Mince Pie Brownie Recipe

I've had the idea of mince pie-flavoured brownies on my mind since the Christmas songs have started playing in supermarkets. I never got round to trying the Paul A Young version and there don't appear to be many recipes online, certainly not from a trusted source, so I had a play in the kitchen this weekend.

I wasn't expecting success on the first try, but I managed to adjust the wet and dry ingredients perfectly (by luck, not skill). I am really pleased with how these turned out and the starting-point recipe, a basic brownie recipe from Jamie Oliver, was spot on in terms of timings and tin size, so I also achieved a fudgy, non-cakey finish.

Recipe changes and additions
The Maya Gold chocolate is the star ingredient. I think without it, the dark chocolate would overwhelm the more subtle flavours in the mincemeat. I don't think substituting this with orange oil, spices and the like would work as well; Maya Gold has just a hint of these flavours and i think it works perfectly here.

 I reduced the dry ingredients and swapped caster for muscovado sugar, which was dissolved with the chocolate and butter instead of mixed in with the flour, in order to ensure a very fudgy brownie.

I reduced the amount of sugar, purely because 350 grams seemed far too sweet, given the mincemeat being added. I also reduced the amount of nuts, allowing for the almonds in the mincemeat I was using.

The recipe as adapted, is below: no photos, because I can't make brownies look as good in a photo as they smell in real life (and because it's approaching 5 p.m. and really, you all know what a brownie looks like).

There is a comprehensive advice article from Nigel Slater on pointers and tips on how to ensure you don't overcook brownies, which I recommend reading if you don't have this down to a fine art.

Mince Pie Brownies
Serves 10-15, depending on if you slice into squares or fingers

100 grams 70% best quality dark chocolate
100 grams Green & Black's Maya Gold dark chocolate
250 grams unsalted butter
250 grams muscovado sugar
100 grams toasted, chopped walnuts
3 heaped tablespoons mincemeat (about 120 grams)
60 grams cocoa powder
60 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
30cm x 20 cm baking tin

  • Toast walnuts and spread out on a piece of kitchen towel to cool. 
  • Pre-heat oven to 180C and grease and line the baking tin. 
  • Set up a bain-marie and use this to melt the chocolate, butter and sugar. Do this in a large bowl: the dry ingredients and eggs will be added to this later. 
  • While this is happening, weigh out the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a separate bowl. 
  • Once the chocolate mixture is melted, remove it from the bain-marie and set aside for a few minutes to cool. 
  • While this is cooling whisk the eggs in a separate bowl. 
  • Stir the walnuts and mincemeat into the chocolate mixture. 
  • Then add the flour mixture one third at a time, folding this into the chocolate until fully combined.
  • Add the whisked eggs, again folding into the mixture until fully combined. 
  • Pour and scrape the mixture into the lined baking tin, using a spoon or spatula to push this into all corners. 
  • Place the tin on the middle shelf of the oven. 

Total bake time is 25 minutes. Start checking the batter at the 20 minute point to ensure it does not overbake. A skewer or toothpick should be used to check that the batter is not raw, but at the point that the batter starts to stick to the skewer, it is time to remove it from the oven (see Nigel Slater tips in the link above).

Allow the batter to cool in the tin on a wire rack until completely set, before slicing.

Quick, Easy but Not That Cheap Granola

Somewhere between 2007 and 2011, I realised that granola had stopped being associated with lentil weaving and had become a stalwart of brunch menus across the land. It probably happened earlier than this, but I'm not particularly up on the food scene, as evidenced by my use of the phrase 'the food scene'.

I don't live in a cheap area of London. The nearest places to me that serve brunch charge £6 for granola, yoghurt and berries so I've never eaten it in a restaurant.

You would think that buying a box from the shops would be cheaper. Which it is, bowl for bowl. But the price of the good stuff is insane, when you consider that the basic ingredients are oats, nuts, dried or freeze-dried fruit.

So how do the premium brands get away with charging nearly £4 for 400 grams? Truly, it makes me want to punch all the stupid granola in its fancy foil bags. Well, when I decided to try and make my own granola at home, I realised why.

Maple & Walnut Scones

I made these scones in order to participate in this month's Random Recipes. The challenge was to make the recipe on page 30 of the thirtieth cookbook you counted up in your collection.

I've owned the book I selected, 'Baked: New Frontiers in Baking', for four years. Unfortunately, I didn't realise before buying it, that it was a US cookbook, complete with US measurements.

I cannot get my head around the measure-by-volume system that the US uses and the conversions aren't as straightforward as some books would have you believe, so 'Baked' has been gathering dust on my bookshelf (literally: you could see its' outline on the shelf when I pulled it out). However, with the help of a more mathematically-minded friend, this bake turned out just fine.

Easy Strawberry Shortbread Sandwiches

Wimbledon fortnight draws to a close this Sunday.  The UK newspapers would have you believe that Britain's entire population comes together in its' adulation for the tournament. While there are certainly sports and tennis fans who get excited about it, most people who watch aren't avid tennis fans, but like it because of the patriotic, ritualistic and traditional elements of the event.  The tennis whites, the tense tranquility of Centre Court, Murray's Mound (so, so wrong) the gentle 'pock' of a tennis ball bouncing off a ballboy's head...

Ugh, I wonder if it's actually possible to write about Wimbledon without sounding like the AP Stylebook.  Personally, I don't enjoy much at all about Wimbledon. I don't like tennis. I don't like the quaintness of the event, which sits with the genteel cricket on the village green imagery that certain factions like to think of as being quintessential England. 

The worst thing about Wimbledon is that it knocks the regular television programmes around in the schedules. Normally, this isn't too big of a deal, but earlier this year, I discovered a quiz show called 'Pointless'.  It normally shows at 5:15pm but because of the tennis, it's not being shown for the whole Wimbledon period.  So thanks, Wimbledon, for killing my new early-evening tradition of having a pre-dinner drink while shouting at Pointless contestants.

Raspberry Salted Caramel Cheesecake Brownies

I'm going to have to think of a snappier title for these brownies, because I will certainly be making them again.

This brownie was created on an evening of snack frustration.  I had the star ingredients for all my favourite desserts in the fridge, but was one thing short of everything needed to make them properly. Cream cheese to make cheesecake, but no biscuits to make the base. Raspberries and chocolate to make a chocolate torte, but not quite enough chocolate. I'd also made some dulce de leche earlier in the day, to go into a banoffee pie, then remembered too late that you need a whipped cream topping. Oh and some bananas that weren't green and unyielding. Rather than going to the local corner shop, this was my solution.  

I've had dealings with cheesecake brownies before. They are extremely rich, so I thought that adding raspberries would cut through the creaminess, add more interest and texture. The dollop of dulce de leche added to the cheesecake was just for the hell of it and if you're making anything with caramel, it's now the law that you have to throw some salt in there.

So there are lot of different things going on, but they pull together to form a super-loaded brownie that has something for everyone.

I used frozen raspberries in the recipe below, mainly because you can crumble them to pieces in your hand, saving the faff of chopping them up.

If you don't have a brownie pan, use an 8 inch square cake tin. This will make thicker brownies and you will need to increase the baking time by 5 minutes.

Spiced Almonds Recipe, June 2013 Round Up

I've found quite a few new things (new to me, anyway!) this month, so I thought I'd share them with you.

Bahlsen Choco Leibniz Orange Biscuits

I'm a big fan of Bahlsen products, particularly their fancy version of the jaffa cake and the Choco Leibniz biscuit. The chocolate juts over the edge of the biscuit, which allows you to nibble the chocolate off, before dunking the biscuit in coffee and sucking the melted chocolate off, then eating the biscuit. This is probably what marketing people call a multi-dimensional eating experience, I call it stringing out the eating of a biscuit.

Anyway, the orange version has apparently been around for years, but I've only spotted it in UK supermarkets in recent months.  Orange chocolate gets sickly very quickly, so the amount on these biscuits is perfect for a nice little hit.  Choco Leibniz are quite often on special offer in Waitrose.

Medjool Dates

Until this month, the only way I ate dates was by cooking them in porridge with sliced banana.  Something about the way they look and feel had always put me off eating them as they come.

As had the scene in Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom, where the spy-monkey tries to kill Indy by poisoning his dates (or I guess, planting poisoned dates in the fruit bowl. Capuchin monkeys are clever, but I don't think they're capable of using a syringe to inject poison into fruit: are they?).

But I was offered coffee, baklava and dates at a dinner I went to  few weeks ago and I have been converted. Dates are now going to be kept as a regular fruit bowl item, so I have something wholesome on hand to finish off a meal.

Liquorice Tea
Ah, the joy of new discoveries via Twitter: it's always nice to find something with no calories that tastes delicious. I'm getting on well with Pukka's Liquorice & Peppermint tea, which you can find in the supermarkets.

Chocolate & Bourbon Torte

This is the other dessert I brought to the barbecue I attended at the weekend.

The host and his partner had promised to serve up a generous portion of pork ribs and one of the best antidotes I know for meat sweats is a dense, dark chocolate torte.

I made a Bourbon chocolate tart (rather than a torte) last year, but the texture of the pastry was a distraction and the filling was bland.  The bland filling was my fault, as I used a not-particularly-exciting chocolate  (the brand rhymes with 'align').  If you're baking something where chocolate makes up more than a quarter of the total mass of the ingredients (see also; brownies), you want to use a chocolate that tastes good when you put a square of it in your mouth.

I love dark chocolate from Madagascar, which as I learnt when I met the owner of Auberge du Chocolat, has fruity, summer berry notes, which I thought would sit well with the dried fruit and toffee notes in the Bourbon.