snickerdoodles

snickerdoodle cookie
Snickerdoodles: fun to say, even better to eat.

Go on, say it.

I’m not sure who came up with the word ‘snickerdoodle’, but I can’t even type it without smiling. Even if you weren’t dealing with a whole lot of cinnamon-y puffiness, with delightful sugary sand dissolving on your tongue, with a crumbly biscuitty texture, I think the word ‘snickerdoodle’ would still bring a smile to your face. And when all is said and done, isn’t that exactly what a cookie is supposed to do?

I came across this recipe while looking for a new cookie to bake. Chocolate cookies, Nutella cupcakes, lemon crinkle biscuits, shortbread, and then I flicked past a cookie that was rolled in cinnamon sugar. That looks like doughnut in biscuit form, I thought.

Then: hey, that looks like a doughnut in biscuit form!

snickerdoodles
The smell of these little cookies baking is amazing.

What could be more fun than tossing a biscuit in cinnamon sugar? I have many memories of sitting at Donut King with my mum, watching them make doughnuts (the heavy kind, before Krispy Kreme came around and made it super easy to eat 1,000 calories in a single airy mouthful). She would drink coffee and we’d split a doughnut as I watched the machine plop dense circles of dough into boiling oil. The best bit was always when they’d take the fresh doughnut and toss it into a tray of cinnamon sugar, and it would emerge from its bath perfectly covered in a sandy coat of loveliness.

This is exactly what I thought of as I made snickerdoodles for the first time.

This is not a crisp, crunchy cookie that you can eat when you’re cranky and need something biteable upon which to take out your grievances. This is a pillowy, soft, crumbly cookie that holds it together only long enough to make it to your mouth, where it dissolves into a puddle of comfort. These cookies are cinnamon hugs.

snickerdoodle cookies
Simple to make and delicious to eat.

snickerdoodles (makes 32 cookies)
For the cookies:
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter
1 and 1/3 cups (267g) caster sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups (375g) white flour
2 tsps cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
2½ tsps cinnamon
½ tsp salt

For the coating:
¼ cup (50g) caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Make the coating by mixing ¼ cup of caster sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon.

In a large bowl, cream 230g butter for 1 minute, then add 1 1/3 cups of sugar. Cream until fluffy, then add 1 large egg and 2 tsps vanilla extract and mix.

In a sieve over a bowl, place the 3 cups of flour, 2 tsps cream of tartar, 1 tsp baking soda, 2½ tsps cinnamon and ½ tsp salt. Sift a third of the dry ingredients into the wet, then mix, and then mix another third, then the final third. The dough should be very thick.

Once combined, take a heaped teaspoon of the dough and roll into a ball. Toss in the cinnamon sugar coating then place on a baking tray. As it cooks, it relaxes into a normal cookie-shaped puddle, so you need about 7.5-10cm between the balls.

Bake at 190C for 11 minutes. As an optional step, you can press on the warm cookies with a fork to help them flatten out.

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lemon & ricotta cupcakes

Little pots of sunshine.
Little pots of sunshine.

When life gives you lemons…

… say ‘thank you’. Because you’re about to make something wonderful.

My favourite flavour of dessert is lemon, every time. There’s something bright and rather astonishing about it that’s always refreshing, and when that sharpness is tempered by something smooth and silky like yoghurt or cream… my goodness. All bets are off.

Lemon and ricotta: a truly spectacular combination.
Lemon and ricotta: a truly spectacular combination.

I’m not the only one who’s wild about this particular combination; lemon and ricotta is totally a thing. There are cookies, there are cakes, there’s pasta and pancakes and crepes and ravioli. There’s a whole world out there going nuts for lemon and cheese, and it’s spectacular.

I don’t know why I’m so late to the party, but I’m glad I came.

Spring is nearly here.
Spring is nearly here.

These adorable little cupcakes make me think of spring, of warm sunshine yet to reach its full heat, of little parties in the garden and afternoon tea with friends. They’re sweet, they’re tart, they’re incredibly exciting, and you must have them immediately.

Lemon and ricotta cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
200g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 large egg
150g caster sugar
120g butter, melted
150g ricotta
1 lemon (juice and zest)
1 tsp vanilla essence
For the icing:
125g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Sift the flour and baking powder together, then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and the egg together, then whisk in the butter, ricotta, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla essence.

Add the flour and whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Spoon the batter into 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180C for 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the icing by mixing sugar and the lemon juice together until it forms a thick paste. Spread on the cupcakes. The icing will set firm and dry to the touch.

Little darlings.
Little darlings.

not quite florentines

Not quite a florentine. Perhaps a londontine.
Not quite a florentine. Perhaps a londontine.

Sometimes things don’t quite go to plan.

I had this idea in my head that I couldn’t let go. A florentine, but not exactly. Something gluten-free and nutty, something biscuit-sized and circular, something delicate held together with a caramel cage and strands of chocolate.

That was the idea in my head. Of course, in execution it was maybe a little more Pro Hart than Raymond Blanc.

I feel Pro Hart would have approved.
I feel Pro Hart would have approved.

What happened? Well, I’ve never made caramel before. Several recipes advise that you make it, then put it into cold water to stop it from cooking. I dutifully followed instructions, waiting for it to turn the requisite dark gold colour and plunged the base of the saucepan into cold water. And then promptly panicked when the caramel started to set and I hadn’t even gotten around to drizzling it over the nuts.

(Will I spoil the story if I tell you you can actually re-liquify caramel by heating it? – naturally, something I found out the hard way.)

 

Beautiful neat circles, waiting to be adorned.
Beautiful neat circles, waiting to be adorned.

After the panic had cleared, my beautiful Londontine dream lay in golden puddles rather than wispy cobwebs. The whisk was firmly stuck to the bottom of the saucepan with caramel and a distinct air of permanence. Shards of caramel pointed threateningly towards the ceiling. I had sugar strands on my face.

Oh, what a mess.
Oh, what a mess.

My inner perfectionist could have cried. But I had this wonderful, valuable conversation with my bestie this weekend, where she reminded me that it doesn’t do to take everything so seriously all the time. ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff, Kahmen,’ she said, and she’s right. I cook because I love to create, and share, and it fills me with a sense of joy and fulfilment and happiness. And sometimes recipes don’t quite do what you want them to. But that’s perfectly ok; in fact, sometimes it takes you somewhere just as good anyway.

Glorious mess.
Glorious mess.

With that in mind, the not-quite-Florentines are going to work with me tomorrow, and I’ll stand by them in their misshapen glory and all. What a beautiful London weekend it’s been!

Not quite a florentine. Perhaps a londontine.
A little messier than I envisaged, but still beautiful.

Not quite florentines
500g mixed nuts, lightly roasted
25g dried cranberries (optional)
300g sugar
6 tbsp water
100g dark chocolate

Line a large area with baking paper.

Arrange the nuts and fruit in circles – use a glass to get a good shape. Make sure they’re only in one layer, otherwise they won’t take the caramel and they’ll fall when you lift it.

Make sure the nuts are in a single layer.
Make sure the nuts are in a single layer.

To make the caramel: place the sugar and water in a saucepan with a light-coloured heavy base. Swirl a few times to roughly combine. Place over a high heat until the edges start to bubble. It’s very important that you don’t touch the sugar or water with your hands at all, because it’s extremely hot.

Swirl the pan a few times to make sure the sugar melts properly and take care that it doesn’t burn. When it begins to colour, slow the heat down until it’s a dark amber, then remove from heat.

Dip the base of the pan briefly into cold water, then remove. If this cools the caramel too much and it becomes hard, just return to heat until it liquifies again.

Too light, and it'll just be sweet. Too dark and it'll taste burnt.
Too light, and it’ll just be sweet. Too dark and it’ll taste burnt.

Working quickly, use a whisk to drizzle strands of caramel over the nut rounds. Make sure you connect each nut in the round, otherwise it’ll fall apart when you lift it.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water and drizzle over the rounds. Allow to cool and set, then carefully lift from the paper with a knife.

hazelnut chocolate chip cookie pizza

There's just more to love about a cookie pizza.
There’s just more to love about a cookie pizza.

Cronuts. Duffins. Dagels. Bruffins. I’m not sure what it is about hybrid bakery products that I find so amusing, but whenever I see them – the cheeky yet artful blending of the best of two beloved classics and some reckless portmanteau assigned – I giggle like a schoolgirl. Sure, they’re classics for a reason… but weren’t rules made to be broken?

With that in mind, let me introduce you to the pizzcuit.

chocolate chip pizza cookie
The latest bakery hybrid.

 

The pizzcuit is a rather delightful combination of glorious crumbly cookie and the harmonious shape of a pizza. Baked in a large circle and cut into slices, the pizzcuit is a family cookie. And by that I mean it’s sweet and nutty and special and made for sharing.

There’s a cup of oats in this cookie, which makes the edges chewy and a little crisp, and the centre stays fudgy and moreish. I haven’t strayed too far from the original recipe except to choose hazelnuts over walnuts and a different type of dark sugar – and I’ll admit it took me two goes to get this right!

So here’s what I learned:

  • Be careful about how you chop your chocolate. Too fine and you don’t get those satisfying chocolate chunks; too large and the cookie won’t hold together properly. 1cm chunks is as large as you should go.
  • Use a pizza tray or the bottom of a cake mould. It’s possible to shape a perfect circle with your hands, but it won’t stay perfect for long when it goes in the oven. This cookie spreads at least a good 2cm in every direction.
  • It’s super hard to resist eating a warm cookie, so you should definitely split the dough into 2 batches and make smaller pizzas so you can dive in right away and still have something to show the guests the next day. Or you can make one large pizza cookie and feel smug about your self-control, don’t mind me.
Anyone for a slice?
Anyone for a slice?

Hazelnut chocolate chip cookie pizza
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
6 tbsps butter
1/3 cup muscovado sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup oats
¾ cup dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup hazelnuts

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl.

In a saucepan, melt the butter on low. Remove from heat and stir in the sugars.

When slightly cool, whisk in the egg and vanilla.

Pour into the flour mixture and combine with a wooden spoon.

Stir in the oats, dark chocolate and nuts

Spoon the batter onto a pizza tray lined with baking paper, then shape into a neat circle. Bake for 20 minutes at 190C, allow to cool for 5 minutes on the tray and then slide onto wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes.

Cut into slices and serve with glasses of (almond) milk.

gluten-free lemon cookies

Lemon cookies. Just because.
Lemon cookies. Just because.

Is it cookie time again already? Well, when isn’t it?

I have a weakness for lemony desserts and lately I’ve been spending a little time indulging in the sweeter side of life. As the cooler weather sets in, traipsing through London’s streets in search of the next great party has taken a backseat to warm, intimate coffees and good conversation with friends. And how could you possibly have coffee without a little something to go on the side?

Moreish little morsels.
Moreish little morsels.

On days that start with frosty mornings and slip into rainy evenings, I like to sit on my couch with a really good book, a cup of coffee and a biscuit. The smell of lemon cookies wafts through my place, filling the air with something not unlike happiness.

Fill thy house with the scent of lemon biscuits. Go!
Fill thy house with the scent of lemon biscuits. Go!

These lemon cookies are a variation on the chocolate chip cookies I did earlier. I urge you all to bake a batch, keep warm and embrace cheerfulness. The festive season is peeking around the corner – can you feel it?

Gluten-free lemon cookies
1¼ cups almond meal
½ cup desiccated coconut
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
½ tsp vanilla extract
Zest and juice of a lemon

Mix together the almond meal, coconut, baking powder, salt and sugar. Zest the lemon and mix well, making sure there are no clumps.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until fluffy and doubled in volume, then whisk in the coconut oil, vanilla extract and lemon juice.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Place in the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the dough from the fridge and shape into flat 7cm discs. These will relax a little more than the chocolate chip cookies, so leave some room in between.

Bake for 7-10 minutes or until edges are brown. Remove and allow to cool on the tray.

These cookies should be eaten within two days. Not because they go bad or anything, but even in an airtight container they start to go soft, sticky and chewy.

avocado & oat cookies

Being good to yourself is important, but so is being kind to yourself.
Being good to yourself is important, but so is being kind to yourself.

Is it possible to have your cookie and eat it too?

I’m so glad you asked. Summer is well and truly here, bringing the whole healthy eating thing into glaringly sharp changing-room-lights focus. Not just because of the amount of skin we’re starting to show (a pretty terrifying prospect all on its own), but also because the heat makes it so much harder to feel good if we’re eating badly.

There are lots of differing opinions out there as to what constitutes ‘eating badly’, but I think you can’t go too far wrong if you listen to your body. For me, that means I physically feel pretty awful if I’m on a constant diet of deep-fried foods, fatty meats, sugary drinks and refined carbs (basically all the fun stuff). But at the same time, mentally I feel pretty awful if I’m restricted to lettuce leaves and a wistful, longing look at the wine list.

So is there a balance? I think so. I feel pretty good and fairly sane if I’m eating complex carbohydrates like brown rice and wholemeal bread, a smattering of lean meats, loads of vegetables and the occasional reality check of eating whatever I want to.

avocado and oat cookies
avocado and oat cookies

Which brings us nicely to today’s recipe. It’s basically an adapted Anzac biscuit recipe, made with wholemeal flour, a reduced amount of sugar and without butter. Once again, I’ve gone with avocados in place of butter – honestly I think I ought to take out shares in an avocado farm – which lends the cookies a brilliant green tinge. Take a deep breath, and think of pistachios.

The final product has a dense chewiness (from the oats and coconut) amidst a soft, moist, cake-like texture (from the flour and avocados). They hit a fine balance of sweet-but-not-too-sweet – I personally think that they could go either way and be served alongside a coffee or on a cheese plate. Without strongly-flavoured ingredients, you do get a sense of the avocado, so if that worries you you might like to add a handful of chocolate chips, a mashed banana, or some cheese and tomato.

These cookies hold their shape, so make sure you're happy with how they go into the oven.
These cookies hold their shape, so make sure you’re happy with how they go into the oven.

Avocado and oat cookies (makes 12)
2 small ripe avocados
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup wholemeal flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
¾ cup (60g) desiccated coconut
¹⁄3 cup golden syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons hot water

Preheat your oven to 165 degrees. While heating, you can toast the oats lightly while you get on with the cookies.

Place the flour, sugar and coconut into a large bowl.

Mash the avocados finely.

Place the golden syrup in a pot and heat gently, then add the avocados and stir until combined. This produces a slightly alarming-looking green mixture which may cause you to lose faith.

Add the hot water to the baking soda and then pour into the pot. The green mixture will turn into a frothy green concoction. At this stage, it would be perfectly natural for you to wonder what kind of crazy recipe you’re following.

Add the toasted oats to the flour and then pour in the wet ingredients and mix.

Shape into 7cm discs and flatten. Without butter, these cookies don’t spread at all so you can afford to place them quite closely together.

Bake at 165 degrees for 15 minutes and cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

gluten-free lemon cake

gluten free lemon drizzle cake
I confess: I really only got into baking because of the pretty pictures.

I’ve always had this endless enthusiasm for potatoes. Where others would look longingly towards the dessert section, I would revel in the salty crunch of fries. Crisps filled my dreams at night and roasties haunted my days. My comfort was a sea of creamy mash, my excitement a bed of rosti. Oh yes. Leave no chip behind.

Was it inevitable, then, that I’d eventually find a way to incorporate potato into everything, including a lemon cake? I’ll admit I was slightly dubious when I found this recipe for a gluten-free lemon cake – sorry, you want me to put what in it? – but allow my own incredulity to reassure you: it sounds completely batty, but it works. Potato is a friend that keeps the cake light and reassuringly moist and doesn’t get in the way of the lemon at all.

It's lemon cake with a surprising helper: the humble potato.
The humble potato gives this lemon cake a light moistness.

Lemon, for me, is tremendously exciting. Its ability to enhance and be enhanced by the contrast of salt or sweet, to lurk pleasantly in the background or take centre stage as the main flavour, to hold fragrant oils and piquant juice in the one fruit – well, it’s kind of amazing. Somehow the moreish tang of lemon tempered with sugar dangles you precariously between the worlds of sharp and sweet, each clamouring for attention and yet working together in a curious harmony.

And harmonious is just how this cake turns out. It’s such a surprising and unexpected marriage between lemon and potato, but it’s a joyous celebration nevertheless and you get to be good to your coeliac and IBS friends.

Share the lemony love this summer (with a tall glass of Pimms, naturally).

Grab a fork. I promise you won't taste the potato.
Grab a fork. I promise you won’t taste the potato.

Gluten-free lemon cake
For the cake:
200g butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
175g ground almonds
250g mashed potatoes (cooled)
zest of 3 lemons
2 tsp baking powder

To drizzle:
4 tbsp sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius, and grease a 20cm cake tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together and then add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg.

Add the baking powder and mix, then fold in the mashed potato, almonds and lemon zest.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until the skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Put the cake on the serving tray before you drizzle, and serve with double cream.

anzac biscuits

The Anzac biscuit - a national culinary treasure.
The Anzac biscuit – a national culinary treasure.

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the battle at Gallipoli during the First World War, where many soldiers died during the campaign to capture Constantinople. It is said that Australia’s national identity, the ‘Anzac spirit’, was forged during that brutal campaign – a defining moment for a relatively new nation. It is a day of solemnity where we think about our troops, the fallen and the sacrifices they and their families have made to keep us safe.

Naturally, we also commemorate the day with biscuits.

Crunchy and chewy and golden and delicious.
Crunchy and chewy and golden and delicious.

It might seem strange that a day that inspires so much thoughtfulness, sadness and gratitude in Aussies should be accompanied by something as irreverent as a biscuit – but in some ways, there’s nothing more fitting.

Made with rolled oats, flour, coconut and golden syrup (and egg-free to ensure no spoilage on the long journey to the troops), Anzac biscuits are a national culinary symbol right up there with lamingtons and Tim Tams.

Oh, and you can’t call an Anzac biscuit a cookie. We’re a little touchy about that.

Fresh from the oven
Fresh from the oven

Wholemeal flour works really well in this recipe because the biscuits are already grainy and slightly nutty, so I substituted the whole lot. Rumour has it that you can actually make quite a few substitutions without affecting the final taste too much, but for the original crunchy-on-the-outside, slightly-chewy-on-the-inside biscuits I love this recipe.

Anzac biscuits (makes 24)
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup wholemeal flour
²⁄3 cup (150g) caster sugar
¾ cup (60g) desiccated coconut
¹⁄3 cup golden syrup
125g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons hot water

Mix the oats, flour, sugar and coconut together in a large bowl.

Place the butter and golden syrup over a low heat until melted.

Mix the baking soda with the hot water and then add to the butter/syrup mixture. It will froth up.

Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix well.

Oats are delicious!
Oats are delicious!

Shape into flat discs of about 5cm across – they spread quite far, so you need to give them a lot of room on the baking sheet.

Bake at 165 degrees celcius for around 10 minutes, until golden. They’ll come out soft, but let them cool for five minutes on the tray before transferring them to a wire rack and they’ll crisp up nicely.

chocolate chip hot cross buns

A delightful little Easter treat.
A delightful little Easter treat.

It’s the end of the Lenten season, which always means hot cross buns.

When I was little, I liked the delicately spiced buns, but hated the sickly sweet hit of the raisins and currants. It would take me ages to eat one because I would have to pull it apart, picking out the fruit and eating the bread. Occasionally I would get impatient and try to eat too much at once, accidentally biting into a fat, disturbingly squishy saccharine pod or a slightly bitter piece of peel. I would have given up on them altogether, but there’s something very festive and special about the scent of a warm hot cross bun wafting through the house.

Chocolate chip hot cross buns: all fun, no fruity fuss.
Chocolate chip hot cross buns: all fun, no fruity fuss.

It was a glorious day when Baker’s Delight introduced chocolate chip hot cross buns. To me, it’s the ideal substitute since the cinnamon and chocolate go together perfectly and there’s no unexpected fruit bombs going off where they shouldn’t be.

I’m completely new to making bread, which always makes for a few nerves. I tried my best to tinker with recipes, playing with wholemeal ratios, types of sugar and quantities of butter in an effort to make them healthier, but eventually I found that it’s best not to mess too much with hot cross buns – you just won’t get the same experience. Maybe someday I’ll be comfortable enough with baking to perfect a recipe for wholemeal low-sugar butter-free hot cross buns, but for now I’m going to sit back and enjoy a sweet treat.

Happy Easter!

For who can resist a hot cross bun, still warm from the oven?
For who can resist a hot cross bun, still warm from the oven?

Chocolate chip hot cross buns (makes 12)
For the buns:
1 tablespoon dried yeast
2 tablespoons of honey
100ml warm water
100ml warm milk
450g plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
50g caster sugar
1 egg
50g melted butter
200g dark chocolate chips
For the crosses:
50g flour
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablepoons water

Dissolve the honey in 100ml hot water and 50ml milk. Make sure the liquid is comfortably hot and add the yeast, covering it with a clean tea towel. Leave for 5 minutes until it forms a good froth on the surface.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, sugar, salt, spices and chocolate chips together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

When the yeast mix is ready, pour it into the well with the egg, melted butter and 50ml of warm milk. Mix gradually until it forms a rough dough, then turn it out onto a clean surface.

The rough dough
The rough dough

Knead for about 7 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.

Watching dough come together is kind of magical.
Watching dough come together is kind of amazing.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a cloth, leaving it in a warm spot in the kitchen. Leave until it doubles in size (takes about an hour).

Take the dough and knead it back to its original size, then cut it into 12 balls. Score the tops in the shape of a cross and place into a deep baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cover and leave for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crosses by mixing the flour with the water and vanilla. Roll into strips and attach to the top of the balls by wetting them slightly.

Bake at 190 degrees for 20 minutes.

Just before you pull them out of the oven, you can make the glaze by gently heating the sugar and water until it forms a syrup. Brush the buns with the glaze while they’re still warm.