Sunday, 25 May 2014

Weekend Brunch: Malmaison Hotel

The Malmaison Hotel in Leith claims to have the biggest Sunday lunch in town so, of course, I had to go and sample this for myself.  It's an epic four courses with a chef's table buffet, main course and pudding, and is in a similar style to Hotel du Vin's Sunday brunch (which I've written about before), but is slightly more informal and certainly has more brunch options.  Malmaison's dining room is an impressive room with heavy dark wood and a vaguely nautical theme, being right by the docks of Leith as they are.  On this sunny day it looked very bright and welcoming, and the glass of fizz that greeted us when we were seated definitely helped the friendly atmosphere.  Feeling adventurous, I ordered a Hemingway Martini from the brunch cocktail list (which had six variations on a Bloody Mary!), a mix of grapefruit, vodka and schnapps.  My drink was absolutely delicious and, more importantly, brunch-themed therefore perfectly acceptable as a midday drink.  From the main dishes, you can select a full Scottish or eggs benedict brunch options, or more traditional gastropub meals - a Sunday roast, burger, fish cakes, steak frites.  In an attempt to keep it light, I decided to order the fish of the day, served with potatoes and green beans,  I was thinking tactically, eating a huge burger in between a plate of salad and a pudding would not work well, particularly as they served my favourite dessert of all time - a heavy, but sublime sticky toffee pudding.  

The chef's table was groaning under platters of continental meats, smoked salmon, fresh salads, bread, Serrano ham on the bone and a centrepiece of glistening, cooked ham with crackling. Keeping it brunchy, there is also a chef on hand to cook eggs and omelettes how you like them, and warm pancakes and waffles to order too.  Being of a sweet-toothed nature, I ordered some pancakes to start off with.  These were French crepe style and already made up (freshly I was assured) so you don't have to wait for the batter to cook all the way through, served with orange segments and a vanilla syrup.  They were delicious, but a little bit too much like pudding although luckily, unlike John Shuttleworth, I can switch between sweet and savoury with no problems at all.  Another trip to the chef's table filled my plate with pates, salads and delicious meats and, to be honest, I'd probably have been quite happy going up a third (or fourth) time and not having a main at all.  Everything was fresh and tasty and a really good mix of small eats, but the salmon when it arrived was very good indeed - nicely cooked with a crispy skin and good lemon butter sauce that went nicely with the vegetables too.  And of course, the sticky toffee pudding to finish off was divine although for the hardcore only.  It was a heavy way to finish off quite a large amount of food and, had I been more sensible, I probably would have ordered the lighter pleasures of the clementine parfait or ice cream sundae.  

At £19.95 per person, it's great value for the amount of food you get and can definitely be added to the list of epic brunches in Edinburgh.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Best Burger Quest: Burger, Fountainbridge

Excuse me whilst I blow away the cobwebs and tumbleweeds from this here blog... it has been sorely neglected but it was good to have a bit of a break from writing about food and taking photos of everything that I eat (which is surely what Instagram has now evolved into - mini food blogs for all!).  A recent visit to Burger in Fountainbridge reminded me of the Best Burger quest on the blog, basically an excuse to try lots of different places in Edinburgh and order the burger.  No need for pretence at Burger - it's all in the name.  Their burgers are excellent and well worth writing about. 

Burger has obviously been taking notes from its US contemporaries as the beef burgers are served classic US-style: very juicy meat with minimal fuss filling of tomato, pickle and their own burger sauce on a brioche bun (£3.95).  Classic and delicious.  The chips are also excellent, crisp and not cut too thinly (£1.95).  What really sets Burger apart is the range of their menu.  Along with the standard hamburger/cheese/bacon set up, their other standard burger is a chicken katsu burger which is a great change to the usual chicken breast in a bun deal (£4.95).  It's a panko crusted minced chicken, roast garlic and spring onion burger with katsu sauce and wasabi mayo.  It is perhaps not as crispy crumbed as I expected it to be but it was a big bite of saucy burger goodness.   The veggie burger made from roast chickpeas, beetroot and tempah which makes a nice change from the falafel variety (£4.95).  In addition to their regular menu is a changing weekly specials menu, where Burger staff play around with burger creations to make some truly delicious combinations.  On my visit they had Any Port In A Storm (£6.25), a beef burger with Stilton cheese, port glaze, apple chutney and Mexican Black Bean Burger (£5.95), a veggie burger with black beans, Mexican spices, peppers and chipotle coleslaw.  As exciting as these sounded, I wanted to try the classics first so just ordered a cheeseburger and chicken burger.  They really didn't disappoint and have gone on to join the top league of Edinburgh's best burgers for sure.  I can't wait to visit again and see what else they come up with.  

To finish off, you can have an ice cream rich shake (£2.95)or their own frozen custard ice cream.  I chose one of their special creations this time - Eat Yer Greens & Blues, a green tea ice cream with honeyed pistachios and blueberry sauce. It was divine - super creamy mild flavoured ice cream with a good crunch from the nuts and sweet blueberry sauce, not only that but brilliant value for £1.95.  Standard flavours of vanilla, chocolate and maple walnut all sound like excellent options, particularly with mix-ins of honeycomb, brownie or peanut butter.  

Burger are also child-friendly - I spied a number of high chairs and they have a kids menu too, for adults that don't fancy sharing.  A really nice addition to the Fountainbridge area and for burger lovers in Edinburgh!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Baking Sunday: Pastel Cheesecake

This is such a beautiful cake and I was super pleased with myself when it turned out with all layers intact. I had originally seen this pastel cheesecake on Bake A Boo blog (via Pinterest) and fell in love with how pretty it was. It is a relatively easy no-bake recipe and I made a few modification to the original to make it even easier! I added a buttery biscuit base instead of the sponge and just have three layers, although you could have as many as you like. You can flavour each layer individually too if you so wish but be very careful to add tiny bits of flavouring as they’ll be added to a much smaller volume than usual. Personally I would find it a little overwhelming to have so many flavours in one cake. I would strongly recommend using a springform tin as it will be far less stressful releasing the cake and ensuring the layers don’t blend into each other and the recipe below is for a 9” tin.

Pastel Cheesecake
100g butter
250g crushed digestive biscuits
180ml milk
3 egg yolks
525g cream cheese
180g caster sugar
1.5 tbsp gelatine powder
600ml double cream
Your choice of flavourings and colourings (a few drops only required): such as vanilla, fruit puree for both colour and flavour, coconut essence,

1. Line and lightly grease a 9” springform tin. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the crushed biscuits and mix until the butter has been absorbed.
2. Remove from the heat and, while still warm, press the mixture (using the back of a spoon) into the bottom of the cake tin. Leave to set for one hour in the fridge.
3. While the base is chilling, combine the milk, egg yolks, cream cheese, sugar and gelatine powder in a double boiler or in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water (ensuring that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water and gently heat. Stir over simmering water until mixture is melted.
4. Remove and leave to cool
5. Gently whip the double cream until it just holds soft peaks.
6. Once the cream cheese mixture has cooled to room temperature, fold in whipped cream until blended
7. Divide mix into 3 portions and combine with different flavours and colourings. Colour and flavour with just a few drops at a time to ensure you have the desired shade/taste.
8. Choose whichever cheesecake mixture you want to go in first for the bottom layer. Spread it in the tin and place it freezer for about 10 minutes. Once you see the layer is shiny and set, pour the next cheese cake mixture in. Repeat this process until finished.
9. Cover and refrigerate until set for about 3 hours or preferably overnight.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Baking Sunday: Concorde Cake

I was a big fan of Edd Kimber (aka The Boy Who Bakes) on the Great British Bake Off and he was a worthy winner of the show.  He has since released two baking books, both of which I really love.  This chocolate concorde cake is from the second of his books, Say It With Cake, which I'd thoroughly recommend.  In this day and age where anyone from telly that's ever appeared near an oven seems to have a baking book out, it's rare to find one with original ideas and definitive takes on classics.  What this book really excels at though is the big impressive show stopping numbers which I happen to love making.  I made this cake at an Edinburgh Bakers event rather a long time ago now (two further EB events have since passed, eep!), when the Edinburgh Bakers met the Glasgow Bakers.  With over twenty bakers attending there was a lot of cake that day!  There was friendly banter over which side would have the best cakes and the theme was, accordingly, show stopper cakes.  It was a fun theme to research with plenty of time spent on Pinterest and Tastespotting looking at beautiful cakes! I decided to make this cake as I was after something light but chocolatey and that would look beautiful and unusual.  This ticked all the boxes I think!  It consists of three layers of chocolate meringue, filled with a chocolate whipped cream mousse and covered with small meringue pieces.  I personally wanted to add a bit more of a wow factor and added an extra step of covering the cake in a chocolate mirror glaze before covering with the meringue pieces, which can be made in advance and reheated.  It adds another layer of texture to the cake and is darkly delicious.  I also added fresh raspberries between layers along with the chocolate mousse, just to freshen the cake up a bit.  It was a real hit on the day and I'm looking forward to when I have an occasion to make this again!

Concorde Cake
Recipe from Say it With Cake
6 large egg whites
60g caster sugar
300g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
icing sugar or cocoa powder, for dusting

For the simple chocolate mousse:
185g dark chocolate, finely chopped
500ml double cream

1 quantity of Chocolate Mirror Glaze, recipe below

1. Preheat the oven to 110° Celcius (90° fan oven) and line three baking sheets with baking parchment.  Using a 20cm cake tin as a template, draw a circle on each piece of parchment with paper, then turn it over so that the drawing is underneath.
2. Put the egg whites into a lcean, grease-free bowl, and, using an electric mixer, whisk until they form stiff peacks.  Slowly pour in the caster sugar and whisk until the meringue is stiff and glossy.  Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder over the meringue and gently fold together, being as gentle as possible.
3. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm wide plain piping tip and pipe three discs on the baking parchment using the drawn templates, piping in a spiral starting at the centre and working outwards.  Using the remaining meringue, pipe long strips onto theprepared rays alongside the discs.  Bake for about 1 hour and 40 minutes or until firm and crisp.  Turn off the oven and allow the merinuges to cool in the oven for two hours.
4. to make the mousse, melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool.  Whisk the cream to soft peaks the pour it into the bowl with the chocolate and whisk to combine.  The resulting mousse should be fairly thick and be able to hold its shape, but not so thick it can't be spread easily.  If it is too thick and looks overwhipped, pour in a little extra cream or milk and stir to loosen the mousse.
5. To assemble the cake, use a little of the mousse to stick the first meringue disc to a bardboard cake board or serving plate.  Spread about a third of the mousse over the meringue and then add another meringue and repeat the process.  Top with the final meringue and then coat the top and sides of the cake with the remaining third of the mousse.  Ensure the sides of the cake are smooth and even all over and freeze the cake for at least 30 minutes.
6. To finish the decoration, use a serrated knife to gently cut the meringue strips into pieces.  Take the cake from the freezer and slowly coat the cake with a third of the Chocolate Mirror Glaze.  Cover three times (if it becomes too sticky, reheat in the microwave on low for 30 seconds).  Freeze for 10 minutes and then trim the ends with a hot and sharp knife.  Lightly press the meringue strips over the cake, dust with either icing sugar or cocoa powder and place back in the freezer for an hour (this will soften the meringue slightly).  Thaw in the fridge before serving.

Chocolate Mirror Glaze (Glacage Miroir)
Recipe by Pierre Herme
75g water
150g caster sugar
150g glucose syrup
100g sweet condensed milk
70g masse gelatine (soak 10g gelatine leaves into cold water then weight the soaked gelatine leaves and make up to 70g with the soaking water)
150g dark chocolate

Put the water, sugar and glucose syrup into a pan and bring to the boil. When the syrup reaches 103°C, turn off the heat and mix in the condensed milk and masse gelatine.  Pour over the milk chocolate and mix with a rubber spatula until smooth.

It was a popular cake!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Weekend Brunch: Hotel Du Vin

Ahh poor neglected blog.  It's been a busy old year, time has whizzed by and all of a sudden I find myself in mid-May wondering how on earth the middle of the year has crept up on me.  I've been busy working on some other projects, most notably a new Edinburgh lifestyle blog as well as preparing for my dad's imminent visit.  He'll be staying with me for a month and I'll be delighted to see him; it has been a lot of fun researching places in Scotland to visit and places to eat in Edinburgh - he's got a big appetite, which I've happily inherited.  With that in mind, Hotel Du Vin has firmly secured itself on the list of places that I'm sure my dad will love.  They have a four course Le Brunch which can only be described as epic.

As I've previously mentioned on the blog, Edinburghers seem very keen on brunch, with the love veering more towards an all-day breakfast than southern style Sunday roasts.  Hotel Du Vin are bridging the gap between the two with their Sunday brunch where you start off with a soup and then get all of your continental breakfast needs from their French market table. There is a choice between breakfast favourites and lunch options for your main course (from the a la cart menu) and finally some dessert to round it all off.   Brunch runs from 12 to 4pm, leaving you ample time to enjoy the feast at your leisure.  It is priced at £19.99.  

To start from the top, the first course of the brunch feast is vegetarian soup du jour and on my visit this was a vegetable soup with fresh parsley garnish.  The soup isn't served with bread (you don't want to fill up on the first course!) but was packed with flavour with a perfect velvet texture.  Next up is a trip or two to the French Market Table, where you can help yourself to freshly baked breads and croissants, charcuterie, rillettes, pates, vegetables and, if that wasn't quite enough, plenty of fresh seafood.  The table was heaving with food and soon my plate was too.  I took full advantage of the beautiful seafood on offer and came away with dressed crab, a few king prawns and a freshly shucked oyster, along with some fresh bread, pates and salad.  A plate full of cockles was also on offer along with a rather delicious potted shrimp.  A leg of serrano ham being freshly carved at the table was also a nice touch.  It really is very generous and you can go back again if you so desire.  By now though, I was starting to feel a little full - worryingly so, considering I'd ordered my main course of Sunday roast.  But that's the beauty of Le Brunch - there's no rush so you can just kick back with a cocktail and enjoy eating at your own pace.

The main course options range from Omelette Arnold Bennett (with haddock and Gruyere) and salmon hollandaise to heartier options like a pie du jour, bistro burger or steak frites.  On this occasion I thought I would go for the Normandy roast chicken as I was in a Sunday roast kind of mood.  It was accompanied with a gravy boat and a good selection of veg - the essential roast potatoes, some carrots, parsnips and the obligatory green vegetable selection.  The chicken was not the boring option here: a very generous portion which was lusciously moist and crispy skinned. 

Finally, just when I thought I could eat no more, we were handed the dessert menus and had to make a decision on the final course.  I did worry this was going to be the 'wafer thin mint' that would tip me over the edge however I can't resist dessert and there were some tempting treats on offer, with rhubarb crumble, traditional trifle and profiteroles being among them.  However I chose what I considered to be the lightest thing on the menu, the Bistro Du Vin coupe which comprises a vanilla and pistachio ice cream with chocolate sauce and pistachio nougat.  It was a fun and simple dessert which rounded off the meal well.  I did have slight plate envy when I saw a huge creme brulee pass me by but I'm glad I finished with ice cream and didn't physically have to be rolled out of the hotel.  

Le Brunch was such a lovely way to spend an afternoon and is perfect for when you want to treat someone to an extravagant daytime meal.  It's incredibly good value and I'd thoroughly recommend it for a long leisurely afternoon with an optional walk across the Meadows afterwards being an enjoyable end to the day.

* French Market Table picture courtesy of Hotel Du Vin

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Best Burger Quest: Hard Rock Cafe

You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog/ Cryin’ all the time

Sweet home Alabama/ Where the skies are so blue 

Love in an elevator/ Livin' it up when I'm going down

Rock ‘n Roll – the lifeblood of the Hard Rock Café. And everyone knows what fuels rock ‘n roll right? Uh-huh-huh – burgers! Ah, you were thinking of something else, but I am thinking burgers and that’s what I headed into the Hard Rock Café for to see if a place that’s legendary for using the word legendary could put up a good show in the Edinburgh burger hit parade, after claiming it has the best burger in town. 

Soon after being seated, we were approached by a waitress to see if we’d like any song requests for the big screen. Flicking through the iPad to choose some songs was quite fun, like secretly helping to DJ at someone else’s party. So, to keep the party atmosphere going, we ordered some cocktails. It felt like the right thing to do and, putting ourselves in the hands of the experts, the waitress recommended some fruit and sweet drinks for us. So far, so good. There was a lively atmosphere in the room with music memorabilia to view and talk about and I surprised myself by how impressed I was by some of it. Who knew a hat once worn by Elvis could be so exciting? 

I’d already decided to opt for the classic 10oz legendary burger, but it was interesting to scan the menu and see what other burger options were available. Each Hard Rock Café location has a different “legendary” twist and Edinburgh’s is, you guessed it, haggis. The alternatives were unsurprisingly American-influenced, such as a Hickory Barbeque bacon burger and toppings like buffalo sauce, guacamole and chipotle peppers. I’m normally a fan of additional toppings, but thought these particular flavours might overpower the burger a little bit. On the other side of the table, my dining companion dived straight on in and ordered the Red, White and Blue burger which has spicy buffalo sauce, Cajun seasoning and crumbled blue cheese. It sounded like a tasty combination and, although I was slightly jealous, I stayed dedicated to the pure legendary experience. 

When the burgers arrived we were very impressed – they looked great: decent-sized meat patty, a bun that wasn’t too bready, two slices of cheese melted properly, pickles, salad and American style bacon. My one initial quibble was that I’m not a huge fan of breaded onion rings and much prefer the battered kind. Initial impressions were, however, very good. Biting into the burger the bacon was a bit of a let-down, fried as it was to within an inch of its life. It added an unpleasant taste to the first few bites until I decided to just remove it and taste the meat as it should be enjoyed. It was richly seasoned and moist and, I have to admit, tasted pretty good with the breaded onion ring too. There were plenty of chips and a decent portion of salad too. Most of the burgers at the Hard Rock Café are priced at £14.95 which is on the expensive side. However, if your perfect burger accompaniment is rock ‘n roll then go eat the food, drink the drink, hear the songs and admire a hat that The King once wore. 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Baking Sunday: Sticky Caramel Pear & Ginger Cake

If you're anything like me, it's around now that new years' resolutions start falling by the wayside - I give things a good go for a week or so, but then boredom kicks in and will power fades. This cake is perfect for the January hinterland where the urge to guzzle down cake can be assuaged with the fact that it's packed full of delicious pears. Just because it's fruity doesn't mean it's boring though - with a caramelised pear topping, brown sugar sponge and slivers of candied stem ginger it's puddingy without being rich and actually kind of addictive. The pears give the cake a moist and mild flavour which works well with the more punchy spices of ginger and cinnamon. They give a silky texture to the caramelised topping, but you could use another fruit if you have too many apples or stone fruit that need using up. And, if you are hung up about healthy resolutions, just think about the calories burnt from chopping up all those pears! Then go ahead and enjoy a few slices warm from the oven anyway.

Sticky Caramel Pear & Ginger Cake
2 ripe pears, peeled and sliced lengthwise
50g softened butter
100g soft brown sugar
50g soft brown sugar
100g caster sugar
175g butter
50g black treacle
3 eggs, lightly beaten
175g self raising flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp mixed spiced
2 pears, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 pieces of stem ginger, chopped into small pieces (from jar in syrup)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line the base of a 20cm (8 inch) round cake tin (springform if possible) and grease lightly with some butter or oil.
2. Make the topping first, by mixing the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Spread this evenly onto the base of the prepared cake tin and arrange the pear slices on top in a fan-like pattern around the edge of the tin.
3. For the cake, cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and then add the treacle and then the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. 
4. Add the flour and spices to the batter and mix until just combined. Stir in the chopped pears and stem ginger and then spoon the cake mixture over the pears and smooth over to level the surface.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes until golden brown - you can test if its baked with a toothpick/skewer if you wish, insert into the cake and if it comes out clean the cake is done.
6. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Scrape the sides of the cakes with a knife to make sure none is clinging to the edges and then turn out onto an inverted serving plate and turn over. The lined tin prevents any pears sticking to the bottom so it should look very pretty on your plate!

Monday, 7 January 2013

My Bloody Valentine Cake - Edinburgh Cake Ladies Going Underground

This post has been a long time coming!  I made this cake for the last Edinburgh Cake Ladies baking event, a Spooky Bakes themed cake munching extravaganza held at Mary Kings Close.  For those that don't know, Mary Kings Close is a preserved underground close from when Edinburgh was a rabbits warren of different lanes, alleyways and closes coming from the Royal Mile.  These date back to the 1600s and most of these have been closed up now but Mary Kings Close remains preserved under the Royal Mile, providing a fascinating insight into how people from all classes of society lived.  With two potential ghosts haunting the close it was the perfect venue for our spooky bakes and it was a really special event.  

I pretty much knew what I wanted to make straight away - a gruesome (but delicious) bloody heart cake.  As a long time fan of Miss Cakehead's Eat Your Heart Out project, I love gory cakes so it was a great excuse to make this bloody anatomical heart cake.  It had to taste amazing too, so I combined a cherry vanilla cake filled with cream cheese icing and covered with cherry syrup sticky sugarpaste.  It's not quite as an intimidating project as it looks and it doesn't matter if you're not very confident with rolled fondant - it's very forgiving of a roll or two as this helps with the anatomical veined look that it's aiming for.  It does take up a bit of time but the cake can be frozen before you're ready to cover it in fondant and certainly benefits from a long period in the fridge before carving it.  

It goes without saying that other cakes from the evening were fabulous, however because it was so dark I didn't really get any good pictures so visit the Edinburgh Cake Ladies' blog to see them if you so wish!

My Bloody Valentine Bloody Heart Cake

Cherry vanilla cake
320g plain flour
50g cornflour
20 g baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
415 ml whole milk, at room temperature
6 egg whites, at room temperature
3 tablespoons (45 ml) cherry juice/syrup (from the jar of cherries, I used Bonne Maman Cherry Compote)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
450g vanilla sugar (or regular caster sugar)
173g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g finely chopped maraschino cherries (optional)
1 teaspoon red food colouring gel (I used Sugarflair’s Ruby)

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C and centre the oven rack.  Line and grease three round 8-inch pans.
2.  Sift the flours, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the milk, eggs, cherry juice and vanilla extract in a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup.
3.  In an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and creamy, about 5 minutes.
4.  With the mixer still on medium speed, alternate additions of the flour mixture and milk-egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 dry additions, 2 wet), beating after each addition until incorporated. Continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in finely chopped cherries.
5.  Divide batter evenly among 3 cake pans, smoothing the surface with a small offset spatula or rubber spatula.  Bake until a skewer comes out with a few crumbs only, about 30 minutes. Cakes should be well-risen and springy to the touch.
6.  Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for 5 minutes, then loosen the edges by running a knife around the sides. Gently turn out the cakes, peel of parchment paper bottom, then cool right side up.

Cherry cream cheese frosting
500g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, cold
1 teaspoon cherry juice/syrup
1 teaspoon red food colouring gel (I used Sugarflair’s Ruby)

1.  Beat the icing sugar and butter together in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) until the mixture comes together and is well mixed (about 5 minutes.
2.  Add the cream cheese, cherry juice and food colouring gel in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Do not beat for longer as the mixture can go runny.

Assembling the Cake
1 jar cherry compote (I used a jar of Bonne Maman cherry compote)
Sugarpaste icing, tinted red (I used poppy red fondant from The Finishing Touch)
Blue gel food colouring
Corn syrup or piping gel

1. Once cooled, place first cake on your plate and cover with a thin layer of cream cheese icing and cherry compote. Repeat for the second layer and leave the third top layer uniced. Put the cake in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
2. Using a large serrated knife, trim the cake into a triangular shape with rounded corners, creating a roughly sculpted three-dimensional anatomical heart shape.
3. Add a small of of blue gel food colouring to the red fondant with a toothpick and knead, folding two or three times. Do not overmix, you just want the illusion of veins.
4. Measure the cake. Dust a stainproof work surface with icing sugar and roll the fondant with a large rolling pin. Roll the fondant to a quarter inch thickness. Fondant should be about twice the size of the cake measurements. Lay the fondant over the cake. Position the fondant so there is a large overhang of fondant at the top of the cake, but still plenty of fondant at the bottom of the cake.
5. Cut away excess fondant around the "bulb" of the heart (everything except the "artery" at the top of the cake), leaving a 2 inch margin to tuck under the cake. Reserve excess fondant for later use.
6. Tuck the excess fondant under the cake by gently lifting the cake slightly and folding the fondant underneath. The weight of the cake will help seal the fondant edges. Use the uncut fondant at the top of the cake to create a tubelike shape, or "artery".
7. Use corn syrup to seal the artery ends together. Fold a portion of the tube inward to create a clean edge. Sculpt the heart's artery further by pressing your fingers into the icing on either side of the fondant tube and pulling your fingers downward to create an impression. 
8. Cut a piece of rolled fondant to 6 x 10 inches. This does not have to be perfectly square, just use whatever scraps are available. Fold 1 inch of fondant inward and roll the piece lengthwise into a tube, leaving the bottom portion open. This piece will be placed to the right of the artery; use corn syrup or piping gel to adhere to the cake. Any imperfections in the fondant can be 'molded' to look more anatomical - don't worry if there's any small tears or bumps, this will all be covered over.
9. Drain the jar of cherry compote and glaze the cake with the juice. Any stray cherries that are on the cake make a gruesome addition! Cover the cake completely so it's shiny and red and sufficiently gory.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Baking Sunday: Cinnamon Monkey Bread for Domestic Sluttery's Pudding Club

Cinnamon is a very Christmassy spice, isn't it? Add it to mulled wine, spiced biscuits, chocolate cake and it gives an instant festive kick to things. I was considering this when I first heard the Domestic Sluts Pudding Club theme for December was going to be cinnamon and had grand thoughts of festive baking.  Quite how I ended up making this monkey bread bundt, I'm not quite sure really - it's not that Christmassy at all. But it is a bread of yummy goodness with brown sugar caramel and a double hit of cinnamon so I reckon it's still worth writing about. 

I like big bundts and I cannot lie

When I discovered we were having guests staying for Christmas I immediately started planning our Christmas meals (as you do). Obviously festive food is the most indulgent food you can think of and I remembered some buttery cinnamon dough balls I had for breakfast in a diner in America once (home of the most indulgent foods you can think of). A sudden thought struck me - what if there were many of these dough balls in one delicious loaf? Well, the Americans had already got there before me with this delicious treat known as Monkey Bread. It's slightly different to the doughnut like treats I had in that American diner which were dusted dry with powdered sugar and cinnamon but held together with a buttery brown sugar caramel with a very liberal sprinkling of cinnamon. I've also added a cinnamon glaze because really, you can't have a bundt cake and not have a glaze too. I can't wait to make this again at Christmas and it can totally be made ahead too - instructions are in the recipe. Like all great comfort foods, it's best enjoyed still warm the oven and just about falling apart.  This is a Christmas breakfast tradition in the making!

Cinnamon Monkey Bread

Butter for greasing
30ml melted butter
235ml warmed milk
80ml warmed water
55g granulated sugar
1 sachet of instant yeast
350g plain flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons table salt

Brown Sugar Coating
200g light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
120ml melted butter

Cinnamon Glaze
100g icing sugar, plus extra if required
1 tablespoons milk, plus extra if required
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Ensure there is an oven rack in a medium-low position and heat oven to 100°C. Turn the oven off once it reaches this temperature.
2. In a large measuring jug, mix together the warm milk and water and the melted butter. (Note: An easy way to do this is to melt the butter in the microwave on low for 1 minute, then add the water and milk and have another 30 seconds in the microwave to warm up). Stir in the sugar and the yeast and leave for 5 minutes for the yeast to bloom.
3. Mix together the flour and the salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the flour and slowly add the milk mixture to the well and stir until mixed.  If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook to mix until smooth for around 6-7 minutes.  Otherwise turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth for around 10 minutes.  Add some additional flour if the mix is too wet.  Form into a smooth round ball.  
4.  Lightly coat a large bowl with a tablespoon of oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and coat surface of dough with more oil.  Cover the bowl is plastic wrap and place in the warm oven until it doubles in size, for around 1 hour. 
5.  While the dough is proofing, make preparations for the brown sugar coating.  Place the melted butter in one bowl and mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a second bowl.
6.  Once the dough has risen, flip the dough out onto floured surface and gently pat into a flat square.  Break off a small piece and roll into a small ball of dough.  Working one at a time, dip balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into bowl.  Roll in brown sugar mixture and then layer balls in Bundt pan.  You can use your hands or a fork - either way, it will get messy.  Don't worry about it not having much volume, it will rise again.
7.  Cover the tin tightly with cling film and place in turned-off oven until dough balls are puffy and have risen to nearly the top of the pan, for around 1 hour.
8.  Remove the tin from oven and heat oven to 170°C.  Remove the cling film from the tin and  bake until top is deep brown and caramel might begin to bubble around edges, around 30 minutes.   9.  Cool in the tin  for 5 minutes (no longer, or you’ll have trouble getting it out) then turn out on platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
10.  While the cake cools, make the glaze.  Beat together the sifted icing sugar, cinnamon and milk together until smooth.  The glaze should be quite runny but have a bit of substance to it, add more milk if required. 
11.  Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, letting it run over the top and sides of the cake.  Best served warm with a cup of coffee. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Easy Pancake Ideas with Supper Conjurer-Upper Pancakes

Abra-Ca-Debora Pancakes sent me some of these sweet and original Dutch pancakes to review earlier this month, along with some ingredients to get some inspiration for some recipe ideas.  I love making pancakes on the weekend but these Dutch style pancakes make things oh-so-easy if you know you've got a busy week ahead and won't have time for cooking.  You can make a meal or dessert with them in super quick time - here are some examples of low-effort stress-free recipes that will impress.

This is the perfect cake for someone who loves nutella, chocolate, pancakes and is short on time. It's super duper easy to make and will probably only take about 10 minutes of your precious time. Essentially, it's a cake comprised of pancake and Nutella layers with a gooey chocolate ganache on top - so simple, so delicious. You'll need a whole pack of Abra-Ca-Debora's sweet pancakes - place one on a large plate and completely cover with nutella. Place the next one on top and repeat until you get to the last pancake. To make the chocolate ganache, heat 100mL of double cream until right up until boiling point and then remove from heat. Place 100g of dark chocolate into the pan and let it sit for one minute to allow it to melt, and then stir until smooth. Pour the ganache over the pancakes and spread to cover the top and then sprinkle over some flaked almonds for decoration and crunch and eat immediately.

Chocolate & banana pancakes are a classic favourite, but you can easily add some caramel and biscuit to make some banoffee pancakes. Chop a banana into rounds and toss in some brown sugar. Melt a teaspoon of butter into a frying pan and add the banana slices until soft and cooked through. Heat a sweet pancake in the microwave for 30 seconds, add the banana, a drizzle of caramel sauce (either ice cream topping or tinned similar to evaporated milk) and crumble a digestive biscuit on top. Roll the pancake up and serve with a dollop of ice cream and grated chocolate.  

These pancakes pair together the sweet sour of roasted grapes, balsamic and goats cheese. Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius. Take a handful of grapes, wash them and half them. Place onto an oven dish and drizzle with a small amount of balsamic vinegar and roast for 15 minutes or until they have softened and wrinkled slightly. Warm a plain pancake in the microwave for 30 seconds and then place on a plate. Spread the roasted grapes down the centre and sprinkle over some crumbled goats cheese then roll and enjoy! You could even add some pine nuts too if you wanted some extra crunch, or some fresh thyme for a smoky flavour. 

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add some chopped mushrooms (around 2 large mushrooms per pancake) and a handful of walnut pieces. Heat until the mushrooms are cooked through and the walnuts are crunchy. Place a plain pancake onto your serving plate (ensure it's a microwavable dish) and place the mushrooms and walnuts in the middle, then sprinkle over some blue cheese (such as Dolcetta). Roll up your pancake and then sprinkle again with grated Swiss cheese. Pop into the microwave for 30 seconds on high, until the pancake is heated through and the cheese has melted.

Here's a creamy twist on sweet lemon pancakes. Mix together 100g of ricotta cheese with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and the zest of a lemon and then spread down the middle of your pancake. Drizzle over some lemon curd and some fresh blueberries, roll up and serve with some golden syrup.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Best Burger Quest - Mal Brasserie

Another top burger place to visit in Edinburgh, the Malmaison has long been on my list to visit.  The Mal Brasserie is frequently in the top ten of best burger lists in London so I was keen to see how their branch in Edinburgh matched up against other burgers I've tried here.  The price alone, ranging from £15-20 depending on your choice of burger, sets them apart and I had high hopes for a first-rate burger.

Arriving at the Malmaison, I was impressed with the surroundings; the monochrome chequered theme was modern but still luxurious. The Brasserie is more relaxed with brown leather, wooden panelling and exposed brickwork making it cosy and warm.  The restaurant was somewhat darkly lit with candles on the table which makes for a romantic atmosphere but, with the nights now fair drawing in, not particularly helpful for food blogging photography.  We decided not to let our food go cold trying to get a good shot so please excuse that these are a bit on the underexposed side. 

The brasserie menu has a number of local and seasonal choices, including some great seafood selections with a nod to the Malmaison's location near to Newhaven Harbour.  There are three options for burgers on the Brasserie menu - the Classic Mal Burger with bacon, gruyere and fries (at £14.95), the Burger Stack with additional foie gras slider and onion rings and a lobster burger with a fresh mango salsa, lime hollandaise and fries (both at £19.95).  I couldn't pass up trying the Classic Mal burger.

The burger was presented on a wooden board with a large steak knife, a copper pot of relish and a generous pot of french fries (amusingly marked For Your Fries Only - so hands off people!).  My first impressions were that the burger was substantial and looked moist, the toppings were few and I was pleased to note the bun was a shiny brioche. Cutting into the burger with the steak knife showed a beautifully cooked pink burger patty.   On first bite, I was even more impressed - with coarsely ground and good quality meat, it made an excellent burger and was all better for the minimal toppings.  The melted gruyere added a nicely gooey foil for the burger and the bacon an added saltiness but it was nice to have the flavour of the meat come through.  I will also award high points for the spicy relish, which complemented the burger without being overpowering. 

I decided to have try one of the seasonal autumn cocktails and had a Mal Berry Candy (£6.50).  It was one of the best cocktails I've had, with fresh berries and popping candy creating a deep rich blackberry jam flavour with a twist.  I've vowed to come back for a visit to the bar as it was just lovely and I'm looking forward to trying a Spiced Pear Martini and Smoked Apple and Blackberry Bramble on my return. 

My dining companion decided to try the lobster burger, a rather decadent burger option, but apparently the lobster choice was made with nostalgic remembrance of  visits to the west coast of America, where lobster is included in lots of other 'regular' dishes, such as macaroni cheese to great effect. The verdict?  Not quite as enthusiastic as the classic burger.  The burger itself was large and had hunks of lobster meat throughout but not quite enough to get through its sweet meaty flavour and it seemed a bit bogged down with filler. The mango salsa was, however, delightful and full of spicy flavour. 

After our plates were cleared we were asked by our charming waiter if we wanted to look at the dessert menu.  Even though our bellies were starting to groan a little we decided it wouldn't hurt to just have a wee look.  The desserts all sounded tempting and we were given a bit of time to debate what to have.  The service was helpful as well as perfectly timed; attentive but not intrusive - our water glasses remained topped up and we had an excellent recommendation for pudding - Valrhona chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream (£5.95).  This dessert, which has been know to bamboozle Masterchef contestants, was cooked to perfection with chocolate sauce oozing from its baked shell.  It was paired perfectly with salted caramel ice cream.

So dining at the Mal Brasserie was a proper experience rather than just a meal.  The lobster burger was an interesting alternative but not one that I'd recommend over the classic Mal burger which I'd highly recommend.  Is it worth the extra expense?  While it's certainly a bit pricier than your average burger, it's definitely a cut above the average burger and is actually on par price-wise with a lot of places on the Shore in Leith.  The dessert options were excellent, the service was attentive and the setting was really beautiful.  It's a perfect place to visit when you want to spoil yourself or someone else.

The Mal Brasserie
1 Tower Place

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Baking Sunday: Snickers Cheesecake for the Domestic Sluts Pudding Club

I love cheesecake immensely, so was super pleased when my lovely pal Sara* alerted me to the fact that this was the next Domestic Sluttery Pudding Club theme.  I haven't been baking quite as much recently so I missed out on last month's chocolate theme but can't wait to join in with Pudding Club now cos frankly, the Domestic Sluts are pure awesome.  

I'd actually just made a chocolate cherry cheesecake for the latest Edinburgh Cake Ladies meet up, a very light no-bake version.  Something very interesting happened when I made this cheesecake though - my boyfriend, a confirmed cheesecake hater, not only tried a piece but enjoyed it!  I'd made it in a loaf tin so perhaps it was the shape that bamboozled him but he hadn't realised it was cheesecake at first and was near horrified himself to learn that he'd enjoyed this unholy marriage of both cheese and cake (his main objection to cheesecake being, much like a Peter Kay sketch, that cheese and cake should have nothing to do with each other).  

So I thought I'd challenge myself to make something that he'd really enjoy.  This recipe from Marian Keyes' Saved By Cake caught my eye, mainly because it's made in a loaf tin and Snickers are my boyfriend's favourite chocolate bar.  I hate the fact it's called Blokey Snickers Cheesecake Loaf, apparently because Snickers are "blokey". It reminds me a little bit too much of Yorkie Bars not being for girls, Bic pens - For Her and the forthcoming "diet friendly" Crispello's which are marketed towards women.  But never mind, I enjoyed it plenty and still have all my lady bits intact so all is well.  More importantly, my boyfriend loved it so mission accomplished! This cheesecake is good enough to turn the cheesecake-suspicious into a cheesecake convert.

This is a baked cheesecake, with mascarpone, ricotta cheese and sour cream, which overcomes the sweetness of the Snickers but does mean it's on the rich side.  The base is a basic digestive crust but with salted peanuts added too and four snickers are cut up and mixed into the cheesecake batter.  I've adapted the recipe ever so slightly as the topping should be toffee sauce from a squeezy bottle - instead, I swirled some extra caramel sauce into the batter and added a chocolate ganache topping (just to make it more Snickers-y) but this is far from an essential step - I just love chocolate.  I also tweaked the base ever so slightly as the mix felt a bit too moist.  This cheesecake is best enjoyed with feminist gusto.

* As a side note, I was thinking about how long Sara and I have been friends and it's probably close to ten years of mutually appreciating indiepop, glitter and cats.  Blimey!  I could probably track this via the HDIF photo pages however this would just make me feel really old. 

Snickers Cheesecake Loaf
(slightly adapted from Marian Keyes Saved By Cake)


For the base
180g milk chocolate digestive biscuits
50g salted peanuts
75g butter

For the filling
250g mascarpone cheese
250g ricotta cheese
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
200ml sour cream
4 Snickers bars, chopped into chunks
Optional: Caramel sauce from a jar (I used Waitrose Caramel dipping sauce)

For the chocolate ganache topping
(Note: this is optional - Marian Keyes recipe has the loaf topped with squeezy toffee sauce out of a bottle)
100ml double cream
150g dark or milk chocolate, depending on your preference
A generous handful of salted peanuts

1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC.  Line a 1kg loaf tin with baking paper hanging over the sides. 
2. In a food processor, whizz the biscuits and peanuts so they form a rough-cut, rustic-looking mix; you should still be able to see parts of the peanuts.  
3. Melt the butter and stir it through the crumbs.  Pour the mix into the bottom of the loaf tin and pack down hard, using the base of a glass.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and cool, then refrigerate until needed.
4. To make the filling, preheat the oven again to 170ºC.  Mix the two cheeses together, then add the sugar and eggs. Pour in the sour cream, then stir in the Snickers pieces and caramel sauce. Pour in on top of the biscuit base. 
5. Bake for an hour and a half, then turn off the oven and leave it sitting there for as long as you can bear. When you eventually take it out, you’ll be delighted to see the top has developed a gorgeous fudgey look. Refrigerate overnight. 
6. To make the chocolate ganache, place the cream in a small saucepan on medium heat until it just comes to the boil.  Place the chocolate in a mixing bowl and pour the hot cream over, leaving for a few minutes to let the chocolate melt. Whisk mixture together until smooth and then smooth layer over the top of the cheesecake allowing some bits of chocolate to dribble over the side.  Scatter peanuts over the top and enjoy! 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Baking Sunday: Billionaires Shortbread - a sea salt caramel slice

What makes millionaires shortbread so awesome that it has to be renamed billionaires shortbread?  A triple threat of buttery coconut Scottish shortbread, a thick middle layer of sea salted caramel and dark chocolate topping.  It took me a while to find a recipe that had enough caramel to make a thick luscious layer and this version is from the Primrose Bakery Book and is just divine.  The caramel is made not only by cooking condensed milk, golden syrup and butter together, but by baking it for 20 minutes.  This gives the caramel a real richness and the contrast of sea salt with rich sweet caramel makes it truly special.  Each slice probably has about a billion calories, but it is so very rich and delicious that a tiny slice will suffice.  

Billionaires Shortbread (Sea Salted Caramel slice)
(adapted slightly from the Primose Bakery Book)

Buttery Biscuit Base:
200g plain flour, sifted
90g soft brown sugar
65g desiccated coconut
150g melted butter

Sea Salted Caramel:
115g golden syrup
125g unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
2 x 397g tins of condensed milk
A large pinch of sea salt

Chocolate Topping:
300g dark chocolate
2 tbsp corn oil
Golden lustre spray (optional - I used Dr Oetker, bought from the Tesco baking aisle)

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease a large rectangular baking tin (I used a brownie tray).  Line the base ad the sides with baking paper and extend it above the sides so you can lift the whole slice out easily when it's ready.
2. To make the biscuit base, add the flour and sugar into a bowl.  Add the coconut and butter and mix together until well combined.  Press the mixture evenly and firmly into the baking tin.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.  Do not overcook or it will have a tendency to break apart. 
3. To make the caramel, put the golden syrup, butter and condensed milk into a saucepan over a low heat until the butter is completely melted.  Add the sea salt and continue cooking for 7-10 minutes as the caramel thickens and darkens in colour.  Pour it over the prepared base and put back in the oven for 20 minutes. 
4. Remove from the oven.  Once it has completely cooled, prepare the chocolate topping by melting the chocolate and oil together very carefully either in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water or in a micro safe bowl in the microwave (heat for 30 seconds, stir and heat for other 30 second bursts until half melted, then stir until all chocolate is melted). 
5. Pour the mixture over the caramel and smooth gently over the top.  Allow to set before removing the whole slab from the tin and cutting into slices.  You can spray gold lustre onto the slices for extra billionaire bling!

Friday, 31 August 2012

Best Burger Quest - The Cambridge Bar

I've been meaning to write about the burgers at the Cambridge Bar for a while now.  A lot of people consider these to be the finest in Edinburgh - I'm not sure if they quite beat Bell's Diner for the top spot in my favourites but I can tell you that they are pretty damn fine.  Being the sister restaurant to Wannaburger, they definitely know a thing or two about how to make great burgers.  The pub is a cosy wee space down the cobbled lanes of the New Town on Thistle Street. There are comfy leather chairs and sofas, big windows which are lovely in the summer, a fireplace perfect for when it’s chilly and a decent choice of wine, Scottish ales and whisky. It comes equipped with big televisions showing background sport.  These are incongruous with the surrounding and, unless you’re both really into watching sport, I wouldn't recommend it as a first date venue.  

There are three core burgers of beef, chicken and bean which have the usual salad and relish toppings (all £6.45), but can also come with a range of topping combinations – fifteen different combinations in fact. These range from classic cheddar or blue cheese to more interesting options like Mexican with peppers, cheddar and chilli sauce and Italiano with homemade pesto and mozzarella. Then there’s the other side of the scale that tips these burgers into the giganto scale – a breakfast burger with bacon, fried egg and mushroom or a fajita burger with spices, chargrilled peppers, onions, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. Or there is the Aussie burger – topped with bacon, pineapple, mature cheddar beetroot and a fried egg.  It takes a mighty mouth to conquer this beast (priced at £8.95).


Thankfully, I am blessed with a massive gob and a boundless sense of culinary adventure. I ordered the Aussie burger and warned my boyfriend in advance, “This is not going to be lady-like.”  Throwing caution to the wind, we ordered some chips and onion rings to share too. He ordered the classic beef burger, just for some balance. 

Above is the mammoth task I was faced with and I can confirm that it was indeed less than lady-like. The burger was large and juicy and when stuck joined together it was quite drippy. A lot of people don’t enjoy pineapple in savoury food, but I quite like the sweet contrast that it brings to the bacon and beef. I thoroughly enjoyed eating the burger although perhaps the beetroot was a step too far. It didn’t add a huge amount to the taste and slid about a bit too. But The Cambridge definitely deserves the praise that it receives – it was really one of the best burgers I’ve had for a while. The chips were a perfect sharing portion for two and the onion rings, although light, crispy and delicious, were an eyes-bigger-than-belly choice and were pretty much left untouched. 

Another great selling point for the Cambridge Bar is they do fabulous milkshakes. They're listed under desserts and I can understand why - my chocolate milkshake was super creamy and thick and had flakes of chocolate throughout.  If you’ve got a bigger appetite than me you can also indulge in other puddings like brownies and waffles with ice cream (£3.95).  

The Cambridge Bar is definitely recommended for some really good quality burgers in the city centre.  There are even additional vegetarian options of portabella mushroom with peppers, sundried tomatoes & chargrilled peppers (£7.50) and a haloumi burger with peppers & an olive tapenade (£7.95).  Just make sure you have a good appetite when you go!

The Cambridge Bar
20 Young Street
Tel : 0131 226 2120

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Salted Caramel & Cocoa Nib Brownies

Last time I visited London I was very lucky that one of my best pals knows me oh so well bought me a wee treat in the form of Paul A Young's salted caramel, cocoa nib and white chocolate brownie.  Put simply, it was damn fine - the best brownie I'd ever eaten.  The flavour was intense, with the sweetness of the caramel offset with a slight saltiness and an ever so slightly bitter crunch from the cocoa nibs adding some contrast to the 70% cocoa dark chocolate.  The texture was dense, fudgy and supremely gooey.  It was so rich that I could only have tiny amounts at a time - a quarter here, a nibble there until the sad time when it was all gone.
Cocoa nibs from Coco Chocolate

I thought of this brownie wistfully from time to time, as one does when one thinking of a lost love nostalgically.  "That brownie was the best.  I wish I could get my brownies that gooey.  I wish they'd open a shop in Edinburgh," I'd think whilst munching other brownies which, whilst tasty, weren't quite the same.   Recently I happened to pop into Coco Chocolate on Broughton Street and found some cocoa nibs for sale.  Straight away, I knew I had to try get them and replicate this brownie - it was my new baking mission.  

My version - heavy with salted caramel and nibs

But how to make these brownies?  How to get them so fudgy?  Well, I googled Paul A Young and salted caramel brownies and whaddyaknow - someone had already had pretty much these self same thoughts.  Reason #86 why I love the internet.  The rather beautiful Poires au Chocolat blog has posted a recipe for Paul A Young's super duper dense brownie and a salted dry caramel to pour over the top and I am forever grateful.  She has also made the genius suggestion of freezing these brownies which suits them perfectly, seeing as they're so rich they'll last a really long time that way (for which my teeth will be forever grateful).  I would absolutely recommend making these for a special treat and if you're able to resist eating the lot, you'll get to enjoy these from the freezer for a long time too, so visit Poires au Chocolat for the recipe