“My aim was to stop myself from eating the whole thing while recipe testing, but I discovered that if you freeze the flourless chocolate cake, then it tastes like Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. Which made me eat more of it obviously,” says Jessica Elliott Dennison.
This cook, author of Salad Feasts and Tin Can Magic, and owner of Edinburgh’s Elliott’s Kitchen and Workshop, is releasing a new book, Lazy Baking, on September 30. Her adventures in recipe creation have resulted in some spectacular-sounding creations.
These include one-cup pancakes and thumbprint cookies, grapefruit drizzle loaf, cheddar and mustard scones and the intriguing-sounding Marmite brownies (recipe below), as well as that flourless chocolate cake.
Although Dennison Elliott’s Sciennes Road cafe is known for its savoury wares, especially its ever popular sage-fried eggs, it’s also a top destination for cakes. Before she’d even come up with the idea for her book, to cater to customer demand, this cook found herself streamlining recipes, so she could fill the bakery counter and provide puddings for their pop-up events.When something would usually require seven ingredients, she’d try to reduce that to just two or three.
“I wondered if that for less confident home cooks, or people that consider themselves as “non bakers”, these recipes may be of some use,” says this cook, who worked in food marketing, product development and as a freelance food stylist, before opening Elliott’s in 2018. “Even if you don't want to spend hours learning to become a highly technical baker, it’s always nice knowing you have trusty recipes on hand to whip up a simple birthday cake for a loved one, an amazing batch of cookies or a loaf cake for the bake sale at work. I’m motivated to help people become more confident in the kitchen”.
Her process of designing recipes involves jotting down key ingredients, then having a “play”. She’s not precious about techniques and believes that anyone can cook, they “just need the right recipes”. Elliot Dennison’s favourite cook and author is Nigel Slater, who similarly creates simplified dishes that, as she says, are “driven by mood, hunger or the seasons”.
“If it turns out well, I’ll repeat it, but note down what I’m doing, the timings and measurements etc,” she says. “Most of my recipes come from seeing what’s already in the fridge or cupboard”.
For Lazy Baking, Elliott Dennison put a call out on Instagram, during lockdown, for people to test out her shortlist of recipes. She was inundated with guinea pigs, so her family, customers and friends have appraised every dish in the book.
“It became a proper community effort,” she says. “The honest feedback and insight from our customers was invaluable and more than anything, I was grateful that they shared the testing workload at such a busy time - thanks guys!”
After the book release, Elliott Dennison will be focusing on her businesses, which had to adapt fast during the pandemic.
“As 27 Sciennes Road is so small, we’ve evolved the kitchen space to be take-away, with lots of incredible ingredients and kitchenware available to browse, including our own jams and pickles,” she says. “Although the original plan for 21 Sciennes Road was to be a permanent shop, the space has become the Elliott’s Workshop. It’s currently where we run our mail order, and we have VERY exciting plans for the space in 2022, but I can’t share much more than that for now!”
Lazy Baking by Jess Dennison (Hardie Grant, £16.99) Photography ©Matt Russell
MAKES 16 brownies
TAKES 20 minutes, plus 25 minutes baking time
The inclusion of Marmite in a brownie may sound slightly odd, but trust me on this. The salty yeast spread naturally seasons the chocolate in the cake mixture, meaning it tastes even richer and fudgier. Of course, you can just use a generous pinch of sea salt if you don’t have any Marmite (or Vegemite, if you’re from the Southern Hemisphere) in the house.
200g good-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
150g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Marmite or Vegemite
250g caster sugar
50g plain flour
80g almonds or hazelnuts (either skin-on or blanched)
1 First, preheat the oven to 160°C fan (350°F/gas 4) and line a 23-cm (9-in) square baking tin (pan) with baking paper.
2 Next, gently melt the chocolate, butter and Marmite together in a large bowl set above a pan of gently simmering water, ensuring the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Once
melted and melded together, set aside to cool slightly.
3 Using a balloon whisk in a separate large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar. Gently ladle in a few spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture, whisking continuously to ensure the batter
4 Pour in the remaining chocolate mixture, while whisking continuously – if you continue to whisk, your batter won’t split but will thicken beautifully. If it does split, donʼt panic – simply
blitz with a stick (immersion) blender for a few seconds to bring everything back together.
5 Using a spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold in the flour and almonds or hazelnuts until just combined.
6 Scrape the batter into the lined tin and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes or until a lovely crust forms on top of the brownie. Allow to cool completely in the tin before cutting
7 These brownies keep well in an airtight container for up to 3 days.