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500 days of cookies

28 Sep

Greetings gentle readers. Welcome back to a fresh instalment of the Baking Archaeologist. As the new school year is upon us here in the UK, needy research students are in ever more desperate need of sugar-based baked goods, to sooth their frayed nerves as the undergraduate hordes descend upon us once again. To those of us who have resided within our cramped, dark research rooms for the duration of the summer, becoming vaguely Gollum-like in our shunning of natural light, the cacophony that accompanies the start of term is nothing short of apocalyptic, what with the undergrads thronging through the department, filling the lifts and eating all of the sandwiches. And so, naturally, we must turn to sugar and caffeine to sustain our fragile, fragile minds…

Anyway, so last week was the most nightmarish of times – yet another birthday for yours truly. While it’s not quite the big 3-0 yet, it’s creeping up on me with steadfast determination. Regardless of the waking terrors this has caused me, I did manage to acquire some sweet-ass gifts, including a new cookbook – 500 Cookies. After salivating my way through the pages of said tome, I decided to start this new term with a double whammy of cookie awesomeness. And here, for your gazing pleasure, are the two cookies I chose to start off with: Chewy Chocolate Cookies and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

Behold the chewy chocolate cookies – practically perfect in every way! Gorgeous gooey wonderfulness. I am somewhat obsessed with finding the perfect cookie – crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. These little babies come pretty damn close. The first batch through the oven are a bit on the fudgey side, taken out at 8 minutes; the batch left in for ten minutes were more to my liking – crunchy and chewy. Bliss! If you want a cookies that’s pretty much just a brownie in disguise, these are the cookies for you. Oh, but seriously, don’t eat too many – they are chocolatey enough to kill.

Possibly even better than the chewy goodness above, here be the desperately moorish White Chocolate Chunk cookies. Just try to eat only one – go on, I dare you. It’s physically impossible – believe me. Again, these bad boys are a lovely cross between soft, chewy insides and firm, slightly crunchy outsides. Like the chocolate cookies, I would recommend cooking these guys a bit on the long side, as the slightly burnt ones had the best texture ever.

So I think that I’m going to keep on working my way through my 500 cookies for the next few weeks ( as I still have 498 more to go). Tempted to try the amaretti cookies next (my favourite ever), but I could be persuaded to make the giant cookie pizza instead… As always, if you want the recipes, just drop me a line and I’ll try to send them your way!

Until next week…

Sticky Ginger Cake

27 Jun

Hello again gentle bakers! Apologies for the lack of deliciousness last week – I made some lovely brownies last Sunday, but as they were reasonably straight forward to make, I figured you all might not be all that fascinated by it. Anyway, this week it’s another fiendishly fabulous cake from River Cottage Everyday – Sticky Jamaican Style Ginger cake, and, Mr. B describes, is quite darkly delicious. Calling for black treacle, golden syrup, dark muscovado sugar (yes, it really did this time), crystalized ginger and a mighty splash of rum (of the Puerto Rican variety), this cake is remarkably spicy and sweet, with a texture that’s soft and delicate, save for the occasional chewy gingery bite. I wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out – I’m slightly wary of cooking with alcohol – but the rum comes through just at the end, giving the cake more of kick than it otherwise would have had. Personally, I think that I would prefer a rum-free cake, but I’m unsure what you could use as a substitute. Any thoughts?

Also, the only other issue I had with this cake was getting it to cook through all the way. I did end up burning the top ever so slightly, but the problem was that by the time the middle of the cake was cooked properly, the outer edges had become a bit dry. I noticed this the last time I made a loaf cake and I’m not sure if it’s the pan I’m using or it’s my wonky fan oven. Suggestions?

I definitely recommend this recipe – except for the practically perfect victoria sponge, I do believe this is my favourite sweet from this cookbook so far. If anyone is interested in the recipe, shoot me a note in the comments and I’ll send it your way.

Now for the pics!!

Swirly Muffins

8 Jun

Greetings fellow bakers and/or consumers of delicious baked goods!

Okay, so after the DISASTER of last week’s baking – damn you whoopie pies, damn you – this week, it’s back to basics. From my new favourite cookbook ever, River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I decided to make the Lemon Curd Swirl Muffins (probably not the recipe title as in the book, but I don’t have it in front of me at the mo, so that’s close enough). Hugh offers 3 alternative variations based on the standard mix, so I also did a batch of Nutella Swirl muffins as well. I have to say, these are AWESOME. Seriously guys. Awesome. The batter is not too sweet and the lemon curd is fantastic in muffin form.  I really like the fact that he gives tips on how to adjust the recipe depending on your taste – nutella + muffin is a stroke of genius. (There’s also jammy muffins and fruity muffins.) A brief word of warning though – really , really be careful not to over mix the batter when you add in the lemon curd/jam/nutella – the whole point of this recipe is to get gooey globs of the stuff intermixed with the fluffy muffin batter. If you over mix, you just get either lemon flavoured muffins or chocolate muffins.

Pics!!

The lemon curd muffins get this wonderfully sticky, shiny glaze all over them. Lovely.

Aren’t they adorable?  I think so.

So far it’s three for three for Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes – two of which from River Cottage Everyday. There’s lots more delicious recipes that I have to try – I’m seriously tempted next week to make the Honey Wholemeal cake, but we’ll see.

If anyone is interested in the recipe for this week, just drop me a comment and I’ll try and get it to ya!

Oh, and btw, if anyone’s interested, you can now purchase perfectly formed Whoopie Pies at M&S. May I never have to make them again…

Are Whoopie Pies pure evil?

1 Jun

Yes, I do believe they are – right down to their chewy marshmallow-y centres.

Alright boys and girls, we’re going to start today’s post with some pictures, just so you all can truly understand the hell I went through to makes these demonically evil Whoopie pies.

Exhibit A: The Ideal Whoopie pie, courtesy of Sainsbury’s Magazine, June issue

Notice his beautiful shape – virtually spherical. He sits perfectly flat, and the marshmallow cream is just gently snuggled between the two delicate, soft biscuits, all of which is covered in a smooth blanket of chocolate icing. Bliss, right? According to Sainsbury’s Magazine, these delightful little sweets were an invention of the Amish, as a way to use up leftover batter. hmm… right. Anyway, looks simple enough, right?

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Let me present Exhibit B: My attempt

Looks just like the picture from the magazine, right? RIGHT??? *weeps silently*

A few words of warning for those of you who might like to attempt these delightfully evil treats:

1) Marshmallows are sticky. You will be covered. *Recipe alteration: Since the whole marshmallow cream thing pretty much went down the crapper (butter, marshmallow, milk – waaaay too soft), I just used melted marshmallows for the filling. Honestly, I think it just works better.*

2) Never, ever use Muscovado sugar unless it is explicitly called for in the recipe – one of these days I’ll learn… The whole point of these cookies is to be soft and relatively flat – by using the muscovado sugar (like a dumb ass), which I believe has a higher melting point, the cookies don’t quite smoosh and spread like the ought to.

3) Chill your ‘pies’ after haphazardly filling them with marshmallow filling. Note: Don’t over-fill them – the marshmallow oozes out the sides and the little evil beasties stick together. Damn you marshmallow. Damn you.

4) Wtf is up with British marshmallows? Why is half the pack strawberry flavoured? I mean, come on.

5) The chocolate frosting this recipe calls for is the BEST EVER. Seriously guys – get this: it’s just 200g icing sugar, 50g cocoa powder and 4 tbsp cold water. PERFECTION. (It makes quite a stiff frosting though, so if you want is a bit more runny, add just a smidge more water.)

After hours of agony, the final result:

Next week it’s back to something a bit more ‘normal’ – like nutella swirl cupcakes! Awesome.

Btw, here’s the whoopie pie recipe if anyone wants it – if you’d like the directions for the chocolate whoopie, leave me a note in the comments. Word.

Blah Banana Bread

24 May

What a disappointment. As many of you know, I was super excited last week at the prospect of  making banana chocolate bread, especially as banana and chocolate is my favourite ice cream and milkshake flavour of all time. So I gave this recipe out of the June issue of Sainsbury’s monthly magazine a try (sorry, the recipe is not available online). I’ve had some good results with quite a few of their recipes (especially that sticky ginger cake from last year), so I was seriously excited about it – the picture looked beautiful and the recipe itself was relatively straight-forward. But something went horribly wrong. I’m not sure how I managed it, but it turned out really dull. I’m actually eating a piece at the moment and wondering where the bananas are. The chocolate overpowers the banana flavour and the cake texture is just a bit too chewy and glutenous. I think I’ve figured out most of my mistakes, so if anyone is attempting to give this recipe a go, keep these tips in mind: 1)careful which chocolate you choose – I used 70% green and blacks dark chocolate, smashed to bits with a rolling pin. some of the pieces ended up quite large and if you get a slice with a huge chunk in it, that’s pretty much all you can taste; 2) make sure the bananas are seriously ripe- i mean totally and completely black and gooey. this intensifies the banana flavour and i suspect had the bananas been a bit more ripe the taste of them might have been more powerful; 3) don’t cook in a hot kitchen. it was surface of the sun hot here in the UK this weekend and I’m pretty sure that prevented my mixture from combining properly, hence the over mixing, hence the chewy texture; 4) add some spices!! I mean, come on – it’s not banana bread without some cinnamon.

Anyway. Here’s the end result:

If you guys want a seriously good banana bread recipe, check this one out: Perfect Banana Muffins. I’ve tried this recipe both as muffins and as a loaf and it works fine either way. Next time, I may just try adding a bit of chocolate (maybe milk chocolate instead of dark) to the mix and see what happens.

Not sure what I’m up to next weekend – it’s either going to be Whoopie Pies (actually cookies with a marshmallow filling) or lemon swirl cupcakes. Decisions decisions….

Lemon Poppyseed cake

17 May

Good Monday Morning gentle readers! Today it’s Lemon Poppyseed Cake day – my very first Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe ever. (Recipe here, via the Guardian. There’s also a recipe for fennel meatballs, but since fennel is the bane of my existence, I skipped that one.) While I was selecting images to include with this post I was reminded of a book that was a childhood favourite of mine – the Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein. For those of you who don’t recall, it’s about a vaguely pac-man looking thing searching for his missing piece and the things he learns along the way, all the while, singing this little song:

Oh, I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece
I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece
Hi-dee-ho, here I go
lookin’ for my missin’ piece

Anyway, I don’t know why I thought of the missing piece rather than pac-man, but there you are. Now onwards to the cake action!

So I saw this recipe last weekend in the Guardian whilst traveling to Oxford to visit a friend and immediately decided it looked like the most beautiful thing ever – pretty much anything lemon flavoured is my favourite ever, other than the awesome banana and chocolate combo, which is damn near perfect. Anyway, the recipe itself wasn’t too complicated, the only tough part was making the meringue and then ‘gently’ folding it into the batter. I am not a gentle baker, so this is counter-instinctive. On the whole, I think it turned out alright, although I think next time I may skip the brutally tart lemon syrup that goes on top – either that or cut the lemon down by half or something. I mean, I like the lemon, but even I can only take it so far. If anyone ends up with one of the end pieces, be warned. It’ll be tart enough to make your face pucker. Best enjoyed with tea or coffee, methinks.

He’s looking for his missing piece!

Seriously soft and moist.

The missing piece itself. I fear he may never be reunited with his gigantic cake-y friend.

That’s it for today folks – next week I’m attempting the ultimate cake/bread thing: Banana Chocolate Cake. I can barely contain myself!!!

Peeps sushi = awesome

3 May

So I don’t know how many of you guys had seen this around easter time (how to make peepshi), but when I read the article, I was convinced it was the most awesome thing ever. And you know what? I was right. Awe-some! (said in a sing-song voice.)

First off, for my british audience, ‘Peeps’ are an American marshmallow confection that is typically available around the easter holiday, usually formed in the shape of a chick. (Peeps are now available in a range of shapes, depending on the time of year; I loves me some Peeps ghosts!) I do believe that ‘Peeps’ can be used both when referring to a singular peeps chick or to a collective of peeps, as I am fairly certain they have some sort of terrifying peepy over-mind. (Hence the need to behead and consume as many as possible – preferably before they take over the world, as is their fiendish plan.)

Anyway, I’m not going to do all the step-by-step (had a brief early nineties flashback just then) details of how exactly to make the peeps sushi, as you can find those on the previously mentioned link; rather, I’m just going to post lots of pretty pictures and give some hints on how to make the inside-out rolled peeps sushi.

The materials: Rice Krispie treats (to form the ‘rice’ portion of the peeps sushi), fruit roll-ups (the ‘nori’; the original post suggested fruit by the foot fruit roll-ups, which definitely would have made life a bit easier, however, then you wouldn’t be able to make the inside-out rolls), and, of course, the peeps. We decided to go full ‘chicks’ for this sushi making endeavor, although I suspect it might have been just as much fun to demolish a few packs of peeps bunnies. Also, I suggest using lots of different colours of peeps – and yes, only because it looks pretty. 🙂

btw, hot rice krispie treats are delicious

One of the first steps is to behead the peeps and try not to be swayed by their little chirpy screams. Chop Chop Chop. Make sure your knife is sharp – the internal structure of the peeps is sticky and slightly gooey.

and listen to their peepy screams

Kinda my addition to the peeps sushi – California Roll Style. (California Peeps Roll perhaps? Or maybe Calipeepsnia Roll? I dunno.)  Start with two pieces of wax paper and a block of rice krispie treats in between. Roll the rice krispies until they form a flat sheet, approximately the size of a fruit roll-up; remove the top layer of wax paper. Place a full sheet of fruit roll-up on top of the rice krispies and press down gently. Lay strips of sliced up peeps bodies (whatever bit were left over from the beheadings) in a thin(ish) straight line across the fruit roll-up; careful not to overfill or you may not be able to roll properly. Using the wax paper, gently begin to roll the sushi, pressing firmly with each movement; use the wax paper to help form the sushi into a nice roll. Once the rolling is done, remove from wax paper and roll the entire thing in some orange sugar sprinkles – which look eerily like masago once the roll is coated.

Carefully cut your inside-out sushi into pieces; again, I would suggest a very sharp knife, as peeps sushi is quite soft and can deform under too much pressure. Luckily, you can always mould them back into shape with your chubby paws if need be.

The most important step: Arrange them beautifully. Believe me, they taste better that way. Can you see my pathetic attempt to make peeps sushi hand rolls? In my defence, I can’t make them with nori and normal sushi ingredients either, so this really comes as no surprise.

The full haul of peeps sushi. Aren’t they glorious?

It may not look like a much, but I’m pretty sure that took me and my mum about 2 hours to make. The end result is totally worth it though – just look at them! I would recommend eating them quickly after making, as if left out for too long, they become rock hard. (If you stick them in some air-tight packaging though, they can last a few days. Don’t refrigerate though!!)

Btw guys, these have all been consumed at the time of this posting. Sorry!

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