ALSO: Exciting news today – a few weeks ago I was interviewed by Podium for a podcast all about baking and blogging and it is now online and available to listen to here!
Okay, so there a lot of chocolate chip cookies out there. And a lot of them are referred to as ‘the best’ or ‘perfect’. A lot of them have twists – butterscotch chips, caramel centres, the zest of an orange. However, I think there is a strong case to be made for adding these cookies to the collection. I’d never tried a recipe by Heston Blumenthal before – his signature style displayed in his restaurant and TV shows is truly complicated molecular gastronomy with lots of equipment and ingredient lists involving chemicals and numbers so I’ve always been pretty intimidated! Having said that, I do have a couple of his recipes in my To Bake list and if they’re anything like these cookies I’m hoping they’ll turn out really well. This is probably one of the simplest Heston recipes but he’s still added an extra step to the simple cookie – instead of just throwing in some chocolate chips, you make and freeze your own chocolate ganache before chopping it into tiny chunks and stirring it through the dough. It is a bit faffy by adding more time to the recipe (and the ganache melts fairly quickly when you’re chopping it) but really it just requires a bit of extra planning and the results are so worth it. Instead of getting slightly burnt chocolate on the base of the biscuit, the ganache stays really creamy and soft and is better distributed than little chips. The recipe makes big, chewy, classic American cookies – stereotypically perfect with a big glass of milk.I kicked myself after making these for leaving the ganache plain – I think the zest of an orange or dash of cointreau would have been delicious – but I guess their simple flavours is part of the cookies charm. Plus, that just means I have an excuse to make these again! I found the recipe here – enjoy!
These friands proved to me the uniting power that cake can have. One of the main perks of having baking as a hobby is getting to share delicious bakes with friends and family and seeing the look on their faces when they try something new, successful and irresistibly tasty! I took these baby blueberry friands to a serious occasion with lots of small talk but these soon got people talking as we discussed their tiny size, the recipe, method and author and I think everyone enjoyed passing these round whilst sneaking a couple at a time off the platter!The recipe made a lot as you can maybe tell from the pictures, but I also made mine pretty tiny in a mini muffin tin – only a couple of centimetres high – so that they were the perfect canape, so clearly if you made them larger or in traditional oval friand moulds the recipe would make a more normal amount. There is sometimes a stage in baking that can be quite therapeutic – for some bakers this might be piping, kneading dough, rolling pastry or stamping out cookies. Today for me it was the process of filling up the mini muffin tins over and over with a little teaspoon of mixture and a couple of blueberries. The cakes take hardly any time to bake because they are so small and are delicious warm straight out the oven but also last nicely for a good few days. They are light, moist (terrible word but true), with bright bursts of flavour from the blueberries and lemon zest. You can find the recipe below – enjoy! Mini Blueberry Friands, adapted from Jill Dupleix’s Totally Simple Food
Makes about 40 mini muffin size, or around 10 normal sized friands or muffins
Ingredients: 180g butter, melted and cooled
200g icing sugar
60g plain flour, sifted
120g ground almonds
5 large free-range egg whites
zest of 1 lemon
200g blueberries, fresh or frozen
icing sugar for dusting
1. Heat the oven to 200°C / Gas 6. Grease 2 mini muffin tins, or 10 friand moulds, or one muffin tin.
2. Sift the icing sugar and flour into a bowl and mix in the ground almonds. Lightly beat the egg whites with a fork and fold them into the dry ingredients. Add the cooled, melted butter and lemon zest, and mix until all combined.
3. Place a teaspoon of mixture in each mini muffin tin, add two or three bluberries and cover with another teaspoon of mixture.
4. Bake for 8-10minutes until golden brown and springing back to the touch, checking on the edges as these darken quicker than the top of the friands. Three-quarters fill each mould with the mixture and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 10 minutes.
4. Leave the tins for 5 minutes, then gently unmould onto a wire tray and leave to cool. Dust the friands with icing sugar and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
When you bake a lot it can be easy to get stuck in a flavour rut. Chocolate, it probably goes without saying is a flavour I return to again and again. It is never a very long period of time that passes in between my chocolate bakes. I think every blogger or baker also has certain fruit they always have in their house and therefore bake with – for me it is probably lemons and apples. However, particularly when it comes to summer and there is lots of seasonal fresh fruit to use, I love expanding my repertoire and using new flavours. Whilst there are sadly still a few months until summer gets into its stride I have still recently been enjoying other opportunities to bake with underused flavours in my kitchen.Of course coffee isn’t an unknown or unused ingredient – it is estimated that in the UK we drink 70 million cups a day, pretty remarkable for a country with a population of 62 million! Nevertheless, it is definitely one I forget to use in baking, probably because it is such a standby I forget it can shine on its own. I was thrilled when Whittard sent me a package of this Brazilian roast coffee, giving me a chance to experiment. This was shortly followed by shock when I realised I’ve only done 5 coffee recipes on here in nearly 5 years of blogging and not one of my 300 To Bake recipes had coffee in! This time I really wanted the coffee to shine and be the star of the show, something which surprisingly I found quite difficult to do. So many recipes combined coffee with something else – normally chocolate, making mocha dishes, but I also saw it paired with flavours as diverse as lime or coconut. I must have seen hundreds of coffee cake recipes and whilst they are delicious I wanted to try something a bit different. Coffee éclairs were my first thought and after looking at lots of different things I couldn’t get these out of my mind. I really enjoy making choux pastry and making éclairs gave me a chance to practice my dreaded piping skills. As you can see from the photo, I ended up with quite a motley crew of shapes but they still all tasted good! I chose this recipe by Simon Rimmer from the TV show Something for the Weekend (now Sunday Brunch, which I love) because it has a double hit – the coffee whipped cream filling and coffee fudge icing. My only note about this recipe is that I managed about 15 eclairs instead of the 6-8 the recipe suggests and some of mine were already pretty big! I found the whole process strangely therapeutic and I was really pleased with the strong coffee flavour that came through in the end. Often éclairs can be very sweet with lots of chocolate or rich vanilla pastry cream so I think the bitterness of coffee really helps balance this. I am definitely looking forward to adding to my coffee recipe collection here in the future – I’ve seen a very tempting cappuccino pavlova by Nigella and espresso granita by Jacob Kennedy I’d like to try. Until then, enjoy the éclairs! :)
Some recipes are for special occasions and come about after weeks of thought and planning. Some are repeated over and over again with minute tweaks each time to get it just right. Some are things people have wanted to make for ages, are inspired by a person, place or memory. Some come about when you are stuck on something savoury to make and type the very vague term ‘pie’ into BBC Good Food’s search engine… Today’s recipe would be the latter!But lack of planning or forethought does not mean lack of success. (Although it may mean lack of photo of whole pie due to it being eaten very quickly….) This was super simple and I’ve made it several times now during the week – it’s so quick and the filling ingredients are all fairly store-cupboard regulars in my family. It might become my signature savoury dish at this rate! The buttery pastry and salty cheese makes the iron rich, super healthy spinach filling seem a little bit more indulgent and despite the hefty amount of veg you still find yourself going back for more. I also like that this can be easily adapted – I used frozen instead of fresh spinach and more pastry than suggested to get more layers but you could go further – one of the commenters on the website says they added chorizo and chicken which could be good if you’re cooking for a true meat eater! You can find the recipe here – enjoy :)