Tunnock’s Teacake Brownies

To touch base, here’s a few things: I moved to Glasgow, started a Masters, started two new jobs, became vegan, became anaemic, rediscovered fish and chips, rediscovered happiness. I had these vivid plans for food blogging in Glasgow – the U.K capital for vegan eats and all-things deep-fried (they even deep fry pizza here and call it “pizza crunch”, don’t you know) – and I had envisioned that I’d be eating out twice a week, free of charge of course, like I did during my undergraduate in Exeter.

Cod in the botanics
It’s an Irn-Bru-induced existential crisis

Added into the mix:

The state of my unhygienic postgrad accommodation has largely stunted any attempts to conjure up any new recipes (there’s no opportunity for aesthetically pleasing photographs when your kitchen hobs are that grimey). I have, however, lived with ten fascinating Americans (woops, and one Canadian, sorry Emilie) over the course of the year. They’ve introduced me to the joys of sweet potato casserole (thanks, Keely from Chicago), Jif peanut butter (thanks, Noah from Minnesotta), Cheezits (thanks, Rachel from North Carolina) and poutine (thanks, Emilie from somewhere in Canada). Apparently combining the sugary hells of the American diet shipped over seas and the deep-fried-ness of the Glaswegian lifestyle makes a postgraduate student such as myself rather distracted and disorganised. I left a lot of things behind when I moved 450 miles north, and a lot of things have gone on hold.

I didn’t bring my baking supplies or my succulents here, because I was stubbornly adamant that I wouldn’t settle in Scotland. I expected to move back down to the old smoke as soon as I hit submit on my dissertation.

But here are some confessions: I actually like Irn Bru now, and I buy it of my own accord. And not even the sugar free version. I like, not just the taste, but the lurid orange colour and the way Glaswegians call it “juice” even though there’s no fruit pulp in it and that you can get it as an ice cream flavour and the fact that my pal who works in the NHS archives has access to the original, secret recipe and that recipe apparently is so sought after that it holds this strange, mythical status. I even own an Irn Bru clock.

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I wasn’t joking

Second confession: I still haven’t tried an empire biscuit. God knows why they’re such a big deal…it’s just two pieces of biscuit, a white icing glaze and a jelly tot.

Third confession: I hate shortbread.

So, I ventured down South in a bid to navigate through the fog and retrieve my baking goods. And on the 5 and a half hour train journey up from London to Glasgow I noticed that you can measure the milage by the difference in the passengers’ accents, the increase in their happiness, and the amount of times you’re offered a Red Stripe.

To kick things off, I thought I’d stay true to the unhealthiness of my current adopted diet (an amalgam of American and Glaswegian influences) and produce these bad boys.

Tunnock’s teacake brownies (vegetarian; makes 6 “sharing” brownies)

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 175g unsalted butter (I’m forever loyal to Stork)
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 Tunnock’s Teacakes (I went for the dark chocolate variety)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Line a rectangular baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Using the bain-marie method on the hob, melt the butter and chopped dark chocolate until smooth, stirring consistently.
  3. Remove from the heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and melted concoction. Sift in the flour and mix until well incorporated. Then, crack in the eggs, mix well.
  4. Pour the mixture into a prepared baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and add the teacakes. (We don’t want these to burn). Bake for a further 20-25 minutes, until the surface begins to crack. Allow to cool before serving.

 

 

Emma’s Orange and Cacao Hot Cross Buns

Just in time for Easter, I thought I’d get Emma to write up a guest recipe for the blog. My friend and fellow Exeposé editor, her hot cross buns made me drool as I was scrolling through Instagram in bed this morning. Here’s what she had to say: 

For the first nineteen years of my life, I was a self-declared hot cross bun loather. As far as I am concerned, candied peel and sultanas are public enemy number one. This year, I discovered the joy of almost fruit-free hot cross buns. These zesty, golden delights, bursting with crunchy cacao nibs, are well worth the four to five hours of your life necessary to tend to them. Now all I need is a recipe for a fruitless Christmas cake…This recipe makes 12 buns, approximately sized for those dwelling in rural Wiltshire. For the daintier appetite, perhaps more.

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Orange and Cacao Hot Cross Buns  (vegetarian; makes 12

  • 300ml milk (semi-skimmed or full fat – just definitely not skimmed) 
  • 50g unsalted butter 
  • 500g strong flour 
  • A pinch of salt 
  • 75g caster sugar 
  • 1 large egg
  • Zest of 2 oranges 
  • A handful of cacao nibs 
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp marmalade, loosened with a splash of water

Method:

  1. Gently heat the milk and butter together in a saucepan until just bubbling away, then leave to cool until you can comfortably run a finger through it. It really must be neither piping hot nor room temperature when you get around to using it, or the yeast just won’t have fun and your buns won’t be prettily domed. Don’t be alarmed if the butter decides it wants to sit on top and not play nicely; it’s all going into the same dough and it’ll come together whether it wants to or not.
  2. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl – preferably one attached to a mixer with a dough hook, as enriched dough is a sticky business. When the milk mix is sufficiently cooled, pour it in with the dry ingredients. Add your egg, and get your mixer (or yourself) to work. 10 minutes will be sufficient; your dough should be pliant and still just sticky enough to irritate you. For the first hour-long proofing cover the dough with a clean, damp tea towel in a spot that’s just-above-room-temperature.
  3. When your dough has doubled in size, pop in your cacao nibs and orange zest – add in a teaspoon of orange extract if you’re not the subtle type. Mix it once again, ensuring you have a nice, even distribution of cacao nibs and orange zest. Wrap it back up with its tea towel in that sunny spot, for another hour.
  4. Retrieve your dough. It should now be supple to the touch, relatively clean to handle and full of tiny, delicate pockets of air, so move and shape it with care. Tenderly split it into twelve little lumps of goodness and roll very lightly until one face is nicely domed, smooth and otherwise presentable, then arrange on a lined baking tray however you please – just bear in mind that straight lines make piping the crosses easier. A three by four pattern with half inch gaps between usually suits me. Cover with the tea towel and leave them to snooze for another hour. You really cannot rush a good hot cross bun.
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C, gas mark 7. Hot cross buns are relatively low maintenance during the actual baking process (compared to how high maintenance they are while proofing) so as long as it’s a tad hotter than you’d bake a sponge, it’ll do. Just watch them closely and bring them out a few minutes earlier/later if necessary.
  6. Slake your plain flour with a little tap water until it forms a thick, pipe-able paste. Pop it in a piping bag with a plain, round nozzle. If you haven’t got a piping bag, I always think that a sealed sandwich bag with a minute corner snipped away does the job just as well. Pipe the crosses onto the buns. This mixture isn’t the most pliant, so leave a little more than you think you need dangling over the edge of the end buns.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until they’re browned – it might be a bit of a flat and disappointing brown, rather than that often-promised “golden brown”, but that’s okay. We aren’t done yet.
  8. Whilst the buns are baking, melt down a little high-quality marmalade over the hob. I recommend loosening it with a little water – no more than a teaspoon. As soon as the baked goods are out of the oven, apply evenly with a silicone pastry brush. Leave your offerings to cool just a little before serving with a liberal smudge of good, salted butter.17968494_1818070901551883_814307536_o

Keep up with Emma’s culinary creations and editorial responsibilities on Instagram.

Orange, rosemary and dark chocolate brownies

This year I’m lucky to have a wild rosemary bush growing in my garden, and though I knew wanted to make orange brownies, I wanted to add something that would make the flavour more experimental. After once sampling a stilton brownie at a food festival, I thought a little rosemary wouldn’t be overly adventurous. Next time I would like to bake with lemon and basil – but I’m unsure the brownie base would suit – fortunately, it does for this. 

Orange, rosemary and dark chocolate brownies vegetarian; makes approximately 10 portions 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 100ml water
  • 2 small sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 150g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 175g butter for baking
  • 275g caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Method: 

  1. Begin by making a sugar syrup for the crystallised orange slices which will embellish the brownies. To do this, dissolve the brown sugar in water on the hob over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Reduce to a low heat, and a slices of 1 whole orange, cinnamon and sprig of rosemary. Leave to crystallise for approximately 7 minutes on each side. Remove the slices from the pan and place on kitchen roll, and then in the fridge to set whilst making the brownie batter.
  2. Preheat the oven to 17o°C. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl of a saucepan of simmering water (be sure not to let the base of the bowl touch the water). Stir occasionally until melted and incorporated.
  3. Remove from the hear. Add the sugar and mix in well, followed by the flour and the cocoa powder. Stir in the eggs. Grate the zest of the second orange, and pop in with a handful rosemary trimmings, and stir into the brownie mix.
  4. Spoon the mixture into a prepared baking tray with baking parchment. I used a square tin (23cm x 23cm x 5cm) for mine. Partially bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, the remove from the oven and add the crystallised orange slices. Place back in the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes. Leave to cool completely before removing before removing from the tray.

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Circa 1924 – a dining experience

Exeter is fortunate to be home to Circa 1924, a rare and eloquent gem of a restaurant, hidden amongst the myriad of chains burgeoning in the city centre. I was aware of its presence, near the entrance to Northenhay gardens, because it had taken over the sister chain to Harry’s restaurant approximately a year and a half ago. That it is a relatively new and entirely unique establishment the menu is surprisingly robust, and the restaurant incredibly distinct. Behind it’s creative initiative is an approximate date – in the midst of the roaring 20s.

Upon entering my host took the liberty to reserve me a table at the downstairs speakeasy, where pinstriped mixologists in braces delivered flavour combinations so good they should never have survived the prohibition. I learnt that the 1920s thrived as the golden age of cocktails to disguise the poorer quality spirits available, sparking experimentation in alcoholic concoctions. And Circa 1924 house cocktails are certainly experimental. Take the ‘Rum & Raisin Flip’, consisting of pecan and raisin infused Doorlys 5 year old rum, with date nectar, egg and cream. Or the ‘Dill & Fennel martini’, accentuating my favourite herbs in a gin based beverage. I started on the ‘Licorice Espresso martini’ for a pick-me-up before the meal for optimum concentration as hopeful food critic.

There’s a theatre to Circa 1924. The cheerful waiters served flawlessly and attentively whilst dancing around the room. Meals came out served immediately, without a second wasted  – no odd dishes sitting on the side in the kitchen. I watched astounded as a waiter poured my date’s Brixham crab bisque starter from a height into a bowl near her lap – without a single drop of it out of place.

When attending restaurant reviews my philosophy is to try the best thing that menu has to offer. Sometimes that means I have to bend my vegetarianism. Once I was told by my server that Circa 1924’s policy is to only sustainably farm fish within a <50km radius from the restaurant building, I felt a little more morally reassured about the plethora of seafood and fish I was about to consume. The clues in the title – ‘Brixham crab bisque’ gives you an indication of just how fresh that starter will be. Each evening there is an availability of 3 fish (on this particular evening lemon sole, mackerel and whitebait) which is hand selected by the restaurant’s own fish monger from fish markets across Devon, ready to be grilled for a succulent main.

 

I started off with the ‘crispy softshell crab’ which was a whole crab cooked in a very delicate batter, garnished with a fiery chilli and spring onion salad, drizzled with a dark aromatic sweet chilli sauce and wasabi. The crab was so tender and soft, and perfectly matched with an inventive twist of the Japanese style salad.

For main, I just had to have moules marinière as the mussels were farmed from the river Exe. The white wine sauce with parsley, lashings of double cream and caramelised onion. Testament to how exquisite it tasted, my date, who is terrified by the texture of mussels, kept helping herself to more.

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My instinct was to go for the white chocolate panna cotta for dessert, but then my date was adamant to have that – so I opted for the dark chocolate truffle torte, served with raspberry sorbet and coulis. Potentially this was the richest chocolate dessert I have ever tasted, so it is not for the faint hearted, but this was beautifully offset by the crisp raspberry sorbet. The petite panna cotta would have been a little too sweet for me if not accompanied by the thick, tart gooseberry coulis and biscuit crumble. The panna cotta was definitely the best option to end the evening meal on a delicate and light note.

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Having dinner at a restaurant that boasts such a decadent menu – complete with oysters and rare-breed steaks aged for a minimum of 28 days – seems a faraway and abstract concept for students such as myself. However, Circa 1924 also offers ways to experience such luxuries without the expensive price tag. On Tuesdays, it’s free corkage. On “hump day” Wednesday, steaks and cocktail infusions are 2 for 1. And from Tuesday to Saturday, you can have an express 2 course lunch for only £10.95. Please take full advantage of this offers, as I can vouch that it is the best dining experience I’ve had whilst living in Exeter.

Click here to see the full menu, and restaurant details

 

Rosemary & dark chocolate buttons

Rosemary & dark chocolate buttons makes 1 gift; vegan

feeling inspired by the ultra-fancy chocolatiers ‘Rausch Schokoladenhausin’ the heart of Berlin. This is a simple, yet beautiful gift to give to someone special. The rosemary is freshly picked – no need for cooking

Ingredients:

  • 100g fine dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder (if needed)
  • 1 long sprig of rosemary, trimmed

Method:

  1. On a sheet of baking parchment, use a circular stencil to draw the outline of 9 circles, evenly spaced apart.
  2. Break the dark chocolate into pieces and melt over
    a pot of boiling water.
  3. If the cocoa percentage is low, stir in some cocoa powder for extra richness.
  4. Leave for 1 minute to cool slightly. Using a desert spoon, fill the circles with chocolate. Place trimmed rosemary sprigs in the middle before they begin to set.
  5. Set in the fridge for at least an hour. Snap off the baking parchment and gift in a small cardboard box, with ribbon.

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Sea salt and dark chocolate avocado mousse

Sea salt and dark chocolate avocado mousse serves 4; vegan 

this vegan desert is a lighter alternative to conventional chocolate mousse. The base is made simply from frozen banana and avocado. The sea salt compliments the dark chocolate, giving it a bitter and rich edge.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 hass avocado, chilled
  • 1 frozen very ripe banana
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 squares of good quality dark chocolate, grated

Method:

  1. Freeze the banana in slices. Scoop out the flesh of the avocado into a food processor, followed by frozen banana, cocoa powder, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Blend into a smooth paste. If too thick, add ice cubes, and pulse.
  2. Taste, and add more maple syrup if needed. Stir in the sea salt and pop the mousse into ramekins. Sprinkle with grated chocolate, and leave to chill and set in the fridge before serving.

Dark chocolate and orange cookies

Dark chocolate and orange cookies makes 12 cookies 

decorate these fragrant cookies with candied dark chocolate orange dippers13699543_1202988809764302_2060277149_o 

Ingredients:

  • 200g softened butter
  • 130g brown sugar
  • 260g plain flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped
  • Handful of chopped hazelnuts

For the chocolate orange dippers

  • 1 orange, sliced into segments
  • 50g dark chocolate, melted
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100ml water

Method:

  1. Cream together the softened butter and brown sugar. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, and combine well.
  2. Add in the flour alongside the chopped dark chocolate, orange zest and hazelnuts. Mix well until it forms a sticky dough.
  3. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a ball and wrap in cling film. Put the cookie dough in the freezer for 45 minutes. While in the freezer, pre-heat the oven to 180ºC / fan.
  4. Take the cookie dough out of the freezer and mould into 12 discs. Place the cookies on baking paper and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Leave to cool before serving.
  5. To make the candied chocolate orange dippers, as shown in my photo, create a syrup in a pan by warming the water with caster sugar. Bring to the boil on a medium heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.
  6. Add the orange slices and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes. Remove them from the pan, and pop them in the fridge to cool and harden.
  7. Dip the orange slices into melted dark chocolate.