Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate Chips’

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Not The Cookie Monster

October 25, 2010

I’m not a biscuit person. Although, as a child biscuits were the one treat we always had in the house. We didn’t have crisps, cakes or chocolate on a regular basis and pudding was a rarity.  But there were always biscuits in the cupboard,  there for my sister and I to have along with the daily post-school cup of tea and chat about our day with mum.

Ginger nuts (probably my favourite – dunkability high although better with coffee than tea) and Mcvities digestives were a staple. Packets of Rich Tea lived in there for the duration of my mother’s relationship with my almost-step-dad, Bourbons for my Aunt and custard creams and Hob Nobs (sometimes chocolate covered) would pop up on a regular, yet infrequent enough to make their presence exciting, basis. Christmas also produced tins of rich butter Danish shortbread, perfect in their munching, melting, mouth-feel but perilous for dunking; and birthday parties always ensured Foxes Party Rings and Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers (which were also a favourite of our Labrador). After school visits to the houses of friends were a wonder of different options, but I never understood and still mistrust the Nice biscuit, or pink wafer chooser.

Teenage visits to my father for school holidays coincided with the junk/convenience food explosion of the late 80’s and early 90’s; resisted by my mother other than regular servings of chicken kiev, but positively encouraged by a baffled male parent, desperate to keep two bolshy daughters happy, or at least quiet because they were stuffing themselves silly on E numbers and utterly tasteless food. Half term weeks meant pop tarts, Findus crispy pancakes, take away pizzas, Microchips, Mars ice creams, trips to Mcdonalds and enabled my sister and I to discover over-sweet packets of Maryland cookies which would never grace my mother’s table. None of which were enjoyed, simply scoffed because they were forbidden by one parent and unnoticed by the other (cigarettes and alcohol soon followed in the same vein, but that’s a whole other post, or even blog).

For me biscuits should be the British type, to be shared with gossip, the day’s news and a steaming cup of tea (and if there is a dog around that you can allow to lap the dregs of tea and sunken crumbs all the better) but I never keep them in the house now and only ever crave digestives for their salty edge.

My ambivalence extends to my baking.  I don’t really enjoy making them. I have the odd recipe bookmarked and they can be good for mass distribution, but rarely would a cookie be the top of my list for a Sunday baking session. I think it was the post that accompanied David Lebozitz’s Oatmeal Cookie recipe that drew me in. The nostalgic tale of American cookies from one living abroad and their role in sharing made me think fondly of my relationship with biscuits and the place they held in my family life. I do also like oats, in pretty much any form, so yesterday I made a batch of dough, let it rest in the fridge overnight and this morning baked tray, after tray, after tray.

I’m still not won over. I don’t enjoy the process as much as cake or muffin baking and having to bake in batches is tedious. This was not helped by my compulsion to double the recipe meaning I had enough to make 48 enormous cookies. This doubling also contributed to the rather haphazard results I think. Uneven distribution of the flour and oats – because of the sheer quantity of them all through the butter and sugar mixture meant that some cookies spread almost wafer thin in the oven, their edges singeing in the process, whilst some retained their dome-like form becoming a chewier, more satisfying treat. They really were too sweet for me too, but I used half raisins and half sour cherries which were a nice contrast when encountered, and the spices were a subtle background. It should be made clear that any issues I have with these cookies are purely mine – in taste and execution. The cookies from well mixed batter had a lovely shape and texture, and those with a sweet tooth have raved about them.

Taking these cookies into work prompted a conversation about baking for a Bonfire night party and reminded me of one of the few things I baked over the summer. These Cookie Bars with Pretzel pieces from Michelle, the Brown Eyed Baker were probably the most moorish thing I have baked in years. In both texture and taste I could happily munch my way through piece after pieces. The salty/sweet combo is to die for and in my little notebook, next to the date on which I baked them (10/06/10 if you’re interested) I have scrawled ‘easy!’

Chocolate Chip & Pretzel Cookie Bars

From the Brown Eyed Baker

300g plain flour

1 Tsp baking powder

1/2 Tsp salt

170g butter at room temperature

175g light muscavado sugar

112g caster sugar

2 large eggs

2 Tsp vanilla extract

120z chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups pretzels chopped

Topping:

I used a sprinkling of sea salt and cocoa nibs, but Michelle suggested peanut butter, melted chocolate and more pretzels

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 9 x 13 pan

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt

In a stand mixer mix together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and vanilla, scraping down the sides then with the mixer on low-speed add the flour mixture.

Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped pretzels, sprinkle on some sea salt and some cocoa nibs then bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

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Early Morning Sunshine

May 1, 2010


The glorious weather of late April has mostly vanished, unsurprisingly, in time for the bank holiday weekend. But I can let you into a little secret … if you wake just before dawn – open your eyes as the birds are starting to stir and the sky begins to lighten – then by the time you are sat with that first coffee of the morning and are awake enough to appreciate it – the sun will be shining in a gloriously clear sky. Chances are it will be gone by 8am when most are rousing themselves for the start of the long weekend, but one of the compensations of waking so early every morning is seeing that early morning sun. No matter how wet and windy the recent days have turned out to be I have had some early alone time with the sun which goes a long way to lifting low spirits.

Another highlight of my day has been checking on my seeds. My previous attempts at ‘gardening’ usually extend only as far as placing bought pots of blooming hydrangeas around my garden, enjoying their mop-headed beauty before butchering them at the end of the season with the secateurs, a pruning from which they never quite recover. My small garden is littered with lopsided, near-corpses from previous years. To date the thing I am most proud of in my garden is not killing the poppy and christmas rose that were already established when I moved in ten years ago. I have, however, been seduced by the BBC2 series ‘Edible Garden’ something about the programme made growing my own veg, from seed, seem possible. Whilst part of the attraction of the half hour slot is coveting Alys Fowler’s beautiful garden – and wondering why I can’t manage to pull off the wearing of wellington boots in quite the same way – the big draw for me is the flexibility she conveys in how and what you can grow in a limited space. By choosing the right varieties, or just harvesting early, the smallest of spaces will hopefully provide some ingredients for my kitchen.

One thing I knew I wanted to grow was courgettes, I hope for a glut so I can bake with them, grate and add to my porridge, I’m also hoping for beetroot – again for the baking possibilities. There are radish which I hope to nibble on and I am hopeful for dwarf beans and kale. All have germinated so far, other than the beetroot which are being a little shy and the chili seeds. There’s still time. It’s all quite exciting.

So, early Saturday morning, with the earliest morning sun shining on my my seeds, me feeling so proud (and more than a little grateful that the cat hasn’t watered the trays too) I aimed for the perfect morning by baking. I had bookmarked an Orange Marmalade Tea Cake back in February from Deeba’s blog ‘Passionate about Baking’ which is one of my favourite sites. Her photo’s are stunning and whilst I couldn’t hope to recreate most of what she does in terms of presentation and styling I had all the ingredients for this cake.

I made made a few changes to the recipe Deeba lists, which she herself had adapted, I used half wholemeal flour and reduced the sugar as well as adding a little ginger. I also doubled the quantities listed for a loaf cake as I had plenty of courgettes and went with muffins for easier distribution (and less washing up). Deeba used some, no doubt stunning, homemade bitter orange marmalade and the run of the mill jar I had handy could’ve done with being a bit tarter, perhaps some additional zest would’ve added a bit more zing. If you’re going to make this and buy marmalade specifically for it I would go for a sharper variety with decent chunks of orange rind, I might even make again with a smattering of stem ginger. As they are below they are so light, with each bite offering a slightly different taste or texture due to the distribution of the orange, walnuts and chocolate chips. In honour of the hour when these were baked I have rechristened them…


Sunshine Muffins

Makes 16 muffins or 2 5″ x 9″ Loaves

262g plain flour
262g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp vanilla extract
500g grated courgettes (approx 4 small)
1 cup / 375g marmalade (approx one jar)
250g caster sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 175C and line muffin tins with papers
Mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and spices.
Mix all the other ingredients, except the walnuts, in a large bowl until combined , making sure there are no large lumps of marmalade.
Sift the dry ingredients into the wet
Stir in the walnuts then fill the muffin cases to just over 3/4 full each (I used a 1/4 cup measure, the muffins don’t rise that much)
Bake for 25 minutes until the tops are starting to brown and are firm to the touch, or until a skewer comes out clean.


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It’s a Date

February 24, 2010
Despite early mornings being the best time for me to bake, they’re not necessarily the best time to pick recipes. A certain amount of attention is needed for the basics, like checking you’ve got enough flour and sugar (and of the right type) that the berries you thought you had in the freezer are still in their packet; rather than spilling out and impossibly mixed in the drawer with the ever present escapee frozen peas. All this needs a relatively clear head lest you discover half way through that you’re out of some vital ingredient. It’s also not a good time to decide you’re going to take that loaf recipe and double it to fit a bundt tin and it’s most definitely not the best time to convert those doubled quantities from American cups to metric. Even if I manage all of the above at 5am the chances are something else will slip – like remembering to turn the oven on, or dusting that greased pan with flour.


In order to avoid moments of frustration part way through the baking process I’ve tried recently to plan just a little bit more, spend some time on a Saturday evening looking through my cupboards to check to see what I could bake. Seeing what I actually have in stock and then pick recipes from there, write out all my conversions and notes ready to go when I wake. I don’t go as far as to weigh out the ingredients ready – what if tomorrow morning was the one morning when I actually get to lie in? But I have a plan.


This past Saturday’s peruse of my cupboards revealed several packets of dates and a fruit bowl overstocked with oranges. Leiths offered up a Date and Orange Loaf, I doubled the quantities from those suggested for a 1 1/2 lb tin so I could fill three of my 1lb ones. It’s an easy recipe as everything is added to the date mixture after they’ve been simmered in water. Use a large pan and you can just whack it all in and save on the washing up.


Date and Orange Loaf

Leiths’ Baking Bible


Makes three 1lb loaves


450g chopped dates

250ml water

340g soft dark brown sugar

340g butter

Grated zest of two oranges

2 tbsp orange juice

2 large eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp all spice


Preheat the oven to 170C.

Grease the tins and line the base with baking parchment.

Place dates and water in a large pan and bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add sugar, butter, orange zest and juice and beat well.
Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Add the eggs, beat well and then sift on remaining ingredients.
Bake for 60 – 90 minutes and then allow to cool in the tins for 15 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.



This is a tasty cake, the moistness from the dates and citrus zing make it perfect to eat as it is. It will improve for being wrapped well for 24 hours, and should it last long enough to dry out, I can imagine that a little spread of butter, perhaps to a toasted slice, would be lovely too.


As I’m not capable of buying just one of anything, of not having a back-up or spare, there were still more dates in the cupboard and having not made muffins for awhile I chose the recipe below, swapping walnuts for chocolate chips in order to make mocha muffins.



Mocha Date Muffins

Adapted from Leiths’ Coffee and Date Muffin Recipe


Ingredients for 12 Muffins


140g chopped dates (tip – snip into pieces with kitchen scissors rather than chopping, far easier)

1/2 Tsp bicarbinate of soda

1 tsp instant coffee

150ml boiling water

225g soft light brown sugar

115g melted butter

2 beaten eggs

250g self-raising flour

100g dark chocolate chips


Line your muffin tins with cases, or grease and dust with flour.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Place dates in a large bowl with coffee and bicarb, pour over the boiling water, stir and leave to soak for 10 minutes.

Add the butter, sugar and eggs into the date mixture, fold in the four until just combined (do not over mix, for light muffins you want it just mixed) and fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remove muffins from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack (the original recipe suggests covering them with a clean tea towel as they cool to keep the tops soft).


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It Must Be Sunday

November 15, 2009
I know I named this blog Spatulas at Dawn because of my early starts and love of filling the small hours with the smell of baking, but I really think that a 4 am start in November is taking things a little too far. Dawn was still several hours away when sat with coffee and recipe books I tried to decide which cake to bake in honour of National Bundt Day which is celebrated on the 15th November in the US.

I love my Bundt cake tin (and I’m hoping that Father Christmas might be able to fit another in my stocking this year – are you reading this Ces?) and rarely need an excuse to use it. As I mentioned the other day Mary, The Food Librarian, set herself the challenge of baking a bundt cake every day for the month leading up to National Bundt Day and I had a tin of pumpkin puree (thank you Waitrose) set aside for the day itself. After all, what could be a more fitting ingredient for this most American of bakeware than pumpkin? I already had my eye on a recipe for a Pumpkin and Chocolate bundt from the list on The Food Librarian’s site and my newest of books Cake Keeper Cakes (as recommended by Nicole at Baking Bites) had an almost identical one for a loaf cake. The average 9″ by 5″ loaf tin recipe can be doubled to fill a bundt so that’s what I did – see below. The original recipe called for milk but I used buttermilk and I also reduced the sugar slightly. Apologies for the mixture of measurments in US cups and metric, with some ingredients it’s easier to measure out in the original cups so I didn’t bother weighing to get the equivalent measure, sorry if that’s irritating, but it was early!

The resulting cake is so moist from the pumpkin and moorish with the differing textures I’m not sure how to do it justice here and hope that you give it a try soon.


Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chatman

  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarb
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • generous pinch of nutmeg
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • one 15oz can of unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used a mixture of milk chocolate chips and chopped 70% Green and Blacks)
  • 2 cups of chopped walnuts

  • Preheat oven to 180C, grease your bundt tin and dust with flour
  • Mix flour, spices, bicarb, baking powder and salt
  • Beat sugar and butter until fluffy then add eggs one at a time, scraping the side of the bowl as needed
  • Stir in pumpkin and vanilla then the buttermilk
  • Add the flour in three batches, scraping the side of the bowl and then finally stir in the chocolate and walnuts
  • Pour batter into the bundt tin of your choice and bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean, cool in tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wore rack. Allow to cool completely before attempting to cut

Should your bundt be reluctant to release itself from the tin (as mine was today as I forgot the all important ‘dust with flour’ step) pop the tin back into the oven for a few minutes to help release it (you may also require the help of several implements to aid the process, I used a knife, a rolling pin, a plastic spatula and a bit of brute force)