Yummy double chocolate chip cookies!!!

I recently received another Rachel Allen cookbook for my birthday!  I really like her cookbooks because the recipes are straightforward and I usually have the ingredients.  On top of that she typically has something interesting like ‘meal planning’, ‘storing’, ‘freezing’, ‘store cupboard’ et cetera in the beginning or back of the books which can be very handy!  In some of my older blogs I have written about her recipes and books and my admiration for both.

So in this current book – Everyday Kitchen – I found this gem of a recipe.  Double Chocolate Chip cookies – yummy!

According to Wikipedia the inventor of the Chocolate Chip Cookie was a woman called Ruth Graves Wakefield. She worked as a dietician during the 1920’s and with her husband, Kenneth, they bought a tourist lodge (the Toll House Inn) in 1930 in the town of Whitman, Massachusetts in Plymouth County, America.  Historically passengers had paid toll here, changed horses and ate home-cooked meals.  The Wakefields opened the Toll House Inn and Ruth cooked all the food and desserts for which she became famous!  She invented chocolate chip cookies around 1938 deliberately because she was always serving a butterscotch nut cookie and wanted to try something different.  So this chocolate chip cookie became the Toll House cookie.  Eventually she gave Nestlé the right to use her cookie recipe and the Toll House name.  Hopefully they gave her some free chocolate!

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Here is Rachel Allen’s recipe.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookie (20 large cookies)

225g butter, softened

325g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

225g plain flour

75g cocoa powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

175g dark chocolate (55-70% cocoa solids), chopped into small pieces or dark chocolate chips.

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 F, Gas mark 4). Line three baking sheets with baking parchment.
  • Place the butter in a large bowl and beat until very soft.
  • Add the sugar and beat until mixture is pale and fluffy.
  • Crack in one egg at a time, beating between each addition, and then add the vanilla extract.
  • Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, then add the chocolate pieces/chips and fold in to combine.
  • With wet hands, form the dough into balls each the size of a golf ball (or use two soup spoons to scoop up and shape the dough).
  • Arrange on the baking sheets, placing 6 – 7 balls of dough on each sheet and leaving space for the cookies to spread.
  • Bake for 10-14 minutes or until the cookies look slightly cracked on top.
  • Take out of the oven and allow cooling for a few minutes, and then placing on a wire rack to cool down completely.
  • Delicious!

Slán

RED velvet cupCAKES

Cupcakes.

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I just love cupcakes because eating them means you have a little cake all to yourself.

And it seems many people join me in my affection for cupcakes because when you google  ’cupcake’  it comes up with more than 83 million results……so indeed  cupcakes are pretty popular.

Apparently the first mention of the cupcake can be traced as far back as 1796, when a recipe mentioned  “a cake to be baked in small cups”.  A New York Times article called the red velvet cake the cake that can stop traffic.   It said:  “The colour, often enhances  by buckets  of food colouring, becomes even more eye-catching set against clouds of snowy icing, like a slash of glossy lipstick framed by platinum blond curls. Even the name has a vampy allure: red velvet.”

So the other day we made these absolutely delicious red velvet cupcakes.  I include my daughter here since she is passionate about baking …. especially sweet things…and is pretty good with doing it as well!  We got this recipe from the Irish magazine for teenage girls, Kiss.

Ingredients

120g butter

290g caster sugar

2 large free range eggs

50ml red food colouring (we used less but it depends on the redness you want to achieve)

25g cocoa powder

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

240ml buttermilk

320g plain flour (sifted)

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp baking soda

 

–          Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.

–          Beat the butter and sugar together until they form a paste, then add the eggs one at a time and beat until the mixture is creamy and pale.

–          In a small bowl stir together the food colouring, cocoa powder and vanilla to form a paste.  Add this to the butter mixture.

–          Pour a third of your buttermilk, followed by a third of the flour.  Keep alternating, making sure you finish with the last of the flour.

–          In the same bowl you make the food colouring paste, mix the baking soda and white wine vinegar.  Be careful as the ingredients will froth and bubble when combined.  Fold this into the mixture.

–          Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes.  A cocktail stick should come out clean if inserted into the centre of one of the cakes.

 

Frosting

50g butter

125g full fat cream cheese

2 tsp vanilla extract

350g icing sugar

–          Beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla together.

–          Add the icing sugar in two batches and continue to beat for 3-4 minutes on top speed.

–          Spoon into a piping bag and swirl the icing onto the top of the cupcakes.

–          Decorate to your heart’s content….

–          And for those who don’t like cream cheese that much, we also made some icing without the cream cheese, adding a bit of milk.

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Enjoy – they are a delicious treat!

Slán

PIzzA homemade piZZa

I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like pizza, who has a pizza-aversion so to speak.  I suppose it is a pretty easy food to love because it is so versatile and can be so delicious and even healthy!

The origins of the pizza is not as straightforward like we would like it to be – it all came from Italy.  No.  Apparently foods similar to the humble pizza have been prepared since the Neolithic age (last part of the Stone Age) and in different countries.    There is  the Greeks’  flatbread consisting of  large round and flat breads covered with some oil, salt and herbs.  Then the focaccia, the pita bread, the paratha (Indian), the naan (Asian), the roti, the rieska (Finnish) and many more!  And throughout Europe there was also the flat pastry with cheese, vegetables and seasoning such as the Flammkuchen, the Zwiebelkuchen and the lovely quiche which I have already written about in a previous blog.

In some parts of Italy a flatbread was referred to as a pizza and was known as the dish for poor people and not considered a kitchen recipe for a long time.  Only later – in the 19th century – oil, tomatoes and cheese were added.  Interesting though was that the dish was sweet, not savoury, to start with!

A bit tired of the bought-type pizzas we recently followed one of Rachel Allen’s recipes for Homemade Pizzas and it was a huge success I might add.  Not only was everyone making his or her own pizza, but it was a very sociable evening in the kitchen with  lots of fun and laughter.

Her basic recipe for pizza dough makes about six pizzas.  I doubled the recipe and that worked out fine.  This is the basic recipe:

350g strong white flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp caster sugar

50g butter

1 x 7g sachet fast-acting yeast

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing

175 – 200 ml lukewarm water

Plain flour, semolina or fine polenta for dusting

–          Place the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, add the yeast and mix together.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the oil and most of the water and mix to a loose dough.  Add more water or flour if needed.

–          Transfer the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured work surface, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

–          Uncover and knead the dough for 10 minutes or until it feels smooth and slightly springy.  You can also do this in an electric food mixer with the dough hook attachment for half the time.  Let the dough relax again for a few minutes, covered with the tea towel.

–          Shape the dough into six equally sized balls, each weighing about 110g.  Lightly brush the dough balls with olive oil.

–          Cover the oiled dough with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.  The dough will be easier to handle when cold but it can also be used immediately.

–          Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius (450F), Gas mark 8.

–          Place 1 or 2 baking sheets in the oven to heat up.

–          On a floured work surface, roll each dough ball out to a disc about 25cm in diameter.  Place each pizza base on a cold baking sheet (with no edges so that the pizza can slide off) that has been dusted with flour, semolina or fine polenta to prevent it from sticking.

–          Spread the tomato sauce on and scatter with your own toppings (see below).

–          Slide each pizza off the cool baking sheet onto a hot sheet in the oven and cook for about 5-10minutes, depending on the thickness of the pizza and heat of the oven.  The pizza need to be golden underneath and bubbling on top.

–          Enjoy!

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Toppings we used:

–          Tomato puree as a base or you can make your own tomato sauce with tomatoes and garlic or onions.

–          Chorizo or any salami thinly sliced

–          Mozzarella cheese mixed with cheddar or Gruyere or on its own

–          Pesto

–          Basil leaves

–          Cherry tomatoes cut into half

–          Pieces of ham

–          Spices and herbs

 

Our youngest had an interesting take on his pizza.  He would spread tomato puree as the base, add some slices of chorizo and top it with….wait for it….syrup!  So maybe the sweet idea of the pizza isn’t so bizarre after all.

Slán

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Delicious shortbread

Shortbread.  The Scotts claimed to have ‘invented’ shortbread in the 12th century that evolved from medieval biscuit bread.  This biscuit bread was a twice-baked enriched bread roll dusted with sugar and spices and hardened into a rusk.  Eventually butter was substituted for yeast and it became shortbread, melting in your mouth.  Since butter was and still is such an important ingredient the word ‘shortbread’ derived from shortening.  Shortening being fat.  No wonder this biscuit is high in fat content.  But we’ll forget about that little fact when we eat it!

Apparently shortcake, not the same as shortbread, can be made by using vegetable fat instead of butter as well as using something like baking powder.  So shortbread is typically one part white sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour.  To alter the texture corn flour or even ground rice is sometimes added.  Shortbread biscuits are also great to take away because they hold their shape under pressure, unlike their egg-based cousin biscuits – so ideal for a packed lunch!

When our two daughters were still toddlers my mom gave me this biscuit-book as a gift – thoughtful granny!!!  And I think between us we have made most of the recipes in the book – and still do!

So with your mouths watering I’ll give you a shortbread recipe from this book called Butter Finger Biscuits.  It is delicious and you can also make it as a yummy homemade gift for someone special.  Just wrap some nice cellophane around it with a colourful ribbon!

Recipe from the Your Family Bumper Biscuit Book, compiled by Wendy Silver.

Recipe from the Your Family Bumper Biscuit Book, compiled by Wendy Silver.

300g butter, softened

180g castor sugar

400g flour (sifted)

Pinch of salt

100g corn flour sifted

Castor sugar for dredging

–       Cream together butter and castor sugar until pale and fluffy.

–       Sift together flour, salt and corn flour and mix into creamed ingredients. Knead lightly.

–       Press into deep, greased 380mm by 280mm baking tray.

–       Prick well with a fork and bake at 190 degrees C, 25 – 30 minutes.

–       Remove from oven and dredge with castor sugar.

–       Cut into fingers while still warm.

–       Remove to wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

–       Store in an airtight container. Makes about 44 fingers.

Happy baking!

Slán

I baked this yummy Yogurt Cake…

So the other day I wanted to bake something.  Something sweet, chocolaty but simple  and understated.  Well to be honest I didn’t think about those words while looking for a recipe.

On a shelf in my kitchen I have a row of recipe books – my stalwarts.  Then I have a box with loose recipes, handwritten ones, torn out of magazines and newspapers – ones,  copied ones … a wonderful selection.

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It was when going through that pile of recipes that my eyes fell on this yogurt cake – Audrey’s Yogurt Cake (Gâteau Yaourt D’Audrey).  I once copied it when I read the book On Rue Tatin by Susan Hermann Loomis.

In this book she tells of her life in France with her family.  She tells of the restoration that she and her husband performed on the dilapidated convent they chose for their new home, the social encounters with locals, her baking and her new life in France.   Throughout the book she includes delicious  recipes that touches at the soul of the region, including Apple and Thyme tart (my next try), Duck breast with Cider and many more.

“This is a cake that every French schoolgirl once learned to make, and many still do, though they now learn it at home rather than at school,” she explains by way of an introduction.  She then says that she had collected many recipes for this cake but had never found one that was particularly good until….she was at a school where she taught her weekly English lesson.  The teacher came over to ask if she would like to stay for a party after the lesson.  For the party the mom of the girl leaving had baked three cakes.  The cakes were sliced and served and when she took one bite she realised this was something special.  She asked the mother of the child what kind of cake it was.  The mother shrugged and said, ”It’s a gâteau au yaourt, nothing more.”  So she told the mother it was the best one she had ever had.

Here it is:

Butter and flour for the cake pan

1 ½ cups (210g) plain flour

¾ tsp (4ml) baking powder

3 drops vanilla essence

Pinch fine sea salt

3 large eggs

1 cup (210g) sugar

½ cup (125ml) plain whole milk yogurt (I used low-fat)

½ cup (120g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

30z (90g) bitter chocolate melted, then cooled

Icing sugar to dust over (optional)

–          Butter and flour a 24cm round cake pan.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190C/gas 5)

–          Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

–          Whisk together the eggs and the sugar until they are light and pale yellow.  Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the eggs and sugar, whisking to incorporate them.  Fold in the yogurt and vanilla, then the melted butter.

–          Pour half the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Fold the melted chocolate into the remaining batter until is is thoroughly combined.  Pour the chocolate batter on top of the plain batter and run a rubber scraper through the batter several times to make a marble pattern.

–          Bake the cake in the centre of the oven until it is slightly mounded and your finger leaves a very slight impression when you touch the top, about 35 minutes.

–          Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, before turning it out onto a wire rack.

–          Serve when fully cool and if you like, dust the top with icing sugar.

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Enjoy, it is truly delicious.

And now for the Apple and Thyme tart….

Slán

My Secret

I have a delicious secret.  Literally delicious.  I have to admit that I am a bit ashamed of my secret and also a bit embarrassed about it.

It always happens when everyone is at work or at school and I am all on my own at home.  My surroundings are nice and quiet, no one grumbling, nagging or interrupting me.  I always convince myself that I can do it because it is my lunch-time break from writing or whatever it is I am doing.  I mean everyone has lunch breaks, even my kids at school.

So yes.

I. Watch. Television. During. The. Day.

In defence of myself it is a kind of educational programme and definitely not a soap.

It’s MasterChef.  The one from down under.  And I just love watching it.

I love the challenges the aspiring chefs are set.

I love to watch how they mix flavours and push themselves to go that extra mile.

I love how they try new stuff.

I love how they sometimes succeed and sometimes fail.

I love watching the chefs doing a master class – the little ideas of how to make your food taste even tastier, the tips of how to get something perfect!

I love the involvement of the aspirant chefs, how they are friends  with each other and encourage each other.  How they are really sad when a friend has to leave. (Not as cut-throat as the top model-programmes).  One contestant even wanted to take the place of another one, but that’s against the rules!

I even cry when a favourite goes out (sigh).

And on top of this, I also know all of their names by now – Ben, Emma, Jules,  Amina,  Audra, Kylie, Mindy, Andy, Julia ….. I have built their characters around them.

I know, I know.  This sounds A LOT like a soap, because I am getting to know my characters, I have my favourites, I get nervous when they in the losing team…

But hey, I am a bit of a foodie, I told you before.

Slán

food glorious food!

I am a bit of a foodie.   Not a professional foodie.  I just love food and cooking in general.  I am not an excellent cook by any means, but I love trying new flavours or new ways to cook something. Sometimes the new ways work, other times it doesn’t and it becomes chicken-food!

I remember as a child how my mom would always welcome us in the kitchen.  She gave us freedom in the kitchen to explore. From a young age we were encouraged to help in the kitchen and then to bake and cook ourselves.

These day with my own children, I think ‘my poor mom’.  She had five children and everyone (as far as I can remember) enjoyed to cook or bake.  I am sure she just walked out of the kitchen when we started – to not correct us or to not look at the mess we were planning to make.  But there was always the one RULE.  We were allowed to bake or cook, as long as we cleaned the kitchen afterwards.  That worked I suppose!

I remember making fudge and even marshmallows or turkish delight and the disappointment of it staying at the toffee stage, not setting or becoming too crumbly… but if it wasn’t myself there was always a sweet tooth who didn’t mind finishing the not-so-perfect treat.

My mom herself made delicious meals as well as wonderful tasty cakes and cookies and I definitely learnt a lot from her.  Also not to follow the recipe too closely but to use your own imagination a bit, or if you don’t have some ingredient, you substitute.  I still sometimes send her a text to ask her for the right substitute in a certain recipe.

I think that’s the great thing about cooking, you learn lots of little tips from people who have been passing it along over decades.

I sometimes just read cook books because of the ideas you get to try something new.  Recently I got this wonderful recipe book by Rachel Allen (yes, have mentioned her before) and there are so many what I call ‘normal’ recipes.  By this I mean you can just cook what you have in the kitchen tonight, you don’t have to first do a whole shopping in a specialised deli section of your grocery store….  Like I tried pork with garam masala – Indian or Arabian spices.  The great thing is, in this cookbook she explains how to make your own garam masala.  I suppose to google might also work…

Oh well, I love books as well.  But that is another day’s work!

Slán