Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Really gooey chocolate chip oaty cookies

My husband is spending far too much time at work at the moment. In fact, he spent all weekend there, beavering away, and I felt so sorry for him that I decided to bake him a treat.

I have to admit that this is not a first-time recipe, but is one that is tried and tested and I knew it would bring a big grin to my man's face. I don't know the origin of the recipe; it is one that I wrote down at some point a few years back and it has served me well. It makes really fabulous, really gooey cookies and this is how it goes:

Ingredients:

225g butter
220g light brown sugar
100g white sugar
2 eggs (free range, of course!)
10ml vanilla extract
155g plain flour
2g bicarbonate of soda
6g salt
245g quick-cooking oats
170g good quality chocolate (I use Green and Black's milk chocolate, but that's just my preference)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 165℃
2. Put the butter, brown and white sugar into a large bowl and mix together using an electric whisk until it is smooth.
3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each one.
4. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
5. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Then stir this into the other mixture until it is just blended.
7. Using a wooden rolling pin or mallet bash the chocolate until it is in smallish chunks (doing this whilst the wrapper is still on will prevent chocolate from flying everywhere!).
8. Mix the chocolate and oats into the big bowl of gooey stuff.
9. Drop heaped spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets (I use two). It's important not to flatten the cookies at this point, as they will naturally spread in the oven.
10. Bake for 12-14 minutes. The cookies will still be quite wet on top, but will harden up as they cool, so don't think they are not cooked if this is the case.
11. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack to cool completely (or eat whilst slightly warm!).

My cookies spread too far this time, so I had to use a spatula to break them up into cookie-sized pieces! If this happens to yours, it's best to slice them up whilst they are still slightly warm, as it is easier to do it then than when they have hardened up.

The photo for this one isn't great - sorry. I promise they taste better than this picture suggests. In fact, they're absolutely delicious!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Easy-peasy homemade bunting

My older sister will soon be having her first baby - my first nephew. As you can probably imagine, I am very excited about this! I have never really been a 'baby person', but as soon as my sister told me she was pregnant, I was bouncing around the room, planning fabulous gifts and wonderful day trips for this yet-to-be-born bundle of magic.

As a goddess-in-training, I decided to take advantage of this exciting event to practice something I didn't even know I had: my sewing skills. My sister has decided to decorate the baby's bedroom in a nautical theme and what would go better with that than a string of little flags to hang above the cot?

I had been given a basic sewing machine from John Lewis as a Christmas present from my grandmother and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out. I made my bunting in a day and, even with my limited sewing-skills, it came out well first time. So, go on, give it a go!

Ingredients:

1. Cardboard or paper template (I used the large template from here, but added an extra centimetre all the way round as I would be sewing two together and turning them inside out. This means that the final bunting was the same size as the original template).
2. As much fabric as you need for the number of flags you want to make x2.
3. Bias binding (to use as the ribbon - make sure you get a long enough piece to leave some extra at the ends).
4. Sewing machine (or needle and thread if you prefer).

Method:

1. Draw around the template onto the back of your fabric using tailors chalk or a normal pencil. If the fabric has a print on it, make sure you position the template so that the print will be the correct way up on the final flags). You will need to draw twice as many flags as you eventually want to make.
2. Cut out the flags.
3. Pin two triangles together, with the back of the fabric facing outwards on each side like this:


4. If you like to do things properly, you should then 'tack' the flags together to hold them in place before you sew them for real. I didn't do this; pinning them was enough for me.
5. Sew the triangles together down the two long sides, about a cm from the edge.
6. Trim the excess fabric, using pinking sheers if you have them. Pay particular attention to trimming the point at the bottom of the flag, as you will want as little fabric there as possible when you turn the flag the right way out.
7. Turn the flag the right way out!
8. Repeat steps 3 to 7 until all of your flags are sewn together and are the right way out.
9. Iron all your flags so that the edges are crisp.
9. Take your bias binding and 'slot' the first flag into the fold in the binding, leaving a tail at the end to enable you to tie the bunting up - I left 25cm before the first flag. Pin the flag in place.
10. Leave a gap of 2-5 cm before doing the same with the next flag and repeat until all of the flags are pinned into the bias binding, leaving another tail at the other end of the string.
11. Sew a line of stiches along the bias binding until all the flags are sewn into place.
12. Ta-dahhhh!!


My bunting made a very happy sister, and I hope my little nephew will enjoy it too!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Chocolate Birthday Fun

This weekend saw my little sister turn 25. That's right my *little* sister - how can she possibly be that big already?!

Anyway, my little sister turning 25 was a big deal in my family, so we all decided to descend on my mum and dad's house to celebrate. As my mum had already agreed to cook a roast dinner and an apple crumble for 9 people, it seemed only right that her domestic-goddess-in-training daughter offered to make the birthday cake.

So, on Saturday I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in to a little baking challenge: yummy chocolate cake, good enough to serve to my little sister. The recipe I used came from the BBC's GoodFood Cake Collection, but I tweaked it a tiny bit to meet my needs. This is how it went: 

Ingredients:

For the cake:

140g butter
175g caster sugar
2 eggs (always free-range!)
225g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
250ml natural yoghurt (yes, really!)

For the icing:

300g icing sugar, sieved
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved
1 tablespoon melted butter
3 tablespoons boiling water
50g milk chocolate, broken into squares
50g white chocolate, broken into squares

Method:

Cake:

1. Heat oven to 180℃ or 160℃ if you have a fan oven like me (Gas mark 4).
2. Grease a 22cm square cake tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.
3. Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy (you could do this by hand, but it would take much longer).
4. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well between each one.
5. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into the mixture.
6. Add the yoghurt and stir together until the mixture is smooth.
7. Pour into the pre-prepared tin and level out using a spoon or spatula.
8. Put in the oven and bake for 18 - 22 minutes until the cake is just firm to touch and is starting to shrink away from the edge of the tin.
9. Run a round bladed knife around the edge of the cake, to separate it from the tin, and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.
10. After 5 minutes tip the cake out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Decorating:

1.  Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl and add the melted butter and 2 tablespoons of just-boiled water.
2. Stir together until smooth and spreadable. If it is too stiff, add more water gradually and keep mixing until it will be easily spread.
3. Use a palette knife dipped in hot water to spread the icing over the cake. (Make it nice and thick for biggest grins on eating).
4. Melt the chocolate in two separate bowls, either in the microwave or in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
5. Use a teaspoon to drizzle the chocolate over the top of the cake in pretty criss-cross patterns. I did milk first and white second. Leave to set.

To serve, cut into squares or rectangles and put a candle in each one - I used HAPPY BIRTHDAY candles (but didn't get a photo at that stage) and it looked awesome.

The verdict? Yum yum! This was a lovely, moist and very chocolately sponge. For me, it was a touch too rich, but it seemed to go down very well indeed with the rest of the family!



Music choice for this one was ipod on random, which meant everything from Reel Big Fish to Matchbox Twenty!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

I ♥ Pancake Day

On any other Pancake Day, I would have thought about making pancakes, not been sure where to start, shrugged my shoulders and decided that pancakes were an over-rated culinary delight anyway...

Not this year. This year I am a goddess-in-training and thus must not shrug my shoulders and shy away from such cooking challenges.

So, this year I bit the bullet and made pancakes. But these were not just any pancakes; these were Awesome Oaty Pancakes and should be attempted by every single reader of this blog. Trust me - if I can do it so can you.

This is a recipe given to me by a very good friend, who also happens to be a very good cook. It makes approximately 6 - 7 light, fluffy pancakes, which could be accompanied by any number of toppings - savoury or sweet. It goes like this:

Ingredients:

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (this can be found in the same section of the supermarket as double cream and other such delights)
3/4 cup plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (a very important ingredient, as it makes the pancakes puff)
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

Method: 

Before starting, put the oven on low, so you have somewhere warm to keep the pancakes whilst you add to the stack. 

1. Mix the oats and the buttermilk together and leave to soak for 10 minutes (this softens them and makes a lovely, gloopy mixture)
2. In the meantime, mix together all of the dry ingredients
3. When your oats are ready, mix the eggs and butter in to the dry mixture, before finally adding the oaty gloop.
4. Put a mini frying pan (mine is approx 18cm) on a lowish heat and add a small amount of butter to stop the mixture from sticking to the pan. Let the butter melt before putting a good dollop of mixture into the pan and frying it. The mixture will spread out in the pan as it heats, but feel free to smooth it out a bit with a spatula. Mine were approximately 0.5cm thick in the pan.
5. Fry on the first side until the bottom is browned and the top is bubbling. The top will still be quite liquidy, but if you're quick flipping isn't too tricky. (I ran a rubber icing spatula around the edges as it fried, to help prevent sticking issues)
6. Flip the pancake and fry until the new bottom matches the new top
7. Transfer to an oven-proof dish and stick in the pre-heated oven, just to keep it warm.
8. Repeat until you have a delicious stack of pancakes, ready to eat

Then comes the creative part: add whatever toppings suit you. I went with chopped bananas and strawberries and a good drizzle of maple syrup. My husband added some Greek yoghurt too.

These pancakes really are delicious and would make a fantastic weekend breakfast.



This evening's choice of cooking tunes came from Robbie Williams' Swing When You're Winning. This is an excellent wooden-spoon-as-a-microphone album and should not be dismissed simply because it is a Robbie Williams album!