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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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Norwegian Frangipane-Laced Pulla Bread

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Norwegian Frangipane-Laced Pulla Bread

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This bread is the love child of a brioche and stollen. The dough is soft, buttery and ridiculously moreish. And the filling is like that marzipan core of stollen except less overpoweringly almondy, lighter and less tooth-achingly sweet (which means you can have more of it, of course). One of my many intolerances is not gluten, nuts or dairy but overpromising. If the title promises a filling, I want that filling, and I want it in abundance. If it says caramel, I want luscious rivers of it; if it’s olives on a pizza, I want at least one for every 2cm squared (NB I am disappointed by this every time - unless I make it myself). And, if it is a frangipane bread, I demand every mouthful to be molten with frangipane.

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So, in response, this bread will not fail to meet expectations: not only a show stopper in appearance, it is also ambrosial. I had to make this several times in order to photograph it before it was inhaled by surrounding friends/family.

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If you want to have plain bread, just leave out the frangipane and follow the instructions below. Similarly, if you’re feeling experimental add another filling in place of the frangipanes - think Nutella, marmalade, fruit conserve…

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Ingredients (makes 2 loaves)

 

For the bread 

30g fresh yeast (or 15g dry yeast)

100g caster sugar

250ml lukewarm milk (normal or any non-dairy alternative)

2 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp salt

700g white spelt flour (or plain wheat) + more for kneading

100g unsalted butter, at room temperature

 

For the frangipane

180g caster sugar

150g unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 eggs

½ tsp salt

250g ground almonds

1 ½ tsp almond extract

 

2 large baking sheets lined with baking parchment

 

Method

1)   In the bowl of an electric mixer (or large mixing bowl), cream together fresh yeast and caster sugar until the sugar begins to dissolve and turns the yeast liquid. If using dry yeast, add it into the milk first and allow to sit for five minutes before continuing with step 2.

2)   Pour in lukewarm milk, 3/4 of the beaten eggs (i.e. 1 ½ eggs, keeping the other half aside to paint the bread) and salt, and whisk together. Whisk in 100g grams of the flour to begin to incorporate air.

3)   Add the remaining flour into the mixture and mix together. Once combined, either using a mixer fitted with the dough hook, or on a heavily floured surface knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and bounces back when pressed with your thumb. Temperature and humidity can affect the dough texture so you may need to add a touch more flour if it is truly unworkable, though try to keep it to a minimum as too much will make the bread tough and the dough difficult to roll out. I find that using the dough hook initially until combined and then kneading by hand for the last stretch particularly effective. 

4)   Place in a large oiled bowl in a warm spot and cover with a cloth or clingfilm to allow to rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes to an hour).

5)   At this point, if you wish to make the bread without the frangipane, proceed to step 7a

6)    To make the frangipane, beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. You can do this by hand or in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat in the eggs (don’t worry if it looks slightly curdled at this point), then stir in salt, ground almonds and almond extract. It should be a smooth almondy paste. 

7)   Once the dough has risen, punch back down, turn it onto a heavily floured surface 

a.    For bread without filling: divide dough into two (to make two loaves). Shape as desired, but if you favour a plaited loaf, as I do, taking one of the dough halves, divide it into three or four pieces (depending on whether you prefer a three- way or four-way plait.) Roll each piece into a long, even strand of about 3cm in diameter. Then pinch the ends together and plait as normal. When you reach the end of the plait, pinch the strands together and tuck under. Repeat for the second loaf, place on a baking tray and cover. Leave to rise for about half an hour. 

b.    For bread laced with frangipane: place the dough on a large, flat, heavily floured surface and roll it to a rectangle of about 60 x 30cm and about ¾ cm thick. Tip the frangipane mixture into the centre of the dough, and spread it out evenly with a spatula right up to the edges. Then, from the long side, roll the dough to make a long tight coil. Finish with the seal at the base of the roll. Then slice the roll into two (in order to make two loaves). Take one long roll and holding the knife directly above the roll, with the blade parallel to the length of the roll, bisect it running the knife through the centre along the its length. Once split, with the open halves separate, pinch them at the top and then cross one over the other repeatedly in a kind of two string plait. Pinch at the end and tuck it under then place on baking tray. Repeat with the other half. 

8)   Cover both breads with a cloth, and allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200 °C.

9)   With the remaining beaten egg, brush the tops of the breads. Place the breads in the oven to bake for 10 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 180 °C and allow to bake for a further 10-15 minutes. Ovens can be temperamental, so check every 5-10 minutes to ensure that the bread doesn’t burn. If it looks like it is beginning to catch, cover with aluminium foil and continue to bake. Remove from the oven when the outside is a deep golden colour. Place on a cooling rack and allow to reach room temperature, then devour. Best eaten on day of baking, but the bread can be frozen in a sealed air tight container for up to 3 months.

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