A few weeks ago I was offered a bottle of Malibu. For me, Malibu is oh so very 2005. A smell and taste that reminds me of very late nights, dancing to The Killers and Britney Spears one after the other, and eating chips while giggling with my best friend Anna. The idea was that I put the Malibu to use in a creative way – in baking or cooking, instead of straight up with a splash of pineapple juice – the way I used to drink it back in the days of my youth.
Christmas sweets are difficult. The desserts of this season really aren’t for me. I’m not into sweets at the best of times, really. Christmas for me is all about the cheese, and a dark, dense pudding of dried fruit really isn’t my idea of fun. I do, however, love to put a festive spin on a classic. These brownies are rich and indulgent, but the Malibu and desiccated coconut cut through and add a hint of Caribbean flavour. Perfect for listening to “Mary’s Boy Child” by Boney M (my favourite Christmas song) and having a dance in your living room.
As for the melting snowmen, well I can’t take the credit for that idea – it’s one of those Pinterest projects that’s all over the internet. Cute little snowmen with perplexed faces sitting on top of sugar cookies. This kind of thing is usually a bit fiddly for me, but in reality, I found this pretty easy – little hassle for a nice pay-off. They’re fun, festive and guaranteed to get a smile. Take a batch to your Christmas gatherings and you’ll definitely be in the good books.
The brownie recipe is fairly spongey – there’s a lot of rise from the little baking powder that goes in. You’ve got two options, really. Bake for 20 minutes and you should get a nice gooey middle. Go for a bit longer (no more than 25 minutes) and you’ll have a springy, cake-like texture. I’ve adapted the recipe from my Fail-Safe Blondies, adding cocoa and a few other things, swapping the vanilla extract for the Malibu.
Drunken Snowmen Brownies
A very sweet festive treat with a bit of a boozy kick - oh, come on, it's Christmas!
Mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.
In another bowl, beat together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs one by one, followed by the Malibu. Beat until smooth.
Fold the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
Chop the chocolate into shards and mix into the batter, with the coconut, until evenly distrubuted.
Transfer to a greased tin (approx 8x8) and bake in a preheated oven at 180ºc for 20 minutes. 25 for a firmer, more cakey finish.
While cooling, mix the icing sugar with water a little at a time until a thick icing forms.
Once the brownie is completely cooled (this could take a while, so plan ahead!), cut into four pieces. Spoon a little icing into the centre of each brownie. It should spread into an artful splat, but if you need to, help it along with a spoon.
Use your black tube icing to decorate marshmallows with eyes, smiles and anything else you fancy. Use a tiny blob to stick on an orange midget gem for the nose.
Place the marshmallow on to the top of the brownie, the tacky icing should hold it in place. Add buttons and arms to your melted snowman's body.
So, I deviated from my meal plan. I’m sorry but I had to. You know how on Wednesday I was planning to make raspberry ripple ice cream? Well I saw some delicious looking last-of-the-season peaches and I had to snap them up. I figured I’d adapt my recipe and make vanilla ice cream – something that despite having quite a varied ice cream repertoire, I can’t remember ever making before. I topped it off with said peaches rolled in brown sugar and flambéed in bourbon. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it was pretty top. What can beat a delicious, boozy ice cream sundae to send off summer? Made for eating on a patio wrapped in a waffle knit blanket as the sun ducks down behind the trees. Because it’s autumn now, you know.
My peaches were pretty wrinkly by time of consumption. Personally, I think that’s ok, as we’re cooking them down a little so they lose a bit of firmness anyhow. You could use tinned peaches for this too, in a pinch. I kinda like tinned peaches. I don’t mind leaving the skins on mine, mainly because it’s a faff to take them off, but if you’re a texture stickler, feel free to free those guys from their jackets.
For the ice cream, I used the same method that I used for my Yorkshire Tea Ice Cream recipe, but obviously skipped the part where we infused the tea. I was watching The Mind of a Chef (season one) the other night and that told me that this is a traditional “creme anglais” base, which I guess makes sense. It’s basically equal parts milk and cream, and then a shit-tonne of egg yolks. It’s very rich and kinda eggy – but that suits me down to the ground. I don’t have much of an inclination towards volume when it comes to ice cream, usually it’s just a scoop or two, so I need it to be super satisfying.
When it comes to vanilla, as with a lot of ingredients, you get out what you put in. Essence is a hell no, it’s the cheap, synthetic stuff that contains little actual vanilla. Extract is good, even better is vanilla bean paste or an actual vanilla pod, if you could get your hands on that. Trust me, if you have the money, spend it. A bottle of extract or paste lasts for a long time in your cupboard and you can use it in countless recipes – paying for quality will pay off in your baking. Plus, you get the satisfaction of seeing the little vanilla seeds in whatever you make. I’m easily pleased like that.
I’m relatively confident when it comes to cooking with alcohol in savoury dishes, but I’m a bit hazy on sweet stuff. I guessed the amount of alcohol to cook the peaches in, and it seemed to work well, they were neither too strong or too bland. You can, of course, tailor the alcohol level to suit your tastes. I used a slug of my old favourite from back in my student days, Jim Beam. I love that guy. He’s always there.
You can use something fancier if you like, you could also try rum or brandy, or even a bit of Cointreau if you’re feeling frisky. The process is short, which nicely balances the long slog of the ice cream preparation. Eat them all or save some in a sterilised jar. As time goes by the texture will breakdown a bit more and it’ll turn into a lovely boozy compote.
You can be as posh as you like with it. Layer the ice cream and peaches in a tall glass for that ice cream sundae look, or just dump ’em in a bowl and tuck in. Now that I’ve tried it out, I might revive it next summer with an added layer of damson or raspberry jam and a few crushed and salted pecans.
Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
A creamy, boozy treat to send off summer. Perfect for a big kid.
The day before you want to eat your ice cream, heat your milk and cream in a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. Whisk in the sugar. When the milk is steaming (don't let it boil), take the pan off the heat and scrape in the contents of your vanilla pod and stir through.
Leave the mixture off the heat while you separate your eggs. Whisk the yolks in a medium bowl. Spoon a little of the milk into your egg mix, whisking quickly to incorporate. Add a little more of the milk mix a few spoonfuls at a time until about half is mixed through. Add the rest and give it a good whisk.
Transfer to the pan and place back on the heat. You need to stay with it, stirring constantly over a medium heat, scraping the sides, until the mixture thickens into a custard and coats the back of a spoon – if in doubt, stick with it, it may take 10-15 minutes, but you’ll know when it starts to thicken properly.
When it's reached the right consistency, strain the custard through a sieve to remove any lumps and place in the fridge to cool. It needs at least 4-6 hours to get to the right temperature. I prefer to leave it overnight and churn the next morning.
Churn and freeze the mix according to your ice cream maker’s instructions – I churned once and transferred to a clip top tupperware container. Place it back into the freezer for 2-3 hours to firm up.
When you're ready to make your peaches, remove the ice cream from the freezer. It'll take 15-20 minutes to melt enough to scoop cleanly. Chop each peach into eight segments and roll them in the brown sugar.
Heat the butter in a large frying pan until it's frothy. Throw in your peach segments and cook for 4-5 minutes until the sugar starts to caramelise and the peaches turn golden. Pour in the bourbon and toss. The liquid will start to reduce and turn into a stickier consistency. When it's reduced by half, turn off the heat.
Time to plate up! I scooped some ice cream into the bottom of a tall glass, followed it with 4 or 5 peach segments and a little sauce. Next, more ice cream, more peaches and a dusting of brown sugar. Take your spot on the patio and enjoy!
nb. If you taste your custard before you churn it, it’s going to be very sweet, very creamy and very eggy. Don’t let this worry you. The freezer dulls its flavour, so think about how sweet you want it to be as a finished product, and turn it up by half again.
By Elizabeth Dix | Whip Until Fluffy
whip until fluffy http://whipuntilfluffy.com/
How are you sending off summer? Let me know whether the turn of the season has you clinging on to summer with white knuckles, or if you’re embracing the colder, darker nights already. I think I’m a little of both!
This self-employment malarky is confusing. One month you’re eating like royalty, bouncing around town at all of the cool spots. What’s that? You can’t be bothered to cook? Let’s go out! Another round of drinks? I’ll get these! Tasting menu? Don’t mind if I do. Then the next month rolls in and suddenly you’re gazing at your bank balance in some sort of a daze, thinking “Where did all the money go?” Prince to Pauper in the extreme.
Alright, so some of that is down to my poor household and financial management, but after three long years of going it alone, I still can’t manage to get into that swing of saving when I’m busy so I don’t need to scrimp when I’m not. Hence the meal planning. August has been my summer holiday month. I didn’t go anywhere exotic, but I took a week off and did a bit of hopping around the country visiting various friends and relatives. Thing is, when you pay yourself and you don’t do any work, well… there’s no payday. Still getting my head around that one.
So this week I’m trying to keep the costs down. I’ve had my jollies, checked out the new openings, but now it’s time to sit back and cozy up for Autumn. I don’t mind staying at home when the weather’s bad. I’ve got £50 this week to feed Matt and I, which may sound lavish to some, but trust me, we can spend a lot more than that. Hey – food is our hobby. I haven’t budgeted for breakfast because generally Matt doesn’t eat it and I have the same thing, of which I have plenty in stock. We’re not big on desserts, either, so you won’t see many of them. This is my plan:
Monday: Because he works in street food, Matt’s weekends generally fall on a Monday and a Tuesday. Sometimes we go out, but this week I’ll be cooking at home so he can put his feet up. Lunch is soup and bread, which I’ll hopefully homemake on Sunday. I have everything needed for bread in the cupboards. Soup will be made from whatever leftover veg we have from the week. Tea will be a courgette risotto – it’s the end of the courgette season and you gotta get those babies while you can. This needs fresh courgettes, goats cheese and a bottle of wine – I have the rest. £10.
Tuesday: For lunch, it’s sliced minute steak from the freezer folded through couscous with harissa, roasted onions and pine nuts. Time to replenish those pine nuts, they’re seeing a lot of use lately. Tea tonight will most likely be cooked by Matt. It’ll probably be that bit of pork belly we’ve got in the freezer if I know him at all, maybe with borlotti beans (cupboard) and cider. I’ll give him a budget of £8 to spend just in case, he’s pretty good at coming up with impressive meals on limited funds. £11.
Wednesday: For lunch today, I’m taking more of the soup I made on Sunday to work. I’ll heat it up in the microwave at lunch time and eat it with bread – homemade if it’s not stale yet, but otherwise I’ll pick up a fresh roll from Co-op on my way in. Left over risotto means one thing only – arancini. Tonight’s tea is light on the spend, heavy on the prep. I’m thinking Italian Small Plates. Arancini, deep fried courgette with mint, homemade garlic bread and aubergine parmigiana. Raspberry ripple ice cream (homemade) to finish. I need an aubergine, a new bulb of garlic and a packet of mint. Eggs and cream for the ice cream. £6.50
Thursday: I’m styling and shooting for a client during the day, so don’t need to plan lunch. For tea? Matt’s working so it’ll be simple pasta for me, linguine from the cupboard, plus pine nuts, diced bacon and peas from the freezer, lemon and a splash of cream leftover from Wednesday’s ice cream. £2.50.
Friday: Another morning full of styling and shooting, this time I’m collaborating on a recipe for Food&. I’ll scrounge what I can from what’s left. In the afternoon I’m finishing off the copy for a client’s website and then shooting out to dinner with friends. No grocery spend today.
Saturday: Realistically, I’ll be out and about during the day on Saturday. I might meet friends for a coffee, Mrs Athas most likely, and pick up lunch while I’m there. Or maybe at Trinity Kitchen. For dinner I’m on my own again, I’m cooking honey sesame chicken with egg fried rice – I’ll make a double portion so Matt can have some when he gets in. The chicken comes out of the freezer, two thighs left over from another meal. I need to replace my honey and buy spring onions. Luckily I have sesame seeds and rice already in store, plus eggs leftover from the ice cream. Will treat myself to a bottle of slimline tonic so I can have a gin or two – it’s the weekend after all. £4.
Sunday: If it’s not a roast on a Sunday afternoon, it’s most likely a bolognese on Sunday evening. I’m alone, so I’ll have a late brunch and a few coffees at my local shop, then pootle home to get the stove fired up. Brunch will be waffles with syrup, for which I’ll use the last two eggs I bought earlier in the week. I’ll make too many waffles and freeze the rest for easy breakfasts – you can reheat them in the toaster. For the bolognese I’ll get mince out of the freezer (Matt picked up five packs for £1.49 each in the reduced section a few weeks ago), I have onions, milk, tinned chopped tomatoes and stock in already, and I can use the rest of the bacon I defrosted on Thursday night. I need to pick up a bottle of red wine, celery, a carrot, basil (our plant died) and gnocchi from the shop. £12.
Total: £46 – wahey, £4 left over for snacks – maybe a few pieces of fruit and a packet of biscuits.
If you like these kinds of posts, take a look at Nelly’s and Tracy’s blogs. Those girls have it down. Me? Must. Try. Harder.
You can probably tell from reading this that my freezer, cupboards and spice rack are extremely well stocked. The spices and herbs have taken a long time to build up – but we tend to buy in bulk from the local Asian supermarket and keep everything in clean, sealed jam jars. When it comes to freezing, we buy the majority of our meat from the butcher but also use supermarket reduced shelves to grab things while they’re cheap. The extra cost at the time will pay you back in spades and if you have a lean month, your stress will be halved. Meat packs from your butcher or market really help too, and also encourage you to experiment with cuts you wouldn’t usually buy. Grains and dried goods can be stocked up on every few months with an online shop, but I love Millie’s for big bags of rice, couscous, pearl barley and lentils, along with large bottles of vinegar and oil. Having these things readily available makes for easy meal planning.
Do you plan ahead for cooking in the week? Are there any tools you use to make life easier?
This week, my first recipe for the Yogurt Council went live. Frozen yogurt is having a bit of a moment right now, so for my August recipe I wanted to focus on that, as well as adding a little bit of extra sparkle to make it stand out. I think an ice-cream sandwich is one of those things which instantly conjures an image. It’s a bit of whimsy, the food that dreams are made of. For me that image is America: jean shorts and baseball jerseys, the hazy heat of summer vacation with hotdogs at the diner followed by coke floats and an ice-cream sandwich on the walk home. Sticky fingers and a full tummy. It’s a memory I’ve created, romantic and wholly unrealistic, something I’ve picked up from films and books. But it seems overwhelmingly perfect.
Of course, ice-cream sandwiches (like most good things) are terrible for your health. At least 600 calories in one sitting, that stuff is reserved for days when you’re determined to shake that halo right off. Frozen yogurt though? That’s positively good for you, right? Right! While I’m not boasting that this is a low-carb or low-sugar recipe, it is certaining a little more virtuous than it’s heavy weight big brother. The yogurt needs sweetening because freezing dulls flavour – so for that I used honey. For the cookies, I used oats and wholemeal flour to keep the sins down. There’s still butter and brown sugar a-plenty, but hey, you gotta get your kicks somewhere.
Ingredients for the oat cookies: there’s wholemeal flour, rolled oats AND oat bran in there…
Scooping makes portioning easy!
Sorry, I couldn’t resist…
Things might get a little messy: a bowl and spoon help!
Have you ever experimented with frozen yogurt? I’m dying to try out some more flavours. I’m thinking next time I’m going for a greek yogurt, honey and banana mix. For a naughtier take, I’d make mini sandwiches from chocolate yogurt and Ritz crackers for a little bit of salt and sweet together. Roll these out at barbecues and picnics, or wrap them in cling film and freeze them for a sneaky mid-week pudding.
I’ll be back here on the weekend, and my next recipe for the Yogurt Council will go live next week – not long to wait!
Disclaimer: As part of my #YogurtStylist win back in June, I was asked to work with the Yogurt Council from Love Yogurt UK to provide three recipes showing off how versatile and practical yogurt can be as an ingredient. This is the first in the series, the second if you include the recipe I won with. Read about my win and what I received here: Courgette & Yogurt Loaves: A Recipe for the Yogurt Council
Welcome to the weekend, everyone! I’m back with the final instalment of my Le Creuset Yorkshire Day menu, and it’s the perfect thing for you to rustle up while you’ve got a few days off: the devilish combo of a sweet Yorkshire Tea ice cream topped with a tart rhubarb pickle to cut through all that creaminess.
There are two local elements to this dish. Number one, that old faithful, Yorkshire Tea. Without a doubt, the best cuppa in the world. When I was brainstorming ideas for this menu and it came to the dessert course, it was really the only thing that kept popping into my head. But I wasn’t sure how to use it. I thought about cakes, biscuits, even panna cottas, but it wasn’t until I went down to the Le Creuset store to talk through my menu that the manager, Nick, suggested ice cream. “Wahey!” I said, “I’ve just bought a new ice cream maker!” and that was that.
The other ingredient I wanted to include was rhubarb, because up here in West Yorkshire we’ve got the Yorkshire Triangle, a 9 mile space between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell which once produced 90% of the world’s rhubarb through winter forcing sheds. Err… or something like that anyway, you can read more about that over on Wikipedia. Basically, there’s a lot of rhubarb around up here. Matt and I mess around with pickles quite a lot at home. They’re surprisingly easy to make and they add a different flavour dimension to a dish. Usually it’s cucumber or carrots for Vietnamese sandwiches, or red onions for cold meats. I wanted to do a pickle for this recipe because at the time of my demo we were right in the midst of the summer, it was warm and a hot, steaming pudding straight from the oven wasn’t really appealing to me. Something sharp and zingy to cut through all the richness of the ice cream is something that can split opinion, but I figured it was my last dish – go big or go home.
I want to post more about pickling and preserving here on Whip Until Fluffy. It’s something I’ve been slowly getting into since around last Christmas, after my husband bought me a crate of quilted Ball jars and an instruction manual called Canning for a New Generation. But the basics are: the longer you leave things to steep, the better, and if you’re intending to keep stuff longer than a day or two, sterilise your jars. I do this but putting the jar (and the lid) in a hot dishwasher cycle just before I plan to use them, but you can do it with boiling water or even a microwave.
This ice cream is a standard custard base which you need to cook through on the hob before churning and freezing. When it comes to ice cream, personally I don’t think you can’t really get by without a maker. You can make sorbets and granitas, anything with an icier consistency, but a machine is 100% necessary to achieve the velvety smooth texture you want from an ice cream. I recently bought a KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment, which is a little pricey and makes two quarts instead of the standard one, but I survived for a few years with this Kenwood £24.99 jobby.
Ready to roll? Let’s go!
Yorkshire Tea Ice Cream with Rhubarb Pickle (makes 6-8 portions)
nb. the reason I use golden caster sugar instead of regular is simply because I prefer the flavour – especially in the ice cream. It adds a deeper, caramelised flavour to the final product, but this recipe will work just as well with normal caster or even granulated sugar.
For the Pickle:
1 Stem of Rhubarb, chopped into rough cubes
½ Cup of Water
½ Cup of White Wine Vinegar
½ Cup of Balsamic Vinegar
½ Cup of Golden Caster Sugar
1 tsp Black Pepper Corns
½ tsp Whole Cloves
For the Ice Cream:
1 Cup of Whole Milk
2 Cups of Double Cream
⅔ Cup of Golden Caster Sugar
6 Yorkshire Gold Tea Bags
5 Egg Yolks
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1. In a medium sized pan, heat the water for the pickle over a low heat. When it’s steaming but not quite boiling, add the vinegars and then dump in the sugar. Whisk it a little to distribute the sugar into to the water and help it dissolve. Throw in the peppercorns and cloves and bring to the boil. Let the mix boil for around a minute, then take the pan off the heat.
2. Throw in the chopped rhubarb and let sit for 30 seconds. Use a spoon to transfer the rhubarb to a sterilised jar, then top up with the pickling liquid. Seal and set aside for later.
3. Clean your medium pan and put it back on the hob, add the milk and cream for the ice cream. Next, whisk in the sugar. Use a low heat and keep an eye on it, never letting it boil. When the milk is steaming, take the pan off the heat and add the teabags to the milk. Leave to steep for 20 minutes.
4. When the milk mix is strong enough (it’ll be a light caramel colour), remove the teabags and place it back over a low heat to warm. Separate your eggs and whisk the yolks together in the bowl with the vanilla extract. When the milk is steaming again, add two tbsp of the milk to your egg mix, whisking quickly to incorporate. Add a little more of the milk mix, a few spoonfuls at a time until about half is mixed through. Add the rest and give it a good whisk.
5. Transfer to the pan and place back on the heat. You need to stay with it, stirring constantly over a medium heat, scraping the sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens into a custard and coats the back of a spoon – if in doubt, stick with it, it may take 10-15 minutes, but you’ll know when it starts to thicken properly.
nb. If you taste your custard at this point, it’s going to be very sweet, very creamy and very eggy. Don’t let this worry you. The freezer dulls its flavour, so think about how sweet you want it to be as a finished product, and turn it up by half again.
6. Strain the custard through a sieve to remove any lumps and place in the fridge to cool. It needs at least 4-6 hours to get to the right temperature.
7. Churn and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions – I churned once and transferred to a clip top tupperware container. Place it back into the freezer for 2-3 hours to firm up. At this point, take your rhubarb pickle and taste it. Adjust with a little more sugar, vinegar or spice to suit.
8. Remove from the fridge 10-15 minutes before serving for the perfect consistency. Serve a single scoop of Yorkshire Tea ice cream in a small bowl with a tbsp of rhubarb pickle drizzled over the top.
I served single scoops of this stuff in Le Creuset Ramekins. I have some myself at home and they’re a good size for individual dessert portions, and anything like dips or sauces – a little deeper than your standard ramekin. They’re completely oven proof up to 260ºc so they’re perfect for little chocolate fondants, bread and butter puddings and baked cheesecakes. You can buy them in sets of two for £16.
So that concludes my Yorkshire Day menu. Thanks for sticking with me! I was so pleased with how the cookery demo went, and I’ve had news since that they may be having me back around Christmas time. If so, I’ll be sure to let you guys know so you can get on the guest list. On a bit of a self-reflective note, I really surprised myself with my organisational and public speaking skills and I learned a lot about what I’m capable of. I’d love to do more of this kind of thing in the future. I just want to say a quick thank you to Le Creuset themselves, especially Nick, Mark and Sam from the Leeds store, the Victoria Quarter who helped set up this lovely event, as well as all the ladies who attended and the wonderful Jen for taking my photos for me. Please click through to some of the posts below to see what other people thought!
Disclaimer: I’m working as Le Creuset Leeds’ blogger ambassador. As laid out in this post, I adore the brand and have plunged much of my hard earned cash into building my collection, long before Whip Until Fluffy was even a twinkle in my eye. In exchange for cooking for some bloggers on Yorkshire Day, the brand offered me a handsome discount on future purchases (and a fantastic experience!) – but no gifts or payments were exchanged for this, or any other, post.
Most of us kitchen-dwellers have that one reliable thing. A last minute recipe for when a friend pops round for coffee, a quick dessert if we’ve wasted all our planning time on the starter and main (something I often do). It’s a people pleaser that’ll get us out of a fix. This blondie recipe is mine. Over the past few years I’ve made these beauties so many times. Oh, it’s your birthday? Have a blondie! You’ve just moved house? Take these blondies to help you settle in! You know, it’s the recipe that never lets me down.
Just to illustrate my point further, in the last 3 months alone I have used this recipe for: a house warming gift, one of many puddings at an American themed going away party, an in-law pleaser and just a naughty snack for Matt and I on a lazy sunday. They’re great because they’re versatile. Cook them for varying lengths for a sliding scale of gooeyness, wrap ’em up in brown paper to eat on the go, warm them in a bowl and consume with a hefty scoop of icecream. You can chuck in whatever extras you have in your cupboard: plain chocolate, white chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, glace cherries, mini marshmallows. Seriously, they’ll take pretty much whatever you throw at them. They’re always good.
Chocolate & Pecan Blondies – makes 6 large portions, 12 smaller
225g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
2 Large Eggs
4tsp Vanilla Extract
110g Light Brown Sugar
165g Unsalted Butter
75g Plain Chocolate Chips
75g White Chocolate Chips
75g Chopped Pecans
Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Grease or line an 8×8″ baking tin, I usually grease all over with a little bit of butter or vegetable oil, then cut a square of parchment to fit the bottom of the tin.
Combine your flour, salt and baking powder. Give it a whisk to get a bit of air in there. In a separate bowl (if you’re using a Kitchen Aid mixer, use the attached bowl for this part, not the dry ingredients) beat together the butter and sugar. Once combined, add in the eggs and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.
Sift in the flour mix and combine by swiping your wooden spoon around the edge of the bowl and folding in. Now it’s time to throw in your extras. If chocolate and pecans doesn’t suit you, another top combo is white chocolate and macadamia nuts. When I change up the extras I generally stick to multiples of 75g. For this I would add 150g white chocolate and 75g macadamias. For a fruit and nut option, stick 75g each of plain choc chips, chopped walnuts and sultanas. For a rocky road affair, 75g each of choc chips and chopped digestives, and 40g mini marshmallows. Happy days.
Scrape your mix into the pan and stick in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes for extremely gooey middles, 30 minutes for a firmer snack. For a structurally sound blondie, leave to cool for at least 2 hours before cutting. Personally, I can’t wait that long, so I slide a piece out with a spatula and eat it from a bowl, natch.
OK, so kittens aren’t blondies but they are cute. I thought I’d share a quick pic of the new additions to our family. Meet Hazel (left) and Rousseau (right), we’ve had them for two weeks now and they’re settling in perfectly 🙂
Sometimes I just want a sweet treat. You know how it is, you eat your tea and it was nice, but for some reason you’re still hankerin’ for something and you can’t quite put your finger on what. It’s in these times of trouble that I’ve learnt to turn to the baking cupboard. Rustling something up off the cuff can be hard when it comes to baking, more often than not you need specialist flours, sugars or flavours. That’s why we all need one fail-safe option up our sleeves, something you know you’re always going to be able to make. This simple biscuit recipe is mine.
You don’t need nothing fancy, just butter, sugar, flour, vanilla and one egg yolk. Simple stuff, right? Buy one set of all these ingredients and they’ll last you a while (just remember to refresh your eggs!), they’ll work in loads of other recipes, and you won’t need to pop out to the shop when you fancy something sweet. The biscuits come out like shortbread, buttery and crumbly, and are the perfect base to add extras too. That half a lemon that’s shrivelling in your fridge door? Zest it! A 3/4 used block of cooking chocolate? Throw it in! Chopped nuts? Check! Dried fruit? Don’t mind if I do! You get the picture… it’s a yummy vehicle for more yumminess.
Don’t get me wrong, these guys are fine on their own, but I like a sandwich. Twice as nice, right? This time around I kept my biscuits plain and I chose another use for that half a lemon from the fridge that’s going a bit brown around the edges… buttercream! While I was in there I grabbed something else that was looking a bit ropey. Leftover from the sunday roast, half a packet of fresh thyme. I’ve used lemon thyme in baking before so I figured lemon + thyme = lemon thyme, right? Well not quite, but kinda. You can add more or less thyme dependent on your tastes, or just keep the buttercream plain old lemony. Personally, I like a herby kick. Next time I’d like to add a splash of booze to the mix. Maybe use orange zest and Cointreau with a chocolate chip biscuit. Nice.
Ingredients(Makes 16 large sandwiches – whoopee pie style!)
100g Unsalted Butter
200g Icing Sugar
Juice of Half a Lemon
1/2tsp Thyme Leaves
1. Cream the butter together with the sugar. If you’ve got a mixer, great, but otherwise just use the back of a spoon and use those biceps. Make sure your butter is softened and you should have a fluffy consistency in no time. Next, beat in the vanilla and egg yolk.
2. Sift the flour in a little at a time (not sure why you’re sifting? Have a read of Joy the Baker’s Baking 101 post!) and fold it in with a wooden spoon. The mixture will go a little bitty, but once it’s a rough ball take it out of the bowl and shape it into a ball with your hands. It should stay together without a problem.
3. Wrap the dough in cling film and stick it in the fridge for half an hour. This step isn’t essential but a colder, firmer dough will make it a lot easier to handle. Preheat your oven to 170ºC.
4. For this next bit, I got a bit technical. I like to keep things as simple as possible but after one too many incidents with separate cookies blending into one big plank in the oven, I like to make my biscuits uniform. I separate the dough into little balls and weigh each one on my digital scales until they’re all a matching 40g. This helps keep them roughly the same size and shape when they bake. It seems like a lot of trouble but it’s actually pretty easy and the look of the finish product makes it well worth the time.
NB: feel free to cut the measurements down to 30g and use a cutter to cut the biscuits – they’ll look a whole lot prettier than the “rustic” look I’ve gone for.
5. I baked mine in batches. I placed 6 balls on my baking sheet in alternate spaces (see picture) so they each have their own space to spread. I created the pattern in the top just by pressing down with a fork to form a cross. I don’t really know why; my mum used to do it so I guess it’s just habit! Keep an eye on them but 10-12 minutes had them turning brown at the edges for me.
6. While the biscuits are in the oven, beat 100g of unsalted butter together with 200g of icing sugar. If you’re using a mixer, turn it up to the highest speed. By hand? Work up a sweat. For plain buttercream I’d add 2 tbsp of milk at this point, but here the lemon juice does that job. Once the mixture gets to a whipped texture, add the juice and the thyme leaves. Whip until fluffy (wahey!) and the butter should turn from yellow to a lighter, creamier colour.
7. Cool the biscuits on a wire cooling rack. They’ll be flimsy when warm so go steady. Once they’re completely cooled, the biscuits themselves will stay crispy for 2-3 days in a sealed container. If you’re making them for a special occasion, don’t sandwich them with the buttercream until the day you intend to eat them, it can make them a little squishy in the middle if they sit for a bit.
Lil | Leeds | Big Eater
Hey, I'm Lil. I'm a freelance food and drink consultant living in Leeds, West Yorkshire. My life revolves around my next meal, and this is where I come to talk about it.
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