Thursday, 26 April 2012

Apple and Raisin Scones

I had already written a whole whinge about the weather. I'd complained about my umbrella, and the wind, and the gutters, and other people's umbrella etiquette, and lorry drivers who deliberately drive through the puddles to splash you, and hair that never once stops frizzing. Then I walked home and my heart - like the sky - lightened. The clouds were fluffy and white. The leaves were that light, bright green that only lasts for a couple of weeks in Spring. The sun was shining - the sun! - from a well-washed, pale blue sky. It might be only a temporary respite but I already feel ten thousand times happier. Are you sad you won't get a chance to read my whinge? I'm not. 

With god in his heaven and all right with the world, this is the time to write up a little treat from last weekend. We spent the nights being sociable and the days being hermit crabs - a-pottering, a-gardening, a-hammering and generally fixing up our lovely little house. What better to fuel such a weekend than afternoon tea? And specifically, scones - in my humble opinion, one of the greatest perks of my British blood. They're simple, classic, a tiny bit austere - nothing flashy (no poncy macarons or primped gateaux). They're certainly nothing special to look at, these examples being particularly bobbly and rough (it's the cream of tartar, apparently). This recipe, from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess, doesn't even have sugar. It's practically health food!

But then you slather them in clotted cream or thick, thick butter. Or both. A dollop or two of jam. And there you have it - afternoon tea heaven. I tweaked these ones a bit to use up a glut of apples and the added fruit did actually work really well (particularly with blackberry jam), but the apple is by no means necessary. There's just something about home made scones, even plain, that is just nectar. It's heaven. It's a whole extra meal in the day, a sign that you're not at work, that your afternoon is given over to sitting out on the lawn, with delicate little morsels, ladylike dresses, beautiful crockery and maybe a cheeky glass of fizz. It's ceremony and indulgence and all round brilliant. Even when you're wearing your painting clothes and knee deep in grass seed because you're planting the lawn for afternoon teas later in the summer. Don't you love it when a plan comes together?

Apple and Raisin Scones
Adapted from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess 

- 500g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
- 4 and a half teaspoons of cream of tartar
- 50g cold, unsalted butter, cut into little cubes
- 25g Trex (vegetable fat) or just another 25g of butter (which is what I did)
- 75g of raisins or other dried fruit
- 2 small eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into teeny chunks
- 300ml milk
- 1 egg, beaten, for brushing over the tops.

Preheat the oven to 220C and line a baking tray with parchment.

Mix the flour, salt, bicarb and cream of tartar in a big bowl - she says to sift them, I didn't bother. Then add the butter (and Trex if you're using it) and rub it in until evenly dispersed, like breadcrumbs. Stir in the apple and raisins. Pour in the milk all at once, mix very briefly and turn out onto a clean, floured surface. Knead it very lightly to form a dough.

Roll out until it's about 3cm tall (more than an inch). It doesn't really rise much at all, so basically make them as high as you want the finished version to be. Dip a cutter in some flour and cut them out, then put on the baking tray very close together so that the sides will stick together a bit and stay very tender.Re-roll and re-cut until you've used all the dough up.

Brush the tops with beaten egg then bake for 10 minutes or until golden. These are lovely freshly baked and don't really keep at all, so if you've got any left over then bung them straight in the freezer for future sunny Sundays.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream

I'm going to try not to complain about the weather. Or the delayed journeys because lightning took out the train signals, the permanent hair frizz or the water stains on my beautiful new blue leather shoes (YES i know should have sprayed them with leather protector, it's no good telling me now). Really, I'm going to try. Let's think about sunnier times, shall we?

Ahh, ice cream. That's better. Yes I know there's been lots of ice cream around here lately but I can't help it, I'm obsessed and I can't promise that it's going to stop any time soon. This particular one was inspired by a pot of single cream rapidly shuffling off this mortal coil. Ice cream seemed the obvious choice but I ummed and ahhed for quite a while, trying to choose a flavour. Then we were given half a punnet of strawberries, I spotted a few stalks of rhubarb left in the fridge, and it all became clear. Strawberry and rhubarb ice cream. What could be more glorious for spring?

The basic recipe here came again from the Ben and Jerry Ice Cream Recipe Book (like the Oreo Mint) but as rhubarb didn't seem to be one of their favourite ingredients, I freestyled a bit. Turns out I had less cream than I thought as well, so ended up using mostly milk. And, well, I guessed some of the recipe and made more of it up. Are you turning away in despair yet?

Well don't! Come back! This was gorgeous. The flavours merge dreamily together, but you can really taste each fruit individually too. if anything,  this just shows how forgiving ice creams are - you can make it up as much as you want and you'll still end up with something delicious. Win win!

So yes, this would - and will - be perfect dripping out of an ice cream cone, when you're sitting out in the garden on a warm, sunny day, bees buzzing around you, washing flapping on the line, soaking in the Vitamin D and noticing the long strands of grass which must have escaped the mower's attention. It will be perfect, and I am trying to have faith that that sunny day will come. But in the meantime, I can testify that it's pretty nice eaten out of a bowl, on the sofa, snuggled up under a blanket,  listening to the rain lashing against dark windows. Well, come on. Everyone needs a treat after such a horrible day.

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream
Adapted from Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Book

- about 300g of rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1cm chunks
- splash of apple or orange juice (or just water)
- a tablespoon of vanilla sugar (or just caster sugar)
- 200g strawberries (or a pint - see note above) 
- 2 tablespoons of vanilla sugar
- juice of half a lemon
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup of caster sugar (again, I used vanilla sugar)
- 1 cup of single cream
- 2 cups of milk

Start off by making the rhubarb puree - heat the rhubarb, orange/apple juice and tablespoon of sugar in a large pan, stirring frequently, for about five to ten minutes or until pulpy. Leave aside to cool, then put in the fridge to get cold.

Slice the strawberries and mix with 2 tablespoons of sugar and the lemon juice. Cover in cling film and put in the fridge for an hour or so. Then mash with a fork until it's mostly pulpy, with a few small chunks.

When all the fruit is cold and ready to go, whisk the eggs for a few minutes until light and frothy. Add the sugar little by little, whisking as you go, and give it another minute or so of whisking once all the sugar has been added. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk again for a minute or so, scraping down the sides.

Dollop in the strawberry mush and rhubarb pulp and whisk again briefly to combine. Then transfer to an ice cream maker and churn for 20 minutes or so, before transferring to the freezer or your spoon. 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Filled Braided Bread

Ladies and gentlemen, stop what you're doing, put down the Sunday papers, and go to your fridge. Do you have any cream cheese? Jam? Lemon curd, nutella, that kind of thing? Basically, anything you could spread on toast? Great. You should definitely make this braided bread this afternoon.

This is, without a doubt, one of my favourite things I've ever made. Let me list its attributes for you in over-emphatic exclamation marks: it's a proper bread! It's so pretty! It's delicious! It's really not that difficult! It looks incredibly impressive! It can be filled with anything tasty, whether sweet or savoury! It would make a surprisingly sturdy picnic food! Are you getting the picture? I LOVED this.

I have to admit, my intentions were shallow in the extreme. I'd spotted it online a while ago (where else? Smitten Kitchen), thought it looked pretty but assumed it was difficult. Then, a few weeks ago, I picked up a box of pearl sugar in our friendly local Swedish shop. Not for any particular reason, just because it looked cool. I wanted to give the sugar an outing, and rather than reprising the cinnamon buns (yummy though they were), I thought of the braided bread. Who cared if it tasted nice? I'd get to use my dough hook and my pearl sugar, and I had an open pot of cream cheese in the fridge that needed using up. I love it when a plan comes together.

All the way through, I thought it wasn't really going to work. I wasn't too concerned about the braiding bit - my mum and I have made an apple faux-strudel with puff pastry and this exact technique since time immemorial - but the yeast. My packet was really old and even though it said it was still in date, I was convinced that it was dead as a dodo. But there wasn't any yeast in my local shop so what the hell, I used it anyway. My fears were confirmed when my dough didn't really seem to rise at any stage of the process. The recipe gave it all this chat about "till puffy", "till doubled in size" and I'd look at mine and think, nope, nothing happening there. When I rolled it out, I honestly thought about just chucking it away and trying again another time.

I carried on anyway, mostly so I could play with the sugar - and lo and behold, it was beautiful! Delicious! Not hugely high, no, but it looked just like the one on Smitten Kitchen (and then again on another lovely site called Poires au Chocolat, whence I nicked the metric measurements). And when we tried it, warm from the oven - ah, it was heaven. My mum happened to be round and she and I ate about a third of it without even trying. We immediately started brainstorming alternative versions (apple? rhubarb? chocolate and pear? savoury, leaving out the sugar and vanilla, scattering flakes of sea salt on top? filled with cheese? onion? olives? sundried tomatoes?). It only means one thing when you're immediately inspired to try out about eighty different versions. This is seriously good bread.

So, to specifics. Although both recipes on t'internet use lemon curd I went for jam, mostly because we had it in the house and partly because Mr Dine at Mine doesn't really like lemon all that much (which might explain why we never had lemon curd around). With the jam it tasted very European - just like my Granny's home made doughnuts, which is a good thing. Beyond experimenting with different fillings, next time, I'll check it a lot sooner - this baked for less than the time she said, and still came out slightly more bronzed than I'd like. Other than that, it's a winner. What am I saying? It's a winner anyway. I can't wait to try all sorts of different flavours. And next time, I'm making two. This one disappeared far too quickly for my liking.

Filled, Braided Bread
From Smitten Kitchen here, metric measurements from Poires au Chocolat here

- 6 tablespoons of warm water
- 1 teaspoon of caster sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons of instant yeast 
- 25g plain flour

- 75g yoghurt or sour cream (I used yoghurt)
- 50g unsalted butter, soft
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 45g caster sugar
- half a teaspoon of salt
- a teaspoon of vanilla extract or half a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
- 265g of either plain flour (which I used) or strong bread flour

- 65g cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
- 25g of sour cream (I used yoghurt again)
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 15g of plain flour
- any jam, lemon curd, nutella etc. Fruit compote? Chunks of fruit? See other ideas above

- 1 egg, beaten
- either demerara sugar or pearl sugar

Start off by making the sponge - mixing everything together well, then leave for 15 minutes, loosely covered in clingfilm. 

In a big electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the sponge, sour cream/yoghurt, butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla. Chuck in the flour and mix until it looks like a rough, shaggy ball. Then swap to the dough hook and knead it for 5-6 minutes or until smooth and springy. Cover with cling film and put the bowl in a warm place to rise, in theory until doubled and puffy (I just left it for a couple of hours then got impatient and carried on). 

While it's rising, mix together the cream cheese, caster sugar, sour cream/yoghurt, lemon juice and flour until smooth and lump-free. Decide what else you want to use as a filling.

When the dough has risen, squash it down in the bowl with your hands then tip out onto a clean, floured surface. Roll it out into a large rectangle, about the size of a baking sheet - it'll be quite stretchy and annoying so just do your best. At this stage, shimmy the dough onto a big piece of baking parchment. 

Using the side of your hand, press two lines on the dough dividing it into three lengthways - not cutting through, just marking it out so you have three equal long rectangles. Do the same thing with your hand to mark off about 5cm in from each short end. All this marking with the side of your hand should leave you with an inner rectangle surrounded by a frame (you can see it in the photo above, covered in cream cheese). Cut off the four corner squares with a sharp knife and roll them around any kind of filling for a cook's treat (I used cinnamon, brown sugar and butter in two, and nutella in the other two). 

Spread the cream cheese mixture over the inner rectangle, then dollop the jam/curd/nutella/whatever on top of it. Cut the long side rectangles into strips as in the photo above, so that the inner rectangle looks fringed on either side. The strips should be about an inch thick and as symmetrical as possible (so that there are the same number on each side). 

Fold the short end rectangles up and over the creamy jammy filling. Then start at one end and fold the fringey strips up and over the filling diagonally, one at a time and alternating sides, so that it looks like a braid. This is so much easier to see in the photo than to explain in words. Keep going all the way down until you've "braided" each strip. Then move the braid, on its parchment, onto a baking tray, cover it loosely with cling film and leave to rise for an hour or so. (NB: this is a good opportunity to put it in the fridge or freezer if you want to bake it another time. If so, let it come to room temperature and do the second rise before glazing and baking as normal).

Preheat the oven to 190C. Brush the braid with the beaten egg, sprinkle with pearl sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes, until burnished and bronzed. Yum.

Friday, 13 April 2012


You know, it's pretty invigorating busting a taboo. After all those years thinking I hated Indian food - turning the page on recipes, skipping past restaurants, chucking takeaway menus straight into the recycling bin - all of a sudden, wide new vistas have opened up to me. I'm not just talking about the Chicken and Cauliflower Balti. I only just noticed that there's an Indian restaurant at the end of our road, which had never really registered with me before. Turns out, there are tempting Indian recipes scattered throughout all my favourite cookbooks. There are whole aisles of the supermarket which I completely ignored just a month or so ago. Honestly, I feel as though Diagon Alley has just popped into view, squeezed between a Favorite Chicken and a Sue Ryder, and now all sorts of adventures lie ahead.

Step Two in this odyssey (after the balti) was to try making something else at home. But all Indian food is pretty much a mystery to me at the moment - honestly, I have no idea what tandoori is, nor the difference between a poppadom and a chapatti, and what is the deal with mango chutney? - so I didn't really know where to start. I pulled down Nigella's Feast, flicked through the index for inspiration and, sure enough, all sorts of recipes swam into view that I hadn't really noticed before. Yet although she has a whole Indian Feast section at the end - with meat and vegetable curries, sides, puddings, even - the dish which really caught my eye was a keema, described as a spicy, spiky, sloppy mince and pea concoction. Mince and peas? Two mainstays of our freezer? It was on. Round two had begun!

Because I'm too lazy to go to the shops especially for a recipe, I freestyled a bit. Lemon replaced lime; pork mince replaced lamb; regular chilli replaced bird's eye (possibly mistakenly, see note below); Madras curry powder replaced garam masala. Are those differences too big? Have I basically buggered it up, doing something like replacing chocolate with courgettes or milk with chilli sauce? I hope not. 

Either way, even if my version was shockingly inauthentic, it was still pretty damn tasty - bright, hot and hearty. We slurped it up in bowls with some naan to swipe through the sauce and even if the end result wasn't quite as hard core as it could have been - that's the bird's eye chilli shaking its head at me reprovingly - I'm still counting it as a success. So in summary, victory in Step Two, Captain. On to step Three! I'm excited.

From Nigella's Feast
Makes 4 servings (and freezes well)

- 1 onion, finely chopped or whizzed up in the food processor
- 1 clove of garlic, ditto
- a tin of chopped tomatoes
- a 3cm long piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (again, I just blitzed it in the machine)
- 1 bird's eye chilli, finely sliced (I only had a normal chilli and it wasn't hot enough, to be honest - go for broke)
- 1 teaspoon of garam masala (whoops, we used Madras curry powder mix)
a handful of chopped fresh coriander, if you want it. I didn't because it's the work of the devil.
- 500g of mince - she says lamb, I used pork
- 250g of frozen peas
- 250ml of boiling water
- juice of half a lime, to taste. I used lemon because it's what we had and the world did not end.

Heat some oil in a big saucepan and chuck in the onion and garlic. Cook over a high heat until golden brown, stirring. Then turn the heat down quite low and add the spices, ginger, chilli, tomatoes, a few big pinches of salt and the coriander if you want it. Stir it all together (she says "until shiny", which baffled me) then add in the mince.

Stir it around, using your spoon to break up the meat, then add the peas and stir again. After a couple of minutes, pour in the boiling water and bring the pan back to the boil. Then turn it down to a low simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. 

Squeeze in the lime/lemon, and serve with warmed naan, rotis, that kind of thing. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter! Did you have a good time? Did the Easter Bunny visit? Did you eat lamb, hot cross buns and unholy quantities of chocolate? Did you just luxuriate in the rare treat of a 4 day weekend? 

The answers here are yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Well, we didn't have all that much chocolate - now we're grown ups, the Easter Bunny seems to pass us by - but every other tradition was firmly in place. As were two more cliches, namely major DIY (this evening I feel like the Queen, surrounded by the smell of fresh paint) and miserable weather. All the better to keep us inside, painting skirting boards.

This year, the Dine at Mine household also started a new tradition. In all my years as an enthusiastic hot cross bun eater, I had never actually tried to make them. Nor had I broken in the dough hook on my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer. When these two facts impressed themselves upon my consciousness a few days ago, I decided that the universe was trying to tell me something. And I listened.

Hey presto, a mere matter of hours later, there they were! Hot cross buns! One a penny two a penny, hot cross buns, home-made and fresh from the oven on Good Friday morning. Split, buttered, jam-spread even (Mr Dine at Mine does this, although it always seems very unorthodox to me). I just couldn't get over it.  

Honestly, I know this sounds stupid, but my little heart was filled with glee as I stood there in dressing gown and slippers, in the cold of early morning, dribbling the crosses onto the uncooked buns. I practically whistled while I worked. Just fifteen minutes later, there they were! I'd made them! And we were eating them on Good Friday, just like you're meant to! I don't think I've ever felt so gratified by breakfast.

This particular recipe came from Nigella's Feast but to be honest, I think I'll try another one next year. I fiddled with it quite a bit - skipping her suggestion of cardamom because it sounded far too exotic for the bun I wanted; doubling her quantities of spice; adding in some allspice, sugar and a pinch of salt. I mucked around with the timings, fridged it overnight at a different stage of the process, and made 12 rather than 16 because her buns looked too tiny for our appetites. 

This last decision may not have been the wisest - mine came out browned on top but still ever so slightly underdone in the middle, either because they'd been in the fridge or because they were bigger than hers. And I'm not all that convinced by the texture - I think "robust" would be the best description. But I made them! With yeast, and crosses, and a sticky glaze and everything! For Good Friday! No, I can't get over it.

Of course, if you can't be doing with all that faff, then you can just buy some - like these astonishing ones from our local bakery on Easter Saturday (aka Boat Race day). Blue crosses!  Even more amazing than my home made ones. These have inspired me to start a whole new tradition. Home made hot cross buns for breakfast on Good Friday, before the Easter Bunny arrives and before the chocolate onslaught. But from next year onwards, my buns will be adorned by a colourful medley of crosses. Not just Oxford Blue (Oxford, you were robbed!) - but purple, pink, green and yellow. I can't wait. Do you think it'll be just as exciting next year?

These were the DARK blue ones, honestly

Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from Nigella's Feast, available here

For the buns
- zest of one orange
- 150ml milk
- 50g butter
- 400g strong flour (bread flour)
- one 7g packet of easy blend yeast
- 125g raisins, sultanas or whatever dried fruit you fancy 
- 50g caster sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
- half a teaspoon of ground allspice
- 1 egg

For the egg wash
- another egg, beaten

For the crosses
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of plain flour
- 1/2 tablespoon of caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon of boiling water

For the glaze

- 1 tablespoon of caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon of boiling water

In a small pan, warm the milk, butter and orange zest until the butter melts, then set aside to infuse. I actually left it for hours while I went out, which meant that it got incredibly orangey, but ten minutes or so would do - Nigella says to leave it until it reaches "blood temperature".

In a big bowl, mix together the flour, fruit, yeast and spices. Beat the egg into the milk/butter/zest, then pour all the liquid ingredients into the dry. Knead it together with your hands or a dough hook until smooth, elastic and silky, adding extra milk/water if it seems a bit too dry (I did). Cover the bowl in clingfilm and leave to rise - either overnight in the fridge, or out in a warm kitchen for an hour to an hour and a half.

Go and do something fun while you wait. Ho hum. 

And you're back! First, make sure your dough is at room temperature (ie: get it out of the fridge if necessary). Squish the dough down with your hands - although mine hadn't really risen all that much, to be honest - then knead again quickly. Work out how many buns you want (I did 12, Nigella suggests 16) and divide the dough into that many bits, rolling them into balls. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment - not foil, as I've done here (we'd run out of parchment), because they'll stick and it'll be annoying. Line up your bun-balls, close to each other but not quite touching, and score a cross lightly on the top. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove again for 45 minutes. OR do what I did and put it in the fridge overnight, ready for breakfast tomorrow.

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 220C - and make sure your dough is at room temperature. Brush the buns with beaten egg wash, then stir together the flour, sugar and water for the crosses and dribble it over the scored crosses with a teaspoon. Or you can get fancy with a syringe if you have one (clearly I don't). 

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bronzed and beautiful. When they come out, mix together the sugar and water for the glaze and brush it over. Then dig in!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A whole year of being greedy


I've just realized that, as of today, this blog is exactly one year old. A year! I'm amazed. I thought I'd only keep it up for a month or so, to be honest.

It's been quite a year. I've got married, gone on honeymoon, changed jobs, been promoted, moved house (twice), longed for a new home then got one, had so much happiness and more than a bit of sadness. 

In that year, almost 20,000 people have come to Dine at Mine. Shockingly, that can't just be my mum (although she's still been the most frequent, I'm fairly sure). From every corner of the globe, including some countries I've never even heard of, people have come here, read my inconsequential gabblings and looked at my overexposed, underlit, badly posed or not posed at all photos. I'm flabbergasted, to be honest, and incredibly, pathetically grateful. I don't know why they came, but I'm very glad they did.

There'll be plenty of cooking coming up over this long weekend - for one thing, my Kitchen Aid's dough hook is going to get its first outing - but for today, let's look backwards. Over the last year on this little patch of internet, I've cooked 128 recipes. Here, for your delectation and delight, are the reader's choice top 10:

 Spring Vegetable Lasagne with Tuscan Tomato Salad (the winner by a LONG way and, incidentally, something I made again just this weekend. So good, you've got to try it).

Happy birthday blog-readers - thank you so much for the last year. Roll on year 2!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Chocolate "World Peace" Biscuits

So it's all very well dangling salted caramel ice cream in your face, but what are you meant to eat it with? (Answer: a spoon! Ba-dum-tish. I know, I crack myself up). No, seriously. When you've got the world's richest, sweetest, most intense ice cream, how do you serve it up to your friends without knocking them out for the rest of the day?

It's a dilemma. I originally planned to serve it alongside some amazing chocolate fondants which, by the way, I am astounded to discover I haven't cooked in all the time I've had this blog (nearly a year!).

But the first taste of ice cream showed me that salted caramel ice cream + gooey, rich chocolate fondant = oh god, I feel a bit ill and the buttons have pinged off my jeans. That's not really the vibe I was going for. Back to the drawing board!

I then considered another ice cream (or, ahem, sorbet), some kind of wafer, an apple tart, a pear crumble, but kept worrying that everything would be just Too Much. So in the end, I went for the time honoured combination of ice cream and biscuit. Specifically, a chocolate cookie made with deep, dark, bitter chocolate, gleaned from my favourite American cooking blog and praised to the skies by hundreds of commenters. Plus, you know, it uses sea salt as well and I can't resist a theme. Salted puddings all round!

I'm  not exaggerating - honestly - when I say that I think these are the best chocolate biscuits I've ever made. They're incredibly light and crumbly, delicate, but studded with little gooey nuggets of chocolate which melt in the mouth. The flavour is dark and intense, incredibly moreish and...oh, just gorgeous. I had to make them a day ahead of our guests arriving and I was truly unsure whether we would manage to keep them until they arrived (update - we did, but it was a struggle). They're just..amazing. Do it. Make them, then you'll see.

And why the silly name? According to the original recipe, these are good enough that the original creator thought one batch would be enough to create world peace. I see where they were coming from but honestly, I'm not so sure. What about when there's only one left? I'll fight you for it.

Chocolate "World Peace" Cookies
From Smitten Kitchen (metric measurements from one of the comments below the recipe)

- 125g plain flour
- 35g cocoa powder
- 150g unsalted butter
- 130g light brown sugar (although we didn't have any, so I used golden caster)
- 50g caster sugar
- a teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste
- half a teaspoon of posh Maldon salt (or a quarter of a teaspoon of table salt)
- half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
- 150g of dark, good chocolate, chopped finely (we only had 120g so I used that)

Sieve the flour, cocoa and bicarb together into a bowl and set aside.

In a mixer (like my beloved Kitchen Aid) with the paddle attachment, or with an electric whisk / strong arm in a bowl, beat the butter on a medium speed until it's very soft and creamy, for a few minutes. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla, and beat for another 2 minutes.

Now, the name of the game is to work the mixture as little as possible once the flour has been added, to keep the biscuits crumbly rather than tough. The best way to do this is to add the flour/cocoa/bicarb combo, drape a tea towel over the top of the bowl (otherwise you'll get covered in flour) and start to pulse the mixer at a low speed for a couple of seconds. After five pulses, take a look - if there's still loads of flour on the surface, do another couple of pulses, if not then remove the tea towel.

Still on low, mix everything for about 30 seconds more, or just until the flour disappears into the dough. Don't worry if it looks crumbly, it's meant to. Pour in the chocolate chunks and mix for a few seconds to combine.

With your hands, shape the dough into a ball then divide it into two. Form each half into a log about 4cm in diameter - yes, it looks gross - and wrap each log in cling film. Put in the fridge for at least 3 hours, and up to 3 days (or you can freeze them at this stage, if you like - if so, don't bother to defrost before baking, just slice the log into rounds and bake for a minute or so longer).

Once you're ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 160C and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment. With a sharp knife, cut the logs into circles about a centimetre thick (they'll crack as you cut them, but try to squeeze them back into rounds). Space them out with a few cm between them.

Bake for 12 minutes then cool on a rack until your self-control breaks and you scoff your face. I had to make these the day before we had people round and I can confirm that they were just as good after 24 hours in an airtight tin. You can also freeze them cooked, as well as raw.
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