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Cookies and Bars

The Ultimate Chunky Chewy Triple Chocolate Caramel Cookies

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The Ultimate Chunky Chewy Triple Chocolate Caramel Cookies

In my dictionary definition of cookie, I’m going to be demanding. It needs to be thic(ccc)k so that each mouthful contains some of the promised flavours, be they chocolate, nut, or candy. I want it crisp on the outside so that when broken, it gives way to a chewy cookie-dough goo. If there’s chocolate or caramel, they need to be molten. They also need to have enough salt to balance the sweetness and add depth of flavour. 

And, after years of trials, the quest to create the perfect cookie becoming increasingly Sisyphean, I’ve done it. And you need to make them ASAP.

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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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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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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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Spelt Scones & Damson Jam

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Spelt Scones & Damson Jam

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Adorned with dew drops of glaucous fruits, the damson tree was innocent in its fairy tale perfection. Plump and firm, tart and succulent they were ideal contenders for picking. There seemed at first glance to be very few, but as the minutes rolled by, our bags heavier and the ladder creaking, the tree continued to proffer its bounty. The result: 6kg of damsons and a swollen stomach from ones that never quite made it into the bag.

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Our supply of sugar rather pitiful in the wake of the unsurpassed abundance, I heaved an Olympian quantity back from the supermarket. The one bag that decided to split has left a coating of sticky grit on any coins that I dig out of the corners of my bag.  

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Then on to the stove went the damsons, the heated sugar and a touch of water. They blistered, bubbled and broke out of their skins. The stones rose to the surface like witches on trial and had to be picked out one by one. Meanwhile the mixture boiled and thickened, giving off a foamy pink effervescence that I carved off as it supposedly tastes slightly bitter (although I rather enjoyed spooning it directly into my mouth). Then as it reached its rich amethyst depths and a satisfying viscose texture, I took it off and poured it into the sterilised jars: therapeutic and deeply satisfying…the first-time round.

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But as I tried to leave the kitchen I was bludgeoned with another 3kg worth of damsons. I was pelted, too, with threats of waste and rotting fruit if I didn’t make jam immediately. The kitchen became heated with the upset from my father who had cultivated and nurtured the tree for years.

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So, I gave in and became a slave to the damson tree once more, boiling, straining, stirring pouring. And now we have half a fridge thronging with jar upon jar of jam. And what does one do when he or she has a year’s supply of jam? Well, I find eating it straight from the jar perfectly acceptable, but others need a medium as an excuse. So I made scones. These are not the dry, stale and overly sweet ones that leave you desperately seeking a currant to relieve you from the accumulating doughy mass at the top of your palate. These are soft, light, moist and crumbly. Rustic in shape, they are best eaten immediately or on the same day (though it is unlikely they will survive longer). 

 

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Spelt Scone Recipe – makes 12

500g white spelt flour (can be substituted with plain)

4 ½ tsp cream of tartar

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

(optional: 2 tbsp sugar if would like them sweet)

1/2 tsp salt

125g cold unsalted butter, diced

300ml milk

1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

 

6cm round cookie cutter

Large baking sheet, lined with baking parchment

 

Method

1)    Preheat the oven to 220°C.

2)    Into a large bowl sift all the dry ingredients. Add in the butter and with fingertips rub it into the dry ingredients until like damp sand. Pour in the milk and very gently fold in until just combined (there may still be pockets of flour).

3)    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it lightly for about 10 seconds. Roll out to a 3cm thickness and then cut out as many scones as possible. Lightly re-knead the scraps of dough and roll out once more to cut out the last remaining scones.  Space them out on the tray and blush with the beat egg. Place in oven to bake for 8-10 minutes until they are shiny and golden.

Damson Jam Recipe (makes about 3kg, 9 jars)

NB. This recipe can be adapted for any number of damsons by maintaining the ratio

2kg damsons (slightly under-ripe and not too soft)

2kg sugar

200ml water

9 jam jars, sterilised

Method

1)    Pour sugar into an over proof dish and place in oven heated to a low temperature (around 120°C) while the damsons are prepared. Place a couple of small plates into a fridge to cool – these will be used to check the jam’s consistency later.

2)    Grease a large stainless-steel pot with butter to prevent the fruit from sticking. Then pour in the damsons and water and stew over a medium-low heat, stirring gently until the damsons’ skins break. Pour in the warmed sugar and stir over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved.

3)    Increase the heat to medium-high and allow to boil (controllably), stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit from sticking. After a few minutes, as the fruits break down, a pink foam will rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, siphon this off into a bowl. If some remains it won’t ruin the jam, it just doesn’t taste as pure as the rest. Then, as the stones begin to rise up, siphon off those too.

4)    After about 15 minutes of boiling, when all the stones have been removed, pour a teaspoon of the liquid onto a cold plate. Let it sit for about a minute then tilt the plate, if the liquid is no longer watery, with a viscosity between a sauce and a jam, and wrinkles when pushed with the finger, it is set. For the more scientifically-minded, it should be 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Pour the jam into the sterilised jars and allow to come to room temperature before sealing them with lids.

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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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Spiced Blueberry Tart

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Spiced Blueberry Tart

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Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of logging on to Facebook, innocently hoping to drain away half an hour of one’s day (minimum) by looking at pictures of people one may or may not have half met once trying to prove how much fun they are having by posting pictures of themselves with friends/family, strained smiles stretched across their faces, and who are clearly not that immersed in the fun as they have had to spend half an hour trying to get one decent picture out of the hundred they’ve taken to emblazon it across their Facebook wall and maybe, just maybe, turn it into a cover photo?

And then – BAM - your gaze is diverted,

and you are staring down into the depths of a garishly coloured plastic bowl filled with some unidentifiable artificial gunk, pink fleshy hands massaging some other substance into it to form some putty-like emulsion which is then mushed and squeezed and squidged into a plastic mould, whizzed up, and extruded through a bag and…… oh look, it’s that Gooey Oreo, Jellied Eel and Green Marshmallow Mini Coffee Cup that “you’ve always wanted to make for your slumber party with the gals”.

Here’s an antidote.  It is simple yet sophisticated, humble yet sumptuous, tangy but not cloyingly sweet, and light yet not so light when you’ve had 4+ pieces….

Ingredients

Pastry

200g white spelt flour (can be substituted with plain flour)

100g butter, roughly cubed

2 tbsp icing sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 small egg, beaten

12 x 36cm tart tin, greased and dusted with flour

Blueberry filling

800g frozen blueberries

250g caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

2 tbsp cornflour

Zest of ½ medium sized orange

Method

  1. Place flour, butter, icing sugar and salt in a food processor, and blitz until it resembles damp sand. Pour in the beaten egg, and pulse until the mixture combines to form a soft dough.  Remove from the processor, wrap in baking parchment and place in the fridge for half an hour (or freezer for 10-15 minutes) – this will prevent the dough from shrinking when it bakes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Lightly dust a surface with flour and roll out the dough in a rough rectangle to 0.5cm thickness. Roll the pastry around a rolling pin and transfer to the tin, pressing it into the fluting (if, indeed, your tin is fluted). Run a knife along the top edge of the tin to remove excess pastry. Prick the base of the pastry a few times with a fork, and place back in the fridge for 30 minutes (or freezer for 10 minutes).
  3. Prepare the pastry for blind baking by lining the inside with a sheet of tin foil and filling it with baking beads to weigh it down while it bakes and to prevent it from shrinking. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is dry and beginning to turn golden.  If it is cooking too slowly, you can remove the beads and tin foil after 15 minutes and continue to bake.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. To make the spiced blueberry filling, place a large pan over a high heat and pour in all the ingredients. Stir continuously until the sugar is dissolved in the juice that runs off the blueberries. When the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from catching, until the liquid is almost completely reduced and with the viscosity somewhere between a syrup and a jam. Allow to cool to room temperature, then pour into the pre-baked pastry case.
Spiced Blueberry Tart

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Passion Fruit & Coconut Truffles

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Passion Fruit & Coconut Truffles

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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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Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

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Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

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I never caught on to the Disney hype – I endured a few of the films when I was younger but was never enthralled by its saccharine princesses and unrealistic princes. I rejected the dressing up stage of childhood, and have none of the nostalgia that is awakened in many when hearing or singing the songs.  My only knowledge of Lion King is from Cindies (arguably the stickiest night club in Cambridge) which is played for 30 seconds without fail every Wednesday evening to excite the Disney addicts and to jolt inebriated students out of their drunken kisses.

What I did love was the sugar-glazed brutality of the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film.

I adored the Chocolate Room, and my six year old self spent a lot of time fantasising about edible wallpaper and edible TV adverts. However, the first scene, where Augustus Gloop falls into the ‘chocolate’ river, is almost too painful to watch.

It was concocted using 150,000 gallons of water, real chocolate and real ice cream, yet despite its authenticity, its watery thinness is more the stuff of sewers than of dreams.

If I were going to bathe in chocolate it would need to be velvety, glossy and thick… and after 15 years of dwelling on this I’ve come to terms with the fact that this tart is probably the closest I will get to doing that.

Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

Ingredients

Chocolate pastry

225g plain flour

30g cocoa

150g unsalted butter, chopped into cubes

110g white caster sugar

3 egg yolks

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp ice water

baking beads/uncooked rice/dry beans

4 fresh figs, halved (optional)

12 x 36cm tart tin, greased and dusted with flour

Salted caramel chocolate ganache

300g 70% good quality dark chocolate

300g white caster sugar

300ml double cream

20g light brown muscovado sugar

20g butter

1tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

Pastry Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C
  2. Blitz all the ingredients in a blender. Pulse until into turns into a damp sand texture. Tip out on to a surface and press it so that it clumps together into dough.   Wrap the dough in baking parchment and put it in the fridge for an hour, or in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  3. Dust a surface with flour and roll the pastry out in a rectangle to a thickness of 0.5cm. Any excess can be frozen and used within 2 months. Transfer the pastry to the greased and floured tin to line it. Don’t panic if it crumbles in the transition, just patchwork it together in the tin. Place a sheet of baking parchment or tin foil over the pastry, and fill it with the baking beads to weigh it down to prevent the pastry from shrinking as it cooks.
  4. Place it in the oven to bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the baking parchment and baking beads. Reduce the oven temperature to 150˚C, and place the pastry back in to bake for a further 10-15 minutes until it is fully cooked. Set aside to cool.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache Method

  1. Chop the dark chocolate roughly, and set it aside in a heatproof mixing bowl.
  2. Place the caster sugar in a saucepan over medium high heat and, when it starts to melt, stir gently with a rubber spatula to avoid it burning around the edges. Push any 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 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, whisk in 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. Pour into the tart shell, smooth the surface over with a palate knife, and place this in the fridge for an hour (or freezer for half an hour) to set. Decorate with sliced figs to serve.
Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

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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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Tarta de Santiago

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Tarta de Santiago

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When life gives you … quinces Tarta de Santiago

 

The scent coming from the paper bag was soft and sweet, and old fashioned rose-like, and when I turned out its contents, eight yellow, somewhat misshapen apple-pears tumbled out.

Tarta de Santiago     These quinces were the unwanted fruit of an unappreciated tree in someone else’s garden.  Beguilingly biblical in appearance, their uncompromising hardness metamorphoses into something utterly different after cooking.

Tarta de Santiago

Tarta de Santiago Originally referred to as the Kydonian melon, and mentioned in 6th Century BCE Greek poetry, the quinces we recognise today are believed to have been indigenous to Kydonia on the island of Crete. The Ancient Greeks dedicated the quince to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, who was often represented with the golden apple of Hesperides in her right hand – that apple, in all likelihood, a quince.  Indeed, quinces symbolised love and fertility, and Plutarch refers to the ancient wedding ritual whereby a bride would take a bite from a quince before retiring to the bridal chamber with her husband – possibly to freshen her breath, too.

Tarta de Santiago The path of the wedding procession of Helen and Menelaus was said to have been strewn with quinces, myrtle leaves and crowns woven from violets and roses. The fruit was also said by Pliny to have warded off the malign influence of the evil eye, and its medicinal value as an aid to digestion was also noted.

Tarta de Santiago

The Byzantines made wine from quinces as well as kydonaton, a thick quince jelly, probably the ancestor of French cotignac or condoignac, a delicacy made with honey, wine and spices that was considered a worthy gift for kings.

Tarta de SantiagoApicius, the first extant Roman cookbook writer, of the first century CE, preserved quinces whole in honey diluted with a spiced wine reduction, and also combined them with leeks, honey, and broth in hot oil in a dish known as Patina de Cydoniis. In the 4th Century CE, Palladius, an agriculturist and writer, composed a recipe for baked quince strips, possibly the first stirrings of membrillo, the Spanish quince gel that we know today.

Tarta de Santiago

During the 16th and 17th centuries, cooks in England prepared many variations of quince preserves which they called quidoniac, quiddony or paste of Genoa.  Often the preserve paste was thick enough to be moulded into animal or flower shapes. Nowadays, many cultures use quinces in their cuisine: in India, a quince sambal is made by making a puree out of quinces, onions, chillies, orange juice and salt. In Iran, quinces are sometimes cored and stuffed with minced meat, and Moroccan tagines often include quince along with dried fruit and spices.

Tarta de Santiago

Despite its pertinence in history and mythology the quince has rather fallen out of fashion.  Now the prized aphrodisiac and breath-freshener has been reduced to an unloved (except by the cognoscenti), knobbly peculiarity.  I hereby am starting a quince appreciation campaign and when life gives you quinces, make membrillo, and with the membrillo make Tarta de Santiago.

Tarta de Santiago

Membrillo is the rose-tinted translucent and slightly grainy gel that miraculously results from boiling quinces with water, sugar and citrus.  Its perfumed exoticness makes one think of orange groves and balmy breezes, and when combined with the citrus infused almond cake and pastry layers, one is transported right to the Alhambra.

Tarta de Santiago

 

Recipe

Ingredients

Pastry

150g white spelt flour (substitutable with any flour of your choice including gluten-free to create a gluten-free dessert)

40g caster sugar

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp salt

Grated zest of ½ unwaxed orange

100g butter, roughly chopped into small cubes

1 egg yolk

25cm x 25cm square tin (or round tin with similar dimensions) at least 8cm deep, lined with greaseproof paper

Filling

250g quince paste (membrillo)

2 tbsp lemon juice

Grated zest of ½ unwaxed orange

Grated zest of ½ unwaxed lemon

65g ground almonds

Cake layer

150 ground almonds

100g caster sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp salt

Grated zest of 1 unwaxed orange

Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

150g butter, melted and allowed to cool slightly

100ml triple sec

3 eggs

Optional candied orange decoration

Follow instructions from my recipe for Citrus Syrup-Soaked Cake

Method

  1. In a blender, blitz together sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt and butter until the mixture resembles damp sand. Add in the egg yolk and blitz until the mixture comes together into dough.  Flatten into a disc, wrap in greaseproof paper and chill in a freezer for 15 minutes or refrigerate for ½ hour.
  2. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out to a 3mm thickness and transfer to the tin to line the base. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 180°C. To make the filling, place the quince paste (membrillo), lemon juice and zest in a small pan over a medium heat and stir until smooth and fully combined.  Remove from the heat and stir in the ground almonds.  Remove the tin from the fridge and spread the quince mixture evenly over the pastry.  Refrigerate once more.
  4. To make the cake layer, whisk together ground almonds, sugar, cinnamon, salt and zest in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, triple sec and eggs.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until combined in a loose paste.
  5. Remove the tin from the fridge and pour the cake layer mixture over the quince layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown, springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean.  Allow to cool before serving.

Tarta de Santiago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe

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Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe

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Last week I panic baked.  My usually dependable supply of Dr Karg’s seeded spelt and emmental and pumpkin seed crisp breads had run dry. Only a few sad seeds in the corner of the packet remained, which I ate mournfully, before desperation led me to pulling open drawers in search of the emergency packet I had hidden from myself.

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Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe
Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe

My hunt was rewarded with absolutely no trophies.  I must have found them some time before.

Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe
Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe

Necessity mothered invention: I combined some of my favourite ingredients to make my own version of the crisp breads, and they turned out rather well, perhaps even better than the originals. My family had clearly also been struck by panic, as two batches were devoured in ten minutes…

Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe
Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe

These crisp breads are ridiculously quick to make, healthy (when you don’t eat the whole batch in one sitting – an almost impossible feat), and delicious.  They’re also versatile – the seeds can be eliminated and/or exchanged for other varieties as desired, and they can be served with hummus, red pepper pesto (see my recipe), guacamole etc.  They can also be made dairy-free by eliminating the cheese.

Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe
Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe

Ingredients

115g white spelt flour

100g wholemeal spelt flour

¾ tsp salt

30g sesame seeds

15g poppy seeds

30g pumpkin seeds

50g cheddar, grated

50g parmesan grated, + 5g for sprinkling

1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

125ml water

1 tbsp olive oil

1 baking tray, overturned, greased with oil and dusted with flour

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220˚C. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients together. Pour in water and oil and stir until mixture clumps together into quite a dry dough.  You may need to knead it slightly with your hands.
  2. Place dough on overturned baking tray and roll it out until it reaches the edges of the tray. It should be about 3mm thick.
  3. Sprinkle with the extra parmesan, prick the dough liberally with a fork, and score it into your preferred geometric shapes. I like 4cm x 10cm rectangles.
  4. Place in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden, and firm to touch. Leave to cool – they will become crisper as they cool.
Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe
Seeded Spelt Crackers - Recipe

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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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