Monday, 31 January 2011

Chocolate Brownies

I’ve heard it said that brownies mostly come in one of three kinds – cakey, chewy or fudgy. My husband is more of a cakey-brownie person. I fall somewhere between chewy and fudgy, although ultimately, a brownie is a brownie and I’m certainly not going not going to quibble if offered a cakey one. In a rash moment of folly a number of months ago I decided to try come up with my own brownie recipe. I must admit to having peeked at other recipe ingredient lists and methods and I’m nowhere near completion. Starting such a project with nothing but a memory of good brownies and a yearning for more has led to some interesting results. Some were just too disastrous to chronicle, but so far, five index cards with brownie recipes (marked trial 1, trial 2, trial 3 etc) have made it into my recipe box. I got stuck on trial 4 for quite a long time but there was always a nagging doubt in my mind that its awesome taste may have been down to the crushed chocolate buttons and hazelnuts that I added rather than pure brownie goodness. Trial 5 followed not long after getting back from South Africa, where we were over Christmas, and where we had the most awesome brownies of a most fudgy variety. Sadly, trial 5 has not fallen into the fudgy camp I hoped it would but it is a pretty respectable chewy brownie, so I thought I’d share it today. As usual most of the time with my recipes, all the ‘cup’ measurements below are based on a 250 ml mug.

What you’ll need:

1 cup of margarine or butter (butter is probably nicer but I only had marg when I made these

200 gram bar of milk chocolate (I bought a 230 gram bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate and ate made arrangements to get the required 200g)

9 rounded dessertspoons of cocoa powder (I know – pretty excessive)

2 teaspoons of vanilla essence

4 eggs

2 cups brown sugar (I used dark brown because it was all I had but any brown sugar, dark or light, should be fine)

1 cup self-raising flour

Pinch salt

What to do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5 and grease a pan (my pan is about 9 x 12 inches).

2. Melt the cup of margarine or butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat when melted.

IMG_7814 (This picture is mostly to show the cup I use and how rough my measuring is; I forgot to take a picture of the melted margarine but really, you don’t need me showing you something as boring as that).

3. Roughly chop the chocolate and add it to the melted marg. Stir until the chocolate has melted. If it isn’t melting into the marg, put it over a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring the whole time. Take the pan off the stove once the chocolate has melted, if you didn’t do so at the end of the last step.



4. Add five dessertspoons of cocoa powder to the melted marg/chocolate and stir vigorously until it is thoroughly mixed in – make sure there are no little lumps of cocoa powder. And try not to eat too much of it at this stage…


5. Crack the eggs into a new bowl and beat well. Then add the vanilla essence and beat a little bit more.


6. Add the brown sugar to the eggs and mix thoroughly.



7. Pour the melted chocolate/marg mixture into the egg mixture and fold in thoroughly.


8. Sift and fold the flour, salt and remaining four dessertspoons of cocoa powder into the mixture.


IMG_7831 (Note to self: taking pictures whilst sieving flour is not a strong skill – need more practice).


9. Pour (interpret that in the loosest possible way – the batter is way to sticky to pour) the mixture into the greased pan and spread into the corners. Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.




10. Take the brownies out the oven and cool brownies. Cut into sizes that are just small enough to justify having two… or three …. Or wait about five minutes before giving into temptation and cutting them almost straight away so that one can enjoy hot brownies and cream. Yum!



Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

What’s it worth

The recent news of the death of an old friend has got me thinking. She was in her late twenties. Not that old in Britain, though old in some countries where life expectancies only reach the early to mid-thirties. About my age. Here’s my thinking though – if I died now, what would my life be worth. I want to get to the end of my life and to have made an eternal difference to people. None of us know when our time on earth will be up. We may think we are immortal, invincible, in good health. But tomorrow, today, anything can happen. And here’s my direct question – when your time is up, where are you going? We can be so easily deceived into thinking we have complete control over our lives and that we are ‘good’ so we’ll be okay when we die. But what is that apparent control really worth – lives that are broken, guilt, shame. None of us can ever really led lives that are perfect enough to get us into heaven on our own terms. That is why grace astounds me so much – because God’s grace is about us not being good enough. So He sent His son to die for us, to pay the price of our failures so that through Him we can be good enough. But, what we have to do, is give God control over our lives and accept what Jesus did on the cross. Our lives on earth are so transient – what’s eternal life, a life that isn’t transient, worth to you?

“You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. … You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever.” That word is the good news which was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1: 18-19; 23-25)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Chocolate Mug Cake

Sometimes you just need a little something sweet as a little pick-me-up. Now I’m aware that there are some great recipes for individual portions of such things out there, but they’re mostly to be made in a microwave, which I am currently sadly without. So I came up with this, which I made in the oven. I used a large mug that was microwave and dishwasher proof and only put the oven on to pre-heat right before I start mixing the batter so it wasn’t too hot when I put the mug into the oven. Thankfully didn’t end up with a cracked mug or bits of china and chocolate cake all over the inside of my oven (oven-cleaning being amongst my least favourite chores). If you want a tasty treat and can wait half an hour, give this a try. Just make sure you bake it for 25-30 minutes and no longer – until it has just set on top. Experiments (read: having this more than once this week) have shown that it dries out pretty quickly if you leave it in the oven beyond about half an hour. This would be even more improved with lashing of cream, or some ice-cream or creme fraiche, none of which, sadly, have been in my kitchen this week. If you’re really organised (which I’m not) it might be a good idea to grease the mug first. Or you can do what I did and substitute greasing in advance for a good soaking after you’ve eaten the cake.


What to do:

First, turn the oven on to gas mark 6. Then put the following ingredients into a (hopefully) oven-proof mug: 1 egg; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence; 3 dessertspoons dark brown sugar; 2 dessertspoons cocoa powder; 2 dessertspoons self-raising flour; 3 dessertspoons milk; 1/2 dessertspoon of margarine or butter. Next, mix everything together thoroughly with a fork. And when you think you’ve finished beating it, beat it a bit more. Place the mug in the middle of the oven, close the door and come back about half an hour. Carefully (it will be hot) take the mug out of the oven, place it onto a plate (it will probably be too hot to hold), get a spoon and dig in.


Sunday, 9 January 2011

Pearls of Wisdom

My husband and I spent Christmas and New Year in South Africa with some of my husband’s extended family. On the evening of the first, discussion over the supper table got pretty serious and the younger generation were each given up to two minutes to say what we do and how it affects mankind. The answers ranged from the hilarious to the serious. When we had all finished, the older generation were cajoled into also being put on the spot and were each tasked with giving us pearls of wisdom from their own experience that might help us as we start (well, I like to think of it as starting – at 27, some of us are pretty far in already!) adulthood. Three points have really stuck with me and I wanted to share them with you as you start a new year.

1. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

2. People are our greatest resource – network and appreciate them and never burn bridges with anyone.

3. We make our decisions based on the evidence to hand at the time. It is easy to look back and see, with hindsight, that perhaps a wrong decision was made or a better one could have been made. However, we shouldn’t regret past decisions as we make the best decisions we can with the evidence available to us at the time.

After that third point, I just want to add that I am grateful that God provides us with new chances even if we make the wrong decisions, and what better time to rejoice in new chances with God than at the start of a new year. I hope it’s a good one for all of you.