Christmas Florentine Biscuits

At last!! I may have just found my favourite Christmas cookie recipe. It’s buttery, spiced with cinnamon, topped with a nutty caramel and dipped in dark chocolate – you really can’t go wrong 🙂

This recipe is an adaptation of the traditional Florentine biscuit (originating from Italy, although some dispute this…) but combines nuts (hazelnuts or almonds), candied fruit, honey and chocolate. Adding a sweet biscuit layer gives the cookie a bit more substance and bite. Since it has two components, it was a bit more fiddly to make, but was definitely a fun project on a Friday night!

Ingredients (makes 18)

For the biscuit layer

  • 115 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 55 g golden caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150 g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

For the Florentine topping

  • 33 g unsalted butter
  • 33 g light brown sugar
  • 33 g maple syrup
  • 33 g plain flour
  • 50 g dried cranberries (or glacé cherries, if you prefer)
  • 50 g flaked almonds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100 g dark chocolate

Directions

  1. Make the biscuit dough. Start by creaming together the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric whisk.
  2. Sift in the flour and cinnamon, then fold together.
  3. Use your hands or a spatula to form the dough into a sphere, wrap in cling film then chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
  4. Make the Florentine topping. Melt the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup in a saucepan over low heat. Take off the heat, si°ft in the flour and add the almonds, cranberries and a pinch of salt. Gently fold through.
  5. Leave the Florentine mixture to cool.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  7. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Take the biscuit dough out from the fridge and, on a lightly floured surface, roll to the thickness of a £1 coin.
  9. Use a cookie cutter/mug/glass (approx. 6 cm in diameter) to cut out the biscuits and place onto a baking sheet.
  10. Combine any scraps and roll out again, cutting out more biscuits until the dough is used up.
  11. Evenly spread about 2 tsp of Florentine topping onto each biscuit.
  12. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden. Leave to cool for at least 15 mins.
  13. Melt the dark chocolate – either on a saucepan of boiling water or in the microwave.
  14. Decorate the biscuits as you wish with the chocolate. I did a generous chocolate drizzle for half of the batch, and dipped the other half in the remaining chocolate.
  15. Let the chocolate set in the fridge.
  16. Enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

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Apple & Blackberry Loaf Cake

After a long, hot summer, cooler weather is finally upon us and I’m pretty relieved to be able to turn on the oven without fear of accidentally cooking ourselves in our apartment/furnace. No doubt I will be complaining about the bitter cold in the weeks to come, but for now I’m embracing the fall feels with this simple loaf cake 😀

I love that this recipe celebrates the end of summer with the last of the ripe, sweet blackberries, and the beginning of autumn with the crisp, tart apples. It’s a lovely bake that’s quick to whip together and can be kept in an airtight container for 2-3 days afterwards (if you have the self-control not to eat it all once it comes out the oven!).

This is another delicious loaf cake (see here for another autumn loaf and here for an indulgent dessert loaf) that I’ve added to my recipe book 😋 The apples keep the cake moist and lightly sweet. Feel free to add more spice if you prefer, and substitute the caster sugar with honey for a healthier bake!

Ingredients

  • 160 g butter, melted
  • 160 g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 rounded tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • 225 g self-raising flour
  • 2 eating apples (I used Braeburn)
  • 70 g blackberries

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C / 140°C fan / 320°F.
  2. Line your loaf tin with parchment paper, and grease with butter (if needed).
  3. Beat together the melted butter and sugar, and add the eggs into the mixture one by one. Gently whisk until the mixture is pale and creamy.
  4. Add the Greek yoghurt and cinnamon.
  5. Sift the flour into the mixture and fold together.
  6. Chop the apples into small pieces (0.5cm cubes) and combine with the batter.
  7. Pour one-third of the batter into the loaf tin and dot with half the blackberries. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining blackberries before filling up the loaf tin.
  8. Smooth out the top of the mixture.
  9. If you wish, make a crumble topping using cold butter, flour, cinnamon and demerara sugar and sprinkle over the top of the loaf.
  10. Bake for 1 hour 5 mins at 160°C / 140°C fan / 320°F. For the remaining 15 mins, increase the temperature to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  11. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  12. Enjoy!

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Raspberry Jam Muffins

Summer is finally here! I’m so excited for lazy weekends in the park and on the beach, easy excuses to eat ice cream all the time, sweet fresh berries… 😀

But before it gets too hot in my flat, I thought I’d do some light summer baking and these fluffy raspberry jam muffins were perfect! These are great for breakfast or as a snack – they are surprisingly addictive, especially when warm, so try not to eat all of them in one go (as I almost did!).

Ingredients (makes 14 small muffins)

  • 140 g golden caster sugar
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100 ml natural yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 140 g butter, melted
  • 14 tsp seedless raspberry jam

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C / 170°C fan / 375°F.
  2. Line your cupcake/muffin tin with paper cases.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, bicarb) together.
  4. Lightly whisk the eggs, and mix with the yogurt and vanilla.
  5. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and add in the melted butter.
  6. Gently fold everything together.
  7. Fill each muffin case halfway with batter, add a tsp of raspberry jam and top up with more batter.
  8. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.
  9. Leave to cool and enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

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Molten Dark Chocolate Cakes

One of my favourite desserts growing up was the lava cake. It always fascinated me how one dessert could be solid on the outside but warm and gooey on the inside 😍 Having only eaten this dessert at restaurants or bought from shops, I just assumed that it would be too hard to make… until I actually searches up the recipe!

The recipe for this cake is actually really simple – the important part is getting the timing right when the pud is in the oven.

Ingredients (makes 2)

  • 40 g dark chocolate
  • 40 g milk chocolate
  • 75 g unsalted butter, and extra for greasing
  • 42 g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting
  • Mixed berries, to serve
  • Ice cream, to top

Directions

  1. Prepare the ramekins. Generously brush the ramekins with melted butter and chill in the fridge / freezer. Repeat this step again so that there are two layers of chilled butter coating the ramekins. Finally, dust the inside of each ramekin with cocoa powder.
  2. In a large bowl over gently simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water though!), melt together the chocolate, butter and sugar.
  3. Whisk the eggs for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Gently incorporate the eggs into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Fold in the flour.
  6. Divide the batter between the ramekins.
  7. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins, preferably longer. You can freeze the cakes at this stage if not cooking them immediately.
  8. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180°C fan / 390°F.
  9. Bake the cakes for 8-10 minutes, until the top appears to be just cooked. I would check the cakes at 8 mins and put it back in the oven for 1 minute, before checking again to see if they are ready.
  10. If cooking from frozen, add on 5 minutes to the baking time.
  11. Let the cakes cool for 3 minutes.
  12. To release the cakes, place a plate over the top of the ramekin, turn it over and gently lift up the ramekin. Use oven mitts or a tea towel as the ramekins will be hot!
  13. Serve immediately with a scoop of ice cream, mixed berries, or just a dusting of icing sugar.
  14. Enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from BBC Food)

It may take a few goes to get the cake just right, as ovens will always vary slightly. But let me tell you it is so satisfying when you do get it perfect and the rich chocolate flows out.

I’m planning to try some other flavour combinations for this classic lava cake – matcha & white chocolate, or salted caramel? Let me know your suggestions in the comments!

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Chocolate & Banana Loaf Cake

Happy February! It’s been extra cold, wet and windy this past weekend in London and this recipe was the perfect remedy! I love banana bread in its original form (is it called a bread to hide the fact that it is a deliciously buttery and perhaps not-so-healthy cake?) but adding chocolate makes this bake absolutely divine.

If we’re being honest, this is just a chocolate cake that’s super rich and kept moist and sweetened by the bananas. Again, like most loaf cakes, this is a simple recipe that gives an incredible result.

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Ingredients

  • 175 g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 125 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 medium ripe bananas
  • 3 large eggs, 2 separated
  • 50 ml milk
  • 100 g milk chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to to 160°C / 140°C fan / 325°F.
  2. Line your loaf tin with parchment paper.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, cocoa powder and add in the caster sugar. Mix well.
  4. Mash the bananas to a lumpy pulp using a fork.
  5. Combine the mashed bananas with the melted butter and eggs.
  6. Gently whisk the wet mixture so that the ingredients are well-incorporated.
  7. Fold together the wet and dry mixtures. Add in the chocolate chips.
  8. Scrape the cake batter into the loaf tin.
  9. Bake for approx. 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  10. Enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

Work has unfortunately been busy and I haven’t had as much motivation to bake as I would’ve liked in this festive season, so this super simple cookie recipe was just what I needed to get back into it! White chocolate and cranberry is a timeless combination that I like all year round, but I’ve never really had a good excuse to bake them until now.

I’ve adapted Nigella’s chocolate chip cookie recipe – it’s my favourite and I think it makes the best big, chewy cookies which are just going crisp on the edges. This recipe also easily adjust for double and half quantities.

Ingredients

Makes 14 large cookies

  • 150 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 90 g soft light brown sugar
  • 90 g white caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 300 g flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200 g white chocolate, chopped
  • 90 g dried cranberries

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150°C fan / 325°F.
  2. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Melt the butter, and cream together with the brown and white sugars.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract and the eggs and mix until the mixture is light and creamy.
  5. Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda, and fold the wet and dry ingredients together.
  6. Gently stir through the chocolate chunks and dried cranberries.
  7. It is ideal to chill the cookie dough in the fridge for at least an hour before baking, but if you’re short of time, it should be fine to use the dough straightaway.
  8. Using an ice-cream scoop or two tablespoons, scoop the cookie dough into ping-pong sized balls and drop them on the baking sheet. Keep them at least 8 cm apart, as these will grow when baked in the oven.
  9. Bake for 15-17 minutes until the edges are golden. The centres will still be soft but will firm up when cooled. Leave to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet.
  10. Enjoy!

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The Best Mince Pies to Try This Christmas

I love this time of the year in the build up to the holiday season. Even though the days are getting shorter, darker and colder, nothing warms me up more than seeing the sparkly lights and festive decorations, and enjoying a hot beverage. Winter is also a great reason to eat more – it’s cold and we’ve got huge coats on anyway..

I’m loving making slow-cooked chillies, beef stews and delicious ragus, but more importantly – the Christmas season has heralded the return of my favourite festive sweet, the mince pie! If it wasn’t obvious from the title of this post, I’ve been on the hunt for the best mince pies that London has to offer. But first, what exactly is a mince pie? It’s basically a fit-in-your-palm-sized buttery shortcrust pastry filled with mincemeat – a fruity, boozy, spiced mix of vine fruits and citrus peel (with no actual meat!).

I’ve sampled a range of mince pies from the supermarkets and high street cafes but will be updating this list as we get closer to Christmas – do let me know if there are any you think I’ve missed out and need to try!

1. Heston from Waitrose Spiced Shortcrust Mince Pies with a Lemon Twist (£3.00 / 4 pies) – 9/10

This was probably the most unique mince pie that I tried, though I suppose it’s more of a tart than an actual pie! Waitrose also has a chocolate & ginger version which also looks really good (see below). I loved the crumble topping and the zesty lemon curd, which complemented the sweet mincemeat. The spiced pastry also tasted delicious. The only downside is that I wished there was more of the filling to balance against the pastry!

2. Sainsbury’s Deep Filled Mince Pies (£1.10 / 6 pies) – 7/10

Sainsbury’s is my go-to supermarket so I had to try out their classic mince pies and I was pleasantly satisfied. The pies are packed full of sultanas, raisins and currants and some orange peel. I didn’t find the filling to be overly sweet and was actually slightly tart. Overall, a good solid choice of mince pie and great value for money.

3. Marks & Spencer’s The Collection Mince Pies (£2.50 / 6 pies) – 8/10

These mince pies are beautifully decorated with a snowflake and star design. The mincemeat filling makes M&S’s version so good – it’s bursting with vine fruits, cherries and clementine, with a full brandy flavour and citrus notes. The citrus means that the filling doesn’t end up too sickly sweet. The pastry is also decent – very buttery, but I found it got a bit sticky in my mouth – not an issue when washed down with some milk though!

4. Iceland Luxury Mince Pies (£1.89 / 6 pies) – 8/10

This was voted as the nation’s favourite mince pie last year, so I had high hopes! The pastry on these mince pies were lovely – really buttery and almost crisp when warmed in the oven. Also has a delicious gooey filling with juicy fruits. Unexpected place to find such a tasty mince pie!

5. Starbucks Mince Pie (£1.69 / ea) – 6/10

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This was a pretty hefty mince pie (both in price, as compared to the options above, and also in size). The mince pie is very deep and was generous with the sultanas, currants and raisins. I found the filling too sweet though and with the heavy dusting of icing sugar, it was a bit too much on the whole. The pastry was also very crumbly. This probably wouldn’t be my first choice of a baked good in Starbucks but it’s still pretty tasty enjoyed with one of their Christmas coffees.

6. Konditor & Cook Mince Pie (£1.60 / ea) – 7.5/10

I love the cakes at K&C, so I had to give their famous mince pies a try too! These were smaller than I expected and I polished it off in a few bites! Their mince pies have a lovely handcrafted look and are tantalisingly golden brown. The filling is plump with raisins / sultanas but there isn’t a lot of it! All in all, a delicious mince pie with buttery pastry (yet not being too dry), but the price means that it’s more of a treat / good for a gift – K&C sell it in gift boxes of 6 for £10.

7. Waitrose’s All Butter Chocolate and Ginger Mince Pies (£2.00 / 4 pies) – 8/10

img_9532I’ve never tried a chocolate mince pie before and what a delicious revelation! When warmed in the oven, the crisp pastry and the soft filling have a gooey brownie-like texture, which is divine. The filling is laced with orange oil and ginger, giving the pie a lovely spicy and warming flavour. On the whole, the mince pie isn’t too sweet and the chocolate, orange and ginger flavours pair together really nicely. If you’re looking for a twist on the traditional mince pie, this one is highly recommended!

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas / holiday season, filled with lots of delicious food (already excited for all the Christmas cakes) & wishing everyone the best for 2018! 🙂

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Sweet Potato & Walnut Loaf Cake

I missed the whole pumpkin dessert bandwagon when Halloween rolled around, but then I thought, why not use another orange-y vegetable instead? Sweet potatoes are one of my favourite root vegetable and I love how brightly coloured they are.

Back in Hong Kong, my mum always used to buy these amazing little Japanese purple sweet potatoes, but I haven’t yet been able to find a variety as moist and with such an intense flavour as those in the UK. These sweet taters were so delicious that there was a cafe dedicated to making sweet potato soft serves 😀

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Unfortunately, I think this place is now closed, but if I’m able to source some really good sweet potatoes from somewhere, I may give a go at making some purple ice cream too!

Anyway, back to this cake – since other vegetables have worked well in bakes (carrot, pumpkin and even courgette!), using sweet potato also made sense. I’ve adapted my recipe from the one I found here, mainly in cutting down the amount of sugar and upping the spices.

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (you’ll need 200 g of its cooked weight)
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 120 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 50 ml water
  • For the topping:
    • 80 g walnuts
    • 1 tbsp caster sugar
    • 1/2 tsp mixed spice

Directions

  1. Cook the sweet potatoes (either in a microwave for 8 mins or until soft, or in a steamer), scoop out the flesh and mash. Leave to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  3. Line your loaf tin with parchment paper.
  4. Whisk together sugar and oil, adding one egg at a time and mixing well.
  5. Add vanilla extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, sift flour and combine with baking powder and spices.
  7. Add a third of the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, adding a splash of water in between mixes, until all the ingredients have been folded together.
  8. Stir in the mashed sweet potato.
  9. Pour the cake batter into the loaf tin and top with the walnut, sugar and spice mix.
  10. Bake for an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.

This loaf cake turned out to be really tasty! As I cut down on the sugar, it is only lightly sweet and delicious with a cup of tea. The cake is more like a pound cake than a sponge but it isn’t uncomfortably dense, and the walnut topping adds a great contrast in the textures. All in all, another lovely cake for the cooler autumn season 🙂

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Autumn Toffee Apple Cake

Autumn is in full swing so I thought I’d finally do some baking to warm up these chillier days. Unfortunately work has gotten busier so I haven’t written as much recently, but this delicious dessert has made me realise how much I like trying out new recipes and eating it all afterwards 😀

This spiced toffee apple cake is the perfect answer to cold grey afternoons when all you want to do is curl up in bed. In fact I think this is what a hug would taste like if you ate it. It does take a bit of prep before baking but it’s actually quite therapeutic and the results are well worth it.

Ingredients

  • 200 g dates (I used medjool)
  • 200 ml milk
  • 200 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175 g light soft brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 250 g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 small red apples (I used cox)
  • 1/2 bramley apple
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • For the toffee sauce:
    • 8 toffees
    • Splash of milk
    • Pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  2. Line your baking tin with parchment paper.
  3. Roughly chop the dates and simmer gently in the milk in a saucepan for 5 mins. Leave to cool.
  4. Blitz the dates and milk in a blender / food processor until it forms a smooth puree.
  5. Prepare the apples. Peel and dice the bramley apple into small chunks.
  6. Quarter and core the cox apples and cut into thin slices. Toss them with a squeeze of lemon juice and leave in a bowl.
  7. Using an electric whisk, cream together the butter and sugar. Crack in the eggs, one at a time and mixing in between. Add in the date puree and vanilla extra and continue whisking until smooth, but don’t worry if there are still some lumps.
  8. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl (flour, baking powder and spices).
  9. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined.
  10. Add the diced bramley apple into the cake batter and mix gently.
  11. Scrape the cake batter into the baking tray.
  12. Arrange the sliced apples into overlapping rows on top of the cake. You should be able to get three rows.
  13. Bake for 50 minutes until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  14. While you leave the cake to cool, prepare the toffee sauce. You can either melt the toffees with a splash of milk and a pinch of salt in a saucepan, or in the microwave (mixing every 30 seconds). Start with less milk and add more to loosen the sauce if it is too stiff.
  15. Drizzle the toffee sauce generously over the cake.
  16. Serve warm (and with vanilla ice cream, if you’d like) – enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

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This cake is wonderfully moist (thanks to the date puree) and surprisingly fluffy. The sharp tangy apples are nicely balanced against the salted toffee drizzle. I can’t wait to try out more recipes with autumn and winter flavours, and I hope you give this one a go!

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The Most Indulgent Triple Chocolate Brownies

Prepare yourselves. This post isn’t for the faint-hearted or the health-conscious. But, this is perfect if:

  1. Chocolate is a part of your everyday diet and you probably couldn’t live without it;
  2. You’ve had a bad day and need a pick-me-up;
  3. You’ve had an amazing day and need a reason to make it even better;
  4. You love rich, dense, chocolatey desserts.

This is perhaps the best brownie recipe I’ve ever tried. It does take some effort to make, but the recipe is still pretty straightforward and I promise you that the results are completely worth it.

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The original recipe is from BBC Good Food’s website (click here) and it is a true godsend – my recipe below has adapted this slightly.

Ingredients

  • 185 g unsalted butter, softened and cubed
  • 185 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 85 g plain flour
  • 50 g cocoa powder
  • 100 g white chocolate
  • 50 g milk chocolate
  • 3 large eggs
  • 275 g golden caster sugar

Directions

  1. Melt the butter and dark chocolate using a microwave for approx. 2 minutes, giving the mixture a stir every 30 seconds. Alternatively, you can melt this over a saucepan with hot water (if you have more patience!). Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to  180°C / 160°C fan / 350°F.
  3. Line your baking tin with parchment paper.
  4. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into a a bowl, getting rid of any lumps, and set aside.
  5. Whisk together the eggs and golden caster sugar for 3 – 8 minutes until the mixture has become pale, creamy and about double its original volume. An electric whisk is definitely recommended – I hand-whisked this the first time I made this recipe and my arms ached for days afterwards.
  6. Pour the chocolate mixture over the egg mixture, and gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Combine the two mixtures, but try not to knock out the air from the egg mixture!
  7. Resift the dry ingredients (flour and cocoa) into the eggy chocolate mixture and fold together. Although this may look dry at first, the mixture will come together and end up looking very fudgy. But, be careful not to overdo it!
  8. Chop the milk chocolate and 50 g of the white chocolate into bite-sized chunks. Stir this into the brownie batter.
  9. Pour the brownie batter into the baking tin and use the spatula to even out the top.
  10. Melt the remaining 50 g of white chocolate and use a tablespoon to spoon blobs of the melted chocolate onto the brownie mixture. Then, use a fork to create swirls by dragging the white chocolate across the surface of the brownie mixture.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes, until the top has a shiny, papery crust and the sides are just coming away from the tin. If the brownie still wobbles in the middle when you take it out, put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
  12. Leave the brownie to completely cool – if you try to cut it while it is warm, it will ooze everywhere (as delicious as that will be). This is probably the most difficult step of the whole recipe.
  13. Personally, I like to put the brownie in the fridge to let it ‘set’ before cutting it and heating it up in the oven before serving.
  14. The brownies will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
  15. Enjoy!

Oh my god these are incredible.

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I made these brownies a week ago and they have been completely demolished. Whether you’re baking for family and friends, or just for yourself, I highly recommend this recipe! Finally, a brownie dessert isn’t complete with a cold scoop of ice cream to top it off – I paired it with my gianduja hazelnut ice cream and it was spectacular.

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