Brutti Ma Buoni Biscuits

hazelnut meringue cookies

Brutti ma buoni – ‘ugly but good’ hazelnut meringue biscuits

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Despite this age old idiom, evaluating things by their appearance is sadly second nature in so many circumstances in life. Appearance influences the big decisions – it is said that in an interview, you have just seven seconds to make a good impression – but also the little ones: the quality of an apple, the content of a book, how delicious a dessert is going to be.

I’ve talked before on this blog about the pitfalls of style over substance when it comes to food. Incredible wedding cakes covered with beautifully crafted decorations concealing bland or dry sponge; slicks of sauce on a plate so small as to make little contribution to flavour; an artfully placed sprig of mint that you have to push to one side without eating.

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Homemade Graham Crackers

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Sweet, crisp & rich with dark brown sugar – a homemade version of the US staple

When we were little, one of my brother’s best friends was Canadian.

Coming from another country, there were numerous things about this boy which we found fascinating: his Mum made incredible chocolate chip cookies on a regular basis (I’ve explained before that mine was more of the raisin and apple offering inclination); his family had a BBQ the size of a small car in their back garden (which they’d brave even in winter weather to cook the most incredible slabs of meat on); at nine years old his school had never allowed him to use a knife to eat with (bizarre, but true). Continue reading

Alfajores-Inspired Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Dulce de leche ice cream sandwiched between soft chocolate cookies

Visiting a new bakery is one of my favourite things in the world. There’s the smell, seeping out of the doors and into the surrounding street; yeast and warmth, toasty sweetness, the scent of burnt sugar. Then there’s the sound: busy bakers chatting with customers; slicing crusty loaves; sliding purchases into crinkled paper bags. The soft sound of teeth meeting flaky pastry.
Eyes definitely bigger than my stomach and thinking, perhaps, I could try a little taste of everything, I’ll then drink in the feast in front of me: lines of loaves stacked against a bare brick wall, tiers of incredible cakes, trays of pastries issuing forth from the oven and, further forward, a cabinet of sweets and treats, biscuits on offer in every imaginable shape and size.

Chocolate Chip Speculoos Spread Cookies

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Chewy, crispy cookies rich with chocolate chunks & Speculoos spread

Have you ever discovered something new, only to become more than slightly obsessed with it?

When I was nine, we moved to a bigger house a few streets away from the one I’d grown up in. There were grand plans to build a beautiful kitchen/dining room extension (which is now in place, and the absolute heart of the household), but when we first arrived we had to make do with a teeny tiny kitchen that was actually smaller than our old one. Continue reading

Real Bourbon Biscuits

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Bourbon biscuits . . . with a hint of the strong stuff

When it comes to biscuits (of the British variety, not their soft, scone-like American counterpart), some brands do exactly what they say on the tin, while others are a little more elusive with their identity. Custard Creams are sandwiched together with – you guessed it – a layer of custardy cream, Jammy Dodgers filled with jam, and while their abilities to aid the breakdown of food may not be proven scientific fact, there is something soothingly simple about a plain Digestive biscuit that more than justifies its name.

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Brown Butter & Buckwheat Milk Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Chewy brown butter cookies packed with thick milk chocolate chunks

Brown butter is a baker’s best friend. If I had a pound for every recipe I’d read extolling the virtues of this simple ingredient since I’ve been blogging, I’d be a very rich little loaf. Until fairly recently I’d always thought of it as a savoury thing, the foaming beurre noisette surrounding a piece of white fish or flavoured with sage and poured over pasta; I’m only just starting to understand the joy of stirring it into biscuits, cakes, cookies and muffins to ramp up the flavour and add to their intensity.

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Marbled Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Marbled chocolate chunk cookies – two different doughs swirled together for maximum chocolate impact

What is it that makes grown adults go all gooey over chocolate chip cookies? Plain, humble and based on the most basic of ingredients, they are nonetheless held on something of a pedestal by people all over the world. Pop those three simple words into Google and you’ll return no fewer than 32 million pages, while professional chefs, journalists and home bakers alike appear to be on a constant quest to find the perfect recipe.

Perhaps it’s sheer simplicity that gives the cookie its clout. Anyone can make at batch in their comfort of their kitchen, and even if  your technique and timing is little out, it’s hard to go completely wrong with what is essentially a slab of chocolate, butter and sugar combined. The nostalgia element is also key – mere mention of a chocolate chip cookie conjures up images of wholesome fun, of sunny afternoon snacks, comforting kitchens and reaching into a giant all-American fridge-freezer for that vital glass of cold, cold milk. Continue reading

Gianduja ice cream chocolate chip cookie sandwiches

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Hazelnut heaven: creamy gianduja ice cream sandwiched between chewy chocolate chip cookies

What could be better than a scoop of gianduja ice cream, velvet-smooth and creamy with sweet chocolate undertones and the richness of roasted hazelnuts?

If you’re an ice cream purist, not much. But if you enjoy the sweet things in life on a scale of decadence just tipping into over-indulgence, I’d suggest trying a scoop of gianduja ice cream sandwiched between two crispy, chewy chocolate chip cookies. It’s heaven. Or as close as you’re going to get through a mouthful of frozen dessert anyway. Continue reading

Chunky chocolate, raisin & walnut cookies

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The perfect chocolate chunk cookie?

A couple of weeks ago I posted the results of my recent quest for the perfect chocolate chunk cookie. Dense and chewy, with a crispy edge and large dark chocolate chunks, these giant cookies were definitely up there. But perfection isn’t a finite thing, and yesterday I decided to rustle up another batch, using the lessons I’d learnt from last time round.

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The perfect chocolate chunk cookie

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The perfect chocolate chunk cookie?

If I had a pound for every blog post out there talking about the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, I would be a very rich girl. Whether it’s UK bloggers lamenting the lack of good recipes using metric measurements, or US bloggers vying for the ultimate ‘just like Mom used to make’ recipe, chocolate chip cookie chat is definitely a hot topic on the baking agenda of the blogosphere.

And not without good reason. There’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into  thick, chewy American style cookie, soft in the middle, crispy and buttery round the edges and studded with bittersweet chocolate chunks. We’re not talking ‘dip in your tea and nibble appreciatively’ British style biscuit here, this is a full on super-sweet indulgence best enjoyed with a complete lack of guilt and a giant glass of cold milk.

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Balls of delicious cookie dough

I recently made a batch of crispy chewy oatmeal and raisin cookies. Oaty, nutty and possibly slightly too worthy, they got me thinking about other cookie recipes to try, and I began my search for the ultimate chocolate chunk cookie recipe (note chunk, not chip – I think coarse chunks of chopped dark chocolate deliver a far superior cookie to their oversweet, manufactured cousin the chip).

After trawling my favourite foodie sites, I was delighted to find that a fellow blogger had already done most of the legwork for me. I arrived at Signe Johansen’s blog Scandilicious through Google search and will definitely be returning to read her simple, beautiful compilation of recipes and foodie thoughts. Signe’s ‘quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie’ took her on a journey through baking books and tweets, allowing her to incorporate tips from various seasoned bakers while weeding out any strange or over-the-top suggestions. The result is the recipe below, which I knew I had to try as soon as I saw her pictures.

Chewy, crispy and not too sweet, with delicious chunks of dark chocolate, this one’s going straight to the top of my ultimate chocolate chunk cookie leader board. I think it’s going to be hard to top, but if you think you’ve got a better recipe I’d love to try it out so please get in touch!

Incredible giant chocolate chunk cookies (adapted from Signe Johansen’s blog)

Ingredients 

  • 300g plain white flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 180g salted butter, melted
  • 200g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 1 large free range egg plus one large yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa minimum, coarsely chopped

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 160 C/ 325 F. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment and set aside.
  • Sieve together the flour, baking powder and sea salt.
  • Whisk together the melted butter together with both sugars, then add the large egg, extra yolk and vanilla to the mixture. Whisk again and then stir in the flour, beating the mixture for a few minutes to stretch the gluten strands.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips. The cookie dough should feel almost dry now, like a solid lump (Signe says she wishes she’d taken  photo at this stage to illustrate, so I made sure I did!) – don’t let the chocolate chips cluster in just one part of the dough.

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  • Opinion varies on whether to chill the dough before baking or just cook straight away. I was hungry and impatient, but it was a pretty large batch of dough so I divided the mixture in two, chilling half and spooning the other half onto the tray with an ice cream scoop (To note, ice cream scoop sized dough balls result in HUGE cookies!)

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  • Bake for 15-18 minutes until the cookies are golden, the sides feel firm-ish to the touch but the centre is still quite soft. This is really important as you don’t want to overcook and lose that slight squidgy texture.

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  1. Cooling the cookies on the baking sheets helps keep their chewy consistency so I’d definitely recommend this.
  2. Once cooled, remove from the tray and serve or store in an air tight container. Yum.

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(I made the second batch of chilled dough into smaller cookies, about 2/3 of the size of the palm of my hand. The resulting cookie was chewier and crispier but I’m not sure if this was down to size difference or the fact that I’d chilled it. Not a very fair experiment but I’m not that fussed, both batches tasted incredible)