Biscuit

Peanut butter cookies

peanut butter cookies

If you think sugar and salt are evil then turn away now.

These cookies have both in abundance but they are absolutely delicious.

And I do apologise to anyone on a diet because there has been a bias towards sweet recipes on this blog in recent weeks. Believe it or not I do have some health food blogger followers, because I do occasionally post a recipe with kale in it.

Anyway, talking of sweet treats, hands up if you knew it was National Dessert Day on Wednesday. I didn’t until the University of Nottingham tweeted about it like it was something real that should be taken in all seriousness.

In a household where we nearly always have pudding, I struggle with the concept of ‘National Dessert Day’. Does it mean that you can only have dessert on that day, or does it mean you should have double the amount of dessert? Either way, for me, these national/international days of whatever some marketing bod fancies are a load of old tripe (but then this is coming from someone who doesn’t do Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day).

But let’s give a big cheer for pudding (or dessert if you must) because it makes life worth living. And if you’re NOT on a diet then do try these cookies. I challenge you to only eat one.

Peanut butter cookies

Based on a recipe from the NY Times website (I’ve changed the name from ‘Salty sweet peanut butter sandies’ because that’s a bit too American for me)

Makes about 24

  • 115g of butter, softened (add a large pinch of salt to the recipe if you’re using unsalted butter)
  • 75g of granulated sugar
  • 85g of light brown sugar
  • 205g of peanut butter, smooth or chunky
  • 1 egg
  • 125g of plain flour
  •  1 teaspoon of Maldon sea salt and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar for sprinkling

Heat your oven to 170oC and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy (in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, with an electric hand mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon).

Add the peanut butter and egg, and mix. Add the flour and salt and mix until well combined.

Put heaped teaspoons of dough onto the baking sheets. The original recipe uses a cookie scoop but I’ve never heard of one of these. The cookies will not spread much when they bake so they can be placed quite close together, but leave room for air circulation so they can brown.

In a small bowl, mix one teaspoon of Maldon sea salt (or other flaky sea salt) and one of granulated sugar. Sprinkle each cookie lightly with this mixture.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown.

Carefully lift the cookies off the baking sheets with a palette knife and cool on wire racks.

Try not to eat too many in one go.

Ode to the digestive – part 5, and finally…

Digestives main 1

To finish my 5 days of digestive recipes here’s a recipe to make your own. These are the real deal and seriously delicious. They have similarities to factory made ones but can’t really be compared – I wouldn’t dream of putting a melted marshmallow on top of one of these.

I’m thinking of making these wholesome treats to give to trick or treaters on Halloween. Is that cruel?

Home made digestives
(adapted from a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his ‘River Cottage everyday’ cookbook)

NOTE: Whilst delicious, in my experience these digestives don’t keep awfully well. They are best eaten on the day of baking but after a day in the tin they start to go soft. For this reason I halve or even quarter the recipe below.

Makes 35-40 (to make this amount you will need two square baking trays and you will need to cook them in two batches, unless you have two ovens).

  • 250g wholemeal flour
  • 250g butter (a whole standard pat) cut into small cubes and softened
  • 250g medium oatmeal
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of fine sea salt if you are using unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon if using salted butter
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • About 1 tablespoon of milk

Measure the butter, flour, oatmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients together with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Now add a little milk, a few drops at a time (you may not need to whole amount) until everything comes together into a slightly sticky dough.

Dust with flour and press into a disc about 25 cm in diameter. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up a bit.

If you are making the dough in advance then you will need to take it out of the fridge for about an hour before you need to roll out as the dough will become very hard. The dough will keep for up to a couple of days in the fridge.

When you are ready to cook preheat the oven to 170oC fan.

Dust the dough, your work surface and rolling pin liberally with flour and roll out carefully dusting with more flour to stop the dough sticking until it is about 3-4 mm thick.

Cut out the biscuits with a 6-7 cm cutter and use a spatula or palette knife to transfer them to baking sheets (either non-stick or lined with greaseproof paper).

Place in the oven and bake for up to 10 minutes checking regularly that they are not browning too much around the edges. You want an even light brown colour on the top and a slightly darker brown around the edges.

Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheets to firm up before transferring (using a palette knife of spatula) to wire racks to cool completely.

Eat with a nice cup of tea. I challenge you to only eat one, they are very moreish.

Ready to roll out.

Ready to roll out.

Cutting out.

Cutting out.

On the tray ready for the oven.

On the tray ready for the oven.

Tasty stack.

A tasty stack.

Ode to the digestive – part 4, baked vanilla cheesecake

baked cheesecake

I dream about baked vanilla cheesecake – it’s my favourite dessert of all. This week I’ve been reading about the last food requests of people on death row and this would definitely be my pudding of choice for a final ever meal.

I have tried lots of different recipes for baked cheesecake and have always struggled with the texture. They have tended to be a little on the stodgy side and rather claggy. I think this recipe works well though. It initially started out as a Mary Berry but I’ve adapted it by whisking the egg white to give it a lighter texture.

It’s good on its own or with a raspberry sauce.

Baked vanilla cheesecake

Serves 8

For the base

  • 100g crushed digestives (about 7 biscuits)
  • 50g butter

For the filling

  • 700g full fat soft cheese
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 150oC fan.

For the base, crush the digestives in a food processor or in a food bag with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the crushed biscuits and stir until incorporated. Tip the mixture into a 20 cm loose bottomed tin (about 8 cm deep) and press down firmly with your fingers or the back of a spoon to form the biscuit base. Cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge.

Measure the cheese into a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat again until well mixed.#

Separate the eggs and whisk up the whites until soft peaks form.

Add the egg yolks and vanilla essence to the cheese mixture and stir to combine. I do this bit by hand with a metal spoon. Next, add just a spoonful of egg white to the cheese and stir in to slacken the mixture. Then very gently fold in the rest of the egg whites attempting to keep as much of the air in the mixture as possible.

Tip the mixture onto the biscuit base and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheesecake is puffed around the edges but still wobbly in the centre.

Turn off the oven but leave in the oven to cool.

Chill well in the fridge and serve well chilled.

A chocolate twist
For a chocolate ripple version, add just half the finished mixture into the tin in spoonfuls with gaps between the dollops. Then add 150g of melted plain chocolate to the remaining mixture and spoon into the gaps. Finally, swirl the top with a skewer or knife to make a marble effect. Make sure that the chocolate is not too hot when you add it otherwise it will start to cook the eggs in the cheesecake mixture.

Cracks
Cracks always appear in my baked cheesecake. I have a feeling that the air in the egg white in this recipe probably encourages the mixture to crack, but I’d rather have a light texture and cracks than a stodgy texture with no cracks. To be honest because it’s only an aesthetic thing and it still tastes good I’m not particularly bothered. If you are then there are some tips to avoid cracking in this link. If you hit on a winner then please do let me know. It the meantime I’m going to opt for the last suggestion and cover the cracks with sauce.

http://dianasdesserts.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/bakingtips.cheesecakes/

Eddie licking the bowl.

Ode to the digestive – part 3, Key lime pie

key lime pie

This is another really easy recipe with a digestive biscuit base. There are so many versions of Key lime pie knocking around, some baked, some not, some with a biscuit base and some with pastry. I think a truly authentic pie should actually have a pastry case, a similar filling to mine but uncooked, and then the addition of a meringue topping, rather like a lemon meringue pie. Put like that my version has so little in common with the real thing that maybe I ought to give it a new name.

The benefit of this version is that it’s cooked so you can serve it to pregnant women. The sharp lime flavour means that it works well as a dessert to follow a Thai, Indian or Mexican inspired menu where you’ve used lots of spice and garlic. The lime flavour is pretty intense and if you’re not a fan of limes then you can use lemons instead.

A sort of Key lime pie

Serves 8-10

Base

  • 200g digestive biscuits crushed with a rolling pin or in a food processor. (I think it is fine to use cheaper value digestive biscuits for bases.)
  • 75g butter

Filling

  • Zest of 3 limes (leave this out if using bottled lime juice)
  • 150ml lime juice (about 4-5 large limes, or use bottled lime juice)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 x 397g tin of condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 160oC fan.

For the biscuit base melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the crushed digestives. Stir to combine and then tip into a loose bottomed flan tin with a diameter of 23 cm. Press the biscuit mixture up the sides of the tin as well as on the bottom. Leave to chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl add the eggs and lime zest (if using) and mix with an electric hand whisk until thickened. This usually takes about 2 minutes. Then add the condensed milk and whisk for another 4 minutes. Finally add the lime juice and give it another quick whisk (it will really thicken up now)*. Then pour into the prepared base and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

* I’ll let you into a secret, the last time I made this I misread the recipe and added the lime juice to the eggs instead of just the zest in the first step. In a panic I just bunged in all the filling ingredients together and whisked for a couple of minutes (it thickened up immediately because of the lime juice). I have to say that the result was exactly the same but I feel I should give you the legitimate recipe in the first instance.

When it’s completely cool cover and chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve. I don’t cover with cling film as the top is very fragile and comes away with the cling film when you remove it. I tend to cover with a shallow bowl which fits neatly over the tin without touching the surface of the pudding but you could also just put it in a large Tupperware container and then in the fridge.

Remove from the fridge for about 20 minutes before serving. I like to decorate with a dusting of icing sugar (don’t do this in advance though as the sugar just melts into the surface). You can also drizzle melted dark chocolate over the top if you want to be really fancy.

I like this dessert just for itself but if you want to work the presentation then a dollop of crème fraiche with some lime zest grated over the top works well.

Ode to the digestive – part 2, banoffee pie

banoffee pie

As with Marmite people seem to love or hate banoffe pie. I adore it, but it’s my husband’s absolute worst nightmare. For this reason (and because it is so calorific) I only ever make it when we have a really big gathering with lots of other desserts. As we haven’t had people over for a while this is why there’s no picture to show you of one I’ve made recently. At parties it’s always the first to go leaving me disappointed that there are no left overs to enjoy as a hung-over breakfast the morning after.

Because you can now buy the condensed milk ready caramelised there’s really not much to this dessert. Gone are the days of boiling the tins in water for several hours on the hob. When I was a student I had a terrible accident making banoffee pie – the pan boiled dry and I ended up with exploded caramel covering the whole kitchen. By the time I’d finished scrubbing molten sugar off the walls, ceiling and floor the kitchen had never looked so clean and our slum landlord was delighted.

This is a useful recipe to have to hand but I do feel like a bit of a fraud because it’s virtually identical to the one on the side of the Carnation condensed milk tin.

Easy-peasy banoffe pie

Base

  • 200g digestive biscuits crushed with a rolling pin or in a food processor. (I think it is fine to use cheap own brand digestive biscuits for bases)
  • 100g butter

Filing

  • 1 x 397g tins of caramel condensed milk (sometimes also known as dulce du leche). This results in quite a thin layer of caramel. If you like it thicker you can use two tins
  • 4 small bananas (or enough to cover your base when sliced thinly)
  • A small 300ml carton of whipping cream
  • Grated milk chocolate to decorate

For the biscuit base melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the crushed digestives. Stir to combine and then tip into a loose bottomed flan tin with a diameter of 23 cm. Press the biscuit mixture across the the bottom of the tin and up the sides. This is a bit fiddly and it is quite tricky to get it even. I find using my fingers or the back of a spoon quite helpful. Leave to chill in the fridge.

Slice the banana thinly (about 2mm) and arrange it neatly over the biscuit base.

Pour the tin of caramel over the banana and spread evenly using a palette knife. Do not be tempted to beat the caramel to make it easier to spread and this will change the consistency completely and make it too runny.

Chill in the fridge. When you are ready to serve whip the cream and spread over the top. Decorate with grated chocolate.

Ode to the digestive – part 1, silly toppings

Digestive

I love digestive biscuits. Admittedly they are a bit boring by themselves but they are so versatile and great topped with sweet or savoury food stuffs or as the biscuit base for all sorts of puddings. When I rooted through my recipe folder I found quite a few digestive based desserts and so these very silly recipes begin my 5 days of 5 ways with digestives.

Digestives with melted marshmallow

I’m not sure where on earth this idea came from but I used to do this as a child and now my own children just love it. It is pretty exciting watching the marshmallow blow up like a balloon and the end result is a sweet and sticky delight.

  • a digestive biscuit
  • a standard marshmallow (pink or white)

Place a single marshmallow on a digestive biscuit.

Place in the microwave for 10-20 seconds and watch it blow up like a balloon. When it is about the same size as the digestive (circumference-wise) stop the cooking. When you take it out it will deflate into a lovely melted gooey mess over the digestive.

Leave to cool for a minute before eating.

Marshmallow on a digestive

Ready for action.

marshmallow on a digestive blown up

Blown up.

melted marshmallow

Yummy.

Cheat’s cheesecakes

This is for when you really can’t be bothered to make a proper dessert but you need something sweet to end your day.

It honestly does taste just like the real thing once it’s all mushed up in your mouth but you obviously couldn’t serve it a dinner party – unless you were trying to be funny.

Cheat’s lemon cheesecake
Take a digestive biscuit and smear with cream cheese. Then dollop a spoonful of lemon curd on top.

Cheat’s raspberry cheesecake
As above but with a dollop of raspberry jam.

Cheat’s chocolate cheesecake
As above but with a dollop of chocolate spread.

Simple shortbread biscuits

I love shortbread but couldn’t make it to save my life until I was passed this super simple recipe by my friend Melanie. These are the easiest biscuits to make as they only involve three ingredients, butter, sugar and flour. They make great impromptu gifts. I buy see-through presentation bags from Lakeland and then tie with a nice piece of ribbon. At Christmas you can use Christmassy cutters – bells, Christmas trees and simple fairies work well (nothing too intricate). Simple rounds with half the biscuit dipped in melted plain chocolate and then set in the fridge also look good.

Makes about 24 (you’ll need two square baking trays, mine are 33 cm square without sides)

  • 250g pack of butter (salted), or just add a good pinch of salt to unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 360g plain flour

Preheat the oven to 170oC fan.

Melt the butter in the microwave or in a saucepan on the hob. Add the flour and caster sugar and mix to combine with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball.

Tip the dough onto a well-floured work surface. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough out until it is half a cm thick. Then cut out the biscuits with a 6cm round cutter and lift carefully from the work surface onto a baking tray with a pallet knife.

Collect up the remaining dough and form into another ball and repeat the process, rolling and cutting until all the dough is used up.

Bake the biscuits for 10-15 minutes. You want them to be a light golden colour and not dark around the edges so I check frequently after the 10 minute mark. Remove the biscuits from the tray with a pallet knife onto a cooling rack and don’t store them away in a tin until they are completely cool.

When I said ‘super easy’ I may have exaggerated just a little bit. The slightly tricky part of this recipe is that the dough is very sticky so you will need to work quite quickly and use plenty of flour on the work surface and rolling pin. If the biscuits do stick don’t panic, just scrunch the dough up into another ball and start again. Unlike pastry this shouldn’t ruin the result.

The original recipe.

The original recipe.

Mixing the butter, sugar and flour to form a dough ball.

Mixing the butter, sugar and flour to form a dough ball.

Cutting out and transferring to a baking tray with a pallet knife.

Cutting out and transferring to a baking tray with a pallet knife.

On the tray.

On the tray.

The end result cooling on a rack. A little messier than usual (I'd make more effort to be neat if these were for a present rather than to be eaten all up by my family in less than a day.

The end result cooling on a rack.
(A little messy – I’d make more effort to be neat if these were for a present rather than to be eaten all up by my family in less than a day).