Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Christmas cookies – Again!

December 24, 2011

Every Christmas, at least for the past 5 years or so, I make a big batch of cookies, and package them up for my workmates. Last year I made Nicciolini, the year before that I made Lavendar & Lemon, and for a few years before that I made plain shortbread. This year I was confident enough to “invent” my own recipe, even though I’m positive its been done before. Enter Lemon Shortbread.

These were by far the most successful shortbreads I’ve ever made. Successful in that they kept their shape perfectly during baking, even the most intricate shapes. The cooking time I chose was spot-on, even though it was a number I literally picked at random. The dough was so easy to work with and didn’t deteriorate as it got warm. I will be coming back to this recipe again and again.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

3 & 3/4 cups of plain flour

1 & 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup caster sugar

1 large egg & one large egg yolk

grated rind of 3 large lemons*

 

*make sure, if you can, that they’re organic lemons, or get them from a home garden. I’d hate for anyone to ingest poisonous sprays with their cookies!

Method

In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together for about a minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the butter is mixed in. Add the egg & egg yolk and the lemon rind, and beat until combined and smooth. Add the flour one large spoonful at a time, until all flour is incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl one more time and beat until mixture is smooth. Lay out a piece of plastic wrap, and pour out the contents of the bowl onto the plastic. Press the dough into ball and wrap tightly in the plastic. Refrigerate for several hours, the easiest though is to make the dough the night before you need it, as this gives the lemon the most time to infuse its flavours into the butter. Also, the dough needs to be quite cold when you’re working with it, as this is one of the factors that help the cookies hold their shape.

Time to bake those cookies! Preheat fan-forced oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Find a smooth surface to roll out your dough onto, I did mine straight on my kitchen counter. Using a rolling pin, slowly roll the dough out until its about 3mm thick. (Two things – roll it out slowly to prevent the dough from tearing and forming odd shapes. Secondly: 3mm might seem thin when the cookies are cut out, but they do rise ever so slightly in the oven, and 3mm was the perfect thickness for my cookies. Do experiment with different thicknesses until you find one you like.) Start cutting out your shapes – I did stars, flowers, snowflakes and a bunch of mini shapes with the scraps. Place on baking trays lined with baking paper**, fairly close together (remember these cookies hold their shape really well) and bake for 8 minutes, or until the edges are just turning golden. The biscuits will feel soft when they are hot but will firm up once they cool.

**I recommend preparing at least 4 trays with baking paper. This way, you can bake 2 or 3 trays while cutting out your next lot of shapes.

Once cookies are completely cool, you can now decorate them! There are lots of ways to do this. I used royal icing, but you could just as easily use a lemon sugar glazing, or simply dust with icing sugar. I made so many, and I don’t wat to bore you with thousands of cookie photos, so I’ll just show you some of my favourites!

Stars & Stripes

Groovy Snowflake

Classic Snowflake

Spotty Stars

Let the icing set for at least an hour before bagging them up and giving them away 😀

Ready for gifting!

Merry Christmas to all my lovely readers, I’ll see you in 2012!!

(Mis)Adventures with Choc Chip Cookies

May 31, 2011

I had a craving this morning. And no, before you ask, I’m not pregnant.

I had a craving for good old-fashioned chewy choc chip cookies. So, naturally, I went onto the internet in search of a good recipe.

Here was the source of my mis-adventure.

I like Foodgawker. I have got many many many great recipes from there, and I use Foodgawker because the recipes cannot be posted to the site without an awesome photo in the original blog posting. Photos are essential for my recipe searches, as I am a very visual person, and will rarely try a recipe unless it has at least one photo of the end result. (Some recipes have automatic immunity however. Julia Child’s original Boeuf Bouguignon recipe is an exemplary dish which rose far above the modest tone of the printed recipe.)

So I searched on Foodgawker, and selected a bunch of delicious and chewy looking recipes to look at. I wanted something simple, just with chocolate chips, so I closed all the ones that had nuts or oats or peanut butter or salted caramel or cranberries or raisins. I closed all the ones which were egg/dairy/gluten/sugar/salt/cholesterol/whatever free, and closed the ones for which I didn’t have ingredients (I am not leaving the house today. That would require a certain level of kempt-ness that was beyond the scope of my effort levels today). As I was reading & closing recipes, one thing stood out to me like a hamantash in a row of kourabiedes.

On more than one of the recipes I was browsing today, this was listed in the Ingredients section:

1 package instant vanilla pudding mix

Begin rant.

It is a total cop-out for anyone professing to be a so-called “food blogger” to publish recipes touted as the best/chewiest/tastiest/moistest/amazing cookie recipe when a significant portion of the “ingredients” are a commercialised replacement of a once-traditional foodstuff, like “pudding” (which, as far as I can gather, for Australian audiences is most similar to our cartons of custard. So imagine that, but in power form.). It is an insult to real cookery masters everywhere to pass these kinds of short-cut recipes off as the bees knees of cookie recipes, and do you know what the really sad thing is? New cooks make these recipes and it shapes their understanding of home cooking from then on! These new cooks, these unwitting victims to short-cut cooking, have no concept of the skills, guts, and sheer brilliance of traditional do-everything-from-scratch cooking. And that really saddens me.

Yes, I take shortcuts. Yes, I make my chicken laksa from store-bought laksa paste. But, combined with my homemade chicken stock, homegrown herbs and vegetables, my laksa still possesses a lot of the traditional elements authentic laksa has, and furthermore, my desire to learn how to make my own flavour pastes is just waiting for when I have enough time to dedicate a day or two to learning how to do it. You have read before on this blog about my love of the long way round to gastronomical bliss, and when I eventually learn how to make my own flavour pastes I know this will open up a whole new world to me. But I digress.

So I made my feelings known to the whole of Twitter (with liberal use of the exclamation mark and the rage hashtag), and I was not prepared for the overwhelmingly positive outpouring of support of my statement. I made the pleasing discovery that I was amongst like-minded people, and was blown away by all the offers to share their tried & true choc chip cookie recipes. My #rage quickly subsided, and I went about choosing the recipe that I made this afternoon.

This recipe was generously given to me by my knitting friend Sheralynn and with her permission, I am going to share it will all of you lovely readers.

Regular Run-Of-The-Mill Traditional Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients

125g butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4/5 cup (that’s four fifths) self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
200g chocolate chips

Method

1. Cream butter and sugars, add egg and vanilla and combine.
2. Sift in flour & salt and mix, then stir in choc chips.
3. Roll into a long tube about 1-2 inches in diameter and wrap in saran/glad wrap. Chill the log of dough for at least 1 hour in the fridge.
4. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 180oC and slice hockey pucks from the log, place on baking tray and bake for 7-10 mins.
Cookies should be golden.
5. Leave to cool on sheet until hardened then move to rack to cool.
So I made these and they were delicious! Chocolatey, sweet, chewy, nom! The only little hiccup I had was when chopping the log into “hockey pucks” (I just love this term) they didn’t hold together very well, and I think this was because I was using chocolate chips that were a bit on the large side, and the knife couldn’t cut them easily. But it didn’t matter, I just pressed the mix back together for each cookie. Also, one of my Silpats made the cookies stick, but the other didn’t. I’m not entirely sure why!
So, what have we learned today? I have learned that blog sites are sometimes not all they are cracked up to be. I have learned that twitter friends are amongst the bestest friends one can have. And I have learned that there is at least one recipe that I want to try on a different day, for it requires some pre-bake planning.
I have also learned that while the cookies might be mangled from getting them off a sticky Silpat, they are still delicious!

Banana bread. Well, muffins.

November 10, 2008

book

My father somehow got hold of this book and it’s so small, it kind of got lost amongst all the other larger cookbooks we own. But I found it the other day, and started to flip through it. The recipes are all really simple, and so delicious-sounding, but I had to put it aside until my exams were over so I could concentrate on studying. But now they are over! And today, my first real day off since the holidays started (since I had to work all weekend) I sat down and took a serious look through the book. I made a list of all the recipes I wanted to try, and then decided to make the banana bread since I had a couple of bananas in the fruit bowl that were going quite brown. Except when I looked through my cake tin pile I realized I didn’t have an oblong loaf tin that this recipe calls for….I so thought I had one!! I added it to the shopping list & decided to make this recipe into muffins instead. I had to change the recipe a little because I didn’t have any buttermilk, so I just used plain milk, and though I didn’t add any this time, you could add some ground nutmeg or cinnamon to enhance the flavour of the banana.

muffins

You will need:

1 & 1/2 cups Plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

125 grams softened Butter

1 cup Sugar

2 Eggs

2 very ripe Bananas, mashed with a fork

1/2 cup Milk

pinch salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease 5×9″ loaf tin, or a muffin tin (I used patty pans in mine).

Cream butter & sugar together with an electric beater. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the mashed bananas, again beating in well. Start to add the dry ingredients (the original recipe said to sift the flour & baking powder & salt together but I can never be bothered doing that) a little at a time, alternating each addition with a little milk. Beat until well combined.

Spoon mixture into loaf tin or muffin tray. Baking takes 55-60 minutes in the loaf tin, or for muffins about 25 minutes. Test by inserting a metal skewer into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is ready.

muffin

Bananas are really cool. Those little black flecks weren’t in the batter when I made it, but they magically appeared during cooking! I’ve already eaten two muffins, they are so wonderfully moist and the outsides are just a tiny bit crispy….just perfect!

muffin-side

Big thanks to Andrew for lending me his camera for these photos today 🙂

Hazelnut Tea Biscuits

October 25, 2008

Staying at home studying all day is driving me crazy…. So I decided to make a little treat for myself. These traditional Italian bisciuts (traditionally called Nocciolini – from the Italian word Nocciole, meaning Hazlenuts) are perfect with tea or coffee, and since I find myself consuming more of each every day, I couldn’t think of anything more perfect to make.

Recipe taken from Capalbo, Whiteman, Wright & Boggiano’s Italian Cooking Encyclopedia (Lifetime Distributers, NSW, Aust.)

Makes about 25 biscuits.

You will need:

115g Softened butter

3/4 Cup icing sugar

1  Cup Plain flour

3/4 Cup ground hazelnuts (usually sold as Hazel Meal)

1 egg yolk

Blanched whole hazelnuts to decorate*

Icing sugar to finish

* If, like me, you cannot find blanched hazelnuts, you can blanch your own beforehand. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and spread out hazelnuts on a baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the skin starts to flake off. Remove from oven and poor into a handtowel. Wrap up & leave for another 10 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle start rubbing the skins off the nuts with the towel, most of the skin should come off easily. Of course you can skip this step altogether, I just think that nude hazelnuts look better!

To make the biscuits:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 or 3 baking trays with baking paper.

Cream butter & sugar together until light & fluffy. Add egg yolk, flour & ground hazelnuts, and beat until evenly mixed. Your batter will be quite stiff & dry looking.

Take teaspoonfuls of batter and roll them between the palms of your hands to make little balls. The biscuits only flatten slightly when baked so you can put them fairly close together. Press a hazelnut into the center of each one. Bake for 10-15 mintes or until golden brown. The original recipe says to bake one tray at a time, but I’ve never had any problem putting them all in at once.

Let the biscuits cool & dust with icing sugar. Serve with coffee or tea while on a study break 🙂

Nut & Chocolate Muffins

October 4, 2008

Another tried & true recipe of mine that I can whip up in 5 minutes.

You will need:

1 & 3/4 Cups plain flour

2 Eggs

1/2 Cup softened butter

1 Cup milk

1/2 Cup sugar

1 Tablespoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 Teaspoon vanilla essence

1 Cup chocolate chips

1/2 Cup crushed nuts

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease muffin pans (alternately, use paper cup cake pans).

Put all ingredients except the last two into a bowl & beat together for a few minutes until well combined. Stir through chocolate chips and crushed nuts. Fill muffin pans 2/3 full, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top of the muffin springs back when pressed.

Try not to burn your fingers in your rush to eat them after baking 😉

This recipe can be adapted in many ways. Instead of chocolate & nuts, use pears & cinnamon, or raspberries & white chocolate, or leave out the sugar & add becon & cheese. The possibilities are endless!

Enjoy 🙂