Neat brownies makes me suspicious. For me, brownies should be so fudgy and squidgy that it’s almost impossible to cut neatly. There’s nothing more disappointing than a brownie that’s more like dense cake! The ideal brownie (for me) should have a shiny, crinkly surface, is super chocolatey and squidgy.
There are millions of recipes out there for brownies and trust me, I’ve tried many. Some calls for all cocoa powder and others for just melted chocolate. From my numerous brownie trial and errors I’ve discovered that brownies that’s made mostly with melted chocolate, but with some chocolate chunks and cocoa powder, has the best texture and flavour. Chocolate has a chocolatier (I dunno..) and sweeter flavour compared to cocoa powder, which lends the brownies a nice bit of bitterness, a satisfying chew and a richer brown colour. The quality and cocoa content of the chocolate is also definitely important. For my brownies, I use 70% cocoa Belgian chocolate.
Then, there’s the technique. Most recipes have the butter and chocolate melted together but a few follow the usual creaming method. I prefer to use the latter method, the important part is to keep beating the eggs, sugar, and butter mixture for a long time until it’s airy, silky and light. This helps to develop the crinkly top and somehow I just find brownies made this way to be fudgier. Maybe because the brownies rise in the oven from all that trapped air but collapse when you remove it from the oven and all the yummy gooeyness condense into a thick, squidgy layer.
I don’t mind nuts in brownies but most of the times I omit them, mainly because I’m indifferent either way so why waste nuts? For the last few batches I’ve drizzled some salted caramel on before baking. The caramel bubbles and semi-dissolves into the brownie batter leaving extra chewy craters. It doesn’t add too much in terms of flavour but I like the chewy gooey texture it lends.
One of my favourite places to wander around in London is Seven Dials in Covent Garden. I miss the independent shops and boutiques, Monmouth coffee and, the shop I miss the most, Neil’s Yard Dairy. I remember going through an Eccles Cake Phase and buying one of these St John eccles cake at least twice a week, sometimes with a loaf of bread, until the man behind the cheese counter could recognise me and would tease me with a “Hello, again!?”. It’s never a cheap experience stepping into that shop, one simply can’t buy eccles cake without a sliver of cheese to go with it. The saltiness of sharp Lancashire cheese is the perfect complement to the sweet and spicy eccles cake.
Having left London, it’s impossible to find this sweet pastry on this side of the world. It’s not difficult to make and the St John recipe is easy to come by on the internet, and since I had leftover rough puff pastry from my apricot tarte tatin recipe I think the stars are aligned for me to make eccles cake today, right now, right away. So I did. It was pretty much a 5 minute affair to make the filling, roll out the pastry and fill them. After 20 minutes of baking, they were done and THEY WERE HEAVENLY. They tasted exactly the same as I remembered, only without the accompanying cheese, unfortunately. But thank you, thank you St John’s for generously sharing the recipe without messing it up to deliberately screw us all over.. this happens way too often with “Secret Recipes”. Anyway, here’s the recipe. The temperature is not stated but I baked mine at 180°C. Also, mine are teeny tiny because I accidentally cut the pastry discs too small but they turned out fine, I actually prefer this filling/pastry ratio because we all know the crust is the best part!
Madeleines are the French equivalent of our kuih bahulu; similarly plain, sweet and fluffy. The only difference would be the addition of honey and the much higher amount of butter in the former. The method of preparation is also very similar, with the eggs and sugar beaten to ribbon stage, then the butter and flour folded in gently to preserve the bubbles that gives the cake its delicate sponginess. The recipe I used is from St John Bread & Wine in London where I had the best madeleine I’ve ever had.
This is the ultimate summer biscuit- buttery biscuit, sweet peaches and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on top. The recipe is Joy the Baker’s and it’s genius- there’s buttermilk in it which makes it soft and just a bit tangy and plenty of butter. The dough is very sticky but this makes the scone tender and moist when baked. I imagine it’ll be super good split in half and filled with whipped double cream..
I’m very much inspired and influenced by Japanese style, even though I haven’t been to Japan myself (I’m planning to go in November to visit my best friend!!). I like the sweet, girly and modest style, and how everything looks so *ideal*. This is something I think about while I bake and I consciously try to achieve. This cookie recipe is inspired from one of my Chinese-translated Japanese cookbooks, and it’s very, very delicious! I packed them all and gave them away to a new friend who bought one of my cakes as a thank-you. Because I try not to post recipes from books even if I’ve adapted it, I’ll give you a hint: butter biscuits, rum swiss buttercream and rum-soaked raisins I keep forgetting how insanely good swiss buttercream is- so silky smooth and lacking the grittiness of icing-sugar based buttercream, just smooth, smooth, smooth… yum..
mise en place all prepped
I’ve been reading quite a lot of Japanese recipe websites, blogs and books lately, and have been obsessed with their perfect pastries and cakes. They always look like how they should! I’ve come to realise that they are very fond of making sablés, a French biscuit which are sandy and light and melts in your mouth. Inspired, I made lemon-vanilla and chocolate ones. I had quite high hopes for the chocolate sablés since they’re a Pierre Hermé recipe, but I found them really underwhelming. The texture was perfect, light and tender, but it tasted almost like nothing at all. Which isn’t very surprising considering the tiny amount of sugar and cocoa powder in it. Hmm.. well it could just be me, though. The lemon zest and vanilla one were better, but still.. slightly boring. I guess I like my desserts not so dainty and delicate haha.
Cream scones are my favourite. I love my scones moist, tender only slightly sweet and with a biscuity crust. And I like to eat them plain, fresh out of the oven. Sometimes, I feel a little naughty and throw in a chopped up chocolate bar, and if I do it’ll always be milk chocolate. Yum!
- 2 C flour
- 1 T baking powder
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/4 C sugar
- 1 1/4 C heavy cream
- 100g milk chocolate, chopped
1. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together.
2. Pour cold heavy cream over the flour mixture and mix very gently with a fork until the cream is absorbed and it is somewhat combined. Don’t worry if it looks like a shaggy mess, it’s meant to be that way. It shouldn’t be wet at all though, so add a little flour if it’s slightly wet.
3. Tip the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a circle. I don’t usually knead the dough as I’d rather err on under-mixed than over-mixed as there’s nothing worse than a tough scone.
4. Cut into wedges, there should be enough for 8. You could also use a cookie cutter to cut them into rounds, but I prefer wedges as there aren’t any scraps to re-roll. The re-rolled dough makes tougher scones as they’ve been handled more.
5. Bake at 210C for 15 minutes.