Trial and error

Baking sometimes is a bit like dating. You flirt with new recipes and new cookbooks. You might even take them out on a couple of dates. But it takes a long time to find “The One”.

When it comes to the humble chocolate chip cookie, I have dated a lot. It’s a really simple thing. It’s a cookie with chocolate chips in. Really, how complicated can it be?! But apparently the ultimate in chocolate chip cookies is hard to find. The worst thing is that even after I found The One, I kept looking. I even cheated, but only once. I blame James Martin for the incident. Sometimes a girl can’t resist Sweet Baby James…

chocolate chip cookies

But after that, there really only was one recipe for me. It’s perfect. It should be considering the chef whose creation it is was working at a Michelin starred restaurant when she wrote the book that contains it. The chef in question is Claire Clark who at the time was the pastry chef at the French Laundry in California.

The book, Indulge, is amazing with recipes from the achievable to the “only if you’re a trained pastry chef” but I do desperately want to conquer them all. In the meantime, the cookies are to die for and the recipe is as follows:

  • 185g plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 125g softened, unsalted butter
  • 165g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
  • 225g dark chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cream together the butter and the sugar which is why it is important the butter is soft. I confess I do this in my (very pretty) Kitchen Aid mixer so if the butter isn’t really soft it doesn’t matter, it’s not my arm that dies. If your butter is a bit hard then chop it into cubes and put it in the microwave for a few seconds or, if your bowl is oven-proof, then plonk it in the oven for a minute or so. Do not, however, do my trick and end up with melted butter. It makes life somewhat awkward…

When these are nice and pale and fluffy (and your arm feels like it’s about to drop off), start adding the egg and vanilla, a little bit at a time. If you add too much then it will curdle but don’t panic if it does, just add a tablespoon full of the flour. No bother.

Once you’ve added all the egg and vanilla, fold through the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Do this very gently as you don’t want to overwork the gluten or you will end up with chewy cookies. And that is not chewy in a good way.

Once the flour is mixed in then all that is left is the chocolate. And there is a lot of chocolate. Sometimes it feels like there is more chocolate than cookie but how can that be a bad thing? Stir this through the dough as gently as you can in order to get the chocolate mixed through the dough completely.

Now of course you can just eat it at this stage (although I do have to say, there are raw eggs so pregnant women, elderly people and small children really shouldn’t have any) but to actually make cookies, put about a tablespoon of mixture on a baking sheet but only put about six on a big baking sheet or they will all join together when they bake.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes. It is a bit of a vague one because it depends on so many things, exactly how hot your oven is, how well your baking sheet conducts heat… They should be puffed up and a bit golden. You don’t want to have them too baked or they’ll be crunchy rather than a bit gooey.

So there you are, the perfect chocolate chip cookie. And even better, you should end up with about 20 of them. Glass of milk and a book, what more do you need?

Average Josephine x

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A waste of good cake

Despite the fact that I can’t eat the majority of cakes now, I still collect cake recipes like a mad woman as I do still bake (half of my recipes board on Pinterest is cake related). Other people just benefit from the sugary goodness and my waistline benefits from me not eating it.

But there is a type of cake which I don’t like and despite it being the it cake of the moment, I don’t really see the point of.

Red velvet cake.

Red Velvet Cake. Source: www.joyofbaking.com

Red Velvet Cake. Source: http://www.joyofbaking.com

I have only had it once and that was a cupcake from none other than the Hummingbird Bakery so it should have been the best going but it was a bit dry (which might have been the baking) and tasted like food colouring. Yep, you could taste the colouring in there. Not pleasant. And this is the big reason I don’t do red velvet cake. Because the modern recipe has corrupted what was a traditional recipe from America’s deep South where the red the name refers to came from a reaction between the cocoa and the buttermilk the cake contained. Whilst even the most authentic recipes contained colouring it wasn’t in the quantities that are used now. Whilst this is partly due to a change in the processing of cocoa (I’m not going to get into the science of it) which makes the red tinge more pronounced, as time has gone by people have got more and more fixated on the ‘red’ part of red velvet cake rather than the cake itself.

We do not need red velvet pancakes, brownies, cheesecake or anything else and we certainly don’t need blue velvet cake (the idea makes my head hurt). And if you really want red velvet cake, then do the best thing for your body and make chocolate beetroot cake. At least that way you can claim to have had a vegetable portion with your pudding.

Are you a red velvet cake fan? Or do you prefer your cake minus the massive amounts of colouring?

Average Josephine x

Heaven in a tin

When I saw Bangs and a Bun tweeting about how boring eating right for her Berlin half-marathon training can be and how she wanted toast cereal and cake, my way forward was clear.

Whilst it might not contain toast, there was only one thing that would solve Bangs’ problem: the ultimate Rice Krispie cake.

The recipe for this is something that I have been making for years, in fact my Mum used to make it to sell it at school fêtes and bake sales. I believe it originally came from a copy of Family Circle (although any paper copy of the recipe has long since disappeared) although when I have no idea and we now make it from memory as luckily the quantities and ingredients are ridiculously easy to remember.

All you need is:

  • 100g butter
  • 100g toffee
  • 100g marshmallows
  • 200g rice krispies

See, ridiculously easy to remember and also incredibly easy to increase or decrease as you need although I wouldn’t recommend making it in batches with more than 400g rice krispies as the volume becomes a little problematic!

All you need to do is put the butter, toffee and marshmallows into a big (and I mean big, you need to be able to fit the rice kripsies in there as well) saucepan and place over a low heat and let everything melt. It seems like it will never melt and come together but just be patient. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up, the toffee and marshmallows are essentially pure sugar and they will burn. Stir periodically to make sure nothing sticks to the base of the pan and burns as well.

rice krispie cake mix

Once everything has melted you should have this slightly fluffy, pale toffee coloured mixture. Take this off the heat and pour in the rice krispies. Stir the rice krispies into the melted goo (it really is goo, there’s no other way to describe it) and don’t worry about the fact you can hear some of them go snap, crackle and pop. Enough will remain whole and the goo really will cover all the krispies, even though it might not seem like it when you first start mixing.

Once everything is mixed in, pour into a greaseproof paper lined tin. The size of the tin depends on how thick you want your rice krispie cake, it really doesn’t matter that much! Now try and wait for it to cool and set before you eat it… And if you can wait, you are a much, much stronger person than me!

Enjoy….

Average Josephine x