Speculoos swirl brownies

Celebratory speculoos swirl brownies

This past weekend, I was having one of those days. Three days in a row. I was bombarded with a seemingly unavoidable streak of bad kitchen luck, and the only thing I could do was bake my way out of it. Literally. I baked and baked and baked. And went to the store three times in one day. (Ok, Thom went to the store three times in one day. He's a good, good man.) Sprinkles from Iceland went to waste, along with 8 cans of coconut milk, 4 pounds of sugar and 2 bags of chocolate chips. For lack of better words, I sucked. I sucked so incredibly bad.

Those days, I spent the better part of my mornings attempting to replicate a confetti cake I made last summer. Turns out, writing recipes on the back of junk mail is not conducive to recreating those recipes in the future. Who'da thought? So, by the end of day two, I gave up on the confetti cake and decided to move on to better (read: easier) things - my version of a Twix bar. They were delicious (and tasted like a better version of the real deal, according to Thom), but the shape was all sorts of wrong (I made them in tartlet pans, which resulted in something much larger than any candy bar should be). So, I attempted to make fancy Twix bars, with crumbly vanilla bean crust and dark chocolate ganache topping. And just when I thought things were going swimmingly, I cut into one of the tartlets and the ganache decided to separate from the caramel. Not pretty, you guys. Not pretty at all. Also, I may or may not have had a meltdown on the dining room floor.

Speculoos swirl brownies

Defeated, I threw in the towel (both metaphorically and literally), poured myself an oversized mug of coffee, and went to take a hot bath by candlelight. The bath of shame, I like to call it. Where I attempted to wash myself clean of the negative energy and bad juju that were trapped within the confines of my body. I was sweating it out when Thom decided to come in and sit down, next to the tub. I wanted to be like HELLO! Can't you tell I'm in the midst of cleansing my body of free radicals, and shit? But instead I looked at him, hung my head, then mumbled something about being a terrible baker.

I expected him to tell me that I'm a wonderful baker and that no other baker could make his belly as happy as I do. But instead he laughed. HE LAUGHED! (He probably threw an eye roll in there, too.) I looked at him and wanted to cry as he told me how ridiculous I was being. And that it's completely normal to have off days every once in a while. I believe he also said something along the lines of it being healthy for one's ego. So my deflated ego and I got out of the bath and back in the kitchen. Speculoos swirl brownies needed to be made. And so they were; made and devoured. And now I have the recipe for you. My little victory brownies.

Speculoos spread
Chocolate chips | Homemade vanilla extract

Today marks one year of Oh, Ladycakes! And to celebrate, I'm giving away five bottles (yes, 5) of my homemade (and organic! and fair trade!) vanilla extract. But you have to go to my Facebook page to find out the details on how to win. (Hint: look for the most recent photo of the vanilla extract.) (Second hint: it's probably the first photo on my page.) Ok, if you don't have a Facebook account (I applaud you), you can leave a comment telling me.. that you're leaving a comment to be entered to win the vanilla extract because you've successfully avoided getting roped into aforementioned social networking site. I'm still applauding you. And thinking that you deserve a bottle of vanilla extract based on that premise alone. Seriously, wow.

UPDATE: Giveaway is closed. Winners have been notified. Thanks for participating!

Notes: You can use any flour you want. I've used whole wheat, unbleached and gluten free (not that it matters, as speculoos spread contains gluten) - but I liked the spelt version the best. I know people are going to ask about substituting coconut oil, but here's the thing - I haven't tried it. So, proceed with caution. And yes, you can substitute any variety of sugar; coconut, sucanat, maple, whatever your little belly desires.

SPECULOOS SWIRL BROWNIES

1 1/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup cacao powder
3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons flax meal
1/4 cup filtered water
6 tablespoons non-hyrdogenated shortening
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond milk
2-4 tablespoons speculoos spread
, melted

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 9" round (or square) baking pan with parchment paper; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cacao powder, salt and baking soda; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the flax meal and water; put in freezer to set. In a double boiler over medium heat, stir together the shortening, chocolate chips, sugar and vanilla extract. Don't worry about really stirring it until the shortening and chocolate start to melt. Once they do, stir just until the mixture is combined. Remove from heat and stir in the almond milk.

Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the flax mixture and chocolate mixture; stir with a wooden spoon until combined, then whisk until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and level with the back of a spoon. Drizzle melted speculoos over batter then swirl using the end of a knife (or your finger). Wrap pan on the countertop a few times until the batter is level. Bake at 350˚F for 24-26 minutes. Allow to cool in pan. Store in an air tight container for up to five days.

Yield: 8 slices