OATMEAL MASCARPONE COOKIE STACK

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There have always been cookies. But more glamorous things kept usurping them. Cupcakes! Doughnuts! Cronuts! Even muffins.

Plus, too many cookies are mediocre. The difference between a soft, chewy, crisp-around-the-edges cookie and a cookie that isn’t any of those things is colossal. Like the difference between buttery mashed potato and unseasoned, stringy mashed swede. I once made some Mary Berry cookies and they were fine when they came straight out of the oven (everything chocolatey is), but within 10 minutes they were solid. They were burly English biscuits and they embarrassed me.

Then there was a woman we could all trust not to waste our time with rigid cookies and I was able to start understanding them. When Deb Perelman said “Cookies … desire balance – crisp exteriors, supple interiors”, I felt her. All of her cookie recipes are worth your time.

Anyway, sometimes you want to show someone you like and cherish them using cookies, but it’s underwhelming to give them a tubful. I know. On these occasions, it’s quite good to build tall cookie stacks and weld them with mascarpone and white chocolate and good feelings.

The oatmeal cookies here are intentionally minimalist and chocolate-free to accommodate the absurd glue that binds them. Even so, they are texturally perfect (as above), oaty, buttery and good. Plus, they come out level, all the better for pilin’ up.

Always do exactly what you want but if I were you I would cut the whole thing like a cake.

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THE TRAY:
A lined baking sheet

MAKES:
24 cookies

OVEN:
Pre-heated at 180ºC

COOKIES:
150g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp fine salt
200g softened unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
175g rolled oats
200g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar

CREAM:
500g mascarpone
200g white chocolate
Fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt or whatever flaky salt is your bag

MAKE THE COOKIE DOUGH:
1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and fine salt.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy.
3. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as you continue to beat.
4. Add the egg and vanilla and scrape ‘n’ beat again.
5. Pour in the oats and the flour mixture, and mix. The buttery mixture will just coat the oats.
6. With slightly damp hands, roll the cookie dough into 16-24 balls (you might prefer bigger cookies than mine) and pat them on to the baking sheet, leaving two-inch gaps in between them.
7. Sprinkle each cookie with flaky salt before you put them in the oven.
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, but always err on the side of under-baking.

MELT THE CREAM:
9. Melt the white chocolate and mascarpone together in a bain-marie (I added a bit of peach food colouring too).

LAYER UP:
10. Cookie, cream, cookie, cream… a bit of salt on top. Use the biggest, sturdiest cookies at the bottom (although actually they will all be exactly the same shape and size, of course).

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GUINNESS PUNCH

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Once, I went to Canada on my own to learn to ski (for work). After a top day spent falling over and being told off, I sat on my own drinking small stouts in the corner of a dumb ski bar, full of rich men comparing injuries. Two of them looked at me like I was the oddest thing in there, and they pointed at me just to be clear. I know for definite that I’m never going skiing again, but I think the experience might have strengthened my fondness for drinking small stouts. Power arm emoji.

Something I like a lot more than skiing is Notting Hill Carnival. When I was 15, I absolutely hated it. I got carried by the crowd for the whole day and at one point Daniel Peters crouched down to my level and laughed and said “oh my God, this is all you can see”. But since then I’ve been most years, and even though I haven’t got taller, I generally just get carried by nice feelings now. Touch wood.

To sort of celebrate, here’s Jamaican Guinness punch. It’s my kind of punch. It might sound confusing at first, but then think about this: malt shakes. Right. It isn’t “slimming” but neither is anything on this blog and at least this has iron in it. I’ve made it a few times for barbeques this summer, and sometimes I put a bit of cinnamon in it, but I think I prefer it without, because cinnamon is that guy that likes to run things.

I won’t be drinking it at carnival, though. I’ll be drinking Red Stripe because I’m normal.

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THE VESSEL:
Your finest punch bowl/ a jug

MAKES:
8 long glasses

INGREDIENTS:
500ml stout
150ml condensed milk
200ml milk
½ tsp grated nutmeg

IT’S NOT COMPLICATED:
1. Mix everything up with a whisk.
2. Have some ice if you want.

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GINGERBREAD

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Why are we only supposed to eat gingerbread at Christmas? We have enough to eat then. These gingerbreads are nothing like the lads whose heads you like to bite off in December. They are soft, somewhere between cake and biscuit, and so perfectly spiced. And look how dark! I English-ised the recipe from Tartine but I didn’t bother glazing.

Shape-wise, the palm trees bring the biscuits to the summery tropical space I would like them to live in, but sadly, they kept snapping at their trunks. Because – like I said – these things are soft.  So, I also made rounds, which, FYI, work as quite astonishing vessels for ice cream sandwiches.

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READ THIS FIRST:
The dough needs a night in the fridge before it’s ready to roll

THE TRAY:
A lined baking sheet, but not ’til tomorrow

MAKES:
12

INGREDIENTS:
265g plain flour
½ tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp ground black pepper
110g unsalted butter
85g caster sugar
1 egg
70g black treacle
1 tbsp golden syrup

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DAY 1:
1. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, bicarb, salt and pepper using a whisk.
2 In another bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy.
3. Gradually add the sugar until the mixture is smooth and soft.
4. Scrape the sides using a spatula to fully incorporate everything.
5. Add the egg and mix again.
6. Keep mixing. Add the black treacle and golden syrup. Scrape the sides and mix some more.
7. Add the flour mixture and stir in using a wooden spoon, until everything’s incorporated and you’ve got a (quite soft) dough.
8. Lay down a piece of cling film and slam the dough in the middle. Flatten it out into a 1 inch thick rectangle and wrap it up.
9. Put it in the fridge.

DAY 2:
10. The next day, you’ll have a proper slab. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and don’t get your slab out of the fridge until the oven is up to temperature. Cool dough is easier to roll and cut.
11. Roll it out to a thickness of about ⅓inch and cut into (simple!) shapes.
12. Carefully (and quickly) move the shapes to a lined baking sheet and bake for about 7 minutes. They will still be quite soft, but will firm up as they cool.

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BORDIER ❤

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I once read some writing guidelines that said you shouldn’t write stories about moments in time that change everything forever, because that’s boring. Never mind. Isn’t that most stories?

Paris, my birthday, spring. We’ve torn through a poulet rôti in the park. And we’re all what shall we do now?

Do you want to look at clothes?

Another gallery?

Coffee?

A chipsy, cigarettesy Marais pavement cafe for WiFi, Orangina and research. On my phone, the Independent says Echiré is a “stand-out spread” but you can buy it at Waitrose, so never mind Echiré, that’s not birthday butter. The smoky pavement WiFi wobbles its way to 10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris, a blog post by King David Lebovitz.

after I tasted this handmade butter from Brittany, I’m spoiled for life and won’t spread any other butter on my morning toast

There’s this butter called Bordier.

The Oranginas at this cafe are like 5 euros each, so I push the WiFi to its limits.

da rosa St-Germain
62, rue de seine

We start walking to the fancy bit where we were earlier. All the way back there to find this place that may or may not have this Bordier. It’s my birthday and this is what I want to do.

We buy five blocks, and when we get back to London, we get a crusty loaf. The Bordier is embarrassingly creamy. Rich, smooth, butteriest. Correctly salted. We hardly use the knife to spread it. There are toothmarks where I bite.

So, you know, then everything was a bit different and stuff. Lurpak lost its lustre.

[Le Beurre Bordier]

TWO CURDS

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It’s a source of much excitement to me that most of my best fruits can be turned into curds.

So, when I’m not enjoying my freelance job and I have no time for a haircut and someone has vomited on my car and I feel kind of like I can’t do it anymore, I remember that I haven’t made passionfruit or apple curd yet and I’m ~ ice cool ~. Today, we’re doing raspberry and lime.

This coconut loaf is a thing that cries out for curd. It is one of my favourite things to bake. If you or someone you like is having a shit time, this is an A* comfort thing. It swells all bronze and triumphant over the loaf tin. It’s easy, but gratifying in a way that actual bread probably is if you don’t fear yeast like I do.

Some curd recipes use way more sugar than mine. Some use more fruit. I reckon this is the right tartness to richness to sweetness ratio, but you might not. That’s life.

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THE VESSELS:
One large jar per curd

RASPBERRY CURD:
400g raspberries
100g sugar
60g butter
2 eggs

LIME CURD:
2 limes
100g sugar
60g butter
2 eggs

FOR RASPBERRY ONLY:
1. Put the raspberries in a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water and simmer for a few minutes, until the fruit is really soft.
2. Force the pulp through a sieve and into a bain-marie…

FOR BOTH:
3. Put the butter and sugar in a bain-marie with the raspberry pulp or lime zest and juice.
4. Stir occasionally with a whisk until the butter has melted.
5. Mix the eggs in a mug with a fork, then stir them into the fruit mixture (still off the heat).
6. Cook the curd on a low heat, stirring regularly with a whisk, for about 12-15 minutes, until thickened and heavy.
7. Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as it cools.
8. Force through a sieve before jarring up.

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PASSIONFRUIT PROFITEROLES

In Paris, I ate a perfect finger of food: a raspberry and passionfruit eclair from L’Éclair de Génie. It’s the top one…

 

I mean, this thing was pristine! If a knowledgeable Parisian hadn’t handed it to me, I would have assumed it was too beautiful to be delicious. But they are clever, these French people, and their beautiful things are delicious.

Anyway, I can’t really make perfect patisserie, but I can make a big ol’ mess.

So, I made choux buns, filled them with passionfruit custard and poured chocolate sauce on top. Ta-da.

Mum used to fill a measuring jug with chocolate sauce. This was back before mum had bought all the Nigellas, Delia had taught everyone about houmous, and Britain had been through the transformative Christmases of Ken Hom’s woks and Jamie Oliver’s Flavour Shakers (what the actual). Mum’s chocolate sauce was really dark and rich, so I just sort of loosened up melted dark chocolate with hot water and a bit of milk – I didn’t want it to out-dairy the filling; I wanted it to be glossy and dark.

Otherwise, my recipe is adapted from this Great British Chef dude.

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THE TRAY:
A lined baking sheet

MAKES:
24 buns

OVEN
Pre-heated at 200ºC

CHOUX BUNS
100g butter
130ml milk
130ml water
1 tsp golden caster sugar
½ tsp sea salt
120g plain flour (pre-measured and set aside, so you can add it quickly)
4 eggs

PASSIONFRUIT CUSTARD
3 egg yolks
65g sugar
20g plain flour
250ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Icing sugar
The pulp of 5 passion fruits
50ml double cream, pre-whipped

CHOCOLATE SAUCE
200g dark chocolate
Some boiling water
Some milk

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PASTRY FIRST
1. In a saucepan, bring the water, milk, butter, salt and sugar to the boil until the butter has melted.
2. Add the flour in one swift motion. Stir it in and take the pan off the heat.
3. Beat fiercely with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the pan.
4. Separately, beat the eggs while the flour mix cools.
5. Add the eggs to the flour mix a drop at a time, beating well.
6. Use teaspoons to form the buns on a baking tray, leaving gaps in between (about 8 buns per tray). Slightly damp fingers will help to smoothen them out, but spiky’s just fine.
7. Bake for about 16 minutes, turning the tray half-way through.

CRÈME LOVE
8. Whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy.
9. Whisk in the flour.
10. Bring the milk and vanilla extract to the boil. Then add a splash of hot milk to the yolk mix, whisking like a boss. Add the remaining milk in stages.
11. Return the mixture to the (low) heat, and stir with a wooden spoon until it thickens.
12. Sprinkle icing sugar on top to stop a skin from forming, and leave to cool.
13. Add passionfruit pulp.
14. Fold in whipped cream.
15. To fill the buns, skewer a hole in them, and pipe the custard into it. Or, give up and chuck it on top.

FREESTYLE YOUR SAUCE
16. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie.
17. Loosen up the chocolate by adding splashes of boiling water and milk until you
say so.

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IN PRAISE OF: CHEESE SAUCE

As a baby, I liked pudding. I was fed alternate spoons of dinner and pudding and that is the only way you could make me eat my dinner. After I’d finished being a baby, I liked tagliatelle with cheese sauce and a bit of ham and I would eat it until it ran out. Until the world’s (my mum’s) supplies ran dry, and the world’s (my mum’s) wrist had béchamel fatigue and the very, very last strand of tagliatelle had been slurped from the world’s (my plastic red) bowl.

I am deadly serious.

I would eat it and eat it and eat it. I will still eat it and eat it and eat it. In bed. On a weekday. For Sunday brunch. Baked into macaroni cheese with stacks of buttery leeks (because my palate has ~matured~), by the spoonful out of the pan, on a crepe or a waffle, any time of the day, whether I’m happy or not.

I have a dream that one day I will dip chip shop chips in it.

MAPLE BUTTERMILK PIE

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Pies and tarts are the best for taking to your pal’s house. No heating of sauce, no fear of collapse, minimal balancing on the bus. So, stick this one in your back pocket (or, a cake tin), especially if you love a slightly savoury sweet thing. It’s the new custard tart. Eat it with loads of sour cream.

I love you, Gourmet.

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TIN:
23cm tart tin (preferably with a pop-out bottom), buttered up

CRUST:
200g plain flour
100g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Pinch of salt
Cold water

CUSTARD:
380ml buttermilk
100ml maple syrup
4 egg yolks
25g plain flour
25g light brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

COLD HANDS, GOOD PASTRY:
1. Rub the cubed butter into the flour and salt until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs.
2. Add ice cold water very gradually, until the mixture comes together into a smooth ball.
3. Flatten it slightly (to make it easier to roll later), then wrap it in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

BAKE THE BOTTOM:
5. Roll out the pastry and line your tin with it.
6. To blind bake, cover the base with greaseproof paper and fill it with baking beans.
7. Put it in the oven for 10-15 minutes, removing the beans and paper for the last five minutes.
8. Turn the oven down to 160°C.

MAKE THE CUSTARD:
9. Whisk all of the custard ingredients together in a bowl, until just combined and lump-free.
10. Pour three quarters of the custard into the pastry shell.
11. Move the tin into the middle of the oven and pour in the remaining custard once it’s in place.
12. Bake until just set in the middle – about 55 minutes.
13. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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MASSIVELY CRUMBLY BISCUITS

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Before granny died I did not ask her how she made those crumbly biscuits. I didn’t have her recipe; I didn’t have a recipe because I had no idea how to type the name of those crumbly biscuits into Ask Jeeves. I knew the word had that loaded, guttural ch sound in it, and granny liked to over-do it.

In my head, they were basically just cccchhhhh biscuits.

They didn’t have any weird ingredients, they weren’t complicated – they were like shortbread – but grainier, crumblier. They were NOT uniform in shape, EVER. They were beige, bouldery things. That was her style.

Traditionally, there were three things granny brought over for Sunday dinner:
1. ccccchhhhh biscuits
2. suet pudding (renamed “sewage pudding”, by me)
3. rock cakes

I worked it out. The word was kichel. Which, I think, might just mean ‘cookie’. Because the things the Internet suggests for kichel are not correct.

So, I made these things that are the most granny’s biscuit-like things I’ve eaten since her final batch. I ate them at Al Fassia in Marrakech, a beautiful restaurant run entirely by women. They came free with mint tea and they were crumbly as. Grainy but melty, with toasted sesame. The kind of biscuits that disappear even when you think you’re too full to eat them. The real name of these biscuits is ghriba. Shouts to Alia. Shouts to granny.

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THE TRAY:
A lined baking sheet

MAKES:
12ish

INGREDIENTS:
30g sesame seeds
115g butter
285g flour
60g icing sugar
60ml vegetable oil
pinch of salt

GO:
1. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or until evenly bronzed, shaking intermittently.
2. Set the butter melting.
3. Mix the dry ingredients (including the toasted seeds) with a whisk.
4. Add the oil and melted butter, and combine with a wooden spoon.
5. Start working the mixture  with your hands. It’ll be really crumbly. You’ll be able to force it into clumps and then easily collapse them. Work your clumpy crumble for a solid 10 minutes.
6. Leave it in its crumble form covered with cling film in a fridge for 2-3 hours.
7. Preheat the oven at 180°C.
8. Work the mixture for a minute or two to loosen it back up.
9. Then, form little balls of dough in your hand, pop them on your lined baking tray, and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until golden.
10. Icing sugar party!