Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Buttery Biscuit Bass

I don't normally post other people's stuff, but this is phenomenal:

Monday, 31 January 2011

Big Tom's Big Birthday Surprise Fruit Cheesecake Brownie

Big Tom. Where do you start? He is now 25 years old, a quarter of a century. Not too long ago this would have been an impressive feat, given regular warring and primitive medical care. Were he to have been born over 200 years ago, he might now expect to be dying, having faced down a broadside from the Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar. Strapping him to the surgeon's table, you lean in to hear his final words, "Kiss me, Hardy". Mishearing him you fear that rigor mortis cannot be far off.

Just over 200 years ago, The United States of America came into existence. The USA is undeniably Big Tom's favourite country, he has the flag, the Obama bobble-head and even an American girlfriend! The 20th Century has been rightly called the American Century, but what of the 21st? At Davos, commentators characterise the situation as "Asia up, US down", like the world's first intercontinental jingoistic blow-job.

I, however, would not doubt the power of American Exceptionalism as championed by Sarah Palin - patriot, lover of America, hater of moose. What better way to celebrate this than with cake? One might consider brownies and cheesecake to be cakes in their own right, but like Martin Luther King, I want to see brownies and cream cheese, side by side. I have a dream.

Brownie Ingredients
  • 275g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 275g unsalted butter
  • 85g white chocolate, cut into large chunks
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 325g light muscovado sugar
This is a variation on Antony Worrall Thompson's superb triple-chocolate brownie recipe.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bain-marie (here improvised with a pan and a pyrex bowl). This is necessary to stop the chocolate and butter getting too hot.

Sift the flour and baking powder together

Beat the eggs

When fully melted, the butter chocolate mixture should look and smell delicious - be warned, you can't eat it yet!

Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla essence to the butter-chocolate mixture. Then gently fold in the flour. The result should be thick and bubbly brownie batter.

Grease-up good some greaseproof paper and put in a cake tin.

Pour in your batter

Push chunks of the white chocolate into the warm batter and smooth the top with a pallette knife

Cheesecake Ingredients
  • 400g cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Having never cooked a cheesecake before, this part freaked me out. Here you combine the cream cheese with icing sugar and the vanilla extract. I know, I know, cream cheese goes with smoked salmon, but you've got to trust me with this one.

Whisk until smooth, adding in the eggs one by one.

Pour this liquid on top of your brownie base and put in the oven for 40 mins at 170 degrees Celcius.

You should end up with something like this - the edges have risen more than the centre but the topping of whipped cream should hide this!

Cream Topping Ingredients
  • 300 ml whipping cream
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 150g blackberries and blueberries, plus extra to decorate

Just when you thought this cake couldn't take any more . . .

Whisk the fruit, cream and sugar together until firm but not stiff. This may take some time . . .


Remove the brownie-cheesecake from the tin and greaseproof paper.

Prepare to cover in whipped cream!

Shape the cream over the outside of your brownie-cheesecake.

Et voila! A Fruit Cheesecake Brownie! Tom is 25, so we get him the square root of 25 candles! The only thing that could make this more American is if we shoved it on top of Mom's Apple Pie.

So the only thing left to do is give the birthday boy his cake and presents . . .

Sunday, 21 November 2010

After Eight Mints Pies


The General wallowed in his leather wingback armchair as awaited his manservant. The light from the fire undulated over his uneven features like restless waves before a storm.

"Sir?" sighed Heston, wearyness creeping into his voice.

"These mints," the General waved the offending box of after dinner mints menacingly at Heston, "are terrible. Just terrible."

"They are what you asked for, Sir," reasoned Heston, raising his eyebrows with incredulity.

"Yes, yes" said the General, waving his sherry dismissively, "but, and this is the point, they are entirely unsatisfying. How is a man supposed to maintain his manner with such meagre mints?" He flaccidly held one of the mints at arms length like a used teabag.

"Might I suggest that I have cook fetch some mince pies from the kitchen?" intoned Heston deliberately, with the patience of a man who has weathered the moods of his master before.

"Mince pies?!" spluttered the General splenetically, sending spots of spittle towards Heston which blossomed on his grey trousers as dark phlegmatic blobs. "You know spiced dishes play havoc with my bowels! Go fetch that dough-puncher from the intertubes and have him fashion a more suitable treat!

And so, After Eight Mints Pies were commissioned.

  • Lots of dark chocolate
  • Fondant (that you've already prepared!)
  • Peppermint food flavouring
  • Peanut butter

  • Bain-marie for chocolate melting
  • Cup-cake cases
  • Cup-cake tray
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Ceramic balls

First we melted a load of chocolate.

Method 1: Coating inner-surface of cup-cake case

We tried a number of methods of making the mints pies - the first of these was to coat the inner surface of a cup-cake case with chocolate and let it set.

We pushed it down into the tray to give the pie some shape.

Hmm, the result was quite pretty, but not really what we were going for.

Method 2: Peanut butter cup

Being quite solid, peanut butter forms an ideal centre around which chocolate can be wrapped.

Mmm, cross-section.

Lucy approves . . . I think!

Thumbs up, buddy!

Method 3: A load of balls

The edges of the paper were covered in chocolate and the centre left clear for shaping by some ceramic balls . . .

. . . this didn't really work.

Method 4: The displacement method

Here we used some grease-proof paper and yet more balls to displace chocolate and leave a fracture for fillings.

A cavity remains!

Time to get some fondant in to form a soft centre.

Some of the fondant was mixed with half a teaspoon of peppermint flavouring to make that classic refreshing after eight middle cream. This was then put into the centre of our dark chocolate pie.

Covering the top gives our sweet that mince pie look.

Breaking it open reveals the deliciously sugary core!

There is, however, something incredibly inelegant about this method with the resultant chocolate coating being just a bit too thick.

Method 5:
Coating outer-surface of cup-cake case

Lucy comes up with the idea to coat the outer surface of the cup-cake cases.

Initial results are encouraging with the chocolate forming a uniform, well shaped layer over the paper.

This initial shell is thickened by applying successive layers of chocolate and chilling to make each layer set. Peeling away the paper reveals some perfect chocolate containers!

Apart from one which develops a hole. Whoops!

We made a peanut-butter cup and an after-eight mints pie.

Topping with chocolate, once again, completes the effect!

Mmm, a delicious chocolate treat with the spirit of Christmas!

And what of the General? He never did get to taste these minty delights for he was called up for one last mission in Siam at Her Majesty's command. We never heard from him again . . .