Thursday, July 26, 2012

Brownies with PB icing

Today, @klfair came over for an afternoon of blogging and brownies. One of our mutual Twitter acquaintances tweeted a photo of a peanut butter Twix bar yesterday, and I haven't been able to get that  devastating combination off my mind: peanut butter and chocolate.

My usual brownie pick is Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies, but they are too rich and sinful to add anything else, and always come out thin and fudgy. What you really need is a cake-y brownie to stand up to the peanut butter icing. Boxed brownies work well for this, but I'd purchased cocoa powder and eggs earlier this week, so I searched for a recipe.

Alton Brown's Cocoa Brownies looked like a winner... until we weighed the butter. The recipe called for 8 ounces. That's nearly an entire 250g stick! We backed off.

Everyday Brownies by Nigella Lawson was our next find. Comparing the amount of butter here to the Alice Medrich recipe, it seemed more...reasonable? Each calls for about 140g, or 5 ounces. Also in its favour, Nigella's brownies use 4 eggs, and I had already beaten four in preparation for the discarded Alton Brown recipe.

We mixed everything together and debated over the tinfoil in the brownie tin. In the end, we sprayed the foil with canola before putting the batter in, and that seemed to work. Make sure you overlap the sides of the tray so you can lift out the brownies when they're done.

I chopped six squares of Plaistowe premium dark chocolate, very small - it sort of made shavings on its own - and that was the last ingredient to go into the saucepan. I've never made brownie batter in a saucepan before. Into the oven they went... Once the brownies have cooled, you can mix up the peanut butter icing. I've been doing this for years with my mom and sister in Canada, but it seems Australia is not as "into" the peanut butter and chocolate combo. For shame!

There is a recipe here for PB icing (butter optional, in my opinion). I used smooth but ran out, and added about two tablespoons of crunchy, which accounts for the bumps you see in the photo. (Do not use natural peanut butter.)
If you want to be extra decadent, melt some chocolate and fling it across the frosted brownies.

So! Now that @klfair and I have done the hard work of choosing recipes for you - go forth and bake!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Family Secrets and Fairytales

The Forgotten GardenThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 1/2 stars (spoiler-free review)

I am a great lover of readable historical fiction, and I also love grown-up fairytales. The Forgotten Garden has so many elements that make it lighter than its 547 pages would suggest. There are fairytales woven throughout the book, beautifully written scenes and settings, shifts in time and place, and family secrets revealed. Yet more secrets and things that have been "forgotten" reveal themselves as well.

Morton's writing is deft, with characters who aren't entirely good or evil; although I wanted to unravel the protagonists' stories from each of the time periods, I didn't find myself skipping over the antagonists' narratives. Each character is interesting and you can imagine that they have a backstory, and have not been created simply to wind a plot around.

The Forgotten Garden manages to be atmospheric, intelligent, and intimate, with the shadow of a family mystery thrumming at its heart.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Conversions, Tries, and Colours

I've said it before -- I'm not sporty. I am not the ideal person to live-tweet State of Origin, Game 3. But Jody thinks I'm funny, and most of my Canuck friends are not on Twitter, so... here are my random thoughts. To get you up to speed (at least, as much as I am):
  • There are 3 kinds of rugby/football in Australia. I've been here nearly four years and still can't really tell what the difference is:
  • NRL: National Rugby League; AFL: Australian Football League; Aussie Rules, aka "footy."
    Confusingly, "the footy" can be used to describe any? So yes, I'm still confused.
  • State of Origin happens once a year and is a battle between New South Wales and Queensland. QLD has won for the past 6 years. The internet tells me Origin is rugby league.

Queensland player Petero Civenoceva takes the ball up during State of Origin 3 (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

I'm so glad they colour-code the teams.

Really? People actually say, "Go the Maroons?" and for NSW, "Go the Blues?"

The other chant is "QUEEEEENSLAAAAANDERRRRR!" I prefer this.

There's a NSW player named Tony whose nickname is T-Rex. He has excessively bright boots -  fluorescent. I approve.

Dang, these men are in good shape.


That guy just picked up the other guy by the crotch. Is that legal?

A guy had 20 stitches put in his head, but don't worry -- he put on headgear and got back out there.

52,437 spectators - 60 people short of a full stadium.

One of my friends has noted that a NSW player has a rose tattoo on his bum.

I guess that's why the posts are padded? Ouch.

Oh! One of them is losing his shorts...

And that's it! A one-point field goal has won Queensland the match, 21-20. Go the Maroons! ahem.

[Abridged conversation between sports reporter, Lockyer - aka Locky - and a QLD player]

Reporter: "Mate, how was that?"

Player: "Unbelievable, mate, unbelievable."

Reporter: "How is this crowd?"

Player: "Unbelievable, mate, unbelievable."

Reporter: "Well done, mate."

Player:  "Thanks, mate."

Afterward, Jody picks up his untouched wine glass.
Jody: I think we're supposed to drink beer, not wine.
Me: At least I'm drinking mine. And anyway, it's maroon wine!