Waiting for Agnes

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The Ghost of Chocolate fixes past November 3, 2010

Trying to get at the keyboard under the mound of random stuff on our desk, I unearthed two recipe books. When I got over the distracted drooling and planning for desserts of the future (coconut mousse! dondurma kaymalki!), I remembered I had dumped them here to post from. Apparently two weeks ago I must have been on some kind of quest to plough through as many 250 gram blocks of Whittaker’s 72% as I could get my hands on. And who can blame me?

Unadulterated Brownies

courtesy of the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, largely unphotographed due to general rushedness and distraction

200 grams of dark eating chocolate, roughly chopped

175 grams of unsalted butter

325 grams of caster sugar

130 grams of plain flour

3 eggs

icing sugar to dust

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (150 fan forced).

Butter and line a brownie tin (I use a square cake tin, from which I get about 16 brownies, 12 if I’m feeling greedy)

Melt the chocolate and butter gently in a bowl over just simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth.

Remove from the heat.

Add sugar and stir to combine.

Add the flour and stir to combine.

Add the eggs and mix until thick and smooth.

Spread into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes. They should be just dry on top but still soft in the middle. Less is always more for brownies.

Leave to cool, dust with icing sugar and eat.

These are a dense, fudgy delight. One is never enough. And you can eat them with…

Very Chocolate Ice Cream

courtesy of Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis’s ice ceam and iced desserts

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of cornflour

350 mls of full fat milk

350 mls of thickened cream

250 grams of dark eating chocolate

Put the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a medium bowl.

Whisk until thick and foamy.

Prepare a bowl over a bowl of iced water. Set aside.

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and bring it just to the boil.

Gradually whisk the milk into the egg mixture.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring continually until thick enough to coat the back of your wooden spoon.

No wonder I was making ice-cream…how gorgeous was the weather? And how idyllic the view from our stove. I love finding photos like this, a reminder of the moments of domestic contentedness that make up for all the ragged, weary, shouty times.

Take off the heat and pour into the bowl that you’ve set aside.

Break up 210 grams of the chocolate and stir this into the custard until melted.

Set aside while it cools.

Whisk the cream into soft peaks and fold into the chocolate custard mixture.

Churn in an ice-cream machine (begged, borrowed, stolen, owned, just grab one somehow) until scoopable.

Chop the remaining 40 grams of chocolate as roughly or finely as you prefer and throw into the ice cream machine at the last minute. Churn for a few minutes to combine.

Transfer to a 1.5 litre airtight container and freeze for a few hours.

This requires no further description. Just eat it.


Laughing in the face of dubious advice September 15, 2010

About a week after my encounter with the GP I heeded part of his advice and took the small person to see the homeopath. By this time I was feeling pretty blase about the whole breastfeeding/eating issue and was mainly keeping the appointment out of curiosity – could there really be a homeopathic treatment for ‘disinclined to eat mashed food from a spoon’? Anyhoo, off we went, small, the beloved and I. Things did not get off to a cracking start. It took us about ten minutes and several variations on introductions before the homeopath understood that the beloved is small’s other mother, not my sister, his sister, my friend, my cousin, my mother, my hairdresser, the local lollipop lady or any other random person I might have decided should come and contribute to healthcare decisions pertaining to my son. While she did have some semi-useful suggestions re menu-planning while introducing solid foods, she really lost me for good when she said that all babies should be weaned at nine months or they become too dominant in the parent-child relationship…for ever. After that I was really only hearing elevator music. Except for the bit where she said that babies shouldn’t have peanuts. Nothing to do with allergies mind you, but because they’re basically like eating chocolate and will ruin their kidneys. Good thing we kept the Nutella story to ourselves.

Bad Bad Peanut Butter Biscuits

– makes about 40, if you like peanut butter you will luuurrrve these biscuits

adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, an excellent collection of baked delights

230 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

200 grams of caster sugar

200 grams of brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

300 grams of crunchy peanut butter

350 grams of plain flour

2 1/2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

90 grams of dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)

Line 2 baking trays with baking paper

You can use a freestanding mixer or a handheld electric beater

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed

Mixing on low speed, add the vanilla extract and peanut butter

Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda

Mix on low speed to combine well

Stir in the chocolate until evenly spread through the mixture

Spoon generous tablespoonfuls of mixture onto your prepared trays, leaving a good 5 cms between each ball of dough to allow for the mixture spreading (6-8 biscuits per tray will work)

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden

Leave to cool for a few minutes on the tray, then transfer carefully onto wire racks to cool

Repeat until all the mixture is used up

Scoff them down with the visitors whose very presence excused this off-schedule baking activity (am saving my one baking pass this week for a sour cherry custard tart) and wash down generously with tea. Then give one to the baby. Then line up a few family members for future kidney transplants.


A little something for afters August 9, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking — titchandboofer @ 1:10 pm
Tags: , ,

Cupcakes do not appear very often in our kitchen. Partly because the beloved has a strong aversion to them – oddly, they seem to make her angry – and partly because they are a bit too portion controlled for me. Some things work well in little uniform serves. Rich, creamy things like brulees, petit pots and mousses. But if I’m going to have cake at home I want the opportunity to cut a big wedge of it if necessary, or to be able to sneak a little sliver as I’m passing through the kitchen. As a gift though, cupcakes work well. They’re like shiny little baubles – fun to unwrap, pretty to look at and tasty into the bargain. My grandmother (The Great Granny) is celebrating her eighty-third birthday this month. She is a woman built, as Alexander McCall-Smith would say, for comfort. She is also a woman who enjoys food, gifts, gifts of food, a good cup of tea and ‘a little something for afters’. Despite various health-related threats, pleading and cajoling from her GP and brief periods of ‘being good’, The Great Granny¬†has declared that from now on she’s going to eat whatsoever she pleases. Tomorrow I will be shamelessly supporting this declaration with a gift of these:

Sticky Ginger Cupcakes

from The Hummingbird Bakery, Portobello Road, London

120 grams of plain flour

140 grams of caster sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice

a pinch of salt

40 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

120 mls of full cream milk

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

200 grams of stem ginger in syrup (I used Buderim Baby Stem Ginger which comes in a 300gm jar – good for snacking as you go)


100 mls of full cream milk

~10cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into four chunks

400 grams of icing sugar

125 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

finely grated zest of half a lemon

crystallised ginger to decorate


12-hole muffin tray

cupcake cases in any colour you like

First off, for the icing – put the milk and fresh ginger pieces into a jug, cover and put in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight).

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, salt and butter into a large bowl. Using a freestanding mixer or handheld electric beaters, mix on slow speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency and well combined.

Continue mixing and gradually add half the milk.

In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining milk, the egg and the vanilla extract. Add this to the flour mixture, continuing to mix slowly until smooth.

Drain the stem ginger, reserving the syrup for later. Then, finely chop the ginger pieces. This is the messiest and fiddliest part of the whole production. If you’re at all like me, you will end up with syrup stuck to all your utensils, the bench, your face, the baby and all your cupboard door handles. Of course, this is less likely if you don’t spend as much time trying to lick the syrup off your hands instead of just washing them.

Stir the chopped ginger into your cupcake mixture by hand gently, just mixing until evenly dispersed.

Spoon the mixture into the cases lining the muffin tin, filling each one ~2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes. They are done when they look golden and are slightly springy to touch.

While the little lovelies are baking put the reserved syrup and an equal amount of water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and let boil until reduced by one third. When you pull the cupcakes out of the oven, spoon a little of this syrup over each one.

Now you could just stop here. Eaten this way, these little cakes are still gloriously moist, hotly gingery and with a lingering zingy aftertaste. But half the fun of a cupcake is in the icing:

Beat the icing sugar,  butter and lemon zest together at medium speed until well mixed and smoothish. Switch to a slow speed and slowly pour in the strained ginger-infused milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, switch to high speed and beat for ~5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Dollop your icing generously onto the cooled cupcakes. You can be as artful as you like. In my haste to get one of these in my mouth I was not artful at all, but the snowy whiteness of the icing on the golden cupcakes is still beautiful. To finish, dot with sliced crystallised ginger and sprinkle with a little more fine lemon zest.

What could be better than a little something that has three different forms of heavenly ginger? For an even sweeter ginger hit, you could top them with Buderim Ginger Bears, serve them with ginger tea, followed by ginger nougat…..