Monthly Archives: June 2011

A June adventure at the St Andrews Farmers’ Market

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’ve neglected my blog somewhat over the past couple of weeks, mostly on account of Graduation and my laptop’s general unhelpfulness.  However, I intend to get my blogging back on track and post more regularly once again.  Before I launch into today’s post though, I have some related and exciting news to share.  I was asked a while ago by Visit St Andrews to write a guest post about the St Andrews Farmers’ Market, and after some serious disorganisation on my part and a distinct lack of cooperation on the part of my laptop, I finally sorted that out and it was published on Friday!  Do forgive me for being slightly over-enthusiastic about this, but it’s my first ever guest post!!

When I was at the Farmers’ Market a few weeks ago, one of the stalls had some wonderful-looking duck breasts.  Now, I love duck, so I was seriously tempted, though I had no special occasion coming up that would justify buying duck and I was going down to Edinburgh for a couple of days anyway, so there wasn’t much point in buying lots of meat.  And then I realised that I could freeze them until an occasion presented itself.  I’m awfully good at justifying purchases if I really want them.  It’s a bit of an issue in my life.  Anyway, Craig crashed my sofa for a few days at the start of Grad Week, and that seemed as good a reason as any to defrost the duck (well, that and the fact that I have to clear out my freezer since I’m moving out in less than a week).  Once they’d defrosted, I realised that I’ve never actually cooked duck before.  Oh dear.

After a quick trawl through all my recipe books and an online search, we decided on a basic cherry and port sauce to go with the duck, with some green beans on the side.  Simple but delicious.  In theory.  Just before dinner time, we ended up stopping off in the Russell Hotel bar on the corner of my street because it happens to be halfway between home and wherever we’d just been and it was pouring with rain (I told you I was good at justifying things).  We stole the idea of adding kirsch from their Graduation menu, and decided that a gratin dauphinois would be a wonderful addition to the meal.  Which it was, but it also takes forever to cook, so I think we didn’t end up eating until around 20h30 or something silly like that.  Woops.  The duck also turned out to have been plucked slightly oddly so that the ends of some of the quills were still stuck in the skin and we couldn’t get them out, so we had to cut the skin off before eating (hardly the end of the world, but frustrating nonetheless).  We also got so distracted by the port and the duck that we may or may not have completely forgotten about the green beans.  Woops.  I also accidentally over-cooked the duck so it was a bit on the dry side (sorry Craig!!).  Major woops.  The sauce however, was delicious, and in my opinion, well worth the wait.  So even though I ruined the duck a bit, it wasn’t all bad, thankfully!

Seared duck breasts with a cherry & port sauce

Serves 2
Adapted from The Times Online

I’ve slightly reduced the cooking times for the duck since mine turned out slightly dry, but this also depends on your preferences for how you like your meat cooked.  I’d suggest using these as guidelines more than times set in stone.  The sauce can be prepared beforehand, except for the final stage of adding the butter.  I served this with a gratin dauphinois, which was utterly delicious.

Ingredients

2 x 225g duck breasts
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:
300ml port
50ml kirsch
Large sprig of rosemary
150g fresh cherries
10g cold butter, cubed

Directions

1.  Place the port, kirsch and rosemary sprig in a medium saucepan, and bring to the boil.  Allow to bubble for 10-15 mins (depending on how much you’d like to reduce your sauce).  Meanwhile, stone and halve all the cherries.  Set aside.

2.  Whilst the sauce is starting to cook, score the skin of the duck breasts with a sharp knife and rub well with seasoning.  Heat a frying pan over low heat (do not add any butter or oil) and once hot, add the duck breasts skin-side down.  Leave for 8-10 mins until the skin is golden brown and crisp and the fat has nearly all been extracted.  Increase the heat slightly and turn the duck breasts over and cook for a further 2-3 mins (apparently the meat should feel springy when pressed if you want it cooked to medium).  Remove to a warm plate and allow to rest for 5 mins.

3.  Once the sauce has been bubbling for 10-15 mins, remove the sprig of rosemary and add the halve cherries, allowing to simmer for a further 5-10 mins (stop here if preparing the sauce in advance, then when required, gently re-heat before adding the butter).  Turn the heat down and whisk in the butter a cube at a time until the sauce is smooth and glossy.  Season to taste.

4.  Slice the duck breasts, fan out onto a serving plate (or individual plates), pour the cherry and port sauce over the top and serve.

Enjoy!

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Strawberry & Pimm’s jam

Last week was Graduation Week here in St Andrews (I graduated on Wednesday, which means that, for now at least, I’m suddenly no longer a student – my gosh, how did this happen?!), so things over the last two weeks have been rather on the hectic side.  There’s been a lot of running around, various half-hearted attempts at packing, meeting up with people for one last coffee/game of pool/drink/lunch, etc., a lot of celebrating and many goodbyes.  On top of all of that, my laptop is very rapidly nearing the end of its lifespan, resulting in a lot of frustration whenever I try and write anything up (if you’re familiar with the Blue Screen of Death or the Black Screen of Incomprehensible Scrolling Text, then you’ll know what I mean).  So my rather rambly point is that I’m afraid I’ve neglected my poor blog somewhat, resulting in a slight back-log of recipes, including this lovely jam that I made just over two weeks ago.

Now, I love home-made jam (who doesn’t?!) and it always reminds me of making jam during summer holidays at my French grand-parents house when I was younger using the fruit from their garden.  My French grandma had an ancient (to me) pair of kitchen scales that you had to balance out using weights and so on, and I thought that they were great fun to play with.  So actually, what really happened was that I played with the scales and generally got in the way and probably ate a fair proportion of the fruit, my mum did all the hard work of actually making the jam (stirring, pressing, etc.), my grandma sat at the table and probably told me off for getting in the way and mucking around and occasionally helping my mum, and my grandpa went off gallivanting in the garden.  The end product was jam though, and gosh was it good jam!  Unfortunately, we haven’t made jam since I was about 15 or 16, because my French grandparent’s house has been sold now, and we don’t have a garden in Edinburgh, nor do I have one in St Andrews.  Sad times.

My mum suggested that we make strawberry jam last summer, but I’m not really a huge fan of strawberry jam – I often find it a little too sweet and I’m not too keen on the big lumpy bits that you often get (picky?  Me?), so that didn’t end up happening.  However, we’ve had a lot of really tasty strawberries this year, and when I saw a recipe for strawberry & Pimm’s jam in BBC Good Food, I absolutely had to try it.  Now, I don’t know about you, but in my world (and most of St Andrews) it’s pretty much always Pimm’s o’clock.  Never mind that the recipe was still for strawberry jam, strawberry and Pimm’s is a fabulous combination, and it sounded delicious.  I’m also submitting this recipe to this month’s Simple and in Season blog event, even though I already used strawberries for the same event last month.  But they’re so delicious and still seasonal, so I’m not too bothered!

I won’t lie to you, I was a little bit nervous about making jam by myself – I’ve only ever been involved in making jam when there have been other people around who actually know what they’re doing.  But the recipe looked straightforward and detailed enough, there was no straining fruit through muslin or anything, and I even have a sugar/jam thermometer, so I took advantage of Tesco’s apparent failure to estimate the quantities of strawberries they would sell and snapped up a lot of very tasty strawberries at super-reduced prices.  Win!  The jam turned out to be really quite easy.  Yes, you do have to watch the temperature a bit, and I did think the jam was going to bubble over the top of the pot at one point (it didn’t), but there was nothing especially difficult to do.  Jam-making is as much fun and smells as wonderful as I remember!  And the jam turned out to be rather delicious – the Pimm’s comes as more of a subtle after-taste and also means that the jam isn’t too sweet at all, and I made sure to mash it up a bit at the end to avoid the lumpy bits that I don’t like.  If you’re not keen on having alcohol at breakfast time, this jam would go wonderfully on scones for afternoon tea.  Or served with Pimm’s.  Yummy…

Strawberry & Pimm’s jam

Makes just under 6 x 350g jars
Adapted from BBC Good Food (June 2011)

This is a soft-set jam, presumably mostly as a result of the added Pimm’s and gin.  It is wonderful for breakfast, but would also be delicious on scones with afternoon tea or served with a pitcher of Pimm’s.  To sterilise the jars, wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water before placing on a baking tray and placing in an oven on low heat until fully dried (about 10 mins or so).  Apparently choosing just-ripe strawberries will help the jam set, though the ones I used were quite ripe and the jam worked absolutely fine.

Ingredients

1.5 kg strawberries
1 kg jam sugar
2 lemons
1 orange
4 tbsp Pimm’s No. 1 cup
1 tbsp gin

Directions

1.  Place a few saucers in the freezer to be used later (I ended up using 4 or 5).

2.  Hull and halve or quarter the strawberries, depending on how large they are.  Place them in a preserving pan or large pot (the jam will increase in volume when bubbling away, so make sure the strawberries only come half-way up the side of the pot or so).  Using a potato masher, give the strawberries a good mashing until quite juicy (if you like lumpy jam then don’t mash too much).  Stir in the sugar and place the pan over a low flame, stirring occasionally, and taking care that the jam does not boil.

3.  Once all the sugar has dissolved, stir in the juice from the lemons and orange and turn up the heat.  Once a fast boil – 105°C on a preserving thermometer – has been reached, time the jam for 10 mins.  After 10 mins, place 1 tsp of jam onto one of the frozen saucers and place in the fridge (allow the jam to continue on fast boil).  After 1 min in the fridge, push your finger through the jam on the saucer.  If the jam wrinkles (this may sound strange, but you’ll be able to tell exactly what I mean when it happens), then it is ready.  If not, allow the jam to continue on fast boil for a further 2 mins before testing again.  As soon as the jam is ready, remove the pan from the heat.

4.  Allow to cool for 30 mins, then skim away any scum from the top of the jam.  Mash the jam slightly more if necessary (this depends on your taste), before stirring in the Pimm’s and gin.  Ladle the jam into sterilised jars (a jam funnel helps considerably).

Enjoy!

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Breakfast Club #12: Berry crumble bars

I was super-enthusiastic about the theme for this month’s Breakfast Club challenge, which is “Berries,” chosen by Nayna at simply.food.  Along with warm sunshine, summer berries have to be one of my favourite things about summer.  Fife seems to have a lot berry farms, and I think it might be one of the main raspberry-producing areas in the UK – with good reason, because the local raspberries are absolutely scrumptious.  So that’s one of my favourite summer things sorted.  As for sunshine, well, although St Andrews is apparently one of the sunniest spots in the UK, I still feel that the heat of a proper summer is distinctly lacking.  I suppose you can’t have  everything, and it would seem that local, tasty summer berries and a hot, sunny summer are too much to ask for.  So, as a whole bunch of clouds appear out of nowhere and the temperature drops to prove my point, let’s focus on the fruit.

There are so many breakfast possibilities involving berries, and the first that sprang to mind were granola, pancakes or muffins.  I decided that I wanted to try something a little less obvious, particularly since I have time to try things out at the moment (and all those baking supplies that I need to work my way through).  I happened across a recipe for some fruity crumble bars the other day, and not only did they look super tasty but the recipe was easy to adapt depending on whatever fruit you want to use.  So I decided to try the recipe out last night, ready for breakfast this morning.

Since Tesco (my local supermarket) conveniently had a whole bunch of locally-grown berries at half price, I decided to make the crumble bars with a selection of berries.  I picked up some raspberries, blueberries and strawberries (they didn’t have any blackberries sadly) and headed home to attempt the bars.  In a vague attempt to make this slightly healthier, I added some porridge oats to the crumble mixture, which worked nicely, adding a little bit of subtle crunch.  I actually really enjoyed having these for breakfast, they’re filling and tasty and a little different from what I usually tend to eat for breakfast, but they would also work as a post-lunch or mid-afternoon snack if cut into smaller squares, although they’re quite crumbly and not necessarily all that transportable unless in a box.

Berry crumble bars

Makes 12 squares
Adapted from Shop.Cook.Make

You can easily adapt these depending on which fruits you have at home or are in season.  You can also use whichever type of jam you want, and if you really like marmalade, you can also use that (I did, and it was yummy, though make sure to spread it thinly so the bitterness of the peel doesn’t overpower the rest of the bar too much!).  I was worried that keeping them overnight in an air-tight box would make them go a bit soft, but they were absolutely fine.

Ingredients

230g all-purpose flour
50g porridge oats
150g demerrera sugar
225g unsalted butter
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
Pinch salt
Jam of your choice, to spread
200g of mixed fresh berries or fruit

Directions

1.  Line a 19 x 25 cm baking tin with baking parchment (this will make it easier to lift out of the tin when cooled so that it can be cut into squares).  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.

2.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg.  Cut the butter into small cubes and add to a large bowl with the flour, oats, sugar, beaten egg, baking powder, vanilla extract and salt.  Work the ingredients together using your hands to make a lumpy crumbly mixture (don’t worry if you think that the mixture is unlikely to turn into anything resembling the end product, or is a lot more buttery than a normal crumble mixture – this is normal).

3.  Gently press about half of the crumble mixture into the baking tin.  Spread a thin layer of jam/marmalade over the top of the crumble mix, leaving an edge of about 1cm.  Spread the washed and dried fruit (if using strawberries, do chop them up, and rip raspberries or blackberries in half as well) over the top of the jam, and then crumble the rest of the crumble mixture over the top of the fruit.  Don’t press the mixture down, but make sure that it’s more or less evenly spread across the bars.

4.  Bake for about 45 mins, until golden on top.  Allow to cool fully (it will harden up as it cools, which should take about 40-50 mins or so) before lifting out of the tin and slicing into squares.

Enjoy!

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Happy (belated) World Gin Day 2011!

Yes, that’s right, yesterday was World Gin Day!  In case you don’t already know, I’m quite a big gin fan, so I don’t think I don’t have to tell you quite how enthusiastic I was about a whole day dedicated to gin…  (By the way, if you don’t like gin, I wouldn’t really bother with the rest of this post.)

I obviously wasn’t going to let World Gin Day slip away without making something gin-related.  I was originally going to do something in the form of baked goods (for a change), but none of my fellow gin-lovers are currently here in St Andrews, and I feel that eating an entire batch of gin-packed baked goods of whatever description all by myself smacks somewhat of alcoholism and very much of loneliness.  So I’ve had to change my plans a little.  Never fear though, I’ve still got something exciting for you…

I needed to find something that could either be made in an individual portion or could be stored for a while.  I was drawing a blank on something that I could make an individual portion of, which left finding something that I could make and have a little bit of today and then store for a while until everybody gets back.  I decided to make a Gin & Tonic granita, which is basically a Slush Puppie (remember those?  I haven’t one in forever!) but alcoholised.  With the bonus that it can be stored in the freezer, though it might require some vigorous stirring to break up the crystals after a few days.

As I was looking up G&T granita recipes, a rather genius idea hit me: I could add some of the cucumber liqueur that I’ve not really sure what to do with.  It goes wonderfully with regular G&Ts, so there’s no particular reason why it wouldn’t work in a granita.  This turned out to be a rather inspired idea, if I do say so myself…  I thoroughly enjoyed my portion of the granita, and the rest is currently sitting quite contently in the freezer, waiting for Kat and Craig to drop by, or anybody else with a penchant for gin.  I only ran into one issue whilst making this: it took forever.  The recipe that I adapted stated that it required 2 hours of total freezing time.  However, the extra alcohol in the liqueur in addition to the increased quantity of gin that I used meant that the first ice crystals started forming in the granita about 4 hours after going into the freezer.  I totally forgot to take the higher alcohol content into account, and in total, the granita required a stint of about 9 hours in the freezer.  Nine hours.  Which is why this post is going up today rather than yesterday (I didn’t have time to sort the photos out last night).  Woops.  On the plus side, at least that means that you can just pop in the freezer and go about your daily business and just check on it from time to time when you’re home, without worrying about it.

Gin & Tonic granita

Makes about 1 litre
Adapted from delicious. online

The granita takes a while to freeze, so it would probably be a good idea to make it the day before you’re planning on serving it and then just stir it up enthusiastically just before serving up.  Although I’ve suggested serving it as a dessert in martini glasses or tumblers, the granita would also work perfectly served as an amuse-bouche in shot glasses.  It’s also quite yummy to drink when it melts.  Obviously, make sure you use a good quality gin because you’ll definitely be able to taste it – I chose Bombay Sapphire because it’s very aromatic.

Ingredients

100ml water
200g caster sugar
175ml gin (I used Bombay Sapphire)
75ml cucumber liqueur
500ml tonic water (without saccharin)
Cucumber slices, to garnish

Directions

1.  Heat the water and sugar together in a large saucepan for about 5 mins until all the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and mix in the gin, cucumber liqueur and tonic.  Allow to cool a little before pouring into a freezer-proof container and allowing to cool fully to room temperature before freezing.

2.  After about 4 hours, remove and break up any ice crystals that have formed using a fork, before returning to the freezer.  After about 1 ½ hours, remove the granita and once again break up any ice crystals up with a fork before returning to the freezer.  Repeat after 1 ½ hours, and once again after a further 1 ½ hours.  Just before serving, break the ice crystals up to Slush Puppie consistency, and serve in martini glasses or tumblers, each garnished with a slice of cucumber.

Enjoy!  (And just pretend it’s still World Gin Day!)

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Random Recipe #5: Black olive & sun-dried tomato mini loaves

Having sent all my academic books, folders and files down to Edinburgh with my mum about two weeks ago, my bookshelf here in St Andrews is now looking rather empty.  There’s something awfully desolate about empty bookshelves, don’t you think?  Although I’ve kept all my cookery books with me, so at least it’s not entirely empty yet, but it’s still a very sorry-looking bookshelf.  To be honest, I could easily survive for a month without recipes in book format, so I don’t need my cookery books with me, but they make the bookshelf look less depressingly empty and it also means I can take part in this month’s Random Recipe challenge (asking my mum to dig through several boxes to find the relevant recipe book, then a random recipe and then sending me a copy of said recipe would be a little bit over-complicated).

So, to justify keeping my cookery books up here with me, it’s time to do this month’s Random Recipe challenge, which has to come from our newest gifted cookery book.  In my case, this happens to be a lovely little book entitled Mini cakes, which was a present from one of my mum’s friends in France for my last birthday.  What we call cakes in France translates to loaves and quick breads in English rather than actual cake, which has occasionally lead to some serious confusion between my mum and I when discussing food whilst switching back and forth between languages.  Anyway, back to the recipe book – it contains both savoury and sweet recipes, and those that I’ve tried have all been yummy, so I was rather excited about trying out a new recipe from it.

When I was given the book, it also came with a great set of silicone mini loaf moulds.  Mini versions of things are (almost) always automatically adorable, and mini loaves (or “loaflets” as I sometimes like to call them) are no exception, so I was a little bit more excited than I probably should have been about trying out a new recipe from the book.  The random number button on my calculator directed me to page 26: a recipe for black olive and sun-dried tomato mini loaves, an appropriately summery-sounding recipe which I feel has “picnic food” stamped all over it.  I decided to bake these with a couple of modifications for lunch, and also decided to test the picnic theory by having lunch out in St Mary’s Quad.  They turned out so yummy that I will definitely be making them again soon, and the added bonus is that their mini loaf shape makes them very practical to take as part of a packed lunch/picnic.

Black olive & sun-dried tomato mini loaves

Makes 6-8 mini loaves
Adapted from Mini cakes

The original recipe calls for grated gruyère, but I used parmesan because I thought it would go better and I conveniently had some in the fridge anyway.  I also added oregano, to keep with the Mediterranean flavours.  These are tasty both warm or cold, and would make an excellent picnic food, perhaps accompanied by some chilled white wine…  If you want to make a single loaf of 26cm in length, add an additional ¼ of the ingredients and an extra egg, and cook for a little longer.

Ingredients

100g drained sun-dried tomatoes
100g drained & stoned black olives
70g parmesan
2 eggs
70 ml milk
70 ml olive oil
120g all-purpose flour
2 tsp dried oregano
1 heaped tsp baking powder (equivalent to 5.5g or ½ a French sachet)

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.  Butter and lightly flour the mini loaf tins or set out silicone moulds.

2.  Thoroughly drain the sun-dried tomatoes before roughly chopping them.  Drain the olives.  Slice 5-6 olives thinly and set aside to use for garnishing.  Halve the remaining olives.  Grate the parmesan.

3.  In a large bowl, gently beat the eggs, olive oil and milk together.  Add the flour, grated parmesan, tomatoes and halved olives along with the oregano and some salt and pepper and mix.  Gently mix in the baking powder.

4.  As soon as the baking powder has been incorporated, split the batter between the mini loaf tins.  Lay some olive slices over the top of each mini loaf and bake for about 30 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack (they’re tasty both warm and cold).

Enjoy!

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Zoosday (but not) Tuesday: Ladybird icebox cookies

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.

Ingredients

For the cookies:
225g butter
170g caster sugar
65g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
290g flour
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%)

Directions

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.

To decorate:
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.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

Peanut butter brownies

I’ve been baking a lot in the last week or so, due to a combination of factors.  Firstly, I’ve been feeling a little bit lonely – pretty much everybody I know has left St Andrews, though some will be back for Graduation in a few weeks.  Spending time in the kitchen is the obvious way to keep myself occupied.  There’s also a definite element of procrastination to it.  I have several things I should be doing – sorting out the rest of my life (Graduation is in less than a month), slowly continuing to pack up the flat (I move out in a month or so, and I’ve acquired a lot of stuff during four years of university), making a start on the thorough clean that the flat is going to need (we’ve lived in the same flat for three years, including the summers, so that’ll be fun) – but well, I’m sure you’d pick baking, too.  Thirdly, I was left with a lot of left over flour, sugar, butter, etc. by various people who’ve already moved out and didn’t want it to go to waste.  So really, I just have to bake, if only to work my way through the 6kg of three different types of flour I currently have stored in my kitchen (I’m not exaggerating).

I came across a recipe for peanut butter brownies in the May 2011 issue of BBC Good Food, but hadn’t quite got round to trying it out yet, so I gave it a go the other day.  The recipe conveniently finished off one of the 56 (ok, that’s a minor exaggeration) opened bags of self-raising flour that I have sitting around my kitchen at the moment and also used up most of a random spare jar of peanut butter that I had at the back of my cupboard, as well as making a slight dent in my epic chocolate reserves (seriously, if there’s ever a chocolate shortage, I could make a fortune on the black market.  The same goes for butter – I seem to unintentionally stock-pile it for some odd reason).  Hurrah for slowly getting through the food reserves!

The best bit about these brownies though, is that they are absolutely delicious and completely moreish.   That’s all there really is to say.  Though you have to be a serious lover of peanut butter, particularly of the crunchy variety.  Since peanut butter is the main ingredient, I don’t really think you’d enjoy these so much if you’re not really a fan…  Oh and you probably won’t enjoy them if you’re allergic to peanuts either (awkward?).  But otherwise, they’re great!  They’re also ridiculously easy, which might be an issue.  Just typing the recipe up makes me want to go and bake another batch.  Oh dear…

Peanut butter brownies

Makes 16 brownies
Recipe from BBC Good Food (May 2011)

As I said above, these are, quite frankly, super yummy and utterly moreish.  That’s all I really have to say, except that they’re also super easy!

Ingredients

225g crunchy peanut butter
200g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
280g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
100g self-raising flour

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.  Line a 19 x 25 cm brownie tin with baking paper.

2.  Add 175g of the peanut butter, 150g of the chocolate (broken into squares) and all the sugar to a large saucepan and melt together over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has just melted.

3.  Remove from the heat and briskly stir in the eggs one at a time using a wooden spoon or a spatula.  Add the flour and stir until fully incorporated.  Spread the batter into the prepared tin.

4.  In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 50g of peanut butter until runny.  Drizzle the peanut butter over the top of the brownie batter.  Bake for 25-30 mins until crusty on top but still fudgy in the middle.

5.  Melt the remaining 50g of chocolate in a small saucepan and drizzle over the top of the brownie once it has been removed from the oven.  Allow to cool in the tin before gently lifting the brownie out and cutting into squares (or cut in the tin if that’s easier – most of my baking tins are non-stick though so I can’t really do that).

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods