Sunday, 22 February 2015

Double Chocolate Cookies- my version of Ben's Cookies

A couple of good friends set me a challenge the other day. After breathing a rather mighty sigh of relief that the challenge had nothing to do with running a marathon (Gagh!) or lying in a bath of cold baked beans (Urgh!) or giving up cake for a month (What?!), it turned out the challenge was to see if it was possible to replicate the Ben's Cookies Cookie recipe.

Ben's Cookies have several stores in and around London and Oxford and make rather heavenly soft cookies with delicious, melting chunks of chocolate dotted throughout. But my friends live rather a distance away. And until Ben's Cookies develop mail order a home baked version would have to do.

After a little trial and error in the kitchen, watching marvellously decadent videos such as this Luke Evans one (WARNING: do not watch if hungry) and perusing articles entitled 'The Science Behind the Perfect Cookie' this is my version of the Ben's Cookies Double Chocolate Chip Cookie:

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Double Chocolate Cookies- my version of Ben's Cookies

Makes 10-12

100g unsalted butter
75g golden caster sugar
75g soft brown sugar
1 medium egg
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1.5 tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate, chopped into small and large chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Grease and line two baking sheets
2. Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined.
3. Fold in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Add a little milk if needed if the mixture appears dry
4. Stir in the smaller chocolate chunks. Form the mixture into 10-12 small balls and place, well separated, on the baking sheets. Insert the larger chocolate chunks into the centre of each cookie, which will give a lovely gooey centre when baked
5. Bake for ten minutes and allow to cool completely on the trays once removed from the oven

Baker's notes...

  • These were really, really, really good. Like, really good. My husband made my promise not to give any away.
  • A variety of chocolates, nuts and dried fruit can be added to create a lovely twist. Cranberry and Macadamia anyone? Peanut Butter maybe? A Spring like Lemon? 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Happy Valentine's Day: Pear and Almond Crumble Cake

Ah, Valentine's Day.

The annual celebration of either:

a. the tacky greeting card industry, red rose growers and restaurants that double the cost of their set menu while popping up a couple of heart-shaped helium balloons that inevitably, depressingly, deflate into the chocolate fondants by ten pm


b. loved up couples everywhere wanting to demonstrate their undying devotion through a romantic card (such as this one), an extravagant bunch of hand-tied, over-sized roses and dinner a deux in the city's best restaurant

However you celebrate, and with whomever, make sure there's a cake involved. Because (WARNING: cheesiness alert!) cake makes every day better, not just St Valentine's.

Like this one.


Pear and Almond Upside Down Cake

For the crumble:
50g unsalted butter
75g plain flour
50g light brown sugar

50g flaked almonds

100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp almond extract
150g self raising flour
a little dash of milk, if needed

3 pears, peeled, quartered and cut into cubs 

1. Grease and line a 8 inch round tin. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/ 180C /160C fan/350F

2. Prepare the crumble: place the flour into a bowl and add the butter. Using the tips of your fingers rub the butter and flour together until the mixture forms bread crumbs. Add the sugar and flaked almonds and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Set aside

3. For the cake: cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, then gradually add the eggs and extract. Fold in the flour. Add a dash of milk if required to achieve a thick consistency. 
4. Dollop the cake mixture into the prepared tin, smooth over the top and place the pear over the top. Sprinkle over the crumble and place in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The crumble should be golden and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean
5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before placing on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar prior to serving

Baker's notes...

  • Eat as pudding, warm from the oven, drowning in custard. Or serve a slice or two as part of afternoon tea
  • We can partly blame the commercialization of Valentine's day on Richard Cadbury, a member of the infamous chocolate dynasty who introduced heart shaped packaging for his chocolates in the 1800s for Valentine's Day. But then again, his company also introduced the world to the Fruit & Nut Bar, so I reckon all is forgiven. Plus everyone ( loves a nice box of chocolates on Valentine's Day. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake

There are some things in life that need to be eaten in a very particular fashion. 

Take the Jaffa Cake. Nibble around the edges, carefully lever off and eat the remaining biscuit before munching on the gooey orangey bit*

Or the Bourbon Biscuit, which is eaten by delicately taking apart the two biscuits and enjoying the chocolate cream filling as an entire separate entity.

And there are ways of not eating things. Kit Kats are designed for eating as individual fingers. NEVER EVER munch across all four Kit Kat fingers as though a bloomin' cheese sandwich. 

Meanwhile, the way to eat this Jamaican Ginger Cake? Preferably with a lovely hot cup of tea, curled up on an armchair with a ridiculous number of soft squidgy cushions, a blanket draped over your knees and infront of a roaring fire while the snow silently falls outside. Daydreaming about the origins of the Jamaican Cake is optional (that'd be long sandy beaches and azure blue skies in the Caribbean ocean rather than the McVities factory, please). 

*Unless you are Peter Czerwinski from Canada, current holder of the Guinness Book of Records Number of Jaffa Cakes Eaten in One Minute record. At 17 in a minute he probably didn't have time to carefully nibble around the edges, carefully lever off and eat the remaining biscuit before munching on the gooey orangey bit.

Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake

175g plain flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp milk
0.5 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g dark treacle
75g golden syrup
75g light muscovado sugar
75g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten

To decorate
50g icing sugar
Chopped crystallised ginger

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3. Grease and line a 900g/2lb loaf tin. In a large bowl sift the flour and spices. 
2. Mix the bicarbonate of soda and milk together and set aside
3. In a small saucepan, melt the treacle, golden syrup, sugar, butter, extract and 75mls water until combined, stirring throughout and removing from the heat before the mixture boils
4. Add the syrup mixture to the flour and spices, beat together until combined. Add in the egg and milk mixture and thoroughly beat together
5. Pour into the prepared tin and bake on a lower shelf for 1¼–1½ hours until it’s well-risen and firm to the touch.
6. Once cooled, mix the icing sugar with enough water to form a smooth mixture. Drizzle over the cake and decorate with the crystallised ginger

Baker's notes

  • This recipe is based on Delia's Dark Jamaican Gingerbread- I've made a few tweaks including using a different sugar, adding the vanilla and upping the quantity of dark treacle to add a little extra stickiness to the cake
  • I've decorated with some simple water icing and crystallised ginger. For an extra ginger hit, finely chop a little stem ginger and add to the mixture