May 2, 2012

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Originally when I took these cookies out of the oven I complained that they weren’t good enough. I thought them ungainly and rather unsightly. (This is probably why I went OTT with the ribbon and straw photo set up. It looks a little odd, no?)  Nevertheless as I began to munch my way through this particular batch and share them about, I became a fan of them.

I quickly developed a fondness for the rough and readiness of these cookies. Not one cookie is a perfect round and they still have handprints from where I squished them into shape. Oversized chocolate chunks emerge from the cookie crust at jaunty angles. They are ungainly and a bit of pain to eat. Yet when dunked in warm milk, or heated up so they just start to melt in the microwave, they manage to redeem themselves and turn into a comfort food winner.  

I bake weekly, and more often than not, as you can tell by the massive gap between blog posts, they never make it on here. I often think the bakes aren’t blog worthy, but I guess they actually are. Everybody appreciates a simple bake. Once that can be rustled up in an hour, boxed up for people at work or something sweet to serve with a cuppa.  Maybe I should be less of a perfectionist. Stop seeking the fancy and just get posting…

The main thing to remember when making these is to use good quality MILK chocolate. The first batch I made with dark chocolate tasted frightfully bitter, chocolate cookies should be definitely sweet, indulgent and ultimately little ugly.

You will need:

50g unsalted butter

450g good milk chocolate, roughly chopped. (Milk chocolate is essential)

2 eggs

170g soft light brown sugar or light muscovado sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

85g plain flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

Method:

  • Firstly line 2 baking trays (cookie sheets preferably) with greaseproof paper
  • Preheat the oven to 170 ˚C (325˚F) Gas 3.
  • Place butter and half the chocolate in a heat proof  bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Leave until melted and smooth.
  • Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat until well mixed with a freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer.
  • Pour in the chocolate mixture beating on a slow speed until everything is well combined.
  • Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a separate bowl, stir into the chocolate mixture in 3 additions, mixing well after each addition (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).
  • Finally, stir in the remaining chocolate chunks until evenly dispersed.
  • Arrange 6 equal amounts of cookie dough on each prepared tray. A heaped tablespoonful should be adequate. Leave plenty space between each cookie (about 4cm) as they spread like crazy.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 5-10 minutes, checking regularly after 10 minutes
  • They are ready when the tops start to crack and look glossy.
  • Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the trays before turning out onto a wire cooling racks.
    Childishly dunk in warm milk and enjoy!

November 22, 2011

Christmas Peppermint Cupcakes

Last weekend I ventured down to London for a jolly wee holiday.  It was great to catch up with good friends, family and enjoy the warm southern climate. I swear it is always at least ten degrees warmer down in London than up here in Glasgow, also known as the frozen north!  One of the highlights of this particular trip was a visit to the Country Living Christmas fair. I will pause whilst you stop laughing and recover… It truly was extraordinary. The lovely Alice and I were able to the soak up the magic of the festive season by browsing stalls of hundreds of exhibitors from all over the UK in a festive extravaganza.  The Islington design centre was awash with sparkling reds, greens and golds. They had every decoration and gift imaginable – the good and the bad.  It was almost too much excitement for a Christmas fanatic like me. So, inspired (albeit in a rather cheesy fashion) by the spirit of christmas, when I got home I made these little cakes. You are looking at chocolate cupcakes topped with peppermint buttercream icing, sprinkled with crushed candy canes and festive mint sweets. 

It might be too early to be posting about Christmas but what the heck! Enjoy! 

You will need:

15- 20 regular chocolate cupcakes

110g unsalted butter at room temperature

60ml Semi- skimmed milk, at room temperature

½ teaspoon good quality peppermint extract (or more or less, depending on how minty you want your icing)

500g icing sugar, sifted

Few drops of green food colouring

In a large bowl beat the butter, milk peppermint extract and half the icing sugar. Gradually add the remainder of the icing sugar and beat again until the buttercream is smooth and creamy. Have a wee taste at this point to see if you need more peppermint extract.

Add a drop of green colouring and beat thoroughly. Only one drop is needed to achieve a very pale pastel hue.

Use icing to decorate chocolate cupcakes. Top with some peppermint sweets and crushed candy canes.

November 11, 2011

It’s been a while… 

Hello, so yes, it has been ages. Seven months in fact. It is not that I haven’t been baking it is just that I haven’t been blogging. I suppose I could come up with a number of weak excuses but that would be rather boring and tedious.  I just wanted to say I am back and full of baking ideas for the coming winter. I have lots of Christmas bakes planned. 2011 marks the return of the ginger bread house and the Christmas cake already sits quietly in my kitchen awaiting its weekly slosh of brandy. Normal service will return too. I have a pile of non holiday specific recipies all lined up and good to go.

 For now I hope you had an awesome Halloween and Bonfire night! I tried my hand at cake pops. The candy melts didn’t temper properly but perhaps the rugged appearance adds to the overall spooky effect?

Nb. Photo was an iPhone/Instagram effort  

April 11, 2011

Baked Banoffee Cheesecake

I am a sucker for bananas and would probably go as far as naming them my favourite fruit. I went through a period of religiously having a banana sandwich in my school packed lunch. There was something quite marvellous about squashing the banana in between two thick slices of bread, an even more wonderful feeling if the bread was slathered in oozing peanut butter. The combo of bread, banana and butter all stuck to the top of my mouth was one of the highlights of lunch time.  To be honest I only really elected to bake this cheesecake because it had bananas in it. That, and the fact it came with an inordinate amount of toffee sauce.

This recipe I used is taken from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen recipe book. I’m with Nigella when she (albeit in a totally O.T.T fashion) says “… I love the way a handful of mournfully overripe, positively unprepossessing bananas have given rise to this vulgarly triumphant cha-cha-cha of a cheesecake”. I can’t really fault the recipe but I have included a few top tips below.

The blacker the bananas you use the better. Not only  do they strengthen the banana flavour of the cheese cake,  it is a perfect opportunity to use up those wizened over ripe bananas languishing at the bottom of your fruit bowl.

Take Nigella’s advice and make sure your cream cheese is at room temp before you start. By doing so you will achieve the wonderful aerated mousey texture which is one of this cheesecakes best features.

This cheesecake serves 10, there is plenty cake to go round but if you are serving that many I would double up on sauce.


January 25, 2011

Lemon Meringue Tartlets

What do you do if you have a surplus of lemons after a ‘Mad Men’ themed cocktail party? If you are like me, you first recover from the inevitable hangover, then make mini lemon meringue pies!

You will need:

For the Pastry

8oz plain white flour

pinch salt

4oz cold unsalted butter, cubed

2 tsp caster sugar

1 medium free-range egg yolk

For the Lemon Curd

5oz caster sugar

7 tbsp cornflour

4 large lemons, zest and juice only

6 free-range egg yolks

For the Meringue

4oz unsalted butter, melted

6 medium free-range egg whites

11oz caster sugar

Method:

.   Begin by sifting the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.

.   Add the butter to the flour and then rub between your fingertips until the mix resembles a fine breadcrumb consistency.

.   Add the sugar, Using your hands, mix to a firm dough with the egg yolk and a splash of cold water.

.   Wrap the dough in cling film and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before using.

.  Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and grease 6 fluted loose-bottomed tart tins. Place them onto a baking tray.

. Roll out the pastry until it’s big enough to generously fit each little tin, leaving excess pastry falling over the sides of the tin onto the baking tray underneath the tin – don’t trim at this stage.


.  Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Now trim the excess pastry using a sharp knife.

.  Bake the pastry case blind for about 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is pale golden and dried out – remove the paper and beans for the last five minutes. turn the oven heat down to 150C/300F/Gas.

.  Meanwhile, for the lemon curd, mix together the sugar, cornflour and enough water to make a paste, in a large bowl.

.  Bring 50ml/2fl oz water and the lemon zest to the boil in a small pan.


.   Gradually pour the hot liquid onto the cornflour and sugar, whisking all the time until smooth.

.  Beat in the egg yolks, lemon juice and butter. Return to the pan.

.  Cook over a low heat, stirring all the time, until thickened. be careful it will thicken rapidly all of a sudden. Pour into the baked blind pastry case and leave to cool slightly.

.  For the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric whisk until they form stiff peaks. Whisk in the caster sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking well and at a high speed between each addition. Transfer the meringue into a piping bag (nozzle plain or otherwise) and pipe the meringue on top of the lemon curd. 


.  Bake for about 35-45 minutes until the meringue is crisp on the outside and soft and marshmallow-like underneath.

Dig in!

(adapted from BBC food.)




January 1, 2011

Festive Fruit Cake

I have discovered that the majority of foods I disliked as a child I actually love as an adult (eg. broccoli).  As a result I have made a point of trying previously dismissed foods for the second time. Much to my surprise I do like salmon and tomatoes and have found that Thai curry is delicious, yet Indian food is still something I still don’t enjoy. Anyway, this Christmas provided me with the opportunity for me to give fruit cake another chance. Usually the Milne’s have chocolate cake at Christmas as my sister and I never ate the fruit cake my mum baked. So relishing the challenge of baking for my harshest critics (me & my family) I set to work.

I chose Delia Smith’s recipe (for I believe no one does Christmas recipes like Delia) and although it seems like a lot of ingredients it really is worth while spending that much money on a cake. The recipe has been in print since 1978, so you know it’s reliable. You can find it here. You need to be an early bird when you make Christmas cake. I made this one 6 weeks before Christmas (although I know some people start as early as January). I poured Brandy over it every Friday afternoon and it matured beautifully. Instead of the usual marzipan coupled with rolled icing, I topped it with whipped double cream and fresh fruit. Be warned that unless they are eaten quickly the berries do tend to go mouldy. My parents are still munching through the cake in Edinburgh as we speak albeit sans berries. Om nom nom…

And the verdict? Well, I still am not biggest fan of Christmas cake, but I have been told that this one was particularly delicious and it was a joy to bake.

I know this entry was all about Christmas cake but before I go, as it is January 1st, I would like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! May 2011 be everything you want it to be! x

December 26, 2010

Christmas Meringues

My Meringues have become something of a Christmas family tradition.  Most of us pass on the Christmas pudding for these oversized sweet treats. It doesn’t matter how much you have had to eat all ready, the Milne motto is ‘there is always room for dessert!’. My 96 year-old Grandfather couldn’t be a bigger fan, even though he demolished a bowl full yesterday, he still requested that I pop down to his nursing home with some cream & meringues today! I now understand where my unrequited ‘little fatty’ gene comes from… Meringues are my all time favourite dessert and they are really simple to make. The best recipe I have found is in Nigella Lawson’s book Feast  (under wedding meringues). This recipe consistently makes wonderfully light meringues that are beautifully crisp on the outside yet gooey and chewy on the inside.

Because it’s Christmas, sod your arteries and serve with a big dollop of whipped cream!

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Chums!

I hope Santa was good to you.

May your bellies be full to bursting and your glasses remain full.

Festive love to you all,

Zoe x

October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I hope it is your spookiest, most horrifying Halloween yet! If you don’t celebrate Halloween, I hope you have a lovely Sunday!

(Cakes adapted from Hello Cupcake)

October 27, 2010

Nutella Cupcakes

I took a little holiday to Berlin recently. I love it there! In 2009 I spent an amazing summer living in the city, designing and writing a travel guide. It was great to be back visiting old and favourite haunts. It is so rare that you get to visit places more than once.

The trip to Berlin was just the holiday I needed. It was great to get away from everything and take a breather -I have been getting rather stressed about employment (mostly the lack of it) and money (yuk!). Walking about the city brought back so many good memories from last summer. I visited the German capital with a couple of good friends of mine. I was so happy that I remembered where to go and where things were, I don’t have the greatest of memories and I was a little worried about playing tour guide for my friends. There is nothing worse than a guide who doesn’t know where she is going! I only got lost twice, which for me is a new record!

I came across the little Squirrel featured in the above photo whilst wandering up the Unter den Linden. He is one of the best novelty kitchen items I have seen in a while. He is a Nutella spreader (!!!). I am a massive fan of Nutella. Although I stopped buying it this year because I realised I had started to just eat it out of the jar, no bread, no spoon, I was just licking it off my fingers like a little fatty. However, I have allowed it to be brought back into my cupboards because of this little spreader. He is just too cute! Looking for any excuse to feature Mr Squirrel (you can see all of him below) on Zoe Makes Cakes, I decided to make Nutella Cupcakes. They are great because you don’t have to ice them. The swirling Nutella on top acts as decoration all by itself.

You will need:

1 quantity of vanilla cupcake batter

A jar of Nutella, you won’t need all of this but it is best to have a full one on standby.

Method:

Fill cupcake cases 3/4 full with cupcake batter, then drop in a teaspoon of Nutella. Swirl the tops with a cocktail stick/toothpick. Bake until golden.

Enjoy!


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