September 24th, 2011

In which I try to improve my baking – chocolate chip cookies

I am a pretty good cook, but I’ve never felt that confident at baking, it’s like some sort of magic, you put a load of goo into the oven and then it comes out and it’s transformed into something yummy. So I’ve been trying to bake more recently, and make up my own recipes, and generally try to understand how it works a bit better.

Last week someone posted a recipe on LSG for the most awesome chocolate chip cookies in the world, and I decided I had to make them. The problem was, the recipe was all in American, so it needed some amending. Firstly I had to work out a suitable substitute for ‘cake flour’, as that doesn’t exist in the UK, then I had to convert the cups to weight measurements, then I had to reduce the amount of butter as I refuse to use more than one pack of butter in any recipe. Then I had to make up for the fact I appear to not have any bicarb, I probably used it all for cleaning, or left it somewhere else in the house. Oh, and I added way less chocolate than asked for, mostly because I didn’t have enough, but also because holy fuck 1 1/3lbs of chocolate is a lot.

So here is my adapted recipe, which turned out reaaaaaaaaally well, and although it was an obscenely large amount of dough which turned into 25 huuuuge cookies, they still all got eaten in record time.

275g 00 grade flour
275g strong white flour
2 tablespoons cornflour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
250g butter (room temperature)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
260g granulated sugar
250g soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
300g chocolatey bits (I used a bag of chocolate chips and a bag of chocolate buttons).

It is probably better that you use the recipe linked above if you want a detailed description of what to do, along with photos. This is just a short summary of what I did when I made these cookies.

1) Sift flours, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside
2) Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until fully blended, then add one egg at a time while mixing. Add the vanilla and the oil. Slowly add in dry ingredients while mixing. Marvel at the vast quantity of dough produced. Realise that the mixer may well break if you abuse it any further. Wish you were rich enough to own a Kitchenaid mixer. Pour chocolate chips into bowl and work them into the dough with your hands to save the poor old mixer.
3) Cover with clingfilm (so the film actually touches the dough, no air space) and put in the fridge for 24 hours or so. If, like me, you feel that 25 monster cookies is just TOO MANY COOKIES, you can make them into circular lumps now and put them in a tray in the freezer, then when they are frozen transfer them to a bag, then you can have instant cookies whenever you want them! I actually defrosted them before baking, but there is one left lurking in the freezer for me to attempt to cook from frozen and see how it turns out.
4) Take bowl of dough out of the fridge about an hour before you want to bake, because it will be solid and need time to soften up again. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Make balls of dough about 2 tablespoons in volume and squish them into circular lumps about 1.5cm thick (they will flatten and widen more during cooking) and put them on foil on a baking tray. Bake for 11 minutes, or until cookies are starting to brown. After a few minutes cooling in the tray, transfer them to a wire cooling rack and try and resist eating them for as long as possible.

mmmcookies

September 13th, 2011

New toy!!

I got a new toy yesterday! Looook, it’s prettttttty. And most importantly it was cheap. Yay for cheapcycle!
mitresaw

So now I will be able to cut ALL THE THINGS without whining that woodwork makes me tired and having to ask someone to help me. woooo. The only project I actually have in mind is I need to make some frames to go over the veg beds to protect the asparagus from cat digging when I plant it out, and to protect any seeds I put in the soil next year, but I’m sure I’ll think of plenty of other things I want to make. I am considering a lean-to shed type thing so I have somewhere to put the garden tools other than in the garage, but gren’s motorbike is currently living where I’d most likely put it, so I’ll need to do some thinking. So for the time being, here is the one and only thing I did with my new saw….cut some wood! Exciting eh?
cutwood

And because I was in there, I decided to take a pic of the garage. I’ve kinda almost cleared it up enough to be useable as a workshop again, another couple of hours work to sort out all the boxes and stuff, and it’ll be done. Then I can saw things and grind things and lathe things and drill things to my heart’s content. I just need to remember to put an extension lead in there so Gren doesn’t move my grinder again next time he wants to sharpen a knife.
garage

September 8th, 2011

Elderberries, and other awesome stuff

So it’s the season for eeeeverything. I made blackberry jam last weekend, then this week I went blackberry picking with my parents to the woods I used to go to when I lived in the city. The blackberries were crap, so we only got a few, and decided to get a load of elderberries to make wine with instead.

After about 2 hours of taking them off the stems and picking out all the bits of stem and unripe berries and cleaning my kitchen floor, I wanted to never see another elderberry ever again. I chucked them in a bucket with some raisins, 3 tsps citric acid, yeast, and some water.

elderberries
raisins

After a couple of days they look like this, they all float to the top and make a kinda crust, and when you pierce it with the spoon it smells sooooo good. And yes, I am aware that wine-making experts would say I should use a white bucket, but wine-making experts can fuck off. Or buy me another bucket.
elderbucket

Tomorrow or the next day I’ll squish them through some muslin into a demijohn and add the sugar.

For future reference, this is the recipe. Take 2kg of elderberries and get the stems off, squish them in a bucket, add a kettle full of boiling water and 250g chopped up raisins, 3tsps citric acid, enough cold water to make about a gallon’s worth of liquid and to bring the temp down and a sachet of high alcohol wine yeast. Stir and enjoy whenever you walk past. After 3 days or so, strain the juice, making sure to squish the pulp, and add to a demijohn with 1.5kg sugar. Ferment under airlock until it stops bubbling, then rack off and leave for a year, then bottle and leave for as long as you can bear it.

I whined about my elderberry trauma on rav, and a very kind person told me something else i can do with them which doesn’t involve taking off the stems….hedgerow jelly, woohoo!

So I went and picked some stuff for it today…blackberries, elderberries, hawthorn, rowan, rosehips. I had a bag of apples already from a sneaky apple tree we found when elderberry picking earlier in the week.

I went downstairs to find the kitchen like this:
messykitchen

It wasn’t exactly a surprise, I made sushi, chocolate brownies and cheesecake yesterday and only did about 3/4 of the washing up, and then gren cooked dinner this evening and left everything on the side because the dishwasher was full of clean stuff. I was in a sulk with the kitchen because I got an electric shock from the dishwasher this afternoon when I went to clean up. So I decided to empty the dishwasher then get the fruits in to simmer while i was doing the washing up.

hedgerowbowl
apples
hedgerowpan

I really needed to sweep the floor too, but there appeared to be a dead cat in the middle of it.
cleankitchen

On the hedgerow adventure today, we also picked a load of field mushrooms. I had grand plans to turn them into mushroom lasagne and mushroom soup base for the freezer, but it’s way too late now, so that’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Still, yum, I am looking forward to it.

mushrooms

September 1st, 2011

Cider making trial run

It’s not reaaaally full-on apple season yet, but I’ve had a few boxes of apples and pears sitting in my garage for a couple of weeks now, and the pears were starting to go a bit manky, so we decided to try the press out and use up what we had, and collect more apples later for another try.

fruit

We got out the apples, press, shredder, jack and demijohns, cleaned everything down with water and then with trigene to disinfect, and cleaned the demijohns with sodium metabisulphite. All ready to go!

pressready

I am so glad we have the shredder, if cider-making involved hitting apples in a bucket with a big stick, I’m not sure I’d bother with it. As it is, the shredder makes light work of the apples.
shredded

We put the apple goo into muslin parcels using a frame, and then stacked them up. It worked ok, but the pile kept sliding to one side. We did get some juice though!
firstpress

Our first juice!
firstjuice

In the end we decided it just wasn’t wanting to work the way we planned, so the easiest way to fix it was to get some plastic tubs that nested inside each other, drill holes in the sides and bottom, and use these to stack the apple pulp in.
squish

This worked much better, so I’m going to look out for some metal baskets that nest inside each other, or maybe just a large metal wastebasket, and hopefully next time will be even easier.
finalsetup

We got 3.5 gallons of juice in the end. We could have had more with extra pressing, but there are so many more apples where these came from it hardly seemed worth it, and the chickens and the compost heap will enjoy the leftovers.
3.5

The first demijohn had a tablespoon of tea and a teaspoon of citric acid added, then an airlock put on, and I am hoping the natural yeasts will take care of that and make it yummy. The other 3 had the same tea and acid added, but also a campden tablet to kill anything existing in there, and I’ll add my own yeast in a day or two. The demijohn that wasn’t quite full will have blackberry juice added…at the moment the blackberries I picked a few days ago are sitting in a bowl with boiling water and some sugar. The demijohns are all sitting happily in the hallway with the mead (and yes, i really do need to vacuum the hall carpet…eek!)
finishedcider

And finally I bottled the elderberry wine that has been sitting in a demijohn for 2 years. Well, not the same demijohn, I did rack it off so it wasn’t sitting on sediment. I had a quick taste and it wasn’t unpleasant, but it was a bit harsh…hopefully a while in bottles to mellow will do the trick.
elderberry

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