because gluten-free food doesn't have to be rubbish

Posts Tagged ‘brownies

Have a heart

leave a comment »

Apparently in engineering you should always leave at least 2.5 times the diameter of the hole you are creating around the edges of the hole, to ensure structural stability. So said the boy as I held in my hands the wreck of what had been, mere moments earlier, a functioning square of chocolate brownie. Now it had a mangled hole in its centre and was broken in at least three places round the edges. Whoever decided on this particular rule was evidently not a baker. Or if they were, they had no eye for detail, since that would necessitate a 6-inch square brownie with a 1-inch heart in its centre. Who eats half-foot brownies?

This issue wasn’t helped by my cookie cutter being too short for the brownies which were essentially cubes, being as tall as they were wide. Whilst I could cut most of the way through them, the final few millimetres remained unscored, and thus I had to prod quite firmly to get the heart centres to come out. Cue more crumbled brownies, hastily stuffed into my mouth. A solution was finally thought of, which was to slice the brownies in half lengthwise to make them thinner, so the cutter could go all the way through them. A task which would have been moderately simple, if I hadn’t just chopped my brownie blocks into 16 squares each. An hour or so later, after much slicing, delicate fiddling, returning brownies to the freezer to cool down and mopping of sweaty brows, I had about 50 little brownie slices that looked quite cute, moderately edible and not too garishly pink either. Plus a lot of crumbs.

The morals of this story are clearly manifold, but the main takeaway should be these are quite fat brownies so make sure your cookie cutter is tall enough; failing that, slice the brownie blocks in half, before dividing into squares.

Dark and white chocolate brownies with a heart
From Smitten Kitchen

The white chocolate brownies weren’t as pink as I would have liked, though actually, unless these are for a special event and need to be pink, they are quite cute enough without the colouring. The white ones turned out a bit more cakey, making them easier to cut and handle without breaking; the dark chocolate ones were a little more fragile. I’d probably cook them for slightly less time in future (23-25 minutes instead of 25-30) in the hopes of making them a little more malleable.

Ingredients (white chocolate brownies)
85g white chocolate
113g butter
125g sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
105g (2/3 cup) gluten-free flour blend
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 drops red food colouring

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Line an 8×8-inch baking tin with buttered foil.

2. In a large bowl in the microwave melt the butter and the white chocolate until 80% melted. Remove, and stir until completely melted.

3. Stir in the sugar. At this stage the mixture will look curdled, messy and generally like it’s going to turn into a big disaster. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and it should all come together into a beautiful glossy batter. Breathe again. Stir in the vanilla.

4. Mix together the gluten-free flour, salt and xanthan gum, then stir these into the batter. Add 2-3 drops of red food colouring, stir until the mixture is light pink, then scrape the batter into the lined pan. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until browned and slightly puffed up on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan, then remove from pan, peel away foil, wrap in greaseproof paper (don’t freeze them in the foil or you’ll never get the bloody stuff off) and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

5. To make the dark chocolate brownies follow the same instructions, using 85g dark (70% cocoa) chocolate instead, and not adding the food colouring, and reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.

6. When both batches of brownies are cooked and frozen, remove them from the freezer and using a sharp knife cut each brownie block into 16 2-inch squares. Working quickly, but delicately, cut out 1-inch hearts from the centre of each brownie using a heart-shaped cutter. I found the white (pink) brownies were easier to cut; the dark chocolate ones are a little more crumbly. Carefully swap the heart centres and insert the pink hearts into the dark brownies, and vice versa. Wrap the brownies in clingfilm and foil and freeze until required, for up to a month. Defrost for an hour at room temperature before serving.

Makes 32.


Written by guffblog

26th July 2011 at 13:21

Posted in Cakes

Tagged with , , , ,

Playing the goat

leave a comment »

As a rule I am not a fan of strong cheeses. In fact, any food that smells like it is four weeks past its best (and yes, that does include durian) is not on my favourites list. The annoying thing is I *want* to like strong cheese. There are just so many delicious types of cheese out there that look awesome and seem so sophisticated but, y’know, they’re mouldy and smell like the inside of an overused trainer. Whatever, to preserve my façade of an educated foodie with an adventurous palate I’ll stick to the “Oh blue cheese, I would but it’s not gluten free I’m afraid” line. On which point, if anyone has a definitive answer to whether blue cheeses are gluten free that would be great, on the very small off-chance I attempt to try them in future. Given the mould is grown on bread before being injected into the cheeses my instinct is to say they’re not gf, but how much gluten can a mould spore pick up? The Food and Drink Directory only has blue cheese dressings, and doesn’t cover blocks of cheese, but let’s be honest, how many salad dressings do you buy which contain real ingredients? Perhaps this ambiguity means I am spared from sweaty trainer cheese for all eternity. Hooray. Who knew being coeliac could have such golden upsides.

Goats’ cheese (and really, where does the apostrophe come in that? Is it the cheese of just one goat, so goat’s cheese, or lots of goats’ cheese? I’m thinking the latter). This is another one I want to like but I find it often tastes kind of, well, goaty. Did you know that especially goaty goats’ cheese occurs when a boy goat is kept a leetle bit too close to the girl goat who’s churning out all the milk. Not that close, just close enough for the girl goat to get butterflies in her stomach and start producing too many pheromones which go into the milk and make it taste of, well, goat attraction. Yuk. Since I don’t know where my local goat dairy is to buy products from, and I’m likely to get thrown out if I walk into my supermarket and start asking just how close their nannies get to Billy, I have to content myself with buying “mild” goats’ cheese and trying not to look like a complete food pleb. Marvellous.

Anyhoo, all of this food dribble isn’t getting us much closer to the main event which is, of course, goats’ cheese brownies. Apparently goats’ cheese goes well with chocolate and I can see why. It’s slightly sharp so it cuts through the rich darkness of the brownies nicely, without being overwhelming. Now don’t panic, this is definitely goats’ cheese desserts for beginners. Your mild goats’ cheese (if you’re not a wimp feel free to use stronger stuff) is mixed with an equal part of plain old cream cheese and some sugar as well to make it taste more desserty, plus there’s a lovely thick, intense layer of dark chocolate brownie under there too. The result is none of my guinea pigs could taste the goats’ cheese and looked a bit puzzled when I told them about it. Knowing it was there I could detect it, but it didn’t detract from the general awesomeness of these little bites. Without making another batch with just cream cheese to compare I can’t say for certain that the goats’ cheese improves these, but I suspect it does; they were damn good, and unlike other cream cheese brownies not too sickly.

Goats’ cheese brownies
Adapted from Obviously sweet

I used my trusty 9×9 silicone baking pan to cook the brownies in. The result was a slightly thinner brownie than an 8×8 pan would produce and a shorter cooking time. I suggest these would need 25-30 minutes in 8×8 size, as opposed to my 20-25 minutes.

200g dark chocolate (70%)
80g butter
2 eggs
80g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
85g gluten-free flour (I used half rice flour, half tapioca starch)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

150g mild goats’ cheese
150g cream cheese
35g sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Chop the chocolate into chunks and melt in a bowl in the microwave with the butter. Remove and stir at 30 second intervals, and when the butter is all melted remove the bowl from the microwave and stir until the melted butter melts all the chocolate. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugar. Stir in the vanilla extract, then fold in the coffee, gluten-free flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the melted chocolate and mix until completely combined. Spread 80% of this mixture into an 9×9 (or 8×8) greased (or silicone) square baking pan.

3. In a medium bowl beat together the goats’ cheese and cream cheese. Stir in the sugar and salt and beat in the egg. It will be pretty runny. That’s fine. Pour this mixture on top of the brownie mix in the pan. Spoon the remaining 20% of the brownie mixture on top of the cheese topping (it won’t cover all of it), and using a butter knife swirl gently.

4. Bake the brownies in the oven for 20-25 minutes (5 minutes more for an 8×8 pan), or until the cheese filling is turning a goldeny brown at the edges, and the brownies are crisp on top. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs attached.

5. Remove the brownies from the oven and for ease of slicing, cut into squares immediately. The heat of the brownies will help the knife to slice through them. Alternatively wait until they are completely cool and slice with a knife dipped in hot water and dried.

6. The brownies are best left to chill in the fridge before serving; they firm up a little and become more fudgey.

Makes 36 1 1/2 inch square brownies, or thereabouts. These keep well in the fridge, but do dry out a little bit. After 2 days they are best eaten at room temperature for increased squidginess.

Written by guffblog

18th May 2011 at 19:11

Posted in Cakes

Tagged with , , ,


leave a comment »

Brownies are ace. They’re one of the most versatile foods ever. Part cake, part biscuit, part rich, gooey dessert. Yum. Perfect for any occasion, be it a party, wedding, football match or just because you wanted to make brownies. There’s the simple, plain cocoa brownie, no additions, not even any chocolate, just sugar, eggs, cocoa, flour, butter. There’s the jazzed-up brownie, with nuts, chocolate chips, or even raisins, perfect for a teatime snack to fill you right up. And then there are brownies that go beyond that, that meet your brownie and raise it a chocolate ganache, combine it with some mint and wrap it all up in the cutest little cubes you could imagine. Rich enough to eat just one. Moreish enough to devour ten. These are not your everyday brownie. These are for special occasions only.

My favourite part of this recipe, more than the minty ganache, more than the light green colour, is the size. Definitely the size. Not only can these brownies go far if you want them too, but you can eat many more of them because they are so small. Plus they are perfect for finger food. I made these for a Halloween party at the weekend and the green colour was ideal to add a touch of ghoulishness. These take a little effort but the effect is wonderful. Alas, they don’t hang around long once they’re made though, so make sure you hide some in the kitchen for yourself.

Grasshopper brownies
Adapted from Gourmet, via Smitten Kitchen

3/4 stick (87g) butter
130g plain chocolate (55% cocoa solids)
3/4 cup (140g) light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/8 cup (70g) gf flour blend
3 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mint layer
130g white chocolate
3 tablespoons (45ml) double cream
6 drops green food colouring
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Chocolate layer
160g dark chocolate
100ml double cream

1. Preheat oven to 180 C.

2. In a large bowl melt the chocolate, butter and sugar in the microwave. Stir every 30 seconds and when nearly all melted remove from microwave and continue to stir until all liquid. Add the vanilla and quickly beat in the eggs. Then fold in the flour, cocoa and salt.

3. Pour the batter into a 9×9 inch silicone pan (this is what I used. An 8×8 pan will produce slightly thicker brownies. If using metal cookware line the pan with buttered foil for easy removal of the brownies). Spread the batter evenly and place in the oven for 16 minutes (up this to 20 if using 8×8 pan). Remove the brownies from the oven when they are firm on top and still slightly sticky in the centre. Cool on a rack and then in the fridge until completely cold.

4. Place the white chocolate and cream in a small bowl and melt on low heat in the microwave. Stir thoroughly so there are no lumps and stir in the peppermint and green food colouring. Leave to thicken up in fridge for 20 minutes, then spread on the cold brownies in an even layer. Replace brownies in the fridge.

5. Melt the dark chocolate with the cream in another bowl (yes, this recipe generates a fair bit of washing up) and stir until smooth. Chill for 20 minutes or until quite thick and smooth over the now set mint ganache. Replace the brownies in the fridge one more time.

6. Once the chocolate layer on top has firmed up (an hour or more in the fridge) slice the brownies into 1-inch squares using a sharp knife run under hot water and dried off. Wash the knife after each cut (time consuming, but you’ll be rewarded with lovely neat edges to your brownies).

Makes 81 or 64 1-inch brownies, depending on pan size. Brownies are best served from the fridge as the ganaches go fairly soft otherwise. Best on the day they’re made as the brownies can dry out a little in the fridge. If not eating on same day, wrap them tightly in tin foil and store in the fridge, or freeze in airtight container.

Written by guffblog

2nd November 2010 at 21:52

Posted in Cakes

Tagged with , , ,