Cookies & Cream…. And Cake

 I’ve waited a really long time to make the Cookies and Cream cake from the Hummingbird Bakery Home Sweet Home recipe book.  Apparently I have very few friends who have a sweet enough tooth to handle this dynamic duo.  Thankfully, my friend from work had a birthday coming up, and has a seriously sweet tooth (even sweeter than mine!) so I shot-gunned cake duty and went all out on this cake.Read More »

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Limes … in Cookies … Hmm …

I was looking for something really quick and easy to bake this weekend and came across this recipe for Lime Lattice Cookies in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  To be honest I was quite sceptical about it all; now I’ve had a really good run so far with Mary Berry’s recipe’s but lime and cookies? … Really?

There were so few ingredients involved and the recipe seemed really easy so I couldn’t help myself; I decided to give it a go. All I had to do was cream some butter and sugar (easy enough) and mix in self-raising flour (can’t mess that up right?!) and lime zest (dammit!).

I hate grating – well, pretty much anything – but limes are by far the worst! They just don’t want to be grated! After much huffing and puffing – and the odd five injuries – I managed to get two limes grated and ready to put in the mix.

Here is where I have to make a confession – the recipe is enough to make 16 cookies; so … I measured the dough exactly and separated it into 16 exacts parts (that’s 17grams each). I realise the sheer geekiness and perfectionist nature of this and all I have to say is – I’m a geek, and I like to have cookies that are all the same shape. And What?!

Now this is where the recipe stumped me a bit; Mary Berry says to create a lattice pattern using a skewer – great, I have the skewer … now what in the heck is a lattice pattern?! (I do admit that this is another confession that I probably really shouldn’t reveal to the world via a food blog!) But Google, as always, provided me with an answer and I set to work.

 

The now lattice-patterned cookies went into the oven for about 15minutes, and came out just as they were turning golden.  This is the worst part about baking cookies.  You’d think it would be simple to know when the cookies are ‘almost golden’ but I’ll have you know that there are many different shades that fall under that category.

Once the cookies were out, I managed to wait twenty minutes before I had to give one a taste test; I was just too intrigued to wait!

And the verdict is … yum! The cookies have quite a crumbly texture and the lime adds a really nice sharpness to it, which isn’t overwhelming at all.  Altogether, they’re a great, quick and easy recipe for pretty much any occasion – did I mention that they look really good too?

Christmas Mayhem

Every year I get a bit ambitious and try to do too much over Christmas, this year was no exception.  I had left all my shopping last minute had to make a last minute dash to the shops to get everything done in time.

Another one of my impossible tasks was to make a gingerbread house based on the gingerbread men recipe in the first Hummingbird Bakery book.  My first mistake was that I didn’t realise that you had to let the dough rest overnight.  I had way too much to do the next day (Christmas Eve!) so I gave up on my gingerbread house idea and settled for gingerbread men.

I started making the dough by mixing the sugar and butter first and beating in the egg and treacle.  Now I’ve never experienced black treacle before and was slightly intrigued/disgusted by what I saw! It looked like crude oil! But I had faith in the recipe and carried on.

I then added the flour bit by bit, along with all the spices and bicarbonate of soda.  I was definitely excited about the amount of spices going into the recipe. Ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg not only creates this beautiful Christmassy aroma when cooking, it makes everything taste great!

My baby whisk was starting to make crazy noises again, a regular occurrence now and I hoped that it wouldn’t break before finishing the dough.  Thankfully it made it through and I managed to get the dough mixed, I wrapped it in cling film and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day brought with it the task of cutting out the gingerbread shapes and baking them.  As I made twice the amount of dough to have enough for the gingerbread house, I had a lot of gingerbread mean to cut out.  They cookies only needed 9 minutes in my oven before they were perfect so I started a little one-person production line.

The dough was finally finished and all the cookies baked.  I let them cool while I finished wrapping presents and getting ready for a dinner party.  Then came the fun job of decorating them.

I always thought royal icing was simply mixing water and icing sugar; apparently this isn’t royal icing – oops.  I can now proudly say it’s made from egg whites, lemon juice and icing sugar.

I started decorating by making smiley faces for all gingerbread men before colouring the icing blue and making little buttons.  I was a bit short of time (and by a bit I mean I had around 10 minutes to decorate around 50 cookies) so I kept it simple.

The gingerbread men were distributed among neighbours and friends and were thoroughly enjoyed on Christmas Eve.  They tasted really good, all the spices went amazingly well together and that beautiful Christmassy smell stayed in the house for days. It’s true what they say – once you taste a homemade gingerbread man you can’t go back – well they don’t technically say that but they should.

Sweet Little Sugar Cookie Somethings

I decided to try my luck with the sugar cookies in the first Hummingbird Bakery book this week.  I’ve tried this recipe only once before and completely failed as I put them in the oven for too long.

This time I was determined to do it right; the family wanted to eat some sweet little somethings (very descriptive I know!) and I thought these would do perfectly.

To prepare the dough, I mixed up the butter, sugar and vanilla extract before adding in the egg.  This was then whisked in with the flour, salt and cream of tartar, which is a bit harder than it sounds.  Obviously the dough is a lot thicker and, well doughy for lack of a better word; my poor, half-dead £3 whisk didn’t seem to like it at all.  I finally managed to get it generally whisked and did the rest with my fingers.

After preparing the dough came the fun bit; rolling out the dough and cutting out the shape of your choice.  My cookie cutter collection is still really limited to tiny star cutters and a few circle sizes (despicable I know).  So I decided on a medium circle size and cut out as many as I could fit onto the 3 baking trays I had; there were a lot of cookies!  I had no idea what to do with the rest of the dough so I rolled it into one big monster cookie and put it on a spare tray.

These all went into the oven for exactly 10minutes, I was determined I wouldn’t overcook them this time.  They came out and were left to cool; the monster left over cookie got carried out into the living room straight away, as no one could apparently wait another 10minutes.  Typical! I ended up leaving out the royal icing topping as well, as my family didn’t want to wait for, and I quote ‘that extra nonsense’.

The sugar cookies came out moorish, they were a perfect addition to a good cuppa’. Not sickly sweet but sweet enough to satisfy that sugar craving (if that makes any sense whatsoever!)   I would define these more as a biscuit than a cookie, but hey what does it matter what it’s called when it tastes good. I’d definitely suggest this recipe to everyone, and would definitely be something fun to do with the kids.

A Chocolaty Suprise

I always seem to end up baking for other people, dinner parties or as birthday gifts to friends and family.  My brother however, always seems to get the runts of the cakes, you know the ones I mean – the oddly shaped cupcakes that there wasn’t enough icing for?  Well he complains a lot, especially as he loves my cookies and never gets many.

Unfortunately this week, I only had enough ingredients for the chocolatiest of cookies and he isn’t the biggest fan of chocolate anything.  Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers right?

I started off by melting the butter and half the chocolate over a saucepan of simmering water.  I’ve done this a thousand times with my plastic cake bowl and never had a problem.  This time, I used the new and fancy saucepan, turned around for a minute to chop up some more chocolate and turned back round to find a hole in my bowl… Aaarrghhh!!!

Luckily it the hole was above the chocolate so none of it was ‘contaminated’.  I quickly changed bowls and left the mess to cool and to deal with later.   I held the bowl over the heat this time to make sure it didn’t touch the metal surface of the pan and finished heating the chocolate.

I then whisked the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract and mixed in the chocolate. No catastrophes there thankfully.  I figured, you only get one catastrophe per baking job right? Right?!

Wrong.  When I went to mix in the flour, salt and baking powder, I realised the dough was still really gooey.  I triple checked the recipe to make sure all the ingredients were right and was stumped.  I even put a bit more flour in to no avail.  I finally gave up and convinced they were going to be a wreck anyway, put them on the baking tray and into the oven to cook.

They came out huge but this was because I couldn’t get small amounts onto the baking tray without making a mess.  They were also really gooey inside.  I left them to cool completely and attempted, and generally failed to get them off the greaseproof paper without breaking them in half.  Oh dear.

I couldn’t even be bothered to taste one, and promised I’d try again in the morning if they were that bad.  My dad tasted one and said it was great, although it was really chocolaty.  I thought he was just being nice and put them in the fridge to hopefully harden them up.

I finally built up the courage to try one in the morning and…. WOW! It tasted really nice – really chocolaty – but actually good.  The outside hardened overnight and the inside stayed soft and gooey.  Apart from the fact that the majority of them were broken in half and huge, it could have been shop bough it tasted that great!  My brother came home the next day and ‘tasted’ the rest of the cookies and although he’s not a chocolate fan, he managed to eat them all.  I guess you could say it wasn’t a complete wreck?!

Almond & Apricot Cookies

My household has a lot of dinner parties.  Why? I don’t exactly know; personally, I’ve put it down to the fact that as an Iranian family, we like gather round other Iranian families and use it as an excuse to eat an obscene amount of rice, meat dishes and other yummy things.

As per usual, I was commissioned to make a tasty dessert for the dinner party and ALSO as per usual, I decided to make life hard for myself.  This time it was by making cookies and a layer cake at the same time as my mum was cooking in the kitchen.  We all know the saying about too many cooks and ruined food; well a savoury cook and a dessert cook in one teeny tiny kitchen leads to murder or something very close to it! The fight for kitchen space, oven space and general ‘moving around’ space was ridiculous and if it wasn’t for our amazing relationship I may have had a finger or two chopped off as a lesson never to enter her domain again.

The cookies were dealt with first; now if I were sensible I would have made the layer cake and baked cookies while it cooled.  My logic however, dictated that the cookies go first simply because they were smaller.  I know, my lack of common sense astounds me too!

The butter, two types of sugar were whisked together with the egg and vanilla essence following soon after.  I then sifted all the ‘dry’ ingredients and mixed it into the creamed butter in two goes.  This was a bit difficult for my poor, half-dead electric whisk and took a little longer than expected.  I then realised that I had a load of apricots to chop up so got onto that before stirring them in with the ground almonds.

I’m constantly told off by my mum for making my cookies too big for people to nibble on (they are normal size I promise!) but I didn’t want to aggravate someone with a large knife in her hand (she was chopping at the time) so I used a tablespoon measurement for each cookie.  I sprinkled some flaked almonds on top and put the cookies in the oven for about 10 minutes, as they were half the size.

Once out they were left to cool before they were placed on the proper ‘cake’ plate and laid out with some chocolates ready for the party.

The majority of the cookies were eaten up at the dinner party and the rest consumed by work colleagues the next day.  No one actually realised they were home baked and thought they were bakery bought (a step up from store bought apparently).

I did like the cookies but I had a bit of an issue with the apricot pieces if I’m honest.  I tried to chop them up small but I felt it was still too much apricot in one bite to deal with.  I think if I make them again I’d try to puree them somehow or make the chunks even smaller.  Otherwise, they were really nice cookies and I actually really liked the simple decoration of putting a few flaked almonds on top.

Time To Pretend To Be Healthy

I’ve gotten told off a lot lately for baking so much, even though it is somewhat inevitable because of this blog.  So, this week I decided to go for a recipe that actually looked (and sounded) healthy: Oat and Raisin cookies.  Now I’d normally run a mile from anything with raisins in (why would you ruin a grape by drying it out?!?) but I knew the family would love them so gave it a go.

The recipe was pretty simple to be honest,  firstly you mix up the butter and two different types of sugar, add the eggs; then mix the flour and oats and other bits and bobs and finally add them to the mix.  Et voilà , you have your batter.

Then its just a matter of scooping up equal portions and putting them onto baking trays and in the oven.  I would suggest rolling each cookie into a ball and flattening a bit before you put them on the baking tray, as it makes them look rounder, nicer, and generally neater (I’m a perfectionist I know!)

12 minutes later, I took out some very good smelling cookies.  I always get a bit worried when I’m baking cookies because they never seem completely cooked when they come out.  If you’re like that too then DON’T WORRY! That’s what makes them nice and gooey in the middle and as long as it passes the skewer test, you’re good.

For those who don’t know what a skewer test is (shame on you if you don’t); it’s simply when you put a skewer (a small knife also works) though the middle of the cake/cookie/anything and if it comes out clean then its cooked.

I got the official seal of approval a little later in the day; by seal of approval I do mean a series of grunts, yumms, and mmm’s from family members when they had a cookie each with tea.

I do really like these cookies despite the raisins; I really liked the taste of the oats in the cookie.  I am tempted however, to try them without raisins in them.  Now THAT would be amazing.  All in all I’d say there were a nice treat to have when you’re pretending to be healthy.

You Can’t Just Make an Alcoholic Cake, That’s Not Fair on The Kids?!?!

It occurred to me at 11pm after putting the finishing touches to my Guinness Chocolate cake that the lovely little ones at the barbeque wouldn’t be able to eat any of it because…well I shouldn’t really need to explain why children can’t eat an alcoholic cake.

So I had a fabulous idea; lets make some peanut butter cookies!  Thankfully, this recipe was actually really easy to do and by chance I had most of the ingredients left over from cooking cookies last week and I managed to get the cookies in the oven in record time.

Cooking time for these were also 10 minutes.  They seemed very gooey when I took them out but I decided to listen to the book and leave them to cool overnight.

Saturday morning came around and I checked on the cooled cookies to see how they turned out.  Very yummy! However I wish I had left them in the oven for another minute or two, as they were beautifully moist but very soft and broke apart quite easily.

These were shipped off along with the Guinness Chocolate cake to the barbeque.  Once again, I found them to be very rich; but the chocolate chips broke up the peanut butter taste.  I could only manage half of a cookie (albeit half of a big one!) but they went down a treat with the kids and grown ups.

Another success.  However I think next time I do some last minute midnight baking for someone else; I’ll stick to ONE recipe.

Give Me Cookies!

Quite a few friends have been telling me off because I keep making cupcakes and won’t try anything new (which is not true… I made alcoholic cupcakes!). This apparently wasn’t good enough so this week I’ve gone for something completely different.  I made… COOKIES.

Ok, so a bit of an anti-climax but cookies are a big challenge for me.  When I first started baking I got a bit ahead of myself and thought I could bake anything. I tried making smarties cookies, emphasis on the tried.  They went straight in the bin.

I was naturally a bit worried about attempting cookies again after so long and decided on the simplest looking recipe; chocolate chip cookies.  Mixing the batter was easy; I’d say the hardest part of the whole process was trying to separate the mixture into equal parts and actually getting it onto the baking trays.

Cooking time was only 10 minutes, but didn’t seem really cooked so I left it in the oven for a little bit longer. A few minutes later, they still seemed quite gooey but I took them out and left them to cool.

Once cooled, the cookies were offered round and were loved by everyone; except me.  My perfectionist self thought they got a bit hard and weren’t all the same size. So I made some more.

This time I improvised and used a ice-cream scoop to measure out equal portions for each cookie, rolled them into the shape of a  squished ball before putting them onto the baking trays and cooking them for exactly 10 minutes, regardless of how gooey they seemed were when I took them out.

This would be my tip for making any cookies. When they cooled they looked and tasted amazing.  Will definitely do this with other recipes and can’t wait to try baking more.