One of my favourite food bloggers and creative people around is Heidi Swanson, the brains behind 101 Cookbooks and founder of Quitokeeto. I have been following Heidi for a long time and I just love the minimalist look of both the blog and her photos. They are both examples of the saying that simple is best, which I totally am a fan of. As it happens, she together with a handful of other excellent bloggers, gave me that much needed nudge to start my own blog. I don’t know them but I still consider them to be my mentors. They truly show us how it’s done.
It’s been warm this week. Warm enough to say something like “I give up on baking until the end of December!” I’ve been busy. Busy means good by the way, although I’m already tired and it’s not the weekend yet.
It’s Wednesday and I keep insisting it’s Thursday. Take no notice of me, please! On the positive side though I can finally say that our guest bedroom is almost done, just in time for our friend’s arrival on Sunday. I am happy.
One of the things I get asked for most by friends and family are good recipes for muffins. Now this is quite tricky for me because I’ve had my issues when it comes to baking the little beauties. I’m not referring to this recipe in particular – these have been a total success. I blame my inability to get used to different ovens quickly and efficiently. The oven in our flat in Woking was very powerful and loads of muffins were burnt! The one in Guildford had a smaller wattage (or whatever you call it) so things took longer to bake. Now I’ve returned to a gas oven and to test it I’m finding myself making loads of pizzas. Some have come out with black bottoms, whilst others have been spared, and ended up in our bellies.
Cookies are not very difficult to make. It’s easy to bake a good quality batch at home, but I guess they can turn out bad if not made with care. As with almost all sweet things that need chocolate, it’s important to have a cool environment. I make these cookies regularly throughout the year but in the summer I just freeze the chocolate chunks or chips beforehand just to make sure that they won’t melt while I handle them. That did happen once and although they were good, the chocolate just melted in the mixture. Another thing which helps is to use chunks instead of chips. I can’t find decent sized chocolate chips here so I make my own. I place one or two 100g bars of the stuff into a plastic bag and bash it with a rolling pin until I get small chocolate cubes. I must admit they still end up being large-ish but the larger the chunk, the larger the cookie, so who’s in?
I tried and liked many chocolate chip cookie recipes, so what I will give you is the most recent one I came across and made. This is taken from Nigella’s Kitchen with minor changes. They are a treat. I managed to make a batch of 18 large cookies out of this. You’ll need:
- 150g soft unsalted butter
- 125g soft brown sugar
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, cold from the fridge
- 300g plain flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 300g chocolate chunks
- Preheat your oven to 170ºC/Gas Mark 3 and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper or silicone sheets.
- Melt the butter either on the stove or in the microwave in short blasts. Be careful not to burn it. Put both sugars in a bowl with the cooled melted butter and whisk.
- Beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs till the mixture is creamy. Slowly mix in the flour and the baking powder and gently mix everything again. Now is the time to fold in the chocolate chunks.
- Using a small ice-cream scoop or a US ¼ cup measure (or your hands if you like and if they’re not too warm), drop the cookie mixture down onto your lined baking trays. Make sure you place them around 6-8cm apart because they will expand in the oven. Try to keep the cookie dough bowl in the fridge to keep it cool in between batches.
- Bake for around 17-18 minutes. Keep an eye on them and take them out as soon as their edges turn a little golden. Leave to cool for a while before turning them on a wire rack. Do not over-bake.
Note: Uncooked cookie dough will keep for 3 months in the freezer in an airtight container or sandwich bags. What I do is this: set aside a small batch of formed cookies on a tray and insert these in the freezer. When set, take them out and transfer them into a large sandwich bag. When needed put them back on a lined baking tray and bake into a preheated oven for around 20 minutes.