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

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

Quiche lovely quiche

I love making Quiche.

I love the fact that it is so easy and soooo yummy and when you have run out of ideas what to cook a Quiche can easily become a full meal.  Just add some fresh bread or baked potatoes and a big green salad!  And most people love it!

Quiche apparently originated in Germany (kuchen means cake) but it is known as a classic French dish and today regarded as typically French.  But even the English used savoury custards in pastry as early as the 14th century!  So it seems many nations enjoy this and it can’t really be ‘claimed’ by anyone.

And indeed when you bake a Quiche it is very easy to create your own with a filling  of your own choice or whatever it is that puts your stamp on it!

Quiche Lorraine is probably the most popular variant of the Quiche.  I think the French indeed call it Lorraine.  And apparently cheese wasn’t one of the initial ingredients, it was only added later.  I really like to use Gruyère cheese because of its distinctive taste, but that is very personal.

Interestingly in France the Lorraine version is different to the one served in the United States.  The bacon is cubed, (in the States it is sliced), no onions are added and the custard base is thicker.  Well, I think it is whatever you are used to and your personal liking.  It is also nice to make something different!

So the making of a Quiche usually has three parts – crust, filling and your savoury custard.  This is my version:

I usually make a short crust for the pastry.  When making this crust everything should be as cold as possible.  In Ireland this is usually not such a big problem, but in warmer countries it might be… Also don’t overwork the pastry.  You want it light and crispy.  Sometimes I add a bit of mustard powder or some dried herbs in the dough just to give it a rustic flavour. You could also add some grated cheese to the dough to make the crust cheesy.

200 g (335 ml) flour

Pinch of salt

100 g (100 ml) butter

45-60 ml ice water

Work the butter through the flour and salt until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  You can use a food processor doing this, I just use my fingers.  Then add the water little by little until the dough just starts to come together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead a few seconds until it is smooth.

Put some cling wrap around it and let it rest in the fridge for between 30 and 60 minutes.

Line a Quiche tin (flan tin – about 22cm) with the pastry and first bake the crust for about 10-15 minutes at 180C (gas mark 5/6) with baking beans or dried beans in it.  If you don’t prebake the crust it becomes soggy.  Mark my words, I have tried both ways!!

Then the filling.  I use bacon cut into pieces as well as some spring onions cut into slices which I fry together for a few minutes.

For the custard:

2 eggs

125 ml cream

125 ml milk

2 ml salt

Pinch of red pepper

Pinch of mustard powder

Mix the above ingredients all together.

Put the bacon-filling in the crust and pour the custard over it.  Grate some cheese (cheddar or Gruyère) on top and bake for about  30 minutes until the cheese has coloured nicely and the custard is softly set, it mustn’t be too firm.

Let it cool a bit before you cut it, although it is also lovely to eat when it is cold, if there is anything left…

Enjoy!!!

 

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

Another take on pea soup…..

Although I grew up in South Africa, my upbringing was Dutch because we are originally from the Netherlands.  One great meal my mom often made – especially on a cold day – was Erwtensoep or snert, which is the Dutch version of Pea Soup.  It is a thick stew of green split peas, some vegetables and slices of rookworst (Dutch smoked sausage) are added a few minutes before serving it with thick bread, preferably rye bread.   I would say this  substantial meal, traditionally eaten during the winter is symbolic of Dutch cuisine.

So the other day I was paging through a Rachel Allen recipe book I got for my birthday and low and behold there was a take on the pea soup.  I suppose it is not so surprising because after all there are so many takes on pea soup!  This one is lighter and is made from frozen peas.  You cannot compare it to the Dutch original and I am not trying to do it, but to make a quick (she says five minutes) soup for an emergency starter or quick lunch – golden opportunity!

So here is the recipe:

500ml vegetable/chicken stock

200 g frozen peas

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated

2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

100 ml single or regular cream

3 tsp chopped tarragon (I couldn’t find the fresh one, so I used the dried herb)

–          Put the stock, frozen peas, garlic and spring onions into a large saucepan on a high heat, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.

–          Add the cream and tarragon and liquidize in a blender or using a hand-held blender.  Pour the soup into the saucepan and heat through on the hob.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread.

I have made it into a full meal by adding more peas to make it thicker as well as crispy bacon and grated cheese.  And I suppose croutons might work as well!  It is delicious.

Happy cooking.

Slán