Chocolate Barmbrack Bread from The Great British Bakeoff’s Andrew Smyth

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When I had made this bread, I was a week away from my first visit to Ireland. I was so pumped to go that I wanted to make something Irish at home so I could compare it to what the “real thing” would taste like. I picked this chocolate barmbrack bread that Andrew Smyth made in season 7 of the Great British Bakeoff.

It tastes just like fall. I ordinarily do not like dried fruit at all, but the sweet chewiness of the jumbo raisins and candied orange peel pairs very well with the warming pumpkin pie spice flavors. It’s an excellent loaf of bread, but a traditional barmbrack it is not. What I had made here is a yeasted bread with chocolate. A traditional barmbrack is typically a quick bread, does NOT have chocolate in it, and is studded with a lot more tea-soaked dried fruit than what I made here.

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The one thing that I didn’t do that I should have done is use bread flour. I just used all-purpose flour because that’s all I had, but as a result I had a flatter loaf. I also didn’t hand-knead this wet and sticky loaf at all, leaving it all up to my Kitchenaid dough hook, and just guesstimated when I thought it might be done.

This loaf required a couple of special ingredients that are not commonly found in American pantries. Mixed spice and candied peel, specifically. Mixed spice is used in British baking, and its American doppelganger is pumpkin pie spice. Both include cinnamon and nutmeg, sometimes cloves, ginger, and allspice. While I found candied ginger readily, I did not find candied lemon or orange peel.

So I made my own.

candiedpeel

I used Alton Brown’s recipe, and it’s a very thoroughly-written one. It’s pretty straightforward to make, and turns what would ordinarily be tossed into the garbage into a sweet and sour crystalline treat. I made two oranges worth of candied peel and I still have a bunch leftover.

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The one thing I did omit from the original recipe was the chocolate glaze; I didn’t want this bread to be *too* dessert-y. I also converted some of the ingredients/measurements into American for all ya Yanks.

Chocolate Barmbrack Bread
Adapted from BBC Food/Andrew Smyth from GBBO
300g/10½oz bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2½ tbsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp salt
8g instant yeast, or active dry yeast if you need it (modifications below)
33g/1¼oz unsalted butter, softened
66g/2½oz granulated sugar
200ml/7fl oz semi-skimmed milk
1 large egg
100g/3½oz mixed dried fruit
30g/1oz mixed candied peel
100g/3½oz Belgian milk chocolate chips
1 tbsp sunflower oil or cooking spray, for greasing

Method
1. For the bread, line a baking tray with parchment paper and dust generously with flour.
2.Sift the flour, spice and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast on the opposite side to the salt. Add the butter and sugar. Mix using your hand in a claw position until well combined.
3. Gently warm the milk until it is warm to touch, then whisk in the egg.
Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour the milk mixture into it. Dust your hands with flour and mix using your hand as before, until the dough comes together. It will form a very wet dough. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes in the bowl (use a dough scraper if you have one), or until the dough starts to tighten (though it will still be sticky). Regularly scrape off any dough stuck to your hands.
4. Flour the work surface and your hands. Spread the dough out in a rough rectangle and add the dried fruit, candied peel and chocolate into the middle of the dough. Knead for a further 2 minutes to incorporate.
5. Place the dough on the prepared tray and shape into an oval. Lightly dust with flour and cover with oiled cling film. Leave in a warm place to prove for an hour or until doubled in size.
6. Preheat the oven to 380F.
7. Once the dough is proved, remove the cling film and slash once lengthways across the top with a sharp knife. Bake for 40 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven, rotating the tray midway through cooking to ensure you get an even crust (the loaf should be a dark-brown colour). If the bottom edges brown too early, wrap a strip of aluminium foil around the loaf.

*If you end up using active dry yeast, mix the yeast and the warm milk and a tablespoon of the allotted sugar and allow to rest for five minutes until you see bubbles on the surface. Proceed with whisking in the egg after, then mix with the rest of the dry ingredients and butter.

Dark Chocolate Rum Cake Balls

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I made some of these incredible chocolate rum cake balls for a work party and judging by how only two out of 60+ balls were left at the end of it, I’m guessing they were a big hit. Chocolate and booze just never goes wrong!

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As someone who prides herself on making things from scratch, I opted to make the chocolate cake and the glaze from scratch, even though I would be mashing them up into little balls later. The original recipe didn’t include rum, but I subbed some of the hot water that went into the cake with rum for some added booze. The cake itself was pretty darn delicious and moist and rich, but I knew I couldn’t just bring in a sheet cake to the party. No, that wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive nor delicious. I saved half the cake for non-party eating purposes, giving it away to appreciative friends who don’t get no homemade goodies all that often.

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As for the other half, I smushed it all up into little balls, while also throwing in some rum, heavy cream, and chocolate sauce, the proportions of which I eyeballed until the cake mixture became suitably compact.

While the original recipe called for a dark chocolate coating, I knew it was going to be a bit too bitter, so I used half milk chocolate and half dark chocolate instead. It was an excellent call.

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Dark Chocolate Rum Cake Balls
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes 60~ balls

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups (8 oz) all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural type (try Dutch)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water (or coffee)
1/2 cup rum

Ganache
3 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate
3 ounces of heavy cream
6 oz milk chocolate
6 oz semisweet chocolate

Instructions
Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray a 13×9 inch pan with flour-added baking spray.
Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add oil, milk, eggs and vanilla. Beat two minutes with electric mixer at medium speed. Stir in water and rum until blended. Batter will be thin.
Pour batter in the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until skewer or pick inserted comes out clean.
Let the cake sit in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully turn it from the Bundt.
Let the cake cool and then drizzle it with ganache. To make ganache, heat 3 ounces of heavy cream in microwave or saucepan. Pour over 3 oz chopped dark chocolate and stir until smooth. Let cool until thick enough to drizzle.

When you are ready to make the cake balls, set aside half the cake in a large mixing bowl. Mash up the cake. If you used all the ganache in the recipe, you won’t need any extra. Add rum, heavy cream and/or chocolate sauce until cake balls hold together. I recommend adding more rum than the other two ingredients.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment. Shape the scoops into smooth balls. Line the balls up on a tray, cover the with plastic wrap and put them in the freezer until firm.

In a chocolate melting pot, top of a double boiler or in the microwave, melt the milk and semisweet chocolate.

Dip cake balls into melted chocolate and lift with two forks, allowing extra chocolate to drip back into the pot. Put the balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet to set.

Chocolate Pudding (Without Cornstarch)

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Most homemade pudding recipes require the use of cornstarch to solidify its texture, but not having any on hand, I used a recipe that used flour as a thickener instead, and the results were pretty good! Flour creates a more custard-like texture than cornstarch would; a spoon that cuts into a pudding thickened with flour leaves a spoon-shaped cavity, whereas a cornstarch-thickened pudding probably wouldn’t. The downside to this recipe is that it requires an immersion stick blender, whereas a cornstarch-thickened pudding just requires your tireless attention for about 15 minutes.

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This recipe ended up really rich for how little pudding it generates, so it really stretches your dessert dollar. It’s rich and chocolatey, and for some added texture, grate some semisweet chocolate over it.

Chocolate Pudding (Without Cornstarch)
Makes 4-5 portions
From Christian HomeKeeper

1/4 c flour
6 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups whole milk (I used 2% and it was fine)
dash of salt
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract

Place all dry ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Gradually add the milk and butter, blending thoroughly with a stick blender.
Set over a low flame and stir until the pudding thickens and starts to bubble when you stop stirring for a moment.
Turn off heat. Cool slightly, blend in vanilla.

P.S. Check out my blog post: It’s True, The Way To A Man’s Heart *Is* Through His Stomach

Chocolate Mint Creams


Baking is such a joy with my new Kitchenaid. It truly is. The possibilities that were once out of my reach are now firmly within my grasp. Macarons, Swiss meringues, chiffon cakes, whipping cream with ease… all of these are now possible with the flick of a switch. Furthermore, Thanksgiving and Christmas are great reasons to bake up all manners of delectable desserts. Today, I present to you chocolate mint creams, made possible by a powerful Kitchenaid.

The stand mixer helped to create a fluffy, lighter-than-air, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the mint cream. I wanted my peppermint patties to be more creamy than firm, so I added a bit more liquid than in the original recipe. This makes the mint cream a bit hard to work with but the texture is divine. You have to work quickly when coating these in melted chocolate. You are dunking sugar in dough form in hot melted chocolate; its natural inclination would be to melt into the chocolate. I would insist on using pure peppermint oil instead of peppermint extract. Peppermint oil might be expensive, but a little goes a long way, and the cooling sensation each bonbon leaves in your mouth lasts a long time.

Chocolate Mint Creams
Adapted from Joy of Baking
Makes 40-50 bonbons

Mint creams:

2 cups (240 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil (make sure it is labeled for internal use) (do not use peppermint extract)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

Chocolate coating (you might have to make more of this depending on how thickly you coat your bonbons):

8 ounces (240 grams) semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon (12 grams) shortening or butter

Mint creams: Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, smoothing out any wrinkles. Lightly dust the foil with confectioners sugar (powdered or icing).

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat (on low speed) the sugar, butter, peppermint oil, vanilla extract, and evaporated milk until combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until very creamy (about 2-3 minutes). Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer to chill until firm enough to roll into balls (about an hour).

Roll the batter into 1/2 inch balls and place on the prepared pan. Cover and place in the freezer until the patties are firm (at least one hour, or even overnight).

Chocolate coating: Melt the chocolate and shortening in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove the patties from the refrigerator and dip, one ball at a time, into the melted chocolate. (You can use 2 forks or a chocolate dipping fork.) Let any excess chocolate drip back into the bowl and then place the balls back on the foil. Once all the balls have been dipped in the chocolate, return to the refrigerator to chill until firm (30 – 60 minutes). Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container (separate layers with parchment paper or wax paper) for up to one month.

Bacon Cornbread Pancakes

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I’ve had a really random hankering for pancakes – something I never crave for – and then once I made my first ever batch with a really excellent recipe from Allrecipes, I’ve been making them in various incarnations since. Based on experience, we know that cornbread is often studded with bacon. We also know that bacon is often served alongside pancakes. Incorporating all three flavors can’t go wrong! And so I did.

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Pancakes are so gratifying because they’re so quick and easy to make. They’re also a socially acceptable way to eat dessert for breakfast, and I do not mind that at all. I edited the original recipe by replacing half of the all-purpose flour with corn flour, and using bacon fat instead of butter for the fat in the pancakes. These are definitely still sweet, with just a hint of smokiness and Southern flavor from the cornmeal. These are supremely good with maple syrup and with thick cut bacon.

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Bacon Cornbread Pancakes
Makes 7 pancakes
Adapted from Allrecipes

3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons bacon fat, melted
cooking spray

1. Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.
2. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and bacon fat into “soured” milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

Ovaltine Brownie Cake


I don’t think Ovaltine is very popular in America, so here’s a quick lowdown on what it is. It is a delicious malt chocolate dairy product that you dissolve into hot water and drink. It’s often marketed as a restorative energy drink or something that you imbibe to kickstart your day right. I had some lying around, and since I hardly ever drank it, I decided to make a cake out of it.

There are many things about this recipe I would like to highlight. Firstly, it’s in weight measurements, so you can’t really make this if you don’t have a scale. Secondly, I used whole wheat flour instead of regular and as usual, it imparts a slightly chewier texture to any baked good. Thirdly, this cake is a lot less chocolatey than it looks: although it is a rich dark brown, the flavor is more mild and milky than deep and chocolatey. Fourthly, I didn’t have enough Ovaltine powder, but if I did, I would’ve sprinkled it all over the top for extra flavor. I really like raw Ovaltine powder. Fifthly, the texture of this is more like a cakey brownie. It’s a little bit fudgey but also a little bit cakey.

With that said, bake away!

Ovaltine Brownie Cake
Makes 1 9-inch pan
Adapted from Pencil Kitchen

87g butter, softened
87g white sugar
1 1/2 eggs (beat two eggs and use half of the mixture)
1 tsp vanilla
A pinch of instant coffee powder
100 ml milk (I used chocolate milk instead of regular, because that’s all I had. It was okay!)
125g Ovaltine powder
15g cocoa powder
100g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Dissolve 50g of Ovaltine and coffee into warm milk. Let cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, cocoa, 50g Ovaltine, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg mixture and stir in vanilla.

Beat in the flour mixture and milk alternately, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pan for ten minutes.

Invert cake onto a plate. Brush the cake with melted salted butter and dust with remaining 25g of Ovaltine, or more if you prefer.

Alton Brown’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie


I had a little bit of down time today, and as a matter of principle I find it nearly impossible to have free time and not do anything. I always feel the need to convert free time into productive energy, so I decided to bake some chocolate chip cookies today. (I also baked some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies) While I already have a standby chocolate chip cookie recipe, I know there are tons of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there that claim to be the recipe that end all recipes. So I decided to try one from Alton Brown. This recipe is unusual in that it employs bread flour instead of all-purpose. Since bread flour has a higher gluten content, I expect these cookies to be more solid structurally and bake up thicker – but my scientific knowledge of differing gluten levels in flours ends here.


Chewy as an adjective for these cookies are a misnomer – I thought they were more fluffy and airy, almost cake-like but not quite. I loved how the recipe is clearly catered for those with a kitchen scale. I hemmed and hawed over getting my digital kitchen scale, but it is by far the best purchase I’ve procured for my baking expeditions to date. It has saved me a good many dishes to wash by hand.

This recipe is easy enough to bake up, but I would much rather use another recipe that I can halve easily: the single egg and egg yolk in this recipe makes that tricky.

Alton Brown’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
Adapted from Food Network
Makes 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

8 ounces unsalted butter
12 ounces bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ounces granulated sugar
8 ounces light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ounce whole milk (I used water because I didn’t have any milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat. Set aside to cool slightly.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda onto a paper plate. Pour the butter into your stand mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the whole egg, the egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add the egg mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.

Using the paper plate as a slide, gradually integrate the dry ingredients, stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once the flour is worked in, drop the speed to “stir” and add the chocolate chips. Chill the dough for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven.

Scoop the dough into 1 1/2-ounce portions onto parchment-lined half sheet pans, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake 2 sheets at a time for 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove from the oven, slide the parchment with the cookies onto a cooling rack and wait at least 5 minutes before devouring.

Notes: The darker the sugar you use, the chewier your cookies will be.