look hard enough in your own life to find the person close to you who cares that much about you and can have an actual conversation without being awkward about it. Perhaps you have online friends, who although they’re a million miles away or close enough, are closer to you than those you see everyday.
Hopefully you have some people you see, so you can share brownies and sad stories (or even hopeful ones) but have some virtual brownies on me anyway, and know that I care, and that maybe I even love you.
So originally these were vegan but I don’t keep soy milk or margarine around the house (sorry lactose intolerant and vegan people. It’s not that I don’t love you. I just don’t like the taste of those things) so I just made them egg free, which was what I was looking for anyway because I ran out of eggs. I also accidentally cooked them at 200 degrees for fifteen minutes and then realised my mistake and dropped the temperature to 150. So just try to keep it at one eighty, yeah?
**UPDATED** These do actually taste of coffee. A lot of the time the espresso is just put in to enhance the coffee flavour, but these do taste like coffee. Just a warning!
adapted from Milk’N Cookiezzz
4 ounces dark chocolate
3 ounces butter (substitute margarine for vegan version)
1/3 cup milk (substitute soy milk for vegan version)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an 8″x8″ baking tray with foil and spray it with baking spray.
Melt chocolate and butter together. In a seperate bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, cornflour, coffee powder and vanilla.
Combine chocolate mixture and milk mixture. Sift in flour, baking powder and cocoa. Pour into prepared pan and bake about 20 minutes.
Well, unless your mama is Stella of Bravetart. Then, yeah, I stole your mama’s nutella recipe. However, I’m fairly sure Stella doesn’t have kids, so no, this is not your mama’s nutella. Really, it’s not nutella at all, because Nutella is trademarked.
This is a chocolate hazelnut spread that is much better than nutella. Trust me. I know. It took me a while to get there, but it was worth it. (Whether it was worth the procrastination it took – the time away from my essays – only time will tell.) Oh, it was a real hassle but we got there in the end.
So, why make chocolate hazelnut spread yourself, you ask? Good question. The thing is, I’m trying (slowly, painfully, with not much success) to bring my life back to the ground. The earth. So I’m planting stuff and making bread and sitting in the spaces but I don’t have a lot of time and I make a lot of lame excuses.
I want to eat less processed food, more local and organic food. I want to celebrate life properly. It’s a long hard slog but I’m getting there. Sometimes I feel like I say that WAY too much. I’m getting there. Getting to a place where I’m at peace. Getting to the end of my tether. Getting to the top of the mountain. Getting back down again. Getting to God. Getting further away.
Getting there is usually positive, however, because positivity breeds positivity. I am not great at being positive all the time, however, I do my best. And physical activity plus healthy food equals a pretty positive day.
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Adapted from Bravetart
Dude, this was a fiasco and a half, let me tell you. I started off with my sister in the kitchen and I should say right here, I am not good at sharing a kitchen with anyone, let alone family. Then the brittle didn’t become brittle, which I figured out later was because I didn’t cook it enough (so either get yourself a candy thermometer or cook until lovely golden brown) so I got sticky non-brittle EVERYWHERE and then it was like nine o’ clock before I even started the dishes. Oh my goodness.
But was it worth it? Yes, definitely. It’s amazing. Make this, and you will never buy storebought Nutella again.
7 ounces (205 mL) water
15 ounces (425g)
6 ounces (170g) honey or corn syrup
3 ounces (85g) butter
1 vanilla bean
10 ounces (285g) hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, chopped coarsely
8 ounces (200g) dark chocolate (72% cocoa is preferred) melted and cooled
1 ounce (28g) cocoa powder
3/4 tsp salt
6-8 ounces (170-225g) hazelnut oil (We couldn’t find hazelnut oil in the supermarket so we used macadamia nut oil instead and it was fine. I only used about 5 ounces all up.)
Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out all the lovely insides and put it into the sugar. Slice the two halves lengthwise again and mince them as finely as you can. Rub all that vanilla goodness into the sugar so you have vanilla sugar (this is also a good way to clean off your hands and knife from all that clingy vanilla bean paste.)
Place the sugar, butter, honey/corn syrup and water into a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and stir continuously until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, not stirring, until the mixture reaches about 300 degrees (Farenheit, I think) on a candy thermometer (this is about 150 degrees Celsius) or pale golden brown. Or lovely deep golden brown, if you want to go that way.
Take off the heat and stir in the hazelnuts. As you can probably see from my pictures, I didn’t chop the hazelnuts beforehand but I chopped up my brittle fairly well after it set so it turned out ok.
Grease a baking tray and pour the brittle mixture in.
While you’re waiting for the brittle to set is a good time to melt your chocolate.
When it’s set, carefully remove it from the pan and break it into manageable chunks (I fairly well chopped mine because I was scared my small slightly-cracked-but-still-useable food processor might not hold up to the pressure.) Be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp brittle!
Pulse half the brittle in the food processor. As it keeps running, add in the rest of the brittle piece by piece until it’s pretty much powder. Stop the food processor and dump in the cocoa, chocolate and salt. Keep the processor running until it’s pretty well homogenised, then as it keeps running, carefully pour the oil in until it reaches your desired consistency.
Now is the time you dip everything you can get your hands on into this liquid gold and stuff it in your mouth. Soft white bread, crunchy baguette, chopped fruit – anything and everything tastes better dipped in nutella. Then pour it into jars, seal tightly and keep indefinitely at room temperature.
My room is a mess. I desperately need to do some washing (I’m wearing dirty jeans, people. Not just worn, I know some people don’t wash their jeans, but these have work stains on them). I’m busy from pretty much today until the end of semester. I’m turning twenty tomorrow. Today. I don’t even know what day it is!
But I made ice cream. From scratch, for the first time, pretty much, without an ice cream machine. I. Made. Ice. Cream.
And it’s delicious.
Sometimes, you just have to do what you do. Don’t worry about the lack of sleep or the fact that you have to get up early to do it, the fact that it may be a little less than perfect due to the fact that our freezer isn’t as cold as it should be and I could’t baby it because I had to run out to go see the last (sob!) Harry Potter film. Sometimes you just have to go with a whim. Which happened last night, as I was trawling through the blogosphere and came upon this beauty.
Isn’t she gorgeous? My friend was over and we both decided we wanted it. And so we decided to make it this morning.
I had to run to the shops to get some of the ingredients, and living as I do in the hills, I couldn’t get plain malt powder – so I got chocolate malt powder instead. I don’t think this compromised on the taste AT ALL. In fact, although I’m planning on making it again with plain malt powder (it’s that good people. THAT. GOOD) I don’t think it needs it.
And, yes, I know it’s the depths of winter. I know it’s 12° outside. I understand that ice cream is usually considered a summer food. But guys, I read all these blogs from the US and even though I’m definitely a winter person, sometimes I get season envy. Because you over there, you get to pick fresh berries and make ice cream (even combine the two and make ice cream with fresh berries…) and wear shorts and go to the beach.
I’ll just sit here, rugged up next to the heater and eat my choc malt ice cream with mixed in maltesers. Yum.
Choc malt ice cream
Adapted from the brown eyed baker
1 cup half and half – in Australia, I think you could use Jersey milk or extra light cream (labelled “cooking cream”) – I used a mix of 100ml thickened cream and 150ml Jersey milk. Jersey milk is higher in protein and fat than regular milk, and contains A2 beta proteins, which are better for you.
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream – I used thickened and think it could probably have been heavier, so use real heavy cream.
2/3 cup malted milk powder – I used Ovaltine
teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
Heat the half and half/light cream/Jersey milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and it’s all steamy up in there.
Meanwhile, whisk the cream, malt powder and vanilla together in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over it. Set aside.
When the milk mix is ready, whisk the egg yolks in a smallish bowl. Add a small amount of the hot milk and sugar, and continue whisking as you add in small amounts of the milk mixture. Pour it back into the saucepan and stir continually over low heat for forever (not really!) until the custard is quite thick, coating the back of the wooden spoon. Pour it into the big bowl with the cream and malted milk powder, and whisk them together.
Put a whole lotta ice cubes in an even bigger bowl than the one you already have and fill it with water. Put your soon-(ish)-to-be ice cream bowl in there and stir/whisk until it’s cold. Refridgerate until really really cold. This will take a while. If you are impatient, it will seem like forever.
If you have an ice cream machine, at this point, haul it out and set it to good use. If not, you can follow these directions. Our freezer isn’t quite up to the task, as I mentioned, so it took quite a bit longer than the two to three hours David reckons it’ll take but trust me, this is worth the wait.
Hey, so a LOT has been going on in the past week or so. I visited home, my car got in a bingle (it’s weird saying it like that, like Billie did it herself. It’s not true, guys. Someone crashed into my car. Reversed straight into it. From a driveway. How does that happen, exactly?) so I’ve been driving the Beast, otherwise known as the Fitzmobile, otherwise known as a Tarago. Back and forth. I’ve travelled a lot over the past few days.
But on the up side, the day I got home from home – back in Melbourne after spending a few days with the fam, who rings me but my darling favourite one and only sister – who’d just gotten engaged.
It’s very exciting, and it seems even more so because her and her now-fiance have been together for seven years (seven!) and they’ve been talking about getting engaged slash married for a while now. In fact, he proposed on their seven year anniversary.
One, two, three: aaawwwww!
So, to celebrate, that night I made brownies again.
And covered them in alcohol, as that is the true Australian way to celebrate: by gettin’ our drink on.
And ice cream as well. Because you can’t really go past ice cream as a comfort food. And after driving for three hours and working for seven, comfort food was definitely in order. Especially since the kitchen was a mess when I got home.
There was due reason – our dishwasher decided it did’t like us, so we had dirty dishes and also the bottom rack of the dishwasher and the contents of the under-sink cupboard strewn around the room.
So major kudos to my housemates who fixed the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen. Congratulations to the very happy couple.
And as you can see, these brownies are so good you may need to make them twice in two days, or else you may run out. And another tip – keep ‘em in the freezer. Mmmm…
Confession time again: I am a huge nerd. I’m not really the computer-game-playing type nerd, nor the maths nerd or the science-y nerd. I’m a book nerd. I adore reading and books, stationary, writing. I love to read. I used to stay up till all hours, reading. Once I started reading, then forgot the time and forgot to tell my parents good night. It was pretty late (for me – I don’t know how old I was, but young enough that ten thirty was pretty late) by the time I got up and said, I’m sorry, I forgot to say good-night.
Actually, I still stay up till all hours reading sometimes.
I also used to spend my lunchtimes at school reading in the library. Not for my entire school life, but I didn’t always have friends to hang out with, so I’d go to the library and read. And chat to the librarians.
I got to know my librarians really well.
I’m now out of school, at uni, doing well. I still love to read. I still like my librarians. And since I’m home this week, I went to visit school with my sister.
Yes. We visited our old high school. We are major nerds. Also, our dad works there (hi, dad!) so we’ve always been friendly with the teachers. We went around and visited people and marveled at the fact that there were many people we didn’t recognise.
There were a lot of them. Some were people who’d grown up, some were entirely new.
And I brought brownies to share.
Teachers are known sugar addicts (wouldn’t you be, if you had to deal with teenagers all day?) – we used to have chocolate fundraisers for various things, and we’d only have to ask Dad to bring a box to school. They’d be gone within the week. A few days, usually.
So I knew the brownies would be well-recieved. Plus, Dad likes showing off his daughters, especially since they bring treats, so he offers them around.
“Want a brownie? My daughter made them.”
The chocolate in them comes from cocoa, but don’t stop reading there – it’s really amazing. There’s a little over a cup and a half of cocoa in there. That’s a lot of chocolate. And mixed with the butter, sugar, a little flour and some eggs, you’ve got yourself a dense, fudgy, cakey brownie that pleases many palates.
Especially around report-writing time.
The Best Cocoa Brownies
From Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet via various sources around the web
I doubled this recipe because I had a slightly bigger pan and because I’d heard around the web that they were a little on the thin side. My doubled recipe made in a 9×13″ pan (I think…) made over sixty small brownies. They are the perfect size to freeze and eat later, and also the perfect size to share.
288 g butter (I’m sure 290 or 285 would also be fine)
482g raw sugar(2 1/2 cups)
164 g cocoa (1 3/4 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, cold
1 cup flour
(1 1/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces, optional)
Preheat oven to 170 degrees and put a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Line a baking tray with baking paper, leaving overhang so you can lift out the brownies once they’ve been cooked.
Put the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a heatproof bowl – pyrex or metal or glass – and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the butter is melted. For me, I didn’t feel I cut the butter into small enough pieces, so for a little while there it didn’t look as though it would work. Fortunately, eventually, the butter melted and it looked grainy and sludgy and black and not smooth. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon, then beat the eggs in one at a time, vigorously. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Now it should be just right – smooth and silky.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes in pan and then lift out, leave until cool and then cut into squares.
Eat. Or freeze and pretend to yourself that this makes you eat less.
Woah. I haven’t been here in a while. Is that a spiderweb I see in the corner over there? Gee, someone needs to do some vacuuming.
It’s been a bit of a birthday week this week. My Oma (that’s grandma for all of you who aren’t Dutch [or German?] out there) turned 80 [!] (double [!] – I revealed a lady’s age!) and there was a party and there were relatives who flew in from all over the wide brown land (I actually don’t really like that poem… sorry…) and there was cake.
But not this cake.
Because then my friend had her birthday today and I made this cake for her.
It’s chocolate. It has cream cheese icing. It’s soft and moist and crumples up when you smoosh it on someone’s face, as I found out this evening.
I was the smooshee, rather than the smoosher, in case you were wondering. My hands were full with camera so I couldn’t defend myself. And it was totally unexpected because Leah was threatening my sister with the smooshing so when the cake came my way…
You get the idea.
So we had a birthday feast with onion soup and birthday cake and cookies and much junk food, some tunes and a fancy camera to play with.
But back to the cake…(and yes, those are cookies there and yes, I will be posting about them… I thought I might give you guys a break from cookies) it is really beautiful, soft and moist and crumbly, shiny dark and yummy. The cream cheese icing I think went really well but was a little too overpowering so I would definitely use less next time. And use an electric beater so there aren’t any lumps in it. [whoops].
It is the most beautiful chocolate cake. But make sure you grease the pan really well because mine stuck just a little bit to the sides.
There are also baby chocolate cakes… because the original recipe made a layer cake and I had no time for layers. None whatsoever. So I made a slightly larger than usual cake and eleven cupcakes.
Yep. Eleven Exactly. If my cake pan was a nine incher, I feel I would have just tipped over into twelve (and the perfectionist in me was really disappointed in my eleven!) but it turned out fine. Especially when m ‘n’ ms were added.
If someone you know has a birthday, make these. In whatever format you use, they will taste delicious. I promise.
Or you could do this.
I always seem to try a different chocolate cake recipe. It’s not that they don’t all taste delicious, I just feel like there’s always a new recipe to try and while the ones I’ve already made would be fine to use, I love the excitement of a new recipe.
This one, I adapted from i am baker – I didn’t have vegetable oil, so I used olive. I didn’t have buttermilk or even vinegar with which to make buttermilk, so I used sour cream and milk. I didn’t sift my dry ingredients (but I implore you, even if you are not a sifter, like me, to sift your cocoa. You will appreciate it.)
1 3/4 cup plain flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
about 1/2 cup sour cream
the rest of the cup measure filled with milk (as in, about 1/2 cup milk)
1/2 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil, if you’re not like me and you keep essentials like that around the house)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed coffee
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Prepare your cake pans – I used a ten inch springform tin and eleven cupcakes.
Sift (if you’re a sifter) your dry ingredients into a large bowl. Combine the sour cream, milk, eggs and vanilla in another bowl, then make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Whisk until just combined. Add in coffee carefully and slowly and whisk until combined.
It’ll be pretty thin but don’t stress – it comes out just fine.
Pour into your cake pan(s) and bake large cake about 35-40 minutes, cupcakes 20-25 minutes.
Cream Cheese Icing
I just kinda threw this together… It is infinitely adaptable. I would maybe add a splash of milk next time and just glaze the cake a little.
250g cream cheese, softened
juice of half a lemon
about 3/4 cup icing sugar
Again, I’m not a sifter but I would suggest you sift the sugar for this one. Beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth, then add the sifted sugar and lemon juice and beat until combined.