Baking has been a hobby of mine since I was very young, way before I had my own income and could afford my own supplies. I always wanted the best quality ingredients and didn’t understand how expensive this could be! I’d turn my nose up at supermarket own brands and would go straight to the premium flour and fancy french butter purely because I believed if it’s expensive, it must be better! It wasn’t until I started earning my own money that I realised how expensive baking can be! Sure, you can build your ingredients up like I do and buy in larger quantities but if you aren’t baking every week, what’s the point? All you’ll end up with is out of date flour and no room in your pantry.
Since moving in to our new home I definitely have gained some financial awareness. Meals out are few and far between and replaced with the occasional guilty trip to the pub and I’m trying to avoid clothes shops like the plague but, my spending on ingredients has not changed at all, something in my head meant I just couldn’t compromise. It wasn’t until I saw one of my shopping receipts that I had a slight reality check, could I really afford to try two new recipes a week at that price? To avoid over dramatising, yes, technically I could, but I definitely didn’t want to!
Which brings us to my budget bakes segment! I decided to head at an ungodly hour, (before work) to buy only the cheapest ingredients for brownies! My question was, can these really taste as good as baking with premium priced ingredients? My rules were very simple, buy all the ingredients that the recipe needed, buy only the cheapest option and don’t lose the receipt! I choose the BBC Good Food Best Ever Brownie Recipe partly because it looked delicious but mainly because listed in it’s ingredients is ‘best dark chocolate.’ Well, I’m going to try and prove this isn’t needed.
My ingredients: sugar £1.20, coco powder £1.80, flour 45p, eggs £1, milk chocolate 45p, white chocolate 45p, plain chocolate 45p x2, butter £1.50.
Overall I spent £7.75 on ingredients and 10p on a Tesco bag for life – oops. These were the cheapest ingredients I could find apart from the eggs, I will only ever by free range or organic so I wasn’t compromising there. My Tesco isn’t the largest so I do think it’s possible to buy even cheaper but generally the rule is, if it’s own brand you probably won’t find a cheaper alternative. I do actually think this is quite expensive, granted usually I personally wouldn’t buy flour or sugar as these are a staples in my pantry but, I will use these and I wanted to see what one simple recipe would cost. My main and quite major concern was the every day chocolate, as this was such a dominant ingredient I thought there might be a chance it ruins the whole recipe!
I started by melting the plain chocolate and butter together over a pan of simmering water. The chocolate and butter blended together perfectly and after having a sneaky taste test I was pleasantly surprised! I then cracked 3 eggs in to a large mixing bowl and added the sugar. Now comes the tricky part, I don’t own an electric whisk, I know. Madness. I grabbed my hand whisk and whipped the sugar and egg mixture for about 15 minutes. All I can say is my arms are burning as I type this. The mixture was soft and fluffy so I folded the silky cooled chocolate mixture carefully in to the eggs and once this was done continued to fold in the flour and coco powder. and then added the white chocolate pieces.
Once everything was combined I popped the mixture in to a preheated oven at 160 fan. I baked the brownies for 25 minutes until crispy on top and then removed from the oven to completely cool in the baking tray. It smelled delicious! Once cooled I cut in to small squares, admired my creation and then took numerous pictures, these really were, the perfect brownies.
Now for the taste test, can my cheap chocolate really produce heavenly brownies? The answer is, oh yes! These were amazing! Maybe the best brownies I have ever made. Gooey on the inside, crispy on the outside. Light but SO indulgent. I loved them even more because of the cheap as chips ingredients. It just proved that you don’t have to spend an absolute fortune to have a quality product… Now I understand why Betty Crocker turns such a large profit. Take note future me.
So my conclusion for budget bakes is, very simple. Buy cheap ingredients, save a fortune and be happy with a little bit of extra cash in the bank!