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Petit Fours

Virtuous Vegan Date & Peanut Butter Cookies

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Virtuous Vegan Date & Peanut Butter Cookies

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If I told you that a vegan, refined sugar-free, protein-rich, wheat-free, ancient-grain (and if you so desire, gluten-free) cookie existed, you’d think it was the stuff of myth and legend or, alternatively, something so disgusting that it couldn’t be deemed edible.

Well, it does exist.

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After an overindulgent stay in NYC, I made these for my birthday. They aren’t overpoweringly sweet, and they aren’t going to be equivalent to the 500 calories a pop thick, fudgy cookies you see in bakeries. However, they are delicious in their own right, soft and just sweet enough. Plus, being vaguely healthy automatically entitles one to devour 5x the quantity. In fact, for a snack to be officially deemed a source of protein, it needs to contain 6g protein. Well, 3 of these cookies contain just that.

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They are extremely quick to conjure up and would be good for that weak-point, late afternoon slump when you crave something sweet, and delicious, too, paired with a (vegan) ice cream for dessert, or even with a wedge of stilton and a dollop of pear compote if you’re going down the non-vegan route. If you want a slightly more savoury option, substitute the dates with figs as in the photos.

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Ingredients (makes 20 medium cookies)

160g pitted medjool dates, roughly chopped (about 10) (if you want a more savoury cookie, substitute dates with figs, as per the photos)

4 tbsp orange juice

4 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp finely grated orange zest

80g smooth peanut butter

200g spelt flour (or gluten free flour)

½ tsp mixed spice

¼ tsp salt

baking tray lined with baking parchment

4-5cm round cookie cutter

 

Method

1)    Pre-heat oven to 180°C

2)    Place the chopped dates, orange juice, water, vanilla extract and orange zest in a small pan over a medium/high heat and allow to come to a boil. Stir continuously for about 4/5 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated and the dates have turned into a thick, sticky pulp.

3)    Place the date mixture together with the peanut butter in a blender and pulse until smooth. Pour in the spelt flour, mixed spice, and salt and pulse until it comes together to form a slightly sticky dough.

4)    Lightly flour a board and roll out the dough to a 0.5cm thickness. Stamp out cookies with the cutter and place on the baking tray. Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes until firm and slightly golden. Allow to cool, then devour.

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Raspberry & Orange Financiers

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Raspberry & Orange Financiers

Entremets, soufflés, macarons, choux buns - even making ciabatta, a two day process, which culminates in a dough whose tenacious elasticity has been known to reduce some people to tears - I’ve generally met their challenges.

However, hubris met nemesis a couple of weeks ago. I came home to the nutty toasted perfume of a new recipe my mom had tried out: ridiculously simple, five ingredient coconut wafers so thin you could see the sunset through them, so tender that they crumbled in anticipation of hitting one’s tongue, and so light and moreish that a second batch was immediately required in order to satisfy my family’s greed.

I duly crumbed, clumped, chilled, and sliced.  “Make them thinner,” my mom said. And I did, each slice crumbling into thousands of buttery coconut crumbs. I pressed them together and started again. And again. Unfortunately, it was only my patience that turned out thin, and the petulant three year old in me ended up scooping together the entire mixture and, from a height, throwing it down onto the tray.

Finally, I managed to get the fragments to coagulate by adding water. Things went more smoothly, but the biscuits, when baked, were slightly tougher, less flaky and less moreish than the original batch. Nevertheless, my brother took them to university. One of his friends, suffering from tonsillitis, reached into the box of biscuits, and in taking out one, touched many. The rest were binned, mostly due to the possibility of their having being infected with tonsillitis, but clearly not delicious enough to warrant risking it – a failure in my book.

After nursing my crumbled confidence for several days I swerved off the rocky path of coconut wafers to try my hand at financiers. I have always admired them - perfectly bite sized and innocent- looking with the flush of raspberry in the centre. They are also simple to make, requiring few ingredients, and turning out both delicious and delicate.

The history is much debated, but some say they were create by nuns of the Order of the Visitation and then adapted by a French baker, Lasne, to sell in the Parisian financial district where their almond content allowed them to keep well in the pockets of bankers. 

They are elegant and dainty, slightly crunchy on the outside, the tender blond crumb perfumed with a slight orange tang and moistened by the burst of raspberry.  They do keep rather well and would bless a summer’s picnic.

Recipe:

Makes 30 (approx)

50g unsalted butter

50g plain flour

160g icing sugar

140g ground almonds

1/2 tsp salt

200g egg whites (6 large eggs)

1/4 tsp almond extract

zest of 1/4 orange 

60g raspberries (minimum of 30 raspberries i.e. 1 per financier)

 Very well-greased and flour- dusted 3 x 12 hole mini cupcake tins (with 2.5cm diameter circles)  OR 1 to be used 3 times

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a small pan over a medium heat. When completely melted, stir the bottom of the pan continuously until the butter turns a deep gold colour and nutty in aroma. Set aside to cool.
  2. Sieve the flour and icing sugar into large bowl. Stir in the ground almonds and salt. Once combined, pour in the egg whites, almond extract, zest and slightly cooled butter and stir to fully combine. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  4. Spoon the batter into the holes until each is two thirds full. Press a raspberry into the centre of each - the batter should rise to all the way to the top. 
  5. Place in the oven to bake for 10-12 minutes or until light gold in colour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool (to avoid them becoming soggy) or devour immediately. 

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Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

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Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

ANTI-VALENTINES ANCIENT ROMAN-STYLE

Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

Candlelit dinner in a restaurant suddenly eye-wateringly expensive, a single rose rattling in its cellophane wrapper, chocolates filled with chemical cherry liqueur, and greetings cards covered with hearts and teddy bears and hearts and pictures of champagne and hearts: these are contemporary references to St Valentine’s Day. 

How much more seductive would it be to celebrate Lupercalia as the Ancients did?

Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies
Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

On the 15th February, naked youths of noble birth, anointed with the blood of sacrificed goats, and carrying strips of the animals’ hide, would run through Rome in a spirit of hilarity and lash waiting females in order to promote fertility and assist with pregnancy.

Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

If this sounds too overtly carnal, how about taking the advice of Ovid in his Ars Amatoria on how to secure a woman or man, how to seduce him or her, and how to keep him or her from being stolen by another? His tips include knowing where to look to find the beloved as he or she will not just fall from heaven. 

Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies
Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

According to Ovid, the theatre is a particularly good place to meet beautiful women.  He warns men to wear well cut and spotless togas, and to avoid having dirty, long fingernails and visible nasal hairs.

Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies
Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

 Beware, too, the persuasive effects of low lighting and alcohol which can mask a woman’s true looks, he says. 

Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies
Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

Women, however, he advises, should use to their advantage all the tricks that cosmetics can offer, while not letting any man observe their application: hide the work in progress, he suggests. Wear simple, unostentatious clothes, revealing a slightly exposed shoulder or upper arm. Sing, play an instrument and learn to play board games, he tells women, and beware of fops.

Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

But if all this sounds too much like hard work, I heartily recommend that you make these cookies.  Simple to make, they are rich and decadent and infinitely seductive.

Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies
Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

 

Ingredients (Makes 24)

300g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa)

160g Nutella

45g unsalted butter

225g plain flour

35g unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

4 large eggs

300g caster sugar

finely grated zest of 2 medium-sized oranges

1 tbsp fresh orange juice

80g icing sugar

2 baking sheets, lined with non-stick baking parchment

 

Method

  1. Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (without the water touching the bottom of the bowl).  Into the bowl break the chocolate into pieces and add in Nutella and butter. Allow to melt slowly, stirring occasionally until it turns glossy, molten and smooth. Remove the bowl from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, sieve together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  3. In an electric mixer fitter with the paddle, or in a large bowl by hand, beat together eggs and sugar for 2-3 minutes until creamy, thick and pale.  Pour in orange zest and juice and beat again to combine.
  4. Pour the molten chocolate mix into the egg mixture and very gently fold together so as not to lose the aeration. Pour in the sieved dry ingredients and, again, fold gently until just combined. 
  5. Cover bowl and let the mixture cool in the fridge for half an hour. 
  6. Preheat oven to 170°C. Sieve icing sugar into a bowl. Remove the cookie dough from the fridge and roll the dough into spheres of about 40g each. Roll each one in the icing sugar to coat thoroughly, then place on the tray, leaving about 5cm space between each.
  7. Place in oven to cook for 8-12 minutes, (checking after 8). They should be soft to the touch and feel slightly undercooked. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. They will continue to cook as they cool. If you can manage to resist them, store in a an airtight container for a week (they get fudgier over time), or freeze in an airtight container for 2 months.
Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies
Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies
Chewy Triple Chocolate Nutella & Orange Cookies

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MINI CHOCOLATE & RASPBERRY MERINGUES

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MINI CHOCOLATE & RASPBERRY MERINGUES

Mini Chocolate & Raspberry Meringues

According to most newspapers, January should be the month of indulgence deprivation. With the weather cold, grey and bleak, we’re being told that now is the time to eliminate everything that affords even a hint of pleasure. I admit that it may be time for me to cut down on the panettone habit: I caught myself tearing off fleecy chunks of the ambrosial, yellow, sultana-studded fluff and crowding my mouth until it overflowed. 

Mini chocolate & raspberry meringue

My brother actually created a time-saving method which anticipated the bolus of food that would develop in the gullet by compressing the panettone in his hands first before devouring. I was impressed.

Mini chocolate & raspberry meringue
Mini chocolate & raspberry meringue

Fortunately, but lamentably, my mother prevented me from importing from Italy to England the 5 kg of panettone that I’d bought (with the pretence of giving as gifts). To cope with the withdrawal symptoms, I made these instead.  

Mini chocolate & raspberry meringue
Mini chocolate & raspberry meringue

I refuse to deprive myself of pleasure - these can be a happy halfway house. So numerous that they can be popped into the mouth in one without anyone noticing that the supply has been reduced, so light that they can be enjoyed without having to loosen waistbands to accommodate them, and so small that they make gorgeous bejewelled petit fours at dinner parties without the guilt attached, in my case, to eating an entire pavlova.  

Mini chocolate & raspberry meringue
Mini Chocolate & Raspberry Meringues
Mini Chocolate & Raspberry Meringues

The dark chocolate base adds a touch of sophistication and slight bitterness to undercut the sweetness, and the raspberry provides that much needed astringency to cut through it. Crunch, creaminess, chocolate and tang, all in one mouthful – who needs 5kg of panettone? 

Mini Chocolate & Raspberry Meringues
Mini Chocolate & Raspberry Meringues
Mini Chocolate & Raspberry Meringues

Ingredients

(makes 70 mini meringues - halve the recipe if you would like fewer)

90g egg white (the whites of 3 large eggs)

175g caster sugar

150g good quality dark chocolate (70%)

200ml double cream

350g raspberries (approximately 1 per meringue)

30g icing sugar (optional)

2 large baking sheets lined with baking parchment

A piping bag fitted with a round 1cm nozzle to be used twice: first to pipe the meringue, and then the cream.  It can be marginally larger or smaller than 1cm. If you lack a piping bag, you can use a freezer bag and cut off a corner to replicate a 1 cm sized nozzle.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 130°C. Pour egg whites into an electric mixer fitted with a whisk and whisk on high speed until soft peaks form.  It should be foamy in appearance.
  2. Switch the speed to medium-high and pour in caster sugar one tablespoon at a time. Once each tablespoon has dissolved into the mass of egg white, add the next. Keep whisking until the meringue forms hard peaks and is glossy i.e. the meringue should hold its shape when drawn into peaks with a spoon and the tracks of the whisk are visible in its surface.
  3. Spoon the meringue mixture into the piping bag.  Holding the nozzle at a right angle to the baking parchment, pipe 3cm diameter sized meringue peaks onto the parchment in rows, leaving 3cm between each one (they expand slightly as they bake). Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes, checking after 30 minutes. Once cooked, switch the oven off and allow to sit for another 15 minutes in the oven. They should remain pale and be crisp on the outside and slightly soft in the centre. Remove cooled meringues from the oven, and set them aside.
  4. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Don't allow the water to touch the base of the chocolate bowl. Don't melt the chocolate directly in a pan on the stove as this causes it to seize. Allow to melt, stirring occasionally until glossy and smooth. Remove from the heat. Lightly holding the meringues at the sides with thumb and forefinger, dip the base of each meringue into the molten chocolate so that it coats the base and up to 1cm on the sides of the meringue. Place the dipped meringues back on to the baking parchment. Once the whole batch is coated, place the tray in the freezer for 10 minutes to allow them to set.
  5. In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk (or by hand if you’re feeling strong), whisk the cream until thickened. The tracks of the whisk should be visible and it should hold light peaks. Spoon the cream into a piping bag and pipe about a teaspoon of cream on to each meringue. Place a raspberry on each cream peak, face down. Sieve icing sugar over, if desired, and serve. 
  6. Best eaten on the day but the meringues without topping can be kept in an airtight container for a couple of weeks in a cool dry cupboard, and for a month in the freezer.
Mini Chocolate & Raspberry Meringues

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Morroccan Spiced Linzer Jam Cookies

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Morroccan Spiced Linzer Jam Cookies

Afternoon tea.  What do you think of when someone says those words? Tiers of fluffy isosceles sandwiches, miniature entremets layered with fruit, caramel, and chocolate, and maybe a scone glistening with strawberries.  Crisp napkins, high ceilings, the tinkling of fine bone china…

Near where I live there is an Austrian tea room.  The window is filled with garish glace cherry- adorned, deflated pastries, crusted squiggles of festering cream, and opera cake melding into a brown sludge. It opened 60 years ago, and the décor and pastries appear not to have been refreshed since.

Morroccan Spiced Linzer Jam Cookies

Inside, it is dark and cramped, and the airless atmosphere is thickened with hot breath and the oversweet smell of fat and sugar.

Their Linzer biscuits, however, remind me of Jammie Dodgers – those jam-filled, shortbread biscuits of my childhood that only other people’s mothers allowed – and inspired me to re- interpret them. 

These have a slight Moroccan edge: spiced, delicate with a slight chewiness, filled with the tangy conserve of your choice.

I like marmalade for the tart/bitter contrast against the sweetness of the pastry, but strawberry also works well.  Of course, you can go for any shape, but I am rather taken by the cog-like –quirky take on a Jammie Dodger look.

Ingredients

290g (10.125 ounces) white spelt flour (or plain flour if unavailable)

140g (5 ounces) ground almonds

100g (3.5 ounces) caster sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 ½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp almond extract

1 tsp grated lemon zest (about ½ lemon)

1 tsp grated orange zest (about ½ medium orange)

225g (8 ounces) unsalted butter

200g (7 ounces) marmalade or jam of choice (I used marmalade and strawberry)

30g (1 ounce) icing sugar

Large and small cookie cutters (I used 7cm and 3.5cm diameter rings)

2 large baking sheets, lined with baking parhcment

Method

  1. Pour flour, ground almonds, caster sugar, salt cinnoman, cloves,orange and lemons zest, and almond extract into a food processor and pulse until fully combined.  Add in the chopped butter and pulse again until the mixture forms a damp sand-like texture.  Keep pulsing until it clumps tighter to form a dough.
  2. Divide the dough into two rounds and flatten both onto sheets of baking parchment, wrap them and place them in the freezer for about 20 minutes or the fridge for an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 160˚C (325˚F). Remove the disks of dough from the freezer/fridge – if they are too firm to roll, let them sit for a few minutes.  Ona thoroughly floured board, roll one disk out to a 3mm (1/8 inch) thickness. Cut out as many cookies as possible and set aside the scraps.  Space the disks out on the baking trays as you go. Repeat with the second disk and use the smaller cutter to cut out small holes from the rounds.  Press together the accumulated scraps and roll out again.  Make sure there are an equal number of whole circles to circles with a cut out circle.  A tip to avoid the cutter sticking in the dough is to dip it in flour first.
  4. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 12- 15 minutes until the cookies are golden but still soft to the touch – they will continue to cook as they cool. When cool, for aesthetic effect, sieve the icing sugar onto the rounds with the circles cut out of them. Then spread a teaspoon of the jam/marmalade onto the complete circles, and lightly press the cut-out layer on top.  Devour, delicately, of course…
Morroccan Spiced Linzer Jam Cookies
Morroccan Spiced Linzer Jam Cookies

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Passion Fruit & Coconut Truffles

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Passion Fruit & Coconut Truffles

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Passion Fruit & Coconut Double Chocolate Truffles IMG_4217

My household has recently been beset by a typical problem. My mom rather enjoys pressing the "+”button when ordering from Ocado.  Whereas last week this resulted in a glut of cherries, this week it was passion fruit.   Even after days of bisecting the plum-coloured orbs and slurping up the tangy yellow spawn (sans spoon, and only in the most ladylike way, obviously), the supply remained steady.

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IMG_4237Clearly, truffles were the solution.  Most truffle recipes create a molten ganache centre by simply combining melted chocolate with the flavour/ingredient of choice and a dribble of cream.  Easy?  Perhaps.  Zero depth of flavour? Indeed.  I make a caramel base to add a darker, nuttier complexity.

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This is poured over the dark chocolate to melt it, and the golden toasted coconut is then swirled in with the fresh and tangy passion fruit juice.

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I recommend using good quality dark chocolate – the results are worth it.  The tangy molten ganache is then frozen, later to be formed into spheres.  These are encased in a crisp white chocolate and coconut shell to add a touch of sweetness and contrast of textures.

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The name “passion fruit” does not, as you might assume, come from any aphrodisiac qualities of the fruit.  Rather, it comes from the shape of flower which resembles a crown like that that of thorns around Jesus’ head – thus, passion derives from the "passion of Christ”.  Indeed, these truffles are rather ambrosial – you could even say that eating them is a religious experience.

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Ingredients (makes 50 - halve if strapped for time)

For the Ganache

150g 70% dark chocolate (good quality)

150g caster sugar

150g double cream

10g unsalted butter

10g light brown muscovado sugar

½ tsp salt

70g desiccated coconut

8 passion fruits, sieved to extract about 90ml of juice.

100g icing sugar, sifted

 

Large tray lined with baking parchment

 

For the shell

500g white chocolate

200g desiccated coconut

Pair of surgical gloves (optional)

  1. Chop the dark chocolate roughly, and set it aside in a large heatproof mixing bowl.
  2. To toast the coconut (70g), place a medium frying pan over a medium-high heat, pour the coconut in and stir continuously for 5 -8 minutes until the coconut turns a light golden colour. Add this to the dark chocolate.
  3. Place the caster sugar in saucepan over medium high heat, and when it starts to melt, stir gently with a spatula to avoid the sugar burning around the edges. Push unmelted sugar into the already caramelised sugar to aid the caramelising process.
  4. Once the sugar has turned a rich, dark gold colour, while still on the heat, pour in the cream, whisking all the time. If clumps form, don’t panic: keep whisking over medium low heat, and they will eventually melt.
  5. Once the lumps have dissolved, whisk in the muscovado sugar, butter, vanilla and salt and stir the bubbling mixture on a medium heat for another 2 minutes.
  6. Pour the hot mixture into the bowl of chopped dark chocolate and coconut and stir immediately until all the chocolate has melted and the caramel and chocolate are fully combined. Pour the passion fruit juice into the mixture, and stir to combine fully. Pour this into a shallow tray, and place in the freezer for an hour to set slightly.
  7. Once it has become slightly more solid, remove the tray of mixture from the freezer. Use a teaspoon to scoop out dollops, and roll each between the palms of your hands to form 2cm diameter spheres. Roll the spheres in the icing sugar to coat them finely, and then place them on a baking tray with space around each sphere to avoid their sticking together. Once all the mixture has been rolled into spheres, place the baking tray in the freezer for half an hour or until the spheres are firm and cold to touch. You may need to do this in batches as the ganache mixture melts very quickly.
  8. Break half the white chocolate (250g) into pieces and place in a bone-dry, heatproof bowl (any drop of water will make the chocolate seize). Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water (without the boiling water touching the base of the heatproof bowl), and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted.
  9. Remove the dark chocolate spheres from the freezer, and one at a time, skewer with a toothpick and coat by spooning the melted white chocolate over each frozen chocolate sphere. Remove the skewer, replace the coated truffle on the baking tray, and replace in the freezer for 10 minutes for the first layer to set.

Melt the rest of the white chocolate (using the same method as before), and place the desiccated coconut (200g) in a bowl. Remove the truffles from the freezer. If you don’t want to get too messy, wear surgical gloves to do this stage. With one hand, roll the truffle in the melted white chocolate. Then, drop it into the coconut and with your other hand roll it to coat it. Once the batch is complete, place back in the freezer for a minimum 10 minutes to set.

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Amaretti

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Amaretti

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Amaretti (gluten-free)  Amaretti

These are not those tooth-breaking, individually wrapped little rocks you might impulse buy at coffee shops.  They’re soft, aromatic and chewy (and great for the dentally challenged).

AmarettiAmaretti are also perfect for coeliacs, and can make a wonderful dessert paired with ice cream and a tangy berry sauce (see recipe here).

AmarettiThis recipe should be paired with my one for summer berry lemon curd tarts (see recipe here) which awkwardly leaves you with spare egg whites.  Don’t waste them, make these instead –you won’t regret it…

Amaretti

 

Amaretti

Ingredients (makes 35 small cookies)

360g ground almonds

220g caster sugar

finely grated zest of 2 lemons

½ tsp salt

115g egg white (3 large eggs, approx.)

4 tsp honey

¼ tsp almond extract

100g icing sugar, sieved, for rolling

 

1 large baking tray lined with baking parchment

 

Method

1.)    Preheat oven to 170˚C.  In a large bowl mix together the ground almonds, sugar, lemon zest and salt, and set aside.

2.)    Pour the egg whites into the bone dry and non-greasy bowl of an electric mixer.  Whisk on high speed until soft and frothy peaks form.  Pour the honey into the eggs and continue to whisk on a high speed until the peaks are glossy (see above photo). Sprinkle the almond extract into the eggs and whisk together very briefly at a low speed just to combine.

3.)    Very gently fold the whisked egg white mixture into the dry ingredients.  They will combine to form a soft and sticky paste.

4.)    Using your palms, roll 20g at a time of the mixture into spheres (roughly 2.5cm in diameter), and then roll each generously in a bowl of icing sugar.  Repeat and arrange on the tray, leaving at least 3cm between.  Use the tines of a fork to slightly flatten the amaretti spheres. Place the tray in the oven to bake for 8-12 minutes until they are beginning to turn golden on the outside but are still soft inside.  They will continue to cook as they cool.

Amaretti

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Tipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons

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Tipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons

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Tipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons I refuse to believe that the macaron is simply a fad.  Admittedly, there was a craze which saw the opening of several French macaron boutiques in London. I shan’t name names but one of the largest French specialists does not even make them fresh in London. Instead, they import them frozen from France - in a state of hibernation, as they call it.

Tipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons

Tipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons

Despite this, the specialists remain, and the macaron is here to stay. Now that the craze has faded a little, I feel more free to write a recipe as people will be slightly less sick of the sight of the perfect ruffled shells.

Tipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons

Many are intimidated at the prospect of making them, but there really is no need.  The rumour of the challenge in making them may well have been promulgated by the macaron specialists themselves in order to justify their extortionate pricing.

Tipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons

To make them extra tangy and fruity, raspberry is worked into these macarons in three ways: freeze dried raspberries, raspberry jam and raspberry liqueur.  If you can’t get hold of freeze dried raspberries, just omit this element from the recipe.

Tipsy Triple Raspberry MacaronsTipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons

Tipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons

Triple Raspberry Liqueur Macarons 

 

Makes about 30 small macarons

 

Ingredients

110g icing sugar, sieved

50g ground almonds, blitzed in a blender to a fine powder, and sieved

5g freeze dried raspberry powder OR 10g freeze dried raspberries, crushed or whole (see below)

60g egg whites (about 2 eggs' worth)

40g caster sugar

A couple of drops of pink food dye (optional)

200g seedless raspberry am

4 tbsp Chambord (raspberry liqueur)

 

2 large baking trays lined with baking parchment – if you wish to achieve perfectly circular macarons, create guidelines for the piping by drawing in pencil round a 4cm bottle lid repeatedly on the greaseproof paper, leaving at least 4cm between each circle.  Flip it over after doing this to ensure that the pencil does not transfer to the macaron

 

Piping bag fitted with 0.5cm nozzle

 

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the sieved icing sugar, ground almonds and freeze dried raspberry powder.  If you can only get hold of crushed or whole freeze dried raspberries, place these in a blender and blitz until they are as pulverised as possible, and then sieve to remove the seeds.  You should be left with a fine red dust.
  2. Pour egg whites into the bowl of a bone dry electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk at a high speed until soft, foamy peaks form.  Then, with the whisk still ongoing, add in the caster sugar, a tablespoonful at a time.  Keep whisking until the meringue is glossy and firm peaks form.
  3. Take a third of the meringue and mix it into the dry ingredients.  If the dry ingredients don’t fully combine, stir in another tablespoon of meringue.  At this point you can add a couple of drops of food dye to reach desired colour - anything from baby  girl to schiaparelli pink. The mixture should turn into a thick, smooth paste.  Then, gradually fold in the rest of the meringue, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture becomes glossy and smooth.
  4. Spoon mixture in the piping bag and pipe little dots directly onto the corners of the baking tray to stick the baking parchment down.  Then pipe the mixture into each circle.  Once finished piping, tap the tray down firmly on a hard surface a couple of times to remove the air bubbles from the macarons. Then set the macarons aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.  This will allow a skin to form and will lead to the creation of the often-elusive but essential “macaron foot”.
  5. While they are resting, preheat oven to 150˚C. Bake the macarons for 20 minutes or until they can be lifted off the tray cleanly with a pallet knife. Allow them to cool until they reach room temperature.
  6. Place raspberrry jam in a small pot over a medium-high heat and stir continuously. After it has bubbled furiously for a couple of minutes, stir in the Chambord.  Allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes,  or until it has become more viscous and thick enough to be able to be dropped off a spoon. Remove from the stove, allow to cool for 5 minutes and then sandwich each pair of macaron shells together with a teaspoon of the mixture.

Tipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons

 

Tipsy Triple Raspberry Macarons

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Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

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Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

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Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies Standing on a dining room chair to reach the kitchen counter top, swamped by my grandmother’s floral apron, and covered head to toe in drifts of white flour, at three years’ old I felt important and grown up. But first my grandparents and I would visit art galleries, going for afternoon tea (lemon cake for me, always), sitting on the top deck of the bus, drawing, painting, drinking more tea, and then, finally, at the end of the day, my grandmother would let me help her bake her oat and ginger cherry-bejewelled cookies – what I knew and still know as “Granny Biscuits”.  They are still in ready supply whenever I visit my grandmother’s house, and are as chewy, oaty and delicately sweet as they’ve ever been.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

 

 

My grandfather possessed a dangerously sweet tooth, and, as I’ve previously mentioned, was inclined to satisfy this without regard for moderation.  He would sneak into the larder and consume an entire box of glace cherries.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

This trait has wound its way down into my family. I name no names, but once the plastic seal has been broken, glace cherries mysteriously disappear at a rapid rate.  Although I admit I have, at several low points in my life, spooned jam without any justifying bread straight into my mouth, the general jam supply in my household is a more reliable presence.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint CookiesSo when recently I came to press the cherries into the Granny Biscuits (an essential step), and found there to be none, jam was a delicious substitute.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

This recipe is further adapted with coconut replacing oats to provide a more even coating and a beautiful golden crunch once baked.

You can use whatever jam or marmalade you desire – strawberry and apricot are two of my favourites.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients (Makes 25-35 approx.)

350g unsalted butter, at room temperature

200g caster sugar

2tsp vanilla extract

Zest of ½ lemon

½  tsp salt

350g white spelt flour

1 egg, beaten with 2 tsp water

200g desiccated coconut

100g strawberry jam

100g apricot jam

 

2 baking trays lined with baking parchment

 

Method

1.)    Preheat oven to 180˚C.

2.)    In a food mixer fitted with the paddle, or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, beat butter, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt together until fluffy and pale.

3.)    Sift in flour and mix together until fully combined and a soft dough is formed.  Flatten the dough into a roughly 2 cm thick disk, wrap in baking parchment, and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for ½ hour.

4.)    Roll the dough into 30g spheres (roughly 3 cm in diameter), dip each one in the beaten egg and then roll in the coconut.  Space the spheres at least 5 cm apart on the baking sheet.

5.)    Press your thumb in the middle of the spheres to create a teaspoon- sized indent.  Fill the indent with a teaspoonful  of the jam of your choice.

6.)    Place in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and the coconut turns golden.  Allow to cool and serve.

Coconut & Strawberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

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Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts

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Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts

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Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts I endured school lunches for four years and then abandoned them. Waking up twenty minutes early to throw together a packed lunch seemed worth it at the time.  My school lunches weren’t even bad.  In fact, they were probably rather good – good enough to avoid having Jamie Oliver sniff his way into our school kitchen in pursuit of good TV.

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What turned me (and my stomach) resided in the stainless steel vats adjacent to the desserts:  pools of lurid yellow purulence (custard).

Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts

 

 

Notwithstanding my decade old aversion, I decided to venture into custard territory last week.  And I found my cure: lemon curd-filled tarts.

Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts

Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts

 

Made using both lemon juice and zest, paired with a lemon-infused tart shell, and partnered with fresh berries, these make a tangy and refreshing summer dessert.

Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts

Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts

 

I use spelt flour in the pastry to add extra nuttiness and depth of flavour.  It also has a lower GI than wheat flour.   However, if you can't find it, you can substitute plain flour.

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IMG_1021 Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts

Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts

Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts Summer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts Ingredients (makes 12)

Lemon tart shells

360g white spelt flour  (substitute with plain flour if unavailable)

110g icing sugar

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

¼ tsp salt

190g cold unsalted butter, roughly chopped into small cubes

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp cold water

 

A 10cm pastry cutter

1 12-hole cupcake tin, greased with butter and then placed in fridge to chill

Baking beads or rice to weigh down the pastry while it bakes

12 cupcake cases

 

Lemon Curd

Finely grated zest of 4 lemons

200 ml lemon juice (4-6 lemons)

200g caster sugar

4 medium eggs

4 medium egg yolks

180g unsalted butter

1 baking tray with lipped sides

200g blueberries

150g strawberries

150g raspberries

Icing sugar for dusting

 

Method

Lemon pastry tart shells

  1. Blend together flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt in a food processor, and add in butter, pulsing to combine until the mixture resembles damp sand. Alternatively, if working manually, mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl and rub the butter in with your fingers.
  2. Pour the egg yolk, vanilla and water into the mixture and pulse/stir until the mixture just comes together. Flatten the pastry dough into a disc , wrap in baking parchment/cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour, or freezer for 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 150˚C.
  4. On a floured surface, roll half the dough out to the thickness of 2 or 3 mm, and cut the pastry into discs using the pastry cutter. Gently press the pastry discs into the prepared cupcake tin.  You will find that there is some dough left over.  This can be frozen for about a month.
  5. Set the cupcake cases into the pastry shells and fill them with the baking beads/rice to weigh the pastry down and prevent it from losing its shape during the bake.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden and firm to touch. If they have not turned golden by this point, remove the baking beads/rice and cupcake cases and bake for a further 5-10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.  These can be made 2 or 3 days in advance and kept in an airtight container until you are ready to use them.

Lemon curd

  1. Place lemon zest, juice, sugar, eggs, egg yolks and half the butter in a saucepan over a medium-high heat and whisk continuously while the ingredients cook together.  When the mixture has thickened slightly and threatens to stick to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat and continue to whisk for another couple of minutes until thickened, whisking all the while.  Off the heat, whisk in the remaining butter until thoroughly combined.  It should be smooth and glossy.
  2. Sieve the curd over the baking tray, and spread it out with a spatula so that only a thin layer coats the tray. Cover the surface of the lemon curd with baking parchment or cling film and place the tray in the fridge for a minimum of half an hour or until it has cooled and become slightly firmer.  Alternatively, place the tray in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Assembly

Arrange the pastry shells on a serving plate and spoon in the lemon curd (roughly 3 tsp per case). Top generously with the berries and dust with icing sugar just before serving.  They can be kept in the fridge for up to 6 hours before serving; longer than that they tend to become soggy.

Summer Berry Lemon Curd TartsSummer Berry Lemon Curd Tarts

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Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

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Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

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(Affectionately known as Froyo Yoyos) Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

If something becomes a fad, I usually try to avoid it.  Cupcakes were once things of joy, their light, sweet, spongeyness perfuming the house with the scent of birthdays.  And there was always the hope of left over icing, not to mention the ease with which one could convince oneself that the perfectly domed surface was in need of decapitation, just to preview the crunchy golden coated delicate sponge, just in case the cupcakes weren’t guest-worthy.  But now those simple pleasures have been crushed for me as the once-a -year treat has lost its golden hued novelty.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

The single-concept shops dedicated to cupcakes are now a graveyard for the dying fad.  I walked past a well-known purveyor of cupcakes in the middle of an airless department store only last week, and watched as the woman behind the counter shuffled the gaudy treats into reverse rainbow order in an attempt to look busy.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

Frozen yoghurt is no longer a novelty, but for me at least it has not yet lost its appeal.  Some people (including me) are able to delude themselves that even with the marshmallow, cookie dough, caramel topping it’s a healthier version of their favourite ice cream.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

When the clouds deigned to expose a sliver of sunlight for a short while on Saturday, I decided to indulge in a little frozen yoghurt.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

 

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

The cherries at my favourite fruit monger were so glossy and irresistibly crimson they were begging to be involved in my hoping-for-summer recipe.  I combined them with yuzu juice for a touch of astringency to cut through the sweet creaminess of the yoghurt. Then, to add a childlike allure, I sandwiched the frozen yoghurt between two discs of biscuit which I’d infused with almond extract to bring out the cherry flavour further.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

The yuzu juice provides a wonderfully tart citrusy note to the frozen yoghurt.  If you can't find it, substitute it with lemon or lime.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

I used an ice cream churner to make the frozen yoghurt smoother and the ice crystals finer, but if you don’t have one this stage can be skipped and the result will still be delicious.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

Of course, the cherry and yuzu frozen yoghurt can be enjoyed sans biscuit.  The biscuit is however, rather useful if you wish to turn it into a hand held treat, whether or not the sunshine lingers.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

 

 

Ingredients  (makes 8-10)

Cherry and Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt

375g cherries, halved and pitted

125g caster sugar

250g full fat natural yoghurt (don’t use Greek)

1 tsp yuzu juice

6 drops of almond extract

1 medium sized (18cm x 28cm approx.) loaf tin, lined with cling film

 

Almond Biscuit

160g butter, at room temperature

2 egg yolks

10 drops almond extract

210g plain flour

50g sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

1 large baking tray lined with baking parchment

4.5/5cm circular cookie cutter or wine glass

 

Method

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt

  1. Place cherries and sugar in a small pan over a high heat. Stir occasionally to prevent sugar from burning.  When enough liquid has run out from the cherries to coat the base of the pan and it begins to boil, reduce heat to medium.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes until the liquid from the cherries has reduced and is just slightly thicker than maple syrup.
  2. Allow the cherries and syrup to cool then blitz them together with the yuzu, almond extract and yoghurt until smooth. If you are using an ice cream maker, chill the mixture and then churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Otherwise, proceed to step 3.
  3. Pour the mixture into the cling film-lined loaf tin, and smooth the surface with a spatula. Place in freezer for 1-2 hours until solid.

Almond Cookies

  1. Beat the butter in a mixer (or by hand) until light and fluffy. Into this, beat the almond extract, vanilla extract and egg yolks.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar and salt. Stir this into the butter mixture until a dough forms.
  3. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in baking parchment and place in freezer for 15 minutes (or fridge for 30 minutes).
  4. Preheat oven to 160˚C.
  5. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 7mm thickness. Using the cookie cutter, cut the dough into the discs and place on lined tray.
  6. Bake for 7-10 minutes until cooked all the way through but still pale. Allow to cool.

Assembly

Remove the loaf tin containing the frozen yoghurt from the freezer. Using the cookie cutter, cut the frozen yoghurt into discs and sandwich each disc between two almond biscuits.  Store these in an airtight container and return to the freezer until ready to serve.

Cherry & Yuzu Frozen Yoghurt Almond Cookie Sandwich

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Candied Ginger & Orange Hazelnut Biscotti - Recipe

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Candied Ginger & Orange Hazelnut Biscotti - Recipe

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Candied Ginger & Orange Hazelnut Biscotti - Recipe Biscotti, or cantucci, as they are known in Tuscany are crunchy and chewy slivers of twice baked and ridiculously moreish, Italian biscuits traditionally containing almonds, and often an abundance of dried fruit.  They are obligatorily dipped into an immodestly full glass of Vin Santo (Italian sweet wine) and held there until the majority of the wine has been absorbed by the biscuit and there’s every chance it will land in one’s lap before it reaches one’s ready and waiting mouth.

Candied Ginger & Orange Hazelnut Biscotti - Recipe

 

Unfortunately, biscotti are endangered in Britain.  Their reputation is marred by the imitation biscotti that have taken up residence in the majority of common coffee chains.

Candied Ginger & Orange Hazelnut Biscotti - Recipe

These poor copies of the true Italian post-prandial biscuit are so dry that they react like silica gel to one’s mouth, so stale that you may need to sacrifice a tooth to consume them.

Candied Ginger & Orange Hazelnut Biscotti - Recipe

For this pleasure the coffee chains also charge a trillion percent mark-up on what are the easiest and most inexpensive biscuits to make.  Also, they’re often sold individually – who stops at just one?

Candied Ginger & Orange Hazelnut Biscotti - Recipe

This recipe is very versatile.  I love strong flavours, and so I paired ginger with orange to give the biscuits a tang, and added the toasted hazelnuts for slight smokiness.  However, these ingredients can be substituted with any dried fruit and nut of your choice, or indeed left plain.  Use 200g of the dried fruit, 250g of the nut of your choice and, in place of the orange & ginger syrups, sub in an extra 2 tbsp honey.

Candied Ginger & Orange Hazelnut Biscotti - Recipe

Ingredients

For the biscuit

500g plain flour

350g sugar

3 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

3 eggs + 1 egg white + 1 egg yolk for later

2 tsp vanilla essence

3 tsp curaçao (triple sec)

250g roasted hazelnuts crushed into halves or slightly smaller pieces

2 tbsp honey

Zest of 1 orange

2 trays lined with baking parchment

For the candied oranges                                                

2 oranges

1 cup water

3/4   cup sugar

For the candied ginger – or 140g store bought

200g ginger peeled and slices into 1/8 inch disks

4 cups of water

170g sugar

 

Candied ginger method

  1. Place sliced and peeled ginger in shallow pan with water and bring to boil.  Allow to simmer with the lid on for 25 minutes
  2. Drain the ginger saving 1 cup of liquid and pour in sugar. Bring to medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes until the liquid becomes syrupy and the ginger is translucent.
  3. Place sieve over a bowl and pour the mixture over to drain off the syrup. Reserve both elements for later use.

Candied orange peel method

  1. Slice the peel off the oranges with a knife in thick strips, cutting close to the flesh. Cut the peel into thin 0.5 cm strips and those to roughly 2cm lengths.
  2. Place chopped orange peel, sugar and water in pan and bring to boil. Reduce to medium heat and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is mostly evaporated and syrupy and the oranges are translucent and lacking the sourness of their fresh state.

Biscuit method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Mix all the dry ingredients together with the toasted hazelnuts in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl separate one egg and place the yolk aside for later use.  Mix together the 3 whole eggs, the egg white of one egg and the other liquid ingredients with the candied orange peel (along with it syrup) and the drained pieces of ginger along with 2 tbsp of the ginger syrup.
  3. Pour liquid mixture into the dry and stir until combined in a stiff dough.
  4. Sprinkle a wooden board with flour and spoon 1/6 of the mixture onto it. Coat your hands in flour and roll the dough out into a 5 cm wide log. Place on tray. Repeat with rest of mixture, leaving a large at least 10cm distance between each piece since it will spread whilst cooking.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until deep golden brown. With knife at the ready, take them out and slice diagonally into 3 cm widths and turn them so they’re cut side up.  Turn off the oven and place these back in to dry out for another  10 minutes. Or just leave them in until ready to serve.

Candied Ginger & Orange Hazelnut Biscotti - Recipe

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Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies - Recipe

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Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies - Recipe

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Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies - Recipe Memories of countries and cities I’ve visited are strongly intertwined with my culinary experiences there.   Whenever I’m asked about my trip to Cuba, memories of the music, culture and politics, the beauty of the countryside, the cars, and the buildings are always drowned by the paddies of rice starch dotted with beans which faced me every meal time.  The lone cylinder of “Master Potato Crisps” (lesser Pringles), furry with dust, which commanded an entire shelf in an embargo-challenged grocery store emerged as a perverse highlight.

Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies - Recipe

 

I will never be able mentally to separate Canada from the oozing, sticky-sweet clasp of a particular Toronto cinnamon bun (it may have been preceded by some, but its superiority has eradicated all past and future competition).  New York is always a complete sensory overload: last year I ate overtime to cram Lebanese, Thai, raw vegan, Chinese, Italian, modern European, American, French, Greek, Mexican, and Brazilian into five days - delicious and, arguably, gluttonous.  Yet, despite this mammoth accomplishment, one of the most outstanding of the culinary delights I’ve sampled there is something rather less exotic: the peanut butter cookie.  It may be humble in name, maybe in appearance too, but it is most certainly not humble in nature.  The source of this ambrosia is the well-established City Bakery, off Union Square, known best for its croissant pretzels, seductively viscous hot chocolate and, of course, its peanut butter cookies -crumbly on the outside and soft and chewy in the interior, with salty and sweet in fine-tuned balance creating an insatiable desire for more.

Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies - Recipe

At brunch a couple of weekends ago, one of my friends confessed her current obsession: sneaking off to her kitchen cupboard armed with a bread stick to pair with that American favourite of jam and peanut butter.

Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies - Recipe

The memory of the palate-coating, salty-sweetness of the City Bakery peanut butter cookies reasserted itself.  Over the next week it took up stubborn residence, so I made up my own.  They worked.  I know this because I made them twice: I left the first batch out to cool, exited the kitchen for 10 minutes, and when I returned, they were gone, my brother unabashedly dusting the last few crumbs off his sweater.  With family members temporarily banished from the kitchen, the second batch survived long enough to be photographed.  Although delicious on their own, I sandwiched mine with raspberry jam to offset the sweet salty nuttiness with a little tang. Julia D. you are to blame for this recipe (and it is, indeed, dedicated to you).

Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies - Recipe

Often cookie recipes frustratingly demand that the dough is chilled before baking.  These can be made, baked and eaten in 20 minutes - no torturous chilling necessary.

Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies - Recipe

Ingredients (makes 34 individual cookies)

115g unsalted butter, at room temperature

190g granulated sugar

60g light brown sugar

¾ tsp salt

250g smooth peanut butter

1 large egg

½ tsp vanilla extract

140g white spelt flour (or plain flour)

150g raspberry jam (optional)

2 baking sheets lined with baking parchment

 

Method

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C.
  2. In a mixer (or by hand), cream together butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar and salt until pale and fluffy. Mix in peanut butter, egg and vanilla extract until fully combined.  Gently stir in the flour.
  3. In the palms of your hands, roll a tablespoon of the mixture at a time to form 4cm spheres. Space them out on the tray.  When the mixture is used up, gently press a fork into the spheres to flatten them and form a criss-cross pattern as pictured.
  4. Bake in oven for 12-14 minutes until slightly golden and still soft to touch. Allow to cool slightly before sandwiching each pair together with a teaspoon of raspberry jam.

Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies - Recipe

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Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies

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Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies

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Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies

Every year the bile-inducing  pink and fluffy over-commercialised day of dictated love comes about. And unsurprisingly, due to their arguable aphrodisiac qualities, sales of oysters peak.  Well as you or your date slurp these down on your Valentine’s date, think of this: oysters are related to slugs.  Why not grab a few from your garden, douse them with some Tabasco with buttered bread on the side and gulp these instead – cheaper and more plentiful (this is not actually a recipe).

Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies

Something a little more acceptable as an anti-Valentine’s day recipe might be this: soft & chewy hot spiced double ginger nut cookies.  They’re not red, not cloying-sweet and they’re not heart shaped.  They even have a little rebellious kick to them if you choose to add the cayenne pepper, which as a spice addict, I love.  But if you prefer something a little milder, leave it out.  If you want to shake off a stalker add more (roughly 5x stated quantity) and deliver gift wrapped.

Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies

Makes about 35 cookies

Ingredients

200g unsalted butter, softened

440g self-raising flour

125g caster sugar

3 tbsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 tsp salt

100g stem ginger (;preserved in syrup), finely chopped

2 tbsp ginger syrup (from the preserved ginger)

180g golden syrup

30g treacle

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 baking tray lined with baking parchment

Method

1.)Preheat oven to 160°C.

2.)Place butter, flour, sugar, ground ginger, bicarbonate of soda, cayenne pepper (if using) and salt in a blender and blitz until thoroughly mixed and is like damp sand.

3.) Warm chopped ginger, ginger syrup, golden syrup, treacle and vanilla extract in a pan over a low heat for a couple of minutes until the mixture becomes less viscose.  Pour this into the dry ingredients and pulse until combined into a dough.

4.) Roll the dough into 3cm wide spheres and space them out on the baking trays  as they will spread whilst baking.

5.) Place in preheated oven and bake for 7-10 minutes until golden and slightly crisp on outside and very soft on the inside.  They should seem slightly under-baked as they will continue to cook as they cool and this will make them deliciously soft and chewy.

Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Soft & Chewy Hot Spiced Double Ginger Cookies
Anti-Valentine's Day Ginger Cookies - Recipe
Anti-Valentine's Day Ginger Cookies - Recipe

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Salted Caramel-filled Chewy Chocolate Brownie Cookies

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Salted Caramel-filled Chewy Chocolate Brownie Cookies

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Salted caramel-filled chewy chocolate brownie cookies I blame salted-caramel for my short-sightedness.  At the end of morning assembly, when I was five years’ old, the headmistress would read a prayer.  Every one of us would dutifully lower her head and shut her eyes.   I pressed mine tightly closed with my hands until, like some computer generated visualiser, semi-hallucinogenic patterns appeared.  Well, mainly one pattern: a recurrent drop of molten gold slipping seductively into its glistening pool, creating ripples that seemed to extend to the corners of dark space behind my eyelids.  I found the effect narcotic, and would do this without fail every morning.

I now realise that the real-life equivalent to that voluptuous liquefied gold is salted caramel: fudgy, creamy slick, viscous and dangerously addictive, I’m obsessed.

Salted caramel-filled chewy chocolate brownie cookies

Too often it drenches and drowns all other culinary thoughts and ideas I have, but to resist its ambrosial pull is futile.  So, instead, I have decided to partner it with its already well-established acquaintance - chocolate.  That’s not to say that these cookies are in any way ordinary.

Salted caramel-filled chewy chocolate brownie cookies

Most shop bought packets of chocolate cookies are filled with empty promises, often dry, floury, over sodium bicarbonated, and rock solid.

Salted caramel-filled chewy chocolate brownie cookies

I have a friend who has developed and perfected the “cookie-pinch”.  Her forefinger and thumb clamp down on unsuspecting biscuits in their paper wrapping.  The motion is swift and discreet, but in that split second the pads of her well-attuned digits estimate the freshness of the cookie to the nearest hour.

Salted caramel-filled chewy chocolate brownie cookies

Salted caramel-filled chewy chocolate brownie cookies

These chocolate biscuits, however, are crisp, rich, chewy and soft, and cushioned by their silky smooth salted caramel filling, rendering my friend’s admirable skill totally redundant.

Salted caramel-filled chewy chocolate brownie cookies

Salted caramel-filled chewy chocolate brownie cookies

Ingredients

Cookie

200g dark chocolate, chopped

40g unsalted butter

2 eggs

150g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

35g plain flour, sifted

¼ tsp baking powder, sifted

¼ tsp salt

 

Salted caramel frosting

165g white caster sugar

60ml water

125ml single cream

150g unsalted butter, chopped

250g icing sugar, sieved

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

 

2 baking trays, lined with baking parchment

Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C
  2. Melt chocolate and butter together in a small pan over a low heat until only just melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.
  3. In an electric mixer, whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla for about 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes smooth and slightly thicker.
  4. Gently fold in the cooled chocolate and butter mixture.  Once combined, fold in the sieved flour, baking powder and salt until just combined and let stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Drop the mixture, 1 tablespoon per biscuit on to the baking trays leaving 5cm between them as the mixture will spread.
  6. Bake for 8–10 minutes or until shiny and cracked. Allow to cool on trays.

Salted caramel icing

  1. Stir together sugar and water in a pan over a high heat until sugar has dissolved. Allow to bubble up for about 5-10 minutes until it turns a deep burnished gold.  Don’t be afraid to let it turn quite rusty in colour – the deeper in colour you dare to go (without it burning) the more depth of flavour.
  2. As soon as it gets to the above stage pour in cream and butter and whisk immediately and continuously over the high heat until fully combined. If the sugar crystallises, don’t panic.  Keep whisking over a high heat until it melts once more.
  3. Remove from heat and let it cool. You can place it in fridge, or freezer, or, if you’re greedy and impatient, you can place the pan in an ice water bath and stir until cool.  I opt for the latter option.
  4. Beat together caramel, icing sugar, vanilla and salt until combined.
  5. Sandwich the cookies together using 2 tbsp of the icing (or more depending on how caramel-crazed you are).

Salted caramel-filled chewy chocolate brownie cookies

 

 

(adapted from Donna Hay)

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1 Comment

Baklava

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baklava Its origins lie as either  Central Asian Turkic traditional layered breads, or traditional Roman desserts from Istanbul the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (I favour the latter option).  Breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner – these golden perfumed sweets are appropriate at any time of the day in may book and they are way simpler & quicker to make than you might think.

baklava with ground pistachio & pomegranate

baklava

Many recipes call for the pastry to soak for 8 hours or more – I came up with a recipe that can be made and cooked (and eaten) in less than half an hour.

 

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baklava

Ingredients

 

¼ cup caster sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup orange blossom honey

1 ½ tsp lemon juice

½ tsp rose water

100g pistachios (ground to affine rubble)

100g walnuts (ground to a fine rubble)

Pinch of salt

 

6 sheets filo pastry

200g melted butter

100g bread crumbs

 

Syrup

½ cup water

½ cup caster sugar

¼ cup orange blossom honey

1 tsp lemon juice

¾ tsp rose water

tray line with baking parchment

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200˚C.
  2. Place sugar, water and honey in a pan over high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Reduce to medium-high heat and allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes until slightly more viscous. Stir in the lemon juice and simmer for 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
  4. Stir the ground nuts, pinch of salt and rose water into the syrup and set aside.
  5. Lay out a sheet of filo pastry lengthways (with the shorter side of the rectangle nearer to you), paint with melted butter and lightly sprinkle with bread crumbs. Lay another sheet on top and repeat.
  6. Cut the layered pastry into 4 long strips. Place a teaspoon of nut mixture at the bottom right hand corner of a strip and fold the corner over to great a triangular pocket.  Keep folding, in triangles until you reach the end of the strip then paint with melted butter and place on baking tray.
  7. Bake in oven for 10 minutes, or until the outside is golden and crisp.
  8. While the baklava are baking, make the syrup by repeating step 2 with the syrup ingredients.
  9. Once baklava are cooked, place on serving plate & drizzle generously with the syrup.

Makes 12

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Raspberry dusted white chocolate coated salted caramel truffles

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Raspberry dusted white chocolate coated salted caramel truffles

truffles5 Last weekend Culina was trumpeted into existence…literally, with an evening of jazz, ever-flowing champagne, canapés, desserts & petit fours. It was a wonderful evening of abundance and great company.

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I had dedicated every evening of the previous week to “truffling” yet all 300 of the white chocolate coated salted caramel truffles disappeared without a trace. Salting caramel has become almost a cliché but there is definitely a reason for that combo: the salt balances the sickly sweetness of the caramel, making the truffles even more moreish.

 

If you’re short of time, you need not dip the truffles into the white chocolate. Instead, after rolling them into spheres, roll them in cocoa powder, chill in the fridge and serve.

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Ingredients 300g 70% good quality dark chocolate

300g caster sugar

300ml double cream

20g light brown muscovado sugar

20g butter

1tspn vanilla extract

1 tspn salt

450g good quality white chocolate

5 g freeze dried raspberries, crushed or powdered (optional)

100g icing sugar (or 100g cocoa powder if not coating with white chocolate)

toothpicks

 

(Makes approx. 60)

 

Method

 

1. Chop the dark chocolate roughly, and set aside in heatproof mixing bowl. Or if you’re feeling aggressive, smash it against a surface (when still in its wrapper).

2. Place caster sugar in saucepan over medium high heat, and when it starts to melt stir gently with spatula to avoid burning around the edges. Push unmelted sugar into the already caramelised sugar to aid the caramelising process. 3. Once the sugar has turned a rich, dark gold colour, while still on the heat, pour in 150g of the cream whisking all the time. If clumps form, don’t panic: keep whisking over medium low heat, and they will eventually melt. 4. Once the lumps have dissolved, pour in the rest of the cream, the muscovado sugar, butter, vanilla and salt and stir the bubbling mixture on a medium heat for another 2 minutes. 5. Pour the mixture into the bowl of chopped dark chocolate and stir immediately until all the chocolate has melted and the caramel and chocolate are fully combined. 6. To chill more quickly, pour the mixture into a baking tray and place in the freezer for about an hour, or until solidified. 7. Cover a clean baking tray with tinfoil. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the mixture, and roll between palms of hands to form 2cm diameter spheres. Roll the spheres in the icing sugar to finely coat, and then place them on baking tray with space around each sphere to avoid their sticking together. Once all the mixture has been rolled into spheres, place baking tray in freezer for half an hour or until the spheres are firm and cold to touch. 8. Break white chocolate into pieces and place in bone-dry heatproof bowl (any drop of water will make the chocolate seize). Place heatproof bowl over pot of boiling water without the boiling water touching the base of the heatproof bowl. Stir occasionally. Remove pan from heat when the chocolate has melted. 9. Remove dark chocolate spheres from freezer, and one at a time, skewer with a toothpick and coat by spooning over the melted white chocolate. Remove the skewer, replace the coated truffle on the tin foil lined baking tray. Drip enough white chocolate over the truffle to disguise any blemishes the toothpick has made. 10. While the white chocolate is still liquid, sprinkle with the freeze-dried raspberry, if using. 11. Replace the tray in the freezer for half an hour until the white chocolate coating has hardened. The truffles may be kept in the fridge until you wish to serve them. Alternatively, the truffles may be kept in a sealed box in the freezer for a couple of weeks.

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