Tis the season for retail… that’s right… cash register bells. It’s my absolute least favourite thing about this time of year.
I don’t particularly enjoy shopping at the best of times – mostly because most companies make it a really painful experience. I only bring this up because buying the ingredients for these brownies was enough to make me really grumpy early on a Saturday morning and that fact in itself makes me grumpy.
Why oh why must I stand in a lineup of 12 people to buy 4 items? Why, oh why, are there only 2 lanes open in the grocery store at 10am on a Saturday? Why oh why are managers and assistant mangers standing there looking at the lineup instead of opening up a checkout? Why oh why must I stand in a lineup for longer than 2 minutes to give somebody else my hard earned money??? I’m looking at YOU Save-On-Foods
That last one really burns me. You want my money? Work for it. This is why I usually go to Safeway and use the self-serve checkouts…
Which brings me to my next point. Retail is NOT hard. And before anybody jumps all over me… I spent my entire high school and university life working as a cashier and a head cashier (that’s why I use the self checkouts – I’m WAY faster than most of the grumpy cashiers one has to deal with). I spent my first years out of school working as a cosmetician, a cosmetics buyer, a store manager, a store buyer and then I spent 10 years working in the head office for a national retail chain. I have paid my retail dues. I am allowed to complain.
It just steams me when I’m looking for help or waiting in a lineup and there’s staff – especially management – standing around watching… ooops sorry, I mean “assessing things” with fingers up their noses.
Ok, end of rant. I did make it out with my stuff and the end result made up for the wait.
New topic: A very cool iPad app for cooks.
I overheard two of my favourite ladies on Twitter, Tricia at @everynothing and Kathya at @chocoKat718 (Tricia writes an excellent blog and Kathya takes some of my favourite food photographs – she does her own thing, that one.) talking about the new Donna Hay iPad app a while back…
Not wanting to spend any money, I was going to resist until Tricia told me the app was free AND so was the first iPad friendly issue of the magazine… uhhhh… ok… sold! The first issue was absolutely gorgeous and it’s definitely one of the better cooking apps I’ve come across – very friendly to use when you’re in the kitchen up to your elbows in butter and sugar. They did a great job – I recommend checking it out.
I have to confess, I adore Donna Hay cookbooks just for the photographs. I could drool over them all day – the books are works of art. But I’ve never had great success with a Donna Hay recipe. I’m not sure why – maybe because the ingredients are all in metric, which is one place Canadians haven’t really metric-ized. Or maybe it’s because the instructions aren’t detailed enough for me? I’m not really sure.
But I couldn’t resist these brownies. So I gave them a whirl and… well… I had some issues. The end product was soooo tasty but I don’t think it was exactly what was supposed to happen. Toffeeing the pecans didn’t go so well. The sugar salt mixture didn’t dissolve properly, despite adding a little more water. It made waaaaaaaaay more sugar mix than was needed for the amount of pecans called for (seriously you can easily double it to 2 cups of pecans and make some for snacking nuts). I also didn’t chop the pecans fine enough – to clumpy.
But I looooooved the caramel. This was a different way for me to make it and it was so good. It firms up very quickly and quite hard so it’s not a good pouring caramel sauce but it’s great for candies.
Sweet Georgia Brown Brownies Recipe
This is the recipe how I made it – a little different from the Donna Hay recipe, which you can find in their first iPad issue. A trick for getting the metric ingredient amounts: buy what you can in bulk and weigh it on the scale in the store – they’re very accurate.
- 1 cup sugar (recipe calls for caster or berry sugar but I used regular)
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 cup pecans (could easily do two cups and save leftovers)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 450g dark chocolate pieces (coarsely chopped)
- 140g butter
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- ¾ cups flour
- 220g butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 390g can of sweetened condensed milk (I used low fat with no problems)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp cocoa, sifted
- combine 1 cup of sugar and 2 tbsp water in a large, non-stick frying pan on medium heat for 4 minutes or until sugar is dissolved (my sugar never totally dissolved, despite adding more water)
- stir in pecans and salt and stir for another 2-3 minutes or until golden (just did not happen - but still tasted good!)
- pour pecan mixture into a lined baking tray and allow to cool before roughly chopping
- preheat oven to 325F
- melt chocolate pieces and 140g of butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until melted and smooth
- remove from heat.
- combine 2 cups of brown sugar, flour and eggs in a bowl with the chocolate mixture
- mix to combine and pour into a lightly greased and parchment 9x2x13 pan
- bake 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested
- while brownie cools melt 220g butter over low heat in a saucepan
- gradually whisk in 1 cup brown sugar until well combined
- add corn syrup, condensed milk and salt and turn heat up to high
- cook for 15 minutes, stirring continuously or until thickened - BE CAREFUL - it will start to bubble and splatter a lot and hot caramel leaves nasty burns - I speak from experience.
- once thickened, stir in cocoa and pour over brownie (you will have a lot of sauce left over with this recipe)
- spread evenly and then sprinkle with the sugared pecans
- cool in the fridge for two hours to set. Slice and serve. (if you pull the brownie out of the pan by the parchment paper and then slice, it will be easier.
Food Photography Tips
I shot these over two days. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th photos were taken while I was making the brownies between 11 and noon when I had some good light. The rest were shot during the same time frame but the next day. They are all pretty much straight out of the camera – all I added was contrast, sharpening and I manually tweaked the white balance on a few. I didn’t even use a reflector on the first day (I did on the second).
The caramel photo was shot on top of my stove (you can see my burners!) where I don’t normally photograph. But the light was kind of cool coming in through the window so I played around with it a bit. Didn’t really turn out as I’d hoped.
Image 1: 100mm, f/5.0, 1/50th, ISO1000, no exposure compensation
Image 2: 100mm, f/5.0, 1/160th, ISO400, no exposure compensation
Image 3: 100mm, f/4.0, 1/250th, ISO400, no exposure compensation
Image 4: 100mm, f/4.0, 1/320th, ISO400, no exposure compensation
Image 5: 50mm, f/5.0, 1/60th, ISO1000, no exposure compensation
Image 6: 100mm, f/3.5, 1/50th, ISO 1000, no exposure compensation