35 Before 35: Baking – Viennese Whirls and Coffee Kisses

A few weeks ago we were invited to a birthday celebration (barbecue) and I decided I should bake something to take with me. Jan suggested biscuits since the biscuit baking item on my 35 before 35 wasn’t complete yet. After a quick search of the Internet, I settled on Viennese Whirls from the BBC Good Food website. It took me a while to get used to piping out the whirls and mine don’t look as neat as the ones on the recipe, but I think I did okay.

Viennese whirls

The vanilla butter cream was incredibly sweet and I was worried it would be too much but once combined with the biscuits and jam it all fit together amazingly. One girl at the barbecue liked the biscuits so much she even asked me for the recipe!

I still had loads of vanilla butter cream left – I have no idea how that was all supposed to go inside the biscuits! So a couple of days later I decided it was time to use it up. Googling “biscuits with butter cream filling recipes” eventually brought up this recipe for Coffee Kisses, which apparently is from the Great British Bake-Off cookbook. I wasn’t as keen on this recipe – I thought the bitterness of the coffee in the biscuits would counteract the sweetness of the filling but I found the filling quite overwhelming in these ones. Although they did taste better the next day so maybe the coffee flavour needed time to develop? Regardless, I think if I made this again I wouldn’t bother with the filling but instead make just the biscuits and dip them in melted dark chocolate.

I only needed to bake two more types of biscuit, so with this another item was finally crossed off my 35 before 35 list. Hooray!

35 Before 35: Baking – Coffee Shortbread

coffee shortbreadWith my 35th birthday coming up this year, it’s obvious that I’m not going to complete my list – somehow I can’t see me going to Belfast and Slovenia and seeing the Northern Lights within the next 6 months-ish! But I can at least make an effort to complete the ones that don’t require me to even leave the house. So this weekend, I decided to kill two birds with one stone: bake biscuits for my 35 before 35 challenge and use some of the instant coffee I was sent ages ago and that we’re highly unlikely to ever actually drink given we have a pad coffee machine! I made Coffee Shortbread using a recipe I found here.

I was supposed to dust them with demerara sugar before baking but I don’t have any so I had planned to use vanilla sugar. I am still convinced I have vanilla sugar, but I couldn’t find it anywhere, so instead I used caster sugar and sugar crystals (which is called Hagelzucker in German – hailstone sugar. Try telling me German isn’t a poetic language!). I couldn’t decide which would be best!

shortbread

Here’s the final article, slightly cracked and only sort of round but very tasty!

coffee shortbread2

And how can you tell I’m not a food blogger? I totally forgot to take a pretty photo of them after I’d taken them off the baking tray!

So, 8 types of biscuits down… only 2 more to go! Any suggestions for what I should bake next?

 

Friday letters

Hello everyone! Now I’ve posted once this week, I thought I should at least try to keep up. So Friday letters it is. Let’s get straight to it, shall we?

Friday letters

Dear boyfriend. If you’re going to wake me up snoring/grinding your teeth does is really have to be within 2 hours of the alarm going off so I’m pretty much guaranteed not to get any more proper sleep before starting the day? After two days in a row of that I am tiiiired today!

Dear biscuits. I should not have bought you. Once I start tucking in it’s soo hard to stop!

Dear autumn. Well, it looks like you are truly here now with all your cold, wet miserableness.
As an aside, do any other Brits remember singing a little verse in school that went “Here comes autumn, bringing the mists and rain“? I’m sure that’s why I associate autumn with cold and dark and soggy, slippery leaves rather than the gorgeous colours, long walks and crisp leaves everyone else goes on about. Or maybe it’s just that Britain really is miserable in autumn? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Dear post person. I am not impressed that you sent my order back to the sender claiming that I had failed to pick it up from the post office. I requested for a second delivery of everything I had a note for, so that means there was no note for this one!

Dear flat. You’re actually still looking half decent right now after we cleaned for visitors last weekend. I wonder how long we can keep it up?

Dear birds. I’m guessing by constantly coming and perching on the empty bird feeder you’re trying to tell me something? It’s getting colder now so I’ll buy you some lard balls soon.

Dear kettle. I’m sorry I keep boiling you so many times before I actually manage to make a cup of tea. Please don’t decide you’re overworked and go on strike – and I promise to try and actually make my cuppa the first time!

Dear autumn fair. It looks like it’s going to be cold for your opening day tomorrow but the forecast is currently not saying rain. Maybe I’ll consider popping by for the first Glรผhwein of the season.

Dear readers. Thank you for sticking around even when I fail to post for weeks on end or don’t even have anything interesting to say. I appreciate every single one of your comments.

And on that soppy note, I shall stop typing and brave the rain so I can get something to eat. This is supposed to be my lunch break, after all and my fridge is looking rather uninspiring. I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

35 Before 35: Bourbon Creams

I came up with the idea of attempting to bake Bourbon Creams ages ago (it’s not like I can just buy them here after all), but in typical Bev fashion took forever to get round to actually doing it. Finally, over the weekend, Iย  remembered to google the recipe. All the ones that came up seemed to be the same so I just used the first link I had clicked on, which was this one. Apparently the original came from Jamie Oliver… I should have known right then that things were too good to be true.

The recipe said that, before kneading, the mixture would be “slightly crumbly” but “show the promise of coming together”. After adding extra milk, I managed to achieve “slightly crumbly”, then had to knead separate balls for each biscuit. That was the only way I even had a chance of getting the dough to not fall apart as soon as I started trying to roll it.

The recipe said the ingredients would make “about 14”. I’m not sure whether that meant 14 Bourbon Creams or 14 biscuit halves, so 7 Bourbon Creams. After much kneading and attempting to roll, then re-kneading because the bloody thing had fallen apart again and then re-rolling, I eventually ended up with this:

biscuits

Yeah… it also turns out I don’t have a rectangular cutter. Admittedly these biscuit layers are way too thick and if I could have rolled them thinner without breaking them I could have got more out of the mixture, but there’s no way 14 would have happened!

I baked the biscuits, left them to cool, made the filling and was finally left with this:

They were very tasty, but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be making them again, at least not using that particular recipe. I think I’ll stick with Nigella for sweet treats from now on ๐Ÿ˜‰ But even if I only actually ended up with four biscuits, I still baked and that’s good enough for the 35 before 35 list!

Eight types of biscuits down, two to go. Any suggestions?

 

Chocolate Christmas biscuits

Since this first December weekend was a rare one in which we had no plans, I decided it was time for some Christmas baking. After all, it is the month of all the sweet treats! I used Nigella’s recipe for Chocolate Christmas Biscuits, but I added in some cinnamon and vanilla along with the cocoa powder because I don’t see how just sticking some sprinkles on top magically makes a biscuit Christmassy! You can’t really taste the cinnamon, but I know it’s there and that’s what counts ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here are some of the biscuits fresh from the oven:

Instead of making cocoa powder/icing sugar/water icing, I decided to melt white chocolate for the decoration. My initial plan was to make some of the biscuits look like Christmas puddings and just put some white chocolate in the middle of the others and then decorate with sparkly things, but I quickly got bored of that and started drawing random patterns with white chocolate. When you bear in mind that I did all my drawing with a teaspoon I think they came out okay!

Apart from the Christmas puddings, I think the Christmas trees are my favourite!

Have you done any Christmas baking yet this year? What’s your favourite Christmas biscuit (I still have 3 more types of biscuits to bake for my 35 before 35… give me ideas!)

Why I will not be taking up biscuit decorating for a living…

Last night, I thought I would make biscuits for Jan to take to work with him. I still have loads of food colouring left over from when I made blue cake, so I decided to decorate them. The idea was to surprise him with something relevant to his company, plus some standard Christmas biscuits. Unfortunately, I was forgetting one very important thing: I can’t actually draw on paper with a pencil, never mind on biscuits with icing and melted chocolate! I’ve forbidden Jan from actually taking any to work because I’m so embarrassed by them. Which, of course, doesn’t prevent me from uploading them to my blog for the entire Internet to see. Logic… not my strong suit! So, everybody meet my baking/decorating fails:

First I made some Christmas biscuits:

DSCN4561

Then I attempted to make gingerbread robots. Bear in mind I don’t own a robot cutter so these were improvised. Very, very improvised.

DSCN4563

Jan’s comment was “It looks like you’ve been doing some baking with an eight year old.” I think he was being generous… personally, after making the Christmas ones, I thought “I wish we had a two year old who I could blame these on!”.

On the bright side, I now get to add almond biscuits and gingerbread to my tally of biscuits baked for my 35 before 35 challenge. And hopefully I’ve given you all a good laugh to help you get through the final two days of the week…

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: 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

35 Before 35: Progress report 2

Now that we’re approaching the fourth month of the year (eeeek!!), I thought it was time for another update on how I’m doing with my 35 before 35 list. My last update was in August 2013, just after my 30th birthday. Now, with 4 years and 4 months left to go, here’s how far I’ve got…

Number 3: Learn Spanish

After doing nothing for months and months and months, I recently started using Duolingo again. So far, all I’ve done is repeat the lessons I’d done previously to refresh my memory, but new words have been added since last time I logged on so it wasn’t all just refreshing. Better than nothing, anyway.

Number 13:ย  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

I’m really not good at reading non-fiction. No matter which book I choose to read, it takes me so much longer than reading a novel… I even read German fiction faster than non-fiction in my native language! Last time I updated, I had read 2 non-fiction books… now I’m up to three! I finally finished reading Crimea by Orlando Figes, a book about the events leading up to the Crimean War, the war itself and the aftermath. It ended up being quite relevant to current events… but I had started reading it some time last summer! Very interesting, but I’m so glad I’ve finished! Oh, and if anyone can recommend any books on Ukrainian history I’d be very grateful! The Crimea was the closest I found…

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I updated, the task was only to read 20 books in German, but I’ve been doing so well I decided to increase the number. I had read three German books in August 2013, and now I’m up to ten having recently finished Bis in den Tod hinein by Vincent Kliesch – a crime/thriller set in Berlin. You can see which other books I’ve read in German here.

Number 16: Spend New Year in Madeira and see the fireworks display

If you haven’t read about my trip to Madeira yet, you’re obviously very new to this blog ๐Ÿ˜‰ For those who don’t know, the boyfriend and I spent New Year 2013/14 in Madeira… and yes, we saw the fireworks!

The famous Funchal fireworks
The famous Funchal fireworks

Number 18: Bake 10 different kinds of biscuits

Last time I’d baked one, now I’m up to three. Since August 2013, I’ve baked Honey Gingerbread Biscuits and Chocolate Brownie Biscuits. The latter went down very well with my colleagues!

Number 20: Attend a world cup rugby match

Not done yet, but the rugby union world cup is taking place in England next year, and I’ve already asked my dad to try and get us tickets once they go on sale.

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

In August 2013, I’d read six books. Now I’m up to 7… or technically six and two thirds. I’ve read 2 out of 3 books from the His Dark Materials trilogy! Currently I’m reading Middlemarch by George Eliot (also on the list) and not enjoying it at all! I’ve barely started though, so hopefully it will improve…

Number 31: Watch 15 films I haven’t seen before

I hadn’t even started this last time I did an update and now I’m up to a whole 5 films. Woo hoo! Two of them are thanks to my little brother (age 7), who forced me to watch Planes at Christmas and Thunderbirds when I went over in February. You can see what else I’ve watched here.

Aaaand that’s all I’ve done since my last update. I do have an idea about which biscuits to bake next, though. Stay tuned….

 

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?