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Thursday 25 November 2010

Chocolate, Cinnamon and Peanut Butter Cookies

I never know for sure, because it's very hard to tell at the outset, but I think that this may be one of the recipes that someone will read here and then actually go off and make. If you're feeling like you might be that person, well, I invite you to scroll down: the picture of the dough is going to seal the deal.

After Monday's biscotti, I am pleased to be posting another biscuit recipe. Sometimes you need something easy and simple to be getting on with, and that's why I like cookies. Nothing taxing about making them, and you get to have a full biscuit jar. It's win-win.

Nigella Lawson once said that making biscuits always seems like the sort of cooking that somebody else does, and I know what she means, up to a point. But when you do get around to it (and I say this with absolute conviction), you always wonder why you don't do it more often, and what has been keeping you from doing it sooner. It's exactly the same feeling as the one I get when I listen to old Neneh Cherry records.

(I find that analogy to be particularly pleasing.)

See what I mean? You are so going to make these.

Now, why these cookies are so sensational is that you don't have to bake them all in one go. It's not that you can't (but don't eat them all in one go, please), but that the dough, when portioned and shaped into squidgy mounds, can be frozen. For ages. You can then bake the frozen dough balls straight from the freezer, and so never be more than twenty minutes away from freshly baked cookies. This is, in fact, what Lucinda Scala Quinn, editorial director of food and entertaining for Martha Stewart Living does, so as to have fresh cookies on hand for 'casual get-togethers'.

'Casual get-togethers'? Lucinda - I want an invitation!

I may well end up making these as Christmas gifts actually. I quite like the idea of giving them out, packaged in their frozen state. You get so much sugary stuff around the festive season that it would be quite cool to give someone a batch of biscuits they can bake when they want, instead of watching them stale in a prettily ribboned jar.

Just a thought.

Chocolate, Cinnamon and Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from Cookies

You will need:

2 cups plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
175g butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup soft brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2/3 cup chopped salted peanuts
2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Heat oven to 180°C, and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, bicarb. and cinnamon in a bowl.
  3. Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars together until smooth and combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla, followed by the dry ingredients. Mix to a smooth dough.
  4. Fold in nuts and chips; refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Use an ice-cream scoop to make balls of dough; place balls onto lined baking sheet, well spaced. Bake for 12 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

Monday 22 November 2010

Cantucci di Prato

Or Canticci di Pietro, if you'll allow me...

It is that time of the year when everyone starts talking about what edible Christmas treats they are making to give away, and the food blogs run wild with suggestions. Not all food blogs mind; I seem to have hardly posted at all recently, which I feel not quite bad about, but not 100% at ease with either. I have cooked for the blog, it's just that people keep eating the food before I can get a picture of any reasonable quality. And you know what low standards I have when it comes to the photos.

Thus my coq au vin will have be remade (the hardship!), as will the clafoutis (ditto) and the various cakes that never quite made it. I might wait a while for the first two though, based purely on the amount of butter that went into them. We had friends over, so it was fine, but making Julia Child recipes for just the two of us might lead to considerable weight gain, given my already-with-us-for-the-long-haul penchant for the sweet and sticky.

That reminds me: I have been saying I'll make these cinnamon rolls all year and need to get on it.

I believe I promised some Italian recipes after having been to visit Bob and Francesco in September. True slacker that I am, I haven't posted any until today, and even worse for those who want a traditional recipe, I have actually bastardised one quite awfully here. I am not going to apologise, but am going to say that they contain Brazil nuts, oranges and cinnamon, so calm down, missus, it's still all good.

As far as I am aware, Julia Child never wrote a recipe for biscotti, and she certainly never made this one, since it has no butter in it whatsoever. But I have noticed that lots of American bakers do add butter to their dough; this is so wrong. Stop it, I beg of you. The whole point of biscotti is that you dry the shizzle out of them, so adding butter is pointless.

True Cantucci di Prato contain aniseed and almonds. My biscotti have neither, because I have no desire to be that person who buys ingredients for absolutely every recipe he tries anymore. I don't have the shelf space, the time or the money. Also: Brazil nuts. Do you really want almonds instead? Didn't think so.

Some years ago I made a jar of Christmas biscotti for each family that makes up my extended family, thinking they would be a nice gift. It was an act of madness (12 jars), and will never be repeated, or at least, not without using smaller jars. However, should you wish to make these for Christmas gifts, know that:

  • they will last for ages, so you could make them now, and stash away for next month;
  • they are quite an economical gift to make so long as you use cheap packaging (basically, don't use big, expensive IKEA jars that hold an entire batch, unless you're only making them for one person) - cellophane bags would be great;
  • you can add whatever nuts and dried fruits you have in the cupboards.

Mr. P's Brazil Nut and Orange Biscotti

You will need:

300g plain flour
200g granulated sugar
100g Brazil nuts
3 eggs
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, bicarb, orange zest and nuts.
  2. Break in two of the eggs, and using your hands (keep one clean and outside the bowl, in case you need to answer the phone!), mix carefully to a dough. You can add milk if everything looks dry, but it should be fine. Take your time, and mix well.
  3. Form three small baguette shapes from the dough, each the width of two fingers. Put the dough baguettes on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with the well beaten thrid egg.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes at 190°C, then remove from the oven and slice the baguettes into biscotti. Bake the slices for another 5 minutes in the oven on the baking sheet, then turn them over and bake again on the other side for 5 minutes.
  5. Cool on a wire rack. Store airtight.

Monday 15 November 2010

Lemon and Honey Jelly Bundt

Taking pictures in a dark, November kitchen is hard. Don't hate on my bundt!

There are several reasons why you need to make this jelly bundt. Because I am literally typing as I think them up, I'm going to use everyone's favourite, the bullet point, as a way of listing them rather numbering them, mainly because I don't yet know how many I'll come up with (I know - the suspense! Hold on, readers!).

  • On the other side of the Atlantic (or Pacific, depending on where you are), it is National Bundt Day today. We have celebrated this before on Delicious Delicious Delicious.
  • It is vegan, which I always think is nice. Nothing had to die for us to enjoy it.
  • It smells and tastes like lemon jelly beans. That's a really good reason by the way.
Last year, Mary the Food Librarian posted a different bundt recipe every day for thirty days in the run-up to National Bundt Day. Some would call her crazy to attempt such a feat, but Mary did it and this year she's been doing it again. If you do your maths correctly, you'll see that that means she's made 60 different bundts over the last year or so. This is the reason I love her blog: she loves cake even more than I do.

Last year, Mary shocked the hell out of me by making a jelly bundt, so this year I am following her example. It makes sense; I didn't have time to bake last night, so decided to channel my inner Bompas & Parr and go gelatinous. What can I say, it has been a triumph.

I used some agar crystals for this which, unbeknownst to me, were yellow coloured. If you get plain ones, or use animal gelatine, your jelly will have the beautiful, pale yellow honey tones that I wanted for mine. For today though, we're putting the sexy back into artificial food colouring.

I'm not promising anything, because I have a habit of making promises I can't keep (promising, for example, not to open the first bag of pfeffernüsse we bought from Wally's Deli this year until Mr. Other P came home), but there may well be another bundt from me this week.

Happy Bundt Day!

Lemon and Honey Jelly Bundt

You will need:

agar jelly crystals (see recipe)
2 lemons

  1. First, measure the capacity of your bundt tin. Mine was 1 litre. Then, buy sufficient agar crystals to make a double strength solution in a quantity that will fit your tin. My crystals made 1 litre per packet, so I used 2 packets. Make sense? You want a strong jelly that will be easily unmoulded, hence the doubling up.
  2. Zest and squeeze the lemons; put the juice and zest into a pan with enough water to make 1 litre of liquid, 125g honey and 250g sugar (you want sugar equal to a quarter of the liquid, and half that amount of honey). Heat gently.
  3. When the sugar has dissolved, add the agar. Bring to the boil and then pout into your oiled bundt tin. By 'oiled', I mean rubbed out with a little oil soaked kitchen towel.
  4. Chill until set. The jelly will be easier to unmould if you let the tin sit in a basin of hot water for 30 seconds or so.
  5. Let joy be unconfined.
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