Mary Berry’s Florentines

 

florentines04 florentines07This week was biscuit week on Great British Bake Off and the technical challenge that the bakers had to complete were Mary Berry’s florentines.  Now, to help clarify, in the UK, biscuits aren’t simply synonymous with cookies. Biscuits tend to be a bit crispy or crunchy, whereas a cookie tends to be softer and chewier, especially in the center. It gets extra confusing when they make savory biscuits (with cheese and stuff in them), because in my head, those are crackers. Cookies are sweet and they certainly don’t have cheese in them!  Oh well, another one of those epicurean curiosities of living in another country.

I decided to continue in my theme this season and follow along with all of the technical challenges, so I looked up Mary’s recipe that was used for the show to give these nutty, fruity, crunchy biscuits a go.  They were a bit trickier than last week’s cherry cake, but that’s because you have to be very precise when measuring them out so that they’re all equal. And even then, a couple of mine spread unevenly.

 

Ingredients

  • 50 grams butter
  • 50 grams demerara sugar (this is brown, unprocessed granulated sugar, sometimes called raw sugar in the States.)
  • 50 grams golden syrup (this is a sort of maple-syrup type thing, but lighter. You could substitute a really thick honey for a similar flavor.)
  • 50 grams flour
  • 25 grams dried cranberries or glacé cherries, finely chopped
  • 50 grams candied peel, finel chopped
  • 25 grams almonds, finely chopped
  • 25 grams walnut pieces, finely chopped
  • 200 grams plain chocolate, chopped into chunks

florentines01Directions

1. First, preheat your oven to 350° F (175°C). Line a few baking trays with baking paper, and set aside.

2. In a small pan over low heat, add the butter, sugar, and golden syrup. Heat gently until the butter melts. Once melted, remove the pan from the heat and add in the rest of your ingredients (except the chocolate!). It’ll form into a sticky, gooey mixture.

3. Now this is where it gets a bit tricky. You need to divide the dough into 18 biscuits. In theory, you could just add up all the weights and divide by 18 (so 18 grams each), but nope! Because the mixture is so sticky, you’re bound to lose a bit of weight to bits getting stuck to your hands or spoon or everything. So I measured mine out to be between 15 and 16 grams each to be sure I had that covered. Place each of your 18 dough balls evenly across your prepared baking sheets, making sure there’s plenty of room for them to spread.

florentines09

florentines08

4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they turn a dark, golden brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven to cool, then carefully move them to a wire rack for the next stage. To quote Mary, the should have a “nice lacy texture” to them, with the edges uneven and you should be able to see through them a bit.

5. Temper your chocolate by heating half of it in a heatproof bowl over a pan of water on medium heat. Once it’s melted, remove the bowl from the heat and add in the rest of the chocolate. This should make your chocolate nice and shiny when it sets.

florentines02florentines066. Using a palette knife, or offset spatula, gently coat the underside of your biscuit with the chocolate, and then place it upside down on a wire rack to set. Once the chocolate begins to set up, drag a fork back and forth through the chocolate to create the “signature zig zag” look. Then allow the chocolate to cool and set completely.

florentines03

 

That’s it! Job done! I’m pretty sure my florentines would have landed me in the Top 5 for the technical challenge. 😉florentines05

Advertisements

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

pumpkinchocolatechip

The past couple weeks have once again been a whirlwind. My mom just came for a visit the past two weekends, so we spent some time wandering around London. On top of that, Ben just finished his time at university and has started a new job! All in the same week! He’ll be working in the graduate program while he finishes writing his PhD thesis.

This week, I just whipped up a quick batch of pumpkin cookies. I made these cookies last year and they were incredibly addicting. This year, I decided to ramp it up a bit by adding in chocolate chips, making them even more delectable! They were an easy bake to satisfy my sweet tooth while still allowing us to get back into our routines.

To make these super-quick cookies, check out the original pumpkin cookies recipe, and just add 2 cups of chocolate chips!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

ChocolatePBPie_LR

It’s been a couple of weeks since Ben and I moved into our new home, and yet I still feel like I’m surrounded by boxes. Making a new space feel like your space takes time, and a lot of late nights. But things are coming along.

The biggest challenge of our new flat is having a smaller kitchen. Not so much in size, but in countertop and storage space, so we’ve had to get a bit creative in our kitchen storage, and make sure to keep everything super organised.

So my first bake in our new home is an old favorite for a site called Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. I first started making it when I moved to the UK, before I could find Reese’s cups anywhere. As I’m sure you all know, I’m pretty much obsessed with chocolate and peanut butter.

This pie is so easy, and requires minimal baking. The hardest part is waiting for the pie to chill before you can eat it!

CPBPie_LR

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs ( I used Oreos and removed the filling)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar 
  • pinch salt
For the filling:
  • 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream
To decorate:
  • 1 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter

Directions

1. First make your pie crust: Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) . Stir together the cookie crumbs, brown sugar, and salt. Pour over the melted butter and use a fork to blend into a wet mixture. Press this mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Place the pan into the fridge for 15 minutes to set, then put into the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.

2. Next, make the filling: In the bowl of your mixer, beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar, and salt. Before you add in the salt, taste your peanut butter. If your peanut butter is pretty salty to begin with, you won’t want to add any more to the filling, because it’ll make it wayyyy to salty. I find that the Tesco own label peanut butter has enough salt already and usually leave it out. Skippy peanut butter seems to work the best! Once the mixture has been beaten well, add in the peanut butter and vanilla and beat for a couple of minutes until it’s all blended together well.

3. Put the whisk attachment onto your mixer, then in a clean bowl, whisk the heavy cream until it is light and fluffy. Take about 1/3 of the whipped cream and add it to your cream cheese mixture by hand to help lighten it. Then use a spatula to gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream until all of stripes are gone and it’s evenly blended.

4.  Pour the filling into your cooled pie crust, then place in the freezer to chill for 4 hours. If you want to freeze it longer, make sure you cover it with plastic wrap.

CPBPie2_LR

5. To decorate, melt the chocolate and peanut butter separately (You can melt the peanut butter on low heat on the stove top), then put each into a ziploc bag. Snip the corner of the bag, then quickly zig-zag across the top of your pie. Don’t worry about being precise, the faster you do it, the better it works!

Cookie Dough Brownies

CookieDoughBrownies

I came across this recipe on another blog called Brown Eyed Baker. As soon as I read it, I knew they had to be this week’s bake. Cookie dough. And brownies. No brainer.

On top of baking this week, I also had to prep for a photoshoot at work. We’re reshooting all of our staff photos, but we’re also doing a second set of photos to display in the office showcasing all of the different personalities of the team. I went with the obvious route – being a baker – and I ended up making a huge mess of the front lobby! It was so much fun, and everyone was just laughing at the mess. Here’s just a taste of the photos from the shoot, with a huge thanks to our photographer James Robertson for helping capture the final image!  I’ll unveil the final image once we select it!

_MG_5128 _MG_5132 _MG_5140 _MG_5154 _MG_5172 _MG_5191 _MG_5205 _MG_5215 _MG_5225

Now, for the recipe! The best part about the cookie dough bit is it’s egg-free, so it’s safe to eat raw. I’m seriously contemplating keeping a bowl of this on hand for “emergencies”.

Ingredients

For the  brownies:

  • 4 ounces (113 grams) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup (230 grams) butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
For the cookie dough:
  • ¾ cup butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions

1. First, make the brownies. Preheat oven to 325° F (160°C). Line a glass baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving some overlapping the sides so that you can remove them later, and butter the foil.

2. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate until it is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Finally, mix in the melted chocolate.

3. Turn your speed down to low and mix in the flour until just combined. Spread the batter into your prepared pan, then bake for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the brownies from the oven and set aside to cool COMPLETELY.

4. Once the brownies are completely cool, make the cookie dough top. In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter and both types of sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the milk and vanilla, followed by the flour, and mix until just combined. Add in the chocolate chips and mix into the dough by hand.

5. Spread the cookie dough over the brownies with a spatula, creating an even layer. Gently press it down into the brownies so that the layers bond together. Cover and place in the fridge to set for at least an hour. Once set, slice and serve with plenty of milk!

The Elvis Cupcake

ElvisCupcakes

We had a couple of bananas sitting in our fruit bowl this weekend that were looking pret-ty ripe. They were leftover from Ben’s last week of marathon training, as he ran the London Marathon last weekend!  So instead of baking last week, I was standing on the sidelines, cheering on thousands of runners as we waited for Ben to pass. He did really well and finished in 4:09:32, not bad for a first marathon!

IMG_6177_2

 

Back to the bananas…Their depressingly faded yellow peels covered in brown freckles were just begging to be put out of their misery. Instead of tossing them, I decided to make an old favorite: Elvis cupcakes.

Why Elvis? Because apparently the man loved peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Only these cakes take it a step further with a chocolate buttercream frosting. You may now be wondering where the peanut butter is if it isn’t in the frosting and the answer is the best surprise of this cake: a creamy peanut butter center!

While the flavor combination sounds like a strange amalgamation, you’d be amazed at how good these cakes taste!

Ingredients

For the cupcakes (makes 9):

  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons flour (preferably cake flour, if you have it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 whole overly ripe banana
  • 2 Tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup (58 grams) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons + 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 egg

For the peanut butter filling:

  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons icing sugar

For the chocolate buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) butter, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5/8 cup icing sugar

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Place cupcake liners into the pan.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix the vanilla and buttermilk.

3. In the bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Once everything is incorporated, mash in the banana and mix well.

4. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients, alternating each addition with the buttermilk mixture. Make sure everything is blended in and smooth before adding the next addition. Once the batter is completely mixed, fill your prepared cupcake pans – filling each cup about 2/3 full.

5. Bake the cakes for about 17 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking time. Once they are ready, let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. To make the peanut butter filling, beat the peanut butter and butter together until creamy.  Sift the icing sugar into the bowl and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Cut a hole into the top of each cupcake and spoon the filling into the hole, or using a piping bag with a filling tip (my method of choice).

7. To make the chocolate buttercream, melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler until no clumps remain, and it’s completely smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while you prepare the rest (about 5 – 10 min).

8. In medium sized bowl, beat butter for 3 minutes, until very very creamy.  Add the milk and beat until smooth.  Add the cooled melted chocolate and beat well. Add vanilla and whip for 3 more minutes.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until it’s nice and airy, then fill a piping bag and pipe onto the cakes.