Monthly Archives: October 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I find myself feeling very conflicted today.  I decided to try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe instead of my fall back Tollhouse cookie recipe.  Essentially it had exactly the same ingredients, although without the vanilla essence, but in different quantities.  They are at once exactly the same and yet very different.  I am now torn between the two, which is my favourite?  I’m afraid only time will tell but these are definitely entering the repetoir.  They have the same crispy crunch around the outside but these cookies have a lot more height to them and so the insides remain pillows soft and a tiny bit chewy.  They are deliciously soft and buttery and yet the overall taste is the same as the Tollhouse.  I think a side by side test is in my future, although for those of you watching what you eat you may be better sticking to the Tollhouse as they contain a lot less butter. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 30

200g unsalted butter, softened
85g dark muscovado sugar
85g golden caster sugar
1 egg
225g self raising flour
pinch of salt
180g chocolate chips (I use Dairy Milk Chunks)

– Heat the oven to Gas Mark 5 and line 4 baking sheets.
– Cream together the butter and both sugars until light and flufffy.
– Add the egg and mix until well combined.
– Add the flour and salt and fold in until the mixture is smooth.
– Fold in the chocolate chips. 
– Spoon walnut sized heaps of mixture onto the baking sheets, leaving plenty of space between each (I put 9 on each large tray).
– Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.  (The tray on the lower layer will need about 3 minutes extra on the top layer to brown up). 
– Remove from the oven and leave on the tray for a minute or two then place on a wire rack to cool.

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Bread!

I love making bread.  This is kind of handy when I make it every few days.  Although I suppose that if I didn’t enjoy if I wouldn’t do it!  I started making bread back in July when I was bored out of my mind and bread was the first thing I could think of that would take hours to cook.  I haven’t looked back.  I’ve made bread loaves, cottage loaves, bread buns, pita breads, focaccia, and the usual free form round loaf to my heart’s content!  There is something so theraputic about making bread.  I enjoy the all of the kneading, rising and shaping.  It all adds up to make something so satisfying and delicious. 

I started out using an overnight rising technique with my easy overnight white bread recipe but now I’ve had practice I can make bread from start to finish in 3 hours.  It really breaks down into 4 stages, mixing, rising, second rising and baking.  I think that I can get everything together, measured out, mixed and kneaded in 30 minutes.  It then needs an hour to rise, then shaping takes anything up to 30 minutes when making rolls, then another 30 minute rise, then 25 minutes cooking.  If I start at 5pm then I have freshly cooked bread on the table for dinner at 8pm. 

I thought it was about time to post about all of the little tricks I’ve learnt to make the process go a little quicker and make my bread a little better.  I use the same basic white bread recipe I started with but it’s the techniques I’ve developed that have really made the difference to the quality of the bread that I produce. 

Plaited Bread Rolls

White Bread Recipe

Makes 1 large loaf, 12 small rolls

500g strong white bread flour
7g fast action yeast
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
300ml warm water

– Heat your oven up to the lowest setting it has.  Mine has Slow Cook.  This isn’t to do any cooking, it’s just to create a warm, draft free environment for yor dough to rise in.  In the summer I was leaving the dough in a basket in the conservatory as it was very warm but now that winter is approaching the oven is the best place I’ve found. 
– Put the flour, yeast and salt in a very large bowl and mix it about a bit. 
– Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and then add the oil and water.  To get warm water I use 200ml cold water and 100ml boiling mixed together. 
– Use a spoon to mix together the ingredients until it forms into a ball of dough. 
– Get in there with your hands, floured, to gather it all together and then turn it out onto a floured work surface. 
– Dust the dough with flour on top as well and start kneading.  Squish it out ahead of you, then fold it back and rotate 90*, squish, fold, rotate.  So long as you work the dough and move it all about a lot then it doesn’t really matter how you do it.  You should be picking up the lose flour and working it in to the dough as you go.  If the dough starts to get too sticky just dust a little more flour and keep working it. 
– Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  You’ll notice the difference in textures, it wants to be soft and smooth feeling, no dust or lumps. 
– I then turn off the oven and wash out the bowl I mixed the dough in (it’s the only very large bowl I have) and then put about 1 tbsp olive oil in, a small glug, I use my hands to spread the oil all over the inside of the bowl then use my oily hands to knead the dough again for another minute until my hands are no longer oily. (I think this could be the key step for excellent bread)   
– Shape the dough into a ball and then put it in the oiled bowl, turn it over thereby coating all of the dough in oil. 
– Cover the bowl with a tea towel and then place it in the oven, or other warm, draft free place, for one hour or until doubled in size. 
– Take the dough out, dust the top of your risen dough lightly with flour and then plunge your fist into the middle of the dough. 
– Gather the dought together, wiping it around the bowl to pick up the bits then turn out and knead for another minute or two to knock out all of the air and mix in the small amount of flour used.  
– Prepare a baking tray, or two, with a dusting of flour or a sheet of baking paper. 
– Now you shape your dough into whatever you are making. 
– If you’re making a free form loaf then pull the edges of the ball underneath it and sort of pinch together so you have a smooth top then place it seam down on the baking tray and just shape it into the rough shape you’re after, remembering to keep height as it will spread out. 
– If you’re making a loaf in a tin then squish the dough into a rectangle, fold one third over then the other third over than and place seam down into a large greased loaf tin.  You’re probably better off only using 2/3 of the dough in a loaf tin otherwise it’ll be a really massive loaf!
– If you’re making buns then cut off portions of the dough, keeping the dough you’re not using covered int he bowl, and either pinch the sides of the ball to the bottom to make a smooth ball, roll into a line then tie in a knot for a knotted bun (I think they look like snails!), or divide into 3, roll into lines then plait together pinching the ends together and tucking them tidily under for plaited rolls. 
– Leave to rise again in a warm, draft free place for 30 minutes.  Fortunately I have a top oven/grill above the main oven where I can place the bread and pick up some of the heat from the bottom oven.  Unfortunately you may not. 
– Meanwhile heat the oven to gas mark 7 with some boiling water in an oven proof dish in the bottom. 
– If making a free form loaf dust the top with flour and slash a few times with a very sharp knife. 
– Place the bread in the oven and bake for 25 minutes for a loaf, 12 minutes for rolls.  Once the top is golden brown and the base of the loaf  sounds hollow when tapped your bread is cooked.  Rolls cooked on the bottom shelf may need a few minutes more on the top shelf to brown.  Cool on a wire rack. 
– Leave the bread to stand for at least 15 minutes before eating to develop a good texture. 

Assorted bread rolls

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Christmas Muffins

It may seem a little early to be starting on Christmas baking but there is a very good reason for this.  My nextdoor neighbour and I were talking and she mentionned that she needed a baking project for her class to do for the Christmas fair to raise funds but that there were a number of criteria that needed to be met, no boring fairy cakes, for example!  I thought I’d seen a recipe somewhere about that would work but it proved to be a figment of my imagination.  So I decided to invent something that would, hopefully, work.  These are the delightful result!

They have all the tastes of Christmas but not in an overwhelming way.  I have to confess I don’t usually like Christmassy flavoured things, I eat Christmas pudding after Christmas dinner because it’s traditional not because I like it.  However, I really liked these muffins.  They had all of the flavours but lacked the heavy, stodgy feeling I usually associate with Christmas foods.  All in all a great experiment and come Christmas I shall certainly be making these again. 

Christmas Muffins

Makes 6

150g mixed dried fruits
zest and juice of 1 orange
50g dark muscoavdo sugar
125ml milk
1 egg
2 tbsp sunflower oil
150g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch of salt
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Holly berry and leaf decorations (I made leaves out of white icing and green colouring and berries out of glace cherry bits)

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and prepare 6 holes of a muffin tin. 
– Combine the fruit and orange zest and juice in a microwavable dish and microwave for 2 minutes.  Alternately leave them to soak for an hour. 
– Beat together the sugar, milk, egg and oil.   
– Sift the flour, baking podwer, nutmeg, mixed spice and salt into the mixture.
– Fold in gently. 
– Add the mixed fruits and stir in. 
– Divide the mixture evenly between the six cases. 
– Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine took 25)
– Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little in the tin then place on a wire rack to cool completely. 
– Mix together the icing sugar and the lemon juice until smooth. 
– Once the muffins have cooled spoon a little of the icing over each muffin. 
– Add the holly decorations and leave to set.

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Anna’s Breakfast Bites

I invented these delicious things back when I was in school for a food tech project.  Originally I designed them to be canapes and have made them with quails eggs every christmas since.  This morning I suddenly realised that I could make them with regular eggs and have a handy breakfast ready to go!  However, I decided to be economical and use the smaller oven, completely forgetting that the smaller oven is temperamental at best and burns the top of anything over 1 inch tall!  Oops!  Still, they tasted good! 

These things really are morish, when I make them as canapes I always have to make twice as many as my family just gobble them up.  They’re best eaten within a few hours of making them and I think they are actually better when cold.  If you want to save yourself some work in the morning you can do the bread part the night before and then carry on the next morning.  To make canapes simply cut rounds of bread and press into rounded bun tin, use a quail’s egg instead of a hen’s egg and use a quarter of a mushroom and a quarter of a bacon roll. 

Anna's Breakfast Bites

Makes 2 (just increase to however many servings you want)

2 slices white bread
2 eggs
1 mushroom
1 rasher of bacon

– Heat to oven to gas mark 6 and oil however many holes of a muffin tin you want to use. 
– Cut the crusts off the bread and press each slice flat. 
– Brush the bread with oil on both sides. 
– Press the bread into the hole of a muffin pan.  (It’s somewhat like origami but the opposite sides end up being the top circle and the other edges pleat in to be pressed down.)

Bread Case

– Bake in the oven for 7 minutes. 
– Carefully crack the egg into the bread case then put back in the oven for 10 minutes. 
– Roll the bacon rasher up and slice in half, slice the mushroom in half. 
– Place the bacon and mushroom pieces on top of the egg and bake for another 10 minutes. 
– Check to make sure the egg has set and that everything has cooked (my oven is temperamental so timings could be different for your oven)  then run a flat bladed knife round the hole to loosen it and either serve warm or leave to cool. 

Variations
If you’re not fond of bacon then substitute it for a mini sausage, just alter the cooking time for that stage to suit.  Or if it’s mushrooms you’d rather avoid why not use a cherry tomato instead?

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Spicy Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

I’m in a very autumnal frame of mind at the minute.  I’m home alone this week so I’m not so keen on the howling wind and getting dark early part but I do love walking through the leaves and huddling up inside in the warm.  I find that although I’m happy to eat sandwiches for lunch throughout the summer come autumn I feel the need for soup.  The warmth you can gain from a bowl of soup and lovely buttery bread is better than the central heating sometimes!  I’ve usually been a Heinz fan but this autumn I’m really enjoying making my own soups.  The latest one is this Spicy Butternut Squash Soup.  It’s not actually what I would call spicy, the chilli comes as a lovely wash of heat over your tongue and complements the mellowness of the butternut wonderfully.  Plus I like the colour!

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 4

1 butternut squash (about 1kg)
2 onions, diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 chilli, finely chopped (mine was quite hot, if yours are milder then add 2)
1 1/2 pints hot vegetable stock
4 tbsp creme fraiche

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6. 
– Peel and chop the butternut squash into chunks.  (I slice mine in half above the seeds then quarter it vertically, scoop out the seeds in that half and then chop into slices no bigget than 2 cm thick.  Then I use a vegetable peeler to take off the skin.)
– Place in a roasting tin and toss in a little olive oil. 
– Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. 
– In the meantime prep your onions, garlic and chilli then put it all in a large pan with a knob of butter and a splash of oil. 
– Keep on a very low heat for about 20 minutes until the onions are completely soft. 
– Take the squash out of the oven and tip into the pan. 
– Add the stock and creme fraiche and stir a little to start mixing it.
– Then take a hand blender and blend the soup until smooth. 
– Reheat it when you’re ready to serve.

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Blueberry Muffins Recipe

Today I made blueberry muffins.  I found I had a box of blueberries in the freezer and the recipe my mum gave me for muffins only makes six so a perfect quantity as I am home alone this week and so I will be the only one enjoying them.  My mum makes stupendous chocolate muffins, she was famous for them in my halls in first year!  As such it’s very firmly her department to provide muffins and so I’ve never tried this recipe before.  I have to say that this recipe is really quick and simple.  Less than 30 minutes I’d say.  Just throw everything together and you’re done, no elbow grease required!  I actually made 8 muffins as I didn’t know how much they would rise.  I ended up with quite flat muffins so do take heed, you will only need six cases.  Next time I will know better!

Blueberry muffins

Makes 6

50g dark muscoavdo sugar
125ml milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
40g butter, melted and cooled
150g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g blueberries*

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and prepare 6 holes of a muffin tin. 
– Beat together the sugar, milk, egg and vanilla essence then add the butter and beat again. 
– Sift the flour, baking podwer and salt into the mixture.
– Fold in gently. 
– Add the blueberries and stir in. 
– Divide the mixture evenly between the cases. 
– Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine took 25)
– Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little in the tin then place on a wire rack to cool completely or serve warm. 

*This was just the size of the box I had, I think that 100g would be fine if that was what you had but more than 150g would be far too many.

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Orange Drizzle Cake Recipe

A completely new recipe for me here.  I saw the recipe in Olive magazine while on holiday and scribbled down the list of ingredients on a post it note.  I never manage to write down instructions other than the temperature and cooking time so, as usual, I winged it.  Occasionally I manage to scribble down a word or two of instruction like “mix”, “boil” or “melt” and an arrow but it is rare!  If I were organised I’d remember where I saw recipes or tear them out or something but organised I definitely am not!  Despite making it up as I went along I am very pleased with this.  It’s lovely, sticky, orangey and moist but you can still hold a slice in your hand to eat it.  I thought it looked a little boring on its own so I added a glace icing to give it a little boost. 

Orange Drizzle Cake

For the cake:
110g butter, softened
180g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 orange, grated
180g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp milk
For the syrup:
juice of 2 oranges*
3 tbsp lemon juice
100g golden caster sugar
For the icing:
2 heaped dessert spoonfuls of icing sugar
1 spoonful of lemon juice

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4.  Grease and line a large loaf tin** with baking paper. 
– Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. 
– Beat in the eggs and orange zest. 
– Fold in the flour and baking powder then add the milk and mix well. 
– Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes. 
– Put all of the syrup ingredients in a pan and bring to a gentle boil for a five minutes.  Do not let it boil over!
– To check if the cake is ready test with a skewer and if the skewer comes out clean then stab with the skewer all over.
– Keeping the cake in the tin pour the syrup over it a bit at a time and leave it for at least an hour until all of the liquid is absorbed. 
– Remove the cake from the tin and put on a plate. 
– Mix the lemon juice and icing sugar together until it reaches a smooth, runny consistency and either drizzle over the cake with a spoon or fill a small plastic bag with the icing and then cut the corner off it.  Zig zag back and forth until the desired effect is reached. 

*I take the zest off the second orange as well and store it in a bag in the freezer for use in another recipe. 
** I think my loaf tin might be a 2lb one but I have two and one is tiny and the other large.  Any large loaf tin would do I think.

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