Yesterday we made a chocolate brownie cake tray bake thing with chocolate cream cheese frosting. It’s not exactly a brownie because it has a more cake-y texture, but it’s baked in a brownie tin and has chocolate chunks, so it’s a cross-breed. Anyway , let’s just say I couldn’t stop myself at one piece.
Sophie’s favourite part of the process, as ever, was licking out the bowl. It is honestly the most peace I get all day long when I allow her to do this. A good 15 minutes.
Kids can help with weighing and mixing the cake, and mixing and spreading the icing in this recipe.
Chocolate brownie cake tray bake with cream cheese frosting
About 50g chopped chocolate – white, milk, or dark, or a mixture
For the Frosting
100g milk chocolate
75g full-fat cream cheese
Preheat oven to 160C. Line a rectangular brownie pan with baking parchment, coming up two sides (to help lift the cake out later).
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, with a tablespoon of flour. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder, and add the milk. Beat until well mixed. Stir in the chocolate chunks. Spoon into the tin and push out into the corners, levelling the top.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until risen and the sides start to come away from the tin. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin.
Make the frosting. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave (10-20 second bursts, stirring between each one, until melted and smooth). Beat in the cream cheese and allow to cool a little to thicken. Remove the cake from the tin by lifting up the baking parchment. Spread the frosting over the cake. We added sprinkles or you could use chocolate shavings or curls, or just leave it as it is. Cut into 15 rectangles to serve.
We made chocolate chip muffins during half term. Sophie absolutely gobbled them. That was after she took 20 minutes licking out the bowl (the most peace and quiet I had all week).
They are very easy and very moreish. Ours came out a little pale because I forgot to take the grill pan out from the top shelf of the oven, so the tops didn’t get browned. They were fluffy and light, though, the best muffin consistency I think I’ve achieved (what is with those homemade muffins where all the filling sinks to the bottom and the whole thing tastes eggy and oily?).
I think I’ve finally cracked it! Macarons! Delicate, sweet French confections, devilishly difficult to make. Or so I thought. It turns out that they’re easy when you know how (like most things in life!).
The basic macaron recipe below can be varied to your heart’s content in terms of colour, flavour, filling, and decoration. I’ve included instructions for a pistachio and chocolate ganache filling, but other options include creme patissiere, jam, curd, buttercream, cream cheese, or just plain old Nutella (yum!). I use Sugarflair gel colours as they are really potent and a little goes a long way. It would take a whole bottle of supermarket food colouring to get the lurid green I wanted for these macarons!
They are also gluten free which is great if you know any coeliacs.
Pistachio and chocolate macarons
Difficulty: takes a bit of time and a bit of skill
110g egg whites, aged 3-4 days in the fridge (roughly 3 large egg whites)
70g caster sugar
130g ground almonds
200g icing sugar
Colouring (gel or powder are best) – optional
For the filling
100g dark chocolate (52% cocoa solids)
90ml whipping cream
25g butter, cubed
Plain 1cm nozzle
Baking sheets lined with parchment paper
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a freestanding mixer, whisk together the egg whites and caster sugar. Then, whisk them together for approximately 6-8 minutes (for a freestanding mixer) or 8-10 minutes with an handheld electric whisk. If using a KitchenAid, use speed 4 for 2 minutes, then increase to 8 for 2 minutes, and finally to 10 for a further 2 minutes. After this, the egg whites should be very glossy and stand in stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted out. Add colouring (and any flavourings desired, if you are making a different flavour of macaron) at the very end of the whisking.
In a food processor, place the ground almonds and icing sugar. Pulse to combine, then process on medium speed for a couple of minutes. This helps to chop up any bigger bits of almond and ensure the proper texture of the macarons.
Sieve the almond and icing sugar mixture over the whisked egg whites. Using a metal spoon or rubber spatula, fold in quickly and thoroughly. You do not need to worry about knocking the air out or being especially gentle, the key is to make sure everything is really well combined.
Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a plain 1cm nozzle. Then, holding the piping bag upright, pipe small rounds onto a lined baking sheet, finishing with a sweep to the side to avoid peaks on top of the macaron shells. Space them about 1 inch apart.
Once all the macarons are piped out – leave them be for at least 15 minutes! Do not touch, poke, or otherwise fiddle with them. They need to form a crust so that they will rise properly in the oven. While they are resting, preheat the oven to 170C and make the filling (see below – there are many, many other options if chocolate and pistachio is not your thing).
After the 15 minutes is up, the macarons should be dry to the touch. If they aren’t, leave them a few more minutes. Now it’s time to bake one tray at a time, in the lower third of the oven. The baking time should be between 10 and 13 minutes, depending on the strength of the oven and the size of the macarons. Keep a careful eye on them. They should be set, but not coloured.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays. Then use a piping bag or knife to spread filling onto half of the shells, sandwiching them with the remaining half.
Leave in the fridge for 24 hours for the flavours to infuse together. Eat at room temperature.
pistachio and Chocolate Ganache
Chop the chocolate into small chunks and place in a heatproof bowl.
Finely, finely chop the pistachios, or grind with a coffee or spice grinder.
Place the whipping cream, chopped pistachios and a dash of almond extract in a saucepan. Gently heat until almost at boiling point. Then pour over the chocolate, stirring constantly in the middle, until it is all melted and a smooth mixture has formed.
Add the butter and stir until melted. This will create a glossy finish. If the mixture is too cool for the butter to melt, microwave in bursts, stirring in between, until it is smoothly combined.
Set the ganache aside for 1-2 hours until it is the right consistency for piping. This ganache can also be poured over a cake as a glaze as soon as it is made, or left in the fridge for 8-10 hours and used to swirl over and in a cake, like a buttercream.