Thursday, 31 July 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies..nearly!

Recently, the chocolate chip cookie phase has hit the food blogging world. Yup - first no-rise bread, then macroons, now for a short while cookies. Inspired by this article from the NY Times, bloggers have joined in the quest for the perfect chocolate cookie. The article, written by David Leite and with comments from the famous Dorie Greenspan, explained and explored the view that freezing or chilling your cookie dough for 12, 24 or 36 hours can influence the flavour of the end result. Leite experimented with 3 batches of cookie dough, cooking each one after 12, 24 and 36 hours. He came up with the result that chilling your dough does improve your cookie and you end up with a more carmelly and rich flavoured cookie!

Well, thats all fine and fabulous, but to me a cookie is a cookie and something I make generally because they are supposed to be easy and quick. Yesterday I made my chocolate chip cookies and cooked them straight after whipping up the dough as I couldnt wait a day to get some fresh cookies! I used my actual oven for the first time and it was a bit experimental - I found it hard to be sure that the oven was at the correct temperature as the dial only shows 50, 100, 150, 200 etc whereas my old oven went up in 10's. Anyway, I cooked them at what I presumed to be 180 and I think they worked pretty well.

This is the recipe I always use for chocolate chip cookies, with my comments in pink:

Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Dorling Kindersley Childrens Step-by-Step CookBook

Makes 18 cookies

70g (2 1/2 oz) caster sugar
70g (2 1/2 oz) soft brown sugar
115g (4oz) softened butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (the cookies would be good with this - sadly we didnt have any in)140g (5 oz) plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (forgot :P )
175g (6oz) chocolate chips (I didnt use nearly this much - I used about 3/4 of a 150g bar! I could have used a bit more but it was hot and I wasnt doing very well bashing up my chocolate so it was melting!)
1. Set the oven to 190'C / 375'F/ Gas Mark 5. Beat the butter with both lots of sugar in a mixing bowl until creamy.

2. Break the egg into the bowl and beat it into the mixture until smooth. Then add the vanilla essence and mix it in.

3. Add the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda to the mixture, a little at a time, and stir everything together well.

4. Add the chocolate chips and stir them in until they are evenly spread through the cookie mixture.

5. Butter the baking trays and spoon small mounds of the mixture on to them, leaving big spaces between the mounds. (Don't butter your trays - line them with paper instead)
6. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minuts until they are an even golden brown colour, then move them to a wire rack to cool.

I think this recipe worked fairly well - it is very simple as it comes from a childrens book! As I mentioned in the recipe, buttering the trays was a bit of a waste of time as one tray completely stuck to the bottom and had to be really scraped off which broke them up. Lining them with parchment paper would be much better. The cookies tasted good - crunchy edges, melted chocolate chunks in the middle! I don't think this is the ultimate cookie recipe and I would like to experiment with some others - if any one would like to share their favourite?? I am sorry for the lack of photographs today - by the time I remembered half the batch had gone. I piled up the few that were left but my camera was out of battery :( I left them, planning to photograph them later but that night only one was left! I gave my Dad (cookie stealer) strict instructions not to eat it until he got back from work the next day so I could photograph my lonely cookie this morning. Lo and behold, I got down this morning, searched for it and the cookie thief had been! Anyhow, as my Mum said "they weren't that photogenic anyway"! Humph!

Back soon as I have lots to cook - mocha kisses sandwiched with chocolate buttercream, tomato and pesto tart and the best brownies ever!

Lucy x

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Cakes from Wales...

Yesterday I finally had the chance to bake in our new, extended and refurbished kitchen (and our new range cookeer/oven with shiny chef top!). Although it is still not quite finished so I was working on cardboard worktops, and I had no weights for my scales - the multitude of lovely fluffy cakes I served up at the end made it all worth it!
Yes, that is my kitchen at the mo!

We have gone to the same cottage in the Pembrokeshire area of Wales for two years now - both times at Easter. We have great times there (I went for my first proper bicycle ride there - I didn't learn until I was 12) but how does that link to these cakes? Both times we have holidayed there we have arrived very late at night, exhausted and grumpy after the long 6-7 hour drive from London. We would arrive and in the kitchen spy a huge tin filled to the brim of freshly home-baked Welsh cakes. It was the best greeting! They were crumbly and light - perfect with a smear of butter. They cheer us up before we head off to bed and you can bet they won't last longer than 3 days within our family!

After we got back this year, relaxed and rested, I knew I wanted to recreate these little scones in our own kitchen. Unfortunately I never got round to it before the building work started but yesterday, with no builders around, me already bored in my summer holidays and desperate to get back to cooking after 3 months of no kitchen and ready meals :( - I searched for a recipe, went out for the ingredients and got mixing!
There were 3 in a row and the little one said..yum yum!
The Mary Berry recipe I used was very easy to follow and quick and simple to make up. I enjoyed making them because the steps were easy and all they needed was a bit of a stir together! For rolling them out we have lost our rolling pin so i just flattened the dough out with my hands but I am sure none of you have that problem! I had trouble making the dough an even thickness, though, so when cooking they were done at various times. The ones in the middle of the chef top cooked a lot quicker than the edges so I shall bear that in mind and try to squeeze a few more near the centre as they do not spread at all. These would be a good go-to recipe if someone comes to visit at short notice and you want to serve them something scrummy, as they look like they may be more complicated than they actually are!

I did make a few alterations which I think really helped them and if I make them again I might experiment more. A touch of orange juice or zest, variations on the fruit - perhaps cherries and sultanas, or dried cranberries, maybe some more spice or for a more decadent treat even some chopped chocolate!
Here's the recipe, with my alterations in pink!!

Welsh Cakes from Mary Berry's Complete Cook Book, by Mary Berry

Makes 12 (I forgot to count but I know the recipe made a lot more than 12, probably 20)

250g (8oz) self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
125g (4oz) butter
90g (3oz) caster sugar (when I put this amount in, it disappeared into the batter immediately so I put in another tbsp :P)
90g (3oz) currants(similar situation as with the sugar, I didnt weigh an amount just put in another 3-4 tbsp of currants until they were evenly distributed)
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice (I spilled a bit extra to make it up to 3/4 tsp but my tasters suggested it needed still more)
1 egg, beaten (so i forgot to beat didnt make the slightest difference!)
about 2tbsp milk (Mary suggests this as a maximum, but to combine the mixture I used 4tbsp! this is probably due to the extra currants and sugar)
sunflower oil, for greasing (forgot to use! not sure it was neccessary?)
7cm (3in) pastry cutter (as I could not find my cutters, I simply trimmed my dough into long rectangles and cut triangles)

1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2. Add the sugar, currants and mixed spice, and stir to mix. Add the egg and enough milk to form a soft but not sticky dough.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm. Cut into rounds with a pastry cutter (or triangles with a sharp knife) .

4. Heat a griddle or a heavy frying pan and grease with a little oil. Cook the Welsh cakes on the hot griddle or pan over a low heat for about 3 minutes on each side until cooked through and golden brown. (really do make sure your cakes are on a LOW heat as our first batch cooked very quickly on the outside but were still a bit raw on the inside)

5. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Serve on the day of making, if possible.

Verdict? The Welsh Cakes were scrumptious, crumbly and light just like the proper Welsh ones. Plus - they have all disappeared now so something must be right! Also, the chef top made me and my Mum feel like professionals and the kitchen was a delight to work in! I will definitely make again. Come back tomorrow for chocolate chip cookies (as my sister requested!)

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

First Post!

Hello and welcome to my blog, Teen Baker! Yes, I have finally taken the jump and set up my own little section of the wild world of blogging to document all my adventures and experiments in my brand new kitchen!

A little bit about myself...I am 13 years old and I live in London, England. I love getting in the kitchen and cooking, and most days when I come home from school I go through the blogs in my Favourites - checking for new posts and delicious recipes. It was these magnificent people who made me want to set up Teen Baker.

I didnt really think that it would be sensible or possible for me to set up a blog - and as of yet I am doubtfu
l of whether anyone will read it! But my sister, and some bloggers I mentioned it to and admire (Peabody and Marie both thought there should be nothing stopping me so I thought why not?!

I have great foodie aspirations for me future (including getting a diploma from the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School, and combining writing with cooking by writing for a magazine such as Olive) but for now I am happy to potter around my kitchen and bake and post as much as possible!

I will be back later with a delicious recipe for Welsh Cakes!

Lucy x