Double chocolate brownie cookies

Picture the scene.  It’s Sunday night. You want to bake a tin full of goodness for work tomorrow. But should you make brownies or cookies? Answer: both. And don’t hold the chocolate chunks.

I found the answer to my cookie vs brownie dilemma on Smitten Kitchen which, by the way, is pretty much my go-to baking blog after the perfection of her salted chocolate chunk cookies.

Described by one of my colleagues with a completely straight face as ‘one of the best things I have actually ever eaten’, I recommend this most excellent of hybrid baked goods to you.

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Ingredients

115 g unsalted butter
115 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
190 g dark or light brown sugar
25 g granulated sugar
2 large free range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
45 g cocoa powder
130g plain flour
115 g dark chocolate, chopped into fairly generous chunks

Directions

  • Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in the microwave or a very low heat on the hob.  Remove from the heat when the chocolate is almost melted, then stir until smooth.
  • Whisk both sugars into the melted butter and chocolate mixture before adding the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.
  • Whisk in the baking soda and salt, and sieve the cocoa powder into the batter.
  • Next, sieve in your plain flour and stir until combined.
  • Add the chunks of chocolate and stir in.
  • Pop the bowl into the fridge for about half an hour (but apparently you can leave it in for up to a few days).  The chilling makes these easier to scoop.  If you leave the batter in for longer than 30 minutes it’ll harden more, so leave to sit at room temperature for a little while before spooning out.
  • Once the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 175°c.
  • Scoop the dough into about two-tablespoon sized mounds and place evenly on a tray / trays lined with baking paper, allowing room for them to spread out a little.
  • Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, at which point they will still definitely look like they aren’t baked.  Take them out anyway, because you don’t want to lose the fudgy, soft centre.
  • Let the brownie cookies firm up on the trays for a few minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack.
  • Enjoy warm if you can, but in case you’re not up for demolishing the entire batch in one sitting or you have people in your life who expect you to share, these are also yummy (and still fudgy – yay!) once cooled.

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This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. The photographs and other words are  © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

{The best} microwave chocolate chip cookie

I think like most people who have craved a late night freshly baked snack, I’ve had mixed results with microwave ‘cakes’ and ‘cookies’. I’ll just say ‘rubbery’, and leave it at that.

This cookie is different. And without wanting this post to devolve into histrionics, it has changed my relationship with the microwave forever. Having a delicious chocolate chip cookie available within ten minutes is, admittedly, dangerous, but well — you only live once. And if you’re going to have an evening treat, make it this wonderfully gooey, deliciously sweet, ridiculously easy microwave cookie.

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon (14g) butter
1 tablespoon (13g) sugar
1 tablespoon (13g) light brown sugar
A tiny splash of vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons (30g) plain flour
2 heaped tablespoons (30g) chocolate chips

Directions

– Grab a ramekin or mug that’s microwave safe (this won’t rise, so no need to use something big)

– Place the butter in the ramekin and melt in the microwave; do this in short intervals at about 70% power until just melted.

– To the melted butter, add the sugars and the vanilla. Stir together until combined ( a teaspoon is easiest on this scale!)

– Add the egg yolk and stir well.

– Add the flour, and stir in. The consistency should be similar to real cookie dough; if it’s too runny add a little more flour, and if it feels too stiff add a splash of milk.

– Add the chocolate chips and stir in. For this cookie I used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate chips – use whatever you fancy. Flatten the surface of the cookie.

– Microwave at about 70% power for between 30 and 40 seconds.

Tip: You don’t want to overcook this as it will dry out. The first time, only cook for 30 seconds; if it’s still looking quite wet on top, microwave for another 10 seconds. The cookie will continue to cook after you remove it from the microwave, and retains its heat for a while so be careful!

– Devour with a side of ice cold milk. Pretentious mini milk bottle not obligatory.

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Listening to Black Magic by Little Mix, Sugar by Maroon 5 and Hit me with your best shot by Pat Benatar.

This recipe is from Sweetest Kitchen with a few very tiny tweaks. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Neapolitan cupcakes

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Up until a couple of days ago, it seemed that summer had well and truly arrived in Britain. We had weeks of glorious sunshine, and when I was invited to my first BBQ of the year, it was the perfect excuse to bake something wonderfully summery. I was inspired by this beautiful neapolitan cake on Ellie Bee’s blog to create a cupcake version.  And here it is. These little beauties consist of a layer of chocolate cupcake topped with a layer of vanilla, and then finished with the best strawberry frosting I’ve ever tasted. The fact it’s made from real strawberries probably explains this.

Everyone loved them at the BBQ, and plenty of people sheepishly sidled over for a second one. (N.B. I wasn’t guarding my cupcakes, I just happened to be standing near the food table for most of the evening. That’s where all the best people are during parties, right? *awkwardly eats another Dorito*)

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Ingredients

Chocolate Cupcake

1/3 cup (35g) cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (80ml) boiling water
1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
3/4 cup (150g) and 2 tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (you can save the white for the vanilla cupcake mixture)
1/4 cup (60g) double cream
1 cup (140g) plain flour

White Vanilla Cupcake

1 1/2 (210g) cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
7 tbsp (100g) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
Seeds of 1/2 large vanilla bean
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup (120g) milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Strawberry frosting

1 cup + 4 tbsp strawberry puree (Unless you can get hold of this, you’ll need to start with a little less than a punnet of strawberries. Yes, just less than a punnet is a legitimate measurement.)
1 1/2 cup (345g) unsalted butter at room temperature
5 – 5.5 cups (625g – 690g) powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
A few drops of red food coloring (optional)

Directions

For the chocolate cupcake
– Preheat oven to 180c (350F) degrees.
– In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and baking soda.
– Pour in the boiling water and whisk until the bubbling subsides and everything is well blended, then allow to cool for 5 minutes.
– In another bowl, blend together melted butter, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt with an electric hand mixer until well combined.
– Stir in the egg and egg yolk, saving the egg white.
– Blend in the cocoa mixture, then blend in the double cream.
– Gradually mix in the flour and blend until well-combined.
– Divide the mixture between the 22 muffin trays — around a generous teaspoon in each.  Spread the mixture into an even layer and set to one side.
For the white vanilla cupcake
– Sift the plain flour into a medium-sized bowl.
– Add the baking powder and salt and stir until well combined.
– Using the handheld electric mixture, whip together the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds until pale and fluffy.
– In a separate bowl whisk together milk, egg whites and vanilla extract until well blended.
– Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture until completely combined. Mix on a high speed until the batter reaches a fluffy, almost mousse-like consistency.
– Now divide the chocolate mixture between the cupcake cases, spreading gently into an even layer so that the mixture reaches the sides of the cases.
– Bake for about 16-19 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
– Leave on the tray to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the strawberry icing
–  If, like me, you can’t find strawberry puree, you’ll need a little under one punnet of strawberries. Using a hand blender, blend your strawberries until you have 1 cup and 4 tbspn worth of pureed strawberries.
– Add the puree to a small saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 6 tbsp. It should take around 10 – 14 minutes (it’s worth measuring the mixture and if it isn’t quite 6 tbsp then return and continue to simmer until it has reduced enough).
– Pour into a small bowl, then pop in the freezer, stirring every so often, until cool. It shouldn’t take long.
– Whip the butter with the electric whisk until nearly white.
– Add an initial cup of icing sugar, then blend in the puree. Keep adding the icing sugar until you reach a good fluffy consistency — it needs to be relatively stiff to pipe.
– Once the cakes are cool, either pipe or spread the frosting on top. Et voila!
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Oh, and this was my first time piping – too! It’s a little wobbly, but not too bad for a first attempt, right?
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Listening to I get around by The Beach Boys, Sunshine of your Love by Cream and The Curse of Curves by Cute is What we Aim For.

This recipe is from Cooking Classy.  All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Lemon and elderflower biscuits

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Monday was a big (ish) day – it was the first time I baked for my colleagues.  I will admit that I do pride myself on being a half-decent baker, so I really wanted to make a good impression! I thought for ages about what to make, bearing in mind one colleague’s nut allergy and another’s aversion to raisins, and also the fact that it’s pretty hot in England at the moment.

Then I remembered that we’d recently had some rather disappointing lemon biscuits in the office, which had led to an impassioned discussion about how a good lemon biscuit should be. It needed to have a crunch, but most of all, it needed to be completely and utterly, blow your socks off, lemony. There is little worse than a less than lemony baked good. It’s particularly insipid. (Can you tell I feel strongly about this…?)

So I settled on creating the most lemony of lemon biscuits to raise spirits on a Monday morning. I found these on Bake then Eat after rather a long time trawling the blogosphere for something that sounded like it could work, and after a few tweaks I ended up with rather a lot of perfect lemon biscuits. They are a little like shortbread in their texture – with a crunch, but also with a crumble. And best of all, they are incredibly lemony (even more lemony than the original recipe, I was insatiable).  The elderflower cordial in the icing was a last minute thing, but it gave the icing a glorious tang – it’s completely optional, and you can just use more lemon juice in its place.

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Ingredients

  • 250 grams butter
  • 140 grams Icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 375-400 grams plain flour
For the icing
  • 70 grams icing sugar
  • Enough lemon juice to make a dripping consistency
  • A decent dash of undiluted elderflower cordial (optional)

DirectionS

– Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, using a stand mixer or handheld whisk.

– Add in the icing sugar and mix until well combined.

– Beat in the vanilla extract and the egg yolk until the mixture is pale and creamy.

– Add the zest and the juice of two lemons, and use a wooden spoon to distribute evenly.

– Fold in 375g of the flour to bring it all together.  This will firm up a little while chilling, but at this point mine was still very wet, so I gradually added about 25g more flour until I had a biscuit dough consistency.

– Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

– Preheat your oven to 190C / 170 fan / gas mark 5 and take your dough out of the fridge. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

– Roll the dough out until it is about 5 mm thick, and cut out 2 inch (5 cm) rounds.  Place them on your baking trays with a little space between them.

– Pop them in your oven.  Mine took about 10 mins to be evenly cooked and beginning to brown very slightly, but I’d recommend watching very closely as they’ll get very brown very quickly

– Transfer to wire baking racks to cool.

– In a small bowl place your icing sugar, a little lemon juice and a dash of elderflower if using and mix all together. Add more lemon juice a little at a time to get the right drizzling consistency.

– Drizzle over your cooled cookies however you like.*

– Kept in an airtight tin these cookies will stay fresh for… well… 5 days so far and mine are still fine.

*Tip: I got the effect on mine by placing greased proof paper under my wire cooling racks and then drizzling from left to right across the whole row of biscuits. I kept going back and forth until I had an effect i liked, with the greased proof paper catching all of the drips!

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Listening to Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, My baby just cares for me by Nina Simone, Fever by Ray Charles and Natalie Cole.

This original recipe is from Bake then Eat.  I’ve made a few changes, mainly adding way more lemon juice/elderflower. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Flying saucer cakes – honey & vanilla madeleines

The best thing about creating food, as far as I’m concerned, is making it for other people.  It’s one of my favourite ways to show I love somebody.  When I was about ten, that meant trying to make a pink mushroom birthday cake for my mum, and learning the hard way that you cannot ice a cake when it’s hot from the oven.  As I got older and slightly more handy in the kitchen, it has meant pancakes or scrambled eggs or huge plates of pasta for my hungry brother, and impromptu desserts for whoever is coming around for dinner.  Surprise birthday cakes in sixth form and careful research to find out which baking would most cheer up a friend mid essay crisis.

And that’s how I came to make madeleines for the first time.  My boyfriend has been talking for a while about a kind of cake crossed with a biscuit which he remembered from holidays in France.  It took some googling to find out what he was referring to, but it turned out to be these little golden cakes — denser than a sponge, but lighter than a biscuit. And so I set about working out how to make them, then putting two into a tupperware each evening for him to take to work the next day.  What can I say, I love through cake.

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Traditionally, madeleines are made in a special tin which creates delicate little shell-shaped cakes.  But let’s be honest, I have neither the space nor the money to buy a whole new set of trays.   One day, I will have a kitchen straight out of a Lakeland Plastics catalogue.   Today is not that day: I have two functioning cupboards in my kitchen, so adaptability is the name of the baking game here.  I took a gamble, made my first batch in a cupcake tray, and it worked just fine.  They may not be as refined as their French cousins, but I kind of enjoy their spaceship stylings.  This version is delicately flavoured with vanilla and honey, and although I do ostensibly make these for M, they don’t all make it to his lunchbox…

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Ingredients

  • 100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 1 whole egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions

– Preheat oven to 190c (170c fan oven or gas mark 5).

– Use a tiny amount of the melted butter to grease a 12-hole cupcake tray (or a madeleine tray if you have one) and use a sieve to dust lightly with flour.

– Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Put the butter, egg yolk, honey and vanilla into a separate bowl and whisk together.

– Using a hand held whisk, whisk the two egg whites until stiff.

– Fold the butter mixture into the dry ingredients until evenly mixed, then gently fold in the egg whites until thoroughly combined.  Be careful not over mix (you want to keep the volume in the egg whites).

– Divide between the moulds and bake for 10-12 mins until golden brown and firm to the touch.

– Leave to cool in the moulds for a few minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

– Dust with icing sugar before serving, if you like.

I haven’t tried it, but I feel like these would be really fun to decorate with smarties, chocolate chips, coloured icing and strawberry laces, to make them look like actual spaceships. That would definitely be a legitimate use of time for a twenty-something, right?

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Listening to: Overwhelmed by Rachel Platten, Stutter by Marianas Trench and Girl by Beck.

Edit: 10th July 2016

My mum bought us madeleine trays! These ones are kind of prettier – I even dusted them with icing sugar…

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This recipe is from the BBC Good Food website.  All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

No-bake Caramel and Peach cheesecake. Or, the day I smashed the oven door.

This creamy cheesecake is certainly a thing of beauty. But beauty born admittedly of absolute disaster… Every cloud? When one of our university friends was over for dinner a couple of weeks ago I was lifting an apple crumble out of the oven (domestic goddess) and somehow the combination of hot ceramics and oven gloves meant I managed to drop the whole thing onto the inside of the oven door. The inside glass panel shattered instantly into a million tiny pieces (safety glass — great) and we three were left for a moment as if frozen: just staring at what had just happened. And swearing.

Perhaps the most stressful part about renting, especially renting when you’re just starting out and don’t have an abundance of extra money lying around, is that you don’t own most of the stuff that you could potentially break during your everyday apple-crumble-creation activities. And so smashing the oven was followed by hours of sweeping up broken glass, and trying to get the shards out of the door mechanism so that it would actually shut, and then more hours of agonising over how much a new oven door was going to cost… I write this now from the safe vantage point of having had the oven door inside panel replaced at not too extravagant a cost last week, so… phew.

But to cut to the chase, here is what you need to know:

1) I had no oven for a few weeks

2) I cannot survive without pudding

So I made this cheesecake. It was nice. It is not necessary to smash your oven door in order to enjoy it in all of its glory.

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Ingredients

For the base
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g butter
For the filling
  • 450g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tin Coronation caramel (you could use Dulche de leche or something similar )
  • 240ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
To go on top
  • 1 tin of peaches
  • 15g butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar, or more

Directions

– To make the base, simply melt the butter in a large bowl (I just melt mine in the microwave – you can melt yours however you like. How liberal of me) and then add the crushed digestives (I don’t have a food processor so I put my biscuits in a freezer bag and hit them with a rolling pin until they were powder)

– Mix until the butter is evenly distributed, and then grease your tin (I used a spring-form circular number) and press the mixture down so that it forms an even base. I used the flat bottom of a glass to get the base nice and flat.

– Put into the fridge to chill and harden.

– In a large bowl (or a mixer if you have one) beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the can of caramel and beat until smooth and all combined.

– In a separate medium bowl, beat cream and powdered sugar on high until soft peaks form – about 3 mins with a mixer, or about 10 mins + very sore arms if you’re just using a whisk like I was…

– With a rubber spatula, stir about one-third of the whipped cream/icing sugar mix into the cream cheese mixture, then fold in the rest. Make sure it’s all combined, but avoid over-mixing.

– Tip onto the base and smooth the top with a spatula.

– Cover tightly and refrigerate until firm, 3 hours (or up to 2 days).

– For the decorative caramelised peaches, first line a baking tray with grease proof paper.

– Empty your tin of peaches into a sieve, and rinse under cold water, then pat dry with kitchen towel to get rid of as much moisture as possible.

– Heat the butter in a frying pan, and when it’s hot lay the peaches in carefully, so they’re not touching each other. Sprinkle enough brown sugar over the top to cover each piece. Cook for about 2 mins, then flip them over. Coat the new side with more brown sugar, and then flip again.

– One the peaches are sticky and somewhat caramelised, lay them out on the grease proof paper. Let them cool completely.

– Arrange on the top of your cheesecake however you like before serving.

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Listening to: Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars, Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran, Places to Go by Leftover Cuties, Completely by Caro Emerald.

Recipe adapted from this one from The Food Charlatan: I changed the base (her crust required an oven…) and used tinned peaches rather than fresh because it’s what I had, as well as making a few other tweaks.

All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: Regency Cafe, Pimlico

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Regency Cafe

I found Regency Cafe during a post-interview wander, which left me floating around Pimlico in search of a late breakfast. I was instantly intrigued by how retro this place looked; white block lettering against a black-tiled exterior, with red and white checked curtains at the windows. Correctly guessing that this kind of place would not take cards, I walked past initially, found a cash point, then went back. Inside, it really was like a time warp. Faded photographs and movie posters in frames lined the cream- tiled walls, and the tables were like the kind you’d associate with a canteen. Linoleum. The menu was spelled out in white letters on those black boards that used to display cinema times: slightly wonky and with some of the letters handmade where they’ve been lost or damaged. The food on offer instantly reminded me of home: the North of England has managed to keep far more of these ‘greasy spoons’ open, and so the fried liver on offer was reminiscent of the tiny cafe where I waitressed growing up. In London, though, there are very few of these places left. The ones that do exist tend to have a manufactured kind of feel, like they’ve been created to look like this kind of cafe, rather than actually being the real thing.

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Specials Board (+ builders’ tea; bottom left)

In my pencil skirt and blazer (remember, post-interview), I was suddenly conscious of looking very out of place: the cafe was mainly filled with working men taking their mid- morning break; all steel-capped boots, dusty overalls and fluorescent jackets. The service was rough and ready, but that only added to the warmth of the place — you order at the counter and then, when your food’s ready, they call out the order and you go up to collect it yourself. The man behind the counter had the kind of infectious friendliness that afflicts all of the best cafe owners; he seemed to know most of the people who came in and out, and by the time you left he bid you farewell like a long-lost friend.

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Condiments in technicolour

Builders’ tea; strong, milky and sloshed into plain white mugs, sat on most of the tables, accompanied by the full English breakfasts that you’d expect. Some people were tucking into large plates of rice and curry, despite the early hour: a chalkboard and the industrial-sized vat of mango chutney beside the till made it clear that this was the lunchtime special: Wednesday is curry day, apparently. The food was what you would expect: it was fresh, tasty and cheap. Definitely no frills, but this is the kind of place that shuns anything resembling frills at first glance. Standing at the counter and glancing at the menu, a man made a quip about Heston Blumenthal, that British gourmet chef famous for his weird, wonderful and very frilly creations (think, snail porridge) which I couldn’t quite hear. The owner replied jovially; ‘Oh yeah, Heston bloomin’ hell!’ It had been a long time since I’d heard anybody say ‘blooming’, and it reminded me instantly of my Dad, who is a fan of that particular exclamation of incredulity or annoyance. I’ve come to think of it as quite an old-fashioned phrase, and it made me realise that this cafe was filled with the invisible London which I hadn’t really experienced before.

Coming to London as an Oxford graduate, I’ve experienced a very particular face of the city. The posh bars and cafes, the professionals I meet when I go for interviews, and the other graduates who I spend most of my time with. But this cafe, and the people saying ‘blooming’, are more like the community I came from originally; using slang, and drinking tea from plain white mugs in cafes that only have two choices of bread (white or brown) and aren’t interested in any kind of smoothie. Don’t get me wrong, I love rye bread and passion fruit smoothies, but I also miss the simplicity of the small, rural place where I grew up.

When I went to Oxford, I was surrounded by people that mainly (not everybody!) spoke very stereotypically ‘British’ English; they were ‘posh’, I supposed you’d say, for want of a better word. Most people spoke very similarly, and I was instantly mocked for my deepened vowels, and the way that I said certain words, like ‘butter’ or ‘grass’. And even though most of it was just friendly teasing, it made me feel like I stood out. So without really realising I started to disguise my Northern accent; I didn’t let my vowels get too deep, and I rarely relaxed into the richness of slang and sayings that I’d grown up with. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the way the people in this cafe spoke reminded me inescapably of home, and that was really very nice.

Well, that turned into something of a tangent, but it comes down to the fact that if you’re looking for two eggs, chips and a Diet Coke for £4, then this place is ideal. And its friendliness is only enhanced by how rough it is around the edges.

Listening to: Warpath by Ingrid Michaelson, I Will Never Let You Down by Rita Ora, Strong and Wrong by Joni Mitchell.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.