Category Archives: Cookies and biscuits

Masala chocolate cookies

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There’s no narrative words this week due to a lack of inspiration and a whole load of unfruitful perspiration. Yeah it’s been one of those weeks. Poor sleep, insecurities and eating feelings for dinner. But there’s cookies. There’s always cookies. And these guys are as good as it comes.

Keep pushing on,
Rx

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Masala chocolate cookies
Makes 10

200 g all-purpose flour
90g cocoa
¾ tsp bicarbonate soda
¾ tsp garam masala
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp salt
170 g softened unsalted butter
110 g light brown sugar
110 g caster sugar
1 medium egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g chocolate chips
30g whole almonds

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, bicarb, spices and salt so it’s uniform in colour and all the spices are distributed through the flour. Set this to one side.

Cream the softened butter, caster sugar a light brown sugar until pale and fluffy – the paler and fluffier, the better the cookies, so cream it like ya mean it.

Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined, followed by the flour mixture. Mix until it comes to a soft dough with no floury patches.

Set aside 12 chocolate chips and add the rest to the dough, mixing in well.

Weigh the cookie dough into 65g pieces (this way they’ll all be the same size – genius!) and roll into balls. Place the cookie dough balls in a Tupperware, stud the top of each with 2 almonds and a chocolate chip and freeze for at least an hour – until they’re frozen all the way through. This will help keep them chewy in the middle when you bake them.

Preheat your oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the frozen cookie balls about two inches apart on the baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes.
They’re done when they start to crisp round the edge but are still very much soft in the middle. Cook them to a crisp and you’ll have a crisp cookie – A real tough cookie.

Eat warm (advised) or leave to cool fully (sensible) on the baking tray.

*other thoughts on cookies

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Babs’ ‘Dunkies’

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Can I introduce you to someone? I wouldn’t say she’s a friend, more of an acquaintance really. The kind of acquaintance that boosts your self-esteem by refusing to believe you’re single and then makes it their personal duty to find you a husband. I’m sure you’ve had at least one. Babs is my one.

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She listens to the Archers religiously, grows gourds, and wears cords. I’d tell you off for stereotyping, but yes, Babs is what you’re imagining. She’s the sort of lady who has a cardigan to match her socks on any given day… and she has a lot of socks. ‘Funky’ is her favourite word.

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She sings in the local choir, only I picture her as more of a clicking side-stepper than a robed chorister. And she gives the best, warmest, squeeze-you-into-her-bosom-and-make-you-feel-whole hugs. Those that are both awkward and comforting all at once. Bosom.

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I think she’d make a mean bread and butter pudding. She thinks she makes quality biscuits: Bewitching boy biscuits.

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I mention her because, of all the dating advice that’s been thrown at me in the past  four years, hers is, by far, my favourite. I don’t know whether it’s because her suggestion was the most unlikely, unintentional innuendo I expected to come from this cardigan-clad 60 year old woman, or purely because she encouraged me to win boys with biscuits.
Either way, Babs thinks her ‘Dunkies’ are the way to my future lover’s heart – my new wing man.

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She pushed a scribbled recipe on a page from her handbag-sized notepad into my palm: ‘Babs’ Dunkies’.
“Men love munching on my Dunkies, they just can’t get enough. Perfect with a cup of tea. They’re nothing too delicate, quite robust and sturdy – not really for girls like us you know…”
…Seems feminism hasn’t quite reached Babs yet…
“…But I’ve won many men’s affections with these. Bake them and you’ll have a long line of suitors in no time at all”

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So I made them. I couldn’t resist. A little part of me wanted her to be right, for them to be the best biscuits I’ve ever made. Life-changing. Prophetic biscuits.
But well, they were funny things. Sort of a biscuit/cake/scone hybrid. The closest thing I can equate them to is a rock cake – a not-so-inspiring, raisin-studded boulder. And although my dating history might suggest I know little about the male psyche, I think they would agree. Soft, boring biscuits and no suitors for me.

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But before I gave a “thank you, but no thank you” to her advice, I found Babs wasn’t alone in believing that a biscuit could find me an admirer. An ancient tale tells of a Persian woman falling madly in love with the prince, and charming him by baking a cake full of pistachios, rose water and cardamom – Persian love cake. It worked for her. A girl can dream.

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So I’m not completely dismissing Babs’ advice, but taking it with a pinch of Persia and a different ‘dunkie’.
New wing (wo)man: Persian Love Biscotti. It’s worth a try.

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Persian Love Biscotti
Makes 10-12

Seeds of 3 cardamom pods, finely ground
Pinch of salt
120g plain flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
100g caster sugar
Zest of ½ lemon
1 medium egg
¼ tsp. rose water
100g pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp. dried rose petals
40g white chocolate

Preheat your oven to 140°C fan/160°C non-fan and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Finely grind the cardamom with the salt in a pestle and mortar and add into a large bowl with the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp. black sesame seeds, sugar and lemon zest. Mix to combine.

Make a well in the middle of the floury mixture and add the egg and a the rosewater (it’s super powerful, you’ll only want a little or it’ll taste like your gran’s soap).
Stir with a spoon, and then bring together into a firm dough with your hands. If it’s sticky add a little more flour.

Add the pistachios and ½ tbsp. rose petals into the bowl and knead into the dough till they’re evenly dispersed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a little. Roll the dough into a log, about 4cm in diameter and place on your baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes.

Leave the biscotti to cool for about 10 minutes, allowing the dough to firm up a bit.
Use a sharp knife to cut the log, on the diagonal, into 2cm thick slices.
Place these slices, cut side up, back onto your lined baking tray and place back in the oven to bake for 30 minutes (turning them over after 15 minutes) until golden and crisp.
Once baked and dry through to the middle, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Melt the white chocolate, drizzle over one end of the biscotti and sprinkle over the remaining rose petals and black sesame seeds.

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Golden star lebkuchen

Oh dear, the mad present dash is upon us. I told myself I would be prepared this year. I said I’d finish all my shopping by the 20th. I say that every year…

Strap on your best power striding shoes, gulp down that extra strong coffee, get yo game face on, it’s going to be one long endurance race till those gifts are under the tree – a slalom around aisles of dazed shoppers,  all trying their best to stand between you and the perfect present.

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When I’m on a present mission, I mean business. I shop like a man. None of that ‘mooching round town with friends’ … this girl takes no prisoners.

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Despite my conviction, I really struggle with the process of meaningful present buying. You know, the ones that have to be a bit more than a photo frame, a nice candle or pretty nail varnish.  Gifts for those who answer the question “What would you like for Christmas?” with “Something nice.”

“But I’m asking you because you are the most unbelievably difficult person to buy for and my perception of ‘nice’ is a million miles from yours. My ‘nice’ is a blow torch and a set of fine line piping nozzle. Yours is a book on how to develop natural glazes for handmade ceramics …”

Even Father Christmas requires a list …

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Much easier are the smaller, ‘you invited me round for lunch and I couldn’t come empty handed’, ‘Thank you for being utterly brilliant’, ‘Here’s a little something’ presents.  Probably because they can always be food. No-one ever turns their nose up at beautiful homemade treats. You’re always onto a winner.

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In this genre of gift-giving, Lebkuchen is like the Harry Potter or Pride and Prejudice of fiction. Timeless, satisfying, and it can be revisited time and time again. Although it does seem to be either a pivotal part of people’s Christmas food festivities or something they’ve never heard of.  I’m definitely the former. Lebkuchen stars take pride of place next to Grandma’s sausage rolls and mince pies at the post-church, pre-present stage of the day.

If you’re in the latter camp, let me educate you in the way of the Lebkuchen.  It’s a German biscuit with a cakey texture – does that makes it a cak-cuit, or maybe a bis-cake? You decide.  It’s spiced a bit like gingerbread, and is usually glazed in icing or chocolate. But I thought ‘hey, why not go to town and bring out the gold?’ It’s Christmas, after all.

Golden lebkuchen stars
makes 22
To make these biscuits dairy free, substitute the dark chocolate for water/royal icing

3 eggs
240g light brown sugar
240g plain four
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
¾ tbsp. ground ginger
¼ tbsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
125g ground almonds
The zest of ½ an orange
200g dark chocolate
1 can of edible golden spray (I use Dr Oetker)

Line baking trays with baking paper. Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and using an electric whisk, whisk until the mixture becomes thick, foamy and almost doubled in size. This’ll take about 5 minutes. Once it’s reached this stage remove it from the heat and continue to whisk for an additional 2 minutes.

Sift the flour, almonds, spices, cocoa and orange into the egg mixture and fold in to form an airy, soft dough. Cover the bowl in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Lightly grease a cookie cutter using a piece of paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Dust you surface in flour and roll out your dough to about 2cm thick. Using the cookie cutter, cut out stars and place on you baking tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they’re no longer stuck to the baking paper. Once cooked transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Melt the dark chocolate and dip each star, top first into the molten chocolate. I find stabbing a fork into the base of each biscuit and using this to dip can make this easier and less messy. Once the chocolate’s set spray each biscuit gold.

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Honey Biscuits

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Question: How do you know when you’re truly obsessed with baking? Answer: when you fall in love with cookie cutters.

It’s happened. I’ve fallen bad.

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Admit it, you want one like mine. If you fancy drooling over more cutters check this. They’re insane.

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I love baking with honey. It’s one of those ingredients that sees me through any season – it can be summery, springy, autumny, wintery and the weird in-betweeny-middley seasons. Perfect for today then. And tomorrow. Probably next week too. These biscuits actually last for ages without going stale so you can change that ‘probably’ to a ‘definitely’ and munch on them all week long. That’s if you can stop yourself from gobbling them up in one go. I dare you.

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These biscuits are super scrummy but even if all you do is eat the dough and they never make it to the oven you’ll still be happy. Whip out a spoon, forget what yo mumma told you and dive in. I’d even go as far as saying it’s better than raw brownie mix, and that’s saying something.

Bees, eat your heart out.

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Honey biscuits
Makes 10 sandwich biscuits

Honey biscuits
230g plain flour
3 tbsp. honey
50g unsalted butter
110g soft light brown sugar
½ tsp. ground ginger
1½ tsp. bicarbonate of soda

Honey buttercream
60g unsalted butter at room temp.
120g icing sugar
1 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. set honey

Grease 2 baking trays and preheat your oven to Gas mark 4.

Place the biscuit butter and honey in a small saucepan and heat until melted. Leave it to cool for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile weigh out all the dry ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour the molten butter mixture into the well and slowly stir to form a dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Dust your surface and rolling pin with a little flour and roll the dough out to about 3mm. Cut out your fun and quirky shapes and place about an inch apart on your baking trays. Bake for roughly 10 minutes, until golden but still soft to touch. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave for about 30 seconds to firm up slightly and then remove with a palette knife onto a cooling rack to crisp up and cool.

To make the buttercream, whisk the butter with an electric mixer until pale and soft. Add 2/3 icing sugar and the milk and whisk till thoroughly mixed. Next whisk in the honey and the remaining sugar until you have a smooth and airy buttercream – this usually takes about 5 minutes. Sandwich the biscuits together with the buttercream. They’ll keep in an airtight container for about a week.

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The ultimate chewy cookie

If one food summed up my past year it would be the large chewy cookie. The ones you can buy fresh from the bakery section in the Sainsbury’s across the road from my college. Do you know the ones I mean? They have been the saviour of many a dull and tired day. There may even have been a week here and there when a new packet was a daily occurrence. Those were bad weeks.

I know a guy who will eat a whole bag for his lunch most days and a girl for whom getting through two bags in a day isn’t a rarity. I must say I have actually run to the shop to buy a packet when my friend told me they’d just put out a new, warm batch. There were none left. Major disappointment.

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But come on, who doesn’t like a chewy cookie? My first week at college certainly answered that question: no-one. There didn’t seem to be a single person who wasn’t carrying round a packet of discount bakery cookies. It seemed such a small price to pay for five fresh, perfectly soft chocolate-studded beauties. The supermarket managed to tap right into what we needed, targeting weak-willed, energy-lacking students with the knowledge that buying a packet of these might make the day slightly less of a drag.

These baked delights set me thinking – there must be a way to recreate something similar in my own kitchen. Trying to make a chewy cookie is much harder than you’d think. It has taken months of testing and retesting recipes to reach this point but I’ve finally found something close. This recipe does make slightly darker, more buttery cookies than those I’m used to, due to the browned butter and brown sugar that add a slight nuttiness and caramel flavour that would benefit any cookie.

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For those of you who are seeing ‘browned butter’ and scratching your heads as to what it is, it’s simply ‘unsalted butter that’s melted over low heat and allowed to separate into butterfat and milk solids. The milk solids naturally sink to the bottom of the pan and, if left over gentle heat, will begin to brown.’ (Thank you very much, Wikipedia.) Essentially your butter will become brown and have a lovely nutty, slightly caramel-y flavour – a very cool phenomenon.

One thing I’ve learned is that you want to under-cook your dough. Trust me. Please. When you look in the oven and they’re only just going golden at the edges, that’s when you should take them out. Wait until they’re golden all over and you’ll have one tough cookie. You’ll be left with a biscuit, not a cookie and that would be very sad.
Undercooked=chewy
Cooked all the way through=not chewy at all
Don’t let it happen, please, for the sake of the cookie.

A eureka moment in developing this recipe (which yes, did include a dance routine in the kitchen) was after a friend said she’d heard somewhere that to make cookies chewy you need to remove the tray from the oven half way through cooking, and give it a few sharp taps on the work surface . It works. It actually works. It knocks out all the air that can make them a bit cakey and crunchy. This part of the recipe is essential – DO NOT miss it out, they won’t be the same. Extra chewiness is also thanks to honey, an egg yolk and cornflour.

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Dark chocolate and brown butter cookies
makes about 16 large cookies/24 smaller cookies

170g unsalted butter
150g soft light brown sugar
150g granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. vanilla extract
290g plain flour
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
1 ½ tsp. cornflour
½ tsp. salt
150g dark chocolate chunks

Place your butter in a small saucepan and heat until it’s melted. Once melted, turn up the heat and watch it like a hawk, it can easily go past ‘brown’ and onto black. It will start to bubble and spit; don’t be alarmed, just be careful. At a certain point it will start to foam and you will be unable to see below the very thick froth. Keep heating until it smells fragrant and the butter’s turned an amber colour. Take it off the heat and pour into the bowl to cool slightly. Make sure you scrape any little brown bits into the bowl as well; they’re what give it its flavour.

Mix the sugars into the browned butter and beat until paler in colour and no lumps remain. Whisk in the egg and yolk and then add the vanilla and honey. Mix in the flour, bicarbonate, cornflour and salt until you can’t see any flour. The dough will be quite soft. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Cover your bowl in Clingfilm and place it in the fridge for an hour or so.

Preheat oven to Gas mark 4/180°C. Grease your baking trays. Using an ice-cream scoop, place scoopfuls of the dough about 10cm apart on your baking trays. Place each tray in the oven for about 7-10 minutes or until the edges have started to go golden and the middle’s still quite soft. ½ way through this time, take them out of the oven, bang the tray sharply on a flat surface a couple of times and return to the oven. Once done, leave to cool on the tray for two minutes and then lift them on to a cooling rack.