35 Before 35 – Baking: Maple Pecan Nut Cookies

DSCN4418The first Sunday in advent is coming up, which for me – not being at all religious – is an excuse to drink tea and indulge in the first round of Christmas goodies. I decided to bake biscuits rather than buying stuff as an excuse to try out the cutters I bought last year and had only used a few of. I used a combination of this recipe, which somehow has something to do with Pippa Middleton, and one I already had. Unfortunately, it seems I should have replaced the egg in my other recipe with the maple syrup from the linked one – that way, I might have ended up with a more biscuity type dough rather than a soft, cookie one (yes, American readers. The word cookie exists in British English, but it refers to a specific kind of biscuit, not all of them!). If you want to use this recipe, make your dough into little balls before baking so you end up with nice round cookies. If you try cutting shapes like I did, you’ll end up with shapeless masses…

Maple Pecan Nut Cookies

Ingredients:
225g unsalted butter or margarine
225g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
1 egg
4 dessert spoons maple syrup
50g pecan nuts
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder (1 tsp if using German Backpulver)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Method:
1. Cream, the butter, caster sugar and brown sugar together in a large bowl.

2. Add the egg and maple syrup and mix to form a creamy batter. Break up and stir in the pecan nuts. (If you’re lucky enough to have a food processor, you can use that to do the breaking, but don’t make the nuts too small – you want nice chunks of pecan nut, not ground pecans!).

3. Sieve in the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix into a thick dough (you’ll probably need to get your hands in at some point to bring it all together properly).

4. Roll the mixture into 2 balls, wrap them in clingfilm and refrigerate for 1 hour.

5. Once chilled, preheat the oven to 160° C/fan 150°C/gas mark 3 and line a baking tray.

6. Form the dough into smallish balls, place on the baking tray(s) and bake for about 8 minutes or until the edges start turning brown (bigger cookies may take longer).

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CUT THESES BISCUITS INTO SHAPES! If you do, this:

DSCN4411

Will turn into this:

Oh well, they may not look very pretty, but they’re incredibly tasty. In fact, I’m not sure they’re going to survive until Sunday…

35 Before 35: Baking – Spiced Oat Cookies

I mentioned in my latest photo an hour post that I had been baking healthy biscuits (cookies), partly because I was intrigued by the idea of making biscuits with apple sauce to replace the sugar and partly because I’ve only baked 4 out of 10 types of biscuits for my 35 before 35 challenge so far! The recipe in question was a BBC Food one by Anthony Worrall Thompson, which you can currently find here (until the BBC takes it down…)

Supposedly each biscuit has 82 calories, although I used butter rather than his “baking spread” (which is later referred to as plain old “margarine” in the actual method!), so I’m not sure whether that makes a difference. Plus I used wholemeal spelt flour rather than normal wholemeal flour because that’s all Aldi had. Also, I doubled the recipe because 12 didn’t seem like very many biscuits. This was my first batch:

Not meatballs, honest!
Not meatballs, honest!

As you can see, there are 15 on that tray. The second tray then contained 20 (I placed them closer together because I couldn’t be bothered with a third batch – turns out that wasn’t a problem as they barely spread anyway!).

I flattened them “slightly” just like Anthony said (the photo above is pre-flattening) and the end result came out like this:

(Yeah, my food photography skills are non-existent.) NOT very biscuit/cookie like! Next time I’ll just squish ’em properly flat before putting them in the oven!

The end result was not as spicy as they smelled – although after a few days in an air-tight container the spice has come out much more – and more savoury than sweet. You don’t notice the apple sauce at all! Also, they’re not particularly hard/crunchy. The texture is actually almost cake like (think Yorkshire Parkin without the stickiness). They’re still surprisingly moreish though – I had to put them away on Saturday to stop us eating them all before dinner!

I probably will make them again, but next time I plan to add some nuts, seeds and dried fruit and call them “muesli biscuits”. Then count that as one more towards the challenge because that will be a totally different biscuit, right?

Also, in the process of making these, I discovered that mixed spice is not a thing in Switzerland, then when I tried to make my own I discovered that Allspice is not a thing either (or rather the only kind I could get was some gourmet version that cost about 15 francs… for Allspice! What the hell?!)

So, that’s half of my types of biscuits baked. Woo hoo! Next up will presumably be something Christmassy unless I try out my muesli biscuit idea before then… watch this space.

35 Before 35: Make cheesecake

A few weeks ago, somebody posted a recipe for Toblerone Cheesecake on Facebook. I love Toberlone and I love cheesecake, so I immediately made a note of it. Then, when I was looking for simple, quick recipes for our leaving party, my mind went back to that Facebook post. With only five ingredients (chocolate Digestives, butter, cream cheese, cream and, obviosuly, Toberlone) and no need for baking it was definitely both quick and easy! I used this recipe from the BBC Good Food website. The Philadelphia website also has one that’s basically the same, but of course they insist you use Philadelphia rather than any old cream cheese (as it happens, I did buy Philadelphia, but only because it was on offer!). Here’s my finished article:

Toblerone cheesecakeEveryone who tried a bit said it was delicious and I liked it so much I actually ended up having some for breakfast on Monday because I couldn’t possibly wait til I got home from work to taste it again 😉

And that’s another item crossed off the 35 Before 35 list.

A photo an hour: Saturday, 21 March 2015

I managed to quickly upload these photos last night before Jan took the computer apart so that I could spend my lunch break writing up Saturday’s photo an hour. The chosen date happened to be the day of our leaving party, so for once the photos aren’t just drinking tea, cross stitching and doing housework! However, I also forgot to take any more photos after the party started so the day ends at 9 p.m. 😉

8:30 a.m. Faaar too early to be up on a Saturday, but I have loads to do. But first a cup of tea is needed! (Will there ever be a photo and hour day that doesn’t start with tea? I doubt it!)

9 a.m. (switching back to on the hour because I prefer it). Trying to find a recipe for the evening’s vegetarian option. It shall be curry, but which one?

10 a.m. Showered and dressed. How amazing are these tights?! I fully expected them to be ripped by the end of the evening, but they lived to see another wearing. Woo hoo!

11 a.m. Crushing biscuits, a.k.a wishing I owned a food processor!

12 noon. Melt chocolate, melt!

1 p.m. Taking a break from the kitchen to put together another box to be filled with things from the spare room.

2 p.m. Back to baking. Mixing flour and cocoa powder together.

3 p.m. The dairy-free chocolate and coconut cupcakes are out of the oven. Now they just need to cool so they can be frosted. Also, look at my fabulous new cupcake holders!

4 p.m. Switching to savoury food. Time to make cheese scones. (And immediately after taking that photo came the thought “Aaargh, it’s 4 p.m. and I haven’t even started peeling the potatoes for the curry yet!)

5 p.m. The potatoes are peeled and chopped, so I’ve decided to make a start on the chilli while I wait for Jan to return from the shops with the remaining curry ingredients.

6 p.m. Curry and chilli coming along nicely. (Please ignore the stack of dirty bowls in the background that I hadn’t got round to washing yet.)

7 p.m. First batch of sausage rolls done!

8 p.m. Moving things over to the table.

9 p.m. Finally everything’s ready (ages after our guests arrived)… let’s eat!

Aaaand that was it as far as photos are concerned. I didn’t get to bed until 3 a.m., but a photo an hour ended there. A very busy day, but the food was yummy! (I’m just glad the chosen date wasn’t the next day, otherwise this post would have consisted of 12 photos of half-packed boxes with different contents!)

You can see who else joined in this time on Jane’s and Louisa’s posts. Thanks for hosting, you two!

35 Before 35: Pistachio and Cranberry Cookies

One of the snacks I made for my friends on Saturday night was Pistachio and Cranberry cookies. You can find the recipe on the BBC Good Food website, so I won’t plagerize it here.
Unfortunately, I made these biscuits on Photo an Hour day, and I was so focussed on taking a photo on each hour that I was halfway through the dough-making process before I realised I should probably take photos of the biscuit-making process too. I had dirty hands by that time though, so I wasn’t able to pick up my camera until the dough was almost ready.

Dough rolls
Dough rolls

By the way, when you get to the part of the recipe where it says “you may not to get your hands in at this stage”, replace the word may with will! Without using hands, there is no way of making the mixture into a dough.
After refrigerating, the bottoms of my rolls were a bit flat from where they’d been sitting on the plate, which meant the biscuits I cut from them weren’t exactly round…

Slightly deformed...
Slightly deformed…

Here they are again after baking. I left lots of space between each one in case they decided to spread, but they didn’t much.

biscuits

The finished article was very tasty. The bicuits themselves taste almost like shortbread and the mixture of cranberry and pistachio is a good one. I especially liked the ones where the pistachio was on top and had been roasted slightly in the oven. Mmmm!

The finished article
The finished article

That’s four types of biscuits down, six more to go.
For those who missed them, here are the previous biscuits I’ve baked for the challenge:

Honey Gingerbread Biscuits
Chocolate Brownie Biscuits
Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Chocolate Easter Nests

DSCN9420I first wanted to make Easter nests for my colleagues two years ago, but sadly I was unable to find any equivalent of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs. Last year I failed to find any such thing again… I even tried the English shop in Heidelberg, but they had run out. So when I was in England in February, I grabbed two large bags of Mini Eggs. Arriving back in Germany, I discovered that Milka have now released their own version of Mini Eggs… this is the law of sod in action!

There are probably a million recipes for these Easter nests on the Internet, but I’m going to share mine with you anyway… I tell you how to make them in Germany, so my version is totally different, obviously 😉

Chocolate Easter Nests

You will need:
Cupcake cases
A box of plain Shredded Wheat – in Germany, use the “Original” Toppas. They’re covered in icing sugar, but that doesn’t seem to hurt the nests
Plain or milk chocolate – enough to cover your Shredded Wheat – I used roughly 150g chocolate to 100 g Toppas (guessing as I didn’t actually do any weighing…)
Cadbury’s or Milka Mini Eggs (or your country’s equivalent of chocolate eggs in a colourful sugar shell)

What to do:
1. Break the chocolate up and melt it in a bowl over a pan of water. Or I suppose you could use the microwave… I don’t have one!

2. While the chocolate is melting, in a large mixing bowl break the Shredded Wheat/Toppas into bits. If you’re using Toppas, the ones with most icing sugar might be a little harder to crush – don’t worry if there are some slightly larger bits in there a this point.

Toppas

3. Ad the melted chocolate to the mixing bowl and stir the Shredded Wheat/Toppas and the chocolate together until the Shredded Wheat is completely coated. While stirring, you can crush any larger bits of Toppas that didn’t crush earlier.

4. Place roughly a dessert spoon of the mixture into each of your cupcake cases and use a teaspoon to push some of the mixture up the sides, leaving a dent in the middle. Be careful not to make a hole in the bottom though!

Nest

5. Place 2-3 Mini Eggs in each of the nests. If you think your nests are too dry for the eggs to stick to, you can use a bit of melted chocolate as glue.

Easter nest

6. Place the Easter nests in the fridge for at least half an hour to set. Once they’re ready, you’ll be able to take the cakes out of their cases and they’ll look just like miniature bird’s nests!

Aren't they cute?
Aren’t they cute?

Now go and check out Manda’s recipe post for a different take on edible Easter nests!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

cupcakeSaturday was Jan’s birthday, and on Sunday I felt like baking… perfect timing for Jan to be able to take something in for his colleagues today. I didn’t want to make a full on cake, so I decided on chocolate cupcakes using a recipe that I’ve had for ages and is really easy to follow. I found the original recipe on BBC Food years ago, but I can’t provide you with a link because it doesn’t seem to be on there any more. Buuut I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my own purposes over the years, which means it’s mine now and posting it here without a link won’t be breaking any copyright laws, right? Right? Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
220g butter
220 g caster sugar
220g self-raising flour OR 220g plain flour plus 1.5 teaspoons baking powder (plus half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda, if you have it)
4 eggs, beaten (mine were medium, but I’ve used large before)
15g cocoa powder
30g chocolate chips
A few drops of vanilla extract

For the frosting:
125g soft butter
210g icing sugar, sifted (the sifting is important or the frosting will have lumps of icing sugar in)
125g plain chocolate
1 tsp cocoa powder

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the cocoa powder and blend it into the other ingredients, then stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla extract.

3. Add the eggs and stir well (don’t worry if it looks a bit lumpy at this stage).

4. Gradually fold in the flour until you’re left with a thick paste that looks a bit like chocolate mousse.

5. Place heaped teaspoons of the mixture into cupcake cases in a bun tray and bake for around 15 minutes until risen and bouncy when touched. The mixture makes around 24-26 cupcakes, depending on how much of the mixture you eat before it makes it to the oven (what? I know I’m not the only one that does that…). Once the cupcakes are baked, leave then to cool while you make your frosting.

Fresh out of the oven (if they look flat in this picture, it's the camera angle. I swear they had actually risen!)
Fresh out of the oven (if they look flat in this picture, it’s the camera angle. I swear they had actually risen!)

6. Melt the plain chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water (or in the microwave if you have such a thing…)

7. While the chocolate is melting, cream together the butter and icing sugar.

8. Add the melted chocolate the sugar and butter and stir everything together well.

9. Add a teaspoon of cocoa powder and stir until all the powder is properly blended in.

10. Place a teaspoon of the frosting on each cupcake and spread it with a knife (or pipe it on if you want your icing to end up looking better than mine… I preferred the less washing up option!).

Chocolate cupcakes and chocolate frosting
Chocolate cupcakes and chocolate frosting

11. You can either leave the cupcakes as they are now or decorate them as you see fit. Apparantly, I saw fit to sprinkle stars on mine in an incredibly haphazard manner. I could claim it’s supposed to be artistic but we all know it was sheer laziness…

Seeing stars...
Seeing stars…

12. Leave the frosting to cool/set for a bit then enjoy your cupcakes!

35 Before 35: Baking – Chocolate Brownie Biscuits

Number 18 on my 35 Before 35 list is to bake 10 different types of biscuits, so when I felt a sudden urge to bake on Sunday, I knew what it was going to have to be. I chose to make the Chocolate Brownie Biscuits from the BBC Food website, adapting them a little to fit the ingredients I have. I won’t give you the recipe becaue you can get that by clicking the link, so the rest of this post will mostly consist of pictures.

I tripled the recipe so there would be enough for both Jan and me to take some to work. A slight misjudgement of how much plain chocolate I had left in the house left me topping up with left-over Galaxy Bubbles…

chocolate and butter
chocolate and butter

Never mind, it all loooks the same once it’s melted…

Yum yum!
Yum yum!

Pieces of white chocolate, all chopped up.

white chocolate pieces
white chocolate pieces

The chocolate has been stirred into the egg and sugar mixture and I’ve folded in the flour, so now it’s time to add the white chocolate pieces.

Adding the white chocolate pieces
Adding the white chocolate pieces

I didn’t have any Macadamia nuts and the shop at the train station doesn’t sell such things (nothing else is open on Sundays), so I added chocolate chips instead… those do belong to the things I almost always have in.

Even more chocolate? Don't mind if I do!
Even more chocolate? Don’t mind if I do!

The recipe told me to place “dollops” of the mixture on a baking tray. Exactly how big should a dollop be?!

Dollops
Dollops

The finished article…

Brownie biscuits

After a while, I realised the mixture was going down fast and I should probably make my dollops smaller if there were going to be enough biscuits for both sets of colleagues…

Smaller dollops...
Smaller dollops…

The finished biscuits (or cookies, if you prefer) were crunchy on top with a soft, almost cake-like texture underneath, and the lumps of white chocolate made a nice contrast to the darker chocolate of the biscuits themselves. Despite the lack of nuts, they were some gooood biscuits! My colleagues certainly thought so… their tub is already gone! And I expect Jan will say the same of his colleagues once he gets home… They were really easy to make as well. Just a bit of whisking, a bit of melting, stir everything together and stick each batch in the oven for 10 minutes. My kind of biscuit! I’ll definitely be making these ones again. Maybe next time I’ll even plan ahead and give the Macadamia nuts a go.

Ready and waiting to brighten up a dull Monday
Ready and waiting to brighten up a dull Monday

That’s three types of biscuits down, seven more to go! Any suggestions for the remainder?

Afternoon tea for two

When I spotted clotted cream being sold in Karstadt last week, I instantly decided that it was a sign from the universe that I needed to make scones at the weekend, so that’s just what I did. And what’s the obvious thing to do wih scones (well, yes, eat them of course… slightly less obvious than that, though)?
Answer: Afternoon tea:

The scones could have been just a little more risen (my self-raising flour was technically out of date), but inside they were as light and fluffy as they’re supposed to be. With clotted cream and jam, they made a delicous afternoon treat!

Jam first or cream first, which do you prefer?

Before moving to Germany, I don’t think I had ever purchased clotted cream in a supermarket… afternoon tea was an occasional treat reserved for cafés. On the rare occasions that we had scones at home (usually purchased from Greggs), they were fruit ones and we tended to toast them then smother them with butter. But I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to inject a little piece of “home” into my every day life.  I love Germany and its food very much… but I can have Maultaschen for dinner any time. An afternoon tea is something special!

Do you like to inject little pieces of your old home into your life abroad, or have you embraced your new culture wholeheartedly? And for those of you who don’t live abroad, do you ever try to recreate meals from your travels into your every day life? Just curious. (You can call it nosy, if you like ;-))