Football and Brownies

It’s 3 p.m. in the afternoon. The outdoors is at a sunny 22° C. I’m snuggled against a 1984 Argos couch in the living room watching England play against Slovenia, hoping that this time it wouldn’t be as painful as it was the last time.

Earlier today , I had tried….tried desperately to cook myself a decent meal of grilled chicken breasts stuffed with mozarella. It wasn’t as successful as I had wanted it to be. Due to lack of string or toothpicks to hold the damn breasts together.

Somehow, this day is not agreeing with me. My room is currently not very different from a blast furnace, which makes it absolutely impossible to work in it. Last night’s party has contributed to very little sleep and hence it is with difficulty that I’m trying to focus on the goal Dafoe just scored for England. But all is not lost. I am looking forward to the grocery store trip I’m planning to conduct in an hour. And also I’m looking forward to downing a few pieces of ‘luxurious’ brownies (shamelessly nicking the name from Tamami), I whipped up early in the morning. Inspired heavily by Fanny’s recipe.

If I start describing how the brownies turned out, it would probably bleed over to two or more posts. All I can say, is that, they’re luxurious indeed. The dark chocolate leaves a heavenly after-taste in your mouth and the amount of sugar is just right, especially for someone like me (who’s compulsively picky about anything sweet). I did modify the recipe according to my taste, of course. My allergy to following recipes word-to-word kicked in, I suppose.

I replaced plain flour with self-rising flour which makes the brownie slightly less dense, but gorgeously chewy nevertheless. The cocoa powder was Green & Black’s 70% and a tablespoon of instant coffee makes all the difference. It transforms the simple brownie into an indulgent and strangely addictive dessert (the word ‘snack’ here would be a complete understatement). Its sticky to the right texture, dark, handsome, chewy, fluffy and unforgiving. I won’t lie to you….this brownie will make you feel seriously guilty.

I’ll stop writing now and make another trip to my refrigerator.

P.S.: – England – 1, Slovenia – 0, Half-time.

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Coffee-Caramel Crème Mini-Puffs

The lazy afternoon stretched forever. I didn’t feel like putting down my book and pulling the curtains apart to let in the sun. But the room had become cold…it had been raining all morning. I had been craving creme puffs since an early breakfast, but had somehow resisted rushing off to the kitchen. Instead, I went through all the cookbooks looking up all the cream puff recipes. And I made these mini-puffs with a coffee creme filling and icing, for tea.

For the puffs I like using David Lebovitz’s recipe for pâte à choux, or Pierre Hermé’s choux recipe for his Chocolate Éclairs.

I added an extra tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar to make the mini-puffs sweeter.

Coffee Caramel Crème:

– Half cup heavy cream

– 3 tablespoons of brown sugar

– Half a teaspoon of freshly ground coffee (or espresso powder)

– 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

– 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

– Half a teaspoon ground cinnamon

Bring the cream to a boil. Add the coffee, butter, vanilla essence and cinnamon and stir well. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool for five minutes. Meanwhile, melt the sugar in a bain-marie until it becomes toffee-like (I’m a certified expert in burning caramel at this point, but I’m sure you’ll be more careful!).

Add the caramel to the cream mixture and stir well. I like to keep the icing (or if you use it as a filling) a little swirly, but that depends on you really. Smother the mini-puffs in the creme and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.

Cashew & Cheese Cakelets

“But this is plain !” complained my brother with his eyebrows knit closely together. He put the piece of sponge cake back on the plate and pushed it away. Yes, I know…he pushed away cake!

This is what happens when you whip up desserts too often in our household. Everybody gets used to it and expects everything to be stuffed with nuts, or smothered in chocolate or topped with fruity cream. Whatever happened to enjoying the good ol’ plum cake with tea or a plain vanilla sponge cake, for that matter?

On my mother’s request, (why does she have to be so partial towards her son…that kid has it easy, I tell you…not fair at all!) I set to make one of my favorites of all times – Cashew & Cream Cheese Cakelets.

Usually, we’ve always liked it with ice-cream or some kind of jam/jelly glazing on top; this time I’ve dunked them in a crème fraîche bath.

For each cakelet:

1 egg

– 60gms all-purpose flour

– 2 tablespoons ground cashew nuts

– 50gms unsalted butter

– 3 tablespoons cream cheese

– 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt (thick, hung, sour curd would do too)

– 4 tablespoons granulated sugar

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 350° C. Blitz all the ingredients in a processor till nice and smooth. Fill greased ramekins with the batter and bake for 15-20 minutes. You could also bake the batter in parts to make layered cakelets, like I did. Cool the cakelets in their ramekins, on the rack.

The icing (and filling) is a plain ganache, made by heating double cream with sugar and cocoa powder in equal parts. Add whipped cream or ice-cream with a sprinkling of chopped cashews before serving.

And I swear, I’m never baking again! Ever!

People just have to get use to plain old fruit cake now.