Trick or Treat?

Recipes

I felt strangely obliged to bake the treats for the trick or treaters this year instead of just picking up a pack of something at the shops. This was in part, due to the fact that I felt as a food writer I should make everything myself (one of many self inflicted pressures) but also the guilt I still feel for the year I completely forgot about it and had to resort to giving the kids unripe plums from the fruit bowl whilst fiercely crossing my fingers that the front of our house would escape a thorough egging!

The recipe I chose was this one for Sugar Cookies. It’s a great, basic biscuit recipe that makes a really large quantity from just 1 egg. The biscuits can be flavoured with nuts, fruit or chocolate chips before baking if you like and if you cut them out with fancy cookie cutters they hold their shape really well. Be warned, they are incredibly sweet so make sure you’ve got loads of people round to share them with.

Sugar Cookies

200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
400 g plain flour

280 g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

1) Rub the flour and the butter together with your fingers until it all looks like fresh breadcrumbs.

2) Mix the egg and the sugar together in another in a bowl with a fork and when it is really well combined add it to the flour mixture.

3) Add all the other ingredients and knead together with your hands to form a smooth dough.

4) Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin until it is about ½ a centimetre thick. Cut into shapes.

5) Place your biscuits on a baking sheet lined with a piece of greaseproof paper/baking parchment and bake at 150° C for about 15 minutes (until they are lightly golden at the edges – keep an eye on them).

6) Let them cool in the tin for a few minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire rack.

7) Decorate with icing or sandwich together with butter-cream.

I decorated mine with plain and coloured icing then topped with spooky decorations. To make the spiders and creepy crawlies pipe small “v’s” onto a piece of tin foil using melted chocolate to make the legs and leave to set hard. Ice the biscuits and set aside until almost dry. Top with a jelly sweet for insects or a chocolate for spiders and carefully peel the chocolate legs off the tin foil and stick into the biscuit.

It felt like a continuous stream of knocks and shouts all evening. After a rough count up I think gave out about 50 biscuits (which I had not anticipated) so I had to keep running to the kitchen to ice and decorate more to satisfy the seemingly ravenous ghouls and ghosts at the door. I finally collapsed on the sofa with a glass of wine at about 9 o’clock and considered possible holiday destinations for next Hallowe’en!

 

Wedding Weekend

Events, Recipes

This weekend I went to the wedding of Richard’s friends Kate & Sam.
The happy couple had arranged for all the guests to stay in groups in lodges at a holiday park in Woodhall Spa. It was great, each lodge was crossed between a modern apartment and a log cabin in the woods…each one complete with a hot tub on the patio!

We arrived on Friday night with a box of homemade cookies and a few goodies from the supermarket deli counter.
We figured that cookies would be good to share with the other guests at whatever time we arrived and would last the weekend. We made these double chocolate chip cookies from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe which you can find here.

20120627-200834.jpg

And we made our own cranberry, cherry, oat and white chocolate ones too which also went down a treat. (see below for the recipe)

20120627-200939.jpg

We unpacked the cookies and the booze and then opened the fridge to pile in the cheeses and cured meats we had brought, then suddenly burst into a fit of giggles when we realised that a couple of other guests had clearly had exactly the same idea, resulting in an extremely well stocked “assiette” fridge!

After being introduced to what felt like a hundred smiling new faces I sloped off to bed, sleepy from all the baking and travelling.

The following day was the wedding, it was wonderful, a really happy occasion. The bride looked brilliant in a dramatic white dress with lace accessories. I was particularly impressed that when the celebrations moved to the reception party Kate’s dress was swiftly altered to become slightly shorter for dancing and her fascinator was discreetly swapped for a tiny top hat with feathers as a nod to the Alice in Wonderland theme.

20120627-201249.jpg

We shared a barbecue meal, drank pink champagne and signed our names on pieces of Jenga for a guest book that they can play with over the years to come: Genius!

20120627-201041.jpg

Later on Richard and I pulled out a bottle of tequila and everyone started dancing to the live ska band (who to my surprise were the same band who played at my graduation in Norwich in 2006 and, fuelled by tequila, I proceeded to bore everyone I could about this coincidence).
The tequila was pretty special too because I had half remembered something I had seen on tv – the theory is that if it’s 100% agave you don’t feel hungover the next day. I would not wish to encourage binge drinking but I am starting to find that even one glass of wine can give me a bit of a hazy head the following morning and surely anything that’s 100% something sounds pretty good right? We found such a product in Waitrose called “el Jimador” so I decided we should give it a whirl.

Sunday arrived and I got up feeling sleepy but not as grotty as I had expected (thanks agave!) and we headed out for a quick round of crazy golf before hitting the road.

20120627-201130.jpg

Big congratulations to the lovely Kate and Sam, wishing you lots of happiness xxx

Cranberry, Cherry, Oat & White Chocolate Cookies

Makes 18-20 cookies

Ingredients

85g butter, at room temperature
115g light brown sugar
1 egg
115g self-raising flour
55g rolled oats
100g of white chocolate, chopped
45g of dried cranberries
35g of glacé cherries, sliced
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Method

1) Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4). Line a baking sheet with a piece of grease proof paper.

2) Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy in a free standing mixer with the paddle attachment, then beat in the egg.

3) Add the flour and cinnamon and beat once more until thoroughly combined, then fold in the oats, cranberries, cherries and chocolate

4) Drop rounded dessertspoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking sheet, leaving enough space around each cookie to allow it to spread during baking. Bake the cookies in batches – I made about 9 cookies each time and just changed the grease proof paper for each batch.

5) Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown at the edges. Cool slightly on the paper, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. I keep forgetting to buy a wire rack so a few sheets of kitchen paper on a plate works ok too.