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January 18, 2013

Peanut and Rosemary Cookies

I am, in fact, quite excited that it's snowing outside. It has given me that wee impetus to press publish on this recipe, which has been lurking around in my drafts folder for a while.

peanut and rosemary cookies

On an aside: say aloud with me, 'lurking around for awhile'. Doesn't it conjure up that horrible childhood fear of a shadowy bogeyman patiently waiting to catch you in the middle of a long, dark corridor? Mind you, saying the whole of that first sentence out loud now brings up a ridiculous image of a recipe like a white vapour, snaking out of a metal filing cabinet. It's not quite the way that I'd planned to introduce this recipe to you.

rosemaryrosemary 2

peanutspeanut and rosemary cookies

So, back to the recurring theme of this post. Essentially, it's about ideas remaining dormant and not being actualised because of whatever reason.

You see, I'd been wanting to bake these peanut and rosemary cookies ever since one of my colleagues passed me a newspaper clipping with this recipe on it. That was about 18 months ago. The timing of this recipe landing on my desk was perfect because I had just been thinking about combining rosemary or thyme with a sweet dessert for a wee while. But I just didn't get round to it, or I forgot. Maybe some student emergency came up before I fully committed to baking the recipe, or something! You get the idea. The recipe continued to lurk in between the covers of other recipe books.

When summer came around, my tastebuds changed and my mind started exploring the idea of combining lemons and black pepper. So, one afternoon I invented a lemon, fig, nut and black pepper cookie recipe, which Val promptly decided were her favourite cookies.

When the nights started drawing in and the temperatures dropped, my tastebuds hankered after a more pungent flavour. I pulled out this recipe, sent myself off to go to the shops to buy some salted peanuts and snipped off some fresh rosemary. It's as simple as that really. I think, that most of you, will have the other ingredients as standard store cupboard items already. The other joy of this recipe, I discovered, is that you can pretty much make this in one bowl, mix it within 5 minutes and be biting into your first batch within 20 minutes of starting out on the recipe. I don't know many other cookie recipes out there that can beat that!


chopped rosemarypeanut and rosemary cookie dough balls

And boy, did I enjoy eating them.

peanut and rosemary cookies

These are fast becoming my favourite cookies: I baked them twice within 5 days. Elegant, fragrant, crunchy and very more-ish. If you want an alternative sweet grown up sweet this season, or you'd like to do something different with your leftover bag of salted peanuts which you offer to your guests, then I'd recommend this recipe to you. I know that rosemary and salted peanuts cookies sound odd but I have to congratulate Dan Lepard on this fine flavour combination.

peanut and rosemary cookie ingredients

Dan Lepards' Peanut and Rosemary Cookies.

Ingredients

  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 1tsp honey
  • 2tsp very finely chopped rosemary - I used one very long sprig
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 150g salted peanuts
  • 200g plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and line two baking trays with baking or greaseproof paper. I tried out the pizza stone for one batch but found that the baking trays did a better job than the stone.

2. Mix the oil, sugar, honey, rosemary and cinnamon in a bowl until it is like a paste. I use a metal spoon for this,

stage 1 of mixing the ingredientsmixing ingredients stage 2

3. Add in the peanuts and egg and mix well.

4. Finally stir in the flour and bicarb of soda. Naturally you start mixing this in with the metal spoon, but soon, it becomes clear that it'll be much easier to get hands-on stuck in with your hands and finish mixing in the flour.

mixing ingredients stage 3mixing ingredients final stage

5. Press together 30g balls of dough. That's ping pong sized balls, for those of you who don't really want to measure out them out. Lay them out on the baking tray, spaced 5-6cm apart because they spread a lot. Last time I made them, the peanuts rebelled a bit and didn't want to stay on the cookie dough. Tell them who's boss and push them on.

6. Bake them in the oven for 12-14 minutes, depending on how chewy you like them. I aim to take them out when they're a golden colour, rather than bronzed all over. The bronzed ones are fine warmed up, but otherwise they get a bit hard when they cool. Lift the baking paper with the cookies, off the baking tray and let them cool on a wire rack for a minute, then carefully peel them off to the wire rack.

They make 24 cookies, so I bake these in batches.

If you find them a bit too salty, Dan suggests that washing the salt off the peanuts first. Personally, I like salty sweetness. To top it off, I've got a kitchen fragrant of rosemary.


May 16, 2012

Claire's Chunky Chocolate Cookies

Chunky Chocolate Cookies

What’s my favourite chocolate cookie recipe so far? The recipe that came from a calendar of chocolate recipes and my then-housemate Claire baked, back in the day when I wasn’t very good at trying out new recipes. And, wow. Didn’t they smell gorgeous and taste incredible… with that wonderful chewiness that cookies should have, and a bit toffee-ish flavour (that’s the brown sugar talking)!! Lekker, lekker, lekker!

Without wanting to sound too much like a cookie monster, I decided to have a go baking them because I wanted to eat MORE! It turned out to be a really simple recipe (hurrah); a bit too simplified perhaps? I made quite a few basic mistakes when making these.

For instance, I discovered that cookies splay out in the oven, so if you don’t space them out enough, they can all meld into one big rectangular cookie, which you have to cut apart.

Next, I found out that if you don’t use baking paper, it’s hard to get the baked cookies off the baking sheet.

Then, there’s minutes in baking them so that they’re soft and chewy and them being rock hard. Err on the side of chewy caution, my friend and use a timer!

Finally, this is less of a mistake but a definite learning point. It was an eye-opener for me to realise how much sugar goes into making cookies. I kind of thought of them as a ‘healthy’ snack before then, but 500g of sugar doesn’t quite fit that category. Hmmm…. So, let’s say that you wanted to cut down the sugar a bit, then I’d try reducing the amount of white sugar you put in. I’ve not tried this yet, but I’d experiment with between using half or two thirds of white sugar. I’m not entirely certain how that will affect the chemistry and flavour. However, I would definitely not scrimp on the brown sugar because it’s the brown sugar that produces that more-ish nuttiness to the cookie’s flavour. That first time, I even asked Claire whether she’d put toffee in the cookies.

chocolate cookie dough

So, I’ve amended the method section so that you can build on my experience. Also, at the bottom of this post, I’ve listed some of different combinations that I’ve created by adapting this recipe.

This makes about 55 regular sized cookies (by regular, I mean 10-15 cm). Claire advised me later that she often halves the recipe so that there’s not an eruption of cookies. You can freeze them, if you have space in your freezer. I have rolled my spare cookie dough into ball shapes and frozen them in a ziploc bag. Later, all I’ll need to do is put the cookie dough balls out on some baking paper and sheet to defrost for an hour at room temperature, then pop them in the oven. A wonderful, ‘instant’ treat to have up your sleeve!

Ingredients
  • 250g soft dark brown sugar
  • 250g white sugar
  • 280g butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 300g chocolate, roughly chopped into chunks (you can use dark, milk, white and in any combination)
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 500g plain flour
chunky chocolate cookies 1

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Prepare 2 baking sheets/trays with baking paper or greaseproof paper.
1. Mix butter with sugar until creamy and fluffy, with an electric mixer. If you don’t have one, then use a wooden spoon and beat hard!
2. Add the eggs, chocolate chips and vanilla essence and mix well. Add the bicarbonate of soda and salt to the flour and add to the other ingredients. Sitr to form a thick cookie dough.
3. Take ping-pong ball size amounts of the mixture, roll it into a ball and place spaced apart on the baking sheet/tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes in the oven. The cookies should be slightly golden brown. Let them rest for a few minutes and then gently place on a rack to cool.

chocolate chunk cookies 2
The top ones have been baked for 5 minutes too long and are too hard, whilst the bottom rather anaemic looking ones have been baked perfectly so that they’re chewy but with a bit of crunch.
Ideas for different flavours?
I’ve adapted the recipe a few times and substituted the 300g chocolate for:
  • 100g dried cranberries, 100g roughly chopped macadamia nuts & 100g roughly chopped white chocolate chunks
  • zest of 2 lemons & 300g dark chocolate chunks
  • 100g roughly chopped brazil nuts & 200g dark or milk chocolate chunks

Kids love the lemon and dark chocolate one – or at least the kids I’ve baked with when babysitting them.


February 08, 2012

Chewy Cornflake, Pecan and Chocolate Chunk Cookies: baking across the pond

cornflake cookies

I finally got to bake an american recipe, using american measurements in America. I know that, for some, that doesn't sound remarkable; it was personally rather enlightening on a typical US baking environment and experience. I hope that any americans reading this don't mind me saying that.

Let me fill you in quickly on the back story. This all came about when Chang-Bum op-pa*, a friend of the family, invited my mum and I to spend New Year with them in Southern California. My mum and his parents go way back; I think that the last time I had met our host was when I was the age of his youngest son, aged 9. I remember going to Loch Ness with him and his sister. (*Chang-Bum is his name but op-pa is how I address him. Op-pa translates into older brother in Korean in case you're wondering)

I offered to bake them Fiona Cairn's amazing shortbread for them, as a taste of Scotland, and it is a great recipe.

cornflake cookie helpers

Well, it isn't that they turned me down. It's more like they redirected my offer. Chang-Bum op-pa had already read my food blog. So, his question was, "Would I like to bake a cookie/biscuit*/scone* recipe with his family instead? It would be the first time for them and they are mad for cookies/scones/biscuits." (*US and UK versions of biscuit and scones are different.)

"Absolutely!"

Alarm bells ring when I am given a negative to the question, "Is there a set of weighing scales?" That's when I'm pushed out my comfort zone and my education into american baking culture really starts.

So, I search online specifically for an american recipe, and in doing so, introduce my friend's wife to Smitten Kitchen's reliable collection of recipes. The next part is a trip to a grocery store, where we put all purpose flour and butter measured in sticks into our cart. But my biggest culture shock moment is whilst gazing flummoxed at the spices rack. There are no jars of mixed spice! I'm a bit shocked. (Question: why don't they sell mixed spice in american grocery stores?) I apologise to any Americans who have hunted for mixed spice on account of my recipes and been given a blank look from a grocery assistant. And at that moment, I appreciate why some american recipes are so particular on their spice measurements. E.g. ¼tsp of ground cloves; ¼tsp ginger; ½tsp cinnamon...

After that culture shock, the actual baking of the cookies seemed fairly unremarkable. I understand why american recipes list the number of sticks of butter, because that is how they are sold. Besides, sticks of butter are exactly what we needed in the absence of weighing scales. Having said that, now that I'm writing this back in the UK, I've converted the recipe to grams and ounces.

The original recipe is for an oatmeal, pecan and chocolate cookie. The cornflakes were a subsitute for the oatmeal that had gone off. I like to think that I was truly original and no-one had ever thought to put cornflakes in cookies before. Then a few days later I read the side of the cornflake packet: a recipe for cornflake and cranberry cookies. Perhaps, I was being innovative rather than original then, but I still think fondly of my ingenuity.

This recipe made between regular sized 36-46 cookies. We baked them ALL. I haven't tested this yet, but if you wanted to, I guess you could bake the amount you wanted and freeze the rest. Freeze them, unbaked, in a baking tray and then once frozen, you can store them in a container. To bake from frozen: lay them out on a baking tray and let them defrost for an hour or so before want to you bake them. Once I try it out, I'll re-edit this post with how it worked.

Ingredients

  • 110g/4oz butter
  • 100g/3½oz granulated sugar
  • 150g/5½oz light soft brown sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 225g/8oz plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 120g/4oz crushed cornflakes or 90g/3oz oats
  • 250g/8oz pecans, chopped (rough or fine depending on your preference)
  • 2tsps orange zest
  • 300g/12oz dark chocolate chopped into chunks or use chocolate chips, if you prefer

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. This recipe makes LOTS of cookies so line various baking trays with baking paper.

2. Measure out the flour, bicarbonate soda, mixed spice and salt in one bowl and sift together.

3. In a big bowl, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. It's much quicker when done with an electric mixer (about 4-5 mins), which my hosts didn't own unfortunately. So, I had to use arm power and it took much longer, but good for toning the arms.

4. Add the orange zest, vanilla extract, white and brown sugars and cream together with the butter until they are thoroughly mixed.

5. Now mix the eggs into the butter/sugar mixture, one at a time.

6. Add the flour mixture in two batches, ensuring that the first batch is well-combined with the butter/sugar mixture before adding the second. The reason for doing it like this is that it is easier on you to beat out any lumps of flour in the dough.

7. Now, obviously if you had to use a wooden spoon/spatula all this time because there wasn't an electric mixer then you don't have to switch over. But if not, with a wooden spoon/spatula, mix in the chopped pecans, chopped chocolates. Finally add in the crushed cornflakes or oats and mix well.

cookie doughbaked cornflake cookies

8. Using a tablespoon to measure it out, dollop out the cookie dough onto the baking tray, making sure that each of the tablespoon sized dollops are evenly spaced out. The high fat content in them means that they will spread out while baking, so don't worry - they will flatten out!

9. Bake them in the oven for 12-14 minutes. Take them out when they are golden brown in colour and still soft in the middle. They will harden more in the cooling process. Let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking tray and then let them cool on a wire rack. If you're limited on space, you'll be itching to get the next batch onto the baking tray and in the oven as soon as possible.

And yes, since I was in America, I can confirm that they are perfect when they are still warm, with a glass of milk and the house has that wonderful smell of freshly baked cookies. Deb (from Smitten Kitchen) rates these as the perfect balance between chewy and crispy and that the combination of the spice and orange zest give it a grown up feel. I agree. Adapt it with milk chocolate, if you prefer. Next time, I think that I'll try baking it with oatmeal or muesli, just to see how it turns out.

cookies and milkchewy cornflakes, pecan and chocolate cookies

On reflection, nowadays, I get the impression that kitchens on both sides of the Atlantic, make allowances for each other cultures. Most UK kitchens have US style cups, and lots of recipe books will give a glossary list of US and UK terms. Having majoredspecialised in cultural history, I find this all rather fascinating. (self-conscious note on my choice of vocabulary. A relic of my sojourn in the States.) Nevertheless, having grown up in the UK, I personally consider it normal to:

  • weigh out ounces and grams vs cups;
  • use plain and self-raising flour vs all-purpose flour style;
  • differentiate types of sugars, such as caster, granulated, demerara... vs white, brown or molasses;
  • and buy a jar of mixed spice in the supermarket!

But I am partial to the cookies and milk combo.


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