October is the season for pumpkins, apples and sweetcorn. It’s also the season for Hobnobs, Weetabix Minis and bagels. I love bagel season.
My Dad walks round the supermarket as if it’s a farmer’s market, always on the look out for ‘seasonal produce’.
“Oooh look, orange juice is in season – it’s half price, brilliant”
“Ah great, 2for1 on pizzas, pizza season has arrived!”
“We can wait to get yoghurt until it’s in season, there should be an offer on soon, I’ll check next week”
If it’s on special, it’s in season, it’s in our basket, it’s for dinner.
Dark chocolate digestive season was always my favourite. It comes around every few months and then they’re gone and replaced for a promotion on Jammy Dodgers – not such a bountiful, exciting time of year. A bit like January.
Now, having to do our own food shopping, you can tell what’s on offer in Sainsbury’s by what my flat are living off. Some weeks we’re on unintentional liquid diets, soup’s half price and it’s soup all day every day. Now and again the same fancy cereal shows up in all of our cupboards, but pretty soon it’ll be back to the daily porridge grind.
We wait with anticipation for ice cream season. In the same way people pickle, preserve and stockpile for the winter months, our freezer will be filled with a plentiful supply of round cardboard tubs to see us through till ‘spring’.
This ‘winter’ has been particularly long and harsh. I finished the last tub this week. I feel like a squirrel that’s eaten all the acorns it buried. Leaping from tree to tree, double and triple checking I haven’t missed one somewhere. Yep, nope, no ice cream and none due for a while.
So until ‘spring’ comes and fancy ice cream is back: Praline and Cream Brownies. Squirrel them away.
Praline and Cream Brownies
Adapted from David Lebovitz
For the caramel swirl
40ml double cream
15g unsalted butter
60g caster sugar
40g golden syrup
For the cream cheese swirl
225g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
75g caster sugar
couple drops vanilla extract
75g pecans halves
For the brownies
85g unsalted butter
115g 70% dark chocolate
130g caster sugar
70g plain flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.Tip the pecans onto a baking tray and pop in the oven for 10 minutes – this will draw out they flavor and make them crunchy rather than that weird half-crunch you get from untoasted nuts.
To make the caramel sauce place the sugar and golden syrup in a small, clean, heavy based pan over a low heat and swirl to dissolve all the sugar – do not stir! Turn up to a medium heat and continue to swirl the pan every now and again until you have a deep copper coloured caramel. Whisk the butter in to the caramel in lumps, followed by the cream – it will spit a little to start with so be careful! Once smooth and glossy set to the side to cool a little.
To make the cream swirl, beat together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Set it to the side for later. Much easier than the caramel eh?!
Line the base of a 20 x 20cm baking tin (or a slightly smaller one if you’d like deeper brownies) with baking paper and grease the sides with butter.
Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and either microwave (carefully stopping it regularly and stirring regularly to avoid burning it) or over a pan of boiling water (fancy name: ban marie) till it’s fully melted and mixed together.
Beat the sugar, followed by the eggs and vanilla into the chocolate mix. Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt until there are no pockets of flour and it’s all a uniform glossy mixture.
Break up the nuts between your hands so you have some whole ones and some bits, and stir half of them through the brownie mixture. Pour this mix into your lined baking tin and spread flat.
Dollop the cream cheese mix and caramel sauce in about 8 ‘blobs’ on top of the brownie and swirl it into the chocolatey batter using a butter knife or skewer. Scatter across the remaining pecans and tap the brownie pan on the worktop to flatten it all out.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until the middle has a little wobble but the edges feel firm (the wobble is crucial, otherwise you’ll have dry cakey brownies). Leave to cool completely before cutting into 8-12 squares.