15 minute emergency brownies

I don´t want to start with a tiresome cliché about how brownies are the little black dress of chocolate puddings, so I won´t.  I will say, though, that they´re an endlessly useful recipe, because everyone seems to love brownies, and they go with everything, and they can be served just as is for a picnic or dolled up with hot fudge and ice cream for your best dinner party.

Or so I think, anyway.

They can also be frozen, so that when you make a big batch and have leftovers you can remove temptation, a little. Once they´re frozen they don´t even have to be thawed; just slice them thinly  and you won´t miss any Swiss bonbon.

If they have one shortcoming it´s the  impromptu chocolate binge. From start to finish, including baking time and cooling time, it´s at least an hour before you can be biting into your brownie. Not bad, but sometimes not quick enough.

For these moments we have the wonder brownie, also known as the brownie-cookie (no, I won´t say brookie).

This is simply a scaled down recipe, made with just one egg, and baked in dollops, cookiewise, for just five or six minutes.

The result are about fifteen wodgy disks, chewy at the rim, fudgy in the middle, perfect for scoffing right out of the oven, or to serve any way you would a brownie, in case of a brownie emergency.

I made them on Sunday and it took me eighteen minutes from start to finish, but that included doing the sums, never my forte. Since you have it done already, count on fifteen minutes, tops.

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Melt 65 grams of chopped chocolate and 65 of butter in a bowl in the mircowave, on medium, for a minute. Once out, stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon so it mixes really well. Add one egg, beat, add 65 grams of sugar, and 40 of flour. Pinch of salt, stir well and spoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for six or seven minutes. 

In this time you can lick the bowl and spoon, wash them for real, make coffee and prepare a pretty tray.

A palette knife might be good to take the things out, as they´ll be still sticky in the middle.

Serve and astound friends and family. You´re gonna love me for these, I bet.

Oh, and if you want to make a proper tray, the recipe I use is Nigella Lawson´s from How to be a domestic goddess, minus 100 gr. of sugar. It´s here.


Bread, II.

I´m on a bread kick. It happens to me every year, but I would lie if I said it led to my making all the bread I eat. Usually after a few weeks my interest peters out.
But maybe this time it won´t. My last two loaves were so stellar, they may just have hooked me.
I made two, by the old hit and run method I wrote about, except that in one I used more water and it whooshed into an airy, domed creation. I also forgot to add the yeast to it, and bunged it in later, and mixed it without much hope. But it still turned out fine, so I´m beginning to think that it´s really no big deal.

One of the loaves, the normal one, smelled very yeasty on coming out of the oven, but didn´t taste so strongly of it. Not that I mind bread tasting of yeast. If it tasted of fish, or old socks, then I would worry, but yeast? Hardly.
However, I just bought the latest River Cottage book, and since I had the baby off my hands for the whole morning yesterday, I decided to try out the sponge method.

It bubbled away merrily all day yesterday, and the kneaded dough has risen admirably overnight, and now I´m waiting for it to prove. It seems to be a slow process but there´s no hurry. I´m curious to know if the flavour is really all so much better, because, frankly, that basic elemental bread turned out beautiful, delicious, and lasted all week.

So, while I find out about the supposedly fabulous bubbling sponge , here´s the variations on the basic recipe from the other post.

I used 350 gr. white flour, 150 gr. wholemeal, about a half cup of wheat germ, 40 gr. of gluten, a tablespoonful of dried yeast and one envelope of cultured buttermilk. This last is a very exotic ingredient that I´m almost running out of, but it´s just a question of using 1 cup of milk instead of all water.
The difference in this loaf was that I used almost 400 ml of water, which made the dough impossible to handle after it came out of the machine. But so much water means so much steam, and airy bubbles inside.
A sprinkling of cornmeal on the bottom of the loaf pan makes for a very good addition to a crackly crust.


Master mojito recipe from "Taste of Cuba"

Ah, Cuba... still as shabby and as gorgeous as ever. It was great to be back, even though the tropical summre heat knocked me flat.
Being deeply in love with Mad Men I was in a swoon over all the beautiful modernist architecture. We also went to Trinidad, a beautiful town that has managed to retain its XVIII century character without looking fake and over polished (unlike some bits of old Havana).
And the food? Well, Cuba has the sort of hearty Creole cuisine that I love, and staying at the house of a wonderful cook I was lucky enough to taste the best of it, which isn´t always easy for a tourist (or a Cuban citizen).
I could give you a recipe for beans and rice, or those fritters, or the amazing Key Lime Pie we had . Instead, I think I´ll do you a favour and pass on this great mojito, because that´s the best way to win friends and influence people, and if you´d been at the book launch, that´s what you´d have had, so here goes.

The beauty of it is that it´s a mojito base that you can make and keep in the fridge for any impromptu mojito madness. It will also make serving a lot of them the work of a moment, which, you won´t need me to point out, is great for a party.

Mix well, really well, like, shake the hell out of: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup fresh lime juice, a bunch of mint (stalks and all) and 1 75 cl bottle of 3 year old rum.
It keeps in the fridge for at least a month, as the rum in the mix keeps everything fresh..

When you want to make the mojito, just quarter fill a tall glass with the mixture, add ice cubes, sparkling water and a sprig of mint. Maraca noises optional.