a explosion of fruity flavours

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It’s the start of baking season! I helped out by cutting the glacé (candied) fruits for fruitcake. There were 4 tubs of red & green cherries and pineapple. Sweet and sticky. And very colourful. Definitely Christmas-y. The fruitcake has lots of sugar, 2 cups of southern comfort, took around 2hrs to bake and will be soaked in more southern comfort until ready to eat. I had the honour of cleaning the mixing paddle and just that bit of batter had enough southern comfort to give an oomph.

 

chilled cheesecake

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I realised I don’t have searchable recipe for chilled cheesecake. It’s hidden on an old page that was part of v1.0 of the website and no longer linked. And it’s so old it’s in ounces, so I need to update it. I’ve also based the new recipe on the packaging of ingredients available to me; the recipe converts to 350g cream cheese, but cream cheese packets are 200g, so I used 2 packets.

50g butter
120g digestives
400g cream cheese
75g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
gelatine — about 1 tbsp in 3 tbsp hot water, this is powdered
250ml double cream
3 egg whites
1 punnet blueberries, or other fruit

  1. make base using butter and digestives, chill until set
  2. break up cheese, add sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice
  3. dissolve gelatine in water, add to cheese mixture
  4. add fruit
  5. whisk cream until soft peaks, fold into mixture
  6. whisk egg whites until firm peaks, fold into mixture
  7. pour mixture over base and chill till set

#pancakeday: pikelets and crêpes

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It’s Shrove Tuesday, which means PANCAKES! No, I haven’t forgotten why we eat pancakes on the day before Lent starts.

For tea I made pikelets. I love this pop quiz:

What’s a pikelet?

Is it:

  1. a regional type of crumpet
  2. a type of pancake found in Australia and New Zealand
  3. stage name of Australian musician Evelyn Morris
  4. a North Staffordshire delicacy, a thicker form of oatcake with raisins added
  5. all of the above

The answer is (5). Most commonly the recipes I see are either (1) or (2). Complicated ones like this from Bake-off’s Ruby Tandoh that makes flat crumpets, I want to try this one day because, well, Ruby! and crumpets!!

What I used was a simple pancake-like recipe. I added blueberries because I felt like it.

150g SR flour
pinch of salt
1tbsp sugar
200ml milk
1 egg
1 punnet blueberries

Make a well in the dry ingredients, add egg and milk. Whisk slightly until no lumps, add blueberries. Drop 1 dessertspoon of the batter into olive oil/butter and cook till bubbles appear on top, flip and continue cooking till golden. Serve with blueberries and maple syrup.

Makes around 25 pikelets around 6cm (2.5in) in diameter.

So easy, and very tasty. They are small, so it’s easy to portion control. A combination of drop scones (with holes) and crumpets (less thick). Unlike pancakes, which go soggy when refridgerated, these are small enough to keep in the fridge as snacks, reheated in the microwave or eaten cold.

And because it’s pancake day, I made mushroom crêpes for dinner and served them with Ikea meatballs.

vanilla pannacotta

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I had some cream in the fridge I needed to use up, so I made pannacotta. Four ingredients: 500ml double cream, heated with 50g sugar and the seeds from one vanilla pod. When almost boiling, remove from heat and add to 2tsp gelatin powder already soaking in 3tbsp water.

A little too set, due to unfamiliar gelatin. But so rich, and so vanilla-y, can see all the seeds in the dessert. There was some discussion on a Paul Hollywood Pies & Puds program about the colour of pannacotta, whether it should be white or yellow. The chefs say white, but he had guest dairy farmers who brought in the richest, creamiest clotted cream from Devon and the pannacotta he made was yellow. It depends on the cream. The cream I used was good double cream, and the result was defiantly creamy yellow.

Ideally I would have liked to serve it with mixed berries or at the very least strawberries. Alas, the strawberries at the market were expensive and looked terrible. So mum opened a can of peaches. Heh, we’re not running a michelin star establishment here. 

salted caramel truffle

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Mum asked my niece what she wanted for her birthday and the reply was chocolate. Mum normally gives her nice chocoalte like godiva or equivalent. This year, I offered to make truffles. I made two types: mint choc and salted caramel.

The mint choc used 70% mint chocolate as base, and the usual add cream and butter method. The end result was a very subtle, almost non-existent mint flavour. If I had more time I’d infuse mint leaves in sugar syrup or find mint flavouring.

The salted caramel truffle came from an Edd Kimber recipe. In case people are not aware who is Edd Kimber, he was the winner of the first Great British Bake-off. I used 1/3rd of his recipe, to get about 20 truffles.

100g 70% chocolate
100g caster sugar
7g light brown sugar — probably not needed
100ml double or whipping cream
7g butter
1/2tsp salt

  1. break the chocolate into a large bowl, set aside
  2. in a heavy saucepan, slowly melt the white sugar, gently moving the pan until all the sugar has melted
  3. add half the cream and the recipe says brown sugar but I don’t think it’s needed
  4. the mixture will bubble madly, remove from heat if it gets too violent
  5. when the bubbling has subsided, add the rest of the cream, butter and salt
  6. pour over chocolate and stir until all chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy
  7. cover and set overnight. Roll into balls with hands, coat with cocoa powder (or icing sugar or chocolate shell), decorate with a crystal of rock salt

Very nice. I added more salt, it contrasted well with the sweetness of the caramel. 

boomf marshmallows

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For my niece’s birthday I ordered her a box of boomf marshmallows. They print them from instagram pics, either on your own or your friends. They’re pretty expensive, but look very cool. Haven’t tried them yet, let’s see how they taste. 

ice cream with chocolate soil

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The whole family went for curry buffet at the yacht club. It’s very hard to take a picture of curry, and of buffet dishes so I won’t even try. My niece didn’t have the curry, instead she ordered spag bol and ice cream. The ice cream was mint choc and topped with chocolate soil, served in a flower pot. Looks great! The soil was broken up oreos. How a little creativity and artistic presentation gave additional wow factor to a good dessert. 

#homemade chocolate truffles

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250g dark chocolate
250ml double cream
knob of butter

Break chocolate into small pieces in a bowl. Heat cream and butter until almost boiling, then pour onto the chocolate pieces. Stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Leave in fridge overnight to set.

Use a small spoon and hands to shape gently then roll in cocoa powder or chopped nuts. I also made a small batch that had a splash of highland park added. It was quite strong. Made around 30 truffles in total. 

30in30 #22 bizarre holiday: chocolate milkshake day

Task #22 of 30in30 is to celebrate a bizarre holiday. Since I have homemade vanilla ice cream, it’s perfect to celebrate chocolate milkshake day.
All I did was blitz together 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate milk. It seemed the easiest, without having to buy chocolate syrup or cocoa powder, which are the usual ingredients used. It wasn’t chocolate-y enough so I melted some 70% chocolate into the mixture. Why 70% chocolate? I only have baking chocolate in my fridge.

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Very rich, a little to sweet for my taste, which I know because the ice cream was too sweet. Chocolate isn’t my first choice for ice cream or milkshake, so if it weren’t for the national chocolate milkshake day, I would probably just had the vanilla ice cream on its own or with some fruit. I can’t imagine how many calories, I made myself go running for 5 miles in torrential rain for this.

handmade vanilla ice cream

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When I was in Chicago during the summer, I walked past a Williams-Sonoma, couldn’t help but go inside and ended up buying a couple of zoku ice cream makers. I don’t have space for an ice cream maker, so this small bowl seemed to be a great idea — no churning, and it claims to make ice cream in 10mins.

I’ve watched enough cookery competition programs to know that the best ice cream is made from a custard base. The recipe I used is from david liebovitz, one of the few american cookery writers who give metric measurements. I used half his recipe.

125ml milk — I used hi-calcium 2% milk, because that’s what I have in my fridge
75g sugar — I think this is too much, next time I’ll start with 50g
3 egg yolks — I splurged and bought best quality organic “intense flavour” eggs from japan
250ml whipping cream
1 vanilla pod — if I halved the recipe I should have used half a pod, but I used a whole one anyway, I scraped the seeds out and the pod is now soaking in bourbon to make vanilla extract

Gently heat milk, sugar and vanilla seeds until sugar has melted. Slowly add to egg yolks, whisk and return to pan. Heat very slowly, stirring constantly to make the custard, it will be ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool.

In a separate bowl, cool the cream in an ice bath. Add the custard, stir and whisk until thickened and cold. The mixture can be kept in the fridge until ready to make the ice cream.

The instructions for the zoku is to chill the inner bowl in the freezer for 12hrs. The bowl is made of an inner metallic bowl and an outer ceramic bowl with coolant inside. At room temperature I can shake the bowl and feel the fluid sloshing inside. When frozen the coolant feels solid.

To make the ice cream, add a portion of the custard mixture to the frozen bowl, no more than half full. Then stir, fold and scrape for about 10mins until the mixture turns from a thick liquid to frozen ice cream. It really works!

Because all the ingredients are fresh and of good quality, and because I used real cream and a whole vanilla pod, the ice cream tasted unbelievable. Smooth and rich and creamy and simply irrestible.

#55 new recipe: key lime pie

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Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #7 and the 5th baking recipe so far.

Mum went to lunch at the restaurant of a training hotel the other day. She had chocolate mousse (“like really bad ice cream”) and tried her friend’s key lime pie (“it was good”). Sis and gis had key lime pie recently and liked it. It’s my dad’s birthday. So all these events combined mean I should make key lime pie.

Yes, it’s quintessentially American, but the recipe I trusted was from bbc good food because: a) hob nobs!! and b) grams not cups.

300g hob nobs
150g butter
3 egg yolks (I used 4 because the eggs were small)
1 can (397g) condensed milk
zest and juice from 4 limes (these were tiny limes so I used 5)

Make the base from crushed hob nobs and melted butter. Allow to cool. Whisk egg yolks for about 1min, add the condensed milk and whisk for 3mins. Add lime zest and juice, whisk for another 3mins. Pour over base, bake at 160°C for 15-20mins. Leave in tin to cool overnight in fridge.

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I tried to make candied lime peel. Blanched lime slices in hot water then simmered in a simple syrup made from equal quantities of sugar and water for 15mins. Was still quite bitter (from peel, not pith) so I didn’t use it to decorate. Instead I whipped up some cream and used strawberries. Couldn’t be bothered to break out the piping bag so I just quenelled the cream.

Everyone seemed to like it and no complaints. I thought it was an extremely simple recipe, I liked that it was loaded with lime flavour and wasn’t too sweet. Next time I’ll make mixed citrus peel, may be that’ll work. Or just grate lime zest over a heap of cream.

101.1001 #54.6 | 30in30 #17 new sweet recipe

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This is a combination of task #54.6 of 101 in 1001 and task #17 in 30 in 30 is to try a new sweet recipe.

This is a recipe for no-bake blueberry truffle tart that has been bookmarked for a while. I made some adjustments, mainly in the ingredients and making of the base. The idea remains the same, make a biscuit base, make a ganache, top with blueberries.

225g crushed biscuits — I used half oreos and half hob-nobs, the recipe used just oreos
75g butter
225g dark chocolate
250ml cream — should be 300ml but the carton was 250ml
1 punnet blueberries

Crush the biscuits, I put them in a ziploc bag and whacked them with a pestle but a rolling pin or food processor will work. Melt butter in pan, add biscuit crumbs and transfer to lined tin. The recipe used individual fairy cake tins but mum didn’t have that tin so I improvised and used a square tin. Allow to set in fridge (around 20-30mins).

Melt the chocolate on a bain marie and stir in the cream. Can do it the other way round, heat cream and pour over chocolate. Either way, stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture glossy and smooth.

I sprinkled half the punnet of blueberries on the biscuit base and added the ganache. Set in fridge for about 10mins, then sprinkle the rest on top. Return to fridge so the ganache sets. I left mine overnight.

Usually we combine chocolate with raspberries or strawberries but blueberries work very well too. The ganache was extremely rich, and the fruitiness of the blueberries in every bite was a good contrast. A small slice is more than enough.

pandan cake

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Very common in Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of SE Asia is food flavoured with pandan leaves. It imparts a bright green colour and a gentle coconuty fragrant. They use it mainly with desserts and curries.

You can get pandan cake even at Singapore airport. The shop is right next to the departure gate so you check your luggage, go get your cake and then go through immigration. Easy peasy.

Pandan cake is basically a chiffon cake flavoured with pandan. I spotted a packet of pandan sugar at an indonesian store the other day and thought i should give it a try. They have a recipe at the back, although not completely clear (they don’t tell people to whisk the egg white and no oven time or temperature specified).

5 eggs, separated
2 tbsp cooking oil — i used grapeseed
4 tbsp coconut milk
150g SR flour
120g pandan sugar

Mix egg yolks with half the sugar until thick. Normally the mixture turns pale but with the green sugar I had to use texture and experience—took about 10mins vigorous hand beating. Add ccoking oil, coconut milk and fold in flour.

Beat egg whites until soft peak stage, add rest of sugar and beat until stiff. Fold into egg yolk mixture.

Bake at 180°C for about 1hr until a skewer comes out clean.

Very light, fluffy and the pandan flavour was subtle. Some people may be put off by the strange green colour but it really was very good.

coconut sugar onion candy pizza

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One of mm’s aunts does sells snacks wholesale so we’ve been able to order the best fresh snacks from her, mainly biscuits. She gave me some of these old-styled candy snacks that we used to see sold on the street. The sellers were very distinctive, with their metal case with a glass front.

The idea is to sprinkle dessicated coconut and sugar ona honeycomb sugar slab then wrap it up in a thin pancake. The pancake is slightly salty and the honeycomb very light and brittle. It’s one of those snacks that needs to be eaten quickly in a few mouthfuls otherwise most of the filling ends up on the floor.

I never knew what these are called; mm said they are 糖蔥餅 which literally translates to sugar spring onion cake. It’s also difficult to google either a translation or even a description of the snack. The best I’ve come across is coconut sugar wrap although someone actually called them spring field pizza, which totally doesn’t make sense.

In any event, mm’s aunt gave me the individual components, and I did a fun video of how to make one. Good thing instagram pauses and picks up immediately, it was a challenge to hold the iphone and fold the thing with one hand.

#51: new recipe — cheesecake

 

I usually make chilled cheesecake rather than baked, but after this one I think I’ll switch to baked. Recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course. I used blueberries instead of his raspberries.

500g cream cheese
150g sugar
3 eggs
2 tbsp flour
zest of 1 lemon
200g blueberries

Mix cream cheese and sugar, add eggs a little at at time, then flour and the lemon zest. The mixture looked a bit thick at that point so I added the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir in the blueberries and transfer to baking tin. Tap firmly to get rid of air bubbles and distribute blueberries. Bake at 180°C for about 45mins-1hr.

Like I said, I don’t usually make baked cheesecake. I forgot that you’re supposed to let it cool completely in the tin before removing, so when I took the outer ring off like I would do with cake, I ended up with Michelin man cheesecake that had bulged in the middle like belly fat. Argh. Put the ring back on immediately and let it cool overnight in the fridge.

That said, it was delicious. Rich, good taste and texture. The recipe doesn’t have a biscuit base, and I don’t think it needs it.

#50 new recipe — christmas chocolate log

Task #50 in 101 in 1001 challenge: 2 of 10 new recipes.

I’ve made yule log before, and it is a sort of family tradition. I wanted to find a recipe that was less sweet, and was pleased that bbc goodfood came through again. I made some adjustments to the recipe, taking out some more sugar, substituting honey for golden syrup and using the chocolate cream for both filling and icing.

for the sponge:
3 eggs
85g sugar
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp bp
2 tbsp cocoa powder

for the filling:
50g butter
150g dark toblerone
250ml carton + 5tbsp whipping cream
1 tbsp honey

Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift flour, bp, cocoa and fold into egg mixture. Bake in a swiss roll tray for 10-12mins at 200°C. Remove from oven, roll in the greaseproof paper and leave to cool.

Melt the butter and chocolate on a bain marie, cool. Add honey and 5tbsp cream. Whip the carton of cream until soft peaks then fold in the chocolate mixture.

Unroll sponge and spread filling generously. Roll carefully into log shape. Cut off one end as the branch. Ice with rest of chocolate cream.

We didn’t have icing sugar so I sieved some caster sugar over as the snow. I like this chocolate cream filling much better than using butter icing. It was very rich, I cut a thickish slice and divided it into three for me and parents, it was enough.

#49: new recipe — lebkuchen

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Task #49 in 101 task in 1001 days challenge: 1 of 10 new recipes.

Lebkuchen are German gingerbread-like biscuits that are traditionally made at christmas. We bought some at my niece’s school fair, loved them and I decided to try my hand at making them. This recipe is from bbc goodfood, which was hands down the easiest.

250g plain flour
1 tsp bp
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g ground almonds
1tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
zest of 1 lemon
a pinch each of ground cloves, grated nutmeg and black pepper
85g butter
200ml clear honey

  • sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl
  • heat the butter and honey until the butter has melted and add to the dry ingredients
  • mix well, cool mixture to room temperature
  • roll the dough into 30 balls, flatten on baking sheet, bake at 180°C for 12-15mins
  • cool on wire rack, pretend to be Jamie Oliver by flicking melted chocolate haphazardly over biscuits

I very nearly burnt the first batch of 15, another minute and they would have to go into the bin. Luckily the second batch were okay. I think they were too small, next time I’ll make 20 instead of 30.

I think the jury is still out on the rorschach style of decoration, which I saw on a Jamie Oliver christmas program the other day. That’s all he seemed to be doing nowadays, either piling food on a platter or wooden board and then flicking whatever sauce or dressing all over the place.

I wouldn’t say this recipe was 100% successful. It tasted quite nice, I like using honey instead of sugar and having lots of spices made the whole kitchen smell of christmas. Because they were so small, they weren’t as chewy as I’d like. Next time I’ll also grate in a little ginger to give it more of a ginger taste.

brownies

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Based on Nigella’s recipe for snow-flecked brownies. Half the recipe quantity was perfect for the square tin.

melt 190g chocolate + 190g butter over bain marie, cool
whisk 160g sugar and 2 large eggs until pale and thick
combine chocolate and egg mixtures
add 50g mixed nuts
fold in 115g plain flour
bake at 180°C for 30mins until top is dry

The recipe uses 100g white chocolate buttons, when I first made it I used dark chocolate but this time I just used nuts, and a smaller quantity because I didn’t want the brownie to be overwhelmed by nuts. We had peanuts, almonds, pistachios and cashews in a snack jar so that was what I used. Although I cut it into 3×3 squares for presentation, 4×4 squares is probably a more reasonable serving size.

There is a debate about whether brownies should be cakey, gooey or fudgy. These were somewhere in between gooey and fudgy. The tops were crispy and the inside quite dense without being too sticky. The rich chocolate taste came through, which is always important.

yogurt panna cotta

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The kitchn described panna cotta as the perfect dessert because it’s easy to make, using standard ingredients. It is also incredibly versatile: substituting ingredients or reducing the sugar level doesn’t seem to bother the recipe at all. Last time I made it, it was a little too firm. Tasted good, but it was like cream flavoured jelly.

This is a slightly healthier version of the traditional panna cotta, with less sugar and uses yogurt instead of a lot of the cream. Recipe from smitten kitchen and all credit goes to Deb Perelman for converting her American measurements to metric.

  • 475ml mixture of milk and cream — use as much or as little of each, even 100% milk or 100% cream, using just a little cream will make it so much richer; I used 200ml whipping cream and the rest was reduced fat milk
  • 450g yogurt — most recipes use greek yogurt, it just happened that mum made natural yogurt which worked equally well
  • 75g sugar — recipe says between 50-100g
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2.5 tsp gelatin powder
  • 2 tbsp lime juice — recipe says lemon juice but we ran out of lemons so I substituted lime

Dissolve the gelatin in water, set aside
Combine the yogurt with half the milk+cream
Slowly heat sugar and the remaining milk+cream to a gentle simmer, then pour onto the dissolved gelatin
Add the milk+cream mixture to the yogurt mixture, whisk until smooth
Add lime juice
Pour into oiled containers and set in fridge

There was richness from the cream, tartness from the yogurt and the texture was suitably wobbly and creamy. Strawberries and other berries are expensive recently so mum suggesting using nutella. I tried to do a little fancy decoration with the thick spread and some museli crumbs. The chocolate and crumbs actually went well with the panna cotta.

american blueberry pancakes

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Another request from mum. Recipe from bbc goodfood.

200g SR flour
1tsp bp
1 egg
300ml milk
125g blueberries
pinch of salt
knob of butter, melted

Sift flour, bp and salt into a large bowl. Lightly whisk egg and add to milk. Create a hole in the dry ingredients and slowly add the wet ingredients, mixing to get a thick smooth batter. Add melted butter and 100g blueberries.

Drop a large tablespoonful of the batter into a hot pan and cook until bubbles form on top, then flip and continue cooking till browned. Serve with remaining blueberries and maple syrup.

We didn’t have syrup (golden or maple) so we substituted honey and the lemon curd I made earlier. Recipe says it makes 10, I got 12 out of it.

chocolate yogurt mousse

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The recipe for regular chocolate mousse is very rich, almost 500ml of cream total. So we wanted to find a less fattening alternative, and Mum found a chocolate yogurt mousse recipe that uses greek yogurt. I bought her a yogurt maker a long long time ago, and she’s been making her own yogurt occasionally.

We didn’t exactly follow the recipe, skipped the coffee and there was a step with boiling water that didn’t work. Skipped the sugar too.

85g chocolate — we used 100g, a whole dark toblerone
1tbsp cocoa — not even sure it’s necessary, will skip next time
2 egg whites, whisked to soft peaks stage
50g greek yogurt — that’s not a lot, we added an extra tablespoon

Melt the chocolate over a bain marie, add cocoa powder. At this point the recipe said add a couple of tablespoons of boiling water to soften the chocolate. Argh! Adding water to melted chocolate makes it lumpy and solid. I had to rescue it using vegetable oil and a bit of egg yolk.

Add yogurt to chocolate mixture. Fold in egg whites. We tasted at this point and decided no sugar was needed. Leave in fridge to set.

The end result is definitely light, although still very chocolate-y. Can taste the slight sourness of the yogurt, in a pleasant but not overpowering way. Quite soft and doesn’t hold its shape that well — it’s fine in a glass but spooning it out on a plate for presentation will end up being chocolate milkshake. To make it more solid, may be add the egg yolks or whisk the egg whites to stiffer peaks? I want to add more yogurt but it’ll make it too sour. Hmm, more research needed.

chocolate semifreddo

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In an early Naked Chef program, Jamie Oliver made semifreddo with maltesers, berries and some other stuff that he just threw into the mixture. That was the first time I came across semifreddo, which is Italian for “half cold.” Somewhere in between a frozen mousse and an ice cream is the best description.

This chocolate semifreddo recipe is itself adapted from Donna Hay’s recipe. I didn’t want to make a big batch, so this is half the recipe.

125g dark chocolate (I used toblerone)
2 medium eggs + 1 egg yolk
75g sugar — this was too much, next time I’ll use 50g or less
225ml whipping cream
1tbsp good quality cocoa

Melt chocolate over a bain marie and set aside to cool. Once melted it won’t set again. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk and sugar over a very slow bain marie until pale and thick — by hand it took 10mins and the mixture had more than doubled its volume. I periodically took the bowl off the heat so the eggs don’t cook. Take the bowl off the heat completely and continue whisking as it cools, another 5-10mins. The mixture by now was glossy and had the consistency of soft meringue. Fold in the melted chocolate.

In another bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks stage and add the cocoa. Fold the cream into the chocolate mixture.

Line a rectangular tin with clingfilm. I actually used one of those takeaway plastic boxes, it was the right size and had a lid. Pour the mixture into the tin/box and leave to freeze overnight.

It was absolutely like mousse and ice cream. Very rich, smooth and chocolate-y. Quite dense, a small slice was enough. Because it was made from eggs and cream it had very little water content so didn’t need to be constantly stirred like ice cream. Could have actually scooped it out like ice cream too. Next time I won’t waste the remaining egg white, I’ll whisk it up and add it with the cream. May be serve it with strawberries and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

chocolate mousse for mum

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It’s probably only a slight exaggeration to say that I can make this chocolate mousse in my sleep. I’ve done it so many times, and served it to so many people, it’s sort of a signature dish of mine. Mum felt like it, so I made it and tried to teach her. Usually I make it from dark toblerone, but we couldn’t find it so I used a good quality Belgian 70% dark chocolate.

Four ingredients only, and 4 steps:

  1. melt 300g chocolate and a knob of butter over a bain marie
  2. separate 3 eggs; add chocolate mixture to egg yolks when melted and cooled — slowly, otherwise there’d be scrambled eggs
  3. whisk egg whites, fold into chocolate mixture
  4. whisk 500ml whipping cream, add to chocolate mixture, leave in fridge to set for at least 1 hour

The end result was smooth and very rich, the chocolate was good. Sprinkled a little grated chocolate on top for decoration. We liked it.

mango yogurt tofu

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At parents’ and trying a new recipe for fake cheesecake made from yogurt and tofu. Supposed to be a quick recipe. The problem is, mum doesn’t have a cake tin. So I made the digestive crumb in dessert glasses. Combined 250g firm packaged tofu with 300g mango yogurt. The mixture was pretty lumpy, the recipe said to mix in a food processer which obviously we don’t have, so I sieved it. Added some diced mango and a little gelatin to set.

The mixture was still pretty lumpy, and there was probably too many mango pieces. When set, it looked like rather unsuccessful rice pudding. Tasted nice though, especially topped with even more delicious fresh mango pieces and a small drizzle of honey. It’s like sweet tofu, but with a little creaminess from the yogurt. I can see how the fake cheesecake version may be good. Only for people who like tofu though, and the idea of sweet tofu isn’t to everybody’s taste. Nice low calorie dessert. Will try with mixed berries yogurt and strawberry topping next time.

I really have to work on following recipe portions and presentation.

not quite a pastry chef

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Had a gathering with mm and her mum at her place. Cheese and dried sausages with a nice gewurztraminer. I made warm grilled vegetable salad (peppers, courgettes, butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, rocket). Also tried making a french apple tart, and mm requested apple crumble.

The apple tart recipe is from Michel Roux Jr, I saw him make it on Food & Drink and it looked straightforward.

Roll out 180g puff pastry into a 25cm round, chill in fridge. Spread over apple compote (an apple stewed with a bit of water and sugar) and lay over sliced apples. Eggwash the pastry edges, sprinkle 2tbsp sugar and dots of butter, glaze. Bake at 200°C for 30mins until golden brown.

Except it wasn’t straightforward. The pastry didn’t rise properly and the tart ended up with what Paul Hollywood would call soggy bottom. I have no idea why. May be the pastry wasn’t cold enough, may be the compote and apple slices weren’t cold enough, may be the compote was too wet, may be the oven wasn’t hot enough. I can bake fairly competently and have no problems with crumbles and choux pastry. I’m just not very good at regular pastry.

I pan-fried a slice in a regular frying pan and the bottom was crispy. Overall, the flavours were fine so it’s a matter of mastering the puff pastry.

orange rice cake recipe

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1.7l (3pt) milk
1 vanilla pod
300g arborio rice
200g sugar
5 large eggs
50ml cointreau
40g raisins
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange

I saw this recipe for orange rice cake on Two Greedy Italians and it looked so fabulous that I couldn’t wait to try it. So I made it for my parents.

Bring the milk to a boil together with the sugar, vanilla pod and large pieces of lemon zest. Add the rice all at once, stir at low to medium heat until the rice has absorbed the mlik, around 25-30mins. The mixture should be creamy and slightly thick. Remove from heat and cool, discarding the vanilla and lemon zest.

Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with cointreau. Whisk the whites until firm. Once the rice mixture has cooled, add the egg yolks, raisin, orange zest then fold in the egg whites. Bake at 180°C for about 1 hr. Can be served hot or cold.

A long time ago, I had a moist, custardy, slightly heavy cake from France. It’s a bit like canalé but with dried fruit. This tasted a bit like that. There’s a lot of custard flavour, the rice gives a different texture and the citrus is a good contrast. Flourless, butterless but still very rich and yummy.

eton mess

etonmess01 etonmess02

Over at the kitchn they were asking for ideas for a british foods for an olympics dinner party. Surprisingly, there were some authentic and good ideas. One of the better ones is for Eton Mess.

There’s been a resurgence and attention for this very English dessert. Takes no time to make too. I used mascarpone (broken up with a little milk and sweetened with a tbsp of sugar) instead of cream. Spoon over meringue nests, add some strawberries and blackberries. I did one pretty-ish presentation, but as befits the name, it needs to be messy.

valentine fruit tart

fruit tart

My valentine lives 8 timezones away, so I don’t participate in today’s romantic festivities. I did make good use of the special effects on picnik to make a pic of me and mm framed with hearts and flowers and musical notes. Whatsapped it to her before bed last night. She sent back a romantic, beautiful video, kiss the rain by Korean pianist Yiruma.

I left work with my friend SM. He was going home to cook dinner for his wife and stopped at Patisserie Valerie to get dessert. He kindly bought me this fruit tart. Such a sweet gesture.

#62 make a croquembouche

croquembouche02

A croquembouche is a showpiece dessert of French origin that is popular at big events such as weddings and anniversaries. It’s basically a tall tower of profiteroles. Lots of recipes and writeups about it.

I have a foolproof choux pastry recipe from the Sainsbury’s home baking book. I’ve been using this recipe for years and years and years.

  • 4oz butter
  • 300ml water
  • 5oz plain flour
  • 4 eggs

Heat the butter and water until boiling. Remove from heat and add flour all at once. I’d double sifted the flour beforehand. Beat with wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the saucepan. Add eggs a little at a time, combining well. Spoon onto a lined baking sheet and bake at 200°C for 25mins until golden. Make a slit at the side and cool. I used regular whipped cream sweetened with a little icing sugar for filling. This made 24 small profiteroles.

Carefully melt caster sugar in a heavy pan. When caramelised, dip profiteroles one by one and arrange. The caramel acts as glue to bind the puffs together. To make the sugar decoration, dip a whisk in the caramel and flick it across 2 sticks (I used planting sticks, although rulers might have worked better).

Normally croquembouches are very tall, hence their centrepiece nature. Mine was more like a mini version.

cooking weekend

eggpotatoskin02 muffinblueberry02

I went crazy with the cooking this weekend, and have ended up with way more food than one person can reasonably consume. Heck, a whole family. Recipes to be posted in due course but here’s what I made:

  • braised turkey leg from elise — turkey drumsticks, mirepoix, turkey stock, potato, carrot and parsnips for 3 hrs on the hob — a satisfying and economical stew for the winter
  • roasted brussels sprouts, elise again — roasted with olive oil, garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice and plenty of salt — surprisingly irresistible, the outside leaves were crunchy and the inside wasn’t mushy like traditional boiled sprouts
  • eggs baked in potato skin, from kate in the kitchen — easy to make, if a little time consuming (potatoes take 1 hr to bake, eggs take 15mins to set) but so good! For a non-vegetarian version, sprinkle some bacon bits on top
  • mashed potato — from the potato flesh, see above. I made 3 baked potatoes so lots of mash, and also 6 of those baked egg skins
  • grilled chicken thigh — a whole pack of 8, for during the week
  • blueberry muffins — one of my standby recipes, from delia’s summer collection — i can never get the muffins to puff up like commercially made ones, but i’ve always loved these, and they are never too sweet

There’s also mushroom, rocket, spinach, yellow pepper, carrots and cherry tomatoes in the fridge, as well as honeycrisp apples and red bartlett pears. How much running do I have to do to eat all of that?!

#66(7) new pastry: chocolate quinoa cake

chocquinoacake02

I discovered quinoa over the summer and has made it several times as a salad or as the starchy part of a meal. Little did I know, until I read more about it, that chocolate and quinoa go so well together.

This recipe is adapted from here. The author thoughtfully tried to convert American cup measurements to metric but failed in a spectacularly cute way — there is no way on earth that flour and sugar are measured in ml.

3 eggs
150g sugar
100g butter
100g chocolate
225g cooked quinoa
175g flour
1 tsp bp

  1. whisk egg and sugar until pale and thick
  2. melt butter and chocolate over bain marie
  3. add chocolate mixture to egg mixture
  4. add quinoa
  5. sift in flour and bp
  6. bake at 180°C for 30-35mins

Okay, this is just…phenomenal. The quinoa gives it a chewy crunchy texture that is unique and the cake itself is moist and fluffy. I ate a slice, then half of one, then the bits that fell off when I moved it. I’ve never been so lacking in discipline, and I don’t usually like chocolate.

#66(6) new dessert: yule log

yulelog01

Come to think of it, making yule log is one of my family’s christmas traditions. This is a nigella like recipe made from a flourless cake mixture and chocolate butter icing.

6 eggs, separated
6oz / 150g sugar
2oz / 50g cocoa powder + 2tbsp for icing
3oz / 75g butter
8oz / 250g icing sugar

  1. whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks, then add 50g sugar
  2. in a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, rest of sugar until pale and mousse-like, add cocoa powder
  3. fold egg white mixture into chocolate mixture
  4. bake at 180°C for 20mins until cake springs back when pressed
  5. cool for 5mins, then turn out to greaseproof paper sprinkled with sugar on a wet tea towel
  6. make icing by whisking butter, icing sugar, 2tbsp cocoa, 2 tbsp milk
  7. spread icing on cake, then roll up like a swiss roll
  8. cut off a branch, stick to main branch using icing
  9. spread icing all over, sieve icing sugar and decorate

It was too sweet, next time I’ll use crème au buerre filling and ganache as icing.

#63 panna cotta with strawberry coulis

pannacottastraw

For some reason I was under the impression that panna cotta is difficult to make. Perhaps it’s because it tastes so decadent and creamy that it must be hard to make, right?

Oh my, how WRONG.

This recipe is from Chocolate & Zucchini, and even Ms Dusoulier acknowledged how easy it was.

  • bring to a simmer 250ml whipping cream, 250ml whole milk and 50g sugar, stirring occasionally to ensure the mixture doesn’t boil
  • soak a packet of gelatin in a little water to soften, add to hot cream mixture to dissolve
  • cool, then transfer to bowls quickly rinsed with cold water (for easy removal)
  • refridgerate for 3 hours or overnight until set
  • to make the coulis, chop 250g strawberries and heat with a simple syrup of 50g sugar and 2tbsp water, then blitz till smooth
  • decorate with strawberries

It was so good, I had to exert a great deal of self-control not to have a second helping.

#66(5) new dessert: chocolate soufflé

chocsouffle003

I’ve always found soufflé intimidating. I suppose I shouldn’t, cos I’m not a bad pastry chef. A few weeks ago my friend Car remarked nonchalantly about something or other that I should make chocolate soufflé for her family. It was meant to be a tease, or challenge, or punishment, i can’t remember. I didn’t put up any argument, just said, “okay.”

Not surprisingly there are a lot of recipes. Because I don’t have my cookbooks I focused purely on the ones available online. After a little research I decided on the one at cooking for engineers. It seemed straightforward and I appreciated the step-by-step pictures.

The first challenge was that I didn’t have time to go shopping during the week for the chocolate I wanted to use. At the end I got 2 packs of baking chocolate and mixed the 100% and 54% together.

In a bain marie, melt 8oz chocolate, 1tbsp butter and 60ml double cream. Meanwhile, whisk 5 egg whites with 1/2 tsp cream of tartar till soft peaks, then add 70g sugar and whisk till the stiff peaks stage.

Add 4 egg yolks to the chocolate mixture, then fold in the egg whites. Bake at 190°C for 20mins, serve immediately.

The good news is that it was mostly successful. The soufflés didn’t deflate, and were very rich. The bad news was that the chocolate didn’t work out and it wasn’t sweet enough. It actually wasn’t good enough quality. Next time I’ll use proper high quality chocolate.

#66(4) new pastry: danish butter cookies

danishcookies003

Every Christmas and other holiday, danish butter cookies in their distinctive round blue tin comes out. I defy anyone to say they don’t like these beauties.

So I was reading how Molly from orangette made them. Anyone who regularly reads food blogs will appreciate that orangette isn’t just a food blog with recipes, it’s a full-on foodie experience. Anyway, I was intrigued with the recipe, which was from the December 2008 edition of Gourmet and apparently is one passed down through several generations.

I used scaled down proportions, because I didn’t need so many. It’s easy for me to get the authentic Danish Lurpak butter; I generally use Anchor but Lurpak is only slightly more expensive, and probably worth it to follow the recipe. The American convention of using cups instead of weight fazed me a little, but I’ve converted it.

8oz butter
1/3 cup sugar, or around 3oz
2 cups plain flour, or around 12oz
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 small egg, for eggwash
sugar for sprinkling — the recipe calls for sanding sugar, I just used demerara

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then the recipe says beat the flour and baking soda in using the electric whisk, which…is an invitation for having flour flying everywhere. I folded the dry ingredients in using the more trusty spoon spatula method, only when mostly combined then I whisked the mixture till it was like crumbs.

Work the dough between 2 sheets of clingfilm, then roll out to a rectangle. I found that folding the clingfilms so they form the rectangular shape made rolling much easier, and the dough kept to the shape. Chill in the fridge for at least 30mins.

Remove the top sheet of the clingfilm and cut into 1” squares. This was the shape I liked most, and the easiest to work with. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle the demerara sugar.

Bake at 160C for 15mins. I found it needed an extra 5 mins to get really pale golden brown, I guess it’s my oven. Anyway, watch them till they get pale golden. Cool for 5mins then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes around 50 cookies.

danishcookies001 danishcookies002

Okay, mine don’t look as pretty as the blue-tinned danish cookies. In fact they look kinda like sad shortbread, and very difficult to photograph (as warned by orangette). But man, they taste decadent.

chocolate chip cookies

cchipcookies002

mm’s parents invited me for dinner tonight, they’ve been including me in family gatherings lately, even though technically they don’t know they’re my in-laws. Interesting conundrum.

I didn’t want to go empty handed, and it being so close to Christmas. So I made chocolate chip cookies. I’m useless at picking out gifts for people and if I have time, I prefer to make food items. As the LA Times said in its article 50 ways to make your holiday gifts homemade,

Not only are homemade gifts less expensive, they also capture the spirit of holiday giving in a way that purchased gifts simply can’t.

These were real easy, I can’t remember where I got the recipe, but I’ve always had it on the old html version of my website. Cream 8oz butter with 4oz sugar, add 2 large (or 3 small) eggs, fold in 10oz SR flour and 12oz chocolate chips. Spoon onto a lined baking tray and bake for 15-20mins until golden. Makes 24 large cookies.

I wrapped them up in clingfilm and put them in pretty Christmas-y gift bags. Freshly made, I could still smell them when I gave them out at the restaurant, and my apartment now has that warm homely baking smell that will last till the morning.

#66(3) new pastry: apple & blackberry crumble cake

applecrumblecake01

It’s Mum’s birthday and Mother’s Day, so she deserves something special. I said I’d make a cake. I used to make cheesecakes, but this time I wanted something I’d never made before, so she can try something new.

This apple & blackberry crumble cake recipe is from bbc good food. It’s one of the more involved recipes I’ve tried. Nothing difficult, just time consuming and fiddly.

For the cake:
150g unsalted butter
150g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g crème fraiche

For the fruit topping:
25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
4 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges
150g blackberries

For the crumble topping:
50g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
75g plain flour
50g blanched hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Step 1: make the crumble topping
melt the butter, then mix in the sugar, cinnamon, flour and nuts. Set aside

Step 2: prepare the apples
melt the butter in a frying pan, add the sugar and apple wedges
cook for 10-15mins until the apples and soft and golden. Set aside to cool

Step 3: make the cake
cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
add eggs one at a time
fold in flour, baking powder
add crème fraîche

Step 4: assemble
spoon roughly 2/3 of the cake mixture into a round cake tin
scatter 1/3 crumble mixture
top with the remaining cake mixture
scatter 1/3 crumble mixture
arrange apple and blackberries
top with remaining crumble mixture

bake at 190°C for 1.5 hours, covering with foil halfway through if crumble browns too quickly
cool for 10 mins then cool on wire rack
serve with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and crème fraîche

#66(2) new pastry: four nut chocolate brownies

fournutbrownie

From Delia’s winter collection. Yes, I know it’s May and it’s not winter, but who cares when there’s brownies? I don’t usually like nuts, but this was good.

1oz each of macadamia, pecan, hazelnut, brazil nut
2oz dark chocolate
4oz butter
2 large eggs
8oz granulated sugar
2oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Roughly chop and roast the nuts for exactly 8 minutes
Melt chocolate and butter over a pan of simmering water
Cool, then mix in all the other ingredients
Bake at 180°C for 30 mins, cool, then cut into squares

#66(1) new dessert — lemon sponge pudding

lemonsponge

When I think of sponge puddings, it’s usually the upturned pudding basin-shaped cake swimming in custard or golden syrup — oversweet, thick and stodgy. After a couple of bites, it leaves me full and wanting fruit or sorbet. I guess it’s an English prerogative, the heavy sponge pudding that shocks the arteries.

Which was why I was so excited to find this recipe from Nigel Slater’s Appetite. It’s been a good book of cooking tips and recipes for me. His website seems to have disappeared but I found an excerpt at The Guardian that quoted this particular page. The best thing is that it’s delicious and very light. The citrus makes sure that it’s not too sweet and gives it a bright tang. I think I left mine in the oven too long and the sauce dried out a bit, but it’s still very yummy — the top is a light (here’s that word again) crust and the bottom is this exquisite custardy, lemony soft sponge. It has to be tasted to give it full credit.

If I were to plate this properly I’d serve it with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or mascarpone or a pretty lemon sauce and a raspberry or two. Accompanied by limoncello, of course.

100g butter
175g sugar
1 lemon + 2 oranges or 4 lemons — I used all lemons this time
4 eggs, separated
40g plain flour
400ml milk

cream the butter and sugar
add egg yolks followed by flour and milk alternatively until the mixture resembles a soft cake batter
add zest and juice of fruit
beat egg whites until stiff peaks and fold into mixture
bake in basin over a roasting tin of water at 180°C for about 1 hour

“five star menu”

mm came over for lunch today, and I’d planned a full three-course menu cos we hadn’t had home-cooked food for a long time and I really wanted to cook. It’s been a theme lately.

Made the starter yesterday. Roasted carrot & tomato soup. 4 large carrots, 3 tomatoes, 3 cloves garlic, 3 finely chopped shallots, Italian seasoning, a little olive oil all browned in a medium oven for 45 minutes. Then transfer the whole lot into a pan, deglaze the roasting tin with water, add turkey stock from the freezer and simmer for an hour. Left the soup to stand overnight, with me in the bedroom cos I had the aircon on. Then blitz, add milk, season and keep warm. s

For mains I marinaded some lamb chops overnight in olive oil, pepper, mint and Worcestershire sauce. Did not salt until I’d grilled one side and was about to turn it over. Nigel Slater wrote that if you salted a chop before grilling the juices flow out and you end up with a dry chop; salting it after grilling means the salt stays outside the meat and does nothing. And he’s right, not much juice came out even though I rested them for about 5 minutes.

I served the lamb with potato chunks and roasted red peppers. I semi-peeled and diced 2 potatoes, par-boiled then roasted with olive oil. The par-boiling fluffs the pieces so they get really crunchy. The red pepper I sliced into 8 long strips then put them over the gas hob (care: naked flame) skin side down until the skin is blackened. Peeled the charred bits off and they tasted smoked and very fine.

I think mm was impressed with the presentation. And she liked the food too, she called it a five star menu, asked for more soup, but ended up finishing the potatoes.

lambchops

For dessert I tried to make chocolate fondant pudding but I overcooked it, the chocolate inside sank to the bottom and I basically ended up with a nice chocolate sponge pudding instead of anything fancy. Didn’t taste too bad but it wasn’t what I intended. This made 4 puddings — melted 2oz each of butter and chocolate. Beat 2 eggs and 2.5oz sugar until light and tripled in volume. Add the melted chocolate and 1oz flour. Pour into buttered moulds and bake ad 180°C for 10 minutes. I wanted to serve with chocolate sauce but I didn’t have any cream to make it.

All in all, a satisfying lunch. I’m still full.

brownies

Quite surprising that I’ve never made brownies before. I’m at home today so it was the perfect opportunity. This is based on Nigella’s recipe. For an Americanized version, and photo of how they should look like go to the Food Network.

I used half portions, made 24 small almost bite-sized brownies.

375g chocolate
375g butter
4 large eggs
350g sugar
225g plain flour
200g chocolate bits — she used white chocolate buttons which I didn’t have, so I used regular choc chips

Melt chocolate and butter in a large bowl over boiling water. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and sugar. Add vanilla extract if using it.

Cool the melted chocolate and butter slightly, then whisk in the egg and sugar mixture. Fold in the flour and chocolate bits. Bake in square tin at 180°C for about 25 mins until the top is dry.

Sprinkle over cocoa powder or icing sugar before serving. I’m thinking a dollop of clotted cream or a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream will turn this into a dessert. For true decadence, top with chocolate ganache, garnish with mixed berries macerated with brandy and drizzle a raspberry coulis.

brownies

cottage cheese pancakes

I’m watching Nigella right now and she just made the most lovely looking pancakes. Okay, American pancakes.

3 eggs separated
2 tbsp sugar
250g cottage cheese
50g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
strawberries macerated in balsamic sugar and 1/2 tsp sugar

Mix sugar, cottage cheese, flour, vanilla extract into the egg yolks. Lightly whip egg whites and fold into mixture. Fry on griddle for 1 minute each side. Serve with strawberries and syrup.

I think she made another one with ricotta in another show. I must give this a try.

choc chip in a bag

I’m terrible at buying presents. So this year I decided to make chocolate chip cookies for my colleagues — I have to give to about 10 people, which is added incentive to keep it simple. Recipe is from Delia. I made 3 batches of double the recipe, one without cocoa and 2 with varying amounts of cocoa. The first lot burnt, so I ended up with 88 cookies.

4 oz (110 g) self-raising flour
½ oz (10 g) cocoa
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 oz (50 g) butter
1½ oz (40 g) light brown sugar
2 oz (50 g) dark chocolate chunks
2 oz (50 g) golden syrup (about 2 tablespoons)

Sift the flour, bicarb, cocoa and ginger into a mixing bowl. Rub butter in till breadcrumb stage. Add sugar and chocolate, then the golden syrup. Mix with a spatula, then with hands till doughy. Divide into chunks of 16 and roll into balls with hands. Flatten slightly and bake in batches of 8 at 180°C for 12-14 minutes. Leave on tray for a few minutes then transfer to cooling rack.

I bagged them in those small transparent gift bags decorated with a Christmas tree ornament.

cookies