Saturday, 5 January 2013

How to Survive January and Warming Winter Brownies


How to Survive January

1. Make a New Years Resolution that you already do. A bit like adding an item that you've already done onto a to-do list for the instant smug satisfaction of immediately crossing it off again. Resolution could be: Go running (you completed the London Marathon in record time last year) or Bake a Cake Each Day for 2013 (not a problem my friend!).

2. Set yourself the challenge of cooking every single recipe from the cookbook(s) you received at Christmas. And if you received Jamie's '15 Minute Meals' try cooking at least one recipe within the fifteen minutes without:

a) the house burning down 
b) making your own, simplified alternative ('cheese on toast' is not 'Camembert Parcels') 
c) ordering take-away and requesting an express delivery

3. Pretend it's still Christmas. Turkey sandwich and leftover Christmas pud anyone? ....Hello?



(Apologies for the somewhat aggressive capital letters of the last two points but strong emphasis is much needed)

6. Reorganise the cooking utensils drawer (This is a survival list, not a fun list).  

7. Watch a highlight package from the Olympics. Remember the summer of glory? Of Jess and Mo? Relive the joy! The excitement! That 2012-y feeling! 

8. Go for a lovely long walk. Take a flask of tea, a tasty piece of cake and have a winter picnic. With our soggy weather, you may also need waterproofs, thermals and a bivvy bag:

Hampstead Heath, New Year's Day

9. Enter this month's Tea Time Treats baking challenge: Citrus fruits for a zingy January

10. Bake some Warming Winter Brownies:



30ml brandy (optional)
50g cherries
50g dried cranberries

250g golden caster sugar
200g butter
200g chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids)
3 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
60g flour
60g cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp mixed spice
100g blanched almonds or pecans

1. If using the brandy, place the cherries and cranberries into a small bowl. Gently heat the brandy before pouring over the dried fruit. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4.
3. Line the bottom of a baking tin, approximately 23cm x 23cm, with baking parchment. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and mixed spice in a bowl and set aside
4. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a food mixer and beat for several minutes till light and fluffy
5. Meanwhile, break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a pyrex bowl suspended over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. As soon as the chocolate has melted remove it from the heat. 
6. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork
7. With the food mixer running slowly, introduce the beaten egg a little at a time, speeding up in between additions
9. Remove the bowl from the mixer to the work surface, then mix in the melted chocolate with a large metal spoon. Mix in the almonds and dried fruit and brandy
10. Lastly, fold in the dry ingredients, without knocking any of the air out
11. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top and bake for 30 minutes
12. Once cooled, cut into squares and dredge with icing sugar 

Baker's notes...

  • Complete with brandy, chocolate and lots of juicy dried fruit, this really, really does not fit the category of 'simplified, healthy New Year bakes' that you may expect to see in a January blog post
  • I'm off skiing today. My answer to surviving January. As I write this I have packed my ski insurance, my helmet and a week's supply of emergency mini mars bars. Essential packing sorted I think. 


  1. Brilliant post! I wholeheartedly agree with avoiding the celebrity-in a bikini-on some exotic beach - yuck! Those brownies look delicious and I may just have to enter the teatime treats baking challenge :-)

  2. This is the best survival guide ever, love it! love the sound of those brownies too :-)

  3. Its so hard to avoid sales and celeb photo's though... seeing as I have failed. massively. I will just have to make those brownies to compensate!!!

  4. We are of the same mindset - I baked brownies this was always more achievable than anything regarding fitness!

  5. I'm sure I can oblige with many of the things on your list...I actually have some brownies to make this week....perhaps for eating whilst watching the 50 greatest 2012 Olympic moments again! :-)

  6. They look delicious - hmmnnn chomping brownies or a workout at the gym....I know what I'd rather be doing on a drizzly January afternoon. Hope you have a great time skiing!

  7. I think I'll just put my name on the top of this list and call it mine - with the exception of Nos. 7,8 and 10. With the temperatures up in the 40sC and bush fires raging across so much of the country stoking up the oven is the furthest thing on my mind. Those brownies do look good though. Maybe if I put on the airconditioner.............

  8. I'll go for the warming winter brownies - they look just what is needed to banish those January Blues.


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