Those who know me will know that recently I discovered a new recipe which, despite some thinking it’s ridiculous, has become a favourite among friends. I can’t take credit for the recipe, that goes to Elissa from 17 and Baking. Nor can I take credit for finding it, that goes to my good friend Amy, a fellow baking enthusiast who tweeted it some time ago. But I can take credit for being the one who dared try it, with great success – Bacon Brownies!
When I first knew of the recipe, I didn’t intend to make them. It was later after getting a strange request from Ben asking if I knew of a recipe for “bacon cake” when I gave it a go. Apparently a colleague at work was leaving, who loves bacon, and Ben wanted to combine it with cake. So I tried it, making quite a few, for Ben and his colleagues at Microsoft to try. There was mixed reaction, I think they’re like marmite; you either love them or hate them.
Since then, I’ve made them for a number of occasions, parties and social occasions so my friends have been able to try them, and other times for Ben to take into work. This week was another of those, with a special request via Ben from Steve Beswick, the Director of Education for Microsoft UK, a big fan, who wanted a large batch for Microsoft’s Fun Free Friday for Schools. This was a day for Microsoft to show off it’s wide range of free and fun software available for schools and education, accompanied by freebies, including my bacon brownies!
For those who want to try it (avoiding the American ‘Cup’ measurement), here’s the recipe:
- 4oz/120g Dark Chocolate
- 4oz/120g Unsalted Butter
- 12oz/360g Caster Sugar
- Pinch of Salt
- 2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- 2 Large Eggs
- 5oz/150g Flour
- 2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
- 1 Tsp Baking Powder
- 4-6 Strips of Bacon (Smoked Streaky works best!)
Start off frying the bacon until it is extra crispy. It’s alright for some to be chewy, but it works better if it is crispy. Put this aside on top of some paper towels to cool down and to drain some of the fat. Melt the butter and chocolate together, either in a glass bowl sat in a saucepan of hot water, or if careful, in the microwave.
Let this chocolate mixture cool slightly, and whisk in the sugar, salt and vanilla (you may need to do this in a bigger bowl). Then add the eggs one by one, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Sift in the flour and cocoa gradually, mixing thoroughly each time before adding more. I find 1 teaspoon of Baking Powder helps the texture and make them nice and chewy.
Now break the bacon up into small pieces, the size is up to you, but around the size of a penny or smaller works best. It should break up easily if it is crispy. Mix these pieces into the mixture. Grease up a 9″ x 9″ baking tin and pour the mixture in, spreading it evenly.
Bake at about 170°c (maybe lower for a fan-assisted oven) for 30-40 minutes. After 30 minutes, keep checking the brownies by inserting a cocktail stick or something similar. If it comes out clean, they’re done, if there’s still any uncooked mix on them, leave them for a few more minutes. As always, experiment, change a few things, try a different type of sugar, or different chocolate, and see what results you get!
As I know my time in limbo will be ending soon (see ‘The end of life as we know it‘) I have been trying to make the most of it before I start work. This means of course, more baking! This week, after hearing that one of my friends had been making Cupcakes, I decided I too. I had been given a set of Silicone rubber Cupcake Moulds for Christmas, and never used them. I was certainly dubious at putting rubber into the oven, but I knew I had to give them a chance.
The recipe I began with was nothing special, in fact, it was called ‘Simple Cupcake Recipe‘. Of course, I did change it a little, using light brown soft sugar and caster sugar together, to get a better flavour. After making this, I then split it in half, to make 2 different types of Cupcake. The first, a simple vanilla mix, adding a spoon of Vanilla essence to the cake mix, before baking. For the second, I chose Cinnamon, due to my love of it’s flavour, adding in 4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon to the mix.
Then it came time to bake them. I filled each of the Silicone moulds evenly, put them on a baking tray, and into the oven at 160°C. 20 minutes later, when they had risen and were golden brown, I got them out. I was surprised! They were perfectly cooked, not burnt or even crispy. Getting them out of the moulds was a cinch – the moulds just pealed away. I certainly have a respect for Silicone cookware now, and plan to invest in more to avoid the difficulty of removing cakes from metal tins.
As all Cupcakes need icing, I decided on two different approaches. On to the vanilla cakes I put a simple icing made of icing sugar, vanilla essence and water. I covered each cake liberally, then poured some sprinkles (Hundreds and Thousands) over them.
As I love cinnamon, I felt these deserved better treatment. I made a cinnamon flavoured buttercream icing, blending butter (at room temperature), icing sugar and ground cinnamon. In getting the flavour right, and because I hadn’t measured anything, I did make a little more than necessary, but it was worth it.
The cakes tasted great, and have definitely encouraged me to try more smaller cakes in future. I think I had confined myself to larger cakes because I had become used to baking them. Now I know I can try smaller cakes without any disasters, I am on the lookout for more ideas.
If you have any, let me know!
So, once again, Pancake Day is upon us, and while this year it doesn’t fall on my birthday (as it did last year), it is still a day I really enjoy. I have no interest in whatever religious significance the day has, I just know it as the one day a year when you are expected to eat pancakes (as opposed to the other 364 when they’re still just as tasty). Naturally, this meant I was back in the kitchen, cooking up a batch.
There’s nothing special about the recipe here, just a simple batter made from plain flour (120g), 2 eggs, 225ml Milk, a pinch of salt and a little vegetable oil (helps stop it sticking to the pan). (These quantities are approximate, you may need a little more flour, or milk, to get the consistency right.) The real issue here of course is the topping or filling! I always have at least 1 with the traditional combination of sugar and lemon juice (sometimes lime juice), and 1 with Golden Syrup (no Maple Syrup here!). I also eat them flat, but they work just as well folded up, crepe style, but I never enjoy them as much this way.
But pancakes don’t have to be sweet, and while some may see this as a travesty, I like savoury pancakes too. Over the years I’ve found that cheese and pickle works really well. Once the pancake is cooked, spread some pickle on the top, and cover it with grated cheese, then pop it under the grill. This melts the cheese and gives you a really nice savoury snack. As the batter is plain (unsweetened), you can try any combination of sweet or savoury ingredients to accompany them. If I was feeling healthy, I’d have some fruit with them, perhaps some sliced banana or strawberries.
However you choose to eat them, whatever your reasons are for celebrating Pancake Day, and regardless of what toppings you may eat them with, I hope you’re having a successful pancake day! Remember, don’t be afraid to experiment with new toppings you’ve not had before; if you like them with other things, maybe in a sandwich, then I’m sure you’ll like them just as much on a pancake!