Saturday, 12 July 2014

Pumpkin Mocha Brownies

Warning: This turned into a really long blog post with much gushing.  Brownies don't even get a proper mention until paragraph...7.  

So.  Back in...I want to say early March, I was on of my jaunts in Edinburgh with my bestest bean Jess.  As is customary on our jaunts, we visited Waterstones and I came away with two books (because buy one get one half price), one of which was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  I had heard the name mentioned here and there on the Internet but had never actually investigated.  However, Fangirl's cute cover intrigued me and the premise even more so.  Fanfiction?  And a nerdy, shy girl?  And cute romance?  I thought it might be just my sort of book.  

It was.  I LOVED the book.  The way the characters are written and the relationships and the geekery!  It was so nice to see things I associated with in a book.  Growing up my interest in anime and fanfiction and such was not something the majority of people I went to school with shared.  I felt a bit...weird.  I never liked to talk about my interests because no one I knew got it.  I lived on the internet and talked about this sort of thing with internet friends instead.  It didn't help that I was a bit restricted in what I was allowed to do after school finished for the day so I never felt my relationship with my school friends was as good as the ones they had amongst themselves.  Not that I was a particularly social person.  Still am not really.  But I will say I did notice a difference in how close I felt to people once I went off to university (the first time around anyway) where there were people who liked the things I did and I could talk about them.  Two of those people are still my friends now, despite leaving university 3 years ago (I didn't stay in touch with anyone from highschool), and I'm marrying the third one in two weeks!

Okay, I went off topic a bit there, didn't I?  My point was that I really connected with the book and it cemented Rainbow Rowell as one of my favourite authors: one who I would immediately buy any book they released.  I only have three such authors (Jasper FForde and Gail Carriger being the other two).  The fiancé did buy Attachments and Eleanor and Park for me after I finished Fangirl and would not shut up about wanting to read more, and I preordered Landline soon after that.

Right, now I bet you're thinking, well that's all well and good, Becca, but what does any of that have to do with brownies?

Well, you see, back in April it was announced that Rainbow Rowell was coming to the UK to do a book tour.  Usually I do not get my hopes up as such tours rarely ever make their way to Scotland but would you believe it, the first stop was Glasgow!  Now, I'm in Fife so it's not exactly local but it would be completely possible to do a two hour train journey to Glasgow!  It was also in July so I would be on holiday and thus completely able to go.  I was so excited!  I invited Jess along because she lives near-ish to Glasgow and it is so much more fun to go with a friend.  I subsequently got her into Rainbow Rowell's books so that was a bonus!  So that's where I was on Thursday night: in Waterstones in Glasgow enjoying an awesome author talk and signing session from Rainbow Rowell.  It was so amazing and funny!  It was made even more fantastic for me because I won the Fangirl selfie competition for this event so I got a limited edition sparkly Fangirl necklace made by Tatty Devine.

You're still waiting to know where the brownies come in, aren't you?  Okay, okay, I'm almost there, I promise!  Right, so, leading up to the event I started getting the idea to be really nerdy.  This began with wanting to reproduce the shirt Cath wears in the book, which is a Keep Calm and Carry On t-shirt (because the fanfic she writes is called 'Carry On, Simon') and has a picture of Simon and Baz on it.  I couldn't find anything that specified colour (I may just be being blind) so I decided to use the colours to match the book: mint and pink.  It turned out very well, despite me dropping the brush twice and therefore having to spend a couple of days removing unwanted paint stains.  And Rainbow certainly seemed to like it.  But then the desire to be nerdy got worse.  This is where the brownies come in.  If any flavour and scent is associated with Fangirl it is that of the pumpkin mocha lattes from Starbucks.  Admittedly, I have never seen, smelt or tasted such a thing.  This may be down to 1) I don't go into coffee shops and 2) I don't know if that's a thing they have in the UK.  As I've said before, pumpkin seems to be a really popular flavour in the US but not here.  Anyway, I had the idea that I could bake something for Rainbow Rowell, which I could give her at the signing.  And whatever that something was, it would be pumpkin mocha, which I extrapolated to be something that had pumpkin, coffee and chocolate in it.  And this ended up being brownies.

Yes, finally we get to the brownies.  I've been in a bit of a tray bake mood of late.  In part because I am completely enamoured with my adjustable cake pan.  It is going to be the pan I use to make all my cake layers for the wedding cake and so any chance to practice with it is great.  It's wonderful for making brownies in as I can set it up to be the right size and it is really deep so there is no issue with overspill during baking and makes building layers really easy.  

Okay, I seriously need to stop talking about anything but brownies, even if the pan is tangentially related.  Right, pumpkin mocha brownies.  Like I said, after researching what went into a pumpkin mocha I knew I had to get coffee, pumpkin and chocolate in there, along with spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.  At first I thought that I wanted to combine all those flavours into one thing.  So, initially I looked at how people made pumpkin mochas at home, which involved flavouring milk with pumpkin.  But no brownies I could think of were made with milk.  Then it occurred to me that it would much easier if I made a marbled brownie.  One part would be a chocolate and coffee brownie and the other a pumpkin brownie.  Both would have the spices in and I would mix them up in the tray so there was a bit of both in each slice after it was cut.  From there it was just a matter of finding (and slightly adapting) recipes for each part.  The Hummingbird Bakery came to the rescue there as I ended up modifying the brownie part of their S'mores brownies for the mocha and their pumpkin cake for the pumpkin part.  This meant adding in coffee and spices where there were none, more flour to compensate for added liquid and removing leavening agents because otherwise you end up with cake, not brownies.

I ended up with two mixtures of slightly different consistency, which made them slightly tricky to marble.  My original plan was to alternate each type when filling the pan but since the mocha was runnier, I decided I would put the denser pumpkin on the bottom then cover it with mocha.  I still attempted to marble and it sort of worked but possibly not as well as it could have done.

Ah well, the end result still turned out really well!  There's definitely some of each type in every piece of brownie, which was important.  It's possibly not as dense as it could be but that's not that big a deal.  The coffee flavour is subtle and the pumpkin lightens everything up so the chocolate isn't too heavy.  The fiancé and his family certainly liked them so I really hope Rainbow did too! Update: 14th July 2014 - She liked them!
So I'm just ecstatic about that!

Recipe - inspired by Home Sweet Home
Makes 20

Mocha Brownie:
  • 60g/2oz butter
  • 60g/2oz dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp coffee granules
  • 4 tbsp boiling water
  • 100g/3.5oz light brown sugar
  • 65g/2.25oz caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g/3.5oz plain flour
Pumpkin Brownie: 
  • 2 eggs
  • 125ml/4.5fl.oz sunflower oil
  • 180g/6.25oz light brown sugar
  • 215g/7.5oz pumpkin purée
  • 170g/6oz plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3 and line a 20x30cm/8x12inch baking tray with foil, making sure to leave overhang on two sides to help lift the brownie out when it is ready.
  2. Start with the mix for the mocha brownie.  Put the chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water (without letting the bowl touch the water) and melt together, stirring occasionally, until smooth.
  3. Meanwhile, mix together the boiling water and coffee granules in a small cup until the granules have dissolved.
  4. Once the chocolate mixture is completely melted, add the coffee and mix to incorporate before pouring the mixture into a large bowl.
  5. Add the sugars, vanilla extract and salt to the chocolate mixture and stir thoroughly to combine.
  6. Add the eggs and beat vigorously until the batter is smooth and shiny.
  7. Sift in the flour and spices (crush the cloves beforehand) and stir until just incorporated.  Set aside.
  8. Make the pumpkin batter by putting the eggs, oil, sugar and pumpkin purée into a large bowl and whisking together until well combined.
  9. Sift the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the batter and then mix well until you get a smooth, even batter.
  10. Pour the pumpkin batter into the prepared tray and spread smoothly so it covers the base.
  11. Pour the chocolate mixture on top, making sure to cover all the pumpkin mix.
  12. Take a butter knife and marble the two mixtures together by reaching down to the bottom of the mix and turning it over to bring some pumpkin to the top.
  13. Bake for 35-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out almost clean and the top is slightly springy.  Leave to cool in the tin.
  14. Once cool, remove from the tin and cut into squares using a plastic knife (that's a new trick I learned! The brownie doesn't stick to a plastic knife like it does a metal one and you get nice, clean slices).

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