Friday, 17 April 2009

Gingerbread Women

Hmmph. It seems my scheduled posting didn’t happen, so my Easter post did not post itself whilst I was away. Ah well, lets just say I hope everyone had a lovely Easter and I enjoyed seeing everyone else’s Easter bakes. Moving on..
So often we end up baking or even eating things which don’t give us that thrill or make you smile when you pick it up from the plate. You may cook for your family, making their favourite dishes, and not for you. Or work at a restaurant producing so many of the same dish the fun eventually fades from it, or you are cooking multi-component but soul less desserts from the same menu day in, day out. Baking, for me, should ALWAYS be about relaxing and having fun in the kitchen making all our favourite treats. Sure, sometimes a big experiment with fancy new techniques and billions of dishes and ingredients make you feel extremely proud and satisfied at the end, but not always. Sometimes we want something a bit simpler, something just to make us happy or evoke happy memories in your mind! So next time you are in the kitchen why not make a bunch of cookies that smile back at you from the baking sheet…
unawares2 065
Or hold hands together….
unawares2 003 Or even reach out and wave at you..
unawares2 067 Some gorgeous gingerbread women for instance!(Yes, its a feminine bunch: I couldn’t find my man cutter). Ok, so gingerbread is mainly thought of as a Christmas flavour but I was flicking through a cookbook trying to find something quick to bake and these just jumped out at me :) Soft gingery biscuit and the chewy raisins and sultanas make for a blissful munch !
A few years ago, it was a Saturday morning and my parents were trying to persuade me to get the weekend papers for them and I was steadfastly refusing! The shop is only at the top of the road so I’m not too sure why but thats 11year olds for you :) In the end I got them to agree to a compromise: I would go as long as I got an extra 50p for a breakfast treat from the bakery. Deal! And so began my love for the gingerbread women.
unawares2 008The recipe I used comes from the sole cookbook my Daddy is proud to call his own: The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book. He probably cooked all his meals from it before he met my Mummy! Its actually very good and I have never cooked from it before these. So, if your kitchen baking needs a smile: here’s the recipe!
Gingerbread Men (/Women) from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.
Ingredients: 350g (12oz) plain flour
5ml (1 level tsp) bicarbonate of soda
10ml (2 level tsp) ground ginger
100g (4oz) butter
175g (6oz) soft light brown sugar
60ml (4level tbsp) golden syrup
1 egg, beaten
currants, to decorate
1. Grease three baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 190’C (375’F).
2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger into a bowl. Rub the butter into this until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
3. Beat the syrup into the egg and stir into the bowl. Mix to form a dough and knead until smooth.
4. Divide into two and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 0.5cm (1/4inch) thick. Using a gingerbread man cutter cut out figures and place them gingerly (HA!) on the baking sheet. Decorate with currants.
5. Bake in the oven for 6-12 minutes until golden. Cool slightly then place on a wire rack.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Running With Bourbons

Recently, I have taken up the habit of going for a thirty minute run most days after school and twice at the weekend. I run not to lose weight but to simply get fitter! Also, running along a riverside on a summery day can be quite lovely :) And after a good run, one of my new bake is perfect…
bourbons et basil 021
Bourbon biscuits! Yes, we are back to the Biscuit Mission. I just couldn’t stay away when bourbons to me are the staple of the biscuit tin (along with custard creams). The bourbon was created in 1910 by the biscuit company Peek Freans (who also first commercially sold the Garibaldi biscuit) and is named after the House of Bourbon, a Spanish family. There is also a very funny article instructing you on how to eat a bourbon, on the correct terms for bourbon eaters (I am a bourbonette :) ) here. All interesting, but the most important fact is that bourbons are oh-so-good! Two chocolate biscuits sandwiched together with a soft chocolate cream – what’s not to like?
bourbons et basil 027
I knew from the beginning of my Biscuit Mission that I needed to make bourbons but it took a bit of searching to find a recipe. I could have just made up a rough chocolate cookie and buttercream filling, but I wanted to get as close to the original texture and taste as possible of the bourbons in the shops. I was fairly pleased with the results, and my family definitely loved them. However I was looking for more of a crunch and neater filling: both of which are found in the Sainsbury's ones and are sadly probably due to a bunch of added nasty stuff. Overall, pretty good, but could be improved :)
Bourbon Biscuits
Ingredients (Biscuits):
1lb plain flour
2oz cocoa powder
2 level tsp baking powder
8oz butter (softened)
8oz sugar
4tbsp golden syrup
Filling: 4oz melted plain chocolate
8oz icing sugar
a few drops vanilla extract
a little water
1. Set oven to Gas Mark 3/ 160°C/ 325°F.
2. Sift cocoa, flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl cream together butter and sugar. When fluffy add the golden syrup.
3. Add the mixture to the flour, cocoa and baking powder mixture then knead together. It may take a while to become doughy but keep at it and it will come together.
4. Grease some greaseproof paper and line a baking tray with it. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about ¼ inch. Sprinkle a very small amount of flour onto the dough to stop it sticking. When it is spread across the tray sprinkle a little sugar over the top, and roll over the dough once more to set the sugar grains into it.
5. Cut the dough into fingers, then prick with a fork a couple of times. Bake for 15 approximately 15 minutes. Remove from oven and go over the cuts. Leave in tray until almost cool, then transfer onto wire rack.