I am a sucker for chocolate brownies, which is probably (definitely) why I’m constantly developing new varieties. This recipe is one I’m particularly pleased with; the balance of sweet, nutty and salty flavours is just right and the crunchy hazelnut rye topping is a welcome contrast to the fudgy brownie centre. It’s worth noting I now use browned butter and rye flour as standard in my brownies; the depth of flavour and savoury note is unrivalled (in my humble opinion).
For the crumble
- 50g unsalted butter
- 100g rye flour
- 50g hazelnuts
- 50g light brown soft sugar
- generous pinch sea salt
For the brownie
- 150g 80% dark chocolate
- 100g 70% dark chocolate
- 250g unsalted butter
- 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
- 100g dark brown soft sugar
- 75g caster sugar
- 100g rye flour
- 75g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
- 75g white chocolate, roughly chopped
- 75g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180c and line a baking tray. Place all the crumble ingredients, except the hazelnuts, in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly in consistency (a few clumps is fine- in fact this just adds more texture to the finished brownies). Stir the hazelnuts through, tip onto the lined tray and spread out in one even layer. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up, then pop straight into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until slightly golden and starting to crisp. Set aside.
- Now start on the brownies. Line a brownie tray (mine is around 9×9 inches) with baking paper. Roughly chop the dark chocolate and tip into a large heatproof bowl. Cube the butter and pop it into a saucepan. Gently heat until foaming, nutty and starting to brown on the bottom, then pour all over the chocolate. Let it sit for a moment, then stir until smooth and glossy.
- Place the eggs, yolk and sugars in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment). Beat until very light, voluminous and pale in colour, then fold in the chocolate mixture, followed by the rye flour and salt. Finally, stir in the chopped chocolate and hazelnuts. Scrape the batter into the lined brownie tray and finish by sprinkling the crumble all over the surface.
- Bake for 25-35minutes, or until the top is set but a very faint wobble remains in the centre. Leave to cool completely then slice up and serve.
Tart rhubarb and sweet white chocolate is a delicious flavour pairing, and one I will keep returning to for the duration of the rhubarb season. In this bake I’ve applied the combination to a classic frangipane tart, using rhubarb compote in place of jam, and a filling studded with chocolate chunks and flavoured with cardamom. It’s a winner, and in my opinion, better than the standard strawberry variety (controversial).
Ingredients (enough for one 7.5 inch wide/ roughly 2 inch deep tart tin- serves 8)
For the pastry (there will be some leftover which will freeze well)
- 250g plain flour
- 140g unsalted butter
- pinch salt
- 30g caster sugar
- 2 egg yolks
For the rhubarb filling
- 400g rhubarb, sliced into 2 inch batons
- juice and zest 1 orange
- 30g caster sugar
For the almond frangipane
- 120g soft unsalted butter
- 120g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 120g ground almonds
- 1tsp ground cardamom
- 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
- 30g roughly chopped almonds
- Start off by making the pastry. Place the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. At this stage add the egg yolks and pulse again until the mix comes together in large lumps (alternatively, rub the butter into the flour, salt and sugar using your fingertips then stir in the yolks using a cutlery knife). Tip the dough out and shape into a disc using your hands. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
- While the pastry is chilling start on the rhubarb compote filling. To do this simply put 300g of the rhubarb (reserve the other batons for the top of the tart), the orange juice and zest in a saucepan along with the caster sugar. Heat gently, stirring often, until the rhubarb has broken down and reduced to a thick compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
- Lightly grease an 7.5 (or 8) inch straight sided tart tin. Retrieve your pastry from the fridge and roll out to around 3mm thick and line the tin, pushing it right into the corners and trimming any excess. Prick the base all over with a fork and chill for 20 minutes or until firm. Preheat the oven to 190c.
- Line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the walls of the pastry are cooked and supporting themselves. Remove the beans and baking paper and return to the oven until the base is crisp and cooked through (about 10 minutes). Set aside to cool.
- While the pastry is baking, toss the reserved rhubarb batons in 1tbsp caster sugar and place on a tray- bake for 10 minutes.
- Now it’s time to make the frangipane. To do this simply cream together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy, then add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Finally, tip in the cardamom, salt and almonds and briefly mix once more until combined. Reduce the oven temperature to 170c.
- Now it’s time to assemble the tart. Spread the rhubarb compote over the base in one even layer, then add half the frangipane and sprinkle over half the chopped white chocolate pieces. Add the remaining frangipane and top with the rest of the white chocolate, chopped almonds and roasted rhubarb batons.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve hot or cold.
Peach puree and ground hazelnuts run through this cake batter, giving it a distinctly fruity flavour and very moist crumb. I love the added nuttiness wholemeal flour brings to the end result too and think it works really well served with a tangy creme fraiche and drizzle of local honey.
Ingredients (serves 10-12):
For the crumble topping:
- 100g plain flour
- 50g caster sugar
- 85g hazelnuts, chopped
- 75g butter, melted
For the cake:
- zest 1 lemon
- 225g soft butter
- 175g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 400g ripe peaches, blitzed into a chunky puree
- 200g wholemeal self raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 100g finely chopped hazelnuts
- 1 peach, finely sliced
- large handful blueberries
- dollop creme fraiche or greek yoghurt
- drizzle of honey
- Preheat the oven to 160c (325f/gas mark 3). Grease and line a 9inch spring form cake tin.
- Before you worry about the cake batter, make the crumble topping. To do this simply stir together the flour, sugar, hazelnuts and butter until you have a rough crumbly consistency. Set aside for later.
- Now it’s time for the cake. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Whisk the pureed peaches and eggs in a jug and add to the creamed mixture in three additions, beating well between each. The mixture may curdle so add a small amount of flour occasionally to bring it back (don’t worry too much about this, the batter comes together nicely in the end and the cake is always moist and delicious!).
- Once the eggs and peaches have been incorporated into the butter and sugar, fold in the remaining flour, blitzed hazelnuts, baking powder and salt. Scrape the mix into the prepared cake tin and level out. Arrange the peach slices on top in a pattern then sprinkle over the blueberries and hazelnut crumble.
- Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached. Serve with creme fraiche.
These cookies are big, chewy and packed full of dark chocolate chunks and stem ginger pieces; better still, they’re so easy to make and you can make the dough ahead of time and freeze it for future use!
Ingredients (makes 15-20):
- 200g plain flour
- 50g cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- pinch salt
- 150g caster sugar
- 150g dark brown soft sugar
- 2tbsp ginger syrup
- 175g butter, melted
- 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
- 300g dark chocolate chunks
- 100g chopped stem ginger
- Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl. In a jug, mix together the dark brown soft sugar, melted butter, ginger syrup, egg and egg yolk.
- Pour the mixed wet ingredients into the dry. Beat with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth cookie dough.
- Add the chocolate chunks and chopped stem ginger and knead briefly into the dough.
- Take a tablespoon of the cookie dough and roll into a ball. Repeat until you have used it all up then line onto trays and press down with the palm of your hand. Chill for 20 minutes and preheat the oven to 190c.
- Once the cookies have firmed up a bit, bake for 10-12 minutes. Leave to cool on the trays (they will be soft when you take them out of the oven but will become chewy after cooling) then display on a platter and serve!
I’m on a bit of a rhubarb trip at the moment- in our house it’s going in just about anything, primarily, my mouth (I jest, but seriously; salad, granita, posset, sorbet, you name it). It’s got a versatile tart flavour and brilliant pink colour (if you buy the forced variety) which lends itself to so many recipes and pairs with lots of other ingredients, so naturally I’ve put it into a cake. This lightly flavoured thyme cake is sandwiched with a tart rhubarb compote which partners beautifully with the sweet white chocolate buttercream. Try it out and top with candied rhubarb ribbons and herby decorations for a statement nod to the season.
For the cake:
- 350g soft butter
- 350g caster sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 350g self-raising flour, sifted
- 2tsp baking powder
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 2tsp finely chopped thyme
For the rhubarb filling:
- 400g rhubarb
- 75g caster sugar
For the white chocolate buttercream:
- 200g melted white chocolate
- 250g soft butter
- 500g icing sugar
- 2-3tbsp milk
For the decorations (optional ideas):
- Candied rhubarb ribbons (to make these dissolve 100g caster sugar in 200ml water then bring to the boil and cool. Peel strips of rhubarb and dip into this syrup then line onto a baking tray and dry out in the oven at 110c for 1 hour. Once ready, mould around spoon handles or use as little strip decorations)
- thyme/rosemary sprigs, freeze dried fruit, mini meringue kisses
- 100g white chocolate (melt this then pour out onto a lined tray and set. Break into shards and use as desired)
- Preheat the oven to 170c and grease/line two 7 inch cake tins.
- For the cake, place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat (with paddle attachment or electric beaters) until light and well combined. This all in one method is so easy and so long as you don’t over-beat results in a lovely even sponge.
- Split the batter between the two prepared cake tins and level out. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted, and the tops are springy to the touch.
- While the cakes are cooking, make the rhubarb compote. Simply place the ingredients in a saucepan and stir occasionally over a gentle heat until the rhubarb breaks down and resembles a loose jam. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Once the cakes are ready leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
- While the cakes are cooling make the buttercream. For this just beat together the butter and icing sugar until really light and fluffy, then add the melted white chocolate (ensuring it is cool) and milk and beat again for a couple of minutes. Your buttercream should be pale (not yellow) and light when it’s ready.
- To assemble the cake, slice the sponges horizontally into two even layers so you have four in total. Place one down on your plate/board and spread over a dollop of the buttercream followed by 1/3 of the rhubarb compote. Repeat until you have a 4 layer cake. Take a few spoonfuls of the remaining buttercream, spread a thin layer all over the cake with a palette knife or cake scraper and chill for 10 minutes (this is your crumb coating).
- To finish, use all the remaining buttercream to cover the gaps and visible cake (unless you’re going for the naked look!) and smooth down. To decorate, use candied rhubarb, mini meringues, herbs, freeze dried fruits and chocolate shards!