What is it?: Decadent and boozy chocolate brownies studded with chopped pecans
Occasion: Band of Bakers ‘Winter Warmers’ event
Winter is definitely on its way. The clocks have gone back, the winter jumpers have been unpacked from storage and the heating is on. Time to begin hibernation stage one: eating comfort food, spending a lot of time under a blanket and confining myself to south London after 7pm (who wants to be north of the river anyway?) This recent seasonal chill was the inspiration behind the theme for this month’s Band of Bakers event – ‘Winter Warmers’. If you live in south-east London, enjoy baking and use Twitter, you may have come across Band of Bakers, a community group/baking club run by myself and Naomi that boasts some of the best bakers in the area. I can talk for hours about this, so I’ll instead direct you to the ‘About’ section of this blog or the Band of Bakers website for more info, and get back to the baking itself. When I think about winter warmers, my mind goes to drinks rather than food – mulled cider, hot chocolate and, best of all, Jack Daniels – so the bourbon and pecan brownies from Short and Sweet seemed like the perfect bake for the occasion.
These brownies contain chocolate and cocoa, as well as three shots of bourbon and a whole load of toasted pecans. Anything that contains chocolate and booze is always a winner – recent other examples of this from my kitchen include a chocolate bundt cake spiked with Irish whisky and a flourless chocolate cake with prunes soaked in rum. It appears I have a problem. The beautiful thing about this recipe is its simplicity, you just add one ingredient after the other, no elaborate technique, no trickery. It seems at first like the 75ml of bourbon may be a tad too much, certainly when you’re beating it into the mixture you become lost in an alcoholic fog, but if you like bourbon, you will want to taste the bourbon, right? Dan suggests using milk instead of bourbon if you want to make it booze-free, so if you find the bourbon too strong, you could find the perfect mixture of the two to suit you. To be honest, with 200g of dark chocolate and a tablespoon of cocoa in the mix, the predominant flavour will be chocolate anyway.
As these brownies cook in the oven, they give off the most fantastic aroma. If my flat smelled like this all the time, I would never leave it. If you manage to get them out of the oven at JUST the right moment (i.e. two minutes before you think they are actually cooked), you will be rewarded with a texture that is all sugary crust and gooey centre – just how a brownie should be. The taste is no less disappointing – the booze is just about right. In fact, by the second day it mellows somewhat and is even better. So yesterday, the day after I made them, I took them along to the lovely Hills & Parkes cafe and delicatessen in Honor Oak Park, which was our Band of Bakers home for the evening, and put them in amongst an array of delicious winter bakes including apple crumble cake, sausage rolls, toffee apple pops, sticky toffee pudding and some absolutely stunning butternut squash, spinach and goats cheese pastries – my favourite of the night. The Jack Daniels threatened to put a few people off, however most agreed that the taste was quite subtle. By the end of the evening the plate had been cleared, so I guess it wasn’t that much of a deterrent!
In other news:
Today is my 29th birthday and I went to one of my favourite restaurants, Dishoom, for lunch. If you haven’t been, and Anglo-Indian food is your thing, do go. It’s modelled on a Bombay Cafe and serves food from breakfast all the way through to a late night supper. I ate skate cheeks with a tamarind and date dipping sauce, soft shell crab and coconut curry and pistachio kulfi. For drinks we had a round (OK, a few rounds) of their ‘bollybellini’ – prosecco with raspberry, rose and cardamom. I left the restaurant a very happy girl.
Hills & Parkes. 49 Honor Oak Park, London SE23 1TB.
Dishoom, 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9FB