potato chip cookies

Potato Crisp Cookies

potato chip cookiesYup. This week’s recipe is cookies made with ready salted crisps because a) I’m stuck in the house due to ill health and bored and b) why the hell not? January is a time of indecision for most people and I like to provide the answers to questions like ‘do I want crisps or a biscuit?’ with a literal ‘have both’.

I had randomly stumbled across this idea on an American blog ages ago and clipped it to an Evernote folder. I love Evernote. It’s like the organised version of my tendencies toward large piles of paper and lists and forgetting about stuff and my entire life is plotted out in there.

So when an old friend emailed to say he would be in London this week and would love to pop round for a long catch up and some home baking and I needed some inspiration, I just put the word ‘cookies’ into Evernote and this was the first hit in how my mind stores things.

It may sound odd, but really it’s just a novel way of reworking the good old salt and sweet combo and achieving my ambition to potato-ize every dish in the world. I do like lofty aspirations in my home baking, but I like deliciousness more. Would they manage that?

Spoiler alert: they are basically butter, sugar and crisps combined. They take deliciousness into a whole new sphere. These are so good I even stopped cursing the original recipe for using a cup and two thirds of flour. I want to be eating them right now, not using my hands to type this blogpost…

Potato Crisp Cookies:  makes about 20 (adapted from here)

  • 220g room temperature butter
  • 125g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g plain or ready salted crisps, crushed up

Preheat your oven to 160℃ and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. You can cut out the whole tiresome weighing cups adaptation of the recipe because I’ve done it for you.

I mistook the 1/3 cup measure I have and the 1/2 cup one and for the first ever my life added more sugar to an American recipe than it stated, but skipped the whole adding icing sugar step at the end so it worked out fine.

Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until light, fluffy and pale and then add the vanilla extract. Add in the flour and when it is about two thirds combined, mix in the crushed crisps too.

It will all come together into a soft pliable cookie dough that comes away from the bowl cleanly. I pinched a sort of walnut sized ball of dough off it and rolled and placed on the trays without flattening. The original recipe shows thin flat delicate cookies. I preferred some heft myself.

Bake the biscuits for about 20 minutes until just colouring round the edges. They didn’t flatten much upon cooking so I could have put them closer together and done them all once. You live and learn.

Cool for 5 minutes on the tray and then transfer to a wire rack. They are light and buttery like shortbread but with the salty crunch of crisps and my friend and I inhaled several in close succession. I put some in a tin overnight and they softened slightly to be chewy and buttery with the salty crunch of crisps. This is a biscuit that likes to keep on giving frankly.

Make them. That’s an order. Celebrate butter. Celebrate crisps. Make January nicer with both. I might sub some rice flour in next time to give even more shortness, but if you excuse me, I have a biscuit tin to raid instead of chat to you lot…

 

 

 

 

trifle

Chocolate Mousse Trifle

trifle

Merry post Christmas and Happy New 2016! I hope you had a fantastic festive season and aren’t planning to punish yourselves in anyway with month long detoxes or exclusions? You can drink a wee bit less or eat more vegan food any time you know. A pissing wet January weekend isn’t my moment to have a major life change, but I guess everyone’s different…

My big difference this Christmas was that I didn’t cook. I ate some excellent food but for once I allowed other people to cook for me. And it was absolutely wonderful.

My lovely friends went out of their way to welcome me to their homes and tables over the holidays and make food I could eat and make no fuss when there was something I couldn’t. As a result I enjoyed each and every time I ate and felt more treated and spoiled than if I’d been plied with gifts.

This was my first Christmas in England and I decided to go the whole hog and do as many firsts as possible and try as much new stuff as I could. I ate my first blini, drank my first Baileys, ate Brussel sprouts and pigs in blankets with Christmas dinner, had a snowball and the big one, made and ate my first ever trifle.

I have always loathed the idea of trifle. Technically I have never loathed trifle because I have never eaten trifle until last week. It’s not something we do in our family and frankly, I’ve always found it rather English.

My only childhood experience of trifle were terrifying ready made Dale Farm ones made of lurid jelly, cryogenically suspended tinned fruit and squirty cream begging to be put out of its mercy. Other Northern Irish children of the Eighties probably remember these in Crazy Prices or Stewarts too. I believe one was supposed to wash it down with some of that day glo orange squash children were practically weaned on in those days since it came in milk bottles beside your daily pinta.

I never touched them no matter how rude it made me look when I went to friends’ houses for tea after school. Luckily most adults were so tickled by a small child refusing sugar that they forgot to tell my parents what a precocious brat I was. Once I got to secondary school, trifle just seemed to vanish out of my life and I’ve avoided it ever since.

Listening to this Radio 4 programme with Tim Hayward before Christmas was my equivalent of watching a horror film. I ducked beneath the bed covers at least once as they discussed jelly and declared myself trifle-phobic.

Then it all happened. My friends who I was joining for Christmas dinner asked me to bring a dessert. I decided to make a version of this chocolate prune cake but with chestnut puree instead of dried fruit. This was my no cooking Christmas after all and that cake is so simple you can make and bake it in under an hour.

But what you can’t do at 1am on the morning of Christmas Eve is take it out of a bundt tin without it breaking into moussey hunks of panic on your kitchen worktops. Emergency Googling told me you have two options with a broken cake: cake pops or trifle.

And when you’ve got Christmas Eve plans involving prosecco and good jamon and better manners than turning up to Christmas lunch with no desert, you go with trifle.

One swift trip to Tesco Express later and I had the makings of a chocolate mousse trifle. I would layer the sliced cake up and pour raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries over it, add homemade chocolate mousse, more raspberries and whipped cream and it would all be fine.

Apart from the fact a trifle-hater doesn’t usually have anything they can make trifle for 6 people in and carry it around the corner with ease. Which is how I found myself making a bucket of trifle in a Tupperware container big enough to bath a baby, but yet easy to transport.

This actually make enough trifle for 16 people so it was going to be too weird to excuse myself from eating my own dessert. I dug in and told myself it wasn’t really trifle because the cake hadn’t been moistened but was meant to be like that.

And it was delicious. Incredibly ridiculously rich. But delicious. Turns out I’m not trifle-phobic. I’m just fussy. But you probably all knew that anyway…

Chocolate Mousse Trifle (serves an even dozen at least)

For the cake:

  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 200g chestnut puree
  • 175g butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar

For the mousse:

  • 400g milk chocolate
  • 175g butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the trifle:

  • 350g raspberry puree
  • 200g fresh raspberries
  • 500ml double cream

You could of course just make the cake or the mousse and not bugger either of them up and serve them separately. But if I’d done that I wouldn’t have had an amusing anecdote or a blog post.

Grease and flour a 9 inch cake tin. You can use a bundt if you want to save on some of the effort of slicing, but a standard tin is fine. Heat the oven to 175℃.

Make a bain marie by placing a large bowl over a pan of water on the cooker, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Melt the chocolate, chestnut puree and butter together in this. Separate the eggs and set aside.

Once the chocolate is melted, take it off the heat and set carefully into a sink of cold water to cool. Beat the egg whites with the icing sugar until stiff peaks and set aside.

Take the chocolate out of the water and beat each egg yolk into it one at a time with your electric whisk to add lots of air. Then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.

Pour the mix into your cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. The cake will rise massively in the oven so allow breathing space. Once the top is slightly cracked and light in colour, take out and let it cool on a wire rack.

Make the raspberry puree by blitzing either defrosted raspberries or fresh ones with a tablespoon of icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and set set aside.

Slice the cooled cake and layer into a trifle bowl (or enormous tupperware container.) Pour the raspberry puree over it and add about half the raspberries. Allow to sit while you make the mousse. You could use that bottle of Chambord you have knocking round instead if you prefer.

Set up up your bain marie again and melt the chocolate and butter together. Separate the eggs and cool the melted chocolate well. You do not want scrambled egg while you’re making trifle (obviously I got it on Christmas Eve and just carried on anyway.)

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks with a pinch of salt and set aside. Add the vanilla extract and beat each egg yolk in one at a time and then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.

Pour over the cake and raspberry puree and chill for 4 hours or overnight. About an hour before serving whip the double cream and spread on top of the set mousse and decorate with the remaining fresh raspberries. Serve and convert all the trifle haters and jelly doubters!

 

coconut tart

Coconut Spelt Tart

 

coconut tart

I have to say, I don’t really get the current coconut craze where it seems to be the new food Messiah du jour. I’m a fructose malabsorber so coconut milk doesn’t agree with me, mainly use coconut oil in the shower rather than cooking with it due to its strong coconut flavour and tend to only drink coconut water when hungover when I don’t mind the mustiness it has.

The one way I really like coconut is desiccated which I think is a throwback to my Northern Irish Proddy background where it crept into all kinds of traybakes and sweet treats promising ‘a taste of paradise‘ in a small grey skied country with small minded views. I love a bit of it on a Fifteen or a raspberry ruffle bar and occasionally inhale a dark chocolate Bounty with indecent speed.

I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth so it takes a lot for a dessert to knock my socks off but the treacle tart I had at the Rochelle Canteen a few months ago was so good I’m still thinking about it. The lightest pastry and butteriest filling, it was dessert perfection in my eyes and I’ve been itching to play around with it since.

I volunteered to bring dessert for book group the other week and needed something that was non wheat, low fodmap, low fructose and without chocolate or caffeine to fit all our dietary requirements and the idea of reworking that treacle tart into a coconut version popped into my head. I’ll leave to the utter brilliant Low Fodmap for Life to pick apart the coconut question for hardcore Fodmappers here and get on with baking.

This recipe is one of the few times you see me pick coconut oil over butter for cooking (even I draw the line at using butter as body moisturiser or hair conditioner though!) I wanted that extra heft of coconut flavour but if you don’t have any, just sub in butter. Please don’t ask me if you can use other liquid sweetners such as honey or agave syrup instead of golden syrup as they are incredibly problematic on the Fodmap diet and I never use them.

Coconut Spelt Tart (makes one 9 inch tart)

For the pastry: (adapted from Dan Lepard’s sweet shortcrust pastry)

  • 250g white spelt flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 125g cold butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • scant tablespoon ice cold water
  • pinch salt

For the tart:

  • 200g desiccated coconut, toasted
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 50ml golden syrup
  • 120ml water
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

I am not a good pastry maker despite having deathly cold hands. It can sense my fear I think and shrinks away from me. I think I often add too much liquid to it but this Dan Lepard version for sweet shortcrust is the best version I’ve used. (I know it looks like it shrank in the photos, but I actually cut the block I rolled slightly too small.)

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the icing sugar and salt. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and rub into the flour until it disappears. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with the cold water and beat it into the mix. I use a fork to just combine it and then switch to my hands to bring the pastry together.

It’s quite a soft almost sticky pastry and it needs a serious chill to be able to roll it. I usually put it in the freezer for 10 minutes and then fridge for 30 minutes if I need it then and there, but find it works best chilled overnight. Cut the block of pastry in two and roll one out to fit a 9 inch tart tin and then freeze the lined tin for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 180℃ and spread the desiccated coconut out on two lined baking trays and toast it for about 7 minutes. Hover awkwardly by the oven keeping an eye on it as it browns as it goes from slightly tanned to smouldering almost instantly. Take out and allow to cool.

Line your tart tin with foil or baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice and blind bake for 25 minutes. I don’t prick spelt pastry usually as it’s lower gluten and doesn’t seem to like it. I have no idea if there’s science behind this or me just being superstitious, but I’m sticking to it.

Put the brown sugar, coconut oil, golden syrup and water in a saucepan and heat to melt it all together. (If you do it in that order the golden syrup behaves itself nicely on an oiled spoon and cuts down sticky drips in the kitchen.) Add the toasted coconut and allow it to absorb some of the liquid for 2-3 minutes before turning the mix out into a big mixing bowl to cool.

Once it’s not hot to the touch, separate your eggs and add in the yolks along with the vanilla extract and salt and allow to sit for a few minutes. Take the baking beans out of the tart tin and bake it for another 5 minutes to crisp up slightly.

Beat the egg whites with an electric whisk until they are peaked and pillowy and then fold them into the coconut mixture. Pour the coconut filling straight into the tart tin and bake for 15 minutes until set in the middle. You might have a tiny bit of coconut mix that doesn’t fit the tin but it can be baked pastry free in a ramekin if you can want to serve a gluten free version of the dessert.

Take the tart out before it looks dry and don’t worry if there is a hint of moisture to the very middle when you test it with a skewer. It’ll be grand when you come to eat it. Cool on a rack completely. I baked mine the night before and it kept fine wrapped in a tea towel.

Serve in slices with some thick cream or creme fraiche on the side. It’s surprisingly buttery despite using coconut oil and not too sweet compared to some desserts so I liked something slightly lactic on the side as contrast. I was really pleased with how this tart worked out and would definitely make it again. The only time the book group was silent was when they were eating this which I’ll take as a good sign!

 

teff cookies

Teff and Spelt Brown Butter Cookies

teff cookiesMy lovely blog readers know this already, but many people don’t know that gluten free doesn’t automatically mean wheat free. My wheat free Fodmap friends have to explain this one everytime and I’m guilty of it myself when checking labels for them, seeing gluten free and assuming it’ll be fine. Ahem…

I’ve been on a mission to try and make desserts for a friend who can’t do lactose or wheat while I can’t do fruit. It’s incredibly difficult. A dry meringue? Dark chocolate? That’s about it so far and just to be helpful, I hate dark chocolate on its own. Far too worthy for me when I occasionally crave something sweet.

I’ve been reading up about baking with non wheat flours that are Fodmap friendly and then when I went to the Nour Cash and Carry in Brixton a few days ago, they had bags of red teff flour for under £2 which is a massive bargain. (I also got millet and sorghum to try as well as I’m trying to cut down my wheat consumption so I don’t overload my temperamental body any further.)

I was in the mood to bake and while cleaning out my fridge, found a bar of dark chocolate that might have been in there as long as the beetroot that expired last May. I needed to distract myself from my poor housekeeping and thought chocolate chip cookies would be an idea as teff flour is supposed to have a rich cocoa flavour that works well with butter and chocolate.

Teff flour

I adapted this recipe for a no chill dough that uses melted butter to give a chewier cookie, subbing spelt and teff flours in and browning the butter. They tasted amazing but were a little dry on the first go. I’ve reduced the teff flour as it absorbs liquid which is lower here because of browning the butter.

I’ve also made the cookies are smaller than the original writer suggests to keep them softer. You also need to work the spelt more to activate the gluten it does have which is a big adjustment for me since I’ve trained myself never to overwork wheat gluten. This is all part of the fun of trying new baking!

Spelt and Teff Brown Butter Cookies (makes 24)

  • 120g butter, browned (see below)
  • 75g white sugar
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 200g white spelt flour
  • 50g red teff flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 bar dark chocolate

Some people with very high lactose sensitivity may not be able to handle the butter here, but for me, vegan baking is a big no-no. Not only is butter the closest thing I get to a religion, the vegan substitutes of chickpea water, applesauce and flax egg are all massive Fodmap triggers for me. I also can’t have honey or agave. My body wants Tate and Lyle and proper butter or it will have a digestive tantrum. And if my body demands butter, who am I to argue?

Start by browning the butter. Put the butter in a pan and melt it well, turning the heat up slightly once it is liquid to get it to foam and reduce some of the water content. Keep stirring it and let it heat until the butter turns brown and smells nutty but not burned. Watch it closely and take it off the heat at this point, pouring it into a bowl to cool slightly.

Give it five minutes and then use an electric whisk to beat the sugars in until it is a gorgeous creamy toffee coloured emulsion. Add the egg and beat in lightly and then add the vanilla.

Sift in the spelt flour. I find it clumps a lot in the packet and can be lumpy when you bake with it if you don’t sift or sieve it well. Mix it in well and add the teff flour and baking powder. The dough should come together in a soft ball that comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Add the chocolate. I bashed my bar up with a rolling pin and chopped it roughly so the chunks were big.

teff dough

Pull balls of the dough off and roll into walnut sized balls. Flatten them with a fork on trays lined with baking paper. Don’t go crazy handling the dough but don’t worry about playing around with it. Spelt likes a bit of affection. Bake for 7-8 minutes on 180℃. The dough will be very dark when it goes in and come out considerably paler. Don’t let the cookies look cooked as you want them to stay as soft as possible.

Cool on the tray for 2 minutes and then onto a rack and allow to cool slowly. They will be deliciously chocolately and buttery with the best flavour of a cookie I’ve had in a long time and softer and chewier than my first batch. I still want to refine them further so if you have any tips on teff or spelt or make these, let me know in the comments. I’ll get some lactose free milk in for you…

choux

Spelt Choux Pastry

chouxI love choux pastry. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a Paris-Brest, a profiterole or an éclair, I adore it. Not even having grown up with tales of my mum’s summer job at Bird’s Eye on the frozen éclair line and still being traumatised at the sight of one decades later could convince me otherwise.

But oddly enough I’d never made choux pastry, thinking it was incredibly difficult and demanding to do. But when I decided to throw a party the other week, I immediately decided to do difficult and demanding because God forbid you’d make entertaining easy in my mind. I’m surprised I didn’t decide to go full croquembouche just to be sure I gave myself real stress.

My only choux dilemma was if you could make it with spelt flour to be wheat free for a fellow Fodmapper. Spoiler alert: it works just fine. This is because spelt still contains gluten so gets a nice texture and structure. You just need slightly more liquid than with wheat flour or it gets almost impossible to beat even with an electric whisk.

I found making the choux incredibly easy and kept thinking something was bound to go wrong because it just seemed *too* simple (why yes, I do collect anxiety disorders like cookbooks since you ask.) Nothing malfunctioned, but I discovered I hate hate hate piping choux pastry so gave up and just dolloped it on the baking tray instead before I turned the air blue and my hand white with squeezing the piping bag.

I filled the choux with creme patisserie which also worked marvellously and then whipped up a few coffee mini pavlovas with the remaining egg whites to be economical. This would have worked better if I hadn’t forgotten about a tray of them and found them cooled in the oven a week later. But honestly, with a bit of mise-en-place and good music on the radio, this was a great way to cater for a party of people with food intolerances with minimum trickiness.

Spelt Choux Pastry (makes approx 40 large profiteroles)

  • 120g butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 350ml water or half and half water and milk
  • 300g spelt flour, sifted well
  • 6 eggs

I do have one piece of sad news from the world of choux. When researching recipes, I discovered it is the first time Dan Lepard has ever let me down. There was no indication how much pastry the recipe made and it took me a moment or two to stop reeling and start doing some maths to adapt this internet based recipe into one that worked and served enough people.

Start by heating the butter, salt and water together until the butter is melted and reaches boiling point. Lower the heat and add the sifted spelt flour. I sifted mine twice as spelt has a tendency to clumping and one does not want clumpy choux. Stir it all well until combined until the mix pulls away from the sides of the pan. Mine did it almost instantly.

Take it off the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Beat each whole egg in one at a time until well combined. This is best with an electric mixer. My fifth egg caused my slightly dry choux to pull up the beater like a tornado so I had to hand mix the last one in. It should be glossy and just the stiff side of sloppy.

I then tried to pipe my slightly too stiff choux out of a slightly too small nozzle and ended up with tiny pointed topped buns and a general sense of rage. I switched to using a warmed spoon to dollop out blobs onto trays lined with baking paper before baking the buns at 200℃ for 20 minutes. I then reduced the heat to 170℃ for another 20 minutes to allow the choux to dry out slightly.

Once lifted out of the oven, I used rubber gloves to lift them off the trays and poked a hole in the base of each one to let the steam out as they cooled to stop them going soft. Then they then cooled on a rack while I made creme pat.

This is another one of those things people talk about in terms of being tricky and it might well be and I only had beginners’ luck, but I used my other baking bible in Rachel Allen’s fabulous Bake and it was easier to make than falling off a log. It will need to come back to room temperature to be easier to pipe though if you make it in advance. I used cornflour to keep it wheat and gluten free.

Creme Patisserie (will fill all those choux buns)

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g sugar
  • 25g cornflour
  • 350ml milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Begin by beating the sugar and egg yolks together in a large bowl until as light and fluffy as possible. I used the electric whisk. I also never use caster sugar because I’m not organised enough to buy it and granulated works fine for me. Stir in the cornflour.

Warm the milk in a saucepan until it just starts to boil and then gently pour the milk over the egg and sugar mix, beating continuously so it doesn’t scramble. I used the electric mixer again as it seemed to require less hand eye co-ordination.

Pour it all back into the saucepan and bring to the boil, continuing to whisk constantly. Mine foamed as it came to the boil and then flattened down as it thickened as it came to the boil and it made it easier to see what it was doing. I cooked it for a minute or two and then removed it from the heat and beat the vanilla into it.

I poured it into a bowl and allowed to cool slightly before covering well and chilling overnight. It set firmly in the fridge and I left it it out for about an hour before piping into the choux. I had intended to mix the creme pat with some apricot jam for an Austrian vibe but I totally forgot. The choux buns went down well despite this. I suspect I’ll be doing the whole thing again very soon anyway.