More Mocha Madness

This is thee first in what will probably be a long series of Leiths recipes.  We begin (as in on this blog, I have no idea what we are starting with on the course!) with basic ice cream making techniques.  This, as you may already know from my other posts, is something I’ve been keen to tackle anyway, especially since being given an ice cream maker for my birthday. 

Under the guidance of Leiths Cookery Bible, I feel this batch was my most successful yet.  Here’s what I have learnt:

1. Freezing dulls flavour.  So you actually want your ice cream base to be sweeter, zestier, stronger than you may normally prefer.  For coffee ice cream, I used some really strong instant espresso powder.

2. Chill, chill, chill everything.  This was something that had already been emphasised to me by the lovely people at St George’s Gelato and echoed by the recipe instructions.  Once you’ve made your custard or ice cream base, cool it right down in the fridge. 

3.  The bowl of your ice cream maker is really cold.  Maybe even colder than your freezer- is that possible?  So make sure it is clean before you put it in to freeze.  Trying to wipe it out once it is frozen will only result in kitchen towel/jay cloth frozen stuck to your ice cream maker bowl.  Not a good look or particularly tasty.

So here is that recipe:

Coffee Ice Cream
 from Leiths Cookery Bible

You will need:

 4 egg yolks
85g caster sugar
a pinch of salt
425ml single cream
5 tsp instant coffee powder (I used espresso powder for a slightly stronger coffee taste)

Method:
1.  Combine the cream and coffee in a saucepan and heat gently until the coffee dissolves.

2.  Into a medium sized bowl, mix together the egg yolks with the sugar and salt.  Pour the coffee-cream mixture into the bowl, stirring throughout.

3. Put the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water.  Stir continuously until the mixture is thick and custard-like.

4.  Strain and allow to cool before chilling completely in the fridge, whisking occasionally.

5.  Pour into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Or pour into an ice tray and freeze, whisking when the ice cream is half-frozen. 

The recipe produced a delicious, creamy ice cream, but quite a  lot of it.  I really feared it would end up languishing in our freezer forever if I didn’t actively do something with it.  I came up with two tasty combos.  A kind of Eton mess with blackcurrant (did you know that coffee and blackcurrant are bosom buddies? I didn’t.  Thanks, flavour thesaurus) and cardamom, coconut and coffee ice cream sandwiches.

Coffee and Blackcurrant Meringue Sundae

You will need:

 Serves 4

1 L coffee ice cream (home made as above or shop bought)
3 egg whites (leftover from the ice cream recipe)
150g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice
Blackcurrant jam or compote

Method:

1.  Start with the meringues.  Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.  Gently heat approx 100ml of the jam or compote with a little water until you have a runny sauce.  Allow to cool. 

2.  Using a perfectly clean and dry bowl, whisk the egg whites and vinegar/lemon juice into frothy submission.

3.  Add about 50g of the sugar and continue whisking until the egg whites are firm- you should be able to tip the bowl upside down.  Add the remaining 100g of sugar and whisk to incorporate.

4. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.  Spoon out 6 large, round meringues.   Using a teaspoon, carefully lace the blackcurrant sauce through the meringues, creating swirly shapes as you go.

5.  Place in the hot oven, turning the heat down to 100 degrees.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until the meringues feel dry and easily lift off the tray.

6.  Break into pieces and scatter on top of scoops of the ice cream.  Pour over the remaining blackcurrant sauce.

Coffee, Coconut and Cardamom Ice Cream Sandwiches

You will need:

175g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
pinch of salt
120g butter, softened
90 g caster sugar
90 g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
crushed seeds from 8 cardamom pods
1 large egg
150g dessicated coconut+ a bit more for decoration (if desired)
Coffee ice cream (home made or shop bought)

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2.   Combine the flour, bicarb and salt in a small bowl.

3.  Beat together the butter, sugars, vanilla, cardamom and 150g of coconut in a larger bowl, until light and fluffy.  Mix in the egg.

4.  Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until smooth.

5.  Drop the batter by generous, rounded tablespoonfuls onto a lined baking tray.  Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon.

6.  Bake until golden- about 8-9 minutes.  Cool completely and resist the temptation to eat them all. 

7.  Fill two cookies with a scoop of ice cream, squashing and shaping with a kitchen knife to form smooth sandwiches.   Roll the ice cream part of the sandwich in the remaining coconut.  Serve immediately or return to the freezer.  The sandwiches will keep quite happily for a few days in the freezer, but may need a little thawing time before serving. 

A cup of coffee and a sit down…

I think I have a problem. An addiction.  I’ve realised I can’t get through even a single day without sitting down to a cup of tea or coffee and something sweet. 

I blame being Swedish.  It is a country, after all, with its own word to describe this sinful act: fika.  The issue is that my daily fika has developed into so much more than just a quirky scandi ritual, it’s become a necessity without which my withdrawl symptoms are palapable- I become cranky, clumsy and a have a feeling that something isn’t quite right. 

To spare those around me, I’ve decided to give in to my sugar and caffeine fix for now.   I thought, however, I’d at least try to make my fika a home-made indulgence, as often as my schedule permits.  That way at least that way I know what I’m getting and can add a bit of goodness like grains, seeds, nuts and wholemeal flour.

These simple cookies are a case in point.  I’ve lowered the sugar amounts considerably and used raisins- already so sweet.  To make these cookies gluten-free, use the same amount of gluten-free plain flour with an additional teaspoon of xanthan gum and gluten-free oats.  You could also use wholemeal flour, if you prefer. 

Now, I’m not saying they are totally guilt-free, but I’m fairly sure they beat a kit kat.  So make a double batch, they last for a few weeks in an airtight container. 

Oat and Raisin Cookies

You will need:
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
75g sugar
75g light brown sugar
100g raisins
300g oats
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method: 

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
3. Add the sugars to the dry ingredients, and mix. Add the oats, and stir to combine well.
4. Add the softened butter, beaten eggs and vanilla, and mix until the dough comes together. It will be very thick, and a bit difficult to stir.
5. Drop the cookie dough by rounded tablespoon on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. 
6. Place in the middle of the preheated oven, and bake for about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown all over.  They should have a bit of crunch on the outside and still be soft on the inside.  Allow to cool before dunking into a cup of milky coffee or tea.  

Peanut Butter and Sea Salt Cookies

This is a sad post.  A post about loss.  For despite doing my uttermost to ration my wonderful Fleur de sel de Guérande, party favours from a wedding in Brittany last year, the last bag has finally run out.

Fleur de sel de Guérande is the creme de la creme of salt.  It is painstakingly hand-harvested all along the coast of Brittany, but most notably in the small town of Guérande.  The bags we were generously given were filled with slightly grey-ish crystals that had a really intense, sea-breeze flavour.  Not the kind of stuff you would waste throwing into a pan of boiling water for pasta and the like.  

I decided to bid the last flecks a final farewell by casting them in a starring role in these peanut butter cookies.  The result is a wonderfully salty-sweet treat.  The recipe is originally from this year’s March/April issue of Jamie Magazine in a feature on gluten-free and vegan baking, beautifully styled by Laura Fyfe

So, yes, this recipe is, in fact, gluten-free and vegan.  A first for this blog, I believe. However, I decided to drizzle a bit of really dark chocolate on a few of the cookies, which obviously makes them decidedly not vegan, although you could, of course, use a non-dairy substitute.  

Salty Peanut Butter Cookies

You will need:
300g spelt flour (I used wholemeal)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
250g chunky peanut butter (I’ve always got a jar of organic, no added sugar stuff on standby so that’s what I used)
250ml maple syrup (golden will work too)
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
sea salt flakes
100g dark chocolate 

Method:

1.  Line a baking sheet or tray with parchment.  Combine the flour, bicarb and fine sea salt in a bowl.

2.  In a larger bowl, stir in the peanut butter, maple syrup, olive oil and vanilla until well mixed.

3.  Pour the contents of the first bowl into this mixture and stir until just combined.  It should be quite a dry dough.   Put the mixture into the fridge for an hour or so to chill.   Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. 

4.  Give the mixture a stir before dropping onto the baking sheet in rounded tablespoonfuls.  You may need two baking trays or to do them in batches.  To create criss-cross designs, flatten with a fork in opposite directions.  

5.  Bake for 10-11minutes until golden but still gooey.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. 

6.  For plain cookies, simply sprinkle with sea salt.  If you would like to make the chocolate version, simply melt the chocolate in a bain marie or microwave before liberally strewing/flicking over the cookies in a zig-zag fashion (make sure you aren’t wearing anything too precious), then sprinkle with sea salt as above. 

Cookies, Coffee and Cream

Espresso granita with hazelnut chocolate chip cookies

I think coffee is one of my favourite ice cream flavours- so smooth, so creamy.  And it particularly comes into its own when you have people round for dinner- dessert and coffee in one.  Badda bing, badda boom.

The only thing is, I don’t have an ice cream maker.  I would love one, but don’t really have the room to store it (or the freezer space to hold all the  different flavours I would inevitably make).   This espresso granita is a pretty good compromise.  It’s ridiculously easy- just brew some strong coffee (decaf, in this case), pour into a shallow Tupperware container and leave in the freezer for 4-6 hours, stirring and scraping the ice crystals when you remember (at least three times).  Serve in espresso cups or shot glasses, with single cream on the side for those who like their coffee white. 

Because I like something sweet with my cuppa (whether that’s tea or coffee), I made these mini chocolate chip hazelnut biscuits to serve with the granita and to make the whole thing a bit more of a pudding.  The wonderful thing about these cookies is that you have to freeze the dough, for easier cookie-cutting, then cook them from slightly thawed.   So making an extra batch to leave in the freezer and have on hand should anyone drop by for tea (or whenever you fancy a couple of biccies) is a bit of a given, really. 

Cookies, coffee and cream.

Mini chocolate chip hazelnut cookies
(makes 3 rolls of dough, about 20 cookies each)

 You will need:*

150 g hazelnuts (whole and preferably shelled, to make life easier for you)
125 g butter, softened
3 dl icing sugar
zest of 2 oranges
3 tsp ground ginger
2 small eggs, beaten.
4.5 dl plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
300 g dark, quality chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids,  I used Greens & Blacks)

Method:

1. If you are using un-shelled hazelnuts, heat a large frying pan and roast the nuts until their ‘skins’ start crisp up and come off easily.   Put onto a plate or some kitchen roll too cool before rubbing with your palms, letting the skins fall off.

2.  Beat the butter, sugar, ginger and orange zest until smooth.  Add the eggs. 

3.  In a small bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together before slowly adding this to the buttery mixture to form a sticky dough.

4.  Chop the chocolate roughly (or bash or wizz quickly in a food processor) add this, along with the hazelnuts, to the dough.

5.  Pour the dough onto a floured surface and divide into three balls.  Roll each of these into long, sausage-like shapes.  Remember, you are making mini cookies, so don’t make the sausages too thick.  Wrap in cling film and freeze until needed.

6.  When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 180 C.  Unwrap a the cling-film dough and slice into 1-cm thick rounds.

7.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies, until golden but still ever so slightly gooey in the middle.  Keep an eye on them as they burn in seconds.   The remaining dough will keep in the freezer for up to a month or so. 

* I’ve gone and used decilitres (dl) again.  Sorry about that.  A dl is 100 millilitres.  Get a measuring jug and measure 300ml worth of icing sugar and 450ml worth of flour.  Sorted. 

Girl Scout Cookies- Samoas

Samoas Stack

When I was in primary school, I was a girl scout for about a year.  After that I think I got bored of all that kumbaya-ing and making new friends but keeping the old (‘one is silver and the other’s gold’).  However, I could get on board with the cookies.  We had to sell boxes and boxes of them.  Luckily, they were absolutely delicious so shifting them wasn’t too big of a challenge.  To this day, I still get cravings for those brilliantly sweet, artificial flavours shipped all the way from across the pond.  They had such wonderful names- Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Do-Si-Dos.  But my favourites were the coconut-toffee Samoas.  I still dream about them and even considered getting in touch with the American School of London (which also happens to be my alma mater) to see if there are any scouts selling them there.  But then I realised this might be a bit creepy.  So I had no alternative but to make them from scratch instead.

 Samoas  


 You will need:

For the shortbread biscuits:
120g unsalted butter, softened
60g sugar
125g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk

For the toppings:
110g shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted
210g toffees (preferably the slightly softer kind)
pinch of salt
2 tbsp milk
225g darkish chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids)

 Method:

1.  First, make the shortbread.  Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer, until light in colour and fluffy in texture. 

2.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add this, in stages, to the butter-sugar mixture.  Use a spoon to combine at first, then use the mixer.  Otherwise you’ll end up with flour flying all over your kitchen. 

3.    Finally add the milk and the vanilla.  Cover the dough in clingfilm and leave in the fridge until cold and firm- at least an hour. 

4.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  To make the samoas shape, roll out the dough to the thickness of a pound coin.  Then use a fancy double circle cookie cutter.   Or, if you don’t have one, use two different sized cutters, say a tall  glass and a bottle cap.  I used one from a bottle of tonic water. Don’t discard  the ‘middle’ discs, as these can be turned into mini biscuits. 

5.  Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 10-12 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn- they can caramelise very quickly and you still want them to be a relatively pale colour. 

6.  Allow the shortbread biscuits to cool while you prepare the topping.  First, toast the coconut in a hot, dry pan, stirring constantly.

7.  Meanwhile, melt the toffees in a pan over a low heat with the pinch of salt and the milk.  Stir frequently until you have a thick caramel sauce.  Add the toasted coconut to this mixture.   Allow to cool a bit before handling. 

8.  Assemble the biscuits by putting the toppings on each cookie.  Use a knife, palette knife or your fingers to help you.  Be careful, they break easily, but you can often put them back together with a bit of topping, which as it cools becomes very gluey.

My baking paper post-chocolate drizzling.  It’s like a Jackson Pollock!

9.  Put the completed biscuits on a sheet of  baking paper.  When you have finished, melt the chocolate in bowl placed in a pan of simmering water.  Dip the bottom of the biscuits into the chocolate to cover.  Leave these upside down on the baking paper almost partially set.  Then turn right side up and liberally drizzle more chocolate over the cookies, using a spoon.  Enjoy this unavoidably messy business.   If you want it to be neater, you can use a piping bag, but this won’t be nearly as fun. 

10.  Leave to cool and set before storing in an airtight container. 

One, two, three Samoas