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Archive for the ‘Biscuits’ Category

36 Hours

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It’s like 157 hours, only with less gore. Aged chocolate chip cookies. This is a very strange concept to me, and yet it’s been ambling round the food circuit/blogosphere for a few years now: aged cookie dough makes for much better cookies. The science behind this is, well, erm I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps that the vanilla extract has time to really infuse the dough. Or that the liquids have long enough to form real cohesive bonds with the gluten, or gluten substitute, making for a better texture. Or something else. I’m not really sure. What I do know is patience is a virtue. This is always true in baking – opening the oven door to check if your cake is done even when you know it isn’t is always going to be a bad idea. But here, the patience required is almost superhuman. Make chocolate chip cookie dough, littered with huge chunks of dark chocolate, and tiny crystals of sugar and salt and leave to sit in the fridge for 36 hours before baking. In that time, resist the urge to eat said cookie dough, which is one of a few items that tastes almost better in its raw form, wrong though you know it is.

If you do manage to successfully do this though you’ll be rewarded with fat, hefty cookies that are slightly crunchy on the outside from the sugar (sugar alert, I didn’t really cut back in this recipe as it would affect the texture too much, so they’re pretty sugar heavy) to a soft, chewy interior that in the very centre gives way to an almost cakelike crumb. These will lift you from the deepest of mid-afternoon slumps.

36-hour chocolate chip cookies
From New York Times

The chocolate in these cookies is key. I used three types of chocolate, maybe in part because I had underestimated how many chocolate chips I had and thus had to improvise slightly. I used 100g milk chocolate chips, 200g dark chocolate chips, and a 200g block of cooking chocolate, which I chopped into small chunks. The benefit of doing this is you end up with lots of little flakes of chocolate too, which melt in the batter and provide little flecks of chocolate, along with the big hearty solid chunks.

Ingredients
280g butter
275g light brown sugar
220g white sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
575g gluten-free flour blend
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
500g chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

Method
1. In a large bowl cream the butter and the brown and white sugars together for a few minutes until light and pale. One at a time beat in the eggs, then stir in the vanilla.

2. In a medium bowl stir the gluten-free flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together. Slowly stir these into the butter and sugar mixture until just combined. Add the chocolate chunks, stir for 30 seconds or until these are fairly evenly distributed throughout the mixture, then take the huge ball of dough, wrap it in clingfilm and transfer to the fridge to age for 24-36 hours. Try not to eat it in this time.

3. Up top 36 hours later (or even longer, though I think much more scientific tests than mine showed no discernible improvement in taste and texture after 36 hours), preheat the oven to 180 C. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper and scoop balls of the dough onto the baking sheets. The dough balls should be roughly the size of squash balls, and they should be flattened slightly before laying out an inch apart on the baking sheets. Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly golden, and leave to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, before transferring to cooling racks.

Makes 36 medium-large cookies (2-3-inches wide) that last well in an airtight container at room temperature, for about a week.

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Written by guffblog

1st August 2011 at 13:46

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Sugar sugar

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Has anyone else noticed that 9 recipes out of 10 use far too much sugar? I mean sure it makes for a chewier cookie but it also contributes hugely to the fact that coeliacs have less than perfect teeth. Years of calcium and vitamin D deficiency contributing to spots on your teeth, weak enamel and well, generally your mouth turning into a graveyard. Lovely. Whilst this seems, tragically, to be something of an inevitable process, I’d like to keep those crowns, bridges and big gaping holes at bay a while longer, thus the anti-sugar march at the moment. I mean, I realise it’s in everything we eat, we can’t get away from it if we want to continue to enjoy fruit, and yoghurt and beautiful carbohydrates, but is there really a need to consume such a large amount of refined sugars? And yes, I am aware that one way to cut down would be to eat fewer biscuits and cakes, something I am genuinely striving to do, but frankly I’d rather have a life with the odd under-sweetened biscuit than one without them at all. So, as a courtesy to my dentist, or indeed, my bank balance, I cut the sugar in these cookies to a third. Yes, I cut two-thirds of the sugar out. Result? Well, they tasted of, chocolate. And biscuit. I’m sure they weren’t quite as chewy as they could have been. Instead they were a little closer to shortbread, crispy and a little crumbly on the outside, but inside, fudgy and deeply, intensely chocolatey, enhanced by the little flecks of sea salt. They were rich, because of the dark chocolate, but not bitter; still, rich enough that one was enough. Tell me, where is the bad here?

I used 55g of sugar; I forgot to weigh the dough at the end, but totting up the ingredients that means these were roughly 15% sugar (and yes I know that doesn’t include the sugar in the chocolate, so it is cheating a bit – fine, let’s say 20% sugar). As compared to at least 35% sugar with the original recipe. Obviously, this isn’t going to work with every recipe; in some, sugar is a much more integral part of the recipe. A low-sugar meringue has very different properties to a high-sugar meringue. Trying to cut sugar in bread-making will lead to a rather flat loaf. But where the focus is on the chocolate, good quality, dark, intense, bitter chocolate, sugar should be a minor addition, just enough to mute the bitterness of the cocoa powder. Now fret not, this blog is not going to become all do-gooder, vegan, raw, natural, no-sugar healthy food. I’m merely pointing out that for me, all this excess sugar makes me uncomfortable. It should be a treat, a flavour enhancer (like salt), good quality and thus used sparingly for effect. So I guess this is more of a warning than anything else. Most of the recipes on here have fairly sensible sugar levels anyway, so if you, like me, automatically cut the sugar in a new recipe, you might have a shock if you try that with something on here. Bake these just the way they are first, eat as many as you like, almost guilt-free, then you can start playing around with them.

Double Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Adapted from Stresscake, via Whipped

 

Ingredients
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken into large pieces
70g butter
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped into irregular chunks and slivers
95g (1/2 cup) gluten-free flour blend
30g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Tiny pinch (about 1/16 teaspoon) cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
55g (1/4 cup) sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon finishing salt

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160 C. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl melt the first 50g chocolate and butter. Stir together and set aside briefly to cool. Chop the second lot of dark chocolate into chunks and slivers. Irregular is better.

3. In a small bowl stir together the gluten-free flour blend, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and first lot of salt. Set aside.

4. Into the chocolate and butter mix, beat the sugar, egg and vanilla until well combined. Stir in the flour mixture a bit at a time until it’s all been added. Finally stir in the chocolate chunks.

5. Using a tablespoon scoop up the dough and roll into roughly 1-inch balls. Arrange about 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and squash slightly with your palm. Lightly sprinkle, or press, the finishing salt into the top of the cookies; use sparingly.

6. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, or until spread out, slightly crispy-looking at the edges and smelling divine. Remove from the oven, leave to cool completely on the baking sheet, then devour.

Makes 12-15.

Written by guffblog

16th June 2011 at 20:07

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Garam masala

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Of all the flavours that stick in my head from India, garam masala is by far the most evocative. Much to my surprise while I was there I found Indian food to be fragrant, and well flavoured, rather than just spicy and discovered that in many places they use garam masala like we use salt and pepper, or brown sauce, to flavour and liven up a diverse range of dishes. This was most noticeable when, after days of little but rice and lentils I thought I would treat myself to some western food and ordered some chips (something of a weakness of mine) and even those came with a good spoonful of garam masala on top; there was no escaping it.

Back home though I came to appreciate the spice’s subtlety a bit more. Treated with a slightly more gentle hand than my french-fry-maker, the careful balance of flavours can enhance dishes without overpowering them; in the right concentration it can leave you wondering what, exactly the secret ingredient is, and never guessing for a moment it’s something most people consign to curries and nothing else.

The blend of spices on the back of my garam masala bottle reads cumin, coriander, chilli, turmeric, fennel seed, dill, clove, but each blend is unique, and everyone has their own recipe. Of course the flavours are much more potent if you toast your fresh spices and grind them together, but if you can’t be bothered, then the effects are just as startling with six-month old, shop-bought stuff.

Garam masala oatmeal raisin cookies
Adapted slightly from npr

Once again these were slightly more scone-like than I would have liked. Make sure you flatten your dough balls a little before baking them so get more cookie-like results.

Ingredients
70g (3/4 cup) gluten-free oats (a bit of a misnomer, of course, but that’s a whole post in itself)
120g (3/4 cup) gluten-free flour blend
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
62g (1/2 stick) butter, softened slightly
60g (scant 1/2 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
85g (1/2 cup) raisins

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

2. In a medium bowl stir together the oats, gf flour, xanthan gum, garam masala, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt.

3. In a large bowl beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Slowly stir in the flour mixture, and finally add the raisins.

4. Scoop tablespoon-sized balls of the dough onto the baking sheet, leaving at least an inch between them, and flatten them slightly. Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes, or until going brown on top.

5. Serve with a warming cup of chai.

Makes about 12. They last a few days in an airtight tin at room temperature.

Written by guffblog

11th May 2011 at 13:23

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Bergamot dreams

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That’s the most fitting word I can think of for bergamot. It smells familiar, but exotic. When you try and grasp at the flavour of it, it flits away leaving you with a memory of something half-defined. I had one bergamot left at the weekend and was wondering what to do with it. Beautiful though they are their strong floral aroma makes them tricky to substitute for lemons in many recipes (though substitutions tend to work very well the other way round) and being expensive, rare and generally divine I wanted to give this one a good send off. After a bit of searching I found the perfect recipe on Hungry Cravings, small two-bite bergamot biscuits, similar to shortbread, that melt in your mouth when you bite into them. The sort of dreamy baked good that is perfect for bergamot and perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

These biscuits are also ideal for making gluten-free, since their crumbly nature is only enhanced by gluten-free flours. No gummy stabilisers are required here, just pure gluten-free flour. Unfortunately I realised a little too late that I had made these too fine, and as a result their portability is pretty much nil. I can just about get one from a plate into my mouth before it dissolves like sherbet, but any further afield and there will be crumbs everywhere. The sensation when these hit your tongue is more than worth it though, melting almost instantly, and releasing their floral aroma. Just be careful when rolling them in icing sugar, lest they crumble to dust in your eager hands.

Bergamot dream biscuits
Adapted slightly from Hungry Cravings

I deliberately used very fine flours for this recipe to get the lightest, most melt-in-the-mouth texture possible. I used rice flour (a mix of white and brown rice, for slightly more nutritional value), tapioca starch and cornflour. If you play around with different flours let me know how they turn out.

Ingredients
1 cup rice flour (white and brown, mixed)
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/4 cup icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons bergamot zest
2 tablespoons bergamot juice
More icing sugar for dusting

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160 C.

2. In a medium bowl cream together the butter and icing sugar. Stir in the zest and juice.

3. In a large bowl briefly whisk together the flours and salt. Stir the flours into the butter mixture until it comes together in a cohesive ball. If the dough is a little crumbly get your hands in the bowl and knead it for a minute or so; this will help melt the butter slightly and bring it together a little more.

4. Pinch off ping-pong ball sized pieces with your hands and roll between your palms to make dough balls about 1.5-inches across. Place these about an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until just a hint of colour is showing on their tops.

Makes about 28. These keep very well in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week with no discernible change in taste or texture.

Written by guffblog

17th March 2011 at 19:15

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Charming

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This month’s Go Ahead Honey It’s Gluten Free challenge was Valentine’s day with a twist, aka love potions and charmed foods, which was a little annoying as I had a pink (well pink and white) recipe all lined up and ready to go. However, this forced me to think a little about what I could make to fit in with the theme and I eventually plumped for something with persimmon in it. An odd choice, you may wonder, but this is a fruit I have never eaten before, never even seen (or at least not noticed before) and thus it is pretty magical to me. It’s also in season in wintertime and, more importantly for this challenge, has a variety of dietary and health properties, some fairly straightforward and logical and some verging on the magical. Whilst its reputed gastrointestinal powers interested me only mildly, it was the assertion that persimmons can cure hiccups that really intrigued me. As someone who suffers more than their fare share of hiccup attacks, I was very eager to test out this property, but alas, for once the hiccups were not forthcoming.

It took me a little while to track down a persimmon, and once I did, an inordinate amount of Googling to discover what sort of persimmon I had in my possession, and thus how it should be eaten. I had apparently acquired an astringent variety that needed to ripen to the consistency of an overfilled water balloon before it would be edible. So I waited. And I waited. And I put it in a bag with an apple and waited some more. After about two weeks I got fed up and rammed the slightly squishy persimmon in the freezer for two days, before defrosting it slowly at room temperature, which had the desired effect. Since the resulting fruit was not only water-balloon soft and very fragile, but also sort of wrinkly, and I figured not much good for an elegant, raw fruit-based dish, I eventually decided to serve the now jelly-like flesh in a baked good, namely persimmon cookies. The mix of spices and fruit in this particular recipe (not to mention the simple one-bowl method) attracted me; the cookies took about 6 minutes to bring together (most of which was spent trying not to get persimmon jelly all over the kitchen) and were nice and moist once baked due to the fruit in them. Due to the fruit in them, they didn’t keep amazingly well, and by day three were looking decidedly soggy on their bottoms, but with a batch this small that shouldn’t be too much of a problem; anticipate making and eating them over the course of a weekend, or freeze a few for a later date.

Persimmon spice cookies
Adapted slightly from White on Rice Couple

I think these little nuggets of hiccup-curing* goodness really do encapsulate the theme of charmed food perfectly; soft and sweet, slightly crunchy, and exotically perfumed with fruit and spices, smelling like a breeze, whipping straight out of the pages of 1001 Arabian Nights. I reduced the sugar by half from the original recipe (well the whole recipe was halved, so the sugar was quartered) and I’m not entirely sure what persimmon’s should taste like, but mine was almost sickeningly sweet (er, in a good way), so the cookies certainly did not lack for sweetener.

Ingredients
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
Heaped 1/2 cup persimmon pulp (1 large persimmon)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup gf flour blend
Pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
1/2 cup raisins

Method
1. Preheat oven to 160 C and line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Cream together the softened butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and add the persimmon pulp. Stir in the dry ingredients until well mixed, then add the raisins. Chill the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes. Then scoop out with a tablespoon onto the lined baking sheet at 1-inch intervals. Bake for 12 minutes in the oven.

Makes 18-20 cookies. Serve with a nice delicate tea, perhaps white or jasmine, so as not to overpower the flavour of the cookies.

*Not yet scientifically proven I don’t think, nor even tested by me, but I will be sure to let you know just as soon as I try this out.

Written by guffblog

22nd February 2011 at 22:38

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All grown up

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When was the last time you made rice krispy cakes? Ten years ago? Twenty years ago? More?? These staples of childhood baking become too easy, too childish once you reach a certain age and I think that is a real shame, because they are marvellous. Quick and easy to make, but generally better for you than a biscuit, or a slice of cake, and of course, depending on your brand of puffed rice cereal, completely gluten free. If you haven’t made these in ages because they seemed too amateurish to be worthy of your attention then I have news for you. Rice krispy cakes have grown up. I first saw these on Chocolate and Zucchini and was amazed I had not seen someone do something similar before. It is so easy to turn these from activities to amuse a bored child to posh, delicious treats. I have since made these many a time, usually with ginger and almonds, but this time decided to try a different combination, with cranberry and cashew nuts. The key is to get the ratio of fruit, nut and cereal just right, so they still retain that crunch, but with flavour to boot. Try to use the best quality dark chocolate you can find, it makes these all the more satisfying.

Cranberry and cashew rice krispy treats
Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

Unlike Clotilde I decided not to toast the nuts in these, since the main purpose of this recipe, I think, is instant gratification in a spare 5 minutes, and minimal washing up.

Ingredients
100g dark chocolate
1/4 cup (about 50g) dried cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup (about 35g) cashew nuts, chopped
1/2 cup (can you even weigh rice krispies? They didn’t weigh much) of rice krispies

Method
1. In a large bowl melt the dark chocolate in the microwave. Keep checking it at 30-second intervals to ensure it doesn’t burn. When it’s almost all melted remove from the microwave and stir until it has completely melted. Alternatively you can melt it over a bain-marie.

2. Stir in the chopped nuts, cranberries and rice krispies, until everything is thoroughly coated in chocolate.

3. With a teaspoon scoop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a sheet of greaseproof paper. For better presentation you can spoon it into mini cupcake cases if you like.

4. Leave to set for 40 minutes or so, then begin eating.

Makes about 20 rice krispy treats. They keep well at room temperature for at least a week (that’s as long as mine lasted, what restraint!)

Written by guffblog

15th February 2011 at 22:44

Bad marketing

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In a stroke of Mad Men-esque genius, someone, somewhere, sometime ago, came up with the idea that a biscuit containing oats and a few whole grains could be called a granola bar, and marketed as a healthy alternative to biscuits, a healthy snack to eat on the go or even replace your breakfast with. Inspired. Despite having the same saturated fat, pure sugar and sodium levels as your average jammy dodger, in today’s health-conscious world granola bars, with their grainy texture and angelic connotations have become the go-to snack in a rush, the thing to keep in your handbag for when you’re hungry and in a rush.

These biscuits are my version of granola bars. Only I’ll cut out all the marketing and give it to your straight. They’re biscuits. They are made with butter and sugar, and yes there are oats and apple chunks in there but alas that still doesn’t make them health foods (though I reckon they contribute at least half to your 5-a-day). That said, made yourself I suspect these would work out a lot cheaper than a box of fancy health-benefit-claiming bars too. They’re really quick to make and last long enough you can have one in your lunchbox every day this week.

Apple, cinnamon and oat biscuits
Adapted slightly from Joy the Baker

As has almost become second nature now when making recipes from U.S. sources I have reduced the sugar somewhat. I have a sweet tooth, but I like my biscuits to taste of something other than sugar. These are still sweet, just not sickly.

Ingredients
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1/3 cup golden granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup gf flour blend
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup gf oats
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 medium apple
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180 C.

2. Cream the butter and the sugar together until pale and creamy. Stir in the vanilla extract and beaten egg.

3. Stir the gf flour blend, xanthan gum, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon together. Fold these into the butter and sugar mix.

4. Peel, core and dice the apple. Toss with the lemon juice to prevent it from browning (even in the oven) and stir this into the batter. Chill batter in the fridge for 15 minutes.

5. Using a tablespoon drop scoops of the batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet about an inch or two apart, as they will spread a bit. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until going lightly brown at the edges.

Makes 10-12.

Written by guffblog

10th January 2011 at 19:25

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