Thursday, 26 June 2014

Choccy Rocky (and Roll-y) Road

I've always been a fan of big blocks of the lolly, marshmallow and nut-studded chocolatey mess that is rocky road. Recently one of my work colleagues produced some absolutely delish rocky road that set me on a spin for the stuff. So when a noticed a supermarket flyer with a recipe for it that I'd once stuck to the fridge, the writing was on the wall... (er, close enough!)

This version took me a little by surprise - it seemed to be a (slightly) healthier take on the treat masquerading as Christmas fare. While I would scoff at such a 'calorie saver' during the silly season, for the rest of the year we don't eat silly amounts of certain foods so a less calorific option is more welcome ;-) In this recipe marshmallows stay (they are fat-free after all...), and some freshly roasted peanuts were welcome, but over-sweet chewy lollies are replaced by dried cherries. Of course, we can't do much about all the chocolate that's needed.. 

The original recipe is here along with a lovely picture demonstrating how you could package yours and give it away as gifts (some of mine went to the students in our home group who were studying hard for exams). I found that there was definitely not enough chocolate compared to the other ingredients, and I 'finished packets' of some things, so ultimately I probably increased the recipe by about a third. But who's going to complain for more and thicker slices of this treat?!?!

Rocky Road Slice

750g dark chocolate buttons (two packets - buy the cheapest kind of choc bits!)
200g dry-roasted nuts (peanuts, brazil nuts, whatever you like)
200g glace cherries, or other fruit if you prefer
200g shortbread biscuits (I used Scotch fingers)
150g mini marshmallows

Line a 20cm x 30cm pan or dish with baking paper.
Place the chocolate in a bain-marie (small metal bowl above, but not touching, a saucepan filled with a small amount of simmering water). Stir the chocolate with a fork until melted and smooth.
[A word for the wise: I took a risk and didn't bother with a small bowl above the water - and subsequently burnt the chocolate!! All was not lost - I added milk until it went smooth again but it wasn't quite the same as if I hadn't burnt it in the first place. Alternatively you can melt the chocolate in the microwave but you will have more control over it by slowly heating it over the stove.]
After burning it, the chocolate returned to a smooth consistency by adding milk
If you have raw nuts, roast them for 15 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius in single layer spread over the base of a roasting dish, stirring occasionally; cool for half an hour before using. If you are using brazil nuts, roughly chop them before placing in a large bowl. Halve the cherries (if whole) and add to the nuts. Give the shortbread biscuits a few hits with the rolling pin so they break into pieces about the size of your thumbnail (leave them in their packet or place them in a plastic zip-lock bag first). Stir the biscuit pieces and mini marshmallows in with the nuts and cherries.

Pour the melted chocolate into the bowl of ingredients. Stir gently until everything is well coated in chocolate.
Pour the rocky road mixture into the prepared pan and smooth down with the spatula. Refrigerate until set (between half an hour to an hour, depending on how much of a hurry you're in to try it!), then cut into small squares to serve.

This recipe makes 30 to 40 pieces, depending on how generous you are with your servings! Happy mid-winter Christmas, perhaps!?!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Celebrating 1,000 page-views with Instant Pudding...Biscuits??

Happy 1,000 page-views to the IBS blog!!! I still can't believe anyone bothers to read what I have to say about baking (or any topic...) but thank y'all for your kind contributions to making this 'milestone' in blogology :-) Yes, there is a counter that I see when I go behind-the-scenes and write posts, and yes, I do keep an eye on it...but a better measure of 'success' is your feedback in person (or comment!) - and it's much more encouraging, too! So feel free to drop me a line under any post, or if you're on Google + go ahead and message me (my profile is linked on the right-hand side of this page). 

Ok, that's it with the plugs, now onto the noms...

Biscuits (/cookies) as they should be: large, soft and choc chunk-filled.
Well, admittedly they can be other flavours but chocolate was all I felt like. Although I was trying to think of a post worthy of the 1,000 view mark, I couldn't get past the humble biscuit. That, and they were all I baked the entire weekend, after a not-so-subtle hint from the husband!

I looked in my trusty, 'if it can be baked it'll be in there' cook book, the NZ Rally Cook Book 2, and out popped this crazy-sounding recipe: Instant Pudding Biscuits. Because of my afore-mentioned desire not to break copyright, I trawled the internet and easily found replications of this recipe to reference. 

In the depths of the pantry I had stashed a packet of instant dessert mix for a 'rainy day'...

Chocolate was a good start, but several recipes online - including the one from the Greggs website - suggested adding things like nuts. But why add nuts when you can have more chocolate?! Although choc chips go with cookies like...well, I go with cookies, I'd run out and they tend to be at least a dollar more expensive for a smaller packet compared to baking buttons. And chopped up buttons are way more decadent, giving that bought-cookie choc-chunk texture...ooohhh I'm salivating now!!!

Add some sugar, flour and an egg, and you have instant(ish) happiness! Here's the recipe based on the one from a site claiming to speak into the quintessential Kiwi recipe...

Instant Pudding Biscuits (Cookies)

175 grams butter
1 cup sugar
1 packet instant pudding (approx. 70g)
1 & 1/2 cups plain flour
3 Tablespoons cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg

1 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped up chocolate buttons

Cream butter and sugar until butter is pale yellow and fluffier. 

Before and after - thanks to my ninja Kenwood handbeater!
Add egg and beat until combined, then add instant pudding and beat until combined. Sift flours and baking powder into mixture and stir with a spoon until just combined. Add your chocolate chips/chunks and stir through.

It even looks like instant pud at this stage!
Roll into small teaspoon-sized balls for small biscuits or tablespoon-sized balls for larger ones, place approx. 4cm apart on lined baking trays and flatten each ball slightly with a fork.

It should be noted: when I used the recipe book, the quantity of flour was given by weight and I underestimated it, as well as the butter quantity being more. So I couldn't really roll my mixture and it was very sticky. 
Bake 190 degrees Celsius  for approximately 10 minutes (keeping an eye on the bottom tray, even switching trays in the oven when cooking timeis halfway through, to avoid burning).

This recipe makes between 30 and 50 biscuits, depending on whether you want big or small ones. An addition half a cup of flour (2 cups total) will make the mixture easier to roll, but produce more solid cookies; this recipe makes lovely soft ones that spread as far as you'll let them!

I really think chocolate is unbeatable, but admittedly the instant pudding mix doesn't make much more of a difference than some cocoa and a bit more sugar would. Tasty alternatives could include using butterscotch pudding mix with butterscotch chips (I hear they exist?!), or strawberry pudding mix with dried fruit. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Long Weekend Baking: Brownie Galore and Memorial Day Cupcakes

What better use for a long weekend than some time in the kitchen, baking up a storm. There are few things that make me happier! However a poorly-timed cold/flu took me down during the week so I've been trying not to go crazy with baking, let alone blogging about it. 

('Poorly-timed' because a) when is a cold ever welcome, and b) it was my BIRTHDAY, plus my parents were visiting from out of town. The cold sent my tastebuds AWOL and so I couldn't taste much of the two birthday dinners that I had :( ). 


...would I be an 'irrepressible' baker if I could be stopped?!?!? In addition I have been reminded by a certain faithful reader (my MIL :) that I am overdue for a new post. I've been working myself up to posting about Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting/icing, but obviously I haven't reached the motivation threshold for that yet. So here's a 'filler' til then - albeit a delicious one!

While Monday (yesterday) was a holiday in NZ known as Queen's Birthday, I hear that those in the States are celebrating Memorial Day around about this time. The main reason I know this is because a friend of ours, an expat American married to a Kiwi lass, had his birthday party this weekend and it was M-Day themed. So we decked out in red, white and blue and I turned out these wee Red, White and Blue Berry Cupcakes.

I used Julie Le Clerc's delicious and super-easy Vanilla Cupcakes recipe from this post, adding about a cup and a half of mixed berries to the batter just before dividing it between cupcake cases. It gave a lovely red and blue tinge to the batter. 

The cupcake/patty pan cases were the closest I had to red, white and blue! The ones with babuska dolls I just couldn't say no to...

Although these cupcakes didn't rise as much as they would have without the addition of berries, they were beautiful and moist.

I iced them with a half-quantity of the regular buttercream (using my favourite margarine as I didn't have any butter softened at the time) from this post by filling a piping bag attached to a size #1M Wilton (large open star) piping tip, and topped with some sweets in suitable colours :)

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Now for her Majesty the Queen, the very best must be presented. The obvious choice (to me) was brownie. What could be more cakey than cake, more chocolatey than chocolate, more decadent than decadence itself?!? Few things in the world can make me happier than a perfectly gooey, yet fully-cooked, fudgey bite finished with a crisp top and chewy underside. I can't imagine a heaven without brownie.

And brownie was also what I promised to make my colleagues at work for my (delayed) birthday morning tea 'shout'. I'm hoping they'll enjoy my efforts with these two amazing flavour combinations!

Bring on the brownie: Peanut Butter & Caramello Chocolate and Raspberry Dark Choc brownies
All I seem to get as gifts these days are recipe books (not that I'm complaining!), and for this birthday just gone my mum got me the fabulous Whittaker’s Passion for Chocolate recipe book. Both my sovereign-worthy brownie recipes were inspired by this fantastic publication.

NB: My conscience has recently been checked in the area of copyrighting. As a result, my general rule will be, if a recipe (that's not my own original - ha!) isn't available on the net/to the general populace by the author themselves, I shouldn't be taking the credit by putting it out there. However...if someone else has already put it there...ahem, may I present, incredibly scrumptious and drool-worthy Peanut Butter Chocolate and Caramel Brownie

The recipe is faithfully produced by those links belonging to the 'someone else's (not me!), but I have a few hints for making it:

  1. Make sure you dissolve all the sugar in the butter and vanilla over the heat at the start, so that you don't find granules in the bottom of the cooked brownie. I did this before adding the peanut butter chocolate so that the chocolate only *just* melted and maintained its gooey peanut buttery nomminess... (sorry got carried away salivating)
  2. Take the chocolate mix off the heat and let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes before adding the eggs. This is more a precautionary step that stems from a childhood nightmarish baking memory of mine, which involved eggs scrambling themselves inside cooked brownie...*shudder-worthy*
  3. If you can't be bothered with (or are a little hesitant about) making your own caramel, you could do as I did and chop up a block of Caramello or other caramel-filled chocolate. I've had (other) bad baking experience where my caramel wouldn't set and my choc-caramel slice a block of Caramello gifted for my birthday by a thoughtful brother-in-law was the perfect alternative here!
  4. If your oven tends to singe baked goods, make sure you put another tray or container underneath your brownie tray while it's baking to prevent the bottom from burning.

Cadbury and Whittakers, co-existing peacefully
Dark cocoa for seriously dark and decadent brownie
Someone should really stop that chocolate thief...not that I can blame, them...!
All the ingredients (bar the caramel) mixed together.

Caramello dotted through the brownie batter
The delectable final product - fudgey, rich, decadent! Surely fit for a Queen :)

Brownie Number Two: Raspberry and Dark Chocolate. I've heard that this recipe is the 'best in NZ' but I shirked the 7 eggs it takes (although it probably feeds an army - let me know if you ever try it out!). So instead I tried the NZ Women's Weekly version (4 eggs) and it worked a treat :-) No shortcuts this time!

Raspberries dotted on top - attractive, healthy and oh-so-tasty!
The perfect dessert - brownie, brownie and more brownie (how could her Majesty not approve?!)
Hope you had a great long weekend and that you got some time to bake up some celebratory treats - or even to have a right royal rest! 

xo Claire