cookies

Tagged with Temptation!

Misery, misery; if there’s one thing worse than going on a diet, it’s going on a competitive diet, where every day begins with a gleeful shriek from one’s husband as he hops from the bathroom scales and punches the air at another ounce lost.  This all started last week when my husband decided to shed 7lb from his racing-snake physique ready for the beach and the annual donning of Speedos.  I offered to join him, then waited graciously for him to protest, lest I waste away altogether. ‘Excellent plan!’ he cried instead, rather too enthusiastically. ‘It’ll be a race!!’.  Honestly, MEN, I ask you….

One week in and I am falling behind, mysteriously.  Who knew that tomatoes gain so many calories when placed on top of a pizza?  Devious acts of sabotage are called for, so I am whipping up a frenzy of Siren-like temptation in the kitchen, hoping to stop his willpower in its tracks and give me a chance to catch up.  Let’s begin with these perky tea-bag cookies, inspired by a recipe from beautiful French website Le Petrin.  Deceptively petite, these look wantonly moreish, and the perfect accompaniment to an otherwise innocent cup of coffee…

I used a basic sugar cookie recipe (bottom), then rolled out the chilled dough onto a floured surface.  I trimmed a business card into a tag shape then glued a cork to one side to allow me to place and lift it with ease.  A pizza wheel proved perfect for cutting out the shapes without pulling on the cookie dough, and I used a drinking straw to punch a hole in each tag. I wanted to move the unbaked cookies as little as possible to help then retain their shape, so simply cut around them on baking parchment and slipped each one onto my baking sheet (2). When the cookies were cool, I melted a mixture of dark and milk chocolate chips to dip them into, then strung each cookie carefully onto a bamboo skewer to harden (4).  What you can’t see here is Harry lying hopefully on the floor beneath, waiting for drips to fall…

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As a final touch, I strung initialled tags onto the cookies using vibrant, sparkly thread, ensuring of course a disproportionate number addressed to my husband. Now, where did I put those damned celery sticks?

Nigella’s Butter Cut-Out Cookie Recipe, from ‘How to Be a Domestic Goddess’:

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 6 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and moving towards moussiness, then beat in the egg and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and eggs, and mix gently but surely. If you think the finished mixture is too sticky to be rolled out, add more flour, but do so sparingly as too much will make the dough tough. Form into a fat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. When you’ve cut out the tag cookies and are ready to bake, they should take about 10mins, though check regularly.

Homemade Biscuits for Cheese

Sometimes events collide in such a way that you have to just go with the flow and call it fate.  So when Santa left a brand new cookie stamp in my stocking, and a recent cursory examination of the fridge revealed mountains of cheese but absolutely no accompaniment, a spot of savoury biscuit making was the natural conclusion.

But which recipe to choose? I opted for the ever-reliable Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s digestive biscuits, though having now baked and eaten most of them, I would suggest they are more like oatcakes (and all the better for that).  Making these is a messy old business; I suspect Hugh’s tumbling locks needed a hairnet during the critical stages.  I’d also suggest allowing some time for your freshly chilled dough to acclimatise back towards room temperature, or you will likely suffer from bicep/wrist strain when attempting to roll out your cookies.  Still, I do love a recipe which includes a full-body workout.

Finished article shown below, shortly before being hoovered up by the photographer (that would be me, I’m afraid).  These look even prettier before they are baked – see below – and I’ll certainly be trying the stamp on plain cookies for max effect.

River Cottage Digestives – Makes around 40 biscuits

  • 250g Wholewheat flour
  • 250g Quick cook oats
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt (his recipe calls for 2, but one worked great)
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 250g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1tbsp milk
  1. Combine all of your dry ingredients by pulsing in a food processor.  Add the butter bit by bit and mix to form a dough
  2. Gradually add in the milk – you may want to transfer to a bowl and do this by hand
  3. Wrap in clingflim and transfer to the fridge for an hour (you can leave it for longer and even freeze it at this stage)
  4. Bring the dough back upto temperature, preheat the oven to 180/350 degrees and cut out your biscuits before baking for around 10-15mins, until golden brown.  Whip out of the oven and attempt to wait until they have cooled before eating – this will make them decidedly less crumbly and be less likely to require a trip to Accident and Emergency.
  5. I suggest at least 4 should be eaten in the kitchen to test for consistency in quality before offering to family and friends…

A-List Baking

Say what you like about Gwyneth Paltrow, the girl’s obviously got buns of steel and thighs that could crack a walnut at 30 paces. Previously I have attributed this to a diet of pea shoots and a life frittered away in the gym, so I was delighted to discover that au contraire,she maintains her svelte physique by baking and snacking on jammy biscuits.  Well okay then, we’ll call them gluten-free thumbprint cookies.

Harry and I unashamedly customised her recipe in her recent book ‘My Father’s Daughter’, having been delighted to find something so suited to our natural kitchen style, namely a cookie that is actually supposed to be a greyish-brown colour when finished, and also to have a very dented and uneven appearance.  I must ‘fess up that here the similarities end, as Gwyneth confidently predicted a batch of ‘around 50′ cookies, and our efforts yielded, well, 12.  This portion control could explain many things.  Still, H and I will maintain our belief that a proper cookie is one of a size which requires both hands to get a good grip.

Recipe follows… they taste wickedly, addictively good.  Eat one and then give the rest away. Quickly.

Step One: Combine all of the ingredients except for the jam.  Roll into balls and place of a baking sheet.  Demonstrated here by my beautiful assistant Ted Glen, of Postman Pat fame.

Step 2: Make a thumbprint dent, then add a healthy dollop of jam in the centre of each

Step 3: Bake in the oven for 20 mins.  Use this time to either a) kill yourself on the treadmill in preparation for the carb onslaught or b) make a large pot of coffee and locate a comfy chair and a plate.

Step 4: Admire, consume, repeat.

Recipe:

4 cups of Barley flour

3 cups of chopped almonds (we used pistachio nuts instead – we love them)

1 cup of Maple syrup

1 cup of oil

Pinch of salt, teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Jam – any flavour you like.

adapted from Gwyneth’s Paltrow’s  ’Lalo’s Cookies’ recipe