Sunday 27 February 2011

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies

 As usual I am running at the last minute. Mind you Dom this is the only challenge I have managed this month so feel extremely flattered. Dom is running a random challenge. The idea is brilliant. Run your hands randomly over the spines of your cookery books. Stop at one. Then open the book and cook/bake whatever appears.The book I stopped at was The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. I have never cooked anything from this book so it was good to make me perform so to speak. The book fell open at PB&C Cookies. So here they are. Lovely cookies but (there is always a but isn't there?) I followed the recipe except I halved the amount of cookie dough dropped on the tray. The impression given by the pics and the recipe is that the dough will spread giving you large thin cookies. That does not happen. I had three trays in the oven when I noticed this. I Had four cookies left to bake so I flattened the before ovening. I looked at the pic and I could see they had been flattened by fingers but nowhere in the recipe does it tell you to do so. I hate when recipes leave out details like this. Anyway I flattened the last four cookies with a spoon and that is what you see in the pic. I loved the flavour but would I make them again? No I would not. I will adapt another recipe I have which will give the thinness and chewiness I love. Watch this space.Thanks Dom for making me bake from this book. I don't think I'll use it again though.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies

 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (may need to reduce depending on your pb's saltiness)
8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (natural preferred, with no added sugar or salt)
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (or 6 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate)
1. Preheat the oven to 325° F and line two baking sheets with parchment or a silpat.
2. Melt the unsweetened chocolate.

3. In a mixer, combine the softened butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar and mix on medium speed to blend, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the vanilla, egg and peanut butter and mix for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix just until combined. Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients. Mix just until combined.
4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate pieces by hand.

5. Drop large mounds of dough, about 3 heaping tablespoons each, onto the two prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly cracked on top, rotating the pans halfway through.
6. Remove from oven, cool 2 min on sheets, then transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Seville Orange Jelly Marmalade

I wait anxiously all year for the Seville Oranges to make this treat. This year I made 12 pounds of it. My kitchen was like a jam factory but it smelled heavenly. Just as I screwed the last lid in place I found out Seville Oranges can be frozen. Oh well I will remember  next year.
There is nothing quite like the tang of marmalade made with these bitter oranges. I am not fond of thick cut marmalade so I strain it and add a some finely cut peel to give it a little texture. It is a great job on dark January days when the weather keeps you indoors. So obliging of these fruits to be in season at such a time. It's a three day event but so worth it.

Makes About 2 Kilos/4 1/2 lbs

450gms/1lb Seville oranges
1.75litres/3pints/7 1/2 cups water
1.3kgs/3lbs/81/2 cups preserving or granulated sugar
60mls/4tablespoons lemon juice


Wash and dry the oranges using a soft brush to get into all the wee dimples on the skin.
If you want some fine peel through your jelly thinly pare off the skin and finely shred the rind from 2-3 of the oranges. A zester is good for this. Place it in a muslin square and  make a little bag tying off with a long piece of string.
Squeeze the juice from the oranges and place the juice and pips into a large pan.
Chop up the remaining orange skins including the pith and add it to the pan.
Add the bag of shredded peel tying the string to the handle so you can fish it out easily later.
Cover with the water and leave to soak overnight.

Bring the mixture to the boil,reduce the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours
Remove the bag of peel and set to the side for later.
Put the kettle on
Line a large strainer with a double layer of muslin.
Now pour some boiling water through the muslin to scald it.(or you can use a scalded jelly bag if you have one)
Place the strainer over a large bowl and leave to strain overnight.
Don't be tempted to squeeze or push the fruit pulp as it will make the resulting jelly cloudy.

Heat your oven to 150.C/300.F and pop your clean jam jars on a baking tray and set inside the oven to sterilise and heat.
Pour the strained juice into a large saucepan discarding the pulp.
Add the sugar, lemon juice and rind .
Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved then bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about  twenty minutes or so until setting point is reached(105.C/220F) Sometimes this can take longer so don't be alarmed. A lot depends on the amount of juice and the vigour of the boil.
If you don't have a sugar thermometer use a chilled plate. Drop a little jam onto it and wait for a few minutes and if the surface wrinkles when gently pushed with your index finger it is done.
Remove the scum with a slotted spoon.
Leave to cool for a while then pot up into your nice warm jars.
Put the lids or covers on and leave to set.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Honeyed Porridge Bread

Isn't baking amazing? I love the process of using a set of ingredients and making something. Then, taking the same ingredients using them a slightly different way and a completely different texture results. Magic. I love  oats in bread however, I have always found adding them in their dry state to the mix makes bread a bit dense. Nice toasted but not so good for sandwiches etc. After having a bowl of porridge one morning I wondered what would happen if I soaked the oats before adding. Well it worked. This bread is so light and soft it is just .....well magic.

  I use  23x13.5x6cm /9"x5"x21/2"(nearly three pounds) loaf tin which gives a large loaf .
If you don't have a tin this size two regular 2lb loaf tins will do giving you of course two loaves.

100gms/4oz porridge oats/oatmeal
400 mls /4 1/4 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons of honey
50gms/2oz butter
1-2 teaspoons salt

Combine these first five ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer or if doing by hand a large bowl. Allow to cool giving it a stir now and then. You will have what is essentially a bowl of porridge when this bit is done.

300gms/18oz Wholemeal flour
300gms/18oz White Bread flour
1 and 1/4  teaspoons instant yeast
175mls/3/4 cup hand hot water

When cool gradually stir in the flour and yeast. It will be a really shaggy mess.
Using the dough hook mix slowly. If doing this by hand,use your hand to combine.
Add 100mls water and continue mixing
Now, you want the dough to be soft but come away from the sides of the bowl cleanly while kneading.
Add a little water at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
Turn up the mixer to medium and knead for approximately 5 minutes.
Hand workers take the dough out of the bowl and knead on a lightly oiled worktop and you get to knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth ,elastic and satiny.
Now oil a bowl and form your dough into a ball. Turn it round in the oiled bowl (stops it sticking) and then leave it in the bowl cover loosely with cling film or place inside a carrier bag (this keeps the moisture in) and leave for about an hour until it has roughly doubled in size.
When this is done oil your work top and hands to keep the stickies away and gently pull your dough out onto the work top.
Dimple it out flat with your fingers to disperse the air.
Now take an oiled  rolling pin and roll it out into a rectangle about 18 inches by 12 inches.
Fold it over towards you like a business letter. You know the top half down and the bottom half up and over it.
Now take the side end and fold it over the top towards the centre then the other end and fold it over that, turn it once and perform the whole thing again.
Once folded ease the sides down and press the top until you get a cob shape that will fit lengthwise into your tin/tins
If using two tins cut the dough in half before shaping.

A little milk in a flat  rectangular or oval container
A handful of oats ground up finely in the food processor (or just some wholemeal flour if it is more convenient.) also in a flat container

Now dip the smooth side of your cob(s) in the milk and then the flour of your choice. Place into your greased tin(s) flour side up of course.
Place the tin(s) in a plastic bag leaving a balloon shape while tucking in the ends under the tin to keep it moist. Leave in a warm place to rise again for 30-40 minutes..
A good test of when this rise is finished is lightly jiggle the loaf at the end of the tin. When it is ready you will feel it wobble slightly like a jelly. You really will feel it.
Now slash the tops diagonally with a serrated knife two or three times. This will allow the loaf to rise without splitting in odd places.
Put the bread into the oven and bake for about half an hour.
The loaf should be a nice golden brown, feel firm and crusted on the top and when tipped out of the tin it should tap hollow on the base.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

Monday 14 February 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

Having spent a couple of weeks being warmed by the sun, eating  deliciously prepared  food and being surrounded by some lovely people, we returned tired from a long flight feeling slightly dispirited. Our taxi turned into the drive and a wonderful sight met us. Snowdrops had sprung up all over the front lawn during our absence. A sure sign spring is on the way. I always see their nodding heads as little beacons of hope. Life is good isn't it?