Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

I woke up this morning to the white blankness of thick mist, and sight of hundreds of dew-jewelled spiderwebs that had been spun overnight. Very fitting for the morning post-Halloween.

With the refreshingly brisk November air (it’s November now, how time flies!) is the comforting contrast of the sweet warmth that comes from cookies baking away in the oven. Magical how a bowl of ingredients transforms into a pile of freshly baked cookies, crunchy outside with just the right amount of chew, interspersed with lightly toasted milk chocolate chunks.

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My crappy oven doesn’t do this delicious batter justice, and the cookies baked looking somewhat anaemic, so I baked a second batch in my parents’ (much better) oven and snapped a few photos afterwards.

P1070198I tried a few variations with the basic batter – one with white chocolate and cranberry, another with toasted ground hazelnuts – and really, my favourite has to be this milk chocolate version. I’m a milk chocolate girl through and through, and although there’s a time and a place for dark chocolate, this cookie isn’t one.

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Eat whilst admiring adorable fuzzy plushies online. I’m in denial about being a mature, fully-fledged adult, yes I know. Seriously, how could anybody say no to this?

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My Favourite Brownies

I’ve had two missions in life lately. Number 1: bake some deliciously lip-smacking brownies. Number 2: bake them successfully in my rickety gas oven that burns everything on the bottom.

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I tried out the Ottolenghi recipe last week but it just wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Instead, I went back to a recipe for brownies that I have been baking since I was at university. They were basically the only foodstuff I could combine ingredients together and cohesively turn into something edible. Over the years, I’ve refined the method a little, upped the quality of the ingredients, and along the way they have stayed my favourite brownies.

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I found a tip online about baking the brownies at the very top of a gas oven to help with the heat distribution, and I think it noticeably helped, so no more baking on the middle shelf round here!

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This recipe is best baked in a rectangular tin. I used to only have a square tin, and there was always a little batter leftover for a mini microwave brownie. Here, I find each slice has just the right amount of crust to goo ratio. I cut this batch into fifteen, all slightly different sized rectangles. Even the corner squares have a delightfully meltingly soft centre, a characteristic that will make A happy.

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I love throwing in a handful of milk and white chocolate, because the little nibbly nuggets form such a delicious contrast to the melting richness of the brownie itself. I can’t wait to make a chocolate-orange version with a little orange zest and some chopped up orange-flavoured chocolate.

Recipe from the Hamyln Student Cookbook, found here

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On a side note, I’ve re-vamped the blog layout recently, and gone with something that I find easier to read – with a plus of bigger photos so even more to look at! Hope everybody likes it.

Very Good Chocolate Chip Cookies

Why are the simplest bakes sometimes the most difficult? For instance, let’s take chocolate chip cookies. It seems like it should be simple. However, despite having dozens of favourite recipes for all kinds of other cookies, chocolate-chip nirvana still escapes my tenacious grasp.

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I’ve spent years trying to figure it out. Trawling through the heavy masses of internet cookie wisdom, trying all kind of tricks and techniques. Baking immediately, to baking after resting the dough for 24 hours. Brown sugar versus caster sugar. Strong flour, spelt flour, rice flour, cornflour. English, French, Danish butter. Salted or unsalted?

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Heston Blumenthal’s recipe has been on my radar for a long time. It differs from most other chocolate chip cookie recipes by Heston’s trademark uber-precise instructions, and the added step of making your own golden syrup chocolate chips.  

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I baked them, and found they were good cookies, with a perfect texture. Crisp exteriors and desirably chewy centre.

However, they’re faffy. Making your own chocolate chips takes ages. You make a ganache, freeze it into useable firmness, and chop it into squares. When you want cookies now, waiting a couple of hours for the ganache to freeze solid is a bit of a test in delayed gratification. I found the chocolate ganache nuggets didn’t seem to add much to the finished cookies either. Finding little hard nuggets of chocolate is one my favourite parts of cookie-chomping, and chocolate ganache stays unexcitingly soft at room temperature.

I thought the ingredients could do with a bit of tinkering too. The cookies were a bit too sweet, and I needed a glass of water after polishing one off. So of course, I baked them again, tweaking the original recipe to my own tastes, reducing the sugar and replacing the fancy homemade chocolate chips with ordinary chopped up chocolate.

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They were just glorious. Fresh out of the oven with golden crispy edges and a soft, dense middle rich with melted chocolate chips. No need for chilling, or special ingredients – just lovely cookies when you want them.

My sweet tooth seems to be fading as I age, or these are just very sweet cookies. I reduced the quantity of sugar from 260g to 200g, but I think I could probably push it down further to 160g without any loss of flavour.

I ended up with an awful lot of cookies after these experiments, so took a big batch into work. They got scarfed down in about an hour. I went to check on their progress and was stunned to see that nothing remained but a crumpled foil wrapper and the cake tin lid hanging sideways off the counter. Always a good sign, although slightly alarming how voracious everybody’s appetites were.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Heston Blumenthal at Home

Makes 12

  • 115g salted butter
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 egg
  • 220g plain flour (I used a mixture of plain flour and spelt flour)
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 125g milk/dark chocolate, chopped into chips

Preheat the oven to 190˚C. Prepare 2 baking trays.

Beat the butter and sugar together until combined, then beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla extract.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and coffee powder together. Add to the rest of the ingredients and mix to form a soft dough. Stir in the milk chocolate chips. Scoop into 12 balls, then bake for 8-10 minutes until golden around the edges. Leave to rest for a few minutes before transferring onto a cooling rack.

Ottolenghi Carrot Cake

“Gilbert reached across the aisle, picked up the end of Anne’s long red braid, held it out at arm’s length, and said in a piercing whisper:“Carrots! Carrots!”

Then Anne looked at him with a vengeance!….Thwack! Anne had brought her slate down on Gilbert’s head and cracked it – slate, not head, clear across”

L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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I do love a good dollop of nostalgia. Passages from childhood favourites make me laugh again, and I once again become enveloped in a tiny world where all that matters is becoming Top Swot of the class, having a dress with the puffiest of puffed sleeves, and beating that Gilbert Blythe.

Whilst Anne Shirley might not have been a big fan of carrots, I most certainly am. Carrots in cake? Even better.

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I must own around ten or eleven different recipes for carrot cake, all so varied and manifestly separate – from the easy children’s cookbook recipe, to the fruity slabs from Geraldene Holt’s book, the trendy Ottolenghi version, the triple layered offering from the Hummingbird Bakery, then Peggy Porschen, and Dan Lepard’s Arabian Nights version to name but a few.

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With so many carrot cake recipes, seriously, how’s a girl going to choose? I fancied something airy rather than dense, yet still full of flavours, chopped nuts, and shreds of finely grated carrot.

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So Ottolenghi it was.  It looked straightforward, airy, and more importantly, everybody online raved about how good it was. Although many Ottolenghi cake recipes in that cookbook have been hit-and-miss for me, I knew that I had to give it a go.

Others online commented how easily it sank in the oven, but thankfully, this one didn’t! I piped on some dots all over the top at first, but it didn’t look quite right, so away with the palette knife, and sweeping swirls was the icing order of the day.

I was tempted to adapt the recipe, but stuck to my guns and followed it exactly as written. I’m extremely pleased at how it turned out – both light, fluffy, and satisfyingly substantial.

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I’m in a really spring-ish frame of mind, now that the snowdrops are everywhere, the daffodils are blooming, and I’m actually seeing a spot of daylight during the morning and evenings! Being my favourite season of the year, I’m going to relish it and make the most of it.

Just for fun, here are some other great spring-themed baking bits and bobs to get you into the mood:

This amazing bee-hive shaped lemon cake, complete with cute marzipan bees

Duck egg-blue, egg shaped measuring cups from Anthropologie

Creme egg brownies, perfect for Easter

Currant-dotted Easter biscuits perhaps using this rabbit-shaped cookie cutter?

Hummingbird Bakery Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie

So now that we are into February, and the month of luuuuurve, the shops are full of Valentine’s Day themed cards, gifts, edibles and whatnot. It’s the time of year when, in theory, I like to go all-out and bake a bazillion pink cakes festooned with love hearts and sprinkles.

Anyway, thanks to getting distracted by all the other delicious things to bake out there, the pink/hearts/sprinkles thing never really happens. So this year, I decided the blog needed something V-day themed, but would happily satisfy my cravings for all other things cakey, chocolatey and so on.

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I remembered these raspberry cheesecake brownies, first tasted at the Hummingbird Bakery oh, approximately seven years ago (ugg feeling old) and a favourite of mine until they somehow dropped off the radar.

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I had a pack of cream cheese, some whipping cream, chocolate, plenty of eggs…so hey, it was as if it was fate.

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Last time I was somewhat health-conscious so used low-fat everything and sugar alternatives. This time, I just went with the full whammy. You only live once, eh?

The recipe for these is pretty much all over the internet. You can find it here and on various blogs where everybody raves about what a great brownie/cheesecake/raspberry cream/mysterious thing-of-joy it is. I divided all the ingredients by three, and baked it in a loaf tin. Otherwise there would be far too much raspberry cheesecake brownie lying around for our own good! They’re tasty, perhaps not as amazing as I remembered but then I’ve come down with a bit of a cold so my tastebuds are a little faulty this week.

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Want some other Valentine’s Day themed bakes? Check out my red velvet cupcakes, baci di dama or decorated sugar cookies.

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

There are a lot of pretty damn good cookie recipes out there, and this chocolate one by Dan Lepard is no exception. These cookies are comfortingly weighty in the palm of your hand, and are absolutely choc-a-block crammed full of dark chocolate chunks, melting into tiny rivulets and puddles that you just want to lick off.

Very lightly adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet, they pack a fantastic chocolatey punch. In my case, a slightly boozy aftertaste too, thanks to my homemade vanilla extract, which is currently approximately 50% vodka, 49.999% brandy, and 0.001% vanilla seeds. Tis no bad thing. Hic.

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It was dark when I baked these (being a January weekday) so here’s a quick iPhone snap.

I keep meaning to bake more from Short and Sweet as Dan Lepard’s recipes tend to be so reliable and produce great results. For instance, the ratio of ingredients here is incredibly similar to that of Dorie Greenspan/Pierre Hermé’s Korova cookies. I didn’t get along with that cookie recipe at all, which resulted in epic cookie spreadage, but this one worked beautifully.

Anyways, super happy I have a tub filled with these to keep me going for the rest of the working week (and weekend) yum!

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 small egg
  • 175g strong white flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Beat the butter together with the sugars and vanilla extract until creamy. Then mix in the egg, followed by the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the chocolate chunks, then roll into balls with your hands, then place on a baking tray, well spaced apart, and bake for around 14 minutes until puffed and starting to colour at the edges. Cool for a few minutes on a tray before transferring onto a cooling rack.

Hazelnut and Crystallised Ginger Brownies

Gently crackly, with nuggets of fiery ginger to settle the post-indulgence stomach, and a sprinkling of hazelnuts, for their warming golden flavour notes.

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These hazelnut and ginger brownies are warmly indulgent, yet full of bright flavours. Perfect for this time of year. Whatever some people say about January resolutions, and diets, I think chocolate should have no part in that. Eat plenty, and counteract those post-Christmas blues.

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January a sad month? Nah. Let’s make it Chocolate Month instead?

Hazelnut and Crystallised Ginger Brownies

  • 100g butter
  • 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 heaped tbsp flour
  • handful crystallised ginger, chopped into small pieces
  • handful of toasted hazelnuts, chopped roughly

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bain-marie until totally melted and liquid. Set aside to cool.

When cooled, mix in the sugar and eggs, followed by the cocoa powder and flour. Then add the ginger and hazelnuts. Bake in a lined square tin for around 25 minutes until the top is just set. Leave to cool down, then cut into squares.

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Triple Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownies

This is just a quickie post, with a phone picture too, but they were so tasty I couldn’t miss them off the blog. I made them as a way of using up some spare ingredients from the Nutella Torrone, but it’s easily tasty enough to be worth making even if you don’t happen to have the ingredients handy anyway!

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It’s a sticky, gooey sort of brownie, with that crispy sugary top, and is sure to go down well with everybody concerned, and you can play around with all the ingredient quantities too – the recipe is pretty flexible! It’s so easy that you can bung all the ingredients in one saucepan too, for minimal washing up. This brownie absolutely makes up for all the stress I had with the pâte sucrée of my previous post! Anyone else have those times too?

Triple Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownies

Makes 16 pieces

  • 100g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 65g dark chocolate
  • 60g milk chocolate
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g plain flour
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100g roasted skinned hazelnuts, chopped roughly
  • 100g nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • 50g milk chocolate, chopped into pieces
  • 50g white chocolate, chopped into pieces

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line a brownie tin with baking paper.

Put into a saucepan the butter, sugar, 65g dark chocolate, 60g milk chocolate, and golden syrup. Heat gently until all melted together. Set aside to cool.

When cooled, stir into the chocolate mixture 2 eggs, and then follow with flour, ground almonds, baking powder and cocoa powder. Then stir into this brownie mixture most of the chopped nuts and chocolate, reserving some for sprinkling on top. Pour the brownie mixture into the baking tin and smooth.

Next dollop spoonfuls of chocolate hazelnut spread over the surface of the brownie and use a knife to gently swirl into the mixture. Finish off with a sprinkling of chocolate and finely chopped hazelnuts. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until no longer wobbly, and leave to cool completely before cutting into pieces.

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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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.