Life is uncertain. Eat Dessert first.

Cookies and Biscuits

Chocolate Crackles

Bad New Year’s Resolution: “I will give up eating biscuits and cakes”. Good New Year’s Resolution: “I will only eat biscuits and cakes I make myself”. This first recipe for 2012 is from The Great British Bake-Off How To Bake book, which is one of the three baking cookbooks I was lucky to receive as gifts over Christmas (more to follow from the other two at later dates!). A fantastic book that does justice to a very enjoyable TV show (probably my favourite from last year), it includes all of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood’s Masterclass recipes, as well as clear step-by-step instructions on how to make the more difficult bakes.

These dark chocolate biscuits are rolled in icing sugar just before baking, which gives them their crazy paving look. The following quantites make about 30, so there’s plenty to put aside in a airtight container to eat over the next five days, or else bring in to work the next day to impress your colleagues!

INGREDIENTS

100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

100g softened unsalted butter

150g light brown muscovado sugar

1 large free-range egg, room temperature

half teaspoon vanilla extract

175g self-raising flour

half teaspoon bicarbonate soda

2-3 tablespoons icing sugar

Put the chopped chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl and set over a pan of steaming hot but not boiling water (don’t let the base of the bowl touch the hot water). Leave to melt gently. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir in the butter. When the mixture is completely smooth stir in the muscovado sugar. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the egg with the vanilla just until combined, then add to the bowl. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and chill for about one hour until firm.

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Divide the chocolate dough into 30 even-ish shaped pieces and roll into neat balls. Spoon the icing sugar into a shallow dish. Roll the balls, one at a time, in the sugar to coat thickly. Set the balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing well apart to allow for spreading (bake the biscuits in batches, if necessary).

Bake for 10 minutes for a softer biscuit, or 12 minutes for a crisp result. Remove from the oven and leave on the sheets for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. The biscuits will continue to firm up as they cool.


Afternoon Tea: Lemon Squares, Half-blondie/Half-brownies, Crunchy Top Scones

“There are few hours in life more agreeable then the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as Afternoon Tea” – Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

A dining experience that has come back into vogue in the last few years, the rebooted 21st Century Afternoon Tea can sometimes fall between being a stuffy, mock-aristocratic pastiche, or a doilies and egg sandwich “granny chic” event. This article lists a couple of the best options for Afternoon Tea around Ireland.

The key to hosting a successful Afternoon Tea at home is a diversity of sandwich fillings served on a selection of breads, a variety of tea (and coffee) options, and a selection of bite-sized cakes! Tray bakes are your best bet, as they can just be cut into slightly smaller portions then you would normally serve.

I’ve previously blogged about the Half-blondie, Half-brownies – the other treats in the photo are Lemon Squares from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, and Crunchy-Topped Sweet Scones from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookbook.

LEMON SQUARES

Preheat the oven to 170degC.

For the base, put 290g plain flour, 70g icing sugar, a pinch of salt, 230g unsalted butter and 2 tsp grated lemon zest in a freestanding electric mixer and beat until the mixer resembles breadcrumbs. Press the dough together with your hands, then press it evenly into the base of a deep baking tray, lined with baking parchment. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until light golden. Leave to cool, with the oven left on, while you make the topping.

Put 210g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice and 3 tsps grated lemon juice in a bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk until well mixed. Pour carefully over the baked base and return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the top has set. Leave to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

CRUNCHY TOP SWEET SCONES

Sieve 450g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 25g caster sugar, and 1 and a half heaped tsp of baking powder into a large bowl. Cut 85g butter into cubes, toss in the flour then rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk 3 eggs with 215ml milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.

Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to 2.5cm and cut into scones with a ring cutter. Put on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with jam and a blob of whipped cream.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

You can make these double choc by replacing 30g of flour with cocoa powder. Make ’em big to get them soft and chewy! Another winner from Lorraine Pascale.

Preheat the oven to 190degC. Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment.

Put 110g softened butter with 200g soft light brown sugar in a large bowl and cream together until combined. Stir in one egg with a few drops of vanilla extract and mix well. Add 200g plain flour, a pinch of salt, half a tsp of baking powder and half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda and mix until the dough looks uniform. Add 100g chopped dark chocolate and mash together with a wooden spoon (the recipe advises using 100g milk chocolate chips AND 100g dark chocolate chips, but that looks a bit much – you can decide yourself how chocolatey to make it!).

The dough will be very stiff – divide into 9-10 balls and space about 10cm apart on the baking trays – they will really spread out so give them loads of room. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes – the cookies will have a cracked top and will be very soft. Remove the cookies from the oven and leave to cool on the baking trays. They will quickly harden as they cool.


APPLE WEEK! – Sunday: Apple-Oatmeal Cookies

Mrs Moveable Feast decided we have had quite enough cakes this week, thank you very much, so she took it upon herself to make a batch of Apple-Oatmeal Cookies from the WeightWatchers Cookbook to finish off Apple Week.

Preheat the oven to 175degC and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, combine 1 and a half cups of rolled oats (toasted until lightly browned), half a cup of plain flour, half a tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of baking soda, and a 1/4 tsp salt (all measurements given in US sizes, as they appear).

Cream a 1/4 cup light brown sugar with 2 and a half tbsp of softened unsalted butter. Add a large egg, 1 peeled, cored and coarsely grated apple and a half tsp of vanilla extract. Add the oats mixture; stir to blend, then stir in 1/4 cup of raisins.

Drop the dough by tablespoons onto the baking sheets, forming 12 cookies on each sheet; flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake until lightly browned, 12 -15 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

PS if you like the Dunk Mug, you can buy them here.


Big Elf Toys – Opening Day Treats

The fantastic Big Elf Toys opened their doors today at 7 South Main Street in Naas. Moveable Feast were on hand to provide an assortment of treats for the lucky children who dropped by today.

Clockwise from top left: mini fairy cakes, Mars Bar Rice Krispie Squares, Gingerbread Rockets, Gingerbread Robots, chocolate covered shortbread stars, Lemon Squares, Top Hats.


Flapjacks

Just back from holidays so have a backlog of tasty dishes to post – first up is a batch of flapjacks from Lorraine Pascale’s “Baking Made Easy” book, which tied-in with her BBC2 series.

“Baking Made Easy” is one of those rare books that not only looks and reads incredibly well, but every dish, sweet and savoury, is mouthwateringly tempting. I feel this is going to be my “go to” book for the next couple of posts!

Flapjacks are very easy to make – with no flour or eggs it’s difficult to go wrong making them, unless you leave them in the oven for too long. Preheat the oven to 150degC and line an 8in square baking tin with baking paper. Melt 175g butter in a medium pan over a low heat. Add 175g golden syrup and 175g muscovado sugar to the butter and heat gently – measuring golden syrup accurately is almost impossible because so much sticks to the bowls and spoons you use, so I normally just take an enducated guess based on how much is left in the tin i.e. 175g was about half what I had in the tin.

Once the sugar is dissolved and the butter melted remove the pan from the heat and stir in 350g porridge oats, the finely grated zest of a lemon and a good pinch of ground ginger. Pack the mixture into the baking tin and squash down. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven, leave to cool for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a chopping board and cut into squares.


Happy Valentine’s Day – Gingerbread Hearts

I used a basic gingerbread recipe, some heart-shaped cookie-cutters, and edible sugar hearts to decorate the biscuits. I made a basic icing with icing sugar, lemon juice and a drop of red food colouring to die the icing pink, and I used the icing to “glue” the hearts in place. The writing and outlines were drawn with icing pens, which are available in most supermarkets.