Sweet Christmas Treats: Brownies and Flapjack

Tempting chocolate brownies.

It’s that time of year when you’re struggling to think of what to Christmas presents to buy for various friends, flatmates and family… instead of another pair of socks or bottle of wine, why not bake them a treat? Not only is a home-baked gift more personal, but you’ll most likely also save money, since many of the ingredients are store cupboard and fridge essentials anyway.

The following recipes for brownies and flapjack are ideal as they can be cut into squares and wrapped or placed into a gift box and transport easily, as well as lasting well for a few days (I suggest storing in a tin or Tupperware box to keep them fresh).

Feel free to omit the nuts from the brownies, but I like the texture they give. My favourites to use would be either hazelnuts or walnuts. Other delicious additions include chocolate chips (white chocolate works especially well), cherries, orange zest or a swirl of hazelnut chocolate spread after the eggs have been added. Broken up pieces of your favourite chocolate bar (or your friend’s favourite chocolate bar!) adds an extra personal touch. A final warning – the smell of the baking brownies is so appetising you might not be able to resist giving them away! If so, they make an amazing dessert, served warm with cream or a dollop of crème fraiche, especially if slightly undercooked and really gooey.

The flapjacks are amazingly simple to make. My signature flapjacks have a layer of jam in the middle. Just put half of the oaty mixture into the baking tin, the spread with a generous layer of jam, and top with the remaining flapjack mix. If you prefer, you might like to add nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips.

Chocolate Brownies

• 250g unsalted butter

• 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken up

• 50g chopped nuts

• 80g cocoa powder, sifted

• 65g plain flour, sifted

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 360g caster sugar

• 4 eggs

1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.

2. Line a 25cm (or similar) square baking tin with greaseproof paper.

3. In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate and mix until smooth.

4. Add the nuts, and stir together..

5. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar, then add this to the chocolate and nut mixture. Stir together well.

6. Beat the eggs and mix into the chocolate mixture until you have a silky consistency.

7. 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 The cooking time can really vary from oven to oven, so keep an eye on the brownies towards the end of the cooking time, and likewise don’t worry if they take longer!

8. Allow to cool in the tray, then carefully transfer to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares.

Flapjacks

• 400g rolled oats

• 300g margarine

• 200g brown sugar

• 4tbsp golden syrup

• Few drops vanilla essence

1. Preheat oven to 200oC and grease a baking tin.

2. Melt together butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat, regularly stirring.

3. Combine with oats and vanilla essence.

4. Transfer to the baking tin.

5. Bake until golden brown but still a little squidgy – about 25 minutes.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

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