Monday, 12 April 2010

Later with Jules: earn some brownie points

lemon drizzle
chocolate brownies
strawberry cheesecake cupcakes

In the first ever Later with Jules, I explained that baking was entirely compatible with full time employment. I have since discovered that, as well as being compatible, the two are perfectly complementary. A slice of cake brightens the day of even the most overworked or underpaid. And let's face it, when it comes to the crunch, you're far more likely to be remembered for your chocolate brownies than for that innovative new filing system you designed...

I would like to provide you with a menu of options that all lend themselves nicely to the workplace.

Occasion 1: leaving a job.
For someone like me, who moves between jobs fairly frequently, perfecting the art of the leaving cake is essential. You should always leave on a high and, if you've failed to reach the peak of professional excellence thorough your day job, a cake can make your mark.

Now, as this is the last taste of your work your colleagues will have, I would play it safe. Better to go for an old time favourite than more experimental baking on this occasion (you could end up being remembered as 'that girl who made that strange cake'... a fate worse than death for a midnight baker). My personal view is that playing it safe means either:
a) chocolate (who doesn't love it?) or
b) lemon (entirely inoffensive, and light enough to tempt even the most weight conscious of colleagues)
Or, better still, both.

Which is exactly what I did when I left my last job. A delicious yet oh-so-simple lemon drizzle cake (every midnight baker should master this all-time-favourite) AND the chocolate brownie - a winner every time.

There a many variations on the chocolate brownie theme (all of which are infinitely better than the shop bought variety). This time I went for a Jamie version - which contains fruit and nuts - not strictly speaking 'classic' enough for a leaving cake but, as I made lemon drizzle as well, I felt confident that I would not alienate the nut allergic / fruit phobic folk that are sure to lurk in every office out there. Rich in flavour moist in texture... the brownie is a wonderful thing.

Occasion 2: the celebratory cake (birthdays / significant achievements / pregnancies etc)

It wasn't long into my new job that word got out about midnight baking and I was facing increasing pressure to produce the goods. Luckily, we soon had a 'thank f**k that's over' moment. After getting a big piece of work out of the way, an enormous slice of cake or stiff drink is definitely the order of the day, preferably both.

This time I went for the cupcake option, which is good because they can be shared around an office, but admittedly slightly more labour intensive. This time, reader, I made a fatal miscalculation of timing. Being a bit blasé about the possibilities of midnight baking, I foolishly went to the pub and returned beyond the midnight baking deadline. I then attempted to make double quantities of cupcakes AND pack for the easter hols. The result? I was icing cupcakes at 3.30am. This is NOT good. In fact, it is quite ridiculous. However, I happen to believe it that the happy cake filled faces in the office the next day made it all worthwhile, which may tell you something about my priorities in life.

I think it is fair to say that strawberry cheesecake cupcakes are by far the best cupcakes I have ever tasted. They are from the Hummingbird bakery book, and I have Miss Penny to thank for making them her signature dish, and inspiring me to emulate her success.

Subject: "I have baked a cake"
Click: "Reply all"
Before you know it everyone's
Stampeding down the hall

Exclamations of delight
as they happily tuck in
See, you can do something right
So lift up your chin

And hold your head high
You've made their day for sure
And off they trot back to their desks
Happier than before

Lemon drizzle cake


225g unsalted butter , softened 225g caster sugar 4 eggs finely grated zest 1 lemon 225g self-raising flour


juice 11⁄2 lemon 85g caster sugar

1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the eggs, one at a time, slowly mixing through. Sift in the flour, then add the lemon zest and mix until well combined. Line a loaf tin (8 x 21cm) with greaseproof paper, then spoon in the mixture and level the top with a spoon.

2. Bake for 45-50 mins until a thin skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. While the cake is cooling in its tin, mix together the lemon juice and sugar to make the drizzle. Prick the warm cake all over with a skewer or fork, then pour over the drizzle - the juice will sink in and the sugar will form a lovely, crisp topping. Leave in the tin until completely cool, then remove and serve.

bloomin' brilliant brownies


• 250g unsalted butter
• 200g dark Fairtrade chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken up
• optional: 75g dried sour cherries
• optional: 50g chopped nuts
• 80g cocoa powder, sifted
• 65g plain flour, sifted
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 360g caster sugar
• 4 large free-range or organic eggs
• optional: zest of 1 orange
• optional: 250ml crème fraîche

dessert recipes | serves 20
Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Line a 25cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate and mix until smooth. Add the cherries and nuts, if you’re using them, and stir together. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar, then add this to the chocolate, cherry and nut mixture. Stir together well. Beat the eggs and mix in until you have a silky consistency.

Pour your brownie mix into the baking tray, and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. You don’t want to overcook them so, unlike cakes, you don’t want a skewer to come out all clean. The brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle. Allow to cool in the tray, then carefully transfer to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares. These make a fantastic dessert served with a dollop of crème fraîche mixed with some orange zest.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
120g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter, room temperature
140g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
120ml whole milk
1 egg
12 large strawberries, chopped into small pieces
200g digestive biscuits
For the cream cheese icing:
300g icing sugar (sifted)
500g unsalted butter, room temp
125g cream cheese, cold.
Makes 12 (big american style) or 18 normal cupcakes
Preheat oven to 170 (350 F, Gas mark 3).
In a small bowl mix together the flour, baking powder & salt. In a large bowl cream together butter & sugar until light & fluffy. On low speed add flour mixture and beat until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Pour in the milk and vanilla extract and beat on a medium speed until everything is well mixed. Add the egg and beat for a few minutes to ensure the ingredients are well incorporated.
Divide the chopped strawberries between the paper cases. Spoon the cupcake mixture on top until 2/3 full and bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 mins, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Leave to cool slightly before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Roughly break up the digestive biscuits and process in a food processor until finely ground (or just bash)
To make the icing, in a large mixing bowl, beat the icing sugar and butter together with electric whisk on a med-slow speed until well mixed. Add the cream cheese and best until incorporated. urn speed up and beat until light and fluffy (at least 5 mins) Do not overbeat, as it quickly can become runny.
Spoon on top of the cupcakes and finish with a sprinkling of ground digestive. You can decorate with a slice of fresh strawberry if you wish.


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