#Recipe #ChocolateChip Day

A food lover’s calendar is choc-full (pardon the pun!) of days on which to celebrate, indulge and extol the virtues of food stuffs galore. In fact I’m pretty certain that if you research hard enough you’ll find that every single day is bequeath to some food or ingredient somewhere in the world. Not that I’m complaining! On that note, May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Day here in North American waters. And without further ado I present not one but TWO culinary efforts in homage to that humble morsel of cocoa goodness.

My “Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies” are chocolate, chocolate, chocolate lovers dream! Crumbly mint chocolate cookie studded with chocolate chips, enrobed in a smooth, dark chocolate case. Absolute perfection with a glass of ice-cold milk. Girl scouts eat your hearts out!

The second cookie that we have, “Choc Chip Short Oat Cookies” are a wonderful hybrid between buttery, crumbly shortbread and a classic oatmeal cookie. Easy to bake they’re also a handy one to have ready should you be looking for an afternoon activity with little hands.

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Peppermint Cookies 1

Ingredients (makes apx 50)
Chocolate Cookies:

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet

Chocolate Peppermint Coating:

16oz chocolate, semi-sweet, broken into pieces

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Method:
Making the cookies:
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and powdered sugar until well combined (apx 10 mins) Add the vanilla extract, peppermint extract, salt, and cocoa powder. Mix until the cocoa powder is well combined and there are no pockets of cocoa dust
  • Add the flour and mix until you have crumbly dough
  • Gather the dough into a ball, and knead it together on a counter for about 3-5 mins It should become somewhat smoother. (Don’t worry if it’s still a little crumbly)
  • Divide the dough in 2, flatten into disks, and wrap in cling wrap. Chill in a refrigerator for 15-20 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line two baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment
  • Roll dough out to a thickness of 6mm. I used a rolling-pin with guides to get a consistent thickness. A trick I found that works really well is to roll the dough out between two sheets of baking parchment. Not only are the cookies easier to lift, it also saves on counter top mess and cleaning up!
  • Cut out cookies (I use a 2 “ cutter) and place, spaced apart, on the pre-lined baking sheets
  • Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the trays for 3-5 mins. Then careful remove to wire racks and allow to cool completely
  • When your cookies have cooled completely prepare your chocolate coating

Peppermint Cookies

Making the coating:
  • In a bowl set over hot water in a pan, slowly melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally
  • Add in the peppermint extract and stir to combine. It may look like it’s caused the chocolate to separate and become grainy but fear not! Keep stirring and it’ll come right in the end.
Finishing the cookies:
  • With a fork in each hand, gently drop the cookies one at a time into the chocolate coating
  • Using the forks, flip to coat all sides. Lift the cookie out of the chocolate with one of the forks and allow any excess chocolate to drip off the cookie back into the bowl
  • Place the freshly coated cookie on a parchment lined counter, and repeat
  • Allow the cookies to cool at room temperature until ready. They’ll be ready in a couple of hours but I find it best to leave them overnight. They can be stored in an airtight tin for 3-5 days. (Use baking parchment to separate the layers and prevent sticking)

Peppermint Cookies 3

*When dipping the baked cookies you’ll get to a point where it becomes too awkward to flip and properly coat the cookies in the melted chocolate. I transfer the remaining chocolate to a piping bag and drizzle it over the remaining cookies.

Peppermint Cookies 4

Choc Chip Short Oat Cookies

Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients (makes apx 48)

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups cake flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup quick-cooking oats

12oz chocolate chips, semi-sweet

Method
  • Heat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment
  • In large bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and powdered sugar until light, fluffy and well combined
  • Add in the flour, baking soda, vanilla and oats., and mix until well combined
  • Stir in chocolate chips
  • On pre-lined baking sheets, drop dough by teaspoonfuls. Space them apx 2 inches apart
  • Bake in the preheated oven for between 11 to 13 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays for 5 mins
  • After 5 minutes carefully transfer the baked cookies to wire racks and allow to cool completely
  • Enjoy!

#Recipe Candycane Brownies

 

 

candycane-brownies-10

And now January has set in. Tinsel and lights have been packed away. Christmas tree carcasses litter the sidewalks- emaciated reminders of festivities past. On the whole January would appear to be a pretty “grey”- The Month of M’eh. Each mouthful of chocolate or candy is now succeeded by a guilty pang of remorse. “December was pretty indulgent, I really shouldn’t be eating this”…said no one in my kitchen. Ever!

“Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Erma Bombeck

There’s usually a surplus of sweet treats of some variety in my house after the festive season. This year is was candy canes. Having fulfilled their duty of adorning the christmas trees for the best past of a month (and surviving the voracious eyes of my children!) it’s now time to put them to an alternative, and somewhat tastier, use.

For something so small and simple candy cane have an assortment of end uses in the kitchen. Aside from having a good ol’ fashioned chomp on them, there are recipes available for flavoured vodkas, cupcakes, and hot chocolate. I opted for using them in one of my favourite flavour combinations- mint and chocolate. My Candy cane Brownies are rich, indulgent treats laced with peppermint and studded with chewy, mini nuggets of stripped cane and chocolate chumks. Just for good measure there’s an extra sprinkling of smashed candy canes topping each brownies with extra festive whimsy.

Having arrived in our new home of Canada just ahead of the festive blitz I had little time for baking and experimenting with the new array of ingredients that have since become available to me. New brands, varieties and flavours lined shelfs, all there for the taking in my greedy mitts. The cocoa powder I used here, Fry’s (which is a Dutch processed cocoa), resulted in a much darker and richer chocolate flavour compared to those I’ve used in the UK. I’d highly recommend trying to get your hands on some if you can! So this recipe provided the perfect excuse for not only using up the excess candy canes but also as a trial for using unfamiliar ingredients. I hope you like them. And yes I know it’s strictly speaking a christmas recipe and the festive season is done and dusted, but just them of them as a legitimate excuse for resurrecting it for a brief few minutes. Enjoy!

candycane-brownies-6

Candy cane Brownies

makes 12

Unsalted butter 185g, cubed

185g Bakers unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces

1 tablespoon Nielsen Massey peppermint extract

3 eggs

275g caster (superfine) sugar

85g plain flour

½ teaspoon salt

50g Fry’s cocoa powder

50g Bakers semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small chunks

50g peppermint candy cane, broken into smalls pieces

To decorate

75g peppermint candy canes, smashed into irregular pieces

  • Set your oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line a deep 12″x9″ baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt.
  • Stir the peppermint extract into the cooled chocolate mixture, and the fold into the egg mixture.
  • Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together.
  • Mix in the chocolate chunks and candy cane pieces. Fold again until well combined.
  • Pour your mixture into the lined tray and gently spread to level the surface. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. To test- insert a skewer into the mixture about 1 inch from the edge of the tin and it should come out clean.
  • To decorate-sprinkle the top of the brownies with the smashed candy cane pieces and gently push into the surface so the stick.
  • Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares, and serving.

candycane-brownies-7

 

 

#Recipe Brownie Fries w/ Raspberry Ketchup & Yuzu Mayo

So this recipe originally started as an idea to create smaller “bite-size” brownies with a difference. Sadly after a quick Googling (!) I found someone else had beat me in creating the concept. Oh well, imitation is the best form of flattery as they say. Brownie Fries or “Fruffles” (a portmanteau of Fries + Truffles) as they appear to be called in some places Stateside have been around for a while. Usually they’re served with a berry compote “ketchup” and yogurt “mayo” but not one to let a chance for experimentation go by I decided to mix up the flavours a bit.

Berry ketchup and yogurt mayo? Oh no, no- not for me! So all aboard the “Flavour train” for a raspberry dipping sauce with fresh and spicy notes thanks to basil and black pepper, paired with rich, creamy and zingy mascarpone dip. Here’s my take on Brownie “Fries” and they’re deep-dipping, lip-smacking good!

 

Brownie Fries (2)

Brownie “Fries”

185g unsalted butter, cubed

185g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces

eggs 3

275g caster sugar

85g plain flour

1 tbsp Espresso powder

50g dark chocolate chips

50g milk chocolate chips

100g pecans, lightly roasted and roughly chopped

To decorate

125g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces

125g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

Coarse sea salt to sprinkle

Freshly ground vanilla (Dr. Oetker do a wonderful grater/grinder)

Raspberry “Ketchup”

75g fresh raspberries

Handful fresh basil leaves, torn

½ tsp black peppercorns

Yuzu “Mayo”

250g Mascarpone cheese

100ml single cream

1 tsp agave syrup

2 tbsp Yuzu juice

  •  Set your oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line a deep 12″x9″ baking tray with baking parchment, or 9” x9” brownie tray (with short dividers removed).
  • Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour and Espresso powder. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together until just uniform in color.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped pecans until fully incorporated.
  • Pour your mixture into the lined tray, or brownie pan, and gently spread to level the surface. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin before removing.
  • Start by cutting the brownie slab in to 3” wide strips. If you’re using a brownie pan the long dividers will already have done this for you. Next, rotate the strips 90 degrees and cut strips approximately ¾ inch wide. Arrange on a sheet of baking paper with about 1 inch space between.
  • To finish, melt the dark and milk chocolates in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag and snip a small piece from the end to make a fine nozzle.
  • Pipe the melted chocolate over your brownie fries so that it drips down over the sides, forming the “batter coating” to your “fries”.
  • Leave to cool for about 15 mins then sprinkle lightly with seas salt and grind over fresh vanilla.
  • Leave to finally set.

To make the Raspberry “Ketchup”

  • In a bowl combine the fresh raspberries, basil leaves, and black peppercorns.
  • Using a hand blender, blitz until a fine pulp.
  • Pass through a sieve to a bowl below.
  • Set aside until serving.

To make the Yuzu “Mayo”

  • In a bowl combine the mascarpone cheese, cream, agave syrup and yuzu juice.
  • Beat until fully combined.
  • Spoon in to a bowl for serving.

To serve

  • Arrange the brownie fries alongside the ketchup and yuzu mayo.
  • Now dip away to your heart’s content!

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#Recipe- Egyptian Flatbreads

Egyptian Flatbreads 4

This started life as yet another “Popcorn” recipe which was consigned to the “Not Right Now” folder on my desktop. With the weather taking a turn for the better I’ve decided to dust it off and let it see the light of day. The flatbreads are really easy and they’re fantastic for picnic or BBQ weather. The popcorn feature ingredient can easily be omitted and the breads will be just as good- maybe not as much of a talking point though?

I love these with smeared with fresh, homemade hummus and sprinkled with some pomegranate seeds. They’re also ideal halved and stacked with slivers of BBQ’d meat, fresh juicy tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. A definite taste for the summer!

Makes 4

Flatbreads

500g strong, white bread flour

10g salt

10g fast (easy) yeast

375ml warm water

40ml olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

 

Dukkah paste

100g chopped hazelnuts

50g sesame seeds

50g coriander seed

10g cumin seed

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

50g nigella seeds

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

14g Lemon & Fennel popcorn, crushed

Olive oil

Egyptian Flatbreads 1

  • Place the flour in a bowl, add the yeast to one side, and the salt to the other.
  • Create a well in the middle and add 275ml water, the olive oil and the honey and mix with your fingers until combined. Continue to add the rest of the water a little at a time until all the flour in the bowl has been incorporated. You may not need all the water- you want a dough that is well combined and soft, but not sticky or soggy. By the end your dough should be smooth and elastic.
  • Lightly oil a clean bowl and transfer the dough. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size.
  • Whilst the dough is rising, prepare the dukkah.
  • In a pan add the chopped hazelnuts; sesame seeds; coriander seeds; cumin seed; nigella seeds; and paprika. Toast over a medium heat until fragrant.
  • Add the salt and pepper and grind until rough.
  • Add in the crushed popcorn and mix to combine.
  • Drizzle in enough olive oil to create a rough paste.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, tip out onto a lightly oiled surface and knock back to remove the air (knead for about 5 minutes).
  • Cut the dough into 4 (roughly) equal pieces, and flatten with your fingers in a rough circle shape. With a lightly oiled rolling pin, roll into a larger circular shape, approximately 10-12cms diameter.
  • Transfer to 2 baking trays lined with baking parchment (2 dough discs on each).
  • Smear each of the dough circles liberally with the dukkah paste, covering the entire surface. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Whilst the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 225 degrees.
  • When the dough is rested, place the baking sheets in the oven- one on top third of oven, one in lower third of oven. After 6 mins, swap the positions of the trays, also turning them 180 degrees (front to back). Continue to bake for another 6 mins.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on their baking trays for a further 5 minutes. After this time transfer from the baking trays to wire racks.
  • The flatbreads can be served warm, or cool.

#Recipe Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars (2)
Nanaimo Bars

Last year my husband and I went to Canada for the first time. We spent a week in Toronto and I absolutely fell in love with the place. The food…the people….the food…you get the picture I’m sure? I won’t wax lyrical about it (if you want that you can read all about my Canuck adventures here). The food is something I definitely never run out of things to say about. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried poutine, and then there’s Nova Scotia Lobster! But the point of this post is to share my love of yet another Canadian foodstuff (albeit not a native of the East Coast) – the Nanaimo Bar. Yes, I’ll admit it does sound like a character from a Disney movie but believe me it’s worth getting used to the name.

It’s basically a layered fridge cake made up of a crumb base layer, a buttercream-style middle layer (traditionally custard flavoured), then topped with a chocolate layer. Yes- they are a rich as they sound. Trust me, no matter how much your eyes tell you, one will be enough (okay- maybe two!) Originating in the district of Nanaimo, British Columbia it’s so popular that it’s been declared a national treasure. And like all good national treasures there are many recipes and many takes on how to  make the bars- and they’re all the “proper” way. This is however is my way and how I like them best.

(As a note I prefer them kept in the fridge once they’re made as keeping them at room temperature causes the buttercream and chocolate layers to soften too much)

Ingredients

Base layer:

½ cup unsalted butter 

¼ cup sugar

5 tbsp. cocoa

1 egg beaten

1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 cup coconut

For the filling:

½ cup unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream

2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder

2 cups icing sugar

For the topping:

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate 

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

– Lined 9″ x 9″ tray (1 ½ inch high) or silicone baking tray

Nanaimo Bars (5)

Method

To make the base:

  • Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa in a small pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Take off the heat.
  • In a separate bowl combine the crumbs, coconut and walnut pieces.
  • Add the beaten egg to chocolate mixture and mix well to combine and thicken. The mixture may appear to separate but continue whisking vigorously and it’ll come back together to a shiny, thick consistency. Pour chocolate mixture over the crumb mixture and mix well to combine.
  • Press mixture into the lined tin and level the surface. Chill for 30mins to 1 hour.

To make the filling:

  • Add the butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together in a stand mixer.
  • Cream well at a high-speed until fluffy and smooth
  • Spread this over the biscuit base and chill for at least 3 hours until set firm.

To make the topping:

  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  • Allow to cool for a few mins then spread it over the filling.
  • Return to the fridge and leave until set (at least 1 hour).
  • Cut in to bars and serve.

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