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:Β  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 πŸ˜‰ 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?

Time to start eating healthily again!

Walkers crisps from the UK
Why must you be so tasty? (Photo credit: suanie)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been letting the fact that I could eat normally again go to my head. Pizza, chips, jaffa cakes, chocolate Digestives and Walkers crisps have all disappeared down my throat like it was the last time I was ever going to be fed. The result? I’ve now put back on half of the weight I had lost thanks to my wisdom tooth operation. Ooops! It’s time for this to stop, and healthy eating to recommence. That’s not to say I won’t be eating any junk food. After all, I do have a sweetie hamper that it would be a shame to let go to waste! And they say a little of what you fancy does you good. But muffins and pizza in the same day? Half a packet of Rolos followed by a bag of crisps and a handful of Liqurice Allsorts? Slightly excessive, don’t you think? It’s got to stop! So, from today, I shall be cooking nice healthy meals again. And no snacking in between! That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see how well I stick to it…

And obviously Irish pub days don’t count… I need my fix of chips with salt and vinegar at least once a month!

35 Before 35: Baking – Honey Gingerbread Biscuits

I mentioned that one of the bee-themed gifts that I got for my birthday was honey. Combined with what I already had in my kitchen cupboards, that meant I was left with a lot of honey, so yesterday I decided to find a recipe and try to use some of it up. I chose these Honey Gingerbread Biscuits, mainly because I had all the ingredients (there’s no going shopping on a Sunday in Germany!).

Biscuits in the oven
Biscuits in the oven

I had no ground cloves, so instead I used extra cinnamon and nutmeg. I also added quite a bit of extra ginger because I find recipes never use enough for my tastes.

Biscuits 2

While they were baking, my kitchen smelled like Christmas!
I actually left the first batch in for too long… you may notice that some of the biscuits on the above picture are slightly darker looking… but they weren’t actually burnt and they still tasted okay.

Biscuits 3

The biscuits that I hadn’t overcooked had just the right amount of crispiness, but the honey made them slightly chewy in the middle and the spices gave them a nice kick that took the edge off the sweetness. I’ll probably make these again… and try not to get distracted when it’s time to take them out of the oven!

Two biscuit recipes down, eight more to go!

35 Before 35 – An update

Now that my 30th birthday has passed, I thought it was time to take a look at the progress I’ve made so far on my 35 Before 35 challenge .

First of all, a request. I’m up to 32 things on my list (which you can view here), which means I still need three more! Any suggestions? Some of the things on there are probably going to be quite expensive (hot air balloon ride! Stay in a five star hotel!), so maybe something that isn’t going to break the bank…

So, how far have I got with the items that are already on the list? I’ll do this in numerical order, I think…

Number 3: Learn Spanish. Welllll, I joined Memrise, used it for about three days, then completely forgot it existed. And I haven’t been on Duolingo for months. Not the best start…

Number 13: Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books. I have read two so far – The Importance of Being Trivial by Mark Mason (scroll right down in the linked post – I wrote about it briefly after my revew of Emma) and What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? And Other Cultural Lists: Fully Described by Peter D’Epiro.

Number 15: Read 20 books in German. I put this one on the list because I almost never pick up books in German when there are English ones to be read! I’ve managed three German books since starting the challenge though: Schattenfreundin by Christine Drews, Schwesterlein, Komm Stirb mit Mir by Karen Sander and Mordsfreunde by Nele Neuhaus. All three are crime novels – it’s difficult to find much else by German authors, and I prefer to read books that were written in English in the original!

Number 18: bake 10 different types of biscuit (cookie for the Americans). I’ve baked one type of biscuit so far, Chocolate Cherry Cookies. You can read all about that here.

Number 21: Read all those books from the BBC Big Read Top 200 list of books that I haven’t before. That makes a total of 132 books, and so far I have read 6: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Emma by Jane Austen, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks,Β The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher and To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee.

Number 28: Play blacklight (glow-in-the-dark) minigolf.Β  I did this in Berlin, and posted about it here.

I think I’ve made a pretty good start to the challenge. Hopefully I can keep it up!

35 Before 35: Baking – Chocolate Cherry Cookies

I know you’ve all been waiting for the biscuits post. Well… some of you have anyway. Oh, ok… maybe three of you. And you would have had it sooner if my train home hadn’t been delayed – thanks for that, Deutsche Bahn! Anyway… on with the post…

Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Chocolate Cherry Cookies

On Saturday we were invited to a WG party (a WG or Wohngemeinschaft is basically a flatshare – Wohngemeinschaft literally translates as living community). One of the items on my – as yet incompete – 35 before 35 list is to bake ten different kinds of biscuit. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone – by baking biscuits I would have something to bring along to the party and make a start on another list item. Perfect!

I chose to make Chocolate Cherry Cookies using a recipe I found on the BBC Good Food website (click the name of the cookies for the recipe… but open it in a new tab. You want to stay here after all, don’t you?).

Stupidly right up until the mixture was almost ready I managed to overlook the fact that the dough wanted to be refrigerated for 2 hours before baking. Whaaaat?! I only finished making the dough at 10pm! Now I was going to have to wait til midnight before I could even bake the first batch! Buuut, the recipe did say “2 hours or until firm”. Maybe I would get lucky?

I initially left the dough in the fridge for half an hour. At 10:30, I took the bowl out, discovered the mixture to be nowhere near firm, then decided to try my luck anyway for at least a few cookies. It’s not like I was going to run out of mixture any time soon!

If you're thinking that's a lot of mixture... you'd be right!
If you’re thinking that’s a lot of mixture… you’d be right!

The mixture was still verrrry sticky as I tried to roll balls of it in icing sugar, but I persevered long enough to get eight of them:

Balls of cookie dough
Balls of cookie dough

Into the oven went the eight raw cookies while the remaining mixture went back into the fridge. After 12 minutes (the supposed baking time), I found the cookies still rather sticky, so back into the oven they went.

Nowhere near cooked yet... also, my balls may have been slightly too big
Nowhere near cooked yet… also, my balls may have been slightly too big

At 5 past 11, experimental batch 1 came out of the oven and I decided to try for another batch. The middle of the mixture was still pretty sticky, but around the edges was firm enough, so I used that. It certainly made rolling the balls easier!

Batch one finished... cookies or rocks?
Batch one finished… cookies or rocks?
Batch 2 waiting to go in the oven
Batch 2 waiting to go in the oven

I also discovered the reason some balls had ended up so large was because the cherries inside them were large. Yes, it was a bit of a “well, duh!!” moment…

I carried on like that, putting the mixture back in the fridge as each batch was cooking and using those bits of dough that had managed to get firm in that time before eventually deciding enough was enough and going to bed. It was 1 a.m. by that time! The next morning, I was up bright and early to make a couple more batches before going out for the day. The mixture was certainly firm now… so firm that I had to use a spoon to break bits off for rolling into balls!

Ironically, after all that we ended up not even going to the party. But at least I made a start on another list item… and Jan had some yummy cookies to take to work this morning (he was supposed to take them yesterday… but he forgot). Apparantly his colleagues had been asking when I would be baking again…

Cookies, ready for delivery
Cookies, ready for delivery