First: you have till the eighth to vote for HungryandFrozen/me in the Concrete Playground blogger awards! Please and thank you, with as much sincerity as words on a screen can convey. (Edit: please note the competition is now totally closed. Did not win. Am writing a new blog post though!)
I wonder what it's like having a significant effect upon people? From afar, not even realising any responsibility, Nigella Lawson influences me constantly. Having thrown the word "girlcrush" around with friends a lot recently, I realised for me the line between "celebrity crush" and "general celebrity obsession" is a fine one, and can mean anything from "I want to kiss you on the mouth, sooner the better" to "Oh how I want to hang out with you and learn from you and develop injokes and hilarious photos of us having fun times together". Tim tends to occupy the crushy segment of my brain the most, but in lieu of hanging out - or anything! - with Nigella, you could do worse than bake like her. (What Would Nigella Do?) I started off with a sandwich bag filled with cream cheese icing leftover from another cake, which I'd stashed in the freezer, La Lawson-styles - and it works really well as long as it's airtight - and thought I'd capitalise on my pretend organised-ness by actually using it up. This motivation transformed itself into an idea: white chocolate brownies, the sweetness roughened up a little by a hint of bitter coffee, then resweetened in the form of cream cheese icing.
Being fairly confident these days with inventing recipes, I ploughed ahead and made them happen. Okay, there's not actually any dark chocolate in them, so they're more blondies than brownies. And then, my sneaky secret ingredient of one small teaspoon ground coffee - which I pictured ever so subtly rounding out the white chocolate - somehow tinted the whole mixture a deep, sludgy brown. After tasting the mixture liberally, the coffee flavour was highly apparent. Okay, cool, so they're mocha blondies now or something. Nervous about overbaking them into boring, cakey submission, I took them out of the oven after a conservative 20 minutes, allowed them to cool, then proudly cross-hatched them with said cream cheese icing.
All was well, my Blondies complete and another new recipe successfully created. And then I tried to slice into them. I know brownies and their blonde pals are supposed to be squishy but this was liquidy and entirely raw batter, hidden under a thin veneer of properly cooked stuff. And all that icing. After some deliberation (ie, me going like this) I just threw them in the oven, icing and all.
Blondies II. We've lost the pretty blinding white icing, but in fact I felt triumphant - that it was meant to be, even! - because baking means the icing isn't nearly as viciously sugary. And then I looked closer. The damn thing still wasn't cooked properly. It was still too gooey to slice properly. Generations to come will speak in hushed tones of the batter they could not bake!
By this stage, with a savage case of the sugar-sweats not helped by the cruelly increasing humidity, I recklessly threw it back in the oven, not so much hoping for the best as much as crossing my fingers that this wasn't a shameful waste of ingredients, time, and brain cells.
And then they came right. Finally.
How little did I know, when taking this photo of Whittaker's White Chocolate, how much stress this recipe would cause.
At the time, my only issue was "are close-up photos of the whisk dripping with batter a little overdone? Do I even care, because I personally find them awesome?" Simple, naive times.
I give you the recipe, but cautiously. I know I could just call them Mocha Blondies but I prefer the lipsmacking Nigella-ness of "Coffee-tinted" (see: influence) and as the coffee ended up overstepping the white chocolate element it feels necessary to properly warn you.
White Chocolate Brownies With Cream Cheese Icing
Which turned into Coffee-tinted Blondies with Cream Cheese Icing
Which turned into The Blondies That Could Not Be Baked: Witness The Incredibleness!
Which finally settled into Coffee-tinted Blondies With Baked Cream Cheese Icing.
300g white chocolate (I use Whittakers...the best white chocolate around, I reckon)
150g brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground coffee beans
1/2 teaspoon cocoa
Decent grind of salt
Optional: beat together softened cream cheese and icing sugar, then spoon into a small plastic sandwich bag, snip a small hole in the corner, then use it to pipe out the icing on top of the brownies. You could then bake it again for ten minutes, or not, depending on your sweetness capacity and how cooked your blondies are...
This one's for you, Nigella!
Speaking of inspirational women, I went to my first ever Roller Derby game on Saturday, with Tim, Kim and Brendan. It was so fun - the speed and the skill and the community feel and the amazing clothes. About halfway through our seats felt wobbly, but I barely noticed since we were on the stands and not overly stable. As soon as this had registered in my mind, an enormous clattering noise appeared and the building shook. Earthquake. It went on long enough that I ducked down so I was covered by the chair in front of me, and for bits of debris for fall from the ceiling. Then suddenly it was over and I was so thankful - while essentially it wasn't much of anything, I think you still react in the same way that you would if it was going to be a bigger quake, and the comedown from that adrenalin rush is still significant. It was large enough - 5.7 in Picton! - that mentally I started into dignity-free survival mode. And then it was over. After the game, seeking emotional refuge, we all descended upon our friend Jo and watched TV and ate dumplings and drank cider and the whole thing was unbelievably comforting.
But what do the blondies taste like, finally? Distinctly white chocolatey, with a melt-on-the-tongue texture and a smooth coffee flavour - even the slightest threat of bitterness is seen off by the rich, sweet batter. The cream cheese icing, once baked, doesn't have the same soft sharpness as the regular stuff, but on the other hand it's not nearly as sweet. Although these took three goes in the oven and multiple direction changes, they're so delicious and I'm still calling them a success.
Finally, a further reminder, yes, twice in one blog, that you can feel free to vote for this blog if you feel strongly enough about it, in the Concrete Playground blogger awards. You have until Thursday. Am optimistically picturing the kind of last-minute triumph that you might have seen in Sister Act II, Remember The Titans, and/or A Mighty Wind. Involving a montage scene where the votes climb and there's emotional, swelling music and my face looking like this. Underneath all that optimism is also some resignation that I might be the only one that feels this way about my blog. But if nothing else, that's a good lesson to have learned. Maybe.
Title via: The highly-tense-in-all-the-right-ways song What Is This Feeling from the magical musical Wicked. Somehow this musical, however ridiculous, affects me emotionally now as much as it did four years ago.
Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate's masterpiece album. Can listen to this constantly and never get sick of it. So beautiful.
King Kapisi's new track Can't Stop Won't Stop - awesome tune, awesome video. Love Rapley's singing over the chorus.
Barbra Streisand. I thought Jenna Maroney's Jingle Bells was intense and unhinged, but Barbra's - a non-parody, even - wins the prize.