treat

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.

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Millionaire’s shortbread

millionaires shortbread
I know I’ve written about this before, but I maintain that dieting in January is a rotten idea. We need tasty treats (and the occasional glass of wine) to make the dark mornings and freezing cold days bearable. These Millionaire’s shortbreads are just the thing to make life feel like it’s worth living and help you soldier on until spring.

And if you cut them really small there’s no need to feel at all guilty.

There are a few processes involved so I would not describe this recipe (which comes from Peyton and Byrne’s British Baking) as easy, but it does make a large amount so you will have enough to giveaway and share the love, as well as keeping some for yourself.

Millionaire’s shortbread

Makes about 30 small squares

Shortbread

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g semolina
  • 200g plain flour

Caramel

  • 300g butter
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 75g golden syrup
  • 397g can of condensed milk

Chocolate

  • 300g of reasonable quality plain chocolate

Preheat your oven to 170oC fan.

Lightly butter and line a 33cm x 23cm Swiss roll tin or shallow baking tin.

Combine the shortbread ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed and the mix starts to come together into a crumbly dough. Press the dough into the tin and prick it all over with a fork. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until a light golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool.

For the caramel, combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan over a low heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted. Turn the heat up to medium so that the mixture starts to simmer and keep simmering and stirring the mixture until it turns a deep golden brown and looks like thick caramel fudge (for me this took 15 minutes). Don’t be tempted to leave it for a second as it will catch on the bottom of the pan and burn. Pour over the top of the cooled shortbread in an even layer and leave to cool and set.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering walker or on a low heat in the microwave (which is what I do). Pour over the caramel layer and spread as evenly as you can with a palate knife. Leave to set and then cut into small squares (about 3-4 cm squared) with a very sharp knife.

They keep very well in a tin for up to 5 days (if they last that long).

Half term treat – Mary Berry’s honeycomb crunchies

honeycomb crunchies
I don’t often cook the recipes featured on the front page of the BBC website, but as a huge fan of Crunchie chocolate bars I just had to give this one a go.

I’ve always wanted to try making honeycomb and it’s actually quite straightforward with Mary’s recipe (the only tricky bit is getting the molten sugar off the saucepan afterwards).

These chocolaty bites are absolutely delicious. They are crunchy and chewy at the same time and the sugar content is so off the scale that my children went mad for them. My daughter Elizabeth ate three pieces in one day, but then again so did I.

Mary Berry’s honeycomb crunchies

For the honeycomb

  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • flavourless oil (such as vegetable oil), for greasing

To assemble

  • 250g of dark or milk chocolate (I used half dark and half milk)
  • 100g butter, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 150g digestive biscuits

Start by making the honeycomb. Measure out one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and set aside, then lightly grease a flat baking tray.

Put the sugar and golden syrup into a saucepan and set it on a very low heat for 10 minutes until all the sugar has melted. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. When the sugar is completely melted, turn up the heat to medium. Once the mixture has started to boil leave to bubble without stirring until it turns golden-brown (this only takes a couple of minutes).

Turn off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda and quickly whisk for a couple of seconds. The mixture will froth up massively so make sure you use a saucepan with plenty of room. Quickly pour it into the middle of the oiled baking tray and don’t spread it out or touch it or the tray. Leave for about 30 minutes to cool and harden. You can hurry things along by putting it into the fridge after about 15 minutes.

Line a square 20.5cm/8in tin with baking paper.

Break up the chocolate into small pieces and put in a heatproof bowl. Melt gently over a pan of simmering water, then add the butter and golden syrup. Stir until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Use your hands or a knife to break up the biscuits and honeycomb into chunks the size of your thumbnail (Mary uses a rolling pin to do this but I found that this just smashed them into tiny crumbs). Put them into a mixing bowl and pour over the melted chocolate mixture. Stir until all the chunks are coated and pour the whole lot into the prepared tin. Spread it right into the corners.

Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 2 hours before cutting into squares with a sharp knife. Mary cuts hers into 16 but you can make them as big or little as you like.

Eat straight from the fridge. Mary says they keep for a couple of days but if yours last that long then you’ve got more willpower than I.

NOTE: These are fun to make with kids, but although they will love watching the bit where the honeycomb froths up keep them at a distance as the mixture is scalding hot.