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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookies – In Search of Cookie Nirvana

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I have started experimenting with recipes old and new for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Something that’s crisp on the edges, not too soft, but definitely squidgy (a little bit soft) in the middle. I don’t mind whether the cookies are big or small, but I definitely want a little rise rather than pancake flat.

Looking back at my cookie posts, I realized that I have never blogged my go-to-recipe that I have made over the years. So today, I cooked up a batch with mixed results. I realized that these cookies are quite flat  – why have I not addressed this before?? No idea, except perhaps I have been too eager to get stuck into eating the cookies rather than worrying about the rise!

I made one batch of these pancake flat numbers –  still very yummy – then made a second batch to which I added more flour. This seemed to do the trick as the dough was a lot firmer, and the cookies rose nicely. You could even call them plump!

What to with the pancake cookies? Why a pancake cookie stack of course! And two pancake cookies can be sandwiched with icecream.

So here is the basic recipe. For risen cookies, I have included the extra flour; for pancake cookies there’s less flour. Take your pick: risen or pancake, they both taste really good!

Ingredients

125g butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 free-range egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups plain flour (risen cookies) 1 cup flour (pancake cookies)

1 tsp baking powder

50g chocolate chips (milk or dark)

50g good quality dark chocolate chopped into little and bigger shards

Method

Note: This is a food processor cookie. It would definitely be great to make it with an electric mixer – and for the purists, you will get really nicely creamed butter and sugar. But the food processor method is super quick – and your cookies are ready in no time.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in the food processor until light and well, creamy! Add the vanilla extract and egg and process well. Add the flour and baking powder. You can sift them first, I never do. Gently pulse until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and the chopped chocolate.

Drop in dessert spoonfuls for large cookies or teaspoonfuls for smaller cookies on to the baking paper. You need to leave a gap of at least the size of 2 cookies between each (about 3 or 4 cms). Bake until the cookies are lovey and golden brown. This is usually between 12 and 15 minutes. I have found that watching the cookies is a better guide to when they are cooked than simply cooking for a certain number of minutes.

Cool for a few minutes on the baking trays, then finish on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

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To make a pancake cookie stack, pile up cookies with any filling you like – cream, chocolate, or buttercream icing. I made a passionfruit buttercream for this stack.

T o make a pancake icecream sandwich, put two cookies together with your favourite icecream! I used choc-peanut-salted caramel swirl. Good old vanilla would be fab. Drizzle with chocolate.

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Jamie Oliver’s Devil’s Double Choc Malt Cookies

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IMG_6017I made these luscious cookies a year or so ago. I am about to do one of my favourite things – experiment with chocolate chip cookie recipes to find the perfect chewy, not too soft not too hard chocoaltely treat! Kind of the goldilocks of cookies!
So to inspire my research efforts, I am posting again the chocolate cookie recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food. They’re dense, chewy, deeply chocolately with dark chocolate and white chocolate and with the added malty flavour of Horlicks and Malteasers.
The recipe is quite unusual too –  condensed milk instead of sugar for the ingredients, and there are no eggs. The method is also different from a normal cookie recipe. Jamie suggests serving a couple of cookies sandwiched together with vanilla ice cream  – I thought that mascarpone might be nice –  it doesn’t melt and it’s not too sweet.
Ingredients
50 g unsalted butter
200 g quality dark chocolate
1 x 396 g tin of condensed milk
25 g ground almonds
2 heaped teaspoons Horlicks*
200 g self-raising flour
100 g Malteasers
50 g quality white chocolate
* I omitted the Horlicks – I didn’t have any – and the cookies still tasted quite malty with just the Malteasers.
Method
Melt the butter and chocolate in a pan on a low heat until smooth and combined, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the condensed milk, followed by the almonds andHorlicks. Sift in the flour and a pinch of sea salt, mix together, then chill in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes (no longer). Once cool, but still pliable,smash up theMaltesers and roughly chop the white chocolate, then mix it all together.Preheat the oven to 170° degrees C. Divide the mixture into 24 equal-sized balls and place on a couple of large baking trays lined withgreaseproof or baking paper. Flatten each a little (you can freeze them at this stage to bake another day if you like),  then bake for around 12 minutes, or until chewy in the middle and firm at the edges. Leave to sit in the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Serve on the cookies their own, or sandwich together with ice cream, whipped cream or mascarpone. Scatter over chocolate shavings or drizzle with melted chocolate.
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Gluten Free Banana Bread

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In pursuit of more healthy options in my cooking, I couldn’t go past this recipe for banana bread from the Hemsley sisters. Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley have a great TV program called Hemsley +Hemsley: Healthy and Delicious where they cook food that is natural and nutritious – grain, gluten and refined sugar free. A recent episode featured banana bread made with coconut flour and coconut oil. It does have 3 eggs, but hey – this bread makes 12 slices easy so that’s only 1/4 of an egg per slice!

Here is my version with a few tweaks that I like. You could really add anything you like – nuts or seeds would be great, and honey would be a great sweetener too.  The treacle in my version gave a lovely, malty flavour and rich dark colour. And it’s a throw-in-the-food-processor recipe so it takes no time to mix!

One more thing – it keeps forever! It doesn’t dry out, and keeps really moist.

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Ingredients

350g or 3 medium size bananas, mashed

60g  coconut flour

1 /2 tbs cinnamon

1 pinch salt

3 free-range eggs

50g coconut oil, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

1.5 tsp bi-carbonate of soda

1 tbs apple cider vineagr

1/2 tbs treacle

1/2 tbs golden syrup

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Put all the ingredients (except the golden syrup) into a food processor and whizz until smooth.  Spoon into the prepared tin. Drizzle over the golden syrup onto the top of the mixture.

Bake for 50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely before turning out of the tin.

I served my banana bread with cashew butter and fresh figs. The bread is quite sweet, so the cashew butter works well. Peanut, or any nut butter would be fine.

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Tie Dye Marshmallows

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I love marshmallows, and when I discovered how simple they are to make, they have become part of my sweet treats repertoire. They’re dead easy to make, the only tricky bits are heating the sugar, glucose and water to the right temperature, and then pouring the hot mixture onto the beaten egg whites.

I recently found an image on Pinterest of bright multi-coloured tie dye marshmallows. I liked the concept, but went for a softer coloured version. My go-to recipe for marshmallows is Jamie Oliver’s great recipe from his book Comfort Food.

I was keen to get a whole lot of colours going, so opted for a basic vanilla flavour using vanilla paste. In my previous post, see here, I made lovely rosewater flavoured pink marshmallows. My problem was, with so many colours, what flavour to choose? So vanilla seemed the best choice.

This is Jamie’s recipe adapted for tie dye colours.

Ingredients

50g cornflour

5g icing sugar

50g liquid glucose syrup

450g caster sugar

10 sheet gelatin

2 large free-range egg whites

1 tsp vanilla paste

A few drops each of different food colourings

Method

This is a precise recipe, so make sure you read through the method carefully before you start, get all your ingredients weighed out and get your equipment ready to go. Sift the cornflour and icing sugar into a bowl. Finely sift half the mixture over a deep baking tray (20cm x 30 cm) and set the other half aside in the sieve until later.

Mix the liquid glucose syrup and caster sugar together in a pan over a low heat with 250ml of cold water. Heat gently, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved and you have a clear syrup.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a small pan with 125ml of water.

Once the sugar syrup is clear, turn up the heat, pop in a sugar thermometer and allow the syrup to boil vigorously (please don’t stir it). When it reaches 110ºC, place the gelatine pan over a medium heat and stir until dissolved.

Whisk the egg whites in a free-standing electric mixer until you have stiff peaks.

Once your syrup has reached 122ºC, very carefully and slowly pour it down the sides of the bowl of the moving mixer, then pour in the dissolved gelatine.

Add the vanilla paste to the mixer bowl, then continue to whisk for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture has significantly increased in volume, but is thick and still pourable.

Have several bowls (one for each colour) ready, with a few drops of your chosen colours in each bowl. Once the marshmallow is whisked, pour into each of the bowls. Mix the colours through the marshmallow. You’ll need to work quickly, as the marshmallow will start to set.

Then pour each marshmallow mixture into the prepared tray. You can use your creativity here, in the way you place the colours. I used a skewer to swirl the colours together. You can smooth the top if you like, with a palette knife, but I like the rough effect. Sift over the remaining mixed cornflour and icing sugar and leave to set for two to three hours. Cut into squares and store in grease proof  paper in a tin. Keeps well for a week or two or three!

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Jamie Oliver’s Super Squash Lasagne

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I am cooking lots more healthy recipes these days, trying to cut down on the “bad” things in my diet. I am also interested in vegan recipes, as I sometimes cook for a vegan work colleague. Similarly I often make gluten-free recipes as increasingly friends are suffering gluten intolerance. The passionate baker in me finds that a little daunting at times!

This recipe for a meat-free, low-fat lasagne, is dedicated to Quirky Sister No 1. She is recovering from major surgery and is learning to adjust to some dietary restrictions. She’s doing very well!

This is another recipe from Jamie Oliver’s book Everyday Super Food. I really appreciate Jamie’s approach to healthy and delicious eating. While all the recipes are carefully written to be nutritious, there’s still that lovely attention to how food tastes and looks. We eat with our eyes so food has to look good to make us want to tuck in! It’s a simple butternut pumpkin lasagne. In Australia we call butternut squash pumpkin. Squash or pumpkin, this vegetable goes well roasted in slices, in the lasagne. It’s also a source of vitamin A according to Jamie. He has baby spinach in the lasagne too, great for iron.

I am including Jamie’s recipe from his excellent book, with a few variations, as in the lasagne pictured: I used ordinary lasagne sheets, not wholewheat, as I prefer the former. I also used half the amount of baby spinach, as that’s all I had on the day I cooked. Half the quantity was plenty! I left off a sunflower seed topping.

I love the classic combination of pumpkin and sage, and  added a scattering of sage leaves to each layer. It worked really well, giving a nice depth of flavour to the pumpkin. I substituted sage leaves on the top of the lasagne, too, for the rosemary sprigs Jamie mentions.

Ingredients

olive oil

1  large butternut squash (1.5kg)

1 level tsp ground coriander

4 cloves garlic

1 fresh red chilli

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes

200g baby spinach

a handful of fresh sage leaves, plus a few more for the top

60g Parmesan cheese

250g dried wholewheat lasagne sheets

400g fat-free cottage cheese

100ml semi-skimmed milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and rub 2 large roasting trays with a little olive oil. Carefully  halve and deseed the squash, leaving the skin on, then slice into ½-inch half moon shapes.
Lay in a single layer across the trays. Sprinkle over the ground coriander, and a pinch of sea salt  and black pepper, then roast for 50 minutes, or until soft and lightly golden.
Meanwhile, peel the garlic and deseed the chili, then finely slice both and place in a large pan on a medium-high heat with about 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook for 3 minutes, or until golden, then add the balsamic and tinned tomatoes, breaking them up as you go, and 1 tin’s worth of water. Simmer on a medium heat for  15 to 20 minutes until slightly thickened, or until slightly thickened, then season to perfection. ( I found that the tomatoes needed a good 30 minutes to reduce down).
To layer up, spread a third of the tomato sauce across the base of a 25cm x 30cm baking dish. Cover with a layer of raw spinach leaves and a few sage leaves, a layer of roasted squash,  a fine grating of Parmesan and a layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat the layers twice more, finishing with  lasagne sheets.
Loosen the cottage cheese with the milk, mashing the curds a little, then lightly season and spoon over the top. Finley grate over the remaining Parmesan. Rob the remaining sage leaves with oil, then place on top of the lasagne.
Bake at the bottom of your oven for 45 minutes, or until golden and bubbling, then serve.
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White Chocolate and Cranberry Blondies Revisited

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This is what I was cooking this time 3 years ago, in May 2013. It’s an ultra rich blondie inspired by a Gordon Ramsay recipe. I thought it worth revisiting – it’s easy to make, really fudgy, and the cranberries give a nice, slightly tart note to offset the caramel sweetness.

Ingredients

1 cup dried cranberries
2  x 100g white chocolate bars
225g plain flour
226g butter
1 pinch of salt
300g sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 free-range eggs

Method

Line a 23cm x 23cm tin with baking paper.

Melt butter, add sugar to mixing bowl. Add salt to sugar.
Add melted butter to sugar and whisk well. Add vanilla and eggs, whisk well.
Add baking powder and bi-carbonate of soda, mix well.
Whisk in half the flour. Once incorporated (no lumps), add the rest of the flour and mix well until there are no lumps.
Add the dried cranberries, changing from a whisk to a spoon.
Slice the bars of white chocolate into  thick matchsticks and mix in gently, trying not to break up the chocolate.
Spoon into baking tin (previously lined with baking paper (butter or non stick spray the tin to hold paper in place).
Spread mixture into the tin, using a spatula to make sure the mixture is even.
Bake at 180 degrees C for 35 -40 minutes.
Leave to cool, then remove from tin.
Cut into squares. Blondies will keep for a week and also freeze well.

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