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biscuits

Thick & Chewy Spice Cookies

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Thick & Chewy Spice Cookies

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OK, so I’m going to tell you about a brilliant new diet to ensure you lose all that Christmas flab.

It throws 5:2, Keto, raw food, Mediterranean and intermittent fasting out of the window. If you’re disillusioned with all those malware-laden pop up adverts on illegal streaming sites that you secretly clicked on promising flat belly magic trick, let me right that for you.

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After some hardcore, scientific studies on how people gain weight, which foods trigger fat gain and how we’re rotting our metabolism, my dad had an epiphany and realised that all these diets were ignoring the obvious.

All those Instagram/YouTube stars chronicling the secrets to peachy bums, thigh gaps, hotdog legs and concave stomachs have been holding back their industry secrets. It’s not food groups that need to be cut out, but letters. All the foods (and often drinks) that stand in the way of a lean, rippling bikini bod have something in common: biscuits, cookies, bread, chocolate, cake, bagels, beer, cocktails, champagne, and brownies. Yes. That’s right – you’ve wasted money and/or time logging on to My Fitness Pal, consulting dieticians, and calorie counting when I have just given you the secret to fat loss. Cut out the Bs and Cs and you are on your way to fitfluencer stardom.

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Pregnancy is the benchmark by which weight gain is measured in my household, and my dad came back from India in his second trimester.

Turns out feasting on gulab jamun, breakfast, lunch and dinner dosas, curry upon curry, daily afternoon tea and even straight up jaggery does that to you. This drastic increase from two to five months’ gestation in the space of two weeks, plus a stomach of steel allowing evasion of the revolting bug that had churned up the rest of my family’s insides, meant that a new diet and regime was mandatory. And when my dad commits to something, he is an all-or-nothing person. And let me tell you, cutting out B and C foods is far easier than you might think. In fact, it’s practically seamless. Don’t worry about cheat meals or relapses because this is a diet that works perfectly with whatever lifestyle you were already leading. 

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My dad’s commitment to the diet has been so fervent and admirable that when I offered him a Jerusalem bagel (from last week) he refused.

He heroically turned down the molten chocolate brownies that I brought into work. He didn’t even respond to me when the exotic perfume of these thick, soft and chewy spice cookies wafted round the house (commendable).

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You see the diet works so well that if you’re clever about it, and careful, you don’t really need to sacrifice anything at all.

His resolve has been so strong that cookies are now banned from our house, as are bagels, biscuits, chocolate and brownies. 

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Instead, we have a whole inventory of agels, and iscuits, hocolate and rownies and ookies.

My dad has had five of these spice ookies today and he’s still fully committed to the diet - and so can you. Just like that one calorie that gets left floating in the can when you have diet coke, so all the muffin-top inducing calories are left behind when the B and C’s are seamlessly spliced from your favourite treat.

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This is the diet to be on because these (c)ookies are the ambrosia of the (c)ookie world – they’re a one bowl wonder and can be whizzed up in a matter of minutes.

There’s no freezing, chilling or resting meaning that they can go from flour packet to final product-in–mouth in about half an hour (pausing en route for some of that dough). I know cookies can be a very subjective, personal and emotional topic, but these are undeniably the top tier: slightly crisp on the outside and soft thic(cc)k and chewy. If you fear that the batch may disappear before you get a look in, feel free to double it – the results will be the same.  They can also be stored in an airtight container in a freezer for up to three months which is ideal if you want to whip them out for unexpected occasions (emergencies). 

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Thick & Chewy Spice Cookies - Recipe

Makes 12-14 cookies

Ingredients

220g white spelt flour (or plain white flour, if you prefer)

2 ½ tsp baking powder

60g caster sugar

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 ½ tsp baking soda

100g unsalted butter, at room temperature, roughly cut into cubes

100g golden syrup

20g treacle

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp mixed spice

 

large baking tray lined with baking parchment

 

Method

1)    Preheat oven to 160°C.

2)    If using a food processor (super quick), pour in all the dry ingredients and whizz to combine. Then add in the butter and pulse until the mixture becomes like damp sand. If making by hand, in a large bowl stir together dry ingredients. Then add in the butter and rub into the dry mixture with your fingertips until it reaches a damp sand-like consistency.

3)    In a small pan over a low heat, pour in the syrup and treacle, and stir until combined and warm. Pour into the sand-like mixture, and pulse until it just about comes together into a dough, taking care not to over mix. If making by hand, pour the treacle into the sand-like mixture, and stir together until it forms a dough.

4)    Make the cookies by breaking off pieces of the dough with your hands and rolling them into a sphere. I make each one 35g to ensure that they bake consistently. Then space the spheres on a baking tray at least 5cm apart. Place in the preheated oven to bake for 8-12 minutes until golden but soft to the touch. They will continue to bake once removed from the oven so taking them out slightly underdone ensures that they have a chewy centre. 

5)    Allow to cool before eating (they will be too friable when straight out of the oven), then devour. Once cool, they can be kept in a sealed airtight box in a freezer for up to 3 months.

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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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Eating New York

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Eating New York

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I write this sitting on the flight to New York in stasis mode, having metamorphosed into a sedentary lump.  The invisible but insidious radiation, and the already- breathed air must be to blame for my lack of concentration:  I’ve started five films, and finished one – a saccharine, brainless comedy. And in this reduced state, my thoughts revolve around my stomach (more than usual). The looming flight attendant and her trolley are causing spikes in adrenaline –so attuned to the possibility of food delivery am I that I’m reacting pavlovianally to the click of the locker doors as the meals are unloaded. By flying west, I’ve gained time.  More time equals more meals. I had breakfast and lunch at home, but the grey boredom of airports requires food for stimulation. The pre-flight, Prêt snack ritual has been observed.  But that has not deterred me from munching through the 5pm dinner (chicken, and sticky-toffee pudding - and not bad actually. Better, in fact, than the recent attempt at a repast at The Palomar – see my review). 

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In-flight entertainment is clearly not being served by the screen in front of me, but instead by the rotating supply of snacks from the “Wonder Wall”. These fill the flight with purpose: I must try every one of these matte- packaged, faux-healthy snacks.  Initially, I feel pride as I conquer them: a nut-free, oat bar so small that I need to have two just to make sure I document the flavour correctly; a tiny packet of popcorn that is apparently “cheese toasty and caramel flavour” (too weird not to try); some vegan sour sweets (only four in a pack - what a tease, two please); olives; hand cut crisps that promise to be artisanal (I’m sold); two-bite bars of Himalayan salted chocolate that barely register due to their shrunken format.

At 11pm UK time, I’m served afternoon tea (a selection of cakes, a scone, and some mayonnaise-suffused sandwiches). I persevere with these.  There’s no stopping me now.

It’s half an hour until landing, and reality is beginning to set in. I’m surrounded by a shameful nest of wrappers: unequivocal evidence of my greed and boredom.

Pride has turned to nausea.  

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After a day of recovery, I launched myself on to the NYC dining scene. I’m mainly vegetarian, so most restaurants set out below are either fully plant-based, or vegetarian/vegan-friendly. This is by no means an exhaustive list but an account of the places that I enjoyed (with one rather off-putting experience).

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The Fat Radish

Vibe: Vegetable-focused Modern European cuisine in an earthy chic paradise.

Highlights:  Though not vegetarian, the vegan and vegetarian options are numerous and innovative (refreshingly not pasta or risotto). Order several of the sweet pea pot pies which are so good I’ve had to replicate them twice since returning to London. The Macro plate and banoffee pies are also must-eats. Booking is essential.

Lowlights: None. 

Good for: vegans/vegetarians/restricted diets

Where: Lower East Side

http://www.thefatradishnyc.com

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Jajaja Plantas Mexicana

Vibe: Vegan innovative Mexican style cuisine in a vibrant, bustling urban cafe

Highlights: No one at my table could get enough of the nachos with vegan chorizo, fermented black beans, turmeric vegan queso fundito, spicy vegetable relish, and vegan sour cream. The crispy chayote ‘fish’ tacos with chipotle almond butter and pickled red onion are also deliciously different.

Lowlights: no booking, and the tightly packed restaurant mean that you should avoid peak meal hours. Service also slows drastically during these times.

Good for: vegans/restricted diets/casual dining/adventurous eaters

Where: Lower East Side (near China Town)

https://www.jajajamexicana.com/

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Root & Bone

Vibe: rustic-modern take on Southern-American comfort food.

Highlights: The buttermilk biscuits are freshly baked, and so light they melt on your tongue. The side of honey butter just helps them slide down even more sweetly. Crispy topped and golden, with unending tangles of molten cheese, the mac and cheese is amongst the best.

Lowlights: The fried chicken. I may have gone with warped expectations – I had primed myself for strips of chicken breast coasted in thick crispy-crunchy breadcrumbs (especially good at London’s Mother Clucker). However, what arrived was a basketful of dismembered chicken body parts. The rebellious wing bone protruding uncomfortably from the thin batter was enough to put me off. However, this may just be a personal dislike.

Good for: comfort food/family gatherings

Where: East Village

http://www.rootnbone.com/

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Talde

Vibe: Casual Asian-American cross-over cuisine in a dark wooden pub from Top Chef contestant, Dale Talde

Highlights: I’m not a big meat eater, and I never eat chicken wings. However, I make a very rare exception for the Kung Pao wings which are ridiculously sticky and succulent – order many. The Pad Thai puts most to shame with its zingy freshness too.

Lowlights: The bibinkga divided opinion with its eggy coconut texture. I came around to it after the third mouthful.

Good for: inventive cooking/vegetarians/brunch/casual dining

Where: Park Slope, Brooklyn

https://www.taldebrooklyn.com

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By Chloe

Vibe: Airy, female-flocking, vegan café (also in London)

Highlights: The salad portions are generous – my favourite is Spicy Thai which, with its kale base, crispy wontons, apricot-glazed tempeh and spicy peanut dressing, is a mouth workout in a bowl - but every mouthful is worth savouring. The tempeh-lentil chia classic burger and kale-artichoke dip are also major hits.

Lowlights: The London branch is not restful as you have to wait for your name to be shouted out to pick up your food. The NYC branch I visited was great.

Good For: vegans/vegetarians/healthy eating/casual meals

Where: West Village

https://eatbychloe.com

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Van Leeuwen

Vibe: artisanal vegan and dairy ice-cream served from wholesome butter-coloured trucks and stores around NYC

Highlights: the vegan honeycomb is a sludgy grey but don’t let that put you off. Made with cashew coconut and cocoa butter it is ambrosial. The non-vegan peanut butter and marshmallow crunch and Sicilian pistachio are also sublime. 

Lowlights: It’s addictive – I began to think they were stalking me as I managed to go past at least one Van Leeuwen truck or shop every day… and failed to resist each time.

Good for: vegans/vegetarians/innovatively flavoured ice creams

Where: multiple locations

http://www.vanleeuwenicecream.com/

 

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Black Seed Bagels

Vibe: pared down, fresh out of oven, open bakery

Highlights: multi-everything bagel – get there early in the day to get it piping hot from the oven

Lowlights: Addictiveness – I once ate 4 black seed bagels in a row.

Good for: breakfast on the go, vegans, high-carb gluten-full diets

Where: Nolita, Battery Park City, East Village

http://blackseedbagels.com

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Levain Bakery

Vibe: stripped back, no-frills bakery for some straight-to-the-point indulgence

Highlights: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter chip cookie – thick, crunchy on the outside, fudgy inside loaded with an abundance of peanut butter chips – there is a reason it has been named best cookie in NYC. 

Lowlights: Lines for the bakery can get rather long, so go at a strategic, off-peak time

Good for: over indulgence and sweet-tooth satisfaction

Where: West 74th St, Harlem

https://www.levainbakery.com

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El Luchador (Tacos vs Burritos)

Vibe: Hole-in-the wall, cheap, simple and brilliant Mexican food haunt. London could do with mowing down its innumerable greasy kebab joints and replacing them with this.

Highlights: the pollo asado burrito. Spicy, fresh, busting with flavour and filling 

Lowlights: None

Good for: late night cravings, fresh Mexican food, done well (a rarity in London), vegetarian, vegan

Where: Lower East side

http://elluchador.nyc

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Sticky Date & Amaretti Crumble Bars

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Sticky Date & Amaretti Crumble Bars

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A trip to Toronto when I was seven years’ old is anchored for me by one thing: not the CN tower, or Niagara Falls or my cousin’s wedding, but a visit to the farmers’ market, and in particular, a potentially life-changing stall.  A tall, russet-cheeked man was in command, his floured apron stretched taught over his protuberant belly. 

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And on his table lay not the garish, sprinkle- speckled swirls that would have drawn a normal child. Instead, tray after tray of rubbly slabs of oat and date crumble bars were arrayed. 

The date layer of the bars was jaw-clenchingly sticky, and thick – not like the mean, shop-bought equivalent. The oaty outer layers were both crunchy and then soft, golden and not overly sweet, allowing the natural date sweetness to shine through. 

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. For the last seventeen years I’ve been raiding bakeries and markets, seeking to relive the experience, but the date and oat crumble bars always disappoint – too saccharine, too solid, too floury. In between raids, I’ve been working on my own: these are the closest I have come to Toronto’s best kept secret. I added the crushed amaretti to give them a little twist. Feel free to leave the sugar out of the crumble if your palate is adjusted to the less-sweet. 

It’s incredibly hard to resist them when they emerge from the oven golden and crisp, but I think they taste even better when they have cooled and the flavours are more distinct (or maybe try them both ways, just to be sure…).

NB. They can be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free flour for spelt. 

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Ingredients

Date filling

400g medjool dates, pitted & roughly chopped (about 20)

3 tbsp fresh orange juice

120ml water

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp finely grated orange zest

 

Crumble

250g oats

120g butter

100g wholemeal spelt flour

50g dry amaretti biscuits

40g light brown muscovado sugar

¼ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

A square 20cm baking tin (or tin of equivalent area), lined with baking parchment, with sides and base fully covered.

Method 

1)    Preheat oven to 180°C

2)    Place all ingredients for the date filling in a pot and place on a medium heat. Stir as the mixture begins to simmer. After about 5 minutes, when the dates have broken down into more of a paste and all the water has evaporated, remove from the heat and set aside.

3)    Pour all the crumble ingredients into a blender and pulse until the mixture still has some texture  and is slightly coarser than sand.

4)    Pour 2/3 of the crumble mixture into the base of the tin, and, with your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the mixture down evenly across the base of the tin until firm and compact. Pour the date filling over and spread evenly across the base. Then pour over the remaining crumble mixture and press down until even and as compact as possible.

5)    Place in oven to bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.

6)    Slice and allow to cool before devouring. Keeps well in an air tight container in fridge for up to 5 days, or in freezer for 2 months (also tastes delicious when frozen).

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Mini Feta & Cheddar Spelt Scones

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Mini Feta & Cheddar Spelt Scones

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I feel immense joy when I see canapés floating along the horizon of a wine-soaked room. Salty, crunchy, flavour-filled bites to pop into your mouth and stave off hunger. But in reality, the canapés path is far more obstacle- laden. Here are a few of the typical scenarios that I have endured, or have watched others enduring:

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  • The hidden two- biter: where you hesitate over whether to put the whole thing in your mouth, decide to go for it and then have to find a way to swivel the thing around inside your cheeks until it becomes vaguely chewable, all while trying to hold down a conversation
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  • The crumbler – this one disintegrates before it even reaches your mouth. This doesn’t necessarily result in interrupted conversation, but ends up being problematic when you shake hands with someone and end up leaving a stick, flaky deposit in their palm
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  • The burner – you were warned about the heat but went for it anyway. If you were alone you would probably spit it out, but in the interests of politeness and retaining friends, you endure a scorched oesophagus 
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  • The stringer – this is reserved for molten- cheese filled croquetas.  Delicious, yes, but they leave the unsuspecting devourer s with frills around their lips reminiscent of Futurama’s Zoiburg.
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The following will help you steer clear of the above pitfalls: small, savoury and succulent, these are the perfect canapés.  Indeed, they are suitable for consumption at any time. They are crisp on the outside and soft and light inside, flecked with molted feta and cheddar, and with a hint of the more exotic nigella seeds. This recipe makes 18 but I would urge you to double it as they are so addictive.  They are also ridiculously easy and quick to conjure up.

NB. these can be made gluten-free by simply substituting spelt flour with gluten-free)

Mini Feta & Cheddar Spelt Scones (makes 18)

 

Ingredients

100g sour cream

2 tbsp milk

80g mature cheddar cheese, grated

80g feta, roughly diced into 0.5cm cubes

50g unsalted butter, cold and roughly diced into ¾ cm cubes

200g white spelt flour (can substitute with plain flour or gluten-free)

¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp nigella seeds

[optional: ½ tsp cayenne pepper]

1 egg, beaten, to glaze

1 large baking tray lined with greaseproof paper

 

Method

1)    Preheat oven to 200°C. In a large bowl by hand, or in a food mixer fitted with a paddle, briefly mix together the sour cream, milk, cheddar, feta and butter. Pour in the flour, baking powder, salt and nigella seeds (and cayenne if using), and mix until just combined into a dough. You may need to knead the dough by hand very slightly for it to come together.

2)    Place dough onto a floured surface, pat into a square and roll it out to roughly 2.5cm thickness. Slice the dough into nine squares, like a noughts and crosses board, and then slice the squares diagonally to form 18 triangles.

3)    Arrange the triangles on the baking tray, leaving at least 3cm between them. Brush them lightly with the beaten egg and place in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes until golden on the outside. They are best devoured immediately or on the day of baking. 

Adapted from Honey & Co's "Food From the Middle East" recipe for Bouikos

 

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Pear & Speculoos Caramelised Cookie Magic Cake

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Pear & Speculoos Caramelised Cookie Magic Cake

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Maybe they think that all the gluttony and swollen stomachs affect our ability to digest information, that all the turkey/mince/fruit/chocolate/stuffing becomes blinding and we are no longer able to read paragraphs of text.  Instead, we have to have things numbered so as to reassure us that whatever we are reading won’t detract too long from the Christmas stasis.  

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Every newspaper or magazine clearly has some greedy journalist on its team who takes it upon him or herself to rate every mince pie out there to save us all the hard work. Then the subjective lists are compiled and played back to us year after year, despite the foods remaining the same, in the identical, consumable, numbered format.

In response to this, and inspired by an affront to my eyes when opening the newspaper magazine this weekend, I thought I would do a light review of the food adverts themselves:

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WAITROSE

Apparently, it’s for fruit lovers: congealed, glistening and with blood/jam trickling through its rivulets. But what is it? Depends how you like your desserts, but I’ll pass.

1/5

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SAINSBURY’S

I know Christmas is supposedly about family and coming together, but the picture of “grandma” with a prawn coming out of her head doesn’t conjure up any feelings of warmth for me 

1/5

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BOURSIN

I’ve caught members of my family spooning Boursin directly into their mouths. I was cynical at first about their Christmas rebrand with the addition of the “merry” epithet. But somehow, heady with garlicky creaminess, it has caught on in my household – we are now asking each other whether we’d like some “Merry Boursin” on our toast.

4/5

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LIDL

Lidl has gone down the particularly salivating route in showing us the turkeys pre-slaughter. They are relaxing free range by a bale of hay with the sun shining to stained glass effect through the translucent wattles. Delicious.

0/5

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Anyway, with all this Christmas “magic” abounding (and as a remedy for all this gaudiness), we might as well move on to an actual “magic” cake. Making a cake is magical enough, but there is a childlike joy when you put a homogeneous mix into the oven and it emerges, burnished, in perfectly ordered layers. This particular magic cake is like a perfectly formed French entremet, but without the effort.  All it requires is eggs to be separated and whisked and somehow it all falls into place. When making the speculoos topping, I would advise making a bit extra to allow some innocent “sampling” during the process (it’s ambrosial).

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Ingredients

 

Speculoos layer

300g Speculoos cookies + 100g for decoration

220ml unsweetened condensed milk

¼ tsp salt

 

Cake

3 eggs, separated

75g caster sugar

90g unsalted butter

50g plain flour

¼ tsp salt

300ml milk

4 small pears, peeled, cored and diced into 1cm cubes

 

21cm square cake tin (or round tin with similar area) fully lined with baking parchment.  It doesn’t matter if the tin is marginally larger or smaller

 

Method

1)    Preheat the oven to 150°C

2)    Put all the ingredients for the speculoos layer into a blender and blitz until smooth, and set aside.

3)    Melt the butter and set aside to cool. In a bowl (if doing by hand) or electric mixer beat the sugar with the egg yolks until thick and pale. Pour in the butter and 150g of the Speculoos layer and gently combine. Then sieve in the flour and salt and fold to combine. Pour in the milk and combine.

4)    In the bone-dry bowl of an electric mixer or by hand, whisk the egg whites vigorously until they thicken and hold their shape in stiff peaks. Very gently fold them into the batter, taking care to preserve the aeration.

5)    Scatter the diced pear evenly on the bottom of the cake tin, then gently pour the batter on top. Smooth the surface with a knife and place in the oven to cake for 35 minutes. The cake will still be soft when you remove it from the oven but this is how it is meant to be. Put it onto a rack to cool to room temperature, then place in the fridge for an hour to set.

6)    To serve, lift the cake out of the tin on the serving plate using the baking parchment and remove baking parchment. I choose to slice off the cake edges in order to better expose the layers. Spread the remaining speculoos layer on top and over it crumble the decorative speculoos cookies.

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Recipe adapted from "Magic Cakes" by Christelle Huet-Gomez

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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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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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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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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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