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PBJ Brownies

5 March 2018

I'm writing this sitting on the floor (because we don't have a sofa), with my laptop precariously balanced on a stepladder (because we don't have a table). There are quite a lot of other things we don't have either - but I don't care, because we are finally in our brand new flat!

And by brand new I obviously don't really mean brand new, but this 1970's ex-council space feels shiny as a button to me. Anyone who follows me on Pinterest will know that I have eyes for nothing but interiors these days - I'm pinning away like fury over here, if you're into 1970's renovation interiors too. My plans for a natural pink plaster wall and velvet furnishings have been vetoed for now, more's the pity.

And so, after an emotional goodbye to my teeny, more-than-slightly shabby Brixton kitchen, we've moved a little further in and east. We have Borough Market and Spa Terminus on our doorstep, which makes me feel insanely lucky, and a new kitchen to get to know. Let's hope we hit it off guys.

A final recipe from Brixton, this time for peanut butter and strawberry jam brownies. I made these against my better judgement - not normally being an advocate for chocolate and berries together - but they are kind of wonderful. Eat them slightly warm with whipped cream - from a can if you can find it.
150g butter
75g brown sugar
175g caster sugar
70g cocoa powder
2 eggs
70g plain flour
Pinch of salt
200g smooth peanut butter
100g strawberry jam
100g salted peanuts 

Heat the oven to 160C, and line a tin with baking paper. 

Place the butter, brown sugar, caster sugar and cocoa powder in a pan, and melt over a low heat. Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs, then fold through the flour and sea salt.

Pour half of the brownie batter into the lined tin, and spread to level. Spoon dollops of peanut butter and jam evenly over the surface of the brownie, working to divide it equally so each section has plenty of filling. 

Carefully pour the rest of the brownie mixture on top, then spread to level, ensuring none of the filling is visible. Top with a scattering of peanuts. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the surface has set and there is no wobble. 

Allow the brownies to cool in their tin, then transfer to the fridge to chill for 2 hours before slicing. This will help you get a clean, even cut. 

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Chocolate pistachio sable cookies

4 February 2018

My grandparents' is the kind of house where the front door is never locked. I know, I know - but they do live on a little farm in the middle of nowhere. Whenever we go and stay, we walk straight through the porch - full of mismatched wellies, farming odds and ends and dog baskets - and into Granny's kitchen. Whether she's standing at the stove or not, there's always something cooking. Pans bubbling away, bread rising and a dog jumping up to lick your face. The most comforting and familial welcome.

It's no secret that baking is in the blood, and I can only hope that I still share my Granny's zest for culinary invention in my eighties. That being said, she - like all good cooks - has a select arsenal of favourite recipes which have stood the test of time. Granny's ginger and lemon ice creams, spiced mango chutney and poached quince are brought to the table year after year, and delight and please as much as they ever did. Proof - if ever it was needed - not to fix things that aren't broken.

One of the many things I adore about my grandparents' house is that the biscuit tin is never empty. Homemade oatcakes and crackers for cheese, digestives or shortbread for tea time. This is a philosophy which I've tried to extend to my own little kitchen in London. 2018 has been a bit of a mixed year so far, and never have I been gladder to have a tin of biscuits on hand to accompany tea and comfort.

Before I start to sound a little too wholesome, let me caveat that these little sables are crazy easy to throw together. The dough can be made up, wrapped and frozen, then sliced and baked in 10 minutes. Perfect to have in the back pocket (read: freezer) for any last-minute visitors.
75g dark chocolate (70% cocoa content)
75g unsalted butter, softened
60g light brown sugar
25g caster sugar
85g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
50g pistachios
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt

Grate or finely chop the chocolate, and place in a mixing bowl. Add the softened butter, brown sugar and caster sugar and cream until fluffy and combined. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, and mix until just combined, and the mixture is crumbly but starting to come together. Stir in the pistachios.

Turn the mixture onto a work surface, and shape into two long pieces. Roll up, then wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge to rest for two hours, or freeze if you plan to bake at a later date.

Heat the oven to 160°C and line a baking tray with parchment. Unwrap the cookie dough, and slice into 1cm thick rounds. Arrange on the baking tray, leaving enough space for the cookies to spread an extra 1/2 inch. Sprinkle with a little flakey sea salt. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies have spread and the surface has just firmed up. Cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

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Rhubarb and hazelnut mini pavlovas

21 January 2018

January in London is a funny thing. It's cold, yes - but no longer endearingly so, as it was before Christmas. Any dustings of snow are now singularly annoying, rather than festive and exciting. People are struggling along with Dry January (I'm all for heath, but forgive me for saying there is no month where I need a glass of wine in the evening more so than January), and this year, Veganuary - as someone who works in Restaurant PR, I can safely say if I never hear that word again, it will be too soon.

If I sound a little scornful, forgive me. Four years of writing a baking blog has certainly put me off this time of restraint and abstinence. Is it just me who finds this circus of resolution a little gloomy? In the throws of winter and without the holidays to look forward to, I'd prefer it if we were all a little less tough on ourselves at this time of year.

And with that, I bring you a recipe which uses sugar, dairy and majestic forced rhubarb, which is just starting to come to market ahead of its February season. Rhubarb's brightness and light is a welcome and comforting sight to this sun-lover, and the sweetness of meringue the perfect end to January resolutions.

I've written before about my struggle with winter - I come from a family of sun-lovers, and we all feel genuinely happier from May-September (it's a thing!). That being said, I find that with age the return of winter brings with it an underlying comfort and reassurance. The cosiness of nestling in for a weekend in the kitchen becomes increasingly enticing - especially on rainy days such as this. It's funny how things shift as the years go by.

What are you all baking this weekend? I'd love to hear what's going on in your kitchens. This recipe makes 4 or 5 mini pavlovas, but is easily doubled.

300g forced rhubarb
50g caster sugar
1 orange
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
150g caster sugar
100g egg whites (2 large/3medium eggs)
150g double cream
1 tsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
50g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 160°C / 140°C fan. Line an ovenproof dish with foil. Slice the rhubarb into 4-5cm batons, trimming off the ends. Arrange in the lined dish, then sprinkle with the caster sugar, the vanilla and the juice and zest of the orange. Cover with a second sheet of foil, and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the rhubarb is soft. Don't overcook it, or it will fall apart and loose its shape.

Lower the oven to 100°C / 80°C fan. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Whisk the eggs whites to stiff peaks in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk. Add the caster sugar, one tbsp at a time, whisking after each addition before adding any more sugar. The sugar should be completely dissolved, and a little meringue rubbed between your fingers should not feel grainy.

Spoon the meringue into mini pavlovas on the baking tray. Try not to squash it, as the height is what will make them so pretty. Place on the bottom shelf of the oven. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes - 2 hours. The meringue is done when it can be lifted off the baking paper at the edges. Turn the oven off, leaving the meringue inside to cool completely. This will allow the meringue to cool down gradually, and for the centre to become soft and mallowy.

When you are ready to assemble the pavlovas, place the cream in a large bowl. Add the icing sugar and vanilla, and whip until the cream is thick and pillowy. Spoon the cream over the pavlova, then top with the roasted rhubarb. Top with the toasted hazelnuts.

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