P B & J Brownies

Peanut Butter and Jam is a flavour combination you really have to convince people to try. It’s a bit like telling a non-Brit that cheese and pineapple sticks are the best canapé ever. They scrunch their face up a bit and look at you like you’re potty until they try it and see the light. It sounds too weird to work.

There is just something about sweet and savoury combinations that really get me salivating. Peanut butter is salty, savoury and thick on the palate; pair that with a sweet, zingy jam to cut through the gacky peanut butter and you’re winning. 

Now I know you’re probably thinking that if PB& J is so good why screw with it by putting it in a brownie? Because my friends, I like to think of brownie as a blank canvas, waiting to be adulterated with naughty, new friends. A chocolate brownie in itself is a fine thing. Chewy at the edges and gooey in the middle, but I look at that gnarly top and think “what can I dress this with?” And because of this I’ve found out that you can put pretty much anything in a brownie and it will be amazing.

Ingredients 

  • 300g dark chocolate 
  • 200g butter
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 200g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g raspberry jam
  • 100g peanut butter

For the topping:

  • 200g double cream
  • 200g peanut butter
  • 200g White Chocolat 
  • Salted peanuts, chocolate chips and a little extra jam to decorate 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C or gas Mark 3. Line a square cake tin with non-stick parchment.
  2. Using a Bain Marie, melt the butter and chocolate in a large bowl. Then add the sugar and stir until all the sugar has been incorporated. 
  3. Next add the eggs one at a time, combining fully between each one.
  4. Lastly stir in the flour and make sure there are no lumps.
  5. Pour the brownie batter in to your prepared tin. 
  6. Use a tea spoon to dot the brownie batter with blobs of peanut butter and jam. 
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes. The brownie should be risen and a little crusty on top, but still feel relatively wobbly.
  8. Leave the brownie to cool for at least an hour.
  9. When the brownie as reached room temperature you can prepare the topping.
  10. First heat the cream in a pan until just before it starts to simmer. 
  11. Stir in the peanut butter so that melts completely.
  12. Place the white chocolate in a bowl and pour the peanutty cream over. Stir until all the chocolate has melted.
  13. Pour this mixture over your brownie.
  14. Scatter the topping with peanuts and chocolate chips and a few swirls of jam.
  15. Allow to set in the fridge for at least 6 hours, so that the topping is completely firm.
  16. Use a sharp knife to cut into neat squares. Store in the fridge in an airtight container and consume within 3 days. It won’t be hard.



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Naan Bread 

I lovelovelove Indian food with all of my food obsessed heart. I cook curry probably once a week at home because it is delicious, wholesome, nutritious and budget-friendly. I don’t love rice though, which is why I sway towards bread as my carb of choice when eating curry. 

Naan bread is a soft and fluffy leavened flat bread (made with yeast) which is eaten all over south and Central Asia. They are thought to have been influenced by middle eastern flatbreads such as Pitta, as the Persian word nān being a generic word for bread seems to suggest. What makes Indian naan bread different from other Indian breads is that they are cooked in a tandoor oven, which is a traditional wood or coal fired oven made of clay. These ovens are heated to extreme temperatures and the dough is slapped to the side of the oven to cook. 

Obviously I don’t have a tandoori oven at home (I wish I did!), so I turn to my trusty cast iron skillet to make my naan. The beauty of this being that in the winter I can bake my naan in the kitchen and when the weather is on my side, I take my skillet outdoors and use it over my fire pit. This makes sure the naan absorb all the delicious smoky flavours from the fire and gives it a more authentic flavour. If you don’t own a cast iron pan, use the heaviest frying pan or skillet that you own, just don’t put it on an open fire! 

Naan Bread

Ingredients:

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 20g sugar
  • 10g salt
  • 14g dried yeast (2 sachets)
  • 150g coconut cream
  • 200g water
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds


Method

  1. Place your flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix together with your hand. Make a well in the centre.
  2. Dissolve the yeast in to the water and pour in to the well. Use your hands to begin mixing the flour and water together. Then add the coconut cream and nigella seeds and mix in the bowl until it starts to form a sticky dough.
  3. Turn the mixture out on to a floured work surface and knead for about ten minutes, until you have a soft dough.
  4. Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with a clean towel. Leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm place.
  5. Once the dough has risen, turn out on to your work surface and divide in to 8 equal portions.  Roll each portion in to a ball, place on a floured tray and cover. Leave to rest for 20 minutes to allow the gluten to relax. This will make it easier to shape the dough.
  6. When the dough has rested, start heating your pan. It needs to be really hot, so set the burner to its highest flame.
  7. Roll out your first ball of dough in to a flat, tear drop or oval shape, approximately 1cm thick. I find it easier to roll the dough flat with a rolling pin and then use my hands to shape it in to an oval by gently pulling the dough.
  8. Then place your shaped dough on to the hot pan. You will notice immediately that bubbles start to form under the surface of the dough. 
  9. After a minute, flip the dough over and cook the other side. Don’t worry it the dough catches a little where it has formed bubble, this darkness adds flavour to the bread.
  10. Whilst the first flatbread is cooking, you can shape the next one so that it is ready to go.
  11. When the bread is cooked, wrap in a clean towel and cook the next one. 
  12. Serve immediately with your favourite curry.


Choux 

Choux pastry is my favourite kind of pastry because it is the perfect vessel for whipped cream or custard. It is a socially acceptable method for shovelling custard into my pie hole. I like to eat Chantilly cream straight from the bowl with a spoon, but people tend to frown upon that. Put that shit in an eclair though, and we’re all good. 

Choux pastry is a delightful, crispy shelled mode of transport for delicious things to make their way in to my mouth. 

It’s also a very versatile pastry. By which I mean you can pipe it into different shapes. With this one basic recipe you can make choux buns, chouqettes, eclairs, profiteroles, Paris Brest… And once the shells are baked and filled, the outside can be decorated with boundless imagination. All one needs to do is type eclair in to pintrest to see the hundreds of wonderful creations to inspire you. And to terrify you.

I know a lot of home cooks are put off by the seemingly daunting task of making choux. It’s so mysterious. What even is it? It’s called a pastry but it’s made in a saucepan and the paste looks like a gloopy mess waiting to happen! It looks difficult and faffy. Do I even have all the right equipment in my kitchen?

First things first; pull yourself together. It’s not anywhere near as difficult as you think. The most technical piece of kit you need for this is accurate scales. Being precise with your weighing up is very important when it comes to patisserie. It may look like an art but trust me, it’s a mysterious fucking science. 

So here goes: here’s a recipe for choux pastry and a recipe for creme patissier. I’ve made little chocolate chouqettes (like profiteroles but less 70s sounding) as an easy introduction to choux pastry. 

N.B you will need to strong arm for this, there is a lot of beating involved. 


Choux Pastry

Ingredients:

  • 125g whole milk
  • 125g water
  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 5g salt
  • 10g sugar
  • 150g plain flour
  • 4 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees/Gas mark 5. Line 2 large baking sheets with non stick parchment.
  2. Weigh and prepare all of your ingredients.
  3. Heat the milk and water in a large pan on a medium heat. Stir in the butter until it has melted completely. Add the salt and sugar.
  4. When the melted butter/milk is almost at a boil, turn the heat to low and quickly throw the flour in and start mixing with a wooden spoon. Once the flour has been fully incorporated, turn the heat back to medium and continue to beat the mixture. At this point you should be mixing quite vigorously, in order to dry out the paste. Keep going for 1 minute. You should have a ball of paste.
  5. Turn the paste out in to a large mixing bowl. Continue to beat for about 30 seconds to let some of the steam out and to help it cool.
  6. Next add the eggs, one at a time. You need to completely combine one egg before you add the next. Make sure you work quickly though as at this point the paste will be hot enough to start cooking the egg, so keep beating. 
  7. Once you’ve addd all of the eggs, so should be left with a not-quite-liquid paste which plops off of your spoon.
  8. Transfer the paste to a piping bag. Snip the end off the bag to leave a hole of about 1.5cm. 
  9. Pipe the choux pastry into rounds about the size of a tea light candle. Make sure you leave plenty of space around them as they do expand a lot. If you have any spiky tips sticking up, use a wet finger to dab them flat.
  10. Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on how feisty your oven is. 
  11. When the chouqettes are done they should be round, hollow and crispy with a rich golden colour. Leave to cool on a wire rack.


Chocolate Creme Patissier 

Ingredients:

  • 250g milk
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 25g cornflour
  • 100g dark chocolate 

Method:

  1. Heat the milk in a pan until it begins to simmer.
  2. Mix the egg, sugar and cornflour in a bowl until smooth.
  3. Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
  4. Once well combined, pour the whole mixture back in to the pan and heat on low.
  5. Stir constantly until the cream is thickened.
  6. If you heat too vigorously and lumps start to appear, remove from the heat and whisk until smooth.
  7. Break the chocolate and stir into the cream until completely melted.
  8. Lay cling film over the surface of the cream and allow to cool.


To finish:

  • Once the shells and the chocolate creme patissier have both cooled to room temperature you are ready to pipe.

  1. Use a small, sharp knife to make a little hole in each shell.
  2. Fit a piping bag with a small, metal piping tip and fill with the chocolate cream.
  3. Pipe the filling in to each shell. Not too much though, or it will spurt out.
  4. Once each shell is full, arrange artfully on a plate and dust with icing sugar.
  5. Eat with reckless abandon and enjoy!