Cookie Thief

Yep. I am. From Smitten Kitchen. Have you read her blog? If not, you should. Deb lives in NYC and has a tiny tiny kitchen. Not the normal kitchen found in most homes in America – but a proper tiny kitchen. Like you’d find pretty much anywhere in the UK unless you have a gigantic house or castle in the countryside with an AGA. I started reading her blog around 2008-2009. Once I realised I was moving to the UK, I was confident that if she could cook in a tiny kitchen, my kitchen in Scotland wouldn’t be any trouble. Or in England.

 

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NYC kitchen photo courtesy and (c) Smitten Kitchen

Except I still really don’t cook. You’ve seen my attempts. Same with baking. I can get on a roll (no pun) though, and when I do, my waistline expands considerably. Like last week. Craving chocolate chip cookies. Not really a “thing” here in the UK. 101 cookies/biscuits of every form in the store except those. So, back to the recipe I’ve used time and time again over the years:

Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour (plain flour in UK speak)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup (190g) packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar (white sugar, not icing sugar)
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) vanilla extract (you can use less if you want)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 cups (about 12oz) chocolate chips (semi-sweet, dark – your choice)
  • chopped walnuts if you want (I WANT!)

Pre-heat oven to 325F (165c). Line cookie sheets with parchment or Silpat mat (or grease as needed).

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In another bowl, cream melted butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Beat egg, egg yolk, and vanilla into the melted butter mixture until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients, chocolate chips (and nuts).

(I chilled the dough for about 1/2 hour but you don’t have to). Drop the cookies onto the sheet (about 12 will fit on a standard sized cookie sheet) about a tablespoon at a time. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes (mine were about 17-20min but they’d been chilled too). Let sit for about a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

I had approximately 36 cookies. Not including the bit of dough I ate (no, I do not believe eating raw cookie dough will kill you – I’ve been doing it for 40+ years, however, use caution as there are raw eggs in the mix!) Additionally, the last time I made them, I only had dark brown sugar which made the cookies really dark and a tad hard to tell when they were done in the oven so back to the light brown sugar it is!

Really, they are crispy and chewy just like Deb’s recipe. My dad and I ate them all in 48hrs. Oink.

 

 

 

The fancy, professional photos are from Smitten Kitchen and the copyright/trademark belongs to them! 

 

 

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Collecting Europe

Here are the results from my sugar sculpting workshop at the V&A this weekend. It was done in part with Tasha Marks of AVMCuriosities and Jon Beck of Scan the World. Sugar sculpture was quite the art form beginning in the 16th century and was a way to show off enormous wealth and prosperity. Elaborate sugar displays often featured architecture and design elements with the pastry chefs showing off design skills, as many carved their own exclusive hardwood moulds. For the workshop, Tasha and Jon spent time taking photographs of objects around the museum to turn into 3D printed moulds for us to use (and with an approximate cost of £0.20 each, it was much less expensive than making moulds by hand)!

The basic recipe:

  • 454g icing (powdered sugar)
  • 28g gum tragacanth
  • 61ml water (or rosewater)

Chicken Noodle Soup (again)

It’s still soup weather. As I stated before, I’m a lazy cook. And soup that involved broth – I always thought it was super complicated and involved boiling chickens and bones and all sorts of things. Then, I made this about 2 weeks ago, forgot to take pictures, but because the weather is so *ugh* I decided to make it again! It really couldn’t be simpler – even for non-cooks!

  • Water (a big pot full, no really any need to measure)
  • Bouillon cubes (I used 3 chicken cubes and 1 vegetable cube)
  • Bag of “soup vegetable mix” from Lidl (for real, I think this was only £0.69!!! It has potatoes, carrots, and leeks)
  • Leftover chicken from a roast chicken I’d made the night before
  • 1 “ball” of thin egg noodles I had in the pantry (use any sort of pasta you have)
  • 1-2tsp of plain flour (if you want a thicker broth)

Dump the bouillon cubes and vegetables in the stockpot, simmer until the vegetables are tender. (I did this on the lowest flame possible on my stove, for maybe an hour?)

Then add the chicken and simmer for another 15-20min. About 10min or so before you’re ready to serve it, add the noodles. Voila! Easy peasy!

Now, depending on how much water you did/didn’t put in the pot initially, you may need to add more water if it boils down too much and ends up too thick. If you want your broth a bit thicker, add a teaspoon or two of plain flour.

More Christmas Baking

‘Tis the season, eh? Baking is full scale out of control here, I should be a size 1,890 by next week I’m sure!

Marshmallows made, including another box mix from Marks & Spencer which was super duper easy. Again, you can’t have general groceries from them delivered, but if you live near a larger store, it’s worth trying for only £1.50 (as of last week) a box. It is hard to see lovely marbling due to having to really coat them in powdered/icing sugar to prevent them from sticking!

Pie cookies iced, butter cookies pressed out (and I broke the damn cookie press…SMH), Russian tea cookies done and dusted, and the Linzer cookies will be this coming week. And I think I finally found a mince pie I like! Woot. I was unsure. Because it seemed so traditionally British, for the last few years I felt like I owed it to the country to try to like them. No luck with a super posh box from Harrod’s (given away after 1) or some from M&S (again, given away). I technically should like everything in them – pie crust, raisins, sultanas, apples, other dried fruits, sugar. What’s not to like?

Process of elimination has led me to think it’s the rum (or brandy) that for me, gives it an odd flavour. Also, what about suet? Maybe it’s because traditional suet is meat based? I’m not sure, but after much research (I’ve said before I’m a marketing person’s dream) and double-checking the Good Housekeeping site, the rest is history. I purchased a box of the Iceland brand luxury mince pies! With vegetable suet. Seriously. 6 for £1.50.

Recipes found on BBC Good Food indicate you can make a mince filling too without using suet which is intriguing. I’m not at the stage yet where I’m ambitious enough (or really really like them enough) yet to try that, but this recipe looked promising. Could I substitute the alcohol for water or juice? Hmmm. A project for next year I think…

 

Well, that being said, Christmas is here, so enjoy yourself and time with friends and family! Merry Christmas!

 

 

Pie pictures are courtesy Iceland and Good Housekeeping, trademarks and all that. 

Easy (Easier) Christmas Baking

My mom bakes up a storm over Christmas, but because she’s in England and didn’t pack lots of kitchen stuff (smaller kitchen, plugs are different, etc.) much of her baking in the last three Christmases has been scaled back considerably. So, for an easy, scaled back Christmas to get your GBBO on, here are two easy recipes (one isn’t even a recipe, really) – the reindeer cookies from Marks & Spencer and a recipe modified/adapted from Pinterest! The pie cookies started last year and are the newest cookie to grace my mom’s Christmas baking arsenal since, probably, 1975!

First, the reindeer cookies! Easy on a scale of 1-10, I’d say 6.5. Easy to make, PITA to assemble, but super fun if you have little kids (though supervised as some things have to be done when the cookies/baking tray are still very warm). And number two – the pie cookies are probably an 8 or 9 on the easy scale! There is no measuring or anything involved; they were made up and all baked in less than 2hrs – decorating for the next day.

Reindeer:

I was in a larger M&S food hall near my home and, on a whim, hoped they’d have cake mix. Yes, cake mix is more an American thing, but easy in a pinch when you don’t have time to make from scratch! Anyway, M&S did have the cake mix (carrot) and I found this box of reindeer cookies. The mix makes 12 cookies; comes with all the stuff – pretzels for ears, white chocolate for eyes, and jam for the noses! You literally just add butter. The cookies are shortbread, so when the come out of the oven use caution as typically, it crumbles easily. When I popped in the other day, the mix was on offer 3 for 2 or £1.50 per box!

HINT – put the pretzels in right when they come out of the oven and the cookies are still warm – don’t wait the 3-4min like the directions say!

Pie Cookies:

Adapted from Pinterest (if you have it, the link is here), they were supposed to be a topping for a turkey pie used from the leftover bits of Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey. How the idea came to turn them into cookies, I don’t remember.

  • 2 pre-made refrigerated pie crust (in the US, use your standard Pillsbury – in the UK use any standard shortcrust…I used some from Sainsbury’s that was on sale)
  • Chopped walnuts or pecans, or a mix (I just used a knife to coarsely chop mine)
  • Dried fruit (I had a mix of raisins, sultanas, cherrys, apricots, cranberries – or one or the other, whatever you prefer)
  • For the icing: Confectioners (icing) sugar, orange zest from a fresh orange, and rather than water, use the juice of the orange instead

Let the pie crust sit out for about half an hour to get to room temperature. Pre-heat your oven to 220c/425F.

Then lightly dust your work surface with flour so the crust doesn’t stick & is a bit easier to roll out. Roll out 1 crust so it’s a bit thinner and seal any seams (particularly in the Pillsbury crust). Sprinkle the nuts and dried fruit on the pie crust, then place the second pie crust on top and again, lightly roll out so the crusts are now even and the crusts are pretty well stuck together.

Cut out with a small 2″ round cutter, or be even more simple and use a knife or pizza cutter to easily cut them into squares! The pie crust will be a bit gappy – unless you go and try to pinch each individual round cookie together around the edges. Take all the bits of scrap dough together, ball it up, and roll it out again to get those last bits of cookie! (The cookies that are made with the scrap dough are square below, the just plain “sandwich” method had them round.)

Now, the alternative method, which I’m starting to think works better, would be to sandwich the nuts and dried fruit between the dough as above, but start with balling it up and then rolling it out (so you’ll have lots of cookies that will look like the square ones in my photos). The dough doesn’t seem to separate this way when baking. Go figure. Either way…

Bake for 15min (anywhere between 8-15 depending on your oven though – just lightly golden coloured). Based on the size of the cookies, and using up all the scrap dough, I got 58 cookies. If the square scrap bits had been a bit more even, easily 60 cookies – no bad.

After they’re cool, mix up some powdered sugar, orange zest, and orange juice to make a little royal icing glaze to drizzle over the tops. (Mine were still cooling at the time of this post). You could even sprinkle coarse sugar on the top before baking if you don’t like the idea of royal icing.

What’s not to like about pie crust, dried fruit, and nuts?!?!

 

Lazy (but easy) Cooking

The weather has been downright nasty these last few days. I did manage to get down to Winchester on Sunday for their Christmas Market. The weather, despite the storm that raged through the night before, held off and it wasn’t too bad to walk around! The market is much smaller than Bath, but honestly, it felt less chaotic despite the crowds and it seemed to work well with the regular Sunday market on the high street. Parking is also free on Sundays at the city-owned lots!

That being said, cold, rainy weather needs decent, cosy food, right? Waitrose Weekend paper recipe to the rescue again!

Recipe is here too (obviously geared towards Waitrose branded products, but use what you have, right?):

Serves 4 – cooking time approx 20 minutes

  • 450g pack beef mince
  • 1 onion (I omitted this – I hate onions – I used a dash of onion powder)
  • 2tsp chilli powder
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes (I used passata instead – I hate tomatoes in chunks!)
  • 400g can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 150ml vegetable stock
  • 250g dried Tortiglioni pasta (I used 1 package of spiral pasta that I had in my pantry)
  • 75g mature cheddar cheese, grated

Brown the mince and the onion until cooked. Stir in chilli powder and cook for another minute.

Stir in beans, tomatoes, and stock. Cook for another 10-15 minutes.

While this is mince, beans, etc. is cooking, cook the pasta for about 10 minutes or until tender.  Once done, drain and add to the mince and tomatoes mixture. Thoroughly mix, then transfer to an oven-proof baking dish and place under a pre-heated grill for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted and browned!

Easy peasy! Now, put cosy sweats and thick socks on, make a plate, and chill with a Netflix binge…

 

This post is not sponsored by Waitrose, but I use them more often than not because it’s within walking distance of my house and their weekend paper often has some hidden gems of recipes inside!

Lazy Baking

I picked up a mini layer cake pan set whilst in the US. Add rainy day + one box spice cake mix + homemade cream cheese frosting. Voila!

I’m surprised more people don’t use box cake mixes. You can easily fancy them up by using extra eggs, butter rather than oil, etc. (There are plenty of hacks for box cake mixes all over the internet!)

That being said, I don’t like frosting, although my attempt at a “rustic” style spice cake will not get me to the finals on GBBO anytime soon… But it should taste good!