chocolate muffins

Warning: Another photo-heavy post coming up.

Mostly because I’m still kinda scattered.

But sunsets are something that helps me to stay calm.

Even though I’m behind on my uni work and I’m nervous about camp.

So, less words.

I am a big fan of Greek-style yogurt.

And I love five:am yogurt.

And I love chocolate!

And I love cake. And snacking. So they’re all represented here.

And sometimes you just gotta bake.

Hence, the chocolate yogurt snack cakes. Again, from Smitten Kitchen: one of my major inspirations in cooking and in photography and in blogging.

Beware of the tiny ones, though. They’re dangerous. They slip under your guard and suddenly, BAM! You’ve eaten twelve.

How do you de-scatter? Calm down? Refresh?

Baking

running

spending time with God in the sunset, sunlight, good times and deep in the funk.

And the chocolate. Always the chocolate.

Chocolate Muffins

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I doubled the recipe because I have a lot of yogurt to use (and I’ll be making more this week because as I mentioned I have a camp that I am going to 🙂 and it made 36 cupcake sized muffins and 12 mini muffins. So I’ll give the doubled recipe with the original measurements in square parentheses.

400g [200g] dark chocolate, coarsely chopped- I used a combination of 72% and 54% cocoa

1 cup (250ml) [1/2 cup – 125ml] vegetable oil

1 cup (250ml) [1/2 cup – 125ml] yogurt (I used Greek-style – plain yogurt is fine too)

2 cups (400g) [1 cup – 200g] sugar

2 1/2 tsp [1 tsp] vanilla extract

(I didn’t use almond extract but Deb suggests 1/2 teaspoon)

3 cups (400g) [1 1/2 cups – 200g] plain flour

3 tsp [1 1/2 tsp] baking powder

1 tsp [1/2 tsp] sea salt

 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two muffin tins with patty pans.

Melt chocolate and half the oil in a ceramic or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water or in the microwave. Meanwhile, stir together the rest of the oil, yogurt sugar and extracts together.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yogurt mix and the slightly cooled chocolate mixture. Stir together.

Divide between the patty pans (use more if you need to) and bake about 20 minutes . Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and berries. Or, you know, as is. With milk.

brownies without eggs

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.

[what is this, esther day?]

Egg-free brownies

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.

not your mama’s nutella

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.

choc malt ice cream

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

pinch salt

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.

 

chocolate chip cookies, a remix

Although I really love David Leite’s recipe for The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies (and I have yet to fully follow the recipe, seeing as I haven’t had cake and bread flour on hand at the same time…) I can’t commit to using just one recipe every single time. There are so many different chocolate chip recipes out there and I want to try them all! They all sound so delicious. And let’s face it, who wants to pass up taste testing a million different chocolate chip cookie recipes? Tell me. Because I must meet them and swat them over the head. Seriously.

There’s not much else to say, really, except that chocolate chip cookies win over the hardest of hearts, and everybody loves them (everybody. I mean it. As if you didn’t know). I made them for camp and they were gone in record time. Even though they really didn’t look as pretty as I’d hoped they would. They kinda went really wonky with the chocolate chunks sticking up in places and going all oozy around the edges. Just goes to show how much people love chocolate chip cookies.

Well, without further ado, here is the recipe. I got it off honey and jam, this beautiful photography and food site written and taken by a twenty year old (man, the talent in the people my age!) which is just amazing. Hannah was doing her own chocolate chip cookie recipe testing and got this one from Alice who writes savoury sweet life. Incredible.

Chocolate chip cookies

Adapted from savoury sweet life via honey and jam

 

250g butter (I used unsalted and then added the salt. Alice and Hannah suggest salted.)

salt (if using unsalted butter)

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

12 oz flour (Hannah asked very nicely to weigh it, so weigh it I did.)

3/4 tsp salt (more if it’s sea salt)

1 tsp bi carb soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 cups /16 oz/ 400g/ 2 blocks of chocolate, broken into chunks. You can use chips, but this way is better. Trust me.

Preheat oven to 185 degrees celsius. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Chop up the butter and add the salt. I think I added about 1/2 a teaspoon. Cream the butter. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract.

Sift the flour, salt, bi carb soda and baking powder together. Fold the dry ingredients gently into the wet mix, in two or three batches. Fold in the chocolate chunks. If you need to, use your hands to get the chocolate chunks distributed evenly throughout.

Roll into tablespoon sized balls and space out on baking tray – these babies spread, so about two inches between each is probably minimum. Bake about 12-15 minutes.  Let cool on tray for about 5 minutes, then remove and cool on rack.

peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Isn’t it amazing when you make something and it just turns out to be someone’s very favourite thing? That happened to me this week.

Not hard to do, I suppose, when you’re making peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. These are amazing. No, really. Peanut butter combined with chocolate chips combined with cookie dough. I know. Who would have guessed?

The line up is fairly impressive. I keep thinking, when I take photos of all my ingredients together, that it’s kinda like a class photo. Back from when there still were class photos and not just rows of head shots in the yearbook. You had to make sure you lined up in order of height, stood tall, straight backed, no pushing. Hands together neatly in the front row. Ties tied neatly, top buttons done up.

White sugar wasn’t here for the photo (wagging school again, whatever will we do with you?) and dark chocolate chips weren’t either – he’s an exchange student from Ethiopia or Sudan, I can’t remember, but I just get lost in the beautiful colour of his skin. Oh, love. Absolutely gorgeous.

Lurpak Butter, the Danish transfer, in the front because he’s the teacher’s pet. It doesn’t matter, though, because he’s beautiful and charms all the girls with his accent and high milk fat content. Mmmm, butter.

The eggs are a little pushy, but they can’t help it. It’s just the way they were raised – free range, used to having their own way.

I’ve always thought, once you know what you’re doing when you’re baking, if you have just a list of ingredients and their quantities, you pretty much know what to do with them. Cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and vanilla, sift the dry ingredients together and fold them in. Fold through chocolate chips, form into balls, bake until brown and delicious. Try not to burn your hands when you eat them straight off the baking tray. Yum.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Joy the Baker. Yes, I’ve made a fair few of Joy’s recipes recently. Wanna know why? Just head on over to her blog and read it. I dare you to resist.

2 1/2 cups plain flour (I’m pretty sure I subbed in 1/2 cup of wholemeal spelt. Just putting it out there.)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch nutmeg

pinch cinnamon

225g butter

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (I used 1 1/2 packets of chocolate chips, two different types. It’s how I roll.)

 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Sift the dry ingredients together (flour, bi carb soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon). Set aside.

Cream the butter and peanut butter; add the sugars and beat well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla essence.

Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then the chocolate chips. (At this point I refridgerated the dough overnight.)

Form tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls, then space on the prepared baking trays about an inch or so apart. Press the tines of a fork into each mound, then press them in perpendicular to the first time, so you get a pretty criss cross pattern. Bake about 12 minutes, rotating at the halfway point.

blondies

 

Blondies are amazing. Blondies are like brownies without the chocolate mixed in. Blondies can be any flavour or combination you like. Blondies are very popular.

They are so great to share, because blondies are a one bowl recipe, so easy it’s not even funny, and when you put mnms in there like I did, they’re colourful and a bit crazy while still being a neighbourhood staple type treat. Like camp – colourful and a bit crazy but familiar and comforting at the same time.

See? One bowl, only a few dishes.

Not even that many ingredients – but you can add as many extras as you like.

Like MnMs.

Make them. Do. At camp this week I’m on meal crew which means I make lunches for all the leaders every day. I love it. I love working with food, it’s my thing. A clean kitchen makes me happy (props to the girls who did all the cleaning up today!) and baking helps me destress. Truth.

I cook for a lot of different reasons, and part of those is because, let’s be honest, people love it. And I love people. Put the two together and people like me because I bake for them. Sometimes I bake so people will like me. (ps – this works). Sometimes this is a bad thing. Sometimes I should just trust that I am beautiful enough in my own way not to manipulate people into liking me, because they will anyway, just for me.

For anyone out there who’s reading this and understands the concept of the enneagram and you’re a two, you may understand. If not, I just want to say that I find personality types useful in discerning how to be a better person and become closer to God.  It’s also helpful for understanding other people.

These are easy to make and share. Wrap them up and put them in a container, take them to work or uni or school or whatever. Hand them out to random people. Just Do It.

Blondies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

So as you can see from the photos, I made two types. Both were from the same recipe, however I did a couple of things different the second time.

So the first time I used a packet of mnms – that’s 200g of mnms there – and mixed it in at the end, and that was all.

The second time, I felt that I needed more mixture, so I added an extra 65g of melted butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of cocoa, because you can never have enough chocolate. Then I put in half a cup of dark chocolate chips and a packet of mnms, 200g again. Yum!

125g butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch salt

1  cup flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an 8″x8″x2″ baking tin with baking paper.

Melt the butter and mix it with the brown sugar, well. Beat in the egg and the vanilla. Sift in the flour and salt. Stir in any additional mix ins.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake about 20 minutes. Slice into squares and serve to your friends.

white chocolate macadamia cookies

My brother is staying with me for this week. My family, as I’m fairly sure I’ve mentioned before, lives in the country, and I barely live in the city of Melbourne, out in the outer outer suburbs, where there are trees and views and long drives to anywhere. J’s doing work experience reblocking houses this week. (He’s basically digging holes for a week. Underneath houses.)

Me and J fought growing up. I mean, I have a sister, so obviously we fought, especially since we’re only two years apart. But me and my brother fought more. When I was bigger, I’d win. When he got bigger… we stopped fighting. As much. Because he used to win All. The. Time.

Now he does karate and I used to do karate and so it’s reduced to play-wrestling and him tickling the shiz outta me. (I’m not ticklish! I just have sensitive skin….yeah…)

Macadamia white chocolate cookies used to be a major staple at our school canteen. And I used to be the one who made the snacks at our house. But J didn’t eat them all – mainly because I have two other brothers and a sister. Five kids and two adults can polish off a tray of biscuits faster than you can say ‘Those are for school!’

(Ps, I sometimes shorthand write recipes I find on the internet on leftover conference promotion cards. No biggie. That’s one there on the side, peeking in.)

Well. Except for the fact that Mum was very good at keeping snacks for snacks and leftovers for leftovers – if you had leftovers for lunch and they were meant for dinner that night, watch out!

In any case, make these cookies and they won’t last long in any house.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Pps: It looks like I made two batches of cookies. Not so. For some reason, my camera started shooting blue pictures. Sorry!

125g butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

about 2 tbsp milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup plain flour (I used wholemeal spelt. They were delicious.)

1/2 tsp bi carb soda

pinch salt

130g chopped macadamia nuts

approximately 180g white chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Melt the butter in a saucepan. If you are patient, unlike me, melt it until it is browned. If not, don’t stress, they taste delicious anyway.

Pour the butter into a glass or ceramic bowl to help it cool straight down. Mix in sugar, then milk, egg and vanilla. Gently stir in flour and bi carb soda and salt, then fold in nuts and chocolate.

Plop approximate tablespoons of the mixture evenly around a baking tray, and bake for ten to fifteen minutes (mine took about eighteen to twenty.. It could have been my oven. Check them after ten.)

Share with your entire household. If that’s just you, don’t feel guilty.

engagement

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.

Woohoo!

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…