Monday, 25 May 2009


So, these are truly the brownies that have used up all of my spare ingredients. I have no more sugar, no more cocoa powder, no more eggs, and only a little bit of flower left. That being said, I still have at least half a bottle of vegetable oil kicking about. I’m afraid it will be consigned to the gathering heap of abandoned food on the counter of the annexe kitchen.

As well as baking these to use up the last of my ingredients, a large group of my friends also have their last exam tomorrow. I plan on greeting them outside with goodies and a huge hug. The poor guys have been studying like mad for their biology of organisms exam, whilst I’ve been free since last Wednesday.

I got the original recipe from Baking Bites, the food blog that got me interested in food blogging. I have to say, that although these brownies are undoubtedly good, I’m not sure if they’re my favourite. Now, please let me explain myself.

There is nothing wrong with this recipe, at all. But I made some changes because of the equipment and ingredients I had on hand. So perhaps this is what has made the difference. First of all, the recipe called for butter. Like I said, I had a large amount of vegetable oil to use up, so I decided to opt out of buying butter and just use the oil. Most websites said that this was a perfectly legit substitution.

Secondly, I did not put as much cocoa powder in as the original recipe suggested. It said to add a 1/3 cup and I probably had just over a ¼ cup left. This is possibly why the brownies are “good” but not “omg, I could eat a whole pan” good. I love the rich, rich taste of cocoa and dark chocolate. These brownies are to my dream brownies as milk chocolate is to dark chocolate. Don’t get me wrong; I love milk chocolate. But I was hoping – perhaps a bit inanely considering I didn’t have that much cocoa powder – for a darker taste.

Thirdly, the recipe called for crushed up mint Oreos. Sadly, as a student in Scotland, mint Oreos are a) hard to find and b) out of my pathetically cheap budget. Instead, I picked up some bourbon biscuits, which consist of a dollop of chocolate icing sandwiched between two chocolate biscuits. Perhaps the mint flavour is what is missing?

Lastly, I had a 9”x13” pan at the beginning of the year. Heck, I can remember using it in March. But I had a look in my bag of baking/cooking supplies and lo and behold, it has evaporated. So, I had two options: not make the brownies (not really an option at all), or use my two 8” cake tins. Obviously, I opted for the cake tins. The recipe indicated that the brownies should be done after 35 minutes. Mine were in there for 50 minutes and the insides are still quite fudgy. Granted, the surface area of the two cake tins is about square inches smaller than that of the 9”x13” pan.

So, all in all, I’d say these are a fudgy, chocolatey brownie for those with a serious sweet tooth. The edges are crispy, whilst the centre is like eating fudge – something that made them a bit tricky to cut cleanly. Still, I’ll see how they’re received tomorrow and give them another taste to see how they have fared the day after.

Edit: I have to say, they are good the next day. The centres have solidified a wee bit, so that they’re at the nice stage of fudgy and not the undercooked stage. They were much enjoyed by all of my much-relieved-to-be-done-first-year-uni friends. Still, I wish there was a bit more of a cocoa-y “oomph” – like the centre of a dark chocolate truffle (divine!).

Bourbon Cream Biscuit Brownies

Adapted from Baking Bites

Peppermint Cookies n’ Cream Brownies
1 cup vegetable oil
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups roughly chopped Bournon cream biscuits (approx 18)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two 8" cake tins with baking paper.
In a medium-large saucepan over low heat, melt together oil and chocolate, stirring occasionally. Whisk in sugar, salt and vanilla, then turn off heat. Whisk in eggs one at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir in flour and cocoa powder until mixture is uniform. Stir in Bourbon cream biscuits and pour batter into prepared pan. Crush 3-4 additional cookies finely and sprinkle on top of batter, if desired.
Bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, but not coated with batter.
Cool brownies in pan for about 20 minutes, then lift brownies in the foil out of the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Makes 36 brownies.

So, what do you think? Should brownies be sweet and fudgy, like the best bits of a chocolate bar? Or like the inside of a dark chocolate truffle. Mmmm. I think you know my vote already. ;)

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Let’s go bananas!

Well for a start, I’ve got plenty of reason to want to go bananas right now… Yesterday was my final exam of first year uni! Take that organic chemistry! Take that molecular biology! ^.^

O the joys of not having to revise any longer. In truth, perhaps I should be grateful for this year. I have a feeling the workload is going to get a whole lot bigger next year when I start medicine.

And so as I said, my first year here at St Andrews is winding down. Heck, people have already started to go home! So, these cupcakes are a bit of a tribute to the year. Something sweet, chocolatey and a wee bit bananas (get it? ;) ) to share with all my friends who’ve made these past 9 months some of the best of my life.

Since I myself am going home in just under a week and a half, I was a little wary of buying a whole bunch of baking supplies. So these are made from donations of various friends looking to pawn off unused flour etc. So, a big thanks to Andrea for the plain flour, Hannah for the whole wheat flour, Andy for the brown sugar, Sam for the milk, and Craig for the mushy bananas. See, I hardly had to buy anything for these!

The recipe is adapted from the Wholewheat Banana Cake recipe I found on baking bites. As I said, baking supplies are mostly reliant on the good will of others, so I didn’t have brown sugar. Instead, I added ½ cup of caster sugar and ¼ cup of maple syrup, and then reduced the milk from ½ cup to a ¼ cup. Lastly, I bought some plain chocolate, chopped it up and threw it into the batter.

I broke a few rules with the icing. I looked at a few recipes online to get the general idea of what went into caramel icing. Then I just through everything together and went by taste and consistency. So, my directions are a bit vague when it comes to the icing, as I didn’t really measure! It still turned out great, although I didn’t quite have enough to cover the last few cupcakes.

Over all, none of the flavours dominates completely over the others. Upon first bite you get this wonderful melange of the banana mixed with the creamy, brown sugar icing and then a delightful surprise when you come across a chunk of chocolate. I’d definitely use dark or plain chocolate with these, and not milk – the cupcake and icing are plenty sweet enough, and the darker the cocoa flavour serves to cut it a bit. (Trust me this is coming from someone with the biggest sweet tooth in the world!)

These cupcakes are so good that they’re just fine without the icing. The maple syrup I added doesn’t come through too strong, but there is a hint of it. But only without the icing, otherwise all you taste is the banana, caramel, and chocolate flavours (not that that’s bad in the least!)

Mmm. Banana cupcakes with chocolate chunks and caramel icing! What a delicious way to finish the year!

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Chunks and Caramel Icing
Adapted from Baking Bites

¾ cup of whole wheat flour
¾ cup of plain flower
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
½ cup of caster sugar
¼ cup of maple syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
2 large ripe bananas, mashed (approx 1-1 1/4 cups)
¼ cup milk (any kind)
2 tsp vanilla extract
150 g or so of plain chocolate, chunked up into bite sized bits

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together caster sugar, maple syrup and eggs until well combined. Whisk in oil, mashed bananas, milk and vanilla extract. Add in dry ingredients and stir until no streaks of flour remain visible. Chop up your chocolate (or you could use chocolate chips) into small chunks and stir into the batter. Carefully spoon the batter into each cup until about 2/3 to ¾ full.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cupcakes cool (if you can wait that long!) and then frost with caramel icing.

Caramel Icing

All amounts are approximate. Feel free to use your own version of the recipe or play around with the proportions.

½ cup of butter
2/3 cup of brown sugar (I used Demerara sugar because that’s what Andy had)
1/8 -1/4 cup of milk
A few cups of icing sugar (Sorry I can’t be more specific. I just dumped the sugar in the bowl until I got a nice thick consistency.)

Heat the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan on low to medium heat. Continue until it begins to bubble and has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and add half of your ¼ cup of milk. Dump in a good amount of icing sugar. Mix thoroughly with a spatula and keeping adding bits of milk and icing sugar as desired.

I made a piping bag out of greaseproof paper and applied the icing by snipping off the end. Apply as much icing as desired and enjoy!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Revision and sweets!

Do you believe in pathetic fallacy? That is to say, that if the weather outside is frightening, then something frightening must be going on inside? Shakespeare...Twas a dark and stormy night and all that jazz. I only say this because I really hope it's not true! These past two days it has bucketed with rain, and I just had my biology exam this afternoon. I definitely passed, but I'll guess I'll get back to you in a few weeks when the results are out. And we'll see if really the weather mimics the state of the world.

But now, back to food. Or rather, on to food. :) As a study break on Thursday, I made some tiffin. Tiffin is a Scottish treat that is made when you make a syrup out of butter sugar, golden syrup, and cocoa powder and mix it with crushed digestive biscuits and raisins. To top that heavenly mixture off, you pour melted chocolate over it all. Divine.

Previously I'd only had tiffin before from bakeries or from hall dinner, but it didn't seem to tricky at all to make. And it was quick and no bake. A perfect treat to make for those chocolate, sugar cravings that you get from all that studying!

Anyways, I took the last of them with me to my exam today and shared the love (and chocolate) out among my friends after we got out of our exam. I must say, tiffin could easily become one of my favourite no bake bar treats!

The recipe is one that I adapted from here. Tiffin is not really a scientific treat and I think you can be fairly free with your ingredient amounts and mix them up. I was thinking that these could be amazing with white chocolate and dried cranberries! Mmmmm. That's one that will have to get made at some point.


Thursday, 14 May 2009

Happy Birthday Andy!

Here's just a quick post to tide me over until Sunday, when I'll be finished my first exam. However, I did take a break from revision today to make something, so they'll definitely be a post coming up soon. :)

This past Tuesday it was my dear friend Andy's birthday! It sucks to have your bday during revision week, but that's how it is and people still managed to get together to have a bit of fun. I know this is a baking blog and what I'm about to show you is not technically baking, but I think it still is fun and creative. :) Andy's mum was up over the weekend visiting and she left him a myriad of cake, icing, and other sweets to decorate said cake. She also left him an amazing card which was our inspiration.

The result? A delicious, sugar headache-inducing cake with no square inch of icing left uncovered. I think if there is a heaven, it will definitely be filled with cakes like this one.

Happy Birthday, Andy!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Revision, late nights, and cake!

This is revision week in St Andrews, the week before exams start where we're supposed to bed down and barricade ourselves inside our rooms or a small corner of the library with all of our textbooks, notes and th disintegrating threads of our sanity.

It's times like these where I really appreciate two things in life: one, the power of a good tkd session to completely destress and wipe any trace of transcription and PCR from my mind; and two, sharing a cake with good friends.

As I said in my profile, I have more than slightly unhealthy obsession with all things chocolate. Literally, 9 times out of 10 when I bake something chocolate is the principal ingredient. Brownies, chocolate cake, chocolate caramel cracker candy... just plain chocolate!

Which is why it's a bit out of character for me to have made something that's not chocolate this week. Although that being said, my friend made some lovely biscuits that did feature my beloved chocolate.

Instead, this week I took pity on the browning bananas that my friend Craig had abandoned last week and that I had rescued by putting them in the freezer. They were freed from their frigid states, mashed up, and metamorphosed into a glorious banana cake with maple icing and walnuts.

It must be said that I baked this cake at half 11 last night and iced it closer to 2 am. Then for some bizarre reason stayed up until 4 am. I know, I'm a student and I keep weird hours!

Still, it saved me from having to bake the cake this morning and it was lovely just to gaze at my maple-y creation all day as I poured over my biology notes.

So, without further ado, my banana cake with maple icing and walnuts!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Internet addictions and leftovers...

Are we a people addicted to information? Ask yourself a few questions: how often do you compulsively check your email? When a disagreement arises, does Google have the final say? What about your mobile? If it runs out of battery or gets lost, do you go through mobile withdrawal?

I suppose we should start off by defining what an addiction is. Addiction, according to Princeton, is being abnormally tolerant to and dependent on something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming (thanks Google). So let's see. Am I dependent on the Internet? Check. Do I habitually check my emails? Yup. Browse around? Who doesn't? I guess the key word in that definition is abnormally. Now, ten years ago, I'd say checking your email at least 5 times a day might beconsidered excessive and abnormal. So the question is, are we addicted? Or has society's view point shifted so that what might have been considered an addiction is now "normal".

Tell me, dear Internet, what say you?

And now for the food part of this post. As you saw, I baked that wonderfully, oozy, gooey chocolate cake on the weekend. Well, I had tons of icing left over! And trust me, I'm all for grabbing a spoon and rotting my teeth, but I had a few committee meetings to go to and I thought that it would be a great way to use up my extra icing. So, I wandered off to Tescos and picked up some 25p Tesco Value Rich Tea Biscuits. The result? A gloriously rich and sweet sandwich cookie with a crunchy biscuit that is just plain (is that the right word?) enough to take the edge off the richness of the icing.

Mmmmm. A leaning tower of cookies!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Cake, Family, and Friends...

Hey there, so I thought I'd kick off my blogging adventures with two of my favourite things in the world: cake and chocolate!

Here in St Andrews we have many strange and odd traditions. This past November I participated in a giant shaving foam free-for all in St Salvator's Quad during Raisin Weekend. Last Thursday I pulled and allnighter than ran screaming into the freezing North Sea with several hundred red eyed, exhilarated, and happy to be alive students. But there is also the Academic family, and that's what this post is about.

Each first year student is adopted by an Academic mother and father, who are third or fourth year students. In a way, it's an informal mentorship, bridging the gaps between years and binding the university spirit together. Literally in St Andrews, you can find a relationship with anyone. Aren't you my third cousin on my dad's side? Academically, speaking of course.

Most babies are adopted during Freshers week, usually under the influence of alcohol. But I was very fortuate and met my mother through Taekwon-do. I also count myself lucky in my mum's other choice of daughter, as my sister, Olivia, is one of the kindest and sweetest people in the world.

But how does this relate to chocolate and cake you might ask? Well, that's simple. You simply cannot have a family gathering without some sort of pudding. Or perhaps it should be you can't have a pudding without a family gathering. :) But bottom line is I love to bake and used this as an excuse to bust out my rusty cake baking skills, non-existent chocolate moulding skills, and have a jolly good time!
I used a Victoria sandwhich for the cake, having half normal and half chocolate. The frosting is adapted from Nigella's chocolate frosting for her old fashioned chocolate cake, and the roses are based off a tutorial found on Baking Obsession's website. Enjoy!