Smokin’ Pig Licker Brownies

Happy World Chocolate Day! Yes the food calendar which so often celebrates obscure treats and foods has of course a day designated to everyone’s favorite sweet treat. In whatever form- be it dark, milk, white, ruby or golden, nearly everyone I know has a soft spot for the timeless treat that is chocolate. In fact so much so in my case I ended up competing on a reality baking show about it. But I won’t bore you with those details.

It only seemed fitting given the day that it is that I highlight one of the keystones of my baking journey thus far- my Smokin’ Pig Licker Brownies. Bear with me and see past the name- by know you know I do like to create a talking point! Originally conceived from an idea combining two stalwart (yet polar opposite) favorites in the food world – chocolate (sweet) and bacon (savory) I will forever be indebted to these tasty morsels for earning me the “award winning” in my press kit bio title.

Wanting to pair chocolate and bacon led me to research whether this combination was a historic one, steeped in the recipes of olde, or a more recent affair. It proved to be a little of both. I mean think of the “mole sauces” of Mexican cuisine- pairing sweet and savory was indeed nothing new. But how about actual bacon? It was through this that I stumbled upon “Pig Lickers” and what they involved. A treat hailing from Southern US state fairs, Pig Lickers as such are “treats made by coating cooked bacon in chocolate, and then garnishing with chunks of sea salt”. Are we feeling it yet? The name alone had me hooked let alone that fact that it combined my two holy grail ingredients.

But I wanted to push it a little further. State fairs to me always bring that cliched image of candy floss, hot dogs, and chilli dogs. Wait! Chilli dogs?…chilli? Chilli and chocolate! There you have it! My end result- these brownies would be a classic combination of chilli and chocolate, with a thumbing of the culinary nose addition of bacon- in not one but two forms! The smoky, heat of the decadent brownies would be studded with crispy, sweet bacon pieces and then topped off with the aforementioned Pig Licker- a sliver of crispy bacon enrobed in chocolate, sprinkled with shards of sea-salt. Bet you’re on board NOW?

Before I depart to smother my bacon (!) a couple of words of advice. Don’t be tempted to use thick cut, or peameal, bacon here. The fat-to-meat ration is off and doesn’t work. Instead of crispy morsels of Umami goodness playing with luxurious chocolate, you get chunks of meat which just doesn’t sit right- taste or texture wise. Also don’t stress about tempering the chocolate. I mean you can if you want to go for the whole professional “snap” (*triggered*) finish if that’s your jam but at the end of the day these are rustic, wholesome, come-as-you are treats. Which I hope you enjoy!

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bacon, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 6oz semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup plain flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon mild chilli powder
  • 2oz dark chocolate chunks

To decorate

  • 3 full pieces of bacon 3 rashers, each cut into 4
  • 4oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted
  • Sea salt flakes

Method

  1. Set your oven to 350°F and line a deep 12″x9″ baking tray with baking parchment leaving an overhang each side
  2. Fry the bacon in a pan until just starting to crisp. Add the maple syrup and fry until a shade browner and crisper. Remove from the heat and leave to cool on a plate
  3. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat, and allow to cool
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, smoked paprika and chilli powder.
  5. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together until uniform in color
  6. Fold in the chocolate chunks and bacon pieces. You may need to break up the bacon pieces as they may have stuck together while cooling
  7. Pour your mixture into the lined tray and gently spread to level the surface. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares
  8. To decorate, place the larger bacon pieces in the frying pan and cook until crisp. Remove and leave to cool. Melt the remaining in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), or in a microwave on short bursts, until fully melted
  9. Coat the bacon pieces one at a time in the melted chocolate. Place a bacon piece on top of each brownie and sprinkle with sea salt
  10. Leave to set, serve and enjoy!
Image credit Romas Foord

Chocolate Pouding Chomeur

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ cup chocolate milk
  • 2oz semi-sweet chocolate (I use bars with 1/4 oz square so I can put 2 in each dish)

Sauce

  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Lightly grease 4 individual (0.25L) mini-cocottes, ramekins or other ovenproof dishes and place them onto a baking tray
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or your fingertips to work the butter into the flour until a rough, crumbly mixture – similar to thick breadcrumbs or damp sand is achieved
  3. Add the milk, chocolate milk and stir just until the mixture comes together
  4. Spoon this into the prepared smaller baking dishes. Push 2 x 1/4 oz square of chocolate into the middle of each pudding. Set aside while you prepare the sauce

Sauce

  1. Combine the maple syrup, brown sugar, water, butter and vanilla in a pan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Once it reaches a rolling boil, remove it from the heat and ladle this over the cake in the ramekins.
  3. Bake the puddings for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre of a pudding comes out clean.
  4. Remove from the oven and let the puddings cool for about 15 minutes before serving (be careful syrup is hot!)

Elderflower & Pistachio Eclairs

Choux pastry was one of the first things that my Mom taught me how to make. When I say “taught me” I mean showed me how to do it, gave me some tips and then said, “Now go yourself and do it, the books are over there’. A pretty laissez fair approach I’m sure you’ll agree? Nonetheless these first tentative explorations of patisserie (sounds far more glamourous than I actually remember!) have given me a solid base from which to build and no doubt resulted in the lack of fear of trying choux pastry.

Eclairs have always been synonymous with “being a treat” for me. They were always in that separate part of the bakery shop display cabinet, away from jam doughnuts, vanilla slices and chester bread, basking in their own halo of the fluorescent bulb. Let me tell you this though- the eclairs I grew up on were a far cry from those gourmet, high-end ones seen today. I’m talking a childhood indulgence filled with sweetened cream and chocolate “flavoured” glaze. Sounds delish, huh? Well, back then it was.

So here is my take and what better way to pay homage to the memory of my mom (ala upcoming Mother’s Day) than take one of her first lessons to me and combine it with my knack for unexpected, “haute” flavours. I want you to enjoy creating these so, as I mention later, if the filling them in the way I describe sounds a bit daunting, or laborious, please feel free to fill them with just the cream and serve the coulis and pistachio butter alongside. They make wonderful dipping sauces!

I find the floral flavour of elderflower works so well with raspberry. The zing tart hit of the berry contrasting wonderfully with the regal, fresh floral note. Adding in the pistachio gives another depth of flavour with earthy, sweetness that seems to almost bridge to two flavours. If all of this sounds like a load of ol’ foodie jargon then let me just say this – these are damn good!

The use of SOMA Pistachio Butter here is in no way paid for or compensated by the manufacturer. I simply mention using it as I am a huge fan and have yet to find something fit for substitution.

Elderflower & Pistachio Eclairs #recipe

Elderflower & Pistachio Eclairs, paired here with traditional chocolate eclairs

Makes 24

Ingredients

Choux eclairs

  • 250g cold water
  • 65g butter
  • 65g shortening
  • 2g Kosher salt
  • 5 eggs, whole and whisked together
  • 185g Bread flour

Elderflower cream filling

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Elderflower syrup

Raspberry Coulis

  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Pistachio Butter

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup ruby chocolate callets
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Fresh raspberries, optional
  • Slivered pistachios, optional

Method

To make choux eclairs

  1. Line 2 baking trays with either Silpat mats, or non-stick baking parchment. Set aside until needed
  2. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F
  3. Combine water, butter, shortening and salt together in a pot. Heat over a high hear until butter and shortening have melted, and the mixture is at a rolling boil
  4. Carefully add the bread flour in one go, and stir vigorously for at least 5 minutes until the mixture comes together in a ball, and cleans the sides of the pan
  5. Transfer cooked dough mixture in to the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, and mix on medium speed until bowl is cool to the touch and there is no more steam rising from the mixture
  6. Gradually add eggs, roughly one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. The mixture may separate after each addition but keep whisking until it comes together again before adding more egg. Ensure the dough is not too runny. You may not need the last amount of egg*
  7. Transfer the choux dough to a medium piping bag fitted with a French star nozzle
  8. Pipe the choux dough onto your prepared baking trays in lengths 5-6 inches, ensure they are all the same size/length
  9. Transfer to you preheated oven and bake for 25mins, until risen, crisp and golden brown. DO NOT open the door before this time
  10. After the 25 minute mark turn the heat off, remove one tray from the oven leaving the other one in. Working quickly using a skewer, or chopstick narrow end, prick each eclair, place back on the tray and return them all to the oven. Repeat with the second tray
  11. When all eclairs have been pricked, leave in the oven cooling for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and leave in a draught-free area to cool fully.

To make Elderflower cream

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl
  2. Whisk until cream is thickened and semi-firm peaks are achieved
  3. Keep cool in the fridge until needed for filling

To make the Raspberry coulis

  1. In a small pan combine all the ingredients
  2. Heat on high heat until the berries start to break down and the mixture has started to boil
  3. Reduce heat and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
  4. After this time remove from heat, transfer to bowl and leave to cool fully
  5. Once fully cool, transfer to a piping bag, seal and set aside until needed

To prepare the pistachio butter

  1. Stir to ensure an even mixture
  2. Transfer to a small piping bag, seal and set aside until needed

To fill the choux eclairs**

  1. Once all your components have fully cooled, you cab set about filling
  2. Using the narrow point of a chopstick, or thick skewer, make a hole in the underside of each eclair, roughly midway along it’s length
  3. Fit a piping bag with a narrow filling nozzle (“Bismarck” style) and transfer the elderflower cream to this bag
  4. Insert the nozzle into the hole you made in the eclair and gently squeeze to pipe some filling in. Be careful not to fill completely as you will not be able to get any of the other fillings. (You may have to sacrifice one or two to gauge the correct amount of squeezing and filling. Tasty cast-offs nonetheless!)
  5. After filling all with the cream, snip the end of the piping bag with raspberry coulis so it’s narrow enough to fit in the hole in the eclair. Gently pipe some coulis in. You’ll find you won’t need to pipe it for as long
  6. Once all have been filled with the coulis, snip the end of the bag fitted with pistachio butter (again so it can fit into the hole) and gently pipe a little pistachio butter into each eclair
  7. When all the eclairs have been filled, place on a baking tray and transfer to the fridge while you prepare the chocolate glazing

To prepare chocolate glaze

  1. In a medium bowl (wide enough to be able to place your ecliars in), combine the ruby chocolate callets and butter
  2. Heat in a microwave for 10 seconds. Remove and stir for a minute
  3. Repeat, heating again for 10 seconds. Stir until mixture melts down further and is fully combined
  4. If any small pieces of chocolate remain, heat again for 5 SECONDS. Remove and stir until fully melted

To finish

  1. Have a cooling rack handy to place you finished eclairs on
  2. Remove the eclairs from the fridge and, gently but firmly holding, dip one by one into the melted chocolate so that the top half gets covered. As second dipping might be necessary.
  3. Gently shake to remove and excess chocolate, and place chocolate side up on the cooling rack to finish setting
  4. If your decorating them as suggested here, sprinkle with the pistachio slivers and pop some raspberries on the chocolate to your liking. I’d suggest decorating as you go along, or have someone helping you decorate, as the chocolate glaze can set by time you’ve dipped them all- making it harder for the finishing touches to stick
  5. Serve and enjoy!

*When adding you eggs to make the choux dough you may not need all of the eggs. To check you want a consistency of dough that will fall from your spatula leaving a V-shape hanging, or using your (clean) finger, run it lightly through the top of the mixture. It should leave a groove that doesn’t collapse into itself.

** I completely understand that doing the full filling process is fiddly and can require a bit of practice. If you prefer shortcut to take is just to fill the eclairs with the elderflower cream and finish them with the ruby chocolate glaze as above. These can them be served with some of the raspberry coulis and pistachio butter alongside. That way you get to experience of all the wonderful flavors without it being so fussy to fill!

Chocolate Vinegar Cake

Now don’t raise your eyebrows like that! No, I it’s not a typo- there is indeed vinegar listed in this cake. Going by it’s other moniker “Depression Chocolate Cake”, this may well be one of those recipes that probably everyone’s baking inclined grandparent would probably have in their repertoire. Dating from a time of the Great Depression, when things like eggs, milk, butter and sugar were really expensive and scarce, this recipe keeps them to a minimum. So much that with it’s absence of eggs and dairy the sponge itself can be considered vegan. If you want to finish to completion with it’s delectable ganache topping and still remain vegan-friendly, I’ve included some recommendations at the end of the recipe.

Another bonus with this recipe? Minimal washing up! In fact if you choose to cake it the classic way as a sheet cake to be eaten from the pan, you can save on that singular, additional bowl for clean up. Just make sure to omit the baking parchment lining and use a non-stick pan. Dump everything in the pan, exert a bit more restraint when mixing together and away you go! No bowl, all-in-one sheet cake.

Finishing with chocolate ganache is entirely optional. Some people prefer just a simple dusting of powdered sugar, others prefer just to leave it completely naked and bask in the unadulterated chocolatiness of the sponge itself. Whatever way you decide to finish it, I’m pretty sure you wont be making it just the once!

Chocolate Vinegar Cake #recipe

Ingredients

Makes 1 no. 9” x 12” sheet cake

Chocolate Vinegar Cake

  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons white vinegar

Chocolate Ganache topping*

  • 1 cup heavy cream, or whipping cream*
  • 8oz semi-sweet chocolate, in small pieces

Method

  1. For the ganache topping, place the chocolate pieces in a medium heatproof bowl
  2. Heat the heavy cream/ whipping cream, in a small pan over a medium heat until just below boiling (look for small bubbles at the edge of the cream in the pan)
  3. Remove the cream from the heat and gently pour the warmed cream over the chocolate pieces in the bowl. Leave to rest for 5 minutes
  4. After 5 minutes, gently stir the chocolate/ cream mixture with a whisk to emulsify it. It will appear mottled and speckled at first but continue gently stirring until it thickens and is uniform in color
  5. Once fully smooth and uniform in color, set aside and leave to fully cool before spreading (usually takes about 2 hours at room temperature). The mixture will thicken to spreadable consistency after this time
  6. Preheat your oven to 350F
  7. Prepare a 9” x 12” baking pan by greasing and lining with baking parchment
  8. In a large bowl combine all the cake ingredients- the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, water, canola oil, vanilla extract, and vinegar
  9. Whisk until fully combined, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to avoid any dry ingredient residue. Continue mixing until fully blended and smooth
  10. Pour into your prepared pan. If needed gently tilt the pan to allow the cake batter to flow into the corners
  11. Bake in your preheated oven for between 20-25minutesm or until a cake tester, or skewer, comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. Remove the cake from the oven allow to cool in tin for 5 minutes in a rack
  12. After allowing to cool for 5 minutes, invert the cake onto a cooling rack lined with baking parchment
  13. Remove the tin and lining baking parchment paper and allow the cake to cool fully below finishing with your chocolate ganache topping
  14. Once your cake has fully cooled, pour your chocolate ganache topping over the surface and spread with an offset spatula to cover the cake
  15. Slice however you like and enjoy!

*Whilst the cake sponge in this recipe is vegan, the chocolate ganache isn’t. If you want a complete vegan friendly cake substitute 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (Make sure to fully shake it before using). Also make sure that your chocolate that your using is vegan-friendly.

Queen of Puddings Brunch Pancakes

Yet another bake that came about from my time on Food Network Canada’s show Great Chocolate Showdown. The elimination challenge in Episode 4 was to bake a brunch dish inspired by a favorite childhood dessert, using QuakerTM oat flour. The items for selection were coffee cake, tart, pancakes, crepes and biscuits. While I’m definitely partial to a good breakfast biscuit, pancakes are much closer to my heart. Waffles give me a savory brunch option, whilst pancakes are the perfect vehicle for a sweet option.

My childhood memory would have been firmly anchored in my mom and her synonymous dessert that is Queen of Puddings. My mother was solely responsible for my ability, passion and sometimes foolhardy ambition when I bake. In my childhood memories, she’s permanently enrobed in a gingham tabard, and there was nothing this woman couldn’t make, bake or generally concoct in the kitchen. If I were to sum up a childhood of kitchen memories in one delicious dessert, Queen Of Puddings, instantly springs to mind. With layers of breadcrumb enriched vanilla custard layered with sweet, tangy raspberry jam and topped with billowy clouds of fluffy, golden toasted meringue it was my mom’s go-to dessert when ingredients were scarce. For me it’s a classic case of my mom being a kitchen alchemist and turning a few mundane ingredients into something fantastic- a fine example of the whole being more than the sum of it’s parts. The original recipe is easy and comforting, and it’s warmth, familiarity and soothing nature will always remind me a a childhood at my mother’s hip.

Of course trying to marry such a quintessentially classic comfort pudding with the concept of brunch was always going to be a fun challenge at best! In my head the signature layers of the original recipe lend themselves perfectly to create a layered, stacked brunch dessert. Here I’ve created a pancake stack bordering on an entremet- layers of pancake with ganache, custard, and jelly regally crowned with peaks of soft, fluffy meringue. Anyone for a boujee brunch?

Yes I’ve taken shortcuts here with the use of Jello-O and custard powder. For me, when making brunch, shortcuts are ALWAYS welcome. Anything that helps me get to the table fast and get the bubbles flowing even faster is always acceptable in my books! I’m not one to stand on ceremony.

Bottoms up!

Queen of Puddings Brunch Pancakes #recipe #greatchocolateshowdown

Makes 4

Ingredients

Oat Pancakes

  • 2 cups oat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest 1 large orange
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp agave syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 2oz dark chocolate, cut in to chunks
  • 1 Tbsp Raspberry liqueur
  • 1/8 tsp Kosher salt

Prosecco Raspberry Gelee

  • 1 pack Raspberry Jell-O
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup Prosecco

Chocolate Custard

  • 2 Tbsp custard powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 oz dark chocolate, cut in to chunks

Meringue

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup fine sugar

To Serve

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, sliced lengthwise in half

Method

Prosecco Raspberry Gelee

  1. In a jug combine Jell-O powder and boiling water. Stir until dissolved
  2. Slowly add in prosecco and stir gently to incorporate
  3. Pour into 3″ dia silicone tartlet mold to 1/4″ depth
  4. Place in refrigerator to set

Chocolate custard

  1. Mix the custard powder and sugar together in a small pan
  2. Add the milk, and stir to combine
  3. Continue heating, stirring constantly, until the custard is smooth and well thickened
  4. Remove pan from heat and stir in chocolate chunks until melted and fully incorporated
  5. Leave to cool for 5 mins before placing into a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip
  6. Pipe discs of the custard into a silicone tartlet mold to match your Jell-O tartlet mold
  7. Cover the surface of the custard with cling wrap to prevent skin forming on the surface
  8. Place in refrigerator to set

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

  1. Gently heat the cream in a pan until just below boiling. (look for small bubble starting to appear at the edge of the cream)
  2. Remove from heat, add the raspberry liqueur, salt and chocolate chunks and leave for 2-3 minutes
  3. After this time gently stir to emulsify the mixture until it is smooth and uniform in color
  4. Leave to cool to room temperature
  5. Using a whisk or hand held mixer whip the mixture until light and fluffy. Be careful not to overwhisk in case of separation
  6. Cover and set aside until needed

Oat Pancakes

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt
  2. In a separate larger bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, melted butter, orange zest, and vanilla extract
  3. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Once nearly combined stir in the chocolate chips
  4. Heat a griddle pan over a medium high heat. Lower heat to medium low, and using 1/3 cup measurement pour circles of pancake batter to give you 8 pancakes. Your pancakes should spread to approximately 4-4 1/2″ diameter
  5. Cook on each side for 3-2 minutes until golden brown, flipping when done.
  6. Remove from heat and set aside until serving

Meringue

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form
  2. With the mixer on, gradually beat in the sugar until stiff peaks form. meringue should be glossy and smooth
  3. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a desired piping nozzle

Assembly/ To Serve

  1. Remove whipped ganache from refrigerator and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a round plain nozzle
  2. Pipe a round of ganache onto a pancake placed on a plate, leaving 1/4-1/2″ border
  3. Set raspberries halves around on the border, standing up against the ganache
  4. Place a second pancake on top
  5. Carefully remove a round of chocolate custard* from the mold and place on top of second pancake
  6. Carefully remove a round of raspberry gelee* from the mold and place on top of the chocolate custard round
  7. Set raspberries halves around on the border, standing up against the custard & gelee rounds
  8. Top with peaks of meringue piped in desired arrangement and torch to finish until toasted and browned
  9. Serve with any remaining raspberries

*Chocolate custard and gelee rounds can be placed in the freezer, after setting, for 10-15mins to firm up to aid removal