Chocolate Stuffed Cookies

I’ve also got a little confession to make. Despite my previous protests, I’ve actually made it all the way to Season 4 of Game of Thrones. It’s still a little too gory for me, but a lot more watchable than I gave it credit for at the beginning, and I definitely prefer it to the books. Also, despite my previous assertions, I have seen cakes crop up a few times, although their association with the inspid Sansa doesn’t go a long way with me.

Anyway, today’s post is not about Sansa’s favourite lemon cakes, but a particular favourite of mine – palm-sized cookies, stuffed full of chocolate. If you have a mild addiction to Ben’s Cookies, these will provide you with some respite.

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Based on a Hummingbird Bakery recipe, they’re almost like brownies in a cookie, rich and utterly delicious.

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They more than made up for my iffy week of commuting. Driving to work everyday is proving a massive pain in the backside. Prior to this year I had never driven in London before, and considered myself a pretty decent driver. I guess driving in the Big Smoke is a whole different kettle of fish. After being slapped with two parking tickets and several near-misses, I was starting to wonder whether I should be on the roads at all!

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Oh for the days when I could walk everywhere! I guess London has its ups and downs. I don’t have the luxury of walking everywhere anymore, but I do have some yummy cookies to keep me company whilst I fume in the rush hour traffic jams.

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Toad-in-the-Hole

I have a bad track record with making toad-in-the-hole. For some reason, I always end up with something more claggy and floury than I’d like, and I never get this tremendously billowy rise that I always see elsewhere. This time I followed this Nigel Slater recipe to the letter, and whilst I still didn’t get pillows of batter, it looks pretty similar to the photo by the recipe, which is always reassuring. Even more so, from the eating, it went down very well.

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It’s fancied up by wrapping each sausage in a slice of cured ham, and throwing in a tablespoon of mustard into the batter to liven it up. There’s a rather joyous contrast between the crisp exterior of the batter, and the fluffy texture within. Sadly, your arteries won’t thank you.

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Toad-in-the-hole is decidedly comfort food in the much-loved-but-definitely-stodge department. For me, it comes with a good dollop of childhood nostalgia. I do wonder how people who had never grown up with something like this percieve a dish with such an odd name. Does it also seem strange to find out it’s actually not got anything to do with toads, but is an arrangement of sausages baked in batter?

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Toad-in-the-Hole

Adapted from Nigel Slater on BBC Food

  • 2 eggs
  • 125g plain flour
  • 150ml milk
  • 150ml water
  • 1 tbsp grain mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 Lincolnshire/Cumberland sausages
  • 6 thin slices of prosciutto
  • 1 tbsp oil

Whisk the eggs, flour, milk, water, mustard and salt and pepper together until smooth. Then set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220˚C. Take the skin off each sausage, and wrap around a piece of prosciutto instead.

Lightly grease a roasting tin with 1 tbsp oil and arrange the sausages in the tin. Heat until the oil starts to sizzle. Pour out some of the excess fat (I forgot to do this step hence even more artery badness, oops) then pour over the batter. Return to the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden and risen. Serve hot.

Berry Good Biscuits

Autumn is on its way. I see it in the riot of colour outdoors, the deep red of fruit hanging ripe on the trees, the golden colour of the September sun. I feel every year a slight heaviness that comes with the bittersweet knowledge that Winter lies just around the corner, and soon the nights will be long and dark, and the days grey and wet.

On the other hand, Autumn is a season that is perfect for baking. You have the glories of free windfalls, and garden bounty and it’s no longer so hot you feel reluctant turning the oven on. I’m intending to make the most of the months of September and October this year. More time spent enjoying the outdoors, and coming home to deliciously simple treats like these Mary Berry Fork Biscuits.

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I make these regularly, and in various incarnations, but the original biscuits have never had a starring role on the blog before. I’ve baked it from Mary Berry’s original measurements in ounces as I reckon she’s old-school, and it is a very easy ratio of numbers to remember:

2 sugar : 4 butter : 5 flour

Interestingly, looking back at the recipe, the measurements written out in metric add up to a slightly different ratio of:

1 sugar : 2 butter : 3 flour

The latter ratio sounds more similar to that of a traditional shortbread biscuit recipe. The recipe in ounces will produce a biscuit that spreads slightly more due to the higher butter content, and to be honest, tastes a little bit yummier too.

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Despite looking rather small and unexciting, these fork biscuits are absolutely delicious. You can’t stop eating them, trust me!

Fork Biscuits

Makes between 16-20 biscuits

  • 4 oz butter
  • 2 oz caster sugar
  • 5 oz self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Mix the butter, salt and sugar together with a spoon until just combined. Then stir through the flour to form a dough. Roll out small balls, then press the impression of the tines of a fork into the top of the biscuits.

Bake the biscuits for approximately 12-15 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Allow to cool on the baking tray, then transfer onto a cooling rack until cold. Keep in an airtight tin.

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Autumnal Apple Pie

I went on a run on Saturday, keeping it short because I’ve sadly come down with another stonking cold. A grumpy old man HARRUMPHED me loudly as I waited for him to cross through a gate with his dog. I have no idea what made him so cross as I’m fairly sure I wasn’t giving off any signs I was desperate to overtake him – no running on the spot for instance.

It made me wonder why people sometimes get so cross about bumping into runners? We don’t take up the whole road, and we don’t slow cars down. We don’t tend to jump red lights, and we tend to be lone rangers rather than roam in packs.

That’s not to say that most encounters I’ve had are like this. Most people I meet are very friendly. We either nod in acknowledgement of one another’s pain or say a cheery hello.

Anyway, back home, we’ve collected quite a few of the first windfall apples, so after my run, I got stuck into making an Apple Pie.

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I’d love to say that I was inspired by this week’s Great British Bake Off episode, but in fact, I’ve been hankering to make one for a while. What a coincidence, eh?

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I have to say I didn’t pick a good weekend for pastry-making. It was warm, and muggy, and humid. Not so much Autumn as Indian Summer. So the pastry was a bit sticky, and hard to work with. Just for a change, I sealed the pastry by pressing by thumb evenly around the border instead of using a fork.

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As I stewed the apples down for the pie, it occurred to me that different varieties of apple behave very different during the cooking process. Bramleys cook down to mush very quickly. I used a mixture of varieties, so my apple filling became a combination of applesauce and chunks. I like my apple pieces to hold their shape in a pie, but this meant that the apple mixture filled the pastry case very compactly, with no gap between the pastry lid. Next time I think I might try using a combination of Granny Smiths and Golden Delicious, with one Bramley thrown in to create a little bit of sauce.

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Despite the heat, the pastry also turned out beautifully, crumbly and short with no annoying shrinkage.

With my cold, I sadly couldn’t really taste the pie. However, I am assured by tasters with a functioning olfactory system that it was good! I think next time I bake a pie, I’ll pick a weekend that’s a bit nippy, and dashing with rain outside. It’s the perfect dish for a cosy night in.

Raspberry Bakewell Tartlets

Reading back on my earlier blog posts conjures up funny feelings. I wrote in a different, more burbly style, in a voice that undoubtably sounds more teenagery than my current one (although I was sadly, not). The first time I posted this Bakewell Tart feels like an age away. I was still a student, stressed about exams and training for a marathon I never actually ended up running. I was living in the tiniest room in central London, where all my furniture had to be carefully rearranged if I was to attempt to do so much as a push-up. I could hear every word of the intimate midnight conversations of the flat below me. And my neighbours had a propensity for neon pink boxer shorts.

Well now it’s increasingly like Autumn, although I baked these tarts when it was still Summer. I live in a house again, instead of a flat, and I’m sure I would have to shout quite loudly for my neighbours to hear what I was saying indoors. So when I baked this Bakewell Tart again, it was with rather different feelings in mind.

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It’s funny that Bakewell Tart should be so very English in nature, when essentially, it’s a frangipane tart (which we think of as being French) with a layer of jam inside. Its so much better with the extra jam though! I had a lack of flaked almonds, which I usually use as a topping. Instead I plopped a handful of raspberries onto each tart, and it worked really well.

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I really like the way the raspberries on top have added a wonderfully complementary burst of juicy fruity flavour. They also kept their shape marvellously. Previously I used blueberries for a similar tart, and they disappeared during baking, leaving rather odd looking black pock-marks on the surface of the tart. I thought the flavours might be too rich for the little ones around, but they wolfed the tarts down and begged for more! Awww, brings a warm glow when my baking gets that kind of response!
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To save reposting the recipe, you can find it in my previous post on Bakewell Tart.