It’s August, there is a tent filled with Kitchenaids in a field somewhere, and I find myself saying ‘who cares that the flat is already 28 degrees C? Let’s preheat the oven!’ This can only mean one thing: Great British Bake Off is back! Last summer, my challenge in the blogging version of the Bake Off was just to figure out how to bake something, anything as I found a new rhythm. This year, my challenge is to bake things I can actually eat! Gone are those glory days when I was fine with flours of all varieties and tomatoes that still smelled like a garden were my number one summer craving. I mentioned it briefly in just one post earlier this year, I think, but for whatever reason I’ve developed some new issues with food, and quite a few things I love now give me hives. Hives! Hives are not fun and give me a sad face. But not eating cake for possibly the rest of my life also gives me a sad face. After a few months of making progress by following a ridiculously strict diet that had no allergens at all, I tried various things again one at a time, to see what was causing the dreaded hives and it turns out that my biggest offenders are gluten and nightshades, so that’s most cake and bread right out the window, as well as tomatoes, peppers, chilies, aubergine, and white potato. (Random trivia: sweet potato is an entirely different family of plant and causes me no trouble! Huzzah.) This combination is a little bit extra annoying because most items you find in those lovely gluten-free sections of a store do so by replacing the wheat flour with potato flour. Still a sad face.
All that means I am baking again. That gives me a happy face indeed.
For the blogging version of the Bake Off, we choose something inspired by the baking in that week’s episode to make in our own kitchen. Cake was the first theme, with the three rounds including a madeira, a frosted walnut layer cake, and black forest gateau. I have never made a madeira and had never really heard of one before living in England, so I was quite tempted to go in that direction, but I’m afraid the pull of chocolate, whipped cream, and cherries was too much for me. I’ve been wanting to pin down a reliable gluten-free brownie recipe, and a black forest topping is simple enough to dress it up. Gluten-free Black Forest Brownies then!
For the brownies:
180 grams unsalted butter
225 grams dark chocolate (I used 72% cocoa solids)
340 grams sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons oat flour (please see note below)
half teaspoon salt
For the black forest topping:
300 ml whipping cream
1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Simmer some water in a saucepan and top with a mixing bowl (if you have a stand mixer, it can be handy to use that bowl but mine doesn’t sit well in any of my saucepans, so I use a glass bowl and the hand mixer for this type of recipe). Melt the butter and chocolate. Years ago someone told me to not stir much while you melt chocolate because it can disturb the flavour and make the cocoa go gritty. I have no idea if it’s actually true, but I try to follow that, and just scrape down the sides with a spatula.
Once that is melted, reduce the heat and gently stir in the sugar. Adding the sugar while there is still heat allows all the granules to dissolve so you have a smooth texture rather than the grit of sugar. The grit of sugar bothers me enough that I use caster sugar for any recipe that calls for normal white sugar. It dissolves easier and has a better texture. I store it in a canister with my spent vanilla pods, so it’s like those fancy expensive vanilla sugars at the store but much simpler and cheaper.
When it hits that smooth texture, remove from heat entirely and leave to cool just a moment so the batter isn’t so hot it will cook the next ingredients. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. (Again that’s a texture thing. You can put them all in at once and it’s not the end of the world. It will still bake. But the texture is smoother if you add them one by one.) Then add the vanilla, cocoa, oat flour, and salt. I’ve been using a vanilla bean paste lately that is easier than scraping out a vanilla pod for every recipe but has a richer flavour than just extract. The oat flour could be swapped for other kinds of starch, I’m sure – so you could use normal flour if you aren’t worried about wheat, or you could use a gluten-free blend if that’s what you have in your kitchen, or even corn flour should work. I’ve been having good luck with the oat flour from Bob’s Red Mill. Salt is another thing that has variations. I wouldn’t have believed you until a friend studying cookery in Paris brought us a little tub of Fleur de Sel as a gift and it really did make a difference between salt being a flavour and salt bringing out the flavours you’re putting into the dish. M&S food hall does a nice and affordable one in the international highlights section now. Yes, I probably will buy into any food hype. Admitting it is the first step, right? Onward.
ETA In response to one of the comments below, I just wanted to address the oat flour and basically say if you’re baking with food sensitivities, be sure to read the packaging and be aware of your specific requirements. I’m not a coeliac and am in no position to give any advice like that. The gluten-free products I’ve been using have more information on their labels that would be useful, and this quick summary about gluten (which doesn’t occur in oats but is often added to products like porridge oats and oatmeal) and avenin (which does occur in oats). Know what works for you is probably good advice on all fronts!
Give that a stir so it’s incorporated and not going to send cocoa flying around your kitchen, then go electric and spin it up with a whisk for a few minutes. There is no raising agent, so you want to get some air in there, and you should notice a point where the texture of the batter thickens and starts to fall away from the edge of the bowl a bit. That leads to rich brownie goodness!
Pour into your tin, either greased or lined with parchment. My brownie tin is about 9×13 inches. Bake at 180C for about 30 minutes, though I start checking it at 25. Don’t leave it until a toothpick comes out clean, as that will be a dry and crumbly brownie.
While that’s in the oven, mix up some fresh whipped cream. You’ll need that electric whisk again! I recommend this run down if you need a detailed look at making your own whipped cream.
And cook up the cherries! Wash and remove stems and stones, then simmer in a saucepan. If they are very sweet, they won’t need sugar. If they are past their prime, add a bit of sugar as needed. For years, I’ve always added amaretto when cooking up cherries, but I’m yet to find a toddler cooking guide that suggest amaretto as a suitable flavour enhancer, so this time I just did added a bit of water and vanilla extract. Cherry vanilla is the new cherry amaretto for the foreseeable future, I think!
Top brownies with whipped cream and cherries, obviously. And eat.
|Great Bloggers Bake Off is organised by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps. See more bloggers’ cakes in on her blog.|
Please no spoilers from the actual show in the comments, for those who watch later than the original broadcast! Thanks.