Fairtrade chocolate brownie cake with Bailey’s butter cream.

As soon as the words had left my mouth, I felt deep and utter shame.  What had I become?  Who was this slightly overweight individual who looked for opportunities to terrorize his arteries with butter and chocolate milk?  Why had I let myself turn into someone who could conceive of such a sentence.  Brownies are not boring.

I know, I know.  The sentence left my mouth before I’d had time to think of it.  N managed to barely conceal her disbelief behind a veil of disapproval.  The dog looked at me as if to say, “Shame on you.”  The fact is, that food blogging can push a person to look for more and more unique food ideas.  Not a bad thing altogether, but it can make a food lover look beyond the simple things and that is where sentences like the one I blurted out, can find themselves released into the open kitchen air.

N wanted to know why I’d used my brownie recipe to construct a cake?  Why had I made a butter cream filling and sliced it up?  Essentially, why had I not just made brownies?  My answer was unforgivable.

If you’ll continue to read, however, I can assure you that what follows is a chocolate-filled delight and one with a conscience.

I used a favourite brownie recipe and simply cut the whole baked brownie in half so that I could sandwich the butter cream.  I used Fairtrade sugar and Fairtrade chocolate and it only took a matter of minutes to whisk up the brownie batter.  A splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur gave everything a new dimension.  Brownies are fun and delicious and so many things to so many people.  If you aren’t up for something like a cake filled with Bailey’s butter cream, I can highly recommend my brownie recipe as it is.  You’ll still end up with moist, rich brownies that have a thin, flaky crust and a chewy centre; and there’s nothing boring about that.

Faritrade chocolate brownie cake with Bailey’s butter cream.

200g Fairtrade caster sugar

100g Fairtrade dark chocolate

3 eggs

70g pecan nuts

50g butter

50g plain flour

1 tspoon baking powder

(For the Bailey’s butter cream)

200g icing sugar

120g butter

50ml Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur

1 tblspoon cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl.  Next, whisk the eggs and the caster sugar together in another bowl and then mix in the flour and baking powder.  Time for the chocolate!  Pour it into the flour and egg mixture and then mix in the pecans.

Line an eight inch tin with baking paper and pour the brownie batter into it.  Bake the brownie at 140 degrees Celsius for forty-five minutes.  I baked mine at 120 degrees because I used my fan oven.

When the brownie has cooled completely, cut it in half ready to assemble the cake.

Beat the butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder and Bailey’s with an electric hand mixer until they have formed a fluffy and light butter cream.  Spread over the top of one of the brownie pieces and then place the other half on top.  Fairtrade chocolate brownie cake with Bailey’s butter cream complete.  Cut off a chunk and switch your phone to silent.  You may be some time…

You had me at “Peanut butter”.

Fairtrade is the way forward.

What do you do with spare peanut butter?  Yes, I tackle all of life’s big questions.  After making the blondies, I had some peanut butter left.  The simplest option involves me grabbing the nearest spoon and simply tucking in.  Yes, I’m that sophisticated.  Fans of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will already be familiar with the excellent marriage of chocolate and peanut butter.  I’ve made my own before, but this time, I thought it would be fun to use ice-cube trays for the molds.

Reading fun posts on blogs like The Smart Cookie Cook, is a great way to get inspired.  When I read the peanut butter and Oreo post, I knew that I had to make something where peanut butter was the star.  That’s really why I love these chunks of chocolate and peanut butter.

I found making them with the ice-cube trays was rewarding.  I even got a bit carried away at the end and used some of the gold paper from the chocolate bars to wrap the chunks individually.  A pointless act, because we both know exactly what was gonna happen to those little mouthfuls of peanut butter loveliness.  Now I have to go and make some more.

Fairtrade peanut butter and pecan chocolate chunks

150g Fairtrade milk chocolate

10 pecans

Fairtrade peanut butter

I haven’t put a measurement for the peanut butter.  The amounts needed are very small because you don’t need very much for each chunk.  This recipe makes ten chocolate chunks, but obviously it would be very easy to make larger quantities.

The pecans will be the top of the chunks when they are popped out.

I broke up the chocolate in a bowl and placed the bowl over a pan of hot water on a low heat.  We are often told by television chefs not to let the water touch the bowl, but it really doesn’t matter, so long as the heat is kept low enough to melt the chocolate slowly.  Melting it too quickly with give you a grainy texture.

Nobody will miss just one, will they?

I placed a pecan half in the bottom of each ice-cube compartment and spooned just enough melted chocolate into it to cover the pecan.  I then put the tray into the freezer for a couple of minutes to set the chocolate.  Next it was time to add the peanut butter.  It’s a good idea to pipe the peanut butter onto the centre of each chunk if you’re making a lot of them.  Since I was only making a mini batch, I just used a little spoon to drop a little ball of peanut butter in.  This would be the filling for the chocolate chunks.

The next bit was fun too. I just topped up the ice-cube tray with the remaining chocolate so that each compartment was level and put them all back in the freezer for another couple of minutes.  When they were set, I popped them out and I have to say that a couple didn’t even make it to a plate!  At one point, I wondered if you’d mind not seeing a photograph of them.  Could I get away with just a description?  My mother-in-law adores peanut butter as much as, if not more so, than me.  A little box of these wrapped in shiny paper may be making its way to her at some point.  In the meantime, I think I’ll just make another batch…for research purposes of course.

Some like it lukewarm.

There’s one part of English culture which I have never taken to and which I still feel alienated from even after many years of being a British citizen.  I’ve become a big fan of pies, I’ve eaten fish and chips by the seaside, I enjoy a nice pint of bitter and a packet of pork scratchings at the pub and I can queue with the best of them.  Even so, I know in my heart that I’ll never be truly accepted because I am not a tea drinker.

The truth of it is that I don’t like hot drinks.  I never have.  Quite honestly, I don’t particularly enjoy anything that is hot.  Don’t get me wrong, I want my food cooked through, but I just won’t eat it until it has cooled down considerably.  It’s the same with hot drinks.  My uncle won’t touch a cup of coffee unless it is so hot that you can melt gold in it.  For me, the very idea of trying to eat or drink hot things evokes memories of burning the roof of my mouth and seeing the sore, tiny bumps on my tongue after biting over-zealously into a toastie oozing molten cheese.  This aversion to heat has prevented me from participating in the daily tea-drinking ceremonies that the English rely on for comfort and as a vehicle for chat and gossip.

Travel, however, broadens the palate as well as the mind.  Time spent in Hong Kong got me semi-addicted to iced lemon tea and I’d grown up adoring frappe.  It was not until a visit to Hungary that I decided to be a little more open-minded. Coffee seems to fuel most activity in Europe and has done for some time.  Sitting outside a cafe with a cup of something hot, dark and sweet is the only way to people-watch in Hungary.  A short stay in the town of Szeged prompted me to do just that one warm evening.  I was delighted by the intensity of the coffee and the satisfying warmth that filled my body.  I began to drink coffee on a daily basis after that.  It felt like a real treat and one that I began looking forward to more and more.  By the time we had returned from our trip, I was buying fresh coffee grounds to fill our cafetière and eagerly looking forward to my next cup.

Of course, I still can’t drink it when it is piping hot; I wait a little for it to cool.  Dunking Lotus biscuits into the coffee helps pass the time.  I stare into the black, swirling liquid and breathe in the tempting aroma.  “Where have you been all my life?” I ask.  The answer is, right in front of my big Greek nose.  I only drink it once a week, but boy do I look forward to it.  Saturday morning, I get out the Lotus biscuits, I set out my Fairtrade mug and I take my time preparing the coffee.  I make a point of buying only Fairtrade coffee and I choose the strongest available.  I figure, if I’m only drinking it once a week, it’s worth doing it properly.  I’m still the only person in the room who doesn’t say, “Ooh, yes please!” when everyone is offered “a brew”, but I’m used to the raised eyebrows denoting slight suspicion.  Hot drinks just aren’t my cup of tea.