Recipe: Nutella filled cookies

As well as making raspberry & white chocolate cookies on the weekend, I also decided, on a whim, to try and experiment with nutella filled cookies.



I used my normal base cookie recipe, but with milk choc chunks instead of the white chocolate and raspberry (although I did experiment with one nutella filled raspberry-and-white-choc cookie, which was fine, but didn't work as well as the normal choc chunk cookies).

Method

We will be following the same instructions as described here, but before we start, we will line a baking tray, and using a teaspoon put small blobs of nutella on it, and put it in the freezer to harden - this is mostly to make it easier to handle when we try to get it into our cookie later:



Once you have the cookie dough cooled and ready to cook, rather than shaping it into a ball, flatten each piece slightly and then put a piece of the frozen nutella in the center, shaping the dough back into a ball around the nutella competely.

Cook as described and eat!


Recipe: My favourite cookies

As I have mentioned before, one of my favourite sweet combinations is raspberry and chocolate - whether it be milk, dark or white chocolate, it just seems to work so well for me, so unsurprisingly, if not controversially, my favourite cookies are white chocolate and raspberry.



I made them last week, as a sort of practice run for an upcoming birthday party for my youngest, but I am pretty tempted to just keep making them regularly. Although, I am the only one in the house who prefers them to normal chocolate chip cookies, but that probably works in my favour too, as it means more for me (or more likely they don't all get eaten whilst I am out at work).


They are pretty simple, and are actually my go to cookie recipe, but you can replace the raspberries and white choc with plain choc chunks or whatever your mood fancies.


Ingredients

  • 170 grams unsalted butter
  • 250 grams plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 160 grams light brown sugar
  • 200 grams white choc chunks
  • 10 grams freeze dried raspberries

Method

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Makes about 15-25 cookies, depending on the size you go for
  1. Mix the flour, oats, salt and bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl

  2. Add the sugars and butter in a bowl (ideally of a freestanding mixer, but whatever) and mix well - for a few minutes with the paddle attachment if you have one, but again, whatever. Just mix it well so it is smooth and well beaten

  3. Add the egg and beat/mix again for a minute or so until well combined. Add the vanilla if using it.

  4. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined and formed a cohesive dough. If you are using a free standing mixer, then increase the power slowly, as if you go straight in fast then you will get covered in flour. This has happened more than once to me.

  5. Chuck in the choc chunks and raspberries and mix for another 30sec-1min

  6. Wrap the the dough in clingfilm and stick it in the fridge to cool - probably an hour or so

  7. Once cooled, chunk the dough into small fist size balls and place them equally spaced on a baking tray and cook for about 15minutes, or until  they have melted into cookie shapes and lightly browned.

  8. Take them from the oven, let them cool for a bit


Stoneware baked shortbread

A few years ago I got bought a stoneware shortbread mould, basically identical to the one below:
Its a classic stone, patterned shortbread mould from Lakeland, that's supposed to create traditional shortbread.

As I have previously mentioned, I quite like shortbread, so over the years I have attempted to use the stoneware to create picture perfect shortbread (with a variety of normal and brown-butter recipes), all of which ended in disaster.

I tried a number of tricks: cooking it low and slow, making sure it cools completely (several hours) before removing, greasing the mould, but every time it came out in pieces and mostly stuck to the mould. Searching for advice, several people in the lower end of the product reviews experienced similar results (although several people gave 5-star reviews with claims of mould-glory) and one of the top results on google was an article about similar disastrous experiences using the same mould, I didn't have high hopes.


I am pleased to say though, that I have had a breakthrough.


There were lots of comments in the review section for the product saying it worked as-is, recommending shortening, or letting chill completely, which I can confirm absolutely did not work for me, however, one or two comments and some more careful searching lead me to the idea of seasoning it (much like when I got my pride-and-joy new cast iron skillet) - which suddenly made sense. Its a natural, porous material, which draws moisture our of the contents (which is one of the properties that makes stone an appropriate material for pizza stones - the other property being the heat retention, also much like cast iron) - seasoning, the act of heating oil or (non burning) fat above its "smoke point" creates a chemical reaction where by the oil bonds and forms a natural, breathable coating.

Much like a well aged, well used, cast iron pan can demonstrate incredible non-stick performance - due to long term use - the same applies to stoneware for baking wet foods - there is apparently a saying that goes

The worse it looks, the better it cooks
Thankfully, cast iron or stoneware, you don't need a lifetime of use before you start to see the best results - we can fast track the process by seasoning the pan. As it happens, seasoning pans is very satisfying.


Seasoning a pan is simple -

  1. Pre-heat your oven to as hot as it will go (it might smoke, so make sure you are ready to have windows/doors open)

  2. Apply oil (I used vegetable oil) to the pan, not a lot, just a light coat (trying to make sure there aren't bits of dust or paper debris from kitchen towels - as the stone can be fairly abrasive, and any debris is going to get sealed into the surface)

  3. Put the dish in the oven for around 30 minutes

  4. Take out, let it cool completely (this will take a while, remember what I mentioned about it stone retaining heat)

  5. Repeat the process two or three times (I find it quite addictive to repeat, as the results are such a delight)



The results should be clear - the colour will change fairly dramatically, and if you touch it (once its cooled down) it will be fairly smooth.

If you look at the colour in the starting photo, a kind of pale-greyish white, that is how my mould started out, and below is after three or so seasoning runs:


Isn't that a beautiful colour?


And here's the successful results:



(a success in as much that it came out, pattern in tact - however it was an iteration on my brown butter shortbread development, so still a work in progress)





Gluten-free Rosemary Millionaires shortbread

A few weeks ago I re-visited my rosemary millionaire shortbread to attempt to make a gluten free version (well, mostly - I used regular porridge oats in my version, which I think is not guaranteed to be 100% gluten free because of cross contamination or something, but gluten free porridge oats are available).



I also varied the way I made the rosemary-caramel, but it still wasn't very rosemary, so maybe I will up the rosemary next time.

Ingredients

Shortbread
  • 150 grams porridge oats
  • 75 grams cornmeal
  • 170 grams butter
  • 90 grams caster sugar

Caramel
  • 150ml double cream
  • 30 grams salted butter
  • a single finger pinch of sea salt
  • 100 grams light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

Chocolate 
  • 250 gram cadburys chocolate


Method

  1. Make the shortbread - Normally making the shortbread we have to cream the butter and sugar and then fold in the flour, but as we are gluten free we don't need to worry about being careful this time: just mix the oats, cornmeal, sugar and butter together.

  2. Press the mixture into a tin and cook in a fan oven at about 160 degrees for about 20 minutes - keep an eye on it so it doesn't go to brown, but we really want to cook it fairly slowly for a while so it has a chance to dry out, this will give it more of a brittle crunch to the base (in a hopefully good way)

  3. For the caramel, gently melt all ingredients except rosemary in a pan, once melted add the rosemary and stir through, heat for two to three minutes

  4. Leave the caramel to stand for another 10 minutes or so, whilst the shortbread cools

  5. Poor the caramel through a sieve to remove the rosemary pieces, pour caramel onto the cooled shortbread

  6. Place the caramel topped shortbread in the fridge to cool for another 20 minutes

  7. Melt the chocolate in the microwave on a low power settings (will take a couple of minutes), once it is smooth, pour on top of the caramel shortbread and put back in the fridge to set.

BBQ spare ribs

A rather productive weekend for cooking this weekend. Well, mostly just the Sunday really. After heading to a local pick-your-own farm with the kids on Saturday I picked up a full rack of pork ribs from their butchers, so Sunday I smoked those and whilst they were sitting on the grill I also found time to make some rosemary salt caramel brownies.



The ribs were fairly simple - Saturday night I trimmed and lightly salted the meat, Sunday morning I rubbed the meat and then cooked for about 5 1/2 hours Sunday afternoon for dinner.

The rub

  • 30 grams light brown sugar
  • 15 grams caster sugar
  • 5 grams smoked paprika
  • 5 grams garlic powder
  • 2 grams onion powder
  • 3 grams ground ginger
  • 2 grams black pepper




It was a full rack of spare ribs, and I threw together one of my standard, quick-n-easy BBQ sauces for the painting at the end.

Method

  1. Trim the ribs and remove the membrane

  2. Salt and apply rub

  3. Setup the BBQ (WSM) for smoking set at 110 degrees (225 farenheit)

  4. Once temperature is stabilised, add the ribs

  5. After 4 hours, check to see how they are looking, depending on the thickness of the meat they might take longer (mine took about 5 hours)

  6. Check the ribs by doing the bend/bounce test (pick up the ribs and bend them a little, if they crack a bit on the top then they are ready)

  7. If using sauce, paint the ribs with the sauce (I quickly painted the ribs with a water/maple-syrup solution prior to applying the sauce, this was just to keep the sauce loose and not to thick anywhere)

  8. Return to the grill for 15 minutes or so

  9. Before getting ready to serve, put them over the direct heat (for this I just remove the middle section of the WSM and stick the grill directly above the coals) meat side down, for a minute, just to crisp up the bark - don't do this for too long as it can easily burn

  10. Slice between the bones and serve up.



Rosemary Millionaire Shortbread

I also put together some rosemary-salt millionaires shortbread on the weekend.  I originally tried rosemary caramel in a hipster coffee shop in London, and, as you might guess, thought "I should do that".



So its pretty simple, I made shortbread as usual. I made caramel with some rosemary added. Then topped with normal melted chocolate (nothing fancier seemed necessary)

Ingredients

Shortbread
  • 225 grams plain flour
  • 170 grams butter
  • 90 grams caster sugar

Caramel
  • 150ml double cream
  • 30 grams salted butter
  • a single finger pinch of sea salt
  • 100 grams light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

Chocolate 
  • Two 110 gram bars of cadburys chocolate


Method

  1. Make the shortbread - cream the butter and sugar, mix in the flour, and then press into the bottom of a lined baking tray

  2. For the caramel, gently melt all ingredients except rosemary in a pan, once melted add the rosemary and stir through, heat for two to three minutes

  3. Leave the caramel to stand for another 10 minutes or so, whilst the shortbread cools

  4. Poor the caramel through a sieve to remove the rosemary pieces, pour caramel onto the cooled shortbread

  5. Place the caramel topped shortbread in the fridge to cool for another 20 minutes

  6. Melt the chocolate in the microwave on a low power settings (will take a couple of minutes), once it is smooth, pour on top of the caramel shortbread and put back in the fridge to set.

The Big Meat 2016

August bank holiday weekend, we went to the The Big Meat, BBQ and Beer festival, in Farnham. It was recommended to me by the winner of the Gower BBQ competition, and as it was just down the road from us, I figured it could be fun. Plus it was only £35 for a family camping ticket - which seems like really good value for a nights camping for the four of us and entry to the event both days (which included live music, cooking demos, a kids area and then on the Sunday, loads of free meat from the competitors in the BBQ comp).



Luckily the weather was pretty good too - the Saturday was pretty hot and sunny, there were a few showers on the Sunday, but not enough to really affect anything much.

It's a fairly fledgling event, only in its second year, so it wasn't as big as it could be (in terms of vendors, there was only BBQ food and one or two drinks vendors really) and as you might expect none of them were up and running for the 7am campers, but that wasn't really a big deal. In terms of the competition they managed to attract 20 teams and it seemed like a very impressive setup - they had a decent judging panel and all competitors seemed to be provided all they needed (space and electricity).



Honestly, all of the meat that I ate from the competition (and there was a lot of it) was really high quality - After the chef's special on the Saturday (which I missed because I didn't realise they were turning any food before Sunday) the main four rounds were chicken, pork ribs, pulled pork and brisket, and was some of the best BBQ food I have ever eaten (including compared to authentic American BBQ joints).

One of my reasons for going was to go and chat with the competitors, taste the food and check out their set up (and generally get as many tips as possible), so here is some of the stuff I learnt:

  • Chef's special are impressive. Once again, just expecting people to do some piece of meat for this round, a lot of people were really creative - one competitor did veal on gnocchi, another did a giant burger and another did smore-brownies with a white russian to wash it down (using fresh, raw milk from the dairy farm that the festival was being held on)

  • Chicken round: everyone does thighs. Severeal competitors I spoke to said this same thing. The judges know what to expect with thighs, and going off piste with this can result in your scores getting tanked if just one judge takes a dislike to whatever it is you try (which also makes sense given me gripes with low'n'slow cooking chicken)

  • Almost everyone has a temperature controlled BBQ system. BBQ Guru being the most popular choice I saw. Which makes sense, being as there were several rounds to cook for hand in with in two hours of each other, and most competitors putting on their brisket around 22:00 on the saturday night.