I did promise in my last post to enlighten you regarding some purchases I made in Melbourne... Books for Cooks is the sort of store any cookbook lover wishes was right around the corner, particularly if you're a complete junkie like me. So, knowing that they're not just around the corner, it was with remarkable restraint that I left the store with only 4 new titles after a happy hour or so browsing the shelves (I will add here, however, that the restraint I speak of had far more to do with flight baggage limits and budget constraints than good sense).
As the picture demonstrates, my current cooking trend of 'all things chocolate' dominated on the day, although the Nigel Slater and Hugh F-W additions also made it in on the basis that I've had my eye on both books for some time...if you've never read/cooked with a book from either of these UK-based masters, well, where have you been? Both men are brilliant writers and dedicated foodies, and place strong emphasis on the origins and quality of what we eat - issues which are governing more and more of the foods I choose to buy and cook with.
I've gotten off track, though...Nigel and Hugh's books will almost certainly be featured in future posts (when I've had more time to go through them in detail), but today's recipe comes from one of my other 'newies', Lisa Yockelson's Chocolate Chocolate.
I'd like to state for the record that the purchase of this book did cause me some angst due to its 'American-ness'. Now before any US readers get all offended by my statement, let me clarify - I certainly don't dislike Americans or their books as a blanket rule, but being so far away geographically can have its problems when using US published recipes. Not so much because of the different measurement systems (there are charts to help with that if you're unsure), more because a lot of commonly used US-brand-name ingredients are unavailable here, and it's not always straightforward to substitute something if you don't know what the specified ingredient is similar to. And herein lay my problem with Yockelson's book; there are pages (and pages and pages) of meticulously compiled charts and lists at the beginning of the book detailing chocolate-based ingredients, their sale weights and characteristics, but unfortunately most of the ingredients aren't available in Australia (excepting some of the major European brands). You see my dilemma.
Having made my complaint, though, I read on and decided that this was still a book worth owning. The recipes are detailed and there are A LOT of them, covering just about any chocolate-themed baked good you can think of; most recipes have a photo; and when it comes down to it, it's just chocolate - pick a good quality version that you know you like, and it's more than likely to be a reasonable substitute. Oh, and the layout and design, though a bit flowery and flouncy, really suits the writing style and content (sounds simple but so often I come across a cookbook where this is really not the case, so it's worth mentioning the good ones).
So, the recipe.
On close inspection, there were several things I wanted to make, but these Rocky Road Mud Bars won out on the basis of pantry supplies and Chris' insistence that they were the best looking in the picture. And, apart from the Oreo crumb layer on the bottom, which could really be left out altogether next time (it didn't add much in terms of flavour/texture in my opinion, although I'll admit I've never been an Oreos fan), they really are pretty good. And I followed Yockelson's recommendation of chopping up extra nuts, chocolate and marshmallows and scattering these over the top of the mixture about 5 minutes before the end of baking. Definitely a worthy addition.
Rocky Road Mud Bars
from Chocolate Chocolate (Lisa Yockelson)
Chocolate Cookie Layer:
1 stick (125g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons (way too hard to figure out, I just used one packet) chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs (such as crumbs made from Oreo Cookies)
Mud Brownie Batter:
1 1/4 cups bleached cake flour (plain white flour did the trick for me)
1/4 cup unsweetened alkalised cocoa powder (PLEASE use something good, my preferred brand is Barry Cocoa, but anything reasonable and Dutch will do)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used 60% buttons, roughly chopped)
2 sticks (250g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
6 ounces (180g) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid (again, 60% buttons)
5 large eggs
2 cups caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract (I used paste)
1 cup chopped walnuts (pecans)
1/3 cup miniature marshmallows
Preheat oven t0 325F (about 160C). Grease and line a 10x10inch pan (mine was about 26 x 22cm and made a pretty deep brownie).
Mix the cookie layer: pour the melted butter into the pan. Sprinkle the chocolate cookie crumbs evenly over the melted butter. Press down on the crumbs with the underside of an offset spatula so the crumbs absorb the butter. Bake the cookie layer for 4 minutes, then let stand on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
Mix the batter: Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl toss the chocolate chips with 1/2 tsp of the sifted mixture (this will help prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the finished brownies).
Whisk the melted butter and melted chocolate in a medium-sized bowl until smooth. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs for 1 minute to blend, add the sugar and whisk for a further minute or until just incorporated. Blend in the melted butter/chocolate mixture, mixing thoroughly. Blend in the vanilla. Sift the flour mixture over and slowly stir in. Blend in the chocolate chips, walnuts and marshmallows.
Spoon the batter in large dollops onto the cookie crumb layer. Carefully spread the batter over the cookie layer using a flexible spatula.
Bake, cool, refrigerate and cut the sweet: Bake for 40 minutes or until set (don't overbake it, whatever you do - you want it still a bit gooey in the centre when tested with a skewer). Cool completely in the pan. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until firm enough to cut neatly. With a small sharp knife, cut into quarters, then each quarter into 6 bars. Store in an airtight tin.
Bake and serve within 3 days (although we ate the last of them 6-7 days after baking and they were still ok).