Pretty much everyone loves brownies. What’s not to like? We’re talking squidgy, rich, chocolatey mouthfuls here not small girls in brown outfits and berets. Just when I think I’ve perfected the ultimate brownie, I find yet another recipe I absolutely have to try. I’ve made plenty of variations but somehow you can’t beat the classic one, or so I thought. A couple of recent recipes were prompted by the discovery at the back of the fridge of a half-empty jar of crunchy peanut butter, well within it’s use by date. I turned to my Martha Stewart cookie and tray bake bible and there was a recipe for peanut butter brownies. It sounded a little too rich for my taste so, as is often the case, I tweaked it a bit. There’s something very seductive about dark chocolate, nuts and salt. I love dipping salted pretzels into dark melted chocolate and frequently make rocky road with salted cashews (among other things) – truly divine.
Usually, recipes such as these are tested on my English class. To be honest, they’re not the most discerning of taste testers but they are disarmingly honest. I made this recent recipe for our army of volunteers to keep their spirits (and energy) up. Actually, I made two batches. The afore-mentioned ones with dark chocolate and peanut butter and, some blondies, with white chocolate and peanut butter. I am now officially out of peanut butter and have used up the last of my white chocolate chips. Both recipes were very well received but the blondies were less sweet, less dense and chewier. The adults preferred these. The other recipe was, in my opinion, still a bit too rich, but the kids loved them.
We’re having a beach BBQ party this week end with friends who have a divine apartment close to the beach in Beaulieu sur Mer. I’m going to be making the main dish: hamburgers with plenty of relishes and toppings. The other couples are making the side dishes and desserts. I will not however be cooking the burgers on the beach, it’s not allowed. Instead I’m taking my electric grill on which I’ll cook them in my friend’s kitchen. The main course was chosen by one of my friend’s sons. They’re his favourite and so we’re going to indulge him but truly, who doesn’t love thick juicy hamburgers? I’m also going to try out another blondie brownie recipe (white chocolate and macadamia nuts) as you can never, ever have too many desserts. They’ll go well with my friend’s excellent Tiramisu which I’m assuming (and hoping) he’ll be making. Not quite what my nutritionist had in mind but I’ll limit my indulgence to a large spoonful. We’re rendezvousing on the beach in the late afternoon. I’m sensing, and knowing, that their two sons and our respective partners will be peckish so I may make a bowl of guacamole to keep their hunger pangs at bay until the arrival of the main event.
I’ve quite gotten into picnics since moving to France, they’re hugely popular and you can understand why. A baguette, a creamy, oozing slice of brie, some pate, cornichons, vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh juicy peaches or cherries, a bottle of cold rose and you’ve got an impromptu feast fit for a king. It’s not unknown for friends to gather on the beach in the evening with table and chairs and dish up a sumptuous feast while watching the sun slowly dissolve. We’ll be going for the picnic blanket and plenty of comfy cushions so that we can sun ourselves (we’ve all got tell tale silly cycling sun tan lines) and comfortably lounge while waiting for our feast to be prepared. Actually, it’ll be the boys doing the lounging while we do the preparing. Can’t even get them to do the washing up as all the flatware is disposable.
The BBQ’s not the only cooking on the horizon. After a few days next week at my parents, I’ll be looking forward to getting back into the kitchen. The Ronde, having been cancelled due to bad weather last week end, will now be held on 4 September. I won’t be there as we’re visiting friends and clients in Italy. I’ll have a big baking session before my departure to replenish the cake stocks as those that did turn up on Sunday, around 60 riders, fortuitously ate all the cakes which had previously been in the freezer. I then froze those which had been freshly made. So I’m short of about 10 cakes. I’ve plenty of things in both my store cupboard and freezer with which I can be inventive and there’s an abundance of wonderful fruit in season. I just love marathon baking sessions, any excuse for trying out lots of new recipes. If you enjoy licking out the bowl, come on over.