Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Under the weather.

Bluh.

It is that time of year again. Hayfever, colds, stomach bugs.. All coming out to play. I love Spring, don't get me wrong, but it always seems to attract the bugs that skipped Winter. Not to mention pollen is everywhere, the windy days pick up dust, and the sun starts getting a real bite to it.

I try to avoid taking medication for colds and stomach problems and the like, since I take regular medication already. So I generally like to pick up natural remedies, within reason, and give them a go.

The ones that I really believe in are, much to my pleasure, tea related.

For heartburn or reflux, I take some fresh spearmint leaves steeped in boiling water. I prefer spearmint of pepper or normal mint, as it has a natural sweeter flavour, and isn't too strong.
You can leave the leaves in if you wish, but either way, the resulting tea has that menthol cooling effect, and it takes the edge off the acidic burn.



 For relief from cold, flu, hayfever or sore throat symptoms, I drink one of my favourite mixtures. 
English breakfast tea, strong, with heaps of lemon and a teaspoon of honey. 
The only 'must-dos' with this, is the lemon juice has to be fresh, not plastic stuff, and you must drink it hot, or as hot as you can stand it. It soothes the throat, helps any mucus build up move along, and if you have any fresh ginger, grate some i to add extra flavour, and to help fight off the bug.
This amber liquid is also one of my favourite drinks in general.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Perfect brownies, also gluten free!

Whew!

Okay, so today was busy with baking, and all of it gluten free for a lovely friend's brother's wedding. Specifcally, chocolate mousse shots, jam tarts, chocolate chip cookies and brownies, for afternoon tea.

It was all good fun, despite me working myself into stressing, but overall, I'm happy with how things turned out.. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos, as I just wanted to get it all done, but I must share this recipe for chocolate brownies.

I have never made brownies before, but I have eaten a lot of them (more than I care to admit). Some have been dense and sickly sweet, some have been cake-ish and crumbly.
This recipe, is in a word, perfect. It is fudgy, without being heavy, rich without being sickening, sweet without hurting the teeth, with a tiny bit of crunch on the top and intense chocolate pleasure all the way through.

The recipe is from my current second favouite cook book, 'High Tea: Recipes with a sense of occasion', tweaky slightly to adapt to my taste, and to the dietary requirements.

Chocolate brownies   -   makes 16

Ingredients:
125g dark chocolate, chopped (Whittaker's 50% cocoa was perfect)
90g salted butter, softened (the salt in the butter balanced the flavour, I find)
230g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
85 gluten free plain flour
30g unsweetend cocoa powder, sifted (I use Henry Langdon's pure cocoa, and you should too, it is that good)
1/2 tsp baking powder (make sure it is not derived from wheat)
Pure icing sugar, for dusting
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 17cm square baking tin, and line the base with baking paper, extending the paper to go over the sides for easy removal later
  2. Put the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Fill a medium sized pot with water from a boiled kettle (or boil some water, but take it off the heat), place the heatproof bowl on the pot and allow the steam to melt the chocolate. Stir occassionally.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until lightly and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. 
  4. Stir in the melted, slightly cooled chocolate (it will be safe to add when it is safe to touch, is my rule)
  5. Fold in the sifted cocoa in two batches, then sift in the flour and baking powder. If using flour that contains gluten, do not overwork the mixture, as it will make it tough
  6. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until a skewer comes out with crumbs clinging to it, but not liquid
  7. Cool in the tin, then remove from the tin carefully.
    If you're having trouble lifting it out, place a wire rack on top of the tin, place on hand on each side and flip over. Remove tin and baking paper, flip the brownie onto the underside of the tin, then slide back onto a chopping board right-side up
  8. Cut into 4 rows, then 4 pieces per row. Dusting with icing sugar
  9. Devour