Erin has a magnificent blog; it is a great source of foodie inspiration and is packed with recipes you just want to make. And the name The Spiffy Cookie is wonderful.
Erin also has a great love of baking, and there are many baking recipes on her blog, so I felt immediately at home while browsing through and bookmarking: you know the way you are looking at one thing and then you get drawn to another, and before you know where you are you have so many tabs open………………!
Erin is wonderfully quirky, with an infectious love of food and a real interest in home crafts. Her fun personality comes across throughout her blog. I love how she will often plan a meal around her chosen dessert.
I also love how Erin lists her foodie likes and dislikes, crossing off dislikes once she has been “converted”, with the conversion undertandably taking place after trying the homemade versions.
A culinary challenge, though, is to convert Erin to the joys of pickles, for they can be such wonderful mouthfuls of delight…..granted, they can equally be quite quite horrid if badly made, but a great pickle is a truly wonderful thing. Erin, I am sure we can collectively suggest one or two pickles that you will try and fall immediately in love with…….The challenge is set 😀
This month’s SRC recipe choice
It was very hard to settle on one recipe when so many caught my eye, and I was so tempted that I made several of Erin’s recipes, which I mention later.
After much deliberation, and giving in to my chocolate addiction, I decided to go for cocoa brownies with browned butter and walnuts for this month’s SRC posting.
Squidgy, full-on chocolatey, with a lovely walnut vibe, these are truly indulgent treats. The brown butter adds such a depth of flavour, extra richness and, as Erin says, gives a real fudginess to proceedings. And the aroma as you open the oven….wow!
I didn’t get quite the sheen on my batch that Erin has on hers on her post, as I let the mixture cool a little before beating in the eggs, but I can live with that.
At first I thought that just using cocoa powder rather than chocolate would in some way diminish the chocolate kick that you need in a brownie, but how wrong I was! What you get is a real intense chocolate flavour.
I took most of these into school with me to share with colleagues and within about half an hour they had vanished from the staff room!
These brownies are perfect eaten just as they are with a cup of tea or coffee, but are great warmed up as the main part of a dessert, served with some ice cream or a tangy sorbet.
I also made a second batch for a friend who cannot eat gluten-free food, so I replaced the flour with gluten-free plain flour. They were just as indulgent – as a good gluten-free bake should be. And brownies in particular have to be indulgent – otherwise there is no point whatsoever in having them!
Brown butter – oh yes please!
While I have used brown butter in savoury sauces before, I had never used it in baking, but it works so well and these brownies reminded me of my fondness for brown or browned butter (beurre noisette), having not made it for ages. So a big “thank you” to Erin for re-acquainting me with an old friend!
You get a lovely deep nutty and very rich flavour with brown butter that really has to be tasted to be believed. Thanks to Erin’s inspiration, I have since used brown butter in chocolate cakes, coffee cakes, a little beaten into buttercream and even in choux pastry!
Don’t get at all put off by making brown butter: it is very quick and easy to make. You can make it in advance and use it as you would normal butter in a bake, or re-melt for these brownies.
Top tip: once you have made the brown butter you can strain it through a fine sieve if you don’t want the darker bits, giving a clear liquid which has bags of flavour, or else keep the darker bits in there, to give a slighty more bitter note. Either works well, so it’s down to personal choice!
Other recipes from The Spiffy Cookie that need to be made
Well, why settle on making one recipe when you are tempted to make so many? And while I have bookmarked many more to make later, I did make several others from Erin’s blog, which I urge you to make:
Sourdough Cheddar & herb biscuits: I love savoury twists on sweet classics anyhow, and I hate to discard my sourdough starter, so these gorgeous savoury biscuits were right up my street!
Apricot honey scones: who doesn’t love scones? These ones are a lovely variation on a classic Afternoon Tea treat; I actually made 2 batches of these!
Broccoli & cauliflower quiche with hash brown crust: very simple to make and comfort food of the highest order.
Recipe: cocoa brownies with browned butter and walnuts – makes 16 pieces
NB: I have converted the recipe in Erin’s blog to UK measurements, and used a different sized baking tin owing to what I had to hand, but the ingredients are otherwise exactly as Erin has given.
- 150g unsalted butter
- 280g caster sugar
- 100g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon best quality vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, chilled
- 2 teaspoons water
- 60g plain flour or gluten-free flour
- 100g walnut pieces
(1) Preheat the oven to 160C (fan).
(2) Line a rectangular baking tin with foil or greaseproof, leaving an overhang. If using foil, coat it with nonstick spray. I used my normal brownie pan that is 28cm by 20cm by 3cm.
(3) Brown the butter: put the butter in medium saucepan over a medium heat and heat until it has melted. Bring to a gentle simmer, at which point the butter will start foaming, and simmer until the butter stops foaming and browned bits form at the bottom of pan, stirring often: this takes about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
(4) Add the sugar, cocoa, water, vanilla extract, water and salt. Stir to blend. You will have a thick, fairly grainy mixture, like dark brown wet sand, but trust it! Let it cool for 5 minutes.
(5) Add the eggs to the hot mixture, one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. Add the flour and stir until blended. Beat well. Stir in the nuts. Transfer to prepared tin and level off the surface.
(6) Bake the brownies for about 25 minutes, until a skewer or toothpick inserted into centre comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached). The top should have a nice crust and if you press gently you should feel the softness underneath.
(7) Cool in the pan. Lift the brownie from pan and cut.
Click on the blue frog below to see what others in the SRC have been cooking this month.