27 Mar 2014

Chewy peanut butter and chocolate cookies : homemade Ben's cookies

This is it. 
I'm all packed up and ready to move in with The Man at the end of the week.
I'm excited, obviously. 
I'm looking forward to it, obviously. 
I'll see him everyday, and his home and my home will become our home and we'll live happily forever after (she writes with little hearts and sparkles in her eyes).
...But slowly, the word "compromise" has appeared in the corner of my mind, and its slowly sinks in, the stress is not doing much for my blood pressure.
So, from now on, I won't be able to sleep like in the middle of the bed ever again, is that right?
And I'll have to share the power over the remote control, my kitchen, the way the bed is tucked in or the dish washer filled in, what we're having for dinner? ...

Hello, my name is Pauline, I'm 31, I'm a bit of a control freak and I'm about to test life a couple's life for the first time.
Thank god, I'm dating the most laid back man in the whole of United Kingdom. We're both going to need it for the transition period!

Best ever 
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies, 
like homemade Ben's cookies

I am crazy about everything tasting of peanut butter, and Ben's peanut butter cookies in particular. After several attempts, I came up with this recipe which makes peanut butter cookies, which are firm on the outside and chewy in the middle, and overall absolutely divine.
I added toasted mixed nuts as well as chocolate chunks, but to be honest I think these cookies would be just as delicious without chocolate.

makes approx 15 large cookies
225g packed brown sugar
120g granulated sugar
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
300g flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
270g old-fashioned rolled oats
150g chopped mixed nuts (peanuts, brazil nuts, pecan nuts, almonds), toasted
150g chocolate chunks (I mixed dark and white chocolate) - optional
2 heaped tbsp smooth peanut butter 

1/ Pre heat oven to 190c
2/ Cream the sugars and butter, and then add the vanilla extract and the peanut butter
3/ Beat in the eggs, one at a time
4/ Sieve the flour, salt and baking powder and gently add to the mix. Do not over mix
5/ Stir in the oats, nuts and chocolate chunks, if using any
6/ Line a baking tray with baking parchment
7/ Divide mix into balls between 40 and 80g depending on size preference (I made 80g cookies) and space out on a prepared tray leaving 2 cm between each one, pressing down slightly
8/ Bake for about 15 mins until golden around the edge. Leave to cool for 10 mins before transferring to cooling wire and leave to cool completely before storing in a cookie jar.

My Tips: 
Why weighing each cookie individually before baking? to ensure they all are the same size and will therefor cook at the same speed. This will ensure consistent cookies!
Why waiting for the cookies to cool completely before storing them in a jar? Because otherwise they will release steam in the jar and become soft.

Different sizes for different cookies: the bigger the cookies, the more soft in the middle. Small cookies might be crunchy all way through. 

Fun fact: did you know that the peanut is a legume / a bean and not a nut?

18 Mar 2014

Sunny Sunday in London's Docklands

I recently discovered by foot a new part of London I didn't know so well: The London Docklands.

Thanks to the Man (who could become an encyclopedia if he ever gets tired of his job) I not only enjoyed a lovely day outside, but also learnt a lot about the Docklands area.

The Docklands were developed in the Georgian and Victorian times when commercial ships doing business in London got in serious need of a place to anchor, safe away from high waters, pirates and all that jazz. At the time, the area was mainly populated by local workers, who were, for the majority of them, unskilled labourers leaving on the edge of London's society and speaking their own slang.
The Docklands were commercially very successful (they made London the largest port in the world at some point) until they got bombed and very badly damaged during the Second World War. 
Despite being rebuilt after the war, they slowly became obsolete as containers transportation system on cargo vessels got developed. Poor Docklands were getting too small to accommodate always bigger vessels indeed. 

Abandoned, stricken by poverty and unemployment for a while, the Docklands have nevertheless been gradually re-developed and converted into the vibrant residential and commercial area that we know today.
Heavily supported by government tax incentives aiming at attracting new businesses between the 70s and the 90s, boosted by the massive Canary Wharf business project development, and great improvements in transport links (such as the launch of The Dockland Light Railway and the extension of some tube lines), the Docklands area became the second business and finance centre of London.

Today, London's Docklands are one of the most attractive areas in London, may it be to set up a business or buy a home. Skyscrapers share the scene with former Docklands infrastructures and old sailing boats, making up for a surprising landscape when you walk along them.
Although a bit quiet on the week-end for my taste, I surely wouldn't say no to a flat with a terrace over looking the Thames on a summer's morning! 

7 Mar 2014

From London, with love: Scotch eggs

Life is like baking.
You evolve step by step. Sometimes you don't notice things (or yourself) moving forward, then one day you wake up and everything is different and you have almost no idea how it happened.

One day you can't speak proper English and the next you realise you dream and joke in English.
One day you're scared to talk to strangers, and the next you see yourself giving speeches in front of a crowd.
What feels like just yesterday, another attempt at baking cookies was a disaster and I'd just become single and heart-broken (again), and today I'm baking cookies as good as Ben's cookies and I'm moving in with The Wonferful Man.

Where did that come from?
My life has changed so much, and it's been so easy and natural that I haven't noticed.
It must be a good sign, mustn't it?

Scotch eggs

Scotch eggs are one of these British dishes that can be marvelous if they're well-made, and absolutely hideous if they aren't. I'm very proud to report that these were amazing! 
They're said to date from the 18th century. They consist of a soft boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat (I made a mix of pork and black pudding), coated in bread crumbs and deep fried. Traditionally eaten for pic nics, Scotch eggs can also be enjoyed as snack in a pub with a beer, or "on the go" like a cornish pasty.
I can't believe I managed to time the cooking of the eggs right so the yolks would still be soft, but I did it! 

(make 6 Scotch eggs)

6 eggs
250g lean mince pork ( I used Waitrose's)
250g black pudding
Dried thyme, oregano, chili flakes, black pepper and salt
2 eggs beaten
100g breadcrumbs
4tbsp plain flour
Oil, for deep frying

Make the Scotch eggs

1/ Place the 6 eggs in cold water in a pan, bring to the boil and boil for 5min. Cool under running cold water and remove the shells

2/ Mix the mince pork and black pudding in a large bowl, add the seasoning (mix of thyme, oregano, chili flakes, pepper and salt - approx 1,5 tsp in total). 

3/ Divide the meat mixture into 6 balls and flatten each portion into patties with slightly wet hands (so they don't stick). 

4/ Wrap each egg in a patty, making sure the patty is sealed all around the egg and delicately rolling the ball in your hands to smooth and even the coating. 

5/ Prepare in 3 different deep plates or bowl the flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs. Deep each ball in the flour (all around), then in the beaten egg, and finally in the breadcrumbs. Place the Scotch egg on a plate, and repeat until all Scotch eggs are ready.

6/ Heat the frying oil in a pan to 170deg C (it's ready when a bread crumb thrown into the oil starts frying), and deep fry the Scotch eggs in batches (of 2 or 3 depending of the size of your pan) for 5 min. Drain on paper towel to soak up the extra oil, and eat warm or cold. (I fried mine in the morning and re-heated them for 3 min in the oven before serving)

Scotch egg recipe adapted from The Hairy Bikers cookbook, Mums know best