Sunday 26 April 2009

Chewy chocolate cookies

I've had my eye on these cookies for a while. A long while apparently, since the BBC Good Food magazine they were originally published in is the April 2006 issue. Hmm, must try harder to clear the back-log of recipes on the 'to make' list. However, these really were worth the wait, and I urge you not to wait as long as I did.

The recipe apparently isn't on the BBC Good Food website (which I've had immense trouble accessing recently, but it seems to have relented today and let me on) but I shall give it anyway! These must be some of the easiest cookies ever, with the most difficult thing being remembering to allow the butter to soften by taking it out of the fridge in time. There are plenty of ideas for variations given in the magazine, but I'll leave it to your imagination - they suggest ingredients such as roasted salted peanuts, dried cranberries, orange zest, cinnamon and raisin, poppy see and lemon zest, mixed chocolate etc etc. Whatever combination floats your boat really!

Chewy Chocolate Cookies
45g light muscovado sugar
100g soft butter
125g self-raising flour
1 heaped tbsp golden syrup (I was generous with this and I think this really helped with the chewiness)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (but on reflection I think I forgot to add this - oops!)
45g milk chocolate, chopped
45g dark chocolate, chopped

- Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking parchment.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy (I used an electric mixer).
- Stir in the remaining ingredients until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough.
- Roll the dough into walnut-sized pieces and place on the baking tray, leaving plenty of space between them (unless you want them to make friends like some of mine did ;-) )
- The original instructions say to chill for 30 minutes in the fridge if you have time, but although I had time I didn't have fridge space, so they just had to wait. I guess chilling them for 30 mins would make them spread less, so they'd be even chewier and delicious. Must make these again when my fridge is emptier!
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until light golden brown. They will still feel soft in the middle when you take them out, and will need a few minutes cooling before you can move them at all. Mine never entirely firmed up, but that's part of the joy of them!
- When cool enough to move, transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

The recipe said it makes 10 (I did a half recipe) but I got 16, which were the perfect size with a cup of tea or coffee.

I can't tell you how long they last as they're all gone now! However, I can say that they're buttery,chewy and bendy in a really lovely way, and the muscovado sugar makes them a little toffee-ish in flavour. My colleagues loved them, and T said they were possibly the best cookies he's had. Praise indeed.

The original recipe (which is twice that given above) had 100g dark chocolate, chopped and 50g preserved ginger or crystallised ginger, chopped and also gave ideas for variations: 100g milk chocolate and 50g roasted salted peanuts, 150g dried cranberries and zest 1 orange, 2 tsp cinnamon and 140g raisins, 1 tbsp poppy seeds and zest 1 lemon, 150g mixed chopped dark, milk and white chocolate. All sound good to me!

Saturday 18 April 2009

Quadruple chocolate chunk muffins

I've made quite a few muffins already on this blog. Some were an unusual recipe, but fabulous, some went to Italy on their travels and some just looked a bit dodgy. However, none received as rapturous a reception as these. The name says it all really, but they were for a colleague who had given up chocolate and sweets for Lent, and felt she had missed out on lots of the baking I've been doing recently. Then when I didn't immediately produce something on the Tuesday I went back to work she sighed and said 'I bet you've given up baking now I can have it again'. As if.

So I felt all out chocolate overload was the way to go, especially for my colleague. So I present without further ado....

Quadruple chocolate chunk muffins
Ingredients (makes 12)
275g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
170g caster sugar
scant tsp baking powder
170ml sunflower oil
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
200ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
70g dark chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt 70%)
50g milk chocolate, chopped (Green and Blacks creamy milk here)
50g white chocolate, chopped (Sainsburys 'Taste the Difference' swiss white here)

- Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl (I used a measuring jug) measure the milk, vanilla extract, and oil. Add the eggs to this mixture and whisk to break up the eggs.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and stir briefly. The idea is to combine the ingredients and get rid of dry flour pockets, but leaving lumps remaining.
- Add the chopped chocolate and stir briefly to distribute.
- Divide between the 12 cases. They will be pretty much full. I had a little mixture left over, which is always annoying, but it just wouldn't fit!
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. I used a cocktail stick to check when they were done. Remove to a wire rack and wait for them to cool. Or not, as you please!

These smelled delicious while they were baking, really yummy and it was all I could do not to snaffle the whole lot for myself! They were light and moist, and very chocolately, and as I said before, my colleagues couldn't get enough of them. I was greeted by a few dissapointed faces as people who wanted one but had left it too late popped their heads around the office door!

One of the muffins is trying to escape out of the side. Dunno why that happened. Quick, someone tame that muffin ;-)

T will be pleased to know that the last of this batch resides in the freezer, awaiting his delectation!

Sunday 12 April 2009

Happy Easter!!!

Happy Easter everyone! Has the Easter bunny visited your house? He's been to mine and left me this pair of delicious dark chocolate bunnies. I bet they don't see the end of the day......

Are you still eating hot cross buns, or have they all gone now?

Saturday 11 April 2009

Hot Cross Buns

Yes, I'm a day late with these, but they're so good that I'd make them again immediately (perhaps without the crosses) just as a good fruit bun.

I followed Dan Lepard's recipe for hot cross buns here, with a few minor modifications. I'm going to give my ingredients list, but since I followed Dan's recipe exactly for the method, I suggest you visit his forums for the method.

Hot Cross Buns (I made 12 rather than 9)
75g butter, melted
2 level tsp mixed spice
300g strong white flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 tsp fine salt
zest 1 lemon
2 tsp (I was generous here) easy-blend dry yeast
275ml barely warm whole milk (I used semi-skimmed as that's what I had in)
200g raisins
3 tbsp golden syrup

Risen dough - it was larger than it seems in this picture.

Shaping the buns - kneading them at the same time.

One hand doing the kneading.

Shaped, prior to proving.

Risen after about 3 1/2 hours (I had to go out, and that's how long they got - I really think it helped with the texture of the buns - I made the same recipe last year but they were much denser than this time round).

With the flour and water paste piped on to form the crosses. This year I made the paste in a small bowl, which allowed me to beat out the lumps before I transferred it to a plastic bag with the corner snipped off to make a piping bag. This worked much better than last years paste where I attempted to make it in the plastic bag - the lazy approach doesn't work!

Baked to perfection. I started the buns at gas 6, as specified in the recipe, but then after 10 minutes I turned it down to gas 5 (recalling the burnt incident of last year) and left them a futher 15 minutes. I then turned them over and gave them 10 more minutes. I felt they were pretty much perfectly cooked.

I loved the texture of these hot cross buns. The crumb is light and moist and packed with the perfect amount of juicy raisins. The spice is a subtle but delicious background note along with the lemon zest.

Gorgeous shiny hot cross bun with glaze. These were really successful. The texture was perfect and the taste was great. I think that next year I might add a little chopped mixed peel and perhaps a bit more spice, although Dan mentions that spice retards the action of the yeast.

I'm really looking forward to eating the ones that made it to the freezer (sadly not all that many!). I'd really recommend making these, they're great.

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Easter Double Chocolate Mud Cupcakes

Double Chocolate Mudcake. Do I need say more. Well, suppose I'd better, given that this is a food blog for talking about food.....

Also known as 'how to prove to your colleagues that you genuinely do make and decorate the cakes you bring in'.... It has to be said that I am not happy with the way these turned out decoration wise. I don't often use food colourings - and it shows. The colours are too gaudy and aren't really straw or grass like in the slightest. I was aiming for chicks pecking around in the straw of a barn or out on the new spring grass. I obviously have a vivid imagination - try and see if you can see little chicks pecking around with a large bustling brown mother hen clucking worriedly as she tries to round them up. Can you see the old-fashioned wooden barn in the background and can you complete the picture with the farmer, his wife and two young children looking fondly over this scene of rural bliss? Are you there yet? Right, now look at the creations above. This is why I'm not 100% happy with them!!!

However, none of that really matters. What matters is that they taste great (which they do) after all, what's not to like about yummy chocolate cake and buttercream icing (even if it is dyed a funny colour!). My colleagues certainly snaffled them all up. So quickly in fact, that I wasn't able to grab one for myself!

I'm sending these, in all their glory, over to Julia at A Slice of Cherry Pie. She's hosting the third annual Easter Cake Bake, and since I made these to celebrate Easter, that's where they're heading!

The recipe uses a combination of methods that I haven't really come across before. It uses a creaming technique to start with, but then melts the chocolate in water and adds that. It seemed odd to me, but produced really good cake. I think they probably have a different texture to normal cupcakes due to the relatively high amount of sugar in the mixture. Yum!

Here is my slightly modified version of the recipe, as found in a little book I recently bought from Marks and Spencer called, simply, 'Cupcakes':

Double chocolate mud cake
60g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
160ml water
100g butter, softened
110g light muscovado sugar
110g dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs
150g self raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder

100g very soft butter
200g icing sugar
food colourings, if desired

- Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3 (although I used gas 4). Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper liners.
- Melt the chocolate together with the water in a small saucepan over a low heat, being careful not to let the chocolate burn. Mine never became entirely smooth, but it didn't seem to matter.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and continue to beat for a while. The mixture will become lighter in colour.
- Stir in the sifted (although I didn't sift) flour and cocoa, and add the warm chocolate mixture.
- Divide the mixture among the cases. They will be quite full - don't worry about this, I thought mine might overflow, but they didn't!
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

When cool, make the buttercream by beating 100g butter and 200g icing sugar until extremely light and fluffy. An electric mixer is definitely the way to go here, and your butter needs to be very soft indeed. Colour as desired and ice the cupcakes. Or make a chocolate buttercream (this would be rather more aesthetically pleasing I feel!) and pretend your chicks are scratching around in the dirt or the mud rather than in the grass!

But whatever they look like, just enjoy eating them!

Saturday 4 April 2009

Chocolate Banana Cake

Also known as 'Disorganised singleton going away for a week and coming back to too many ripe bananas' cake. Well, you know what I'm trying to say! I was away for a week at a conference for work and even though I knew months ago that it was happening I was still disorganised enough to have lots of food left in the fridge and bananas in the fruit bowl before I left. Luckily, using up over-ripe bananas isn't too much of a hardship when you've got a delicious chocolate cake recipe like this one!

The thing that always surprises me about this cake, every time I make it, is just how huge it really is! Normally for loaf cakes baked in a 2lb loaf tin, I would just cut them into slices. For this cake I need to halve it lengthways first, as shown below, otherwise the slices would be enormous. It doesn't seem to have excessive quantitites of any particular ingredient though. Must be magic....

Chocolate is one of my very favourite things, so I'm going to send this cake over to Poornima at Tasty Treats, a lovely new food blog. Check it out if you haven't already discovered it. She's hosting an event called 'For the love of chocolate'. Sounds perfect to me.

The recipe comes from Sue Lawrence, whose recipes I really enjoy making. They always seem to work for me, which can't be said of every food writer! The original recipe has a rather delicious crumble topping, but I left it off this version for ease and speed.
Chocolate Banana Cake
Makes 22 pieces
175g butter
175g soft light brown sugar
85g dark chocolate
285g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs, beaten
2 small ripe bananas, mashed
- Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 3. Line the base and sides of a 2lb loaf tin (907g)
- Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat. Then add the chocolate and melt that too, being careful not to let the pan get too hot.
- Remove from the heat and sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Mix well together.
- Beat in the eggs and fold in the mashed bananas.
- Spoon into the tin and place in the preheated oven for about 1 hour 10 minutes, but check after 1 hour until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 30-45 minutes, then loosen and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

You can see from the picture above that I've slightly over-cooked mine - the edges are slightly dry, but it didn't matter - it still tasted great! The banana flavour is surprisingly strong, but really good. An excellent cake to have with a cup of tea or coffee as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon treat.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies

Welcome to this months Sweet and Simple bake. This is a group where we all bake a recipe supplied by the lovely Rosie of Baking Cakes Galore and Maria of The Goddess's Kitchen and post it on the same day. Head over to the Sweet and Simple Bakes blog to get more info and see the round-ups of previous months cakes and biscuits.

I won't reproduce the recipe as I followed it pretty closely, and it can be found here.

I actually made these much earlier in the month, around the time when I was baking to raise money for Comic Relief and took them into work at about the same time as these butterfly cakes and this gingerbread. They went down well, but to be honest I think I must have overcooked them slightly. They weren't burnt or anything, but they were mostly crunch and very little chew. I don't think I'd make them again, not because there was anything wrong with them but just because there are so many other cookie recipes out there for me to try - why stick with mediocre (but perfectly acceptable) when there could be a stellar recipe out there, just the next flick of the cookery book page, waiting for me to try it out.... Anyhow, your taste might differ to mine, so don't be put off making them - the recipe works well, I just wasn't overwhelmed. My colleagues liked them, but preferred the cake.... well, who wouldn't prefer cake really!
PS I promise I did put the specified amount of chocolate into them, it's just hiding, that's why you can't see it in the picture!!!


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