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Rich Raspberry and White Chocolate Brownies

Rich Raspberry and White Chocolate Brownies

Brownies, filled with love (well, raspberries and chocolate)!

I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day, but I’m not really traditionally romantic. I don’t like flowers all that much, I don’t particularly like having stuff bought for me and the idea of being ‘spoiled’ is something I can’t get my head round – after all, something that’s spoiled is a bad thing, right? The most ‘romantic’ things that have ever been done for me, gestures filled with emotion at a time when I really needed to feel loved and cherished in some way, have all been done for me by friends. I don’t think you should need a special day to show somebody that you love them, or if you do want to show somebody how much they mean to you I don’t think that person needs to be a romantic partner. I mostly show people how much they mean to me with food – cooking their favourite meal, baking something using their favourite ingredient or making dinners they can chuck in their freezer  to use when their time is needed for something more important than cooking. If you did want to show somebody how much you care, I think these brownies are a pretty good place to start.

Rich Raspberry and White Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 250g butter
  • 200g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 160g soft brown sugar
  • 65g plain flour
  • 80g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 150g raspberries
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped into chunks

Heat your oven to 180C and line a tin (approx 25x20cm) with foil (leave it hanging out of the tin a bit as you’ll be able to use it to lift the brownie out once cooled). In a medium sized saucepan, gently melt the butter until liquid but not browned. Turn off the heat and add the chopped dark chocolate, stirring until melted. Add the sugars and continue to stir until well combined. Next add the flour, sifted cocoa and baking powder and mix well so that no patches of dry ingredients remain. Crack the eggs into a mug or bowl and lightly beat them before pouring into the chocolate mix and giving the whole thing a big stir so it’s all well combined and glossy.

Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared tin and spread it out evenly so it’s right in the corners. Scatter the raspberries over the surface, followed by the white chocolate chunks. Use a teaspoon to sort of nudge the raspberries and chocolate into the brownie mix so that they’re nestled and smothered into the raw brownie mix. I suppose you could just add the fruit and chocolate to the brownie mix before you pour it into the tin, but by doing it this way you should avoid everything just sinking to the bottom as it cooks. Bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes – the brownies are done when the top is set and firm but a skewer inserted still has a little gunge clinging to it – brownies should always have a bit of goo to them even when cooled, and the abundance of fruit in these helps them stay incredibly moist. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin, before lifting out and cutting into squares. OR you could serve them, still a little warm, with some pouring cream or ice cream as a lush dessert to end a special meal.

For a very different kind of brownie recipe click here. Or perhaps white chocolate in my blondies might tickle your fancy.

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Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade

Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade

Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade; light, luscious, sweet and sharp

My best friend loves lemon, particularly lemon curd. For our pre-Christmas get-together I decided to make a dessert with some lemon curd; something a bit sharp and zingy to liven up the taste buds when all around is super-stodgy, rich and spicy. I decided on roulade as, though it’s filled with cream, the sweet meringue is light and fluffy inside and the perfect foil to the tart lemon and raspberries. I was incredibly pleased with how this turned out – it’s easily as good as any luxury dessert you’d get at a supermarket – it’d be a brilliant centrepiece pud for a New Year’s celebration.

If you wanted, you could use ready made lemon curd, but make sure it’s the best quality you can afford, made with real lemons, eggs and butter and not full of additives and setting agents. However, making the curd is actually quite simple, gives you a great sense of satisfaction, and there’s plenty left over for toast (or give it as a gift in a pretty jar).

Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade

For the lemon curd: (I followed a Nigel Slater recipe)

  • 4 lemons, preferably unwaxed
  • 200g sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 3 eggs and 1 yolk (save the spare white for your meringue)

In a heat proof bowl, over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water) combine the finely grated zest and juice of the lemons with the sugar and butter, stirring until everything has melted.

Give the eggs and extra yolk a little whisk to mix, then add to the lemon mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon or whisk frequently until the mixture thickens. It’ll feel heavier and be the consistency of custard. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for several hours or overnight (if you’re planning on giving some as gifts then put it in sterilised jam jars at this stage, whilst it’s still hot –  you’ll get a couple of small jars worth with enough left over to make the roulade)

For the meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp corn flour
  • 1 tsp cider/white wine vinegar
  • a little icing sugar for dusting

Heat the oven to 150C and grease and line a Swiss roll tin or high sided baking sheet (approx 23 x 33cm) with greaseproof paper. Now, to make your meringue it’s really important your bowl is scrupulously clean – if possible use a glass or metal bowl and wipe round the inside with the cut side of half a lemon or a paper towel with a little vinegar on; this should get rid of any grease. Put your egg whites in the bowl and whisk until you get to the stiff peaks stage. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking all the while. Sprinkle over the corn flour and vinegar and give one last short whisk until everything is combined and glossy. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared tin, smoothing into the corners with a spatula and trying to get a flat, even surface. Bake for 30–35 minutes until the surface of the meringue is just firm. Remove from the oven, let it cool for about ten minutes. Lay a sheet of greaseproof on a board and dust with icing sugar. Once the meringue has cooled a little turn it out onto the board and carefully remove the greaseproof from the base and leave to cool while you assemble the filling.

For the filling:

  • Approx 200ml lemon curd
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
  • 150g raspberries

In a large bowl, whip the cream with the icing sugar until thick – it should cling to the whisk but drop off easily if the whisk is tapped on the side of the bowl. It’s easy to over-whisk cream if you do it with an electric whisk or stand mixer so keep a close eye on it if you use a machine. It doesn’t take long to do with a balloon whisk and a few minutes whisking shouldn’t be too much work for most people. Once it’s the desired consistency, add six tablespoons of the lemon curd and mix well.

Use a spatula to smooth the cream mixture over the cooled meringue, trying to make an even layer and leaving a border of about 1 cm around the edge. Slather with the remaining lemon curd and then scatter with the raspberries. Now for the roll!

Before the big roll! Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade

Before the big roll! Lemon Curd and Raspberry Roulade

With the shortest end of the meringue facing you, roll it away, folding over and using the greaseproof paper to try and keep the roll compact. Once it’s fully rolled, place on a serving plate with the fold underneath. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving as this will help it firm up before you slice into it. It looks beautiful when cut, with swirls of snowy white interspersed with sunny yellow curd and ruby red raspberries. Luscious!

If you love a roulade, take a look at another recipe here, or if lemon meringue pushes all the right buttons how about some blondies or cupcakes?

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam filling and Buttercream icing

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam filling and Buttercream icing

There’s absolutely nothing new or fancy about these, just my standard vanilla cupcake recipe, but they’re a great basic to have up your sleeve (not literally, they’re better in your belly).  They’re always popular and the jam filling gives them a bit of a Victoria Sponge quality. The recipe makes 12 generously sized cupcakes, so be sure to use muffin cases rather than standard cupcake cases.

Vanilla Cupcakes with a Raspberry Jam filling

For the cupcakes:

  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 180C and prep a 12 hole muffin tray with paper muffin cases. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat in an egg then some of the flour, then another egg and more flour, followed by the last egg and what’s left of the flour and the baking powder, mixing until everything is incorporated. Finally add the milk and give the cake batter a final mix. Divide the mix evenly between the 12 muffin cases (an ice cream scoop is really helpful if you have one – makes it easy to get the same amount in each case) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, a skewer comes out clean or they spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool; it’s important to quickly take them out of the muffin tray to cool as otherwise the paper cases can peel away from the cakes.

For the filling/icing:

  • about 12 tsp raspberry jam (about 120g but it all depends on how big you make the holes)
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Once the cupcakes are cool, hollow out centre so you’re left with a hole that goes to about half way down the cake. You can easily do this with a teaspoon, or there are cupcake ‘corers’ on the market (I have one, but only because my mum bought me one, I was quite happy with the teaspoon method so don’t rush out to buy one). Fill the holes with the jam – I find this easiest with two teaspoons, using one to scrape the jam from the other and guide it into the hole.

Put the softened butter in a bowl and sift the icing sugar on top. I’m not normally a stickler for sifting, but it does help with icing sugar as it can get a but lumpy. You need to mix the butter and icing sugar until creamy, but I wouldn’t suggest using an electric hand mixer until you’ve given them a bit of a mix with a wooden spoon first – otherwise you and your kitchen are likely to look like you’ve had an accident in a cocaine plant. Once you’ve got the butter and sugar basically combined, add the vanilla and have at it with the electric whisk. My best tip for making brilliant buttercream icing is to whisk it for longer than you think you need to. When you think it’s done, keep going for a few more minutes. If you keep whisking it becomes light, fluffy and whipped like the kind of icing you’d get in a top notch bakery or cake shop. Use a palatte knife to generously ice your cupcakes; put a big dollop on top of the jam filling and then spread it out to cover the whole of the top of the cake. Or if your any good with a piping bag you can do it that way. There are loads of tutorials online about how to ice cakes, they all explain it far better than I can here; the only way to get good at it is to practice and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a ‘rustic’ looking cupcake. I like to add a bit of edible glitter, but you might want to go for some sprinkles or just leave plain.

You could use this recipe to make smaller cupcakes if you don’t have a muffin pan or muffin cases, but be sure to reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes or so.

Vanilla Cupcakes, filled with Raspberry Jam

Vanilla Cupcakes filled with raspberry jam, prior to being topped with buttercream icing