browned butter Nutella crumb bars

DSC05524When I was four, my idea of baking involved cutting out pieces of puff pastry with cookie cutters and glazing them with jam for an extra something special: “jam tarts”. This would ideally be punctuated by a photo opportunity involving candidly brushing my hands off onto my apron. While I have not purchased puff pastry for myself to relive my childhood, I remain a secret butter sneaker; enjoying the butter that was meant to be for greasing the trays nearly as much as licking the bowl.

Now that I’m an adult, I can slither off bits of butter from time to time and call it low carb dieting. Or I can brown the butter and call it genuinely delicious.

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peppermint no-bake slice

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Apparently all I like to do is cut things into quadrilateral pieces, because slices (bars) are becoming a bit of a treat theme here. I was vaguely disappointed to discover that beyond my contribution, the only other St. Patrick’s-related adornment to my workplace were some clover-printed socks (concealed with scrubs). I was unintentionally overzealous with the green food colouring when making the peppermint filling, and I initially intended for it to be a rather elegant shade of light pistachio. Not the case. Thankfully the garish colour did nothing to put people off, even a few chocolate-mint naysayers (someone even went as far as to say that things were always more delicious when covered in green icing. I’m not so sure I agree with such hyperbole but gold star for enthusiasm). I was inspired by Jane’s Patisserie for this recipe, but also used what I had on hand to make a slightly more robust filling to the slice, because apparently I like things thick like that.

No bake slices are so easy – they’re pretty much the ultimate method of combining various delicious things, so it’s hardly surprising that these taste good. They’re very forgiving and totally adaptable for whatever you want to stuff them with.

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Lucy’s ginger crunch

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Could there be a better way to express that you miss someone than by creating a slice in their honour?

My friend Lucy is possibly my food soulmate – sharing not just the ability to eat past the point of what is both socially acceptable and physically possible, but massive enthuse for the edible. Unfortunately, our friendship is currently confined to the realms of long distance Whatsapp conversations. Through living vicariously through her Instagram as she frolicks about in Mallorca and attending the supermarket post night shift (is there a situation where one feels more jaded? I don’t want to find out), I was inspired by our favourite pick and mix treat, dark chocolate covered crystallised ginger.

Her number one complaint with food is that it is neither dense nor rich enough – therefore the slice comes with 25% extra ginger icing, crunchy toasted pistachios and chunks of Whittaker’s chocolate. Ginger crunch is one of those things I consider to not really require upgrading with superfluous deliciousness, however I feel the extra treats on top and marbled chocolate ganache through the ginger icing take it to an entirely separate territory.

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plum cheesecake swirl brownies

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Using what you have in the fruit bowl is always a good idea, especially when you get to tie together a favourite flavour combination: black Doris plums and dark chocolate. I brought them along with me for night shift, which is standard procedure now – to the point where I feel vaguely guilty if I don’t bake, and all the more relaxed and excited about my shift if I do. I don’t even try and conceal the fact I am the ultimate of feeders at work.

These brownies are fudgy and decadent – to the point where they would be entirely acceptable to serve as a dessert, perhaps with some cream and crushed meringues on the side. If plums aren’t in season, they would also be great with berries – I think it’s nice to have something slightly acidic to cut the density of the brownies and compliment the creaminess of the cheesecake. It’s probably unnecessary for me to go into such details re: the flavours working together – the simple truth is, they just taste good, and thankfully the swirling process means they look sufficiently elegant to serve to other people with very little effort.

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pink lemonade bars

DSC05177Something about shortbread makes this recipe synonymous with summer afternoon tea (or depressingly, work shift). This could be just as easily made without raspberries as the original recipe suggests, but I love having freeze-dried raspberries on hand for the extra magic they add to baking. I’m not sure if frozen berries would necessarily have the same effect without altering the texture, but it would be worth straining some stewed raspberry pulp to experiment with achieving the pop of pink.

I made these the day after an utterly disastrous cookie attempt situation in which the entire bottom of the cookie oozed out in a charred fashion from the circumference. I brought the five least burnt ones in to work in an attempt to maintain some kind of sense of pride about the experience, but the proof was in the subsequent day’s attempt: I am all about being adept at slices, and that’s the way the cookie has crumbled.

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black Doris plum and chocolate slice with coconut crumb

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The amount of time I spend daydreaming about flavour combinations is a little terrifying – I will start cottoning on to an idea of things to put together and I genuinely can’t stop thinking about them until I try them (current works in progress include the perfect slice base/extras to be topped with marshmallows, how to tie meringue in with brownie). Apparently my baking style at the moment is to pick rustle up treats on the basis of what I need to use up/is on the verge of exhibiting excessive fruit fly magnetism. My flatmates and I all worked the weekend, and so I had Monday morning to play with the very ripe plums on hand. Figuring the acid of the plums would cut the rich butteriness of a chocolate shortcake base, this slice quickly came to fruition, with the addition of chocolate for obvious reasons (read: chocolate) and coconut for an extra textural element and sweetness.

This could easily be baked in a cake tin and served like so for a summery afternoon tea or dinner party. On this occasion, I was providing sustenance to the emergency department staff on an evening shift, so squares worked perfectly.

DSC05100 DSC05101 DSC05102 DSC05105Ingredients (makes ~25 small pieces):

  • 125g butter, nearly melted
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature and free range (always)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 black Doris plums, stoned and cut into eighths
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 60g desiccated coconut
  • 100g sweetened condensed milk
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 325F/170C bake. Grease and line a 23x23cm square cake tin with baking paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat the caster sugar and butter until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Beat in the vanilla essence. Add the dry ingredients and beat until just mixed.
  3. Pour the shortcake batter into the tin. Melt the chocolate on low heat in the microwave, then, using around half of the chocolate, dollop blobs over the shortcake. Marble the mixture through the shortcake with a bamboo skewer or end of a spoon.
  4. Arrange the plum segments on top. Combine the coconut and condensed milk and scatter the sticky crumb at random over the slice. Drizzle with more chocolate (save a little for decorating later).
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes until cooked through. Transfer to wire rack and cool before decorating.
  6. Dust with icing sugar and drizzle with the last of the chocolate. Cut into pieces (I didn’t even wait for the chocolate to solidify) and serve.

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salted caramel crunch brownies

DSC05019I’ve been a little absent and not fulfilling two of my January goals/New Year’s resolutions (post fortnightly on food blog, bake something for workmates once a week), so I suppose an epic slice of three layered proportions is the only appropriate attempt at compensation for such neglect. Finding my groove for 2015 proving to be a greater challenge than expected – the combination of shift work and summer do not make for consistent habits – but in any case, this was my most recent baking effort.

I don’t even know how I stumbled upon this recipe – I wanted to make some kind of outrageous brownie. Usually for such purposes I would reach for the Betty Crocker cookie mix and packet of Oreos and whip up a brownie of the slutty variety, however this slice seemed like a level up. I doubled the recipe in order that I could take some to work and be left with plenty for a birthday present (which I am about to send off today). I did not make it gluten free, however this could be easily adapted as such and would certainly taste just as good.

Makes ~ 25 small pieces (and trust me, a little goes a long way)

Recipe from Bake Play Smile (adapted slightly – using less rice bubbles, different ganache method)

Ingredients:

  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (175g) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup (100g) plain flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa

For the caramel crunch:

  • 2 cups (440g) caster sugar
  • ½ cup (125ml) water
  • ½ cup (125ml) single (pouring) cream
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (55g) puffed rice cereal
  • 1 teaspoon crushed rock salt

For the chocolate ganache/topping:

  • 300g dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup (125ml) single (pouring) cream
  • 50g Crunchie bar (chocolate honeycomb), bashed with a wine bottle
  • Silver cachous

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160 if fan forced).
  2. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Pop the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth and completely melted.
  4. Place the sugar, eggs, flour and cocoa into a bowl.
  5. Add the chocolate mixture and mix until well combined and no lumps remain.
  6. Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin and cook for 30–35 minutes or until set.
  7. Leave in the tin to cool completely.
  8. For the caramel crunch layer, place the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat and stir regularly.
  9. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil.
  10. Cook for 8–10 minutes without stirring until the mixture is golden (if you have a sugar thermometer check that it has reached 160 degrees). For those cautious with caramel and without sugar thermometer, I advise to drop the heat once the syrup starts to turn golden to avoid burning.
  11. Add the cream, butter and salt. It will bubble up dramatically; this is to be expected.
  12. Stir until well combined and the butter has completely melted.
  13. Add the rice bubbles and pour the caramel mixture over the brownie layer.
  14. Use a spoon to smooth the top of the caramel crunch layer.
  15. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes or until almost set. I put mine in the fridge.
  16. To make the chocolate ganache, bring the cream to boil over a low heat in a medium saucepan. When simmering, take off the heat and add the chocolate.
  17. Stir until melted and completely smooth.
  18. Pour over the caramel crunch layer, then sprinkle with crushed Crunchie and silver cachous and place into the fridge to set overnight.
  19. Cut into pieces.

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