Friday 18 March 2011

Bake off with Chocolate Brownies

Prize winning Chocolate Brownies

This week’s Blog writer is Grandma Abson’s great granddaughter, Katherine who is keeping up the family tradition of home baking.  She writes :

With the revival of home baking, it’s becoming more popular to make rather than buy cakes. Our team at work has followed suit and we have a regular ‘bake off’. Whilst it’s all in the name of fun, the competitive ones amongst us take it very seriously. We even have a spreadsheet to track the scores each person has been awarded. Each participant is marked on taste, creativity and presentation. This week it was my turn and I decided on Chocolate Brownies (after giving up on my quest to cut out Chocolate for Lent after 2 days – whoops!). The Brownies were just the thing to curb the Monday blues. Final scores are not yet in but so far looking good! Here’s the quick and easy recipe.

Chocolate, Cherry and Walnut Brownies
200g butter
200g dark chocolate (chopped)
3 large eggs
300g granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
125g plain flour
a pinch of salt
100g dried cherries
100g walnut pieces

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC/gas 4. Grease and line a 20 x 30 cms rectangular baking tin with greaseproof or parchment paper. Melt the butter and chocolate either in a bowl over a pan of simmering water or gently in the microwave. With an electric hand whisk, beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until they are lovely and thick and creamy. Mix in the melted chocolate and butter. Finally stir in the flour, salt, cherries and walnuts. Pour into the baking tin and cook for about 25 minutes until the top is cracking and the centre is just set. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before cutting into squares. Serve warm or, if you can resist leaving them, cold.    

Extra tips: 
  • Substitute cranberries and pecans or apricots and almond flakes. 
  • Add 2 tablespoonfuls apricot or raspberry jam to the mixture in the tin and swirl it round before putting in the oven to bake
  • Add white and milk chocolate chunks to the mixture if you are a hard core chocoholic.
  • If you prefer plain Brownies or are allergic to nuts, just leave out the fruit and nuts.
Meryl says : Make sure you don’t overcook them. Grandma Abson would have used a cake skewer to test if they are ready. But this time, rather than coming out clean as when testing cakes, the skewer should have a gooey mixture attached to it. Brownies should be firm to the touch but still a bit like the texture of fudge. They will set once they are cool. Chocolate Brownies will keep for about 3 or 4 days but it would be amazing if you still had any left by then! Finally ... thanks to this week’s guest writer.
Chocolate Brownies for Easter chicks

Friday 11 March 2011

Finding time to bake

Grandma's Fruit Scones
 Although there's a widespread revival of interest in baking now, people sometimes say to me ‘I don’t have time to bake’. I always reply that the best thing about many of Grandma Abson's recipes comes from mixing basic ingredients without too much fuss. In her early life, Grandma was a ‘below stairs cook’ for an Edwardian family called Hick, who frequently entertained prominent local citizens so she became an expert in producing something quickly for unexpected guests in a short time.
Ingredients for Fruit Scones
Scones fit the bill perfectly and can be made from store cupboard items. Grandma’s scones always come out light and airy and win many plaudits. I like to taste different varieties of scones but my favourites are Fruit Scones as the sultanas keep them moist.

8 oz/225g self raising flour
½ tsp salt
2oz/50g butter
2oz/50g sugar
2oz/50g sultanas
2 eggs
Milk to mix

Add the salt to the flour. Rub in the butter. Add the sugar and sultanas. Beat the eggs and milk and add to make a dough. Roll out and cut into sections with a cutter. Bake for 10-12 minutes on the third runner from the top of the oven. (450F, Mark 8, 230C)

Meryl’s tips :
  • If you want an egg free recipe, leave out the eggs and just add more milk (approx 150ml) to make the dough.
  • This can be a sugar free recipe too. The dried fruit gives the scones a taste of sweetness.
Bake Scones in 20 minutes
Treat yourself to some home baking this week? Who can resist the joys of a plate of scones, warm, aromatic and straight out of the oven?                                            

Friday 4 March 2011

Pancakes Galore

Simple ingredients for perfect Pancakes

It’s coming up to Pancake Day. Making and eating pancakes is a tradition where people had a last chance to use ingredients such as butter and eggs before the period of Lent leading up to Easter. Grandma Abson always served us pancakes with freshly squeezed orange and golden syrup.  I’ve been looking through her old newspaper cuttings and found a whole range of recipes for pancakes from 1910 where the authors were sent prizes when they got published in the newspaper.  The first recipe is just like Grandma’s. 

‘Three ounces of flour, two eggs, half a pint of milk. Put the flour into a basin, make a well in the centre and drop in the eggs; add the milk gradually and mix with a wooden spoon. Put a small piece of butter or lard in a frying pan and let it get thoroughly hot, pour in enough batter to thinly cover the bottom of the pan and fry to a pale colour, turning or tossing the pancake when the underside is done. Throw on to paper sprinkled with lemon juice and roll up quickly, Serve with quarters of lemon and castor sugar.’
The writer of this recipe Mrs J W Verity of Coalville won a first prize of 5s 6d (= 27½ p)

Very light Melbourne Pancakes
‘Two breakfastcupfuls of flour, two breakfastcupfuls of milk, one ounce of butter (melted), two eggs, one good teaspoonful of carbonate of soda, sugar, lard, half a teaspoonful of salt. Mix the flour, milk, eggs and salt to a smooth batter and let stand for one hour and half, and then add the melted butter and the carbonate of soda, previously dissolved in a little hot water. Fry the pancakes in hot lard until a golden brown, sprinkle with castor sugar and serve.'
Miss Tennant of London won a tin of tea as a prize for this recipe.

Appetising Pancakes
Four tablespoonfuls of flour, half a pint of milk, one egg, pinch of salt and a little nutmeg. Place the flour in a basin, make a well in the centre, drop in the yolk of egg, place the white on a plate, add to the yolk of egg and flour part of the milk by degrees, beat this mixture until it begins to rise in bubbles, then stir in the remainder of the milk. Whip the white of egg to a stiff froth and mix it lightly into the other ingredients just at the last. Melt a little lard in a small frying pan, pour in about half a teacupful of batter, cook it over a moderate fire until it is pale brown on the underside; turn it quickly and when the second side is browned, turn the pancake on to a hot plate, sprinkle with sugar and roll up. Place this on a hot dish. Prepare the others in the same way.
Miss Burnett of Bristol won half dozen embroidered handkerchiefs for this recipe

Chocolate Pancakes
Three ounces of sugar, four ounces of grated chocolate, four ounces of flour, half a pint of milk, two eggs. Mix the chocolate smoothly with cold milk, boil the rest and pour onto it. Return to the pan and stir till smooth, add the sugar and let it cool. Whisk the eggs well, stir into the flour, add the chocolate and let the batter stand till cold. Then fry in fat, sprinkle with sugar, roll up and serve hot.
Miss Gregg of Liverpool won a Dainty Stationery Blotter for this recipe.

Russian Pancakes 
1 ½ oz butter
2 oz flour
2 oz sugar
2 eggs
Grease well with butter 4 large saucers. Place the butter in a basin and beat it to a cream, add the sugar then by degrees the flour, and mix all together thoroughly. Beat the eggs until very light in a separate basin. Then add to the other ingredients lightly and quickly. Half fill the saucers with the mixture and place them in a quick oven and bake for twenty minutes. When ready, turn them out of the saucers, fold them together and if desired, place a little jam or sugar in each. 
Miss Nicholl of Tayport won a Silver Enamel Pendant for this recipe.

Have fun flipping pancakes on Pancake Day!