Tag Archives: Biscuits

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits

I’m afraid that I’ve rather neglected the We Should Cocoa blog challenge over the last few months – another victim of my general disorganisation and just that whole life thing.  I had planned to sneak back into the challenge last month, with a knock-your-socks-off mango and chocolate twist bread (the special ingredient was “mango“).  I was, however, thwarted by my general inability to successfully work with yeast, and the bread came out a complete failure.  So much for that plan.

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits 1

We Should CocoaThis month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Victoria of A Kick At The Pantry Door, and she has chosen the marvellous ingredient of “mint“.  I have always been a fan of the truly fabulous combination of dark chocolate and mint, and was a champion Bendick’s Mint Crisp and After Eight snaffler as a child (and totally not still as an adult, ahem).  Luckily, this month I actually have an entry to send in, in the form of some rather scrumptiously adorable crème de menthe and chocolate sandwich biscuits.  Which I realise is quite a wordy recipe title.

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits 2

These biscuits go in for a double chocolate whammy – there’s cocoa powder in the biscuits themselves, and the filling in the middle is white chocolate based.  I know that white chocolate and mint can be quite sickly, but it’s only a thin layer, so actually it works, balanced by the cocoa powder in the biscuits.  The mint flavour is quite subtle, which I like.  The original recipe referred to them as wafers, but I feel that suggests that they’re quite crisp, whereas actually they’re more on the chewy side of the biscuit spectrum.  I love the little holes in the top biscuits – I think they’re rather cute.  I’d wanted to use a fluted cutter so that the holes would be all pretty and scalloped, but discovered that I didn’t have one small enough.  Next time!

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits 3

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits

Makes 45-48 sandwich biscuits
Adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies

If you don’t have any crème de menthe (or don’t want to use alcohol), you can also use peppermint extract, though in lesser quantities, particularly in the filling – taste as you go.  The biscuit dough can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for up to three days, or frozen up to three months.  To freeze the biscuit dough, form into a log, wrap in baking paper, followed by tin foil and seal in a ziplock bag or airtight container.  You might need to cut the log in two to fit.  The finished biscuits will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Ingredients

For the biscuits:
225g caster sugar
190g all-purpose flour
70g unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
200g unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp crème de menthe

For the filling:
150g white chocolate
1-2 tsp cream
1 tsp crème de menthe

Directions

To make the biscuits:
1.  Sift the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and stir together.  Rub in the butter with your fingers.

2.  Mix the milk and crème de menthe in a glass or ramekin.  Whilst mixing the sugar mixture with an electric whisk, pour in the milk mixture.  Mix until the dough clumps around the beaters.  Knead for a few minutes with your hands to make sure it is evenly mixed.

3.  Spread a 50cm piece of baking paper or tin foil out on the work top.  Roll the biscuit dough into a 40cm long log of about 4cm in diameter.  Wrap in the baking paper and twist the ends.  Refrigerate for at least 1h until firm.  The dough can be refrigerated for up to three days, or if keeping for longer, it can be frozen up to 3 months.

4.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C/fan 155°C.

5.  Once the dough is ready, slice into 4mm slices and space them at least 2cm apart on the prepared baking trays.  Refrigerate any slices not going straight into the oven.  Bake for 12-13 mins (they will puff up in the oven and are ready about 1½ mins after they’ve deflated again).  Using a bottle cap (a wine screw cap works excellently – I found that beer caps were a bit more difficult to get a grip on.  An apple corer would also work in a pinch) cut a circle in the centre of half of the biscuits.  Leave the cut-out centres in until cool – take care as the biscuits are quite fragile.  Remove the biscuits to wire racks to cool fully.

To make the filling & assemble:
6.  Once the biscuits are completely cooled, prepare the filling.  Break or chop the white chocolate into small pieces and add to a heat-proof bowl with the cream.  Melt together over a saucepan of barely simmering water.  Once the white chocolate is smoothly melted, remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the crème de menthe.  Don’t worry if the chocolate seizes up.

7.  Spread about ½ tsp of the filling onto each of the base biscuits and top with one of the biscuits with a hole.  Allow to set before serving.

Enjoy!

PS – The raw biscuit dough is really quite tasty.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Earl Grey & lemon melting moments

It would appear that posts on Sharky Oven Gloves are like buses: so sign of one for ages and then two come along nearly at once.  In order to counteract yesterday’s slightly mammoth post, I’m going to keep this one on the shorter side.  Nothing to do with the fact that I’m watching the Scotland vs Ireland Six Nations rugby game whilst I write, obviously, and that it’s 3:30am here – I apologise if this post doesn’t score very highly in the coherence stakes.  It turns out that waking up at 3am was worth it in the end though, both for Scotland’s totally unexpected (albeit perhaps not terribly deserved, but I’m not complaining) win and for this morning’s beautiful sunrise, which has nothing to do with today’s post, but was too pretty not to share:

Adding a pretty sunrise photo is totally not a ploy to distract you from the general shoddiness of this post.  It's totally working, right?

AlphaBakesI might not have been very good at actually writing up posts and publishing them, but I have still been baking away and keeping an eye on the various challenges that I usually take part in.  This month’s AlphaBakes is being hosted by Ros over at The More Than Occasional Baker, and the randomly chosen letter is “E.”  Nothing immediately sprang to mind on reading the challenge (as a basic ingredient, eggs don’t count), so I made myself a cup of tea to think about it and it hit me (not literally): Earl Grey.  I do love baking with tea – it’s such an easy way to add delicious flavours and there are so many different types to choose from that the possibilities are endless.

E is for… Earl Grey!

I find that Earl Grey is flavourful enough to work in dense cakes yet delicate enough for lighter cakes or biscuits.  It’s been so warm and summery (I know, I know you all hate me, and it won’t help my case to mention that this recipe was baked in a bikini after a good long swim in the sea – have I mentioned that my life is a little ridiculous at the moment?) that I decided to go for the lighter biscuits option and settled on making Earl Grey and lemon melting moments which are basically Earl Grey and lemon shortbread  biscuits sandwiched with lemon buttercream.  The zingy lemon flavour is perfectly refreshing for summer, and the biscuits themselves really were just melt-in-the-mouth.  Pure yumminess!

I totally didn't forget to take photos whilst making the melting moments…

Earl Grey & lemon melting moments

Makes about 20 melting moments or 40 biscuits
Adapted from lemonpi

I used Twinings Earl Grey teabags, but you can obviously use whatever Earl Grey you have at home, though do be aware that they are all a little different, so you may need to adjust the amount of lemon slightly.  If you’re a little pushed for time, the shortbread biscuits are also equally delicious on their own without being sandwiched with lemon buttercream.  I piped the buttercream into my biscuits but I don’t think that really adds anything and just creates extra washing-up.  The biscuits will keep for a few of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the biscuits:
180g unsalted butter, softened
60g icing sugar
180g all-purpose flour
10 Earl Grey teabags (I used Twinings)
60g cornflour
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt

For the buttercream:
60g icing sugar
30g unsalted butter, softened
1½ tsp lemon juice

Directions

To make the biscuits:
1.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and icing sugar with an electric whisk.  Sift the flour, cornflour, contents of the Earl Grey teabags (just tip any bits that don’t go through the sieve into the bowl) and salt into the bowl along with the lemon zest, and mix together with your hands until it comes together (this may take a wee while, but perseverance is key).  The dough may be a little crumbly but don’t worry.  Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate for a good 20 mins or so.

2.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.

3.  When the dough has chilled, pinch off just less than a teaspoon of dough and roll into a ball.  Space them out on the baking trays, leaving about 4cm space between them.  Flatten each ball slightly with a fork.  Bake for about 15-18 mins until firm but still pale.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the buttercream:
4.  Once the biscuits have cooled completely, make the buttercream.  Sift the icing sugar into a medium-sized bowl and add the cubed butter and lemon juice.  Using an electric whisk, mix until smooth and of a stiff consistency.

5.  Pair up the biscuits and add a little dollop of buttercream to one of each pair before gently sandwiching them together.  They may need to sit a little while for the buttercream to set slightly.

Enjoy!

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Langues de chat

The holidays are over and it’s time to get back into the swing of things.  I opted to start Monday morning off gently by cleaning out some tanks that we needed yesterday for moving eagle rays* – a necessary task, but one that didn’t require too much brain power.  Ideal for the first day back at the lab.  So we’re starting off gently on the blog, too, with a super simple recipe for a little French biscuit called langue de chat, which translates as “cat’s tongue.”  No cats are involved in this recipe, so nobody panic – the name derives from the supposed similarity in appearance between the biscuits and a cat’s tongue.

Totally look like cat's tongues, right…?

Now in France, langues de chat are fairly run-of-the-mill – you can buy a packet in any supermarket – but outwith France, they’re virtually impossible to find (and extortionately priced if you do).  My mum adores langues de chat but, living in Edinburgh, she doesn’t get to eat them terribly often, so when I happened across a recipe a few years ago, I set about making some as a surprise for her birthday.  I felt a bit silly because I’d never even thought to look for a recipe – like croissants, they’re so readily available that nobody bothers to make them.  Except that unlike croissants, they’re ridiculously easy and quick to make, and homemade langues de chat are infinitely better than their industrial counterparts (and also don’t contain any dubious ingredients like powdered egg whites and palm oil).

Little batons all ready for the oven…

My mum loved them, and now I make langues de chat from time to time as an accompaniment for desserts if I want to jazz them up a little – their characteristic pale centres and browned edges make them all pretty and presentable.  Incidentally, it’s this distinctive appearance that is the trickiest part of these biscuits, as it can be ruined by a few seconds too long in the oven, but taking them out too soon means that they won’t be fully baked.  Watching them like a hawk is recommended.

No prizes for guessing who didn't watch the first batch like a hawk… (The one on the right is from the first batch.)

Apologies for the quality, but see what I mean?  It’s also taken me a few years to get them looking close to perfect – the original recipe suggests using two teaspoons to form the little batons, but they inevitably end up a little wonky.  So this time I decided to try piping the batons and it worked much better.  They’re not perfectly uniform, but more importantly, they’re not wonky, so I’m happy with them (hence why they’re finally making an appearance on ze blog).  So what does one do with langues de chat?  They’re thin, dainty and a little crunchy, but not particularly filling, so they lend themselves well to any kind of accompanying-a-dessert situation – they’re good to serve with sorbets or ice creams, with desserts that would do well with a little added crunch (think poached fruit, chocolate mousse, etc.), or for dipping in syrups or chocolate fondues – or just something to nibble on with a cup of tea.

We hoovered up most of them before I got round to taking photos… These were the only ones left

Langues de chat

Makes about 35
Adapted from Guide de cuisine de l’Etudiant

The batter is incredibly straightforward to make, but the baking part can be a little tricky – keep an eye on them in the oven as a few seconds too long can result in the loss of their distinctive pale centres.  The quantities in this recipe make enough for about 2 or 3 people (because it’s impossible to have just one) with a little bit of snacking on the side, but can easily be scaled up to make more.  They go brilliantly with ice cream, poached fruit, chocolate fondue, or just on their own with a cup of tea.  They’ll keep in an airtight container for 2-3 days (they may start to lose their crunch a little after a couple of days).

Ingredients

4 knobs of unsalted butter (roughly walnut-sized)
2 heaped tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
3 heaped tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Directions

1.  Prepare a piping bag with a round tip of about 8mm in diameter.  Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C.  Lightly butter a couple of baking sheets.

2.  Only just melt the butter in a small heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat and add the sugar, whisking well until the mixture becomes pale and smooth.  Sift in the flour and mix well, followed by the egg and the vanilla extract, once again mixing until smooth (if the mixture becomes too liquid-y, add a little bit of flour).

3.  Transfer the mixture to the piping bag and pipe thin batons of about 3cm in length onto the baking trays, leaving enough space (about 2-3cm) between each so that they can spread out in the oven.  (Alternatively, you can use two teaspoons to form the batons, but this is a slower, more fiddly method and the biscuits may end up a little wonky.)

4.  Bake for 8-12 mins, making sure to keep an eye on them – only the edges should brown, the middle should stay pale.  (The batter will spread or flatten quite quickly at the start, but if the batter starts to spread too much and the biscuits run into each other, turn the temperature right up to make the batter “seize” and stop it spreading.  When they come out of the oven, cut them apart and return to the oven for about 3 mins so that the edges can dry properly.)

5.  Allow to cool fully on a wire rack before eating.

Enjoy!

*For anybody wondering why the heck I was moving eagle rays, an explanation will find its way into a future post.

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Pepernoten revisited!

Do you know what today is?  It’s Sinterklaas!  Which, unless you’re Dutch, have Dutch friends or have spent time in The Netherlands, probably doesn’t mean terribly much, and you can read a brief (and minorly sarcastic) explanation here.  I was born in The Netherlands and have lived there for a few years, and even when we didn’t live in NL we had Dutch friends, so Sinterklaas always featured on my calendar when I was growing up.  My favourite thing about Sinterklaas are pepernoten, which are little biscuits packed full of spices.  They’re amazing.  And they’re really difficult to find outwith NL.

I didn't really have any Sinterklaas-themed backgrounds to use, so I went for orange-y for Dutchness.  Flawless logic.

We left NL for the last time when I started uni in St Andrews, and luckily in my first year Keely sent me a massive packet of pepernoten.  But then her parents left NL.  Which meant that my only source of pepernoten was if I made them myself.  And so I turned to my recipe book which contains several different pepernoten recipes pilfered from various Dutch friends, and combined them.  I discovered that pepernoten are actually remarkably easy to make, although rolling all the little balls does make them a little time-consuming (so worth it though, and if you have the time, I’d definitely suggest doubling the recipe from the offset).

This bit takes a while.  But it's strangely therapeutic, too.

The most crucial part of pepernoten is the spice mix, and in NL you can buy a specific spice mix for them.  I obviously don’t have the special spice mix, but it’s easy enough to make using spices that you probably already have in your spice cupboard.  Incidentally, these are technically called kruidnoten, but most people just call them pepernoten, myself included (so no need to get all pernickety with me).  I make pepernoten every year now and attempt to spread general enthusiasm for Sinterklaas amongst whoever happens to be around to eat them.  Although I don’t go the whole hog and dress up as a Zwarte Piet and throw them at people…  (Although I’m sure the perplexed reaction would be highly entertaining, if awkward.)

Spices: the key bit of a biscuit that's all about… wait for it… spices.

This year my poor labmates fell victim to my general over-enthusiasm for Sinterklaas.  To be honest, they were pretty willing victims because all it involved was scoffing pepernoten.  Which is a remarkably easy task since they’re bite-sized and utterly moreish.  I’ve actually posted about pepernoten before, in my very second post.  I had a look at said post the other day and you can definitely  tell I was new to blogging.  Not that I’m any kind of expert now, but I like to think I’ve improved a little since then (although not in the conciseness department).  So I decided I’d repost the recipe, this time with slightly more detailed instructions, an indication of how many pepernoten it actually makes and perhaps a few better photos.

Those three pepernoten didn't last very long after the photo was taken…

Pepernoten

Makes about 170 pepernoten
Adapted from various recipes in my recipe folder

I’d suggest just doubling the recipe from the offset because these are bite-sized and moreish – a dangerous combination!  Dark brown sugar would probably work well instead of light brown sugar, but would result in a slightly more pronounced treacle-y flavour, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Pepernoten are all about the spices, so feel free to be liberal with the quantities.  The aniseed is optional – I’m not a huge aniseed fan so tend to leave it out, because I know I won’t use the rest of the jar, but the aniseed flavour itself doesn’t come through very strongly.  These will keep well for a week or so in an airtight container (they would probably keep longer, but they’re unlikely to stay uneaten for more than a few days anyway).

Ingredients

175g light brown sugar
110g butter
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp black treacle
275g self-rising flour + ½ tsp baking powder OR 275g all-purpose flour + 3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp ground aniseed (optional)
½ tsp ground ginger
Pinch of ground coriander
2 pinches of salt

Directions

1.  Butter a couple of baking trays.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2.  Add the brown sugar, cubed butter, milk and treacle in a saucepan.  Melt together on a low heat, stirring.  Remove from the heat once smooth.

3.  Mix together the flour, baking powder and spices in a large bowl.

4.  Once the treacle mixture has cooled a little (because enthusiastically plunging your hands into hot treacle just off the stove is not a smart idea.  Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, ahem), pour it into the bowl and knead together until it forms a smooth, fairly firm dough, adding pinches of salt during kneading.

5.  Pinch of little bits of dough and roll them into small round balls about the size of a marble.  Place them on the prepared baking trays leaving about 1.5 cm space between them.  Bake for 12-15 mins until risen and golden (it’s normal if they look slightly cracked).  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely – they’ll harden as they cool (I find that the pepernoten tend to slip through the wires on my cooling rack, so I usually place one over the top of the other, but perpendicular so that the wires cross over each other and stop any pepernoten from falling through).

Eet smakelijk and happy Sinterklaas!

Pepernoten everywhere!

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Walnut shortbread

There’s no way I can eat a whole cake or batch of biscuits all by myself on a regular basis, so I take most of what I bake into the lab.  Not only are my labmates very enthusiastic taste-testers, but baked goods have the added advantage of being a great way of integrating into the lab.  However, one of the technicians doesn’t eat eggs.  Now something like nuts aren’t usually too difficult to omit from a recipe, but eggs?  Eggs are tough.  (Side note: I find the concept of fake egg rather freaky so I refuse to use egg substitutes).

Thankfully, she doesn’t mind when somebody brings in baked goods with egg in them and she can’t eat any, which is lucky because I regularly bake with eggs since the vast majority of my recipes call for them.  I have to admit that even if she doesn’t mind, I still feel a little guilty, so I’ve been on the lookout for egg-free recipes – I don’t intend to bake egg-free all the time, but at least from time to time so that everybody is included.  I’m well aware that there are plenty of vegan recipes out there, but my initial foray into vegan baking came out rather dry and not particularly presentable, so I’ve yet to be convinced (although I’m open to recipe recommendations).  Plus I’d rather not deprive myself of dairy products without reason.  So anyway, I discovered over the weekend that shortbread is egg-free.  Oooooo…

Now, I’ve never tried making shortbread before, and I’d always been under the impression that it was difficult and technical to make.  Rather than start with basic shortbread, it was thus clearly totally logical to complicate things a little by adding toasted walnuts.  I’m not sure why I thought shortbread was such a challenge, and I’m also not sure why one of the recipes I looked at said that shortbread was “a test of cook’s skill” – it really didn’t seem that difficult to me.  If anybody could enlighten me, that would be lovely.  Of course I’d love to think that I’m clearly just a brilliantly accomplished baker, but that’s really not the case.  Perhaps it’s my Scottish side shining through.  Or beginner’s luck.

Adding walnuts turned out to be a rather fabulous idea – toasted walnut and nutmeg are such wonderfully wintery flavours, and the shortbread itself was the perfect amount of buttery and utterly scrumptious.  They were super popular in the lab, and everybody was able to enjoy them whilst we watched the gymnastics highlights from the Olympics over our coffee break.  Whilst watching those girls do flips and (mostly) managing to land on the balancing beam and bounding and somersaulting across the carpet, we concluded that those gymnasts probably don’t eat much deliciously buttery shortbread.  We also concluded that it was their loss.

Walnut shortbread

Makes about 20 biscuits
Adapted from The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake

Toasting the walnuts really elevates their flavour, so try not to skip that step, even if a little pushed for time – I promise it’s worth it!  If you want to make shortbread shapes I’d try rolling the shortbread dough out to a thickness of 1cm (before the refrigeration step) and using cookie cutters in the shape(s) that you want, then refrigerating the individual biscuits on their trays.  I haven’t tried that method however, so I’m not sure how well it would work.  These will keep for up to a week in an airtight container (though I highly doubt they’d last that long).

Ingredients

50g walnut pieces or halves
260g all-purpose flour
40g cornflour
¾ tsp ground nutmeg
Good pinch of salt
200g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Directions

1.  Toast the walnuts in a small frying pan over a low heat until fragrant and lightly toasted.  Remove from the heat, roughly chop if necessary and set aside to cool.

2.  Sift the flour, cornflour, ground nutmeg and salt into a medium-sized bowl and stir together.

3.  In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric whisk or wooden spoon.  Slowly add the sugar and cream together until light and fluffy.

4.  Add the flour mixture and the walnuts to the butter and sugar and mix together using your hands until well combined (this may take a little while, but it will come together although it will still be a bit of a crumbly dough).  Shape the dough into a log of about 20cm in length and even thickness and wrap in cling film (since dough will still be crumbly, you may need to gently push it together to compact it enough to make a log).  Refrigerate for 20-30 mins until firm.

5.  Butter two baking trays.  Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/fan 150°C.

6.  Remove the cling film from the dough log and slice into about 20 rounds of 1cm thickness.  Place on the baking trays, with about 1.5cm space between each biscuit.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until firm but still pale.  Sprinkle the biscuits with caster sugar and allow to sit on the baking trays for 2-3 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully before serving.

Enjoy!

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Peanut butter chocolate-surprise cookies

Despite usually using British words for things (unless I’ve been talking to an American for longer than about 20 minutes) – rubbish, a bin, crisps, chips and scones rather than trash, a trash can, chips, fries and biscuits – I use the words biscuit and cookie interchangeably to describe the same thing.  I think I use biscuit more often but sometimes cookie just sounds better.  Chocolate chip biscuit really doesn’t have the same ring as chocolate chip cookie.  Cookie certainly sounds more appropriate when describing something that I strongly associate with the US… such as peanut butter.  Peanut butter biscuits just doesn’t sound right, it’s almost like an oxymoron to sandwich together very American peanut butter and terribly British biscuit.  Peanut butter cookies, on the other hand, sound perfect and scrumptious to boot.  In case it’s not clear, I love peanut butter cookies.  But I don’t have a trusty go-to recipe for them (which is a serious problem in my life, but probably also good for my health).

When I saw a recipe for peanut butter chocolate-surprise cookies I just knew I had to try it.  I love baked goods with surprises in the middle (like these white chocolate strawberry-surprise muffins), and I love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate so really it was a no-brainer.  The cookies ended up a little larger and more spread out than I was expecting, but they were delicious, so I’m not going to complain!!  There’s just the perfect amount of peanut butter flavour, they’re not too sweet and the chocolate surprise centre works wonderfully – I initially tried with dark chocolate, but I really think that milk chocolate works better with peanut butter (and I’m not usually a fan of milk chocolate when it comes to baking).  I tried a couple of these without the chocolate centre and they make tasty peanut butter cookies in their own right.  If I’m honest, I won’t be baking them on a regular basis because of the freezing-and-waiting faff (although I did read a whole paper whilst they were doing their thing), but they’ll definitely be making an occasional appearance in situations involving cookies (and people without peanut allergies).

Peanut butter chocolate-surprise cookies

Makes 12 cookies
Adapted from My San Francisco Kitchen

Since these cookies need to stay as cool as possible, I would recommend keeping this recipe for the cooler days of autumn and winter (though Scottish “summers” shouldn’t be too much of an issue…).  I used crunchy peanut butter, but smooth peanut butter would work just as well in this recipe, so just use whichever you prefer and have available.  If you don’t like the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, these cookies are also delicious without the chocolate centre.  The cookies will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

95g all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
55g brown sugar
45g caster sugar
45g unsalted butter, softened
85g unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter
1 egg
6 small squares of milk chocolate

Directions

1.  Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

2.  Cream together the butter and two sugars together in a large bowl with an electric mixer.  Add the peanut butter and egg and mix together on medium speed.  When fully incorporated, add the flour a bit at a time, mixing on low speed.

3.  Once the mixture is well blended, form the dough into a log with floured hands and wrap in cling film (it gets a bit sticky, even with floured hands, so if necessary, just wrap it in the cling film and form it into a rough log – it doesn’t have to be super neat anyway so don’t worry too much about it).  Place in the freezer for an hour.

4.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.  If necessary, cut the chocolate squares in half or quarters (they have to small enough to be wrapped in the cookie dough, mine were about 1 x 0.5 x 0.5 cm)

5.  Working quickly to keep the cookies as cold as possible, remove the dough from the freezer and split equally into 12.  Press one piece of chocolate into the middle of each piece of dough.  Form the dough into a ball around the chocolate and space out on the baking sheet, flattening each one slightly and making a pattern with a fork.  If the cookies get too warm and melty, pop them in the freezer for about 5 mins (or the fridge for 10-15 mins if you discover that your baking trays don’t actually fit into your tiny freezer…).

6.  Bake for 10-12 mins, allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully.

Enjoy!

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Pepernoten!

It’s December!  All things related to Christmas are now allowed and I’m no longer a total Scrooge.  But before we get to Christmas, there’s Sinterklaas…

It’s actually quite apt that my first proper recipe blog post is about a Dutch speciality – I was born in The Netherlands, you see.  We moved away before I turned two, so I don’t remember a great deal, but we were back for a few months when I was six and back again for my last four years of Secondary School.  And wherever we’ve lived there have been lots of Dutch people around.  So despite not actually being Dutch, Sinterklaas has always featured on my calendar.

According to the Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas (or St Nicholas) lives in Spain but comes to The Netherlands to celebrate his name day, accompanied by some of his helpers, the notorious Zwarte Piets, who basically just cause mayhem (I was terrified of them when I was six).  On the 5th of December, families will gather together and hand out a few presents that are cleverly wrapped up, often accompanied by a poem about the person receiving the gift.  It’s a whole ritual, and it’s a lot of fun!

In the lead up to Sinterklaas, children leave their shoes out every evening in the hope that they will be filled with biscuits by Sinterklaas through the night.  Well, I say children, but my Dad was always just as enthusiastic as I was about leaving his shoes out…  Pepernoten (loosely translates as “spice nuts”) are one of the traditional biscuits that are distributed at this time of year.  Of course, in The Netherlands, you can buy pepernoten in near-industrial quantities.  In the UK, you cannot.  Not even in small quantities.  I love pepernoten, and I have so many happy memories associated with them, so there’s really only one option…. To make them.

Pepernoten

I should warn you in advance – these take forever to make.  But they are so worth it!  I don’t particularly like aniseed, so I never put any in and they come out just fine.  Also, this recipe is all about the flavours of the spices, so I tend to be quite liberal when it comes to quantities…

Ingredients

175g brown sugar
3 tbsp milk
110g butter
2 tbsp treacle
275g self-rising flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp allspice
Pinch of ground coriander
½ tsp ground aniseeds (Optional)
2 pinches of salt

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Pour the milk, treacle, brown sugar and butter into a small saucepan.  Place on a very low heat and stir until it becomes a smooth mix.

3.  Mix the spices together with the flour and baking powder in a large bowl.

4.  Pour the contents of the saucepan into the bowl and knead until it forms a firm and smooth dough (be careful at this point – I stupidly forgot that the treacle mix would be hot earlier, and enthusiastically plunged my hands right in.  Oops.)  Add pinches of salt during kneading.

5.  Make small round balls of dough (a bit bigger than a marble) and place them on a buttered baking tray.  Make sure that they are quite well spaced out in case they decide to melt into each other.

6.  Bake for about 12-15 mins, then allow them to cool and harden for about 1 ½ hours.

Enjoy!

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