Tag Archives: Cookies

Grapefruit galore!

We’ve accidentally ended up with a glut of grapefruit at our house.  Somebody brought a whole bucket in to the lab the other day and one of my housemates and I got a bit carried away when we grabbed some (there were plenty left for everybody else though).  Then my other housemate turned up yesterday evening with even more grapefruit.  Don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of a grapefruit theme over the next week or so…

Mini mountain of grapefruit

Baking with SpiritThe great thing about grapefruit and other citrus is that although they’re winter fruit, they always makes me think of summer, they bring zingy little rays of sunshine to any wintery proceedings.  Spring officially starts on Sunday, so we’re nearly done with winter here and summer is definitely on its way, but I’ll still take anything with a hint of sunshine that I can get.  Except mosquitoes – I killed my first one of the season this morning.  Not cool. Anyway, I digress.  Janine over at Cake of the Week has chosen “Summer” as the theme for this month’s Baking with Spirit challenge.  Now the most summeriest of drinks is, of course, Pimm’s, but I don’t have any at the moment and none of the accompanying fruit are in season here.

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze 2

As I was looking at our literal mini-mountain of grapefruit I decided that perhaps I should do something citrussy as my “summer” entry.  I’m going for the winter version of summer.  Did you know that grapefruit and gin go wonderfully well together?  I didn’t know that until last night (thank you Flavour Thesaurus).  I decided to make simple sugar cookies – the catharsis of rolling out cookie dough appealed to me – with a grapefruit and gin glaze.  The cookies came out a bit softer than I was expecting, but are rather delicious – the zing of the grapefruit and subtle hint of gin in the glaze really make them.

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze 3

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze

Makes about 50 cookies
Cookies slightly adapted from Glorious Treats
Glaze by Sharky Oven Gloves

Rolling these out can be a bit of a faff, but you want to minimise the amount of flour that you add.  These cookies keep their shape really well when baking, so feel free to use whatever fun cookie cutters you have.  I used orange grapefruit, but I’m sure red grapefruit would work wonderfully as well.  You won’t need all the juice from the grapefruit that you take the zest from, so you might as well just drink the rest.  Ideally with a slug of gin.  I definitely recommend the combination!  These cookies will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cookies:
375g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 grapefruit

For the glaze:
200g icing sugar
2 tbsp gin
2 tbsp freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Directions

To make the cookies:
1.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl and stir together.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.

3.  Add the egg, vanilla and grapefruit zest and whisk together.

4.  Whisk in the flour a little at a time.  Once it has all been incorporated (it will be rather crumbly), knead together with your hands to form a dough.  Wrap in cling film and either refrigerate for about 2h or pop in the freezer for 20-30 mins (make sure it doesn’t harden otherwise you’ll have to wait for it to thaw).

5.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 195°C/fan oven 175°C.

6.  Take half of the cookie dough (if it’s been in the freezer, transfer the remaining dough to the fridge) and either roll it out between two sheets of baking paper or roll it out on a lightly floured surface with a sheet of baking paper over the top.  (This is to minimise the amount of extra flour added.  I did it the first way, which was a bit of a faff but did work, you just have to anchor the bottom sheet.)  Roll the dough out to a thickness of 4-5 mm.  Cut out rounds of dough using your chosen cookie cutter (I used a 6cm scalloped round cutter) and place on the prepared baking trays, about 2cm apart.  Pop the baking tray in the freezer for 5 mins before baking for 8-10 mins, until just starting to turn golden.  Leave the cookies on the tray for about 1 min before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

7.  Repeat with the remaining cookie dough and leftover bits.

To make the glaze:
8.  Once the cookies are completely cooled, make the glaze.  Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl, add the gin and grapefruit juice and whisk together by hand.  Pour the glaze into a zip-lock bag, snip a tiny corner off and drizzle over the cookies (I usually set paper towels underneath the wire racks to catch and dribbles of glaze).  Allow to set before arranging on a plate or transferring to an airtight box.

Enjoy!

2 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

Peanut butter & cocoa nib cookies

January – the month of resolutions.  The month that going to the gym or pool becomes a real mission because they’re full of people being all resolute.  The month that when you bake things, people tell you they’re on a diet which involves eating three slices of melon as a main meal (because there’s nothing tastier than an unseasonal melon), snacking on a cherry tomato should they get peckish and finishing the lot off with a tub of ice-cream for dessert.  You might think I’m kidding, but I have actually encountered somebody who followed a similar meal plan.  It didn’t do them much (any) good.  Anyway.  I digress.  January can be a tough month for bakers if people start refusing offered cake (what an idea).

No melon or cherry tomatoes in sight

We Should CocoaLuckily, Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog, who is hosting this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, has come up with a solution by choosing the theme “sugar-free” – a theme which, I must admit, horrified me when I first saw it.  Not because I’m a sugar addict, but because I hadn’t finished reading the rules so I hadn’t realised that “natural” sugars such as honey or maple syrup were fine, and I was drawing an utter blank in terms of inspiration – I absolutely refuse to use artificial sweeteners.  I had visions of something like this:

I've no idea how one would make cake without any ingredients either…

I have no idea what “no ingredients fruit & nut cake” is either, but it made Kat and I laugh when we stopped off at a café in Cambridge (that’ll be Cambridge, NZ) on our way to Hobbiton.  In the end, Kat and I decided to make cookies for the challenge – the start of our friendship due to chocolate chip cookies, so it seemed fitting.  We followed the rules, but we did it the Mel way – sure, we didn’t use any sugar, but we did add a shit-tonne* of honey instead.  Totally allowed.

No sugar, but tonnes of honey.  Totally good for you, right?

These cookies gave me the opportunity to try out the cinnamon cocoa nibs that I won from the lovely Lucy over at The KitchenMaid a few months ago – cocoa nibs don’t have any sugar added to them, so they also fitted the rules perfectly.  Since we’re both fans of the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, we decided to substitute peanut butter instead of butter in the cookies, but I think this might be why they came out a little dry.  They’re excellent for dunking into a glass of milk or cup of tea though, so they were still yummy.  Next time, I think I’ll add about 25g of butter to the mix just to make them slightly moister.  I really loved the little bursts of intense cocoa flavour from the cocoa nibs – I’d never used cocoa nibs before, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect.

Peanut butter & cocoa nib cookies

Makes about 24 cookies
Adapted from Nana Clare’s Kitchen

These cookies came out fairly dry (not inedibly dry though!), so I’d suggest perhaps adding 25g of unsalted butter at the same time as the peanut butter in order to remedy this.  Dark chocolate chips would also work really well instead of cocoa nibs.  These cookies will keep for a few days in an airtight biscuit tin.

Ingredients

170g runny honey
130g natural crunchy peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
190g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
20g cinnamon cocoa nibs (or normal cocoa nibs with 1 tsp ground cinnamon)

Directions

1.  Butter a couple of baking trays.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the honey and peanut butter with an electric whisk.  Whisk in the egg and vanilla extract.

3.  Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt (and ground cinnamon if using) into the peanut butter mixture and whisk until just bended.  Fold in the cocoa nibs.  Form teaspoons of dough into balls and place on the baking trays, spaced out a little so that the cookies have space to spread.  Flatten each ball slightly with a fork.

4.  Bake for 8-12 mins until golden (check they don’t catch), then turn out onto wire racks to cool.

Enjoy!

* Shit-tonnes are actual SI units by the way.  (Ok, fine, they’re really not.  But they should be.  Might make certain papers a little more entertaining to read…)

8 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

Sunday Smiles: From the edges of the solar system to Eden Park

Not the happiest start to Sunday Smiles but I have to mention it: you guys, Neil Armstrong died.  I totally wanted to be an astronaut when I was little, and although my career dreams and aspirations veered off into the direction of the ocean, a little part of me has always remained fascinated by space, so the news saddened me, in the way that the death of a famous person who did something truly great does.  Neil Armstrong was definitely the person with whom I most associate space exploration.  And the moon.  I still think it’s incredible that humans have walked on the moon.  Fun fact: more humans have been to the moon than to the depths of the Earth’s oceans.

So this week’s Sunday Smiles starts off with something space-related:

  • NASA’s Voyager 1 mission is about to leave our solar system.  After 35 years of service, the Voyager missions appear to still be going strong, which is incredible when you consider that we can still communicate with 1970s technology at the fringes of our solar system.  Voyager 1 is currently 18.2 billion km from the Earth and Voyager 2 is currently 14.8 billion km from the Earth, which is apparently the furthest any man-made object has ever travelled.  Isn’t that just awe-inspiring?
  • This altered Oatmeal comic which jointly covers the (crappy) NZ internet situation and the ridiculous delay in TV series being shown here made me laugh.  I’m not supporting illegal downloading (just to make that clear), but I don’t see any logical reason for there to be such a delay on TV series – it’s the 21st century, so it’s not like the series have to be shipped here by boat or something.  And as for the internet situation here… well it’s pretty frustrating when one streams the radio over the internet and it cuts out every ten minutes or so.  I realise these are first world problems, but this is a first world country, so…
  • I’ve already written a whole blog post about them, but my labmates’ reactions to the chocolate, cherry and hazelnut cookies that I baked the other day were so enthusiastic that I couldn’t help but smile.  Other people enjoying something I’ve baked never fails to make me happy.

  • Time for something cute, check out these adorable koala macarons!  Aren’t they the cutest?
  • Another week, another Tumblr…  The link to Dog Shaming was sent to me by a couple of different people and it also made the rounds in the lab.  If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ll probably appreciate it.
  • If you’ve ever lived in a touristy city or town, you’ve probably encountered frustration if you’re actually trying to get somewhere but have to bypass hordes of (oblivious) sauntering tourists.  The effect seems to be so much more intense in Edinburgh, possibly because the population doubles during August thanks to the Festival and the Fringe.  Whilst I’m not there this year, this tongue-in-cheek analysis of Edinburgh’s tourist tactics amused me.  The observations are equally valid for anywhere touristy.
  • And finally, as mentioned last week, a friend from St Andrews was in Auckland this weekend and we went to see the All Blacks vs Wallabies match last night.  The All Blacks beat the Wallabies by 22-0 so it wasn’t the most nail-biting rugby I’ve ever seen, but I’m still not over my enthusiasm of seeing the All Blacks play in real life at Eden Park, and we were both totally excited by the whole thing.  Plus the weather was in our favour.  And the haka was played over the PA system as well, which was so much better than when I saw the All Blacks play Ireland a few months ago.

What made you smile this week?

3 Comments

Filed under Sunday Smiles

Chocolate, cherry & hazelnut cookies

This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Janice over at Farmersgirl Kitchen, and she has chosen “cherry” as the special ingredient.  I got all excited about this, because I adore cherries.  My enthusiasm deflated slightly when I remembered that it’s very much not cherry season here, so I’m a little jealous if you live somewhere with fresh cherries in abundance.  But whilst fresh cherries might be off the cards for me, there are plenty of other options: dried cherries, glacé cherries, preserved cherries and kirsch.  Adding kirsch is one of my favourite ways of jazzing up anything chocolatey – I nearly always add a (liberal) splash of kirsch when making chocolate cake, and when we made Craig’s meerkat cake, the chocolate meerkat cookies were decorated with kirsch icing.

As much as I wanted to make something combining chocolate and kirsch, frustratingly I’ve yet to actually find kirsch here (I heartily welcome any information on how to resolve that).  Luckily, I’ve had a recipe for chocolate and cherry cookies lodged in my brain for the past few weeks, and this was the perfect occasion to try it out (not that I really need an excuse).  It comes from The Boy Who Bakes which I borrowed from the library a few weeks ago, and I’ve been wanting to try it since it jumped out at me as I first flipped through the book, particularly since it uses dried cherries so I wouldn’t have to wait until cherry season.  A flawless plan, but for one minor detail: the small supermarket that I usually shop at apparently doesn’t sell dried cherries.  Dried goji berries, no problem.  But dried cherries, nope, I’d have to make a trip to the larger supermarket that’s further away.  Not in itself a huge problem since it’s still within walking distance (though not so much with heavy shopping), I just needed to find the time.

Having finally stopped off at said larger supermarket on my way back from the aquarium yesterday, I stocked up on dried cherries which meant it was time to (finally) try out the cookies.  It seems to me that adding toasted hazelnuts to chocolatey baked goods is the logical thing to do with it’s cold and windy outside, so I threw some in for good measure.  A smashing idea if I might say so.  Appropriately for We Should Cocoa, these cookies are very chocolatey, so if you’re not a big chocolate fan then these probably aren’t for you.  The dried sour cherries cut through the intense chocolate nicely and the cookies themselves are just a little gooey in the middle, which I love.  A little post-publish addition: these cookies went down an absolute storm with my labmates during our afternoon coffee break – one of them never has seconds for sweet things and ate two, and another is eating vegan all month but decided to make an exception because they looked so good… she also ate two.  Actually, I think everybody ate two.  I can’t give you a better recommendation than that!

Chocolate, cherry & hazelnut cookies

Makes 25 cookies
Adapted from The Boy Who Bakes

To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray, place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 10 min, until they smell toasty (be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).  Rub the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skins, and allow to cool fully before using.  These cookies are delicious accompanied by a cup of coffee to wash the chocolateyness down.  They will keep for a few days in an airtight box.

Ingredients

350g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
130g all-purpose flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
60g toasted hazelnuts
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g dried sour cherries

Directions

1.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.

2.  Melt 200g of the chocolate by breaking it up and placing in a heat-proof bowl over a bowl of simmering water (ensure that the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl).  Remove from the heat once melted and allow to cool slightly before using.

3.  Meanwhile, roughly chop the remaining chocolate and the toasted hazelnuts and set aside.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a medium-sized bowl, stir together and set aside.

4.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and two sugars using an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Whisk in the eggs one by one until well incorporated.  Beat in the flour mixture a third at a time, until just incorporated.  Slowly pour the melted chocolate into the mixture with the electric whisk on medium speed, beating until combined.  Stir in the chocolate pieces, hazelnuts and dried cherries.

5.  Form heaped tablespoons of dough into balls and place on the prepared baking trays, with up to six per tray.  Bake for 13-15 mins until crisped around the edges.  Cool for 5 mins on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

11 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

Introducing a new blog feature: Sunday Smiles

I have a confession (and it’s a bit of a heavy one).  I’ve been feeling a bit miserable lately.  And by lately I really mean a few months…or even the past year.  I’m thoroughly fed up of always feeling down, but I can’t seem to shift it.  Of course it fades when I’m out having fun, doing things I love, like visiting the zoo, or watching the All Blacks, but it’s only temporary and I know that the feeling will be back the next day, which is frustrating.  I’ve tried not to make it noticeable in my blog posts, but I’m not sure how well I’ve succeeded.  Anyway, in a vague attempt to improve things, I’ve come up with a new blog feature: Sunday Smiles.

It’s a simple and straightforward idea – basically I’ll list some of the things that have made me smile over the past week, whether they’re new discoveries, things I’ve read, or just pretty things I’ve seen.  I guess it’s similar to the “Friday Favourites” lists that I’ve seen on a few blogs (but since I tend to post a recipe on Fridays, that doesn’t really work for me).  The point is basically to focus on good things, happy things.  Oh, and I’ll post it every Sunday.  See?  Simple!  Do let me know what you think – good idea or not really that interesting and rather self-indulgent?

So for this week, my Sunday Smiles are:

  • Google released Street View for Antarctica on Wednesday.  This is totally utterly amazing and full of totally educational procrastination potential…  I love that you can see inside some of the research stations.  And the penguin colonies, of course.  Antarctica fascinates me and I would absolutely love to go there, but only ever as a scientist, since I firmly believe that no tourism should be allowed in Antarctica whatsoever.  The only flaw in this plan is that there aren’t any elasmobranchs in Antarctica (that we know of).  So I’m not sure how I’d ever wrangle that one…
  • I picked up these roses at the farmers’ market that I went to last weekend.  I love roses (as corny and cliché as that may be), and I really loved the dusky and faded “old rose” look of these ones.  I nearly always have flowers or plants in the flat because I find that they really brighten things up, but I’m not very good at keeping them alive…

  • One of my highlights of the week remains my Kiwi labmates’ reaction to the kumara and chocolate cookies that I made the other day – I’m still not over their genuine surprise and excitement at the concept of using kumara (sweet potato) in cookies
  • I made macarons for the first time since moving to New Zealand yesterday, and thus the first time with my oven here – and they worked!  Ok, so the feet could have been a little more developed, but I’m still happy with them.  I only had time to make the shells yesterday and will be making the ganache filling later today, but feel free to guess the flavour based on the shells…  They’re a little more purple in real life.  Clue: they’re alcohol-based.  Ok, that wasn’t much of a clue since nearly all the macarons that I make are alcohol-based.  Better clue: the alcohols involved will be covering my entries to both this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge (ingredient: black currant) and AlphaBakes (letter: W).  Can you guess?  All will be revealed in Tuesday’s blog post…

What made you smile this week?

10 Comments

Filed under Sunday Smiles

Cookies to blow a Kiwi’s socks off

When I arrived in New Zealand, I was surprised to discover that sweet potatoes were actually a staple in the Māori diet before the arrival of European settlers.  Consequently, they remain popular here and although it seems that the traditional kumara varieties have mostly been replaced with imported varieties that grow bigger and produce more, they are still referred to by their Māori name, kūmara (pronounced KOO-mah-rah).  Orange kumara seems to be the same variety as orange sweet potato that you find in the US or Europe, but we have two other varieties here that I don’t think I’ve seen before: red and golden.  The three varieties differ slightly in their flavours and their levels of sweetness, with orange being the sweetest (and mushiest when cooked, it seems), and red the least sweet.

Given the popularity of kumara and its long-standing availability in NZ, I was expecting the batch of orange kumara and chocolate cookies that I took into the lab the other day to be fairly run-of-the-mill.  Not in terms of taste, since they were rather scrumptious, but I mean the combination of kumara and chocolate, in a cookie.  How wrong I was…  It turns out that kumara is only really used in savoury dishes here, so the concept of using it in cookies just about blew the socks off my Kiwi labmates.  And my Spanish labmate, who took one home for his wife to taste (although I wouldn’t be surprised if it “disappeared” en route).  Oh and my Italian labmate, who explained he’d only discovered kumara here, because you don’t get sweet potatoes in Italy.  Basically everybody except the Americans and Canadians.  It seems that using sweet potato/orange kumara for baking must be a very North American thing to do – I’ve clearly been influenced by the 4 years of my childhood that we spent in the southern US without realising it!  I was genuinely taken aback by their surprise though, and being able to so unexpectedly introduce (almost) everybody to something new really made me happy, particularly since they liked them.  I predict that more kumara-based baked goods will be making an appearance at the lab…

Aside from their secret ability to blow the socks off Kiwis, these cookies are delicious in their own right, and the orange kumara gives them a lovely orange tinge as well.  They’re lovely and soft and pillowy and fantastically moist, so actually, I feel cookie might be a bit of a misnomer since their texture reminds me more of cake than a traditional cookie.  It’s very much like eating cake in the shape of a cookie.  I’m a fan.  Although I can’t help but wonder if there should be an alternative name for them – cakies or cakelets or something.  Any thoughts? Although kumara are perpetually in season (in NZ anyway – in Europe I always thought they were in season through winter), the spices make me associate these cookies with winter: cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Definitely a fabulously wintery combination, and one full of flavour at that!

Kumara & chocolate cookies

Makes 26-28 cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook

These cake-like cookies are wonderfully soft and pillowy, not crunchy as you might expect from a cookie.  The kumara/sweet potato taste really does shine through, as do the wintery spices.  Make sure to use orange kumara as they are the sweetest and mushiest, so perfect for baking, and they also give the cookies their slightly orange colour.  The cookies will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight box.  Since they’re quite soft, place a sheet of baking paper between layers to prevent them from sticking together.

Ingredients

1 medium orange kumara/sweet potato (I used a 350g kumara, which yielded about 250g roasted flesh)
220g light brown sugar
2 eggs
120ml organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
2 tsp vanilla extract
125g all-purpose flour
125g wholewheat flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
175g dark chocolate chips

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 205°C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2.  Scrub the sweet potato and pierce the skin with a fork.  Place on the baking tray and roast for about 40 mins until there’s no resistance when a knife is inserted through the thickest part.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool until it can be handled.  Peel the skin off and roughly mash the flesh in a small bowl with a fork.  Set aside.

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.

4.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the light brown sugar and egg until pale and thickened (it will get pale, I promise – it just takes a bit effort if doing it by hand, as I did – see the photo below).  Gently whisk in the oil and vanilla, then fold in the kumara.

5.  In a large bowl, mix together the two flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.  Add the kumara mixture to the flour mixture and fold together with a spatula until the flour is no longer visible.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

6.  Scoop up heaped tablespoons of cookie dough and deposit on one of the prepared cookie sheets, as neatly as possible.  Space the heaps of dough about 5cm apart.  Bake for 10-12 mins until risen and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cookie comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave the cookies on the trays for 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely (they’ll still be quite soft so be careful).

Enjoy!

PS – I know I said the kumara gives an orange tinge, but not quite as much as the photo above – that rather over-emphasised colour is courtesy of my minor Instagram addiction (you can find me under sharkyovengloves).

3 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

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!

4 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

Chocolate & almond crackle cookies

I bookmark a lot of recipes, but then never quite get around to making them – I don’t have enough time, something else comes up, I have other things to bake.  Basically, life happens.  Usually I forget about the recipe, and that’s that, although if the recipe is lucky, I’ll happen across it completely by accident a few months later and then actually try it out.  If life doesn’t intervene once again.  Not this recipe though.  I first saw it about three weeks ago, and it’s been on my mind since then.  I was just so intrigued by the appearance of the cookies – they look so… arresting.  A bit of a dramatic description for a cookie perhaps, but I don’t really know how else to describe the wonderful contrast between the dark chocolatey inside poking through the cracks in the white icing sugar shell.  But true to form, every time I thought to myself right, I’m going to try those cookies out this evening something else came up and it just didn’t happen.

Then the other day I got my act together.  It was a bit of a miserable weather day – the rain started about an hour after I left the flat, so I wasn’t very prepared for it (though thankfully I always have an umbrella in my bag – a necessary habit after living in Scotland for four years).  And every time I stepped outside it poured.  I also accidentally got fish guts on my jeans whilst I was feeding my eagle rays at the aquarium in the morning.  Unfortunately, the rain didn’t wash that out.  So not only did I get to the lab slightly damp, but smelling faintly of fish, too.  I really go in for the whole attractive thing, you know?  It turned out to be quite a long day, so by the time I got home (still smelling slightly fishy) I was a little fed up.  I decided that it was time to try these cookies.  Fun fact: “crackle cookies” is rather fun to say (if a bit of a tongue-twister when said too quickly), and I find it really difficult not to smile when I say it.  Automatic mood-lifter.

The original recipe is just chocolate crackle cookies, and I was actually initially going to add hazelnuts, but then at the last minute realised that almonds would also work.  And then I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to use hazelnuts or almonds.  I’m the most indecisive person ever, so I consulted with Craig (luckily he’s used to random baking ideas/questions/panics being thrown into the middle of a conversation about something completely different.  Or just out of the blue.  Some things don’t change, even if you move halfway across the world*), and he suggested almonds.  Which is rather convenient, because “almond” happens to be the secret ingredient for this month’s We Should Cocoa, which is being guest-hosted by Laura over at How to Cook Good Food.  The cookies turned out to be utterly delicious, and were the ideal counter to what was essentially a damp and fishy day.  A little crunchy on the outside and fudgy on the inside – perfect.  The almond flavour definitely goes with the chocolate, but then the combination of dark chocolate and almonds is always a winner.  I brought the cookies into the lab and everybody loved them.  Everything about them actually – the appearance, the texture, the flavours.  Definitely a winner of a cookie!

Chocolate & almond crackle cookies

Makes 20-25 cookies
Adapted from Cuisine, May 2012

These cookies get coated in icing sugar and go into the oven looking a bit like truffles.  As they expand in the oven, the icing sugar coating “cracks” to form their distinctive appearance.  The outside will be crunchy but the middle should stay a little bit fudgy.  The amount of icing sugar required will depend a lot on how big a ramekin or bowl you use when coating the balls of dough – a small ramekin is best.  The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days (if they last that long!).

Ingredients

40g slivered blanched almonds
175g caster sugar
100g all-purpose flour
60g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
50g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
60g unsalted butter, chilled
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp icing sugar, for coating (this is just a rough guide)

Directions

1.  Roughly chop the slivered almonds.  Set aside.

2.  Sift the caster sugar, flour, cocoa powder, ground almonds, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir together (you may need to push the ground almonds through the sieve with the back of a spoon).  Dice the butter up into small cubes and add to the bowl.  Rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in the chopped almonds.

3.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Add to the flour and almond mixture and stir together with a metal spoon until incorporated and the mixture begins to come together into a ball (it takes a little while, but it does happen).  Wrap in cling film (or cover the bowl in cling film) and refrigerate for 30-45 mins.

4.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to fan 180°C.  Sift 3 tbsp of icing sugar into a ramekin (don’t put it away yet, you may need to sift more icing sugar later).

5.  Remove the dough from the fridge, and split into walnut-sized balls.  Drop each into the ramekin of icing sugar and roll around to coat well, so they look a bit like truffles (your hands will get messy from the dough, so I suggest using a teaspoon to manoeuvre the balls of dough in the icing sugar and then transferring them to the baking sheets.  Sift more icing sugar into the ramekin as you need it).  Place about 5cm apart on the baking trays.

6.  Bake for 10-12 mins or until just set when lightly touched.  Allow to cool for 5 mins on the baking trays before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Enjoy!

* Thank goodness for the existence of WhatsApp.

15 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Student Life, Sweet Foods

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!

3 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

Zoosday Tuesday: Meerkat birthday cake. Simples!

Today is the first Tuesday of April, which means that it’s Zoosday Tuesday, and I’m excited about the cake that I’m about to share with you…!

I’ve just realised that I could have done a Cakes for Craig mini-series of posts – last week I told you about the Gin & Tonic macarons that were his birthday present, then on Sunday I shared the chocolate délice that I attempted for his birthday dinner.  Today is the final installment (so I guess that makes it a trilogy?): the surprise cake that Kat, his housemate (who I shall call H for now, as I forgot to check if I could use her name) and I made for his birthday party, which was about ten days ago.  Kat and I previously ventured into the world of animal-themed cakes back in January with a seal pup cake.  We had so much fun that we wanted to make another animal-themed cake.  Now, Craig loves meerkats, so this is the cake we made for him…

Here’s a little secret: Kat and I have actually been planning this since January.  Before you accuse us of having too much time on our hands, let me just say that it’s amazing the amount of procrastination you can get out of designing a cake (and we’ve had a lot to procrastinate from – exams, review essays, practical reports, our dreaded dissertations…).  H helped us make it, and most importantly, was in charge of hiding it from Craig so that it would be a total surprise.  Since we didn’t want to arrive at the party with the cake, thus giving the game away, we took it round whilst he was out and H did a brilliant job of hiding it, because he clearly had no idea.  SUCCESS!!!

The cake itself was straightforward enough – we used the same chocolate cake and glaçage as the seal cake, but sprinkled it with gold sugar to resemble sand (meerkats live in the desert).  In keeping with the general chocolate theme, the meerkats were chocolate rolled cookies.  We scoured the internet for meerkat cookie-cutters, but to no avail.  Which is surprising, considering the whole meerkat craze at the moment.  I mean seriously, I have a shark cookie-cutter – do they really make shark cookie-cutters and not meerkat ones?!  It would appear so.  Astounding.  Anyway, I digress.  So Kat drew out a stencil instead and we used that to cut out the cookies by hand.  The icing was originally going to be a straightforward (American) royal icing, but well, we’re alcoholics students, and this was a birthday party, so the obvious thing to do was to lace the icing with kirsch (to go with the kirsch in the cake and in the cookies, the recipe of which we’d already altered to include some kirsch).  And by lace, what I really mean substitute kirsch for water.  We then used some edible glue to attach toothpicks to the backs of the meerkat cookies to so that they would stand up on top of the cake (this also made it easier to transport because we just stuck the meerkats into the cake once at Craig’s).  The cake was served with kirsch-infused whipped cream, well, actually, I may have surpassed myself and accidentally made cream-infused whipped kirsch (oops).

Getting the whole cake together took us about six hours.  But the cake nearly rendered Craig speechless (quite a feat) and he clearly deeply appreciated it, which makes the effort totally worth it (and we had so much fun with the icing).  He actually mentioned it in the sweetest post, and after a recent episode of somebody very obviously not eating a cake that I made them (despite it being tasty according to everybody else who tried it), cake appreciation means a lot to me.  I have to admit, I’m still amazed at how realistic we managed to make the meerkats, so here’s another photo (all photos thanks to Kat, by the way):

Chocolate rolled cookies with kirsch icing

Makes 5 meerkat cookies and a lot of stars
Cookies adapted from Glorious Treats
Icing adapted from Joy of Baking

If you want to make the whole cake, then follow this chocolate cake and chocolate glaçage recipe, and sprinkle gold sugar over the top of the cake before the glaçage hardens (so that it sticks to the cake). The cookie dough makes a lot of cookies – we only made 5 meerkats but we used the rest of the dough to make star cookies.  Luckily the dough freezes quite well in a zip-lock bag, just thaw it out in the fridge before using it (otherwise it will be too hard to roll out).  The icing would make enough to decorate at least 8 meerkats.

Ingredients

For the cookies:
375g all-purpose flour
45g cocoa powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
225g unsalted butter, softened
135g granulated sugar
110g brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp chocolate liqueur (I used dark crême de cacao)
1 tsp kirsch

For the icing:
1 large egg white
Kirsch
250-280g icing sugar
Food colouring pastes (we used hazelnut & black)

Directions

To make the cookies:
1.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a bowl, and mix them together.

2.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and two sugars together using an electric whisk, until light and fluffy.  Mix in the egg, chocolate liqueur and kirsch.

3.  Gradually add the cocoa powder and flour mixture to the butter mix roughly 100g at a time, making sure that it was been well incorporated before adding the next 100g (the mixer may slow up a bit towards the end).

4.  Once fully incorporated, split the dough into two or three balls (this makes it more manageable to work with later on), and put each into a zip-lock back and chill in the fridge for 1-2h or about 20mins in the freezer (don’t forget about it in the freezer or you’ll have to let it thaw out after).

5.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.  Line a few baking trays with baking paper.  (This is a good time to make stencils if that’s what you’ll be using.)

6.  Remove one ball of dough from the fridge (if you’ve chilled the dough in the freezer, move the other balls to the fridge so they don’t freeze completely) and place it on a lightly floured surface.  Place a piece of baking paper over the top of the dough (this minimises the amount of flour that you have to use) and roll out to a thickness of around 4mm.  Use cookie cutters (or cut around the stencil you’ve made) to cut out the cookies and place them on the baking trays.  Make the excess dough back into a ball and roll it out again, making sure that the surface you are rolling it out onto is lightly floured.

7.  Once you’ve got a full baking tray, chill it in the freezer for 5 mins (to help the cookies keep their shapes), then place it directly into the oven and bake for 7-10 mins (this will depend on the thickness and shape of your cookies).

8.  Allow the cookies to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

To decorate the cookies:
9.  As the cookies are cooling, prepare the icing.  Set out small bowls or tupperware boxes for the number of different colours you need (we had two – one large to make the icing in, and a small one in which to mix the black), and prepare the tips and icing bags that you will need (we used a Wilton #2 for the lining, a syringe for the flooding, and a Wilton #5 for the brown stripes and shading).

10.  Using an electric whisk, beat the egg white and 1 tsp of kirsch together until just mixed, before adding the sifted icing sugar.  Whisk until smooth and the correct consistency for lining the cookies.  If the icing is too runny, add a little more icing sugar.  Pour as much of the icing as you need into one of the bowls, and cover the big bowl so that the rest of the icing doesn’t dry out.  Add some black colouring to the small bowl and mix well (add more as necessary).  Spoon the black lining icing into a piping bag with a thin tip and outline the cookies.  You can extend the lining to define the paws, too.  Once done, put the icing bag aside, in an airtight box if possible – it will be required later for the eyes and nose.

11.  As the black lining dries on the cookies, prepare the flooding icing.  Uncover the large bowl of icing, add 1 tsp and mix well.  Add another 1 tsp of kirsch and mix well once again.  Continue adding a little bit of kirsch at a time until the icing is of the correct consistency (scoop some icing out of the bowl and drop it back in – it should disappear within 5s).  Add a tiny amount of hazelnut colouring and mix it in well, to achieve a beige colour (add a tiny bit more if necessary – err on the side of caution with quantities as it’s easier to add a tiny bit more than it is to remove any!).  Once the correct colour is achieved, spoon about ⅔ of the beige icing into a piping bag (or syringe) with a medium-sized tip, and cover the rest of the icing so that it doesn’t dry out.  Flood the cookies within the lining, using a toothpick to spread the icing as necessary.

12.  Once the cookies have been flooded, add more hazelnut colouring to the remaining icing and mix well to make a darker brown (you may have to add a sliver of black colouring, too).  Once the correct shade of brown is achieved, spoon the icing into a piping bag with a small tip (but not as small as for the lining), and pipe on the stripes on the back.  Each stripe consists of 3-4 dots, joined together with a toothpick, and mixed a little to make them less defined.  Add a few dots at the end of the tail, paws and around the nose, and blur them slightly with a toothpick.  Draw ears, too.

13.  Get the icing bag with the black icing back out again and draw the nose and eyes.  If you’re feeling adventurous, you can always add a tiny bit of shading to the ears with a toothpick.  Allow the cookies to dry a little before attaching the toothpicks to the back using edible glue and a fine paintbrush. Be careful when handling the cookies (to avoid smudging the icing)!  Allow to dry fully (this may take several hours) before decorating the cake or storing in an airtight box.

Enjoy!

4 Comments

Filed under Ramblings, Recipes, Student Life, Sweet Foods