25 March 2008

Absolut Pask

Oh I wish it could be Easter, every day. Friday AND Monday off feels like untold luxury now that I'm dipping my toe into what they call "the real world." For those of you who have been somewhat alarmed by the increasingly saggy faces of various rockstars gracing this blog over the last couple of days, I offer hot cross buns to soothe you:

Above: My first ever batch of home-made hot cross buns. I used Nigella's recipe from Feast, and it was a very rewarding process - adding the warm spices, kneading the dough, waiting patiently for it to rise, draping over the flour-water paste to make the crosses, and of course, grabbing the tender buns straight from the oven to be slathered with butter.

Above: As it happened, while arranging my buns I unwittingly created a yeasted tribute to the famous Absolut Vodka ad campaign. Just realised at this point that I should probably let you know that Pask is Swedish for Easter. More Easter Baking:

Above: Gluten Free Choc-Banana Brownies. I can't tell you how excited I am about these. They were rigorously tested for quality in my flat (ie, they got snarfed within minutes) and were pronounced delicious. Now, I can't pretend that I truly came up with this myself, in fact it started off as an idea which took shape after a bit of internet research.

First of all, I found this amazing recipe in a woman's magazine (I forget which) for gluten-free peanut butter cookies. It wasn't the first time I'd seen this recipe around, but it kicked me into action and I finally made them. They are risibly simple and yet so delicious; I've made them three times since and never managed to get a picture because they go so fast. From this sprang forth the brownie idea, but first...

Peanut Butter Cookies: Please, make these. I don't even go in for peanut butter and I'm a complete fiend for these.

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup sugar (I use half brown half white, but go nuts)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg

Preheat oven to 180 C. This is what I recommend you do because PB can be a tacky mess. Take a half-cup measure, and put your sugar in a bowl. Then, using a spoon, scoop peanut butter into the half-cup, and then scoop this in turn into the bowl with the sugar in it. Repeat. I'm not trying to be patronising, but the first time I made this I ended up using nearly every baking implement in the house trying to deal with the peanut butter and it can truly be so much simpler...

Mix together the sugar and peanut butter. Add the egg, stir again, and sift in the baking soda. On two trays lined with baking paper, place smallish balls of the mixture which you have rolled with your hands. Don't worry about flattening them, and they don't spread tooooo much so you don't have to stress about that either. Bake for 12-15 minutes. These won't be at all crisp when you take them out of the oven, but don't fret, they harden up as they cool.

Now eat one, and just try to stop yourself eating the entire batch, cleaning the kitchen scrupulously, and telling everyone you never made any in the first place.

So amazed was I at the magical properties of this peanut butter that I wondered if the same thing could apply to a brownie. Because brownies by nature are supposed to be shallow and dense, it left more room for error. After looking at some ideas on the internet, I came up with this - and it is so much greater than the sum of its slightly troubling parts...

Gluten Free Choc-Banana Brownies.

Each ingredient plays its own special part.

1 cup smooth peanut butter - to do its magical thang.
1 cup sugar - To provide bulk and sweetness
2 eggs - To bind it together
2 small, very ripe bananas - To make it densely moist
5 Tablespoons cocoa - To distract from the other flavours, and provide a deep chocolate taste
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips - To add squidge and more chocolate, of course :)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda - I don't know what this does, but it's very important.
As with the biscuits, set the oven to 180 C, beat the peanut butter and sugar together, add the rest of the ingredients and pour into a brownie tin of regular dimensions. (You know, rectangular, not tooo big) What I did was bake it for 1/2 an hour at this temperature and then turn it down to 150 C, and bake for a further 15 minutes. Perfect.

I realise the combo of ingredients sounds kind of vile, but you don't taste the peanut butter at all. The cocoa sort of covers everything up. But oh the irony - celiac flatmate Emma was in Samoa over the weekend (as one does) so she didn't even get to participate. Luckily I am so enamoured of these brownies that I'm going to repeat them again very soon.

And if you aren't sick of brown things by this stage -

Above: Chocolate Pear Pudding, from Nigella Express. It's basically canned pears with a chocolate flavoured sponge baked overtop, but oh! How wonderful it tastes. For Heaven's sakes, buy this book! I made this for pudding last night (Nigella's Vietnamese Chicken Salad for dinner) and it is perfect to eat while watching Boston Legal and procrastinating about, well, everything.
I hope everyone had a lovely, relaxing Easter break.


  1. Nigella Express rules!

    p.s. Those peanut butter biscuits sound insane!!!!!!!

  2. That all looks gorgeous. Peanut butter cookies, yum :)

  3. Oh Yummy Yummy Laura! Loving the got x buns and the biccies :)

    AmyGray xxxx

  4. Nice buns......

    Just don't get your bands and ingredients mixed up....i.e. add "a good amount" of poison and one white snake. However, Lynn's W.A. wild-food gatherers might be OK with that.

  5. Congrats on the 5000 hits. One of those most recent ones would have been when Julian and I put your blog site short cut on Mary's computer desk top.

    Cheers. (5011th hit)

  6. Laura, it all looks so good. Those peanut butter cookies sound fantastic.

  7. Laura you have been busy. Everything looks so yummy. Your hot cross buns are excellent

  8. Laura, can I say more? Congratulations on passing the 5000!! that is great. Your Hot Cross Buns look wonderful. Maybe you could be a music critic as well. I thought you were talking dirty for a while. I am lost once you get passed Glenn Miller, Xavier Cugat, Harry James, (who was married to Betty Grable for ever) Bob Crosby and his Bobcats, (brother of Bing Crosby)Gene Crupa, drummer extrodinaire. Those were the days on the Big Band Sound.
    All those you mentioned, I wonder how many of them will last like the aforementioned. Some of them "would be if they could be."
    love and hugs, Nana

  9. What great pictures Laura, everything looks so good.

    Your housemates must adore you!!
    Tina xx

  10. It looks like you had a really tasty Easter!