Sunday, 21 March 2010

Summer Camp

Mystery roll of film found --> brought for developing --> lo! and behold, memories galore!

Well, I guess 'galore' isn't really the right word for it, since only about 8 photos actually came out. The photos on that mystery roll were taken on my Action Sampler pretender, and it was a real blast from the (not so distant) past when I finally got my pictures back from the shop.
These were taken in all February 2007, when my ponies and I went for our sort-of-annual camping trip up near Forster, in NSW.
We slept till noon every day, then trekked to the beach or lake and ran around singing 'Wuthering Heights, ate  way too much chocolate cake, played with sparklers, and hung out at the pool across the road pretending we were fancy ladies at an expensive resort.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Dark Chocolate, Walnut and Mascarpone Brownies

I've recently embarked on a shy, fairly chaste romance with mascarpone, replacing cream cheese with it, and plopping in on sliced mangoes. It's creamier, and richer than cream cheese, and doesn't leave you with that slight sour tang you sometimes get from cream cheese. It was all good, clean fun - until I spied Ms. Humble's recipe for chocolate mascarpone brownies (with that seductive layer of chocolate ganache), beckoning me over with a salacious wink. 

Chocolate AND mascarpone? I'm fairly certain that it's illegal, and just like all those other things that are bad for you, it's also irresistibly attractive. And I am not known for my willpower, so I crumbled and gave in to temptation. Just go ahead and stick a third chin on me already!

Of course, since I can never leave well enough alone, I had to go ahead and fiddle with the recipe. While I love chocolate, I tend to find most brownies almost too cloying sweet. So I replaced the semi-sweet chocolate in the original recipe with dark chocolate instead - the 85% cocoa content in it provides a slight bitterness that helps counterbalance all that sugar. The ganache also features a hidden surprise - dark chocolate infused with chilli, for a spicy little kick at the end. There was a bag of delicious Polish walnuts languishing in my cupboard, so a handful of those got thrown in as well, just to add a bite of crunch to it. I like my brownies nutty. 

Dark Chocolate, Walnut and Mascarpone Brownies 
adapted from Not So Humble Pie

225gm unsalted butter
100gm dark chocolate, finely chopped (or preferred chocolate)
250gm granulated sugar
120gm cocoa powder
125gm mascarpone cheese
3 eggs
100gm plain flour
2 tsps vanilla extract (optional, I omitted it)
pinch of salt
50gm walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)

- Preheat oven to 165 degrees Celsius, and prepare your pan with non-stick spray.

- Melt butter in a saucepan, over low heat, then add the chocolate and remove it from the heat. Let the chocolate melt a little, then stir till smooth. 

- Sift cocoa into the chocolate/butter mixture, add sugar and salt, then set it aside while you get on with the next step.

- Beat the mascarpone, eggs and vanilla extract (if using) in a mixing bowl, on medium speed until smooth. 

- Carefully pour the chocolate/butter mixture into the bowl, and mix until no streaks remain. 

- Fold the flour in the batter, and then add the walnuts if you're using them. Pour the batter into your pan, and spread it out evenly, then bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

- Allow the brownies to cool, then prepare the ganache.

Chilli Dark Chocolate Ganache

170gm chilli infused dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used this from Sainsburys, but you can use other chocolate if you prefer)
85ml whipping cream
25gm unsalted butter

- Place the chocolate into a heat safe bowl. Using a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat, then pour it over the chocolate. Allow the mixture to stand for a minute, then stir it until smooth.

- Add butter, a little at a time, and keep stirring until smooth. 

- Release the brownies from the pan, and place on a cutting board or serving plate. Pour the ganache over it, spreading it evenly with a spatula (I just used a knife since I wasn't so bothered about it looking smooth). Let the ganache set - this may take a few hours - then slice it up and serve!

There you go, a two inch square of heart attack! Serve it with some vanilla ice-cream if you're feeling super-decadent. 

Sunday, 14 March 2010


Or - What I Did When My Computer Wasn't Feeling Well.

Made a mountain of cream cheese biscuits, topped with citrus peel and berry jam. Soft and fluffy, like an edible pillow.

Made a dent in the mountain of acrylic yarn I seem to have collected, by starting a colourful granny-square blanket. It's the blanket that warms you twice - once when you're making it, once when you're snuggling under it. 

Befriended a couple of lovely ladybirds in contrasting colours. Things have been going rather badly this month, so I took the fact that I saw two of them within two days as a sign of upcoming good fortune.

Played around with some of the treasures I picked up about a month ago. I made little baskets out of them (they're about an inch tall, and less than that in width) and crocheted little chains for them, topped with a button. They make excellent holders for little treasures like bottle caps, little nutmen, and  erm, other stuff. 

Made more zipper purses, to be posted on Etsy soon. These are from a pair of old linen shorts (they've been washed!) and some scrap floral fabric.