Thursday, 22 November 2012

Soft Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am going to ask you a question. And I would urge you to think very carefully about your answer. Because while I might make out like it's all fun and games, there is a wrong answer and I will not-so-secretly secretly judge you if you get it wrong. Okay. Here goes.

*Deep breath*
Are you ready?
How do you like your cookie?

I watched the movie "Think like a man" last night which is why I feel the need to clarify that I am talking about baked goods here ;p

There are two answers to that question. (Only one of them is correct). You either like your cookie crispy/crunchy or you like your cookie the best other way; soft and slightly chewy.

If you answered crispy/crunchy, then I think it's safe to say that this; me and you,  isn't going to work out. We're just too different. It's not you, it's ... hang on, it's definitely you! You're weird!

If you like your cookie the normal way, you're in luck! Because I have some amazing chocolate chip cookies for you. These are soft and chewy and choc-full of chocolate chips; just like every good cookie should be! The secret ingredient to making them all tender-y and soft is cornflour. Cornflour in cookies are taking the cookie world by storm right now, and while mine look nothing like the the ones in Sweet Pea's blog (hers are so cute and puffy!), I'm certain they taste just as good! But don't take my word for it - give them a go :)

Recipe adapted (only very slightly changed) from this one from Sweet Pea's Kitchen.

2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
170g butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4 / 350F. Line two baking sheets with grease proof paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornflour, baking soda and salt; set aside
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.
  5. Add half of the flour mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Roll about a tablespoon's worth of dough into balls and place onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes or until barely golden brown around the edges.
  7. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes before transferring cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
Makes about 36 cookies.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart and Stylist Magazine

Stylist Magazine - yeah ... it's one of the highlights of my week. For those that don't live in the UK or those lucky people who do live in the UK but don't have to take public transport to work, it's a free women's magazine that is distributed in train and tube stations on Tuesday evenings and Wednesday morning. They don't distribute it at any of my tube stations on my way to or from work so a lovely friend at work delivers it to my desk on Wednesday morning whoop whoop!

It is pretty amazing for a free magazine, or just for a magazine generally; full of fashion (it's actually a bit too high-fashion and pricey for me but that's okay, I can gloss over those pages), beauty, a great column and so on. My favourite bits are where they get someone with a (mostly) really cool job such as the MD of a Literary Agency or the organiser of the MOBO awards to talk about their typical day and how they got to do what they do, and the recipes! I have ripped many a recipe page out of the magazine only to pass it on to my sister (an unfortunate Stylist-deprived person) half torn and tattered. She reads it anyway!

This Cappuccino Pavlova is from the magazine as is this incredible Spinach and Coconut Milk Soup and these AH-MAZING Champagne and Raspberry Cupcakes. And I have in my pile of Stylist cut outs, still to make, a pistachio cake with white chocolate frosting, a lemon pudding of sorts, a wild rice salad and lots of other luscious-sounding recipes!
Each week, I read and savour the magazine knowing that I have yet to come across the best bit - the recipe at the end (save the best till last and all)! Even better is that there are also recipes at Stylist Magazine Online ; which is where today's recipe is from.

So Stylist Magazine, don't say I never gave you anything. You just had an entire blog post dedicated to you!

Recipe from Stylist Magazine Online. They published it from The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland.

1/2 cup / 115g unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of fine sea salt
1 cup / 115g all-purpose/plain flour
1/2 cup / 120ml double cream
1/2 cup / 120ml whole milk
2 tbsp sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
7oz / 200g high-quality bittersweet (dark) chocolate, chopped (1 heaping cup)
1 large egg, beaten
smoked sea salt (I used normal sea salt flakes)
Creme fraiche (optional)

1 - Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C / gas mark 4.

2 - To make the crust: Whisk together the melted butter, sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and stir until it feels like damp sand. Press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of an 8-inch/20-cm square or 9-inch/23-cm round tart pan/flan tin with a removable bottom (which makes it easier to remove the tart in one piece. If you don't have a tart pan/flan tin, you can make this tart in a springform pan; press the dough evenly across the bottom and only about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches or 3 to 4 cm up the side of the pan). Use wax/greaseproof paper or buttered fingers to even out and press the dough tightly into the corners.

3 - Prick the crust all over with a fork and chill in the fridge until ready to bake, about 30 minutes. Set the pan on a baking sheet/tray and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. (Mine took 20 minutes so check at 20 minutes).

4 - While the crust bakes, bring the cream, milk, sugar and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let it sit for about 2 minutes, without stirring. Starting in the middle of the pan, whisk together until the chocolate is evenly melted and the mixture is smooth and a shiny dark brown.

5 - Whisk the beaten egg into the chocolate filling and pour the filling directly into the hot crust. Decrease the oven to 300F/150C/gas mark 2 and return the tart to the oven.

6 - Bake until the filling is set, but still a little wiggly in the centre, about 15 minutes (temperatures vary from oven to oven, so the visual clue is more important than time). Set your timer for 13 minutes.

7 - If it looks mostly set at that point, test it by opening the oven door a crack and carefully jiggle the tart pan/flan tin with the edge of your oven mitt. Only the centre third should wobble.

8 - Remove the tart and cool completely on a rack at room temperature. Just before the tart cools and sets completely, sprinkle a few large flakes of smoked salt on the surface, or leave plain.

9 - Remove the tart from the pan sides and carefully transfer to a platter before serving. Let it cool just until it slices easily, and serve slightly warm, with a dollop of creme fraiche. Or cool completely, and serve by itself.

Serves 12

Monday, 5 November 2012

Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

I'm on a bit of a Nigella Lawson roll innit?

I don't know about you but when I was growing up, every cake apart from birthday cake was a loaf cake. Or a bundt cake - which is the same but in a fancier tin.
More specifically in my home, it was a chocolate and vanilla marble cake with a faint hint of lemon as my mum and yaya always put lemon zest in every cake. I bet my mum will be surprised that I remember her cakes so well :) I remember not being able to understand, no matter how many times she explained, why she put the zest of lemon in cakes. Finally, I totally get it!

So yeah, loaf cakes have  all sorts of great associations for me - treats, home, comfort, guests, mummy-time ... when I grow up and have kids, I want to always have home-made cake in my kitchen.  Try and recreate these great memories for my kids. In a large raised cake stand with a glass lid, there will always be some home-made goodness. Yup, I know, hello obesity! We'll balance it out somehow :)

I think the main thing with loaf cakes is that despite being very un-fancy, they're usually really good cake! They don't have any fancy frosting or ganaches to hide behind - at most a drizzle of a glaze - so the cake has to be great. And it usually is. This one by Nigella Lawson is pretty incredible. I made it for church and because I'd sliced it up and didn't get a chance to tell anyone what it was, every one thought they were brownies. It is a dense cake but not too much so, chocolatey but not overwhelming, perfectly citrussy and I think the addition of chocolate chips makes it the perfect loaf cake; understated but so incredibly satisfying.

With the weather getting very cold, I am getting the overwhelming urge to bake lots of loaf cakes so while I get on with that, how about you give this one a go? And make sure you feed back okay? I love hearing how your baking goes; especially when it's a recipe from my blog.

Have a wonderful week!

Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson's Kitchen


150g soft unsalted butter, plus some for greasing
dab flavourless vegetable oil, for greasing syrup spoon
2 x 15ml tablespoons golden syrup
175g dark muscovado sugar
150g plain flour, plus about 1 tablespoon for tossing chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
25g best-quality cocoa powder, sifted
2 eggs
zest 2 regular oranges and juice of 1
100g dark chocolate chips

1 x 900g (2Ibs) loaf tin

  • Preheat the oven to 170C / Gas mark 3 and line your loaf tin with baking parchment or a paper loaf-tin liner.
  • Beat the already soft butter with the syrup - if you dab a little oil on your tablespoon measure with a sheet of kitchen roll, the syrup shouldn't stick to the spoon  - and the sugar until you have a fairly smooth caffe Americano cream, though the sugar will always have a bit of grit about it.
  • Mix the flour, bicarb and cocoa powder together, and beat into the syrup mixture 1 tablespoon of these dry ingredients before beating in 1 egg. Then add another couple of spoonfuls of the dry ingredients before beating in the second egg.
  • Carry on beating in the remaining dry ingredients and then add, still beating, the orange zest and finally, gradually, the juice. At this stage, the batter may suddenly look dimpled as if slightly curdled. No need to panic!
  • Put the chocolate chips in a bowl, sprinkle over a tablespoon of flour and toss until they are completely coated in flour. (This is to stop them sinking to the bottom of the cake batter while the cake is baking). Now fold them into your batter.
  • Pour and scrape into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes, though check 5 minutes before and be prepared to keep it in the oven 5 minutes longer if need be. A cake tester won't come out entirely clean, as the point of this cake, light though it may be, is to have just a hint of inner gunge. Leave it to cool a little in its tin on a wire rack, then turn out with care and leave on the rack to cool.
1 - The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and store in airtight container. Will keep for 5 days total.
2 - The cake can be frozen, tightly wrapped up in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil, for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight at room temperature.