I do love a good chocolate brownie and for me that means dense and gooey – none of this crumbly cake-like stuff – and redolent of top quality dark chocolate. I want the texture to be rich, fudge-like, just short of too sticky to hold and I want to taste the natural flavour of the cocoa bean from which the chocolate was made.

When such a brownie can be mine for twenty-odd quid and a day or two’s wait for it to made to order and sent to me by post, there’s absolutely no reason not to indulge from time to time. And of course, it means I can spread the love by sending lovely parcels of deliciousness to friends – for a birthday or anniversary, as a thank you gift, as a get well message or just because I know someone who will utterly adore them!

B is for Brownie offers such a service, selling handmade single origin chocolate brownies across the UK via an online shop.

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I recently tried their offering (see my review below) and had a chat to founder Lou Cox. I also have a box to giveaway to a lucky reader, and a reader discount code to share too.

B is for Brownie | Interview

When did you decide to launch a business selling your brownies to the public? And when did you launch?

My decision to go into brownie baking happened in the autumn of 2014. I was on a mission to produce the very best brownie that I could. There was lots of experimentation during which I discovered that you could taste the character of different origins of chocolate in the brownies and that seemed like the most obvious route for me to take. The online business launched in August 2015.

How did you come up with the name and brand design for B is for Brownie?

My partner came up with the name and it just sounded right. I worked on the brand design with a very talented web designer called Sarah Webb. I didn’t initially want a black and white design, but in the end the logo looked so clean and fresh and timeless that I went with it.

All your brownies are gluten free. Was that a conscious decision based on a personal need to avoid gluten, a desire to be suitable for gluten-free consumers or simply that your favourite brownie recipe happened to be gluten free?

During the development stage I decided to offer a wheat free version. When I baked with wheat free flour I was so impressed by the texture that I felt that the brownies actually benefited from being wheat free, so that’s the recipe I now use. I don’t shout about it, it just happened to be the best thing for my brownies.

Where do you source the chocolate for your single original chocolate brownies, and how do you select it?

I source by flavour, it must have plenty of character to shine through in the baked brownie. I prefer chocolate without vanilla and soya lecithin where possible.

For your Grenadan brownies, you actually make the chocolate yourself from the bean, before using it in your brownies! Why did you decide to take this approach? Can you tell me more about how you chose these Grenadan beans and how you make your chocolate?

I just wanted to take the whole process further and I enjoy experimenting. I have a science degree, and spent nearly six years working for Hotel Chocolat within the development team. So felt confident in my abilities to take brownie baking to the next level. I simply chose the Grenadan beans for their character and also from a practical point of view I am a very small business and cannot justify buying tens of kilos at a time. The bean to brownie is intended to be a limited edition brownie baked simply without any additional flavour to show case the cocoa bean. I intend to change the bean origin from time to time.

The process for making chocolate is very simple but a little time consuming. Basically you roast some beans, allow to cool remove the shell, grind to create small nibs then heat the nibs and add to a grinder and grind for 4 hours. [You can read more about Lou’s methods and equipment in Lou’s recent blog post, here.]

Which is your best seller?

The sea salted butterscotch without a doubt!

How do you develop new brownie flavours?

Firstly they need to be able to withstand the character of the chocolate, secondly I tend not to blend flavours through the brownie batter as this would mask the flavour of the single origin chocolate. I like the contrast or harmony between the topping and the chocolate. Sometimes you get more topping than brownie and sometimes more brownie!

Can you tell us about flavours currently in development and coming soon?

I’ve just developed The Hazelnut Gianduja Brownie for which I am making the gianduja myself – roasting and blending hazelnuts with chocolate and sea salt – before submerging chunks into a brownie slab just before baking.

I’m also looking at a Rum & Raisin brownie for summer / Father’s Day. I am soaking flame raisins in spiced rum before baking them into the brownie.

Sum up your brownies in 5 words or less.

Immensely dense, intensely good. Truffley (not really a word I know!)

B is for Brownie | Review

My brownies arrive securely packed in a sturdy box that should fit readily through most letterboxes. Inside, the brownies are beautifully wrapped in branded paper tied with ribbon, and also in parchment paper, so they arrive safe and sound.

B is for Brownie on Kavey Eats-8652
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Lou hand-makes the brownies to order so they are freshly baked when posted and remain in good condition for about a week after arrival. You can also freeze some of the pieces if you like, to spread the enjoyment out; I froze a couple of mine, wrapped tightly in some of the parchment paper they arrived in, and can confirm that they freeze and defrost well.

The slab Lou made for me is single origin Madagascan chocolate and she created a mix of flavours so I could get a feel for her range. Fingers crossed that a similar assorted brownie slab will be available for order in her shop soon as I love the idea! From left tor right the flavours in my slab are Sea Salted Fudge, Raspberry, plain Madagascan and Hazelnut Gianduja [coming soon].

Unlike many flavoured brownies I’ve tried before, Lou doesn’t mix her flavourings into the batter as she is keen for the flavour of the single origin chocolate to shine through. Instead, she adds ingredients as toppings or – like the Hazelnut Gianduja – pushes a layer down inside the batter so it bakes into the middle. This tactic works really well and the flavourings complement rather than overwhelm the chocolate. And with chocolate this good, that’s a very good thing – the delicious red berry fruit notes typical of Madagascan chocolate sing on the palate.

I love all four that I try but I think my favourite is the raspberry jam – the fruit accentuates the natural flavours of the cacao so perfectly!

Most of the B is for Brownies range is priced between £18 and £23 per 500 gram slab. The Goldie is the outlier priced at £30, not unreasonable given the brilliant bling of 23 carat gold leaf that adorns it. Delivery is an additional £3.35 per box.

Hint: If ever you want to get in my good books, a box of Lou’s brownies would go a long way towards ensuring your place!

B is for Brownie | Giveaway

PRIZE

B is for Brownie are offering a box of single original brownies in their latest flavour, Hazelnut Gianduja, to a reader of Kavey Eats. The box will contain a 500 gram slab of handmade chocolate brownies and includes delivery to a UK address.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the giveaway in 2 ways – entering both ways increases your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
What new brownie flavour would you like to see B is for Brownie developing next?

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow both @Kavey and @Bisforbrownie on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the exact sentence (shown in italics) below.
I’d love to win a box of single origin chocolate brownies by @Bisforbrownie from Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KE-BIFB #KaveyEatsBIFB
(Do not add my twitter handle or any other twitter handle to the beginning of the tweet or your entry will be considered invalid.
Please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag.)

RULES, TERMS & CONDITIONS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 24th June 2016.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a B is for Brownie box of Hazelnut Gianduja brownies. Delivery to a UK address is included.
  • The prize is offered by B is for Brownie and cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both ways but you do not have to do so for each individual entry to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, entrants must be following @Kavey and @Bisforbrownie at the time of notification.
  • For Blog comment entries, entrants must provide a valid email address for contact.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check relevant accounts for the notification message.
  • If no response is received from a winner within 10 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

B is for Brownie | Reader Code

If you would like to order a box of single original chocolate brownies for yourself or a friend (and I’m telling you, you or the friend will love you for it!), B is for Brownie are offering 15% off to Kavey Eats readers. Enter KAVEY2016 on checkout; valid till 30th June 2016. Discount applies to contents of  cart; delivery cost remains the same.

Kavey Eats received a review box of chocolate brownies from B is for Brownie.

 

A few days ago I shared my review of Grow Your Own Cake, published by Frances Lincoln. Click through to read more and to enter my giveaway to win your own copy of the book.

This intriguing cookbook features 46 recipes for savoury and sweet cakes and bakes featuring vegetables and fruits you can grow yourself. The author Holly Farrell, an experienced gardening writer, shares invaluable tips on how to grow and harvest each crop, before putting it to use in the recipe provided. Photography is by Jason Ingram, who illustrates both gardening tips and recipes throughout the book.

growyourowncake grown your own cake sweet potato
Book jacket; sweet potato image by Jason Ingram

Pete and I have thus far made two recipes from the book, an Upside-down Pear Cake and this Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Cake, published below with permission from Frances Lincoln. I love the idea of taking a combination associated with American Thanksgiving menus and turning it into a cake.

We weren’t sure what to expect from this cake – in taste, in texture, in appearance. To our surprise the crumb is actually fairly light and not overly sweet, in fact it’s a lovely gently flavoured sponge which would work very well on it’s own, without the ganache filling or marshmallow fluff topping. We over-baked by just a few minutes, which gave the outside a slightly darker colour, but it didn’t affect the taste at all.

I am not sure adding mini marshmallows into the batter serves much purpose – as the cake cooks they seem to melt away leaving odd pockets in the sponge, lined with a crunchy sugar glaze – so I might skip those next time. The sweet potato cake is the real winner in this recipe, and you could lose the marshmallow elements if you wanted to and serve it as a simple unadorned sponge.

Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Cake on Kavey Eats (2)

Sweet Potato & Marshmallow Cake

If sweet potato & marshmallow casserole, the traditional Thanksgiving dish, is too sweet for your turkey dinner, use this great pairing in cake form instead. It is perfect after a long winter’s walk.

Makes a two-layer cake

Ingredients

Mashed sweet potatoes
800–900g/1lb 12oz–2lb sweet potatoes

Cake
400g/14oz plain flour
11⁄2 tbsp baking powder
3⁄4 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
1⁄2 nutmeg, finely grated, or 1⁄2 tsp ground nutmeg
165g/51⁄2oz unsalted butter
250g/8oz light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
450g/1lb mashed sweet potatoes
90g/3oz mini-marshmallows

Ganache
45ml/11⁄2fl oz double cream
100g/3oz white chocolate

Decoration
1⁄2 jar of marshmallow fluff (about 100g/31⁄2oz)
100g/31⁄2oz marshmallows

Equipment
2 × deep, round cake tins, 20cm/8in diameter, greased and base-lined

Method

  • For the mashed sweet potatoes, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Roast the sweet potatoes for around 45 minutes until they are soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely, then pop them out of their skins. Mash well (use a potato ricer if you have one).
  • For the cake, preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

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  • Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl and mix well; leave to one side. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate after each egg. Mix in the mashed sweet potato, then the flour and spice mix. Quickly stir in the mini-marshmallows and divide the cake mixture between the two tins. Make sure that all the marshmallows on the surface are coated with mixture to prevent them burning. Bake for 50–60 minutes. To check if it is ready insert a skewer into the cake; if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave for 10 minutes in the tins, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

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  • For the ganache, heat the cream in a small saucepan over a medium heat until just under boiling point. Pour over the chocolate and stir until it has melted and is smooth. Leave to cool until the mixture is thick enough to spread without running.

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  • To assemble, sandwich the two cake layers together with the ganache, spread marshmallow fluff on the top and sprinkle with whole marshmallows.

Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Cake on Kavey Eats (1)

Kavey Eats received a review copy of Grow Your Own Cake from Frances Lincoln, part of Quarto Publishing Group UK. Grow Your Own Cake by Holly Farrell, photographs by Jason Ingram is currently available from Amazon for £14.88 (RRP £16.99).

 

You might be wondering why I’m sharing chocolate eggs with you now, on Good Friday, when it’s a little late to get your hands on them in time? But the good news is that Brownie Heaven sell their amazing eggs all year round, so if you didn’t get the egg of your dreams this Easter, why not make up for it by ordering one of these beauties for yourself?!

I’ve been seeing a few of these brownie-coated egg creations recently but Brownie Heaven have been making them since 2010 and believe they are the original brownie egg baker! Their Chocolate Brownie Scotch Eggs are made by wrapping a Cadbury’s Creme Egg, Cadbury’s Caramel Egg or Ferrero Rocher in a thick layer of chocolate brownie mixture and baking it in an egg shape. The Creme egg ones are dusted in biscuit crumbs, the Caramel egg version are coated in salty pretzels and the Ferrero Rocher eggs are coated in crushed Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

Brownie Heaven’s range also includes regular brownies, not just plain chocolate ones but a riot of flavours including Chocolate Chilli, Cognac Truffle, Dr Pepper flavour, Irish Whiskey, Milk Chocolate Chip, Rocky Road, Salted Caramel, Sticky Peanut Butter and more. Brownie Heaven have been making and selling their brownies since 2007, starting in their coffee shop and catering business in East Yorkshire, before expanding to food festivals and markets, before finally setting up their website for online mail order.

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They usually sell their Chocolate Brownie Scotch Eggs in boxes of four of one type, but recently sent me a mixed box for review with two Scotch Cream Eggs, one Salted Pretzel Scotch Caramel Egg and one Ferrero Scotch Brownie Eggcelente. A box of four Cadbury’s Creme Egg Chocolate Brownie Scotch Eggs or Ferrero Rocher Chocolate Brownie Scotch Eggs retails for £22.95, a box of Salted Pretzel Caramel Scotch Eggs is £23.95 and both prices include courier delivery in the UK.

I thought these were great fun, and a really unusual idea too, even if they’ve been much copied since. The brownie is dense and rich, so a quarter or half egg at a time is plenty, which means you can share these with a friend or just eke them out for a week! We shared ours with some friends who also really enjoyed them.

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GIVEAWAY

Brownie Heaven are offering one mixed box of Chocolate Brownie Scotch Eggs to a reader of Kavey Eats. The box will contain two Scotch Cream Eggs, one Salted Pretzel Scotch Caramel Egg and one Ferrero Scotch Brownie Eggcelente and includes delivery to a UK address.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the giveaway in 2 ways – entering both ways increases your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
If you were designing a new brownie for Brownie Heaven, what would you put in the centre of a Chocolate Brownie Scotch Egg?

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow both @Kavey and @brownieheaven on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the exact sentence (shown in italics) below.
I’d love to win a box of Chocolate Brownie Scotch Eggs by @BrownieHeaven from Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsBH #KaveyEatsBrownieHeaven
(Do not add my twitter handle or any other twitter handle to the beginning of the tweet or your entry will be considered invalid.
Please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag.)

RULES, TERMS & CONDITIONS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 6th May 2016.
  • The two winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a Brownie Heaven box containing two Scotch Cream Eggs, one Salted Pretzel Scotch Caramel Egg and one Ferrero Scotch Brownie Eggcelente. Delivery to a UK address is included.
  • The prize is offered by Brownie Heaven and cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both ways but you do not have to do so for each individual entry to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, entrants must be following @Kavey and @brownieheaven at the time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contact.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check relevant accounts for the notification message.
  • If no response is received from a winner within 10 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a review box of Chocolate Brownie Scotch Eggs from Brownie Heaven.

The winner of the giveaway was Lindsey Stuart.

 

Yesterday I read a news article mocking the English Defence League for failing to realise that a satirical news story claiming a bakery had decided to remove the ‘offensive’ cross from traditional hot cross buns was indeed a spoof and reacting with their usual rabid froth of outrage.

One indignant commenter declared, ‘What next, ”hot crescent bun” …?

And that was it, the idea for my Hot Multicultural Buns was born. I mean, if right-wing bigots think it’s a bad idea, surely it’s a bloody excellent one, right? And of course, I took it a few steps further too!

Kaveys Hot Multicultural Buns 1 mini

I enlisted Pete to help me make these buns today, so keen was I to counter the rhetoric of the EDL.

Using a Nigella Lawson recipe from her excellent book, Feast, we made eight buns. I pasted a traditional Christian cross on two, an Islamic crescent and star on two more, a Jewish star of David on another two and a Hindu swastika on the last pair.

My icing skills aren’t great and we forgot to egg-wash the buns before I piped on the shapes but you can just about make out the designs and I hope you’ll enjoy and perpetuate the idea.

Kaveys Hot Multicultural Buns 2 mini

Kavey’s Hot Multicultural Buns

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Hot Cross Buns
Nigella makes 16 mini buns with this recipe; we made 8 regular sized ones instead.

Ingredients

For the dough
150 millilitres milk
50 grams butter
zest of 1 orange
1 clove
2 cardamom pods
400 grams bread flour
1 x 7 grams packet easy-blend yeast
125 grams mixed dried fruit
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
For the egg wash
1 large egg (beaten with a little milk)
For the multicultural patterns
3 tablespoons plain flour
½ tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
For the sugar glaze
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon boiling water

Extra equipment: You will also need a clear plastic freezer bag or piping bag to pipe the multicultural symbols onto the buns.

Method

  • Heat the milk, butter, orange zest, clove and cardamom pods in a saucepan until the butter melts, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse as it cools down.
  • Weigh the flour, yeast and dried fruit into a large bowl and add the spices. When the milk has cooled to blood temperature remove the whole spices and beat in the egg. Pour the mix into the dry ingredients and bring together into a dough.
  • Knead by hand or with a machine with a dough hook; if too dry add a little more warm milk or water. Knead until the dough is silky and elastic, though the dried fruit won’t allow for a satin smooth finish.
  • Shape into a ball, place into a large bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to prove overnight in the fridge or for several hours in a cool room.
  • Take the dough out of the fridge and set aside for half hour to come up to room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF.
  • Punch the dough down and knead again.
  • Divide the dough into 8 portions and roll into rounds.
  • Line the buns up fairly snugly but not quite toughing on a silicon baking sheet or lined baking tray. Cover with clingfilm or a clean teatowel and leave to rise again for 45-60 minutes.
  • Brush the buns with an egg wash.
  • Mix flour, sugar and water into a smooth, thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with narrow nozzle or plastic freezer bag, then snipping the very tip of the corner off.
  • Pipe crosses, crescents, stars of david and swastikas as you like.
  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  • Just before taking the buns out of the oven, mix sugar and boiling water together for the glaze.
  • Brush each bun with the glaze as soon you remove them from the oven to give a sweet and shiny finish.

Kaveys Hot Multicultural Buns 3 mini

Enjoy warm, halved and spread generously with good quality salted butter, or leave to cool and serve toasted with butter and jam. Indeed enjoy them however you like, but I do hope you share them with friends of all colours, backgrounds and faiths!

Edit: Please be clear. The swastika iced onto my buns is a Hindu swastika, a symbol perverted by the Nazis to be sure, but reclaimed here as a symbol of the Hindu faith. I do not hold with suggestions that Hindus (and others) may no longer use the swastika, which has been associated with their faith for hundreds and hundreds of years. If you cannot see past Nazism, that is your prerogative, but this post is absolutely not showing any support whatsoever to Nazism or its supporters.

 

If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter or my blog’s Facebook page you’ll have noticed that I visited Canada recently, taking in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and the region around Niagara-on-the-Lake. I’ll be sharing lots (and lots and lots!) from that trip in coming weeks. I totally loved all the destinations I visited and cannot wait to go back with Pete for a self-drive holiday.

Our tour of the Niagara region was hosted by husband-and-wife chefs Michael and Anna Olson who not only took us to visit their favourite local producers, vineyards, restaurants and markets but also invited us into their home for dinner and breakfast. We learned several of their delicious recipes, getting involved, asking questions and taking photographs as we laughed and chatted the hours away.

A recipe we all adored was Anna’s Blueberry Sticky Buns, which she made for us with blueberries and peaches, both in season in the local area.

Keen to take inspiration from Anna’s reverence for local and seasonal ingredients, I switched the blueberries and peaches for plums and blackberries gathered from our allotment just hours before.

Plum and Blackberry Sticky Buns - Anna Olson Recipe - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle - textoverlay

Anna’s original recipe calls for buns to be cooked individually in a muffin tin, but I’ve followed the variation she showed us to tuck them all together into a baking dish and turn them out whole for a wonderful family-style tear-and-share result. Also following Anna’s example, Pete and I made the dough, filling and buns in the evening, popped them into the fridge overnight to rise slowly and baked them for a perfect Sunday breakfast the next morning.

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I’m sharing Anna’s original recipe below.

To make my plum and blackberry version, just switch out the blueberries. Of course, you can use your choice of berries or chopped fruit.

To make the tear-and-share version, smear some of the maple-cinnamon filling across the bottom of a baking dish, and sit the buns side by side on top of that, within the dish. Either rise for half an hour at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge.

We found that the buns need an extra 10-15 minutes in the oven when cooked this way.

 

Anna Olson’s Blueberry Sticky Buns

Makes 12 sticky buns

Ingredients
Dough:
2 ¼ tsp / 8 g dry active yeast
¼ cup / 60 ml warm water
1/2 cup/ 125 ml milk, room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
2 tbsp/ 25 g granulated sugar
2 ½ cups/ 375 g all-purpose flour
½ tsp / 2 g salt
½ tsp / 2 ml ground nutmeg
½ cup / 115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup / 125 g cream cheese, room temperature
Sticky Bun Filling:
½ cup / 115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup / 200 g packed light brown sugar
3 tsp / 45 ml maple syrup
1 tbsp / 15 ml cinnamon
2 cups / 500 ml fresh or frozen blueberries

Method

Sticky Bun Dough:

  • Dissolve yeast in water and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  • In a mixer, add milk, egg and sugar and blend. Add flour, salt and nutmeg and mix for 1 minute to combine. Add butter and cream cheese and knead for 5 minutes on medium speed.
  • Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rest 1 hour.

Sticky Bun Filling:

  • Combine butter, sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon. Spoon a tablespoonful of filling into bottom of each cup of a greased 12-cup muffin tin.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle 1/2- inch thick.
  • Spread remaining filling over the dough, sprinkle with blueberries and roll up lengthwise.
  • Slice dough into 12 equal portions and arrange them in muffin tin. Allow to rise for 1/2 hour.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, and turn out onto a plate while still warm.

 

Huge thanks to Anna for sharing and showing us her delicious recipe, and for giving permission to share it with you. And of course, thanks to all of those involved in making my trip to Canada so amazing. I can’t wait to share more with you soon!

Kavey Eats visited Canada as a guest of Tourism Quebec, Ontario Travel & Destination Canada. The Anna Olson recipe is reproduced with permission.

 

My recent post felt like a coming out ball for our new sourdough starter, Pussy Galoaf.

Today she’s graduating with honours because loaf number three was just so damn good. A gorgeous soft crumb, a fantastic fresh bread aroma with the mild tang of sourdough, a perfect crunchy crust and a lovely shape to boot.

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Perfect in the morning for a slice of buttered bread with blackberry jam and for lunch, grilled as cheese toast.

 

Inspired by my lovely friend Celia’s images of beautiful sourdough loaves, Pete and I tried recently to resurrect our last frozen pot of Levi the Levain, the 50+ year old sourdough starter we’d been given by Tom Herbert at a cooking class some years ago. Sadly, although Levi was a spritely old thing when alive and made us many fine loaves of bread, we were forced to accept that he is well and truly dead.

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Into the breach stepped Celia, sending us a little bag of flakes that made everything better.

That little bag hailed all the way from Sydney, Australia and was a dehydrated portion of Celia’s own sourdough starter, Priscilla. It came with instructions on how to rehydrate and feed, and soon we had our own jar of bubbling sourdough starter ready to use.

Celia has been creating a family tree for Priscilla, who now has offspring all around the world. As per Celia’s request, I chose a suitably Drag Queen-esque name for Priscilla’s London daughter, creating a shortlist and asking for votes. Though I had a soft spot for several of the names including Kiki La Boule, Pussy Focaccia, and Honey Fougasse, there was a runaway winner – and so our new baby starter is proudly named Pussy Galoaf!

Already, Pussy has produced loaves of beautiful flavour, with a bubbly, aerated texture I love. Of course, Pussy can only take some of the credit, the rest belongs to Baker Pete.

The first dough was a little too wet. Pete let it rise and bake in the Lékué silicon bread maker, allowing me the honour of slashing the top, though it stuck as I sliced and then oozed back in on itself. The second dough was less sloppy and he used a regular shaped loaf mould and the same sharp knife to slash; it worked much better. But I still fancy the much deeper gash that Celia has shown us on some of her loaves.

The speckled crust (which I thought was a bit strange) is apparently not uncommon and Celia tells me that some bakers even covet it – who am I to argue?

The crust on both loaves was fabulously crisp, making a satisfying noise as Pete sawed through with a breadknife. I love sourdough toast, and these loaves make great toast. The sourdough was also perfect for my fried cheese and gherkin sandwich!

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Thank you so much to Celia for sending us some of your precious Priscilla! Please accept this post as my entry to this month’s In My Kitchen!

 

Some people are quick to blame the internet for the downfall of courtesy, culture, community, the breakdown of society… you name it. Social media in particular is singled out as a poor substitute for “real” social interaction, dismissed as a tool beloved by the socially awkward. But many of us know this for the fallacy it so clearly is; having supplemented rather than replaced our real world social lives with a global web of friendships based on shared interests and discussions held online, we understand that the internet has simply opened up more of the world to us. Instead of struggling to find people within our local communities that share a love of the topics that arouse our interests, we can look further afield and make connections with folks from far-flung places. I know that these connections are true and meaningful; having met in real life many very dear friends I first found online. To me, it feels like a modern version of penpals; I enjoyed corresponding with several when I was a little girl.

Celia, based in Sydney, Australia is one such friend. The chances of us meeting in real life are probably remote (though I live in hope), but somehow we connect via our shared love of food, growing our own fruit and vegetables and our family experiences. I adore Celia’s blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. And in the few short minutes that we’re both online at the same time, early morning for one of us, late at night for the other, we exchange a snatch of giggled messages before one of us starts their day and the other heads to bed.

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Hello and welcome, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

Morning lovely Kavey!

My husband Pete and I live with our now adult sons in an old house in the Inner West of Sydney, Australia. We bake our own sourdough bread, have chickens in the backyard and try to make as much as we can from scratch. A few years ago we ripped up the backyard lawn that no-one ever mowed and converted the space to large vegetable beds – we now have a messy, occasionally productive garden with mutant squash, rampant tomatoes and a resident frog.

We share our adventures through our blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. It’s an inconsistent rambling record of our lives with recipes, photos and the occasional post about cats pouncing on testicles.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

Not really! We were making fig jam and lime cordial the weekend that I started the blog, so that became the name!

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Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

Oh the infamous “Apricot Lamb”. For some reason, I decided that since I’d enjoyed my mother’s apricot chicken as a small child, I was sure to love apricot lamb made with tinned apricots in syrup. It’s become a standard warning now whenever my food combinations get a little too “creative” – “beware the apricot lamb”…

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You blog regularly about bread baking and chocolate-making; what is it about bread and chocolate that appeals to you so strongly?

You know, after tempering and baking for nearly ten years, I *still* feel clever whenever my chocolates pop out of their moulds cleanly, or when a loaf of sourdough rises and browns to perfection. I find it incredibly soul-satisfying – there’s something very rewarding about seeing the finished products lined up on the bench!

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish more than the others on your shelf?

I’m a big Jamie Oliver fan from his Naked Chef days – I find his recipes work consistently well. Adore Hugh FW – his River Cottage series inspired much of our lifestyle. Lately I’ve been drawn to chef authors such as April Bloomfield, David Tanis and Fergus Henderson. Oh, and I’ve always been a Jacques Pepin fan – the very first cooking show I ever watched was his Today’s Gourmet series. In bread terms, I’m particularly fond of Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf and Richard Bertinet’s Dough – both were integral to my baking journey.

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

Ooh, now there’s a question Kavey. Hmm. Chestnut flour brownies for dessert, and I’d work backwards from there. Lots of sourdough, baked that morning. Maybe a pulled pork based main – I’ve been a bit obsessed with pulled pork this year!

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What’s the single piece of kitchen equipment you wouldn’t be without? (It doesn’t have to be electrical)

I had the perfect silicone spoon – it had a wooden handle with a silicone head with *just* the right amount of resistance in it when pushing food around a frypan. Eventually the head cracked and the handle splintered, and I spend a year looking for a replacement. I eventually found the perfect substitute by Chasseur – and bought six of them. As one does.

What’s your kitchen white elephant?

The bloody box grater. It’s not a true white elephant in that it does get used, but we can’t seem to get one that does what we want! The first one was sharp, but all the plastic cracked when it went through the dishwasher, and the one we bought to replace it was rubbish. The quest continues…

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Is there a particular cuisine or style of cooking that you seek out most often when dining out? What about when cooking at home?

When we do dine out, which isn’t very often, we look for culturally interesting cuisine – something new and interesting that we haven’t tried before. I would happily never eat at a fine dining restaurant again – I’d much rather have large shared platters and pots of stew!

Which single dish could you not live without?

Hainanese Chicken Rice

What do you love about eating out?

I’ve finally figured out that I don’t like eating out much at all. I love spending time with friends, but honestly, we could eat in a food court for all I care. I’m rarely excited about restaurant food, and even when I am, I often can’t remember what I ate the next day. Cooking at home is different – those taste memories seem to be stored in a different part of my brain.

What are the biggest turn offs for you, when eating out?

Snobby service first, followed by bland food.

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Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?

I think I’ve become better at structuring a post, but I don’t think the style has changed much. My friends often tell me they can “hear” my voice in my posts, which makes me very happy. I’m not very consistent with content – I’ve always just blabbed on about whatever I’m interested in at any given time, and that’s not always food. Or it might be three bread posts in a row, which probably bores many of my readers silly (the ones I know ring me up to tell me).

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

Playing with crystal beads and turning loops in wire – I’m having a brief jewellery making revival at the moment. I’ve sent out a heap of sourdough starter to friends and we’ve all been baking virtually over Twitter – I’ve been loving that! I’ve discovered the most perfect candied orange segments and have been dipping them in tempered origin dark chocolate – I can’t seem to stop because I keep eating the ones I’m making to give away.

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Spread the love

Blog URL: http://figjamandlimecordial.com/
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/celiafigjam

 

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of my Meet The Blogger series, here.

 

Few blogs make me as hungry while reading as baking blogs, and London Bakes is another of my favourites. Kathryn focuses on gluten-free baking, sharing a wide range of delicious baked treats.

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Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

Hello, my name is Kathryn and I write the blog London Bakes. I describe it as a mostly gluten free baking blog – so many people are intimated by gluten free baking and recipes that call for seven different types of flour but I like to keep my approach as simple as possible and show that baked goods without gluten can be just as good, if not better, than their flour-filled counterparts.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

I actually can’t remember what my blog’s original name was! It was something that I set up years ago and was more reflective of my aim at the time to write more of a personal/lifestyle blog than a food blog. As my focus narrowed to baking, I decided to change it to something which represented that better and so London Bakes was born.

Why did you choose to blog about baking?

For the last year or so, nearly all of my recipes have been gluten free. Whilst I can tolerate gluten without any problems, I often bake for family members who have coeliac disease and I like to make sure that they can eat everything that comes out of my kitchen. The more I bake gluten free, the more I enjoy the challenge that it presents and I find it so much more interesting than regular baking.

Does blogging about baking present any particular challenges?

Gluten free flours can be temperamental so it often takes a while to get a recipe that I’m happy with and there are some recipes that I just can’t seem to get, however hard I try (a good gluten free lemon tart eludes me, for one).

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Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

I have a bad habit of dropping cakes when taking them out of the oven and it’s nearly always when they’re for a specific event rather than just because I fancied baking a cake. One Saturday morning I was making a two layer chocolate cake for a family party and I dropped both layers on the floor. I’m afraid I burst into tears and went to wake my boyfriend up so he could clean up the mess while I sulked in the other room!

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

I use a lot of nuts in my baking – the bottom drawer of my fridge is filled with them in various states (whole, chopped, ground) – and I couldn’t be without a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. I use it often in place of butter in my baking and love drizzling a little over vanilla ice cream.

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

Definitely Nigel Slater. I use his book a lot and if I’m googling to find a recipe and one of his pops up, I’ll inevitably use it (and love it). He just makes the kind of food that I like to eat.

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If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

I’ve learnt my lesson from too many dinner parties where I’ve been stuck in the kitchen all night, trying to plate up an excessively complicated meal – now I’m much more likely to serve up something like a big lasagne with a side salad so that I can spend more time with you and less time stressing out in another room!

If we were meeting for a meal out, which restaurant would you choose?

I know this is a restaurant that Kate mentioned in your interview with her but I’d have to say The Truscott Arms too. Maybe we should organise a big blogger meet up there! [sounds good to me!]

If we were to take a trip together, where would we go?

I’ve loved reading all the posts that you’ve written about Japan and the enthusiasm that you have for the country (and the food!) so maybe you could show me round? It’s not somewhere that I’ve ever been and I would love to go there.

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Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?

I definitely blogged more frequently when I first started but I soon realised that wasn’t sustainable. Now I focus on getting out a post every week or so but ensuring that it’s something that I’m proud to post rather than just posting for sake of it. I hope that my photography has improved over time as well but it’s one of the parts of blogging that I most struggle with.

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

For me it’s definitely balancing blogging with work/home. I’ve been travelling a lot recently with my job and I’ve had to neglect the blog a little as there’s just hasn’t been enough time to fit it in.

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

I think blogging pushes me to get more adventurous in the kitchen and experiment with new ingredients and techniques. I also love the fact that having to come up with a new post forces me to think about something other than my fay job for a few hours a week.

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What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

I have a long and enduring love for using buckwheat flour in my kitchen – I use it for muffins, cookies, cakes, waffles, pancakes, everything really! It’s the most well-behaved flour I’ve come across and I love the slight grassy flavour that it has; it works so well with chocolate and winter spices like ginger and cinnamon.

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What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

I’m not sure if it’s the most popular post ever but the most popular post this year by far is these flourless salted dark chocolate cookies. They’re very easy to make but super, super chocolate-y which is all that I really want in a recipe!

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

Maybe the plum, ginger and almond cake that I made earlier this year? I think it’s one of the absolute prettiest cakes I’ve made (although I haven’t set the bar particularly high) and it’s really delicious.

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Spread the love

Blog URL: http://londonbakes.com
Facebook page: http://facebook.com/londonbakes
Twitter handle: http://twitter.com/londonbakes
Pinterest profile http://www.pinterest.com/londonbakes
Instagram handle: http://instagram.com/londonbakes

 

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of my Meet The Blogger series, here.

 

It’s funny what can upset you, isn’t it? Funny odd not funny ha ha.

The attachments we form to inanimate – and frankly insignificant – objects can verge on the ridiculous.

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Like many kids, my sister and I helped mum in the kitchen and developed a love of food and cooking from an early age. Mostly, we cooked from mum’s collection of cookery books but when I was 12, my interest was re-galvanised by cookery lessons at school and I decided I wanted to learn more about baking. I bought my very first cookery book, one of the Marks & Spencer’s St Michael series; Good Home Baking by Mary Cadogan was newly published in 1983 and I loved cooking from it. I have strong and quite distinct memories of making the individually shaped Vienna bread rolls and some of the biscuit recipes many times, as I strove to improve my skills.

Fast forward a few years and I left for university, but failed to take the book with me. When I next came home and tried to find it I discovered, to my enormous upset, that mum had given it away! Had it been any of the other books we cooked from, it wouldn’t have been a big deal but this was my book, my first cookery book and I wanted it back! It was one I had learned and loved cooking from and I felt its loss far more keenly than my rather chagrined mum had anticipated. Of course, she offered to buy me another copy but it was no longer readily available and eventually I stopped sulking and let it go.

But actually, several times in the years since then, I’ve found myself thinking about that one cookery book and wistfully wishing I still had it. It’s not that I feel I need those recipes to make bread rolls or biscuits. Maybe it’s just nostalgia? For years, I’ve browsed charity shop shelves in the hope of spotting it. Others in the St Michael series have popped up now and then and I’ve bought all kinds of other fabulous finds. But I never spotted my book.

Of course, there’s one thing we have at our fingertips now that we didn’t have back when mum gave my precious book away: the internet! A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly decided to try and track down the book on the web. To my delight, it took all of ten minutes to find several second-hand copies on sale via Amazon Marketplace and a few days later my “used very good” copy arrived.

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As soon as I started flicking through the pages, I recognised many of the photographs.

But what to make first? Should it be Coffee Kisses or Glazed Nut Loaf or Tea Brack or Sticky Gingerbread, all of which I remember making?

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In the end, the decision was easy. I cast my eye over the box of product samples waiting to be reviewed and settled quickly on a selection of Nutural World Nut Butters. Made by the delightfully named Mordechai Chachamu (I genuinely think his might be the single most charming name I’ve ever encountered), these nut and seed butters are 100% natural with just one ingredient each. Mordechai gently roasts the nuts and seeds to bring out their flavour, then processes them to smooth or crunchy. The regular jars hold 170 grams and range in price from just £1.98 for the Sunflower Butter to £5.60 for the Macadamia Nut Butter. Also in the range are Cashew Nut, Pumpkin Seed, Hazelnut, Brazil Nut, White and Brown Almond, Pecan and Pistachio.

You can buy these from the Nutural World website, at Broadway and Camden markets and on eBay and I urge you to give them a try. They’re absolutely delicious and a wonderful alternative to their better known cousin, peanut butter.

Which is why I chose a classic peanut butter recipe from Good Home Baking to put some of Nutural World’s nut butters to the test – Peanut Biscuits.

Because I wanted to try three different variations, we first mixed up the biscuit dough without any nut butter, divided it into three and then added a different nut butter to each portion. Of course, you can make a single batch and add whichever nut butter you choose to your mix.

As we’re not fans of margarine, we also switched margarine to butter and we adapted the method to use our food processor. Of course, you can mix by hand.

These biscuits are what I’d call old fashioned in style – they’re crunchy and crumbly rather than soft and chewy and the flavours are subtle rather than smack-in-the-face. They’re perfect with a big mug of tea.

Old Fashioned Nut Butter Biscuits

Adapted from Mary Cadogan’s Peanut Biscuits
Makes about 24 biscuits

Ingredients
275 grams plain flour
0.5 teaspoon baking powder
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100 grams butter
225 grams soft light brown sugar
100 grams crunchy nut butter of your choice
2 eggs

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C (fan).
  • Process flour, baking powder, salt, bicarbonate of soda and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add the sugar and eggs. If using a single nut butter, add this in too.
  • Process until the mixture comes together as soft sticky dough, with the ingredients thoroughly combined.

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Our dough divided into three portions; adding Nutural World Macadamia Nut, Cashew and Brazil Nut butters

  • If making a variety of nut butter biscuits, scrape the dough out of the processor, divide into portions, add nut butter and beat in thoroughly using a fork or spoon.

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  • On a baking tray lined with either a silicon mat or baking paper, spoon out dollops of biscuit dough and use a fork to pat each dollop down and create criss-cross lines on the surface.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

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  • Leave to cool on the baking tray for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Kavey Eats received nut butter samples from Nutural World.

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