Since the countdown to Christmas is now in full swing, I thought that a recipe for shortbread is now in order. This is one of my go-to things to bake when I am invited at someone’s home. Reasons being: I definitely don’t need to spend a fortune for gifts, I can make it easily up to two days before the event (it will keep wonderfully well if stored properly), it can be easily transported anywhere without becoming a mess when travelling, and the recipe can be varied according to any flavour you want. I have once tried it with lavender and lemon zest. It was the nicest thing I have ever had. It’s a win-win situation all round.
During the past few weeks I made quite a number of pizzas, reason being I’m still testing out my oven. I didn’t want to bake before making sure I wasn’t about to burn anything. A couple of friends whom I visited last Saturday are still waiting for a lemon drizzle cake. And this morning, when I actually had some time on my hands, I ran out of sugar, so the cake just has to wait. My mum came over for a short visit though and we made some pizzas for lunch.
This recipe is as recent as it gets: we finally made churros at home. This week. It was messy, the kitchen has never seen such chaos I think, and even though I will not attempt this again very soon, I can say that every minute was worth both the long wait (I’ve been wanting to try this ever since Ms. Lawson signed my book) as well as the mess. The company was great too – we asked our lovely neighbour to come over for a taste and we gobbled everything up in one sitting. That’s the way it should be. Good food is meant to be shared and after a busy few days we needed a pick-me-up.
January was such a boring month. There was a sort-of-sweet-ban in this house for a few weeks, mainly due to the overeating done during Christmas. This month, and hopefully the rest of the year, will be about balance. I hope, that is. What a way to start the month, I hear you say! And you may be right, but this recipe is too good to let it percolate for long in my folder. Try this, at least once…(yeah, right.)
Before I go on though, make sure you are not distracted when you cook with these quantities of oil. Concentrate and you will be safe. And take any photos at your own risk – I did and boy it was hard!
For the coating:
- 50g golden caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the chocolate dipping sauce:
- 100g good quality dark chocolate, cut into chunks
- 30g milk chocolate
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) golden syrup
- 150ml double cream
For the dough:
- 125g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) olive oil
- approx. 210ml freshly boiled water
For the oil quantities:
- This really depends on what you’re using. For a fryer, we used around 3 litres of vegetable/rapeseed oil. If you are using a pan, aim for around 500ml to a litre, depending on the size. J was in charge of this, thank goodness.
*You will also need a bowl or plate with some kitchen towels on it, to drain the churros.*
Mix the caster sugar and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl, and place these in a shallow dish or plate. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate ingredients in a small bowl over simmering water. (I prefer this method over using the microwave or heating directly in a pan on the stove.) When everything has just melted, remove from the heat and set aside in a warm place. Give it a stir once in a while. Don’t worry. It will not harden again.
For the dough, place the plain flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil. Now pour the boiling water slowly onto the flour. Don’t pour the whole amount at once; you risk the dough turning into a soup. Once you have a thick-ish, warm, sticky mixture. Leave it to rest for around 10 to 15 minutes.
In a heavy-based saucepan, or a deep-fat fryer, pour and heat the oil to 170C. Use a thermometer if using a pan. **Always pay the utmost attention when cooking with oil.** In the meantime pour the sticky dough into a piping bag with a large nozzle attached to the bottom of it. Spoon the sticky dough in the bag and slowly push the dough into the pan. Cut the dough into any length you want. We tried long ones and short stubby shapes. Both were good!
As each piece of dough turns golden brown, use tongs to take it out of the oil and place it on some kitchen towels. When drained, place the churros on the sugar and cinnamon plate. Shake and/or sprinkle the sugary mixture on the churros. Coat them well.
Serve with the chocolate dipping sauce. Delicious.
Enjoy! These are messy, as you can see from the photos, but as this is not a fancy cookbook, I took the pics as everything was. I do bother with neatness most of the time, but this was not one of those moments.
(Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, Chatto & Windus, 2010.)
**This is NOT a sponsored post.**
I have long been an admirer of Deb Perelman, a.k.a. Smitten Kitchen. What a name ha? Smitten Kitchen…That’s such a great name for a food blog. Let me tell you, I have long been smitten, but to be honest I also have been procrastinating on buying the cookbook, until earlier this year. I tried some of the recipes during the warmest of weeks, which on one hand was a huge mistake (I become a mess when trying new recipes and reviewing books) but on the other I just couldn’t wait for it to arrive. I was skipping for joy. Really.
For the first recipe I went all out for strawberries. I love the stuff so there was no doubt whatsoever about this one, and those fools were good. They took too much time to prepare, and spending a hot afternoon in the kitchen is always going to be a faff, at least for me, but they were worth the time and effort. *That* I will definitely say. The second recipe you will find here is Deb’s Rhubarb Triangles.
It also intrigued me because these are on the cover, and you know me and book covers. We have a thing. They look like and are in fact, mini jam tarts, the dough being her take on shortcrust pastry, but with almonds. (There are lots of photos in this post, so be aware!)
I know that rhubarb is not in season right now, but there photos have been in my files begging me to publish them, and it’s a special one for me too – here’s my first attempt at baking with rhubarb. I used to pass by the rack every time I visited the market, but this recipe has helped me to overcome the fear! Sounds a little dramatic, and it is, but that’s how edgy I get with new ingredients! On to the recipe, which will give a yield of about 25 mini cookies. Before you start, please be aware that you will have way too much filling, but I used whatever remained poured over vanilla ice-cream. A real treat.
- 900g rhubarb stalks
- 130g caster sugar
- 50g ground almonds
- 250g plain flour
- 65g caster sugar
- pinch salt
- 115g cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
To prepare the rhubarb for the filling, wash the lot and trim the ends, and cut into 1cm cubes. Tip these into a large saucepan with the sugar and cook for around 15 minutes, covered on low heat. Now, on medium heat, remove the cover from the pan and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the fruit begins to break down. Remove the mixture from the heat, pour it into a shallow and let it cool well.
In a large bowl, add the ground almonds, flour, caster sugar and salt, and mix. Using your thumb and forefingers, lightly work the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like small breadcrumbs. Add the egg and almond extract. Combine the lot with your hands till you have a dough. Wrap this in clingfilm and place in the fridge for a good 30 minutes.
When the rhubarb compote and dough are cold, flour your workspace, place the dough onto it, flour the top of the dough, and gently roll it out to a rough 3mm thickness. Cut out 7cm circles. Fold the edges and pinch them together to get three sides, and pinch the ends to get corners. The dough remains very crumbly, even cold, so be careful.
Using a teaspoon measure, pour the fruit compote into the middle of the pastry triangle. Repeat this step until you use all the dough. As you go along, place each one on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Before baking you could place each tray with the little tarts in the freezer, to help them keep the shape. Unfortunately my freezer is the size of a drawer so I couldn’t afford doing this. Don’t worry too much though. Just preheat the oven to 190ºC/170ºC fan. Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges turn golden. Some will open, but I didn’t mind at all! When they are done, put them on a wire rack to cool.
(Recipe adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman, Square Peg, 2012.)
Last week I got a very kind message from a friend about a large batch of cookies he made for 40 people. I never made such a big quantity all at once because thank goodness I never had to feed such a large group. (I admire anyone who is able to cook in this way without hitting the panic button.) I cannot believe that I wrote about this recipe almost two years ago today, on the 27th May to be exact! Nigella’s book Kitchen was only a few months old then. Must be a weird coincidence. Since then I made these chocolate chip beauties countless times and they are loved.
Recently I went ahead and bought a small ice-cream scoop which turns out to be very convenient for all kinds of cookies and muffins. Sometimes the right tools make the job easier, and an extra ice-cream scoop hasn’t done anyone any harm yet! (It was also a good excuse to run to the catering shop which is only a ten minute walk away from here. Happy days!) This quantity yielded me 24 smallish cookies.
- 150g unsalted butter, softened
- 125g soft light brown sugar
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, cold from the fridge
- 300g plain flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 300g dark chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 175 degrees C (fan) and line a couple of baking trays with baking greaseproof paper.
Melt the butter. The easier method is in the microwave using short blasts. Set aside to cool a little.
Put both sugars in a large bowl. Pour in the melted butter and whisk vigorously.
Then beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs until the mixture is light and creamy. Slowly mix in the plain flour and the baking powder and gently mix again.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
Using a small ice-cream scoop, drop the cookie mixture down onto your lined baking trays. Make sure to keep them around 6 cm apart because they will expand while baking. Keep the cookie dough bown in the fridge to keep it cool in between the batches.
Bake for approximately 17 minutes, while keeping an eye on them. Take them out of the oven as soon as their edges turn a little golden. Leave them to cool for a while on the trays before turning them out on a wire rack. Remember you want a soft cookie on the inside so don’t overbake them.
At the risk of sounding boring, I do love making these. And there’s always some in my bag when I have a day full of errands! Enjoy! R xx
(Adapted from Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson, Chatto & Windus, 2010.)