Rupert and I just came back from a lovely wee holiday in Tuscany. Apart from the few photographs I took, the main bit of evidence I have for this is the weighing scale. Let me tell you friends, four days in the motherland of Pasta, Pecorino and Prosecco is well enough time to do you in. Not to mention, I stopped everywhere there was a pasticceria to buy myself cantucci. I ate this 250g bag of it in one sitting, and left these for Rupert.
Anyway! I was very inspired to make some Italian type cookies and cakes, with lots of lovely ground almonds, pistachios and chestnuts. Tuscany is excellent for Necci, chestnut flour pancakes. Recipes normally suggest having them as a dessert, with ricotta, but we had some with boar ragout, which was terrific!
I had lots of ideas pouring in as I poured some strawberry Margarita into myself, while sitting at this beautiful piazza in Sienna. As you can see, I’m looking off into the distance, picturing pistachio marzipans and chestnut flour cakes, surrounded by a halo of beautiful light, depicting all my bright ideas, obvs! I’ll share those just as soon as I’ve had a chance to test them out and make sure I’ve got them just right.
Soooo, while I work on some of those ideas, here’s a really chocolatey, chewy brownie recipe I made for my friends a couple of weeks ago. I really liked how well the different flavours mixed – rich and chocolatey with sweet, salty, woody and herbaceous – and I think it turned out so chewy because I got a super tip about putting the brownie straight from the oven into the fridge for a while, from Top with Cinnamon, which is a marvellous recipe blog by Izy Hossack. Okay, so here it is, the recipe for Lavender & Sea Salt Brownies.
Makes about 20 mini-brownies/ 12 regular sized ones
4.5 oz / 125g butter
5 oz flour
2 oz cocoa powder
10 oz caster sugar
4 oz good quality dark chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp dried lavendar flowers and a bit more to sprinkle over brownies
1/3 tsp maldon salt and a bit more to sprinkle over brownies
To make the brownies:
Preheat oven to 180 deg.c.
Line a pan with baking paper. It’s usually recommended that you use a square pan for brownies (about 8″). But mine has gone missing so I used a rectangular baking dish, which was 10″ x 7″, and it turned out fine.
Start with making the ‘lavender sugar’ – by blitzing the lavender with the sugar and salt in a food processor.
Then melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, keep stirring so it doesn’t burn. Mix well to incorporate both and take it off the heat. You should transfer it to your mixing bowl now. Add one beaten egg at a time, stirring well after each addition and then add the vanilla extract in and give it another proper mix. Set it aside for now.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder together and then add the Lavender sugar. Mix to combine them. Add these dry ingredients to the chocolatey mix and stir it all in together so it is combined. You can use a cake mixer or kitchen aid too of course.
Pour the batter into the tin or baking dish and smooth it out as best as you can.Sprinkle some crushed sea salt and crushed lavender flowers sparingly over the batter. Put it in the oven for about 20 – 30 minutes.
This is the great tip I got from Izy’s blog. Once it has baked, take it out and immediately put it in the freezer. Make room in your freezer beforehand, so you’re not, like me, trying to push your peas and ice cream tubs to the side with one hand while balancing a hot tin of cake with the other. You might also want to put a tea towel down and the tin over it so you don’t singe anything. Leave it in there till the brownie has cooled down completely – the tin should no longer be warm.
Then cut it up as you like it. I wanted mini brownies because I was going to pack them into individual wee bags and tie them up with some string but you can serve them on a plate or straight out of the tin!