For the duration of this post, please pretend that it’s still Tuesday. This also involves pretending that I didn’t have to spend yesterday thoroughly cleaning the flat for our inspection today (as it’s our penultimate inspection, the estate agents told us they’d point out “problem areas” that we need to sort before we move out – I figured I should probably make an effort to avoid the whole flat being labelled as one giant “problem area”), that I didn’t have to go to bed at 9pm with an eye migraine (don’t worry, I’m absolutely fine again) and that I totally had time to bake and write a blog post.
So, today is the first Tuesday of the month (ahem), which means it’s Zoosday Tuesday! I hope you’re excited…! I’ve just realised that I completely forgot to do Zoosday Tuesday last month. Woops. I think the blame can be aportioned between my general disorganisation and scatty-brainedness and the Dissertation (of Doom) which was due two days later and thus took up all of my time. Oh well, never mind. Back to this month. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to bake for today, nor which animal I was going feature, right up until Monday evening when the combination of a postcard on my wall and half a box of custard powder (not attached to my wall) that needs to be used inspired me to make chocolate and custard icebox cookies again, but in ladybird form! The chocolate dough would clearly work for the black head, and the elytra (the spotted case covering its wings) could be made from custard dough with added red food colouring. Simple and straightforward! Ok, there aren’t going to be any legs, but it’s a cookie, not an anatomical model for a museum display.
Today (actual today – Wednesday – even though we’re pretending it’s Tuesday) turned out to be a bit of an odd day. The day basically revolved around baking these cookies. I started off making the dough this morning, which was interspersed by the flat inspection (which it turned out I didn’t have to spend an entire day cleaning in preparation for. They didn’t even notice the icing sugar explosion that had already occurred in the kitchen by the time they arrived. Never mind, at least I have a super-clean flat) and a visit by one of the people living here next year. Having prepared both doughs, I suddenly realised that it would be much more fun to make the red part chilli-flavoured! So I added some cayenne pepper to the custard dough, though the quantities were total guesswork. Then I went out for lunch so the cookies had to be put on hold.
Post lunch, time to actually bake the cookies. This turned out to be a lot more eventful than your average cookie-baking session. The first batch went smoothly. The second batch not so much. Through sheer stupidity, I accidentally managed to set some baking parchment on fire (nothing remotely serious, don’t worry – in fact I put it out so quickly that the smoke alarm didn’t even have time to go off) and also burnt myself by trying to pick up a baking tray that I’d just taken out of the oven. Then about 10 minutes after the baking parchment incident, the doorbell went. I opened the door to find two firemen standing there. How did they know? I wasn’t aware the fire department operates a telepathic service. Turns out they don’t and were just here to check the fire extinguisher. I’m quite glad I managed to avoid setting further bits of paper on fire whilst they were here. I feel that might have been a bit awkward. Instead, I fed them half-decorated cookies before they left. Please tell me these sorts of random situations don’t only happen to me?
So how did the (eventful) cookies turn out? Rather scrumptious, though I thought they were rather on the peppery side. That’s more of a personal taste thing, and Kat and one of her friends who both taste-tested them thought they were delicious. I think you’ll agree that they are also super-duper cute, so I’m declaring them a success! Now, I should probably conclude what has turned into a rather epic post with a reminder that you can stop pretending it’s Tuesday (thanks for humouring me)…
Chilli & chocolate icebox ladybird cookies
Makes about 32 cookies
Adapted from Diamonds for Dessert
These obviously don’t have to be made as ladybirds – any pattern would work (though you might want to adjust the quantities of custard, cayenne and cocoa so that the dough is split 50:50). The amount of cayenne depends very much on personal taste, so do be sure to check the dough before you add more! Chilli powder would also work, but again, check the dough as you add. For the red food colouring, if you have a paste, use that as you’ll need less to get a vibrant colour. Adding black colouring to the chocolate dough is optional, but it will make the heads darker.
For the cookies:
170g caster sugar
65g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
45g custard powder
3-4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
Red food colouring
15g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
Black food colouring (optional)
For the decoration:
A few squares white chocolate
50g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
1. Cream together the butter and both sugars. Mix in the egg yolks one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. Split off a quarter of the mixture and set aside.
2. Sift 215g of flour and the custard powder into a large bowl containing ¾ of the butter mixture and mix until a dough begins to form (I used my hand whisk, and the mixture went all crumbly before coming together). Add the cayenne pepper and red food colouring, and mix until the dough comes together (you may need to use your hands). Place the chilli dough on a piece of cling film and roll into a log of about 4-4.5cm diameter.
3. Sift the remaining 75g of flour and the cocoa powder into another bowl and add the remaining butter mixture to it. Mix until a dough forms, adding a few drops of black food colouring if using. Place the chocolate dough on a sheet of cling film and roll it into a thin log of the same length as the chilli dough roll.
4. Lay the thin chocolate dough roll along the top of the wider chilli dough roll, smoothing the joins with your fingers. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 15mins.
5. Line two baking sheets with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Once the dough is firm, remove the log from the fridge, and slice it into slices of about 8mm thickness. Place the slices onto the baking sheets (leave enough space between them so that they can spread out a little bit in the oven) and refrigerate for a further 10 minutes.
6. Bake the cookies for 12-15mins. Leave the cookies on the baking sheets for 3mins before removing to a wire rack to cool fully before decorating.
7. Melt a few squares of white chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Use a toothpick (or a piping bag with a fine tip) to dab the eyes of the ladybirds.
8. Melt the dark chocolate in another heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Use a piping bag with a fine tip to delineate the elytra and draw the spots (the spots don’t have to be the same on every ladybird).
9. Allow the chocolate decorations to set completely before piling the cookies onto a serving plate or into an airtight box for storage.