Saturday, 22 February 2014

Very Chocolately Brownies

I know my blog was down the other day, sorry about that, so I thought what better way to make everything better again than with brownies? I've posted three previous brownie recipes on the blog (see here), but there's always room for another recipe, right? Watch out for the upcoming raspberry brownies which I first made a few months ago but forgot to photograph, those were probably the best ever. But back to the point - these brownies.

These are chocolatey, dense, smooth, very simple to make, and also very American (not surprising seeing as I adapted the recipe from an American website...). My mum is more of a fan of English-style brownies, but my dad and I love these ones. Their texture is just that bit more 'omg chocolate' rather than 'ooh chocolate cake brownie' sort of thing. If that makes any sense at all...

Recipe, adapted from Averie Cooks (makes about 12 brownies, more if you like smaller brownies):
  • 140g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 65g plain flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 160oC. Grease and line an 8"x8" pan.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in large bowl over a pan of simmering water (the mix will look a little weird, and when it's melted it will be very grainy).
  3. When all is melted and mixed together, take it off the heat and beat in the eggs and vanilla, until shiny and thick.
  4. Beat in the flour until all is well incorporated.
  5. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

A Feminist Education: Fear of Feminism

Fear of Feminism - fear of the word, of its connotations, of what it makes you. Fear of being seen as a 'man-hater', a 'bra-burner', or, even worse, someone who doesn't shave their armpits. Fear of being put into a box. Fear of being thought of as an angry woman, who shouts down anyone who dares to speak up. Fear of being ridiculed, of being seen as the stereotype. No one wants to be the stereotypical feminist these days, with her man-eating, hairy arms taking jobs from the hard-working men and carelessly throwing her ovaries to the wind.

These are stereotypes that, though slightly exaggerated, still exist. They may even be getting stronger. That, for me at least, is a huge worry.

Many women, men, girls, and boys are afraid of identifying with feminism, because they see it as undesirable. Being a feminist can only be a bad thing - they're shrill, they think women are superior to men, etc. etc. Some of my male friends think women don't belong in the financial sector, and whenever any of my female friends try to engage in debate, they spout 'facts' about how, statistically speaking, there are more men in the financial sector, and, illogically, they argue that this shows how women don't belong there. By that logic, surely that means that as there are more apples than there are apple trees, then apple trees don't deserve the privilege of existence (if you catch my drift - bonus point: apple trees bear apples, women bear the men that work in the financial sector, therefore surely the men don't belong somewhere if the vaginas they came out of don't belong there either).

Reading The Student Room, there are numerous threads about how feminism is a 'bad' thing, and why people should stop championing the feminist cause. People have come up with a new way to promote equality between the sexes - 'egalitarianism', which, in my mind, is synonymous with feminism. (This point, however, will be addressed in more detail in a later post)

Feminism does not mean women trying to become superior, or the dominant gender. Feminism does not mean wearing no makeup, covering up all of your body to stop men looking at you, or keeping all your body hair in its natural state to end the patriarchy. However, in relation to everything after the first point, these things are perfectly fine to do if you want to, go for it, they're just not inherently feminist.

Feminism is not a negative thing. The stigma surrounding feminism is non-sensical. 

Yes, there may be some feminists who do hate men, who do do all of these things and shout down everyone who opposes them. Yet, what society, or more precisely the media that feeds our society, is yet to realise, is that these women are in the tiniest, tiniest minority. I am yet to come across someone who holds these views, and yet they are what comes to mind immediately when the label 'feminist' is attached to anything.

What I find the most worrying about the fear of feminism is that it stops people believing that they can be feminists. It makes many want to distance themselves from feminism, proclaiming 'I am not a feminist, no way' in order to stop anyone attacking them as a shrill she-devil sent from hell to destroy mankind. When I was at a history course in summer, with some exceptionally bright people, I was pretty much the only one to put my hand up (not including the tutor, who will remain my hero) and say I was a feminist when we had a discussion about gender in history. I have to say, I found that quite shocking. I was surrounded by some of the cleverest young men and women I had met, and yet they all saw feminism as a 'dirty word' that they didn't want to be associated with. One boy even went as far as to give a metaphor for inter-gender relationships  - men are the engine of the car (aka the driving force), women are the wheels. When I asked him why a woman couldn't be the engine if she wanted to be, he said it was too forceful for a woman. 

Surely, a woman can be what she wants to be? Why can a woman not be a powerful engine? The simple fact is that many men (and I am generalising here - I know there are many exceptions to this rule, as not all men see women as their baby carriers and sandwich makers, and there are many men who identify as feminists) are scared of powerful women - they feel emasculated, and feel like their power is being usurped. These are the men who are currently in control of our society - the CEOs, the bankers, the traders, the media bosses. These are the men who need to be educated to realise that women are not a force to fear - women are here to help, to make the planet a better place, to improve on what we already have. They also need to realise women are not something to objectify and ridicule, but that's an issue for another time. 

The education needs to start young, before 18-year-old boys learn to spout whatever their daddy told them about women being subservient to men, and how they don't belong in the financial sector as they 'don't understand money'.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Red Velvet Cake

I think I may be one of the best procrastinators. Today, I had planned to do hours of geography revision for my A-Level mocks next week. In reality, I've written two pages of notes, baked a red velvet cake and had some wonderful pancakes for breakfast. Some may say it's been a productive day. I certainly think it was.

My mum made this cake for my sister last week for her birthday, and I wasn't allowed even the tines of slices because she took it back to her house to eat with friends. So, I baked my own. I think it's probably nicer than the one my mum made... 

I also used a tripod for today's shoot. It got pretty exciting, what can I say? I think I may have persuaded myself that a tripod is actually a good idea and results in way better photos than using my own hands.

Now my big question is just: when will the weather improve?! I'm fed up with the dreariness. I need light for photographs and maybe some sunshine would inspire me to actually go outside (pah, I kid). However, I am really excited for summer now. This morning, I woke up to an offer notification from my final university, meaning I've now heard from all of them (hence the celebratory pancakes). All I have to do now is actually get the grades - which won't happen if I keep baking instead of working... Maybe I should go back to work now.

The recipe for this cake is Jane Brocket's, found in her book Vintage Cakes (you should buy it it's really good).

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Mars Bar Stuffed M&M Studded Cookie Cups

Sugar, butter, more sugar, chocolate, and some Mars Bars - that is always a winning combination for me. I came across this recipe on Butter Baking when I was looking for ideas on how to use up the Mars Bars we've had sitting around for weeks, and I thought it sounded preeeetty damn good. I was not disappointed. For those who are weak and have a low sugar tolerance, this may not be the best recipe ever - it is very sugary. But for those of us who are now so used to consuming vast quantities of sugar in everything they eat then these shouldn't be too hard to digest. Or, you could just eat them slowly and not all at once, that would probably work too. 

I didn't have any chocolate chips, but we had a lot of M&Ms and some smarties left over from decorating Tom's birthday cake (see here) so I thought I'd chop those up and see what happened - it was a good move, I have to say. The chunk of Mars Bar in the middle isn't as overwhelming as I was expecting, and it really is pretty tasty. 

Recipe - makes 12 cookie cups (and maybe two or three cookies):
  • 230g butter
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 280g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g chocolate chips or chopped up M&Ms (or even whole M&Ms for a chunkier cookie)
  • 4 Mars Bars (I used two Mars Bar duos)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180oC. Line a muffin tin with cake cases.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
  4. Slowly beat in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
  5. Mix in the chocolate.
  6. Chop the Mars Bars into thirds.
  7. Press a spoonful of cookie dough into the base of each cake case.
  8. Place a Mars Bar chunk on top.
  9. Dollop a large spoonful of cookie dough on top of each Mars Bar so that it's balancing rather precariously on top.
  10. Bake for around 12 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden. If at around 8 minutes, the cookie dough isn't covering the whole Mars Bar, lightly prod it with a palette knife to push the cookie dough over the chocolate.
In other news, I (kind of) worked out how Pinterest works. You can follow me here and this is a board of some of the cakes I've made over the years.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Week #11

Welcome to a bumper-edition of The Week (that sounds like some sort of cool TV show or internet thing but no, it's just some photos of my life and me saying things underneath them). Last week I forgot to do this, and then I realised I had pretty much nothing to say except: coursework, ahhh panic, and coursework. Nothing much is different now, but I thought I should keep going with this anyway.

There's been a lot of food on my instagram recently, due to my need to consume vast quantities of sugar in order to complete any activity at all. My friend's mum made the amazing caterpillar cake shown above, I think it's something I will have to attempt in the near future! Also featured are some baby snaps of me, ever the beauty with my non-existent neck and exceptionally chubby cheeks. My mum came back from sorting out my nana's things with loads of photos of me, my brother & my sister when we were younger (most of the photos were of them, evidently I wasn't cool enough to be photographed as frequently) and I love looking at them, they're so sweet!

On Friday it's my brother & sister's 21st birthday, which is quite odd because I still think of them as being 18 (which is even weirder because now I'm 18). We're all going to a nice restaurant for tea, which is a pretty great way to start half term, especially as I will be spending the majority of half term either: procrastinating, eating or attempting revision. I am not looking forward to mocks one bit. 

On that note - coursework. It will be the death of me. I shall say no more, because I'd probably end up punching the computer in anger and frustration. Or just crying into a bowl of ice cream and dairy milk, I think that sounds a bit more fun.

Keep up to date with me and my evidently crazy life on instagram and twitter!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Banoffee Pie Cupcakes

 Oops. I have definitely failed my resolution to blog three times a week. I didn't even do my weekly update post (I don't think anyone is interested in me talking about the amount of coursework I have to do... yet again) but, in order to get back into your good books, I made these. 

We had some bananas which I forced my mum to not throw away for a week after their 'oh these bananas are getting a bit brown and speckily' stage. So these cakes are made with the most overripe bananas ever seen, and I think it's probably quite good - the cakes are nice and dense and moist, how a banana cake should be. The cakes are amazing eaten fresh out of the oven with no added extras - if I ever crave a banana muffin, I know which recipe I'm going to use.

However, I am not one for plain food without an extra ten tablespoons of sugar on top. So, naturally, I made these into banoffee pie cupcakes. At least, an artistic interpretation of those. I made some salted caramel sauce to put inside the cakes, which came out amazingly. I was a bit stuck on terms of icing, but I went for a homemade version of cream cheese frosting, which is horrendously sweet (even for me) but still works with these cakes - at least in my (and my dad's) opinion. My mum isn't so keen - she doesn't even have a full teaspoon of sugar in her tea nowadays, she needs to sweeten up (pun alert - you're welcome). 

If my mum reads this (which she probably is - hi mum - she's my only reader I think), I'm only joking! You're sweet enough as it is sugar plum. These cakes did pass the father-approval test, and they just are pretty damn tasty. Eat them in moderation, though, unless you want a super-duper sugar rush which is too much even for me to handle.

Recipe - makes 12:

Banana cupcakes:
  • 125g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  1. Preheat oven to 180oC. Line a muffin tray with cases.
  2. Cream butter and sugar.
  3. Beat the eggs in, one at a time, until very light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in vanilla extract.
  5. Gently beat in the flour.
  6. Beat in the bananas until all well-mixed.
  7. Spoon into the muffin cases (mine ended up pretty full).
  8. Bake for around 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Either: eat warm, or allow to cool and start making caramel.

Salted caramel sauce - I used this recipe, which, after both the sauce and the cakes had cooled, I spooned into the cakes having cut out a little crater in each cake.

After letting these set, I made some cream cheese icing, which I didn't measure out or anything, so I would recommend using a decent cream cheese frosting recipe (I coloured mine bright yellow and covered in sprinkles and glitter - my go to decorations). 

Finally, here is a photo which I took in tribute to my mum, Jane (please forgive the poor nail varnish, it chipped a lot last night). Buy her ebook (please)!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Smartie Cookies #2

Maybe one day I'll make these cookies at a time when I can actually take some nice photos of them with proper light. Maybe one day I'll make anything which I can photograph in proper light. Or maybe not, it would appear I'm a nocturnal baker.

I wrote a post about these cookies last year, found here if you so wish to read it. It basically sums up my feelings about these cookies - if you are ever in doubt about what to bake, bake these. They are the best

I did bake some Mars Bar blondies on Friday, planning to have a pretty little post up on here on Saturday, but they failed me and were not the most photogenic of foods (by a long shot). They were pretty damn tasty though. Hopefully next weekend I'll have a chance to bake & photograph something because I can feel my ability to do anything except write essays and roll on the floor in anguish disappearing rapidly...