browniesheader

The best brownies in the world

That’s quite a title to live up to, isn’t it? But trust me on this one.

I’ve had a subscription to a food box for a while now. They send me a monthly box of foodie goodies that never fail to light up my day. Who doesn’t like presents, right? Especially if they’re delicious! This month’s box was especially spectacular and it came right on time too, as I was having a downright shitty week: it was packed full of baking goodies! And what else can you do when you’re handed an edible treasure trove than to use those powers for good?

brownies1

Since my box came with chocolate, vanilla extract, nuts and evaporated milk plus a recipe for brownies with dulche de leche, I kind of had no choice but to make those. My hands were tied! (not really, that would make baking brownies a bit of a challenge)

These bad boys are unbelievably chocolatey. They’re also incredibly filling, which I’m blaming on the metric ton of butter and sugar that’s in them. Believe me, this is not a healthy recipe. Pretty much the opposite! I wouldn’t have it any other way though, healthy brownies are an abomination. Despite the amount of sugar, they’re not particularly sugary. But that’s where the dulche de leche comes in! I’ve eaten it before, a friend once made it for me, and I thought it was more complicated to make than simply plonking a can of evaporated milk into a pan of water, bringing it to a boil, and simmering it for 2 to 3 hours! That simple process turns this creamy liquid into a stellar, thick, spreadable caramel that’s almost impossible to not shovel straight into my face with a spoon.

brownies2


The best brownies in the world

(recipe inspired by Food We Love)

225 grams butter

125 grams of good quality chocolate

300 grams of sugar

2 eggs + 1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

a pinch of salt

125 grams flour

25 grams good quality cocoa

30 grams of mixed nuts

1 can of condensed milk

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees and grease a brownie tin or small baking pan, and line it with baking paper. Melt the chocolate and the butter au bain marie, let it cool slightly. Whisk the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, vanilla and salt until very light and fluffy. Gradually spoon the chocolate through the eggs. Whisk the flour and cocoa to get rid of the lumps, and fold it through the eggs. Add the nuts, then pour into the tin, spread out evenly, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the dulche de leche, place the can of milk in a large pan and fill it with water until the can is completely submerged. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 2 to 3 hours (I cooked it for 2.5). To stop the can from dancing around in the pan or even damaging the bottom of the pan (my pan now has a ring burned into the bottom!), put it on its side. Check occasionally to see if the can is still properly submerged. Once done, take the can out of the pan and let it cool completely before opening the can to avoid burning your hands on overly excited caramel (you can quickly cool the can down by placing it in cold water).

Read More

bananabreadheader

Banana bread

Like an awful lot of people, I am of the ‘must eat healthier’-variety. I’ve been working on that for years, but every so often I slip up, slapstick-style, face-first into a pie. And since that happened again over the summer, I decided that it was again time for me to go into ‘must eat healthy’ mode. So on a whim, I bought a bunch of bananas, despite knowing deep down (and being told as much to my face by Tim) that I despise bananas. They have only the tiniest of windows where they do taste decent, but the rest of the time they taste like the wrong end of a monkey and the smell! Oh god, the smell! My whole kitchen became a banana-flavoured hellhole while they were lying on my counter!

So what’s a girl to do with too many smelly bananas reeking up the kitchen? Why, make a banana bread, of course! And if you’re going to do something, better do it right, so I opted for a Nutella swirl banana bread with pecans. Sounds decadent, and it really is.

bananabread1
In case you’re wondering: yes, that is a radiator under the board. The weather yesterday was positively autumnal, and the only bit of light I could find was right under the window in the living room! A great day for some baking, a terrible day for photography.

The original recipe comes from Food52 and contains cocoa nibs, but I hate those little buggers so I swapped them out for chopped pecans for a bit of texture and bite. Much better, in my opinion!


 

bananabread2

Banana bread (makes 1 loaf)

5 bananas, mushed

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

85 grams of butter

1 cup of sugar

1/3 cup yoghurt

1/2 cup chopped-up pecans

2 large tbsp Nutella (or more to taste)

2 cups of flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 heaping tsp cinnamon (or more, if you’re like me and cinnamon-inclined)

 

Pre-heat your oven to 175 °C and grease a regular-sized loaf pan. I floured it too, but if your greasing skills are up to par, you don’t have to bother.

Mix the flour with the salt, baking powder and cinnamon and set aside.

In a different bowl, mix the butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla extract, yoghurt and bananas. Stir in your chopped pecans.

In batches, spoon your flour mixture through the wet mixture until just combined.

Scoop half the mix into your loaf pan and top with a spoonful of Nutella, spreading it out to create an even layer. Use a silicon spatula if you have one, it makes it a whole lot easier!

Fill your tin with the rest of the batter and top with another layer of Nutella, spreading it out and swirling it through the batter.

Bake for 75-90 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Unless you hit a patch of Nutella, then it won’t come out clean. Keep an eye out on the top: if it browns too quickly, tent it with some aluminium foil. The original recipe says to cook it for 90-120 minutes, but mine was done in about 75 minutes, so cooking time may vary depending on your oven.

Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before turning it out. Eat warm and prepare to be amazed that bananas could taste like anything other than bad things!

Read More

coconutballsheader

Great balls of… coconut

(allow me to preface this blogpost by saying that while I could type up a whole apology for not posting in forever, I won’t, because quite frankly, I wouldn’t know what I would say anyway. So let’s pretend that little hiatus never happened and jump right in, shall we?)

A few months ago, Tim and I went to a food truck festival in Amsterdam. Food truck festivals are a bit of a hype in the Netherlands right now, but I must admit, I’m loving it! Everywhere you looked there were all these gorgeous trucks with food you normally wouldn’t dream of eating! And there were the smells, the music, the atmosphere…. Right up my alley. One of the trucks with the longest line was a tiny little truck selling the cutest little things: cocoballs. They reminded me of rounded, puffed-up coconut macaroons, about the size of half a ping pong ball, filled with things like chocolate or rum-raisins. We bought a bag of 5 to taste all of them, vowed to come back before we left to take a bunch home with us, and promptly forgot. I’ve been wanting to remake them since then. After all, how hard can it be? Turns out, not hard at all.

coconutballs2After some searching for a recipe for ‘coconut balls’ that wasn’t talking about the raw superfood things everyone seems to be so thrilled about, I came across a blog post from earlier this year on a Dutch blog that, funnily enough, discovered these delectable little treats in the exact same fashion as we did: from a food truck at a food truck festival. And it literally couldn’t be easier than this. The hardest part: not digging in as soon as they come out of the oven. They’re sweet, have a nice crunch on the outside and are soft on the inside, the chocolate adds a nice touch of bittersweet, and hey, they’re even gluten-free! Not that it matters to me, but with the growing amount of people who avoid gluten altogether these days, it’s a nice and quick recipe to have in your arsenal.

coconutballs1


 

Coconut balls / cocoballs (makes about 10)

Ingredients:

125 gr grated coconut (unsweetened)

125 gr fine white sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

1/2 cup chopped chocolate

Preheat your oven at 180 °C. Mix all the ingredients together. Shape into even-sized balls by scooping 1/4 cup sized heaps and forming them into rough balls with your hands. Bake them for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool before you chow down. Enjoy!

 

Read More

creampuffs-featuredbig

Profiteroles

Oh, profiteroles. Puffs of cream. They are what dreams are made of: Soft, pillowy, fluffy, sweet goodness, wrapped up in a crisp, delicate layer of pastry. Okay, maybe not that last bit. But definitely the soft, fluffy, pillowy, sweet part. I always assumed that profiteroles were really difficult to make: the pastry fiddly, the filling not just a mere whipped cream but actual custard, the baking impossibly precise and the filling process a messy disaster. At least, that’s what Masterchef taught me: I have seen battle-hardened contestants crumble under the pressure of producing the perfect choux pastry in a short period of time, their pastry failing, the mixture either turning out way too liquid or not liquid enough to pipe, and their filling not thickening up to be an actual custard at all.

So why was I desperate to try and make them by hand then? Because difficult recipe or not, I love profiteroles and was eager to at least give it a go. To prove the Masterchef contestants wrong, perhaps.

I used a recipe from a TV chef, because the night of the Masterchef choux disaster, we also watched an episode of his show where he made Saint Honorés, little pastries with a puff pastry base and profiteroles on top, dipped in salted caramel. So call it fate! He insisted that choux pastry is actually really simple to make. It’s a special kind of pastry, because you start by boiling the liquid with the butter, add the flour and, while stirring constantly, cook the mixture until it starts to sweat, and then add the eggs one by one. According to the Masterchef contestant, you had to cool down the mixture entirely first otherwise the eggs would cook when you add them to the mixture, but the TV chef (who happens to be a trained pastry chef) simply tips the mixture out of the pan into a bowl, stir it for a few moments, and then adds the eggs one by one, stirring constantly and vigorously, allowing the temperature of the eggs to cool down the mixture so that it no longer can cook. I followed his lead, and lo and behold, my mixture came out perfectly.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though: I discovered that my piping skills are less than acceptable. My first batch turned out slightly flopping all over the place and they were almost as big as my fist when they came out of the oven! Remember, folks, choux pastry grows. A LOT. And because choux pastry depends on the moisture in the puffs to grow, letting them rest after the cooking time in the oven is very important, otherwise they stay a bit moist on the inside. My second batch, however, turned out a bit too crisp because they were smaller than the first batch. They were dry on the inside, though!

When the pastry was done, though, they needed a filling. The recipe called for crème pâtissière or pastry cream, another thing I had been wanting to try but was intimidated by. But it’s easy! Milk, sugar, vanilla, egg yolks and flour. That’s all it takes! That, and some time to cool down. It was sweet and creamy, the perfect filling for the crunchy pastry. Tim wanted a lighter filling, though, which was perfect because my profiteroles turned out so big that I didn’t have nearly enough pastry cream to fill the lot, so I whipped up some simple sweetened whipped cream for the other half.

 


Profiteroles (makes about 24, depending on size)

100 ml water

100 ml milk

100 gram flour

100 gram butter

4 eggs

(you will need a piping bag with a round tip for piping your pastry and a smaller tip for filling them)

Bring the water, milk and butter in a pan to the boil. Once it boils, add all the flour in one go and stir constantly until it begins to sweat. This should take a few minutes, tops. You will get some build-up in the bottom of the pan, but that’s all part of it. Take the pan off the heat, transfer the ball of dough to a bowl and stir firmly for a few moments. Then, one by one, stir the eggs into the dough. Stir vigorously! It will look like it’s splitting, but don’t worry, keep going, until all four eggs are incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

Preheat your oven to 210°C. Line a baking tray with greased paper. Fill up your piping bag with your mixture and pipe small dollops of mixture onto the tray. Try to keep them relatively far apart, they will grow to about 3 times their size!

Bake them for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the oven off with your pastry inside and allow it to cool down. (If you need to bake multiple batches, unfortunately, you will have to let the oven cool down first. Sorry!)

 

Crème pâtissière

250 ml milk

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons of sugar

1 tablespoon of flour

1 vanilla pod

Bring the milk, half the sugar and the caviar from the vanilla pod to a simmer. In the mean time, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and flour in a bowl. When the milk is brought to a simmer, add a small amount of milk to the egg mixture while stirring continuously to acclimatise the egg mixture to the heat without boiling the eggs. Take the milk off the heat and slowly, pour in all the milk, whisk, and pour the mixture back into the pan. Put back on the heat, turn the heat to low and allow the mixture to cook for a few minutes, until it thickens up.

Take a dinner plate and hold it under the tap for a second, and without drying it off, pour your pastry cream onto the plate and smooth out. Cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and allow it to cool before you place it in the fridge.

 

And now for the fun part! Once the pastry is cooked and cooled, use a sharp knife to poke a hole in the bottom of all profiteroles. Put your cooled pastry cream in a piping bag with a smaller tip and fill your profiteroles by gently sticking the tip into the profiterole and squeezing! Resist eating all of them at once.

Enjoy!

Read More