Wednesday, 9 April 2014

{RECIPE}: Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti from Sprinkles!

I have another fab recipe from Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers today. This post almost didnt happen because I've misplaced the photographs I had taken. I say misplaced, but what I mean is lost. And by lost I mean gone. Sad face. This is what happens when you wake up at 5am and spend the next 12 hours at your desk. Your butt goes numb, your sight blurs and you forget things. Just six more weeks and I shall never have to study this hard again. Like, ever.

But, the bake was so good that I felt it would be wrong (a crime, really) to not at least document my experience and give you a chance to try it for yourself. I'll sub in my own pictures if I (eventually) find them, although I can tell you they don't look as good as Jackie's photograph.

I've only made, and eaten, biscotti once before - Chocolate and Lavender Biscotti from Miche Bacher's Cooking with Flowers. I have a strong aversion to lavender and the biscotti wasn't the prettiest of bakes. It was also really hard and I worried I would chip a tooth. However, it did smell incredible and taste delicious. It's been a while since I made them and so when I came across Jackie's recipe and saw how fun and pretty hers looked, I was convinced to give them another go.

I would recommend making this on a day when you've got time to spare - it's not the kind of bake for when you're in a rush and looking to throw something together. The preparation itself doesn't take very long, but you have to bake it twice, and then leave it to cool in between the bakes as well as before and after decorating. That's a lot of waiting, so feel free to read a book (The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt) or play Candy Crush to pass the time (update: Level 410).

The mixture produces two logs, each of which have to be baked twice. Unfortunately one of the logs spread too thin whilst in the oven the first time round and turned in a heap of oozing chocolate mess. The second log survived. I'm not entirely sure what went wrong, but I think it may have had something to do with their position in the oven (the failed log was in the centre, and the success log placed above). I let them both cool, and then slipped the second log back into the oven after slicing it into 1/2 inch slices. But I decided to scrape the gooey mess of the first log and eat it straight from the tray - and oh gosh it tasted so damn good. I loved the once-baked mess so much, I was beginning to regret twice-baking the other log ... but considering Biscotti means twice baked, literally, pulling it back out would have defeated the purpose of the bake.

I don't mean to brag, but with so many baked goodies always coming from my oven, I'm pretty sure my house is the best smelling house on the street. And, these biscotti were no exception. Smell good they did, but the taste? The different textures of the gooey chocolate chips, the crunch of the pistachio and the nonpareils make the biscotti so much fun and it tasted delicious. They required dunking into my morning coffee, but fearlessly as they weren't as hard as my first biscotti experience. I think I may have had more coffee than usual just so I had an excuse to dunk these.

Try it for yourself, and if you like this recipe, then you should try the other two I've tried from Sprinkles!: Fairy Bread Sandwiches and Windowpane Cookies.

Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

THE RECIPE: Makes 2 dozen.

Biscotti means "twice baked" in Italian. First you form the crumbly dough into one stiff mass and bake it whole. They you let it cool, slice it, and bake it again at a lower temperature. That's what gives biscotti an almost crackerlike quality, which goes especially well with coffee. This triple-chocolate double-baked treat is dipped in dark chocolate coating with sprinkles on top. Dip it in your cofee and then pop it in your mouth.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon ground coffee
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup shelled pistachios
About 1/2 cup (4 ounces) coloured candy melts
About 1/3 cup red nonpareils, or any other sprinkles

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat in eggs for about 1 minute, until a crumbly dough forms.

2. In a separate large bowl, beat brown sugar with butter, extracts, and coffee until combined. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture and beat on low speed until a dough begins to form. It will not come together completely. Fold in chocolate and pistachios.

3. Turn out dough onyo a lightly floured surface. Press dough together with your hands, forming it into one mass. Then divide into two equal parts and form into two logs. Place one log on each prepared baking sheet and press it with the palm of your hand to flatten to a width of about 3 inches.

4. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. Remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 250F. Let dough rest on pans for 20 minute. Dough will be slightly spongy to touch, similar to a dense bread.

5. Transfer logs to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut into 1/2-inch slices. Return the slices, cut side up to the baking sheets. Bake for another 40 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

6. Melt candy melts in a dip mugor bowl according to package directions. Dip cooled biscotti halfway in melted candy melts. Place on parchment paper and decorate with dragees and sprinkles.


  Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers is published by Quirk Books. © Quirk Books.

*Disclosure: The recipe has been posted with permission.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

{RECIPE}: Half Chocolate Coated Sugar Cookies with Nuts

I've been re-reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green in anticipation of the movie adaptation. Although with just 4 weeks to go before my first exam, I've had to swap my Green for Robbins (pathology) and Weinberg (cancer) and a bunch of other textbooks. I'm so not ready.

I'm not a fan of books being turned into movies, especially of ones written by my favourite authors ... but the trailer has given me high hopes. I've heard my favourite Green book, Paper Towns, will also be turned into a movie. Both names of my personal blog (no longer active) were in reference to Paper Towns and my attachment to the book leaves me unsure how I feel about a movie adaptation. Err. Hmm. Ugh. There's no way it'll look the way it does in my head, BUT Green writing the screenplay and being executive producer of the movie does leave me optimistic. So, we'll see.

My bedroom is a little Rory Gilmore-esque with hardbacks under my bed and paperbacks stacked inside my wardrobe. Besides being able to spend hours in a bookshop (and only half an hour of it is spent trying to find Wally, I promise) and buying books for myself, everyone I know who is aware of my bookworm nature is always buying me a book. Thanks, guys!

But, most recently the gift giving theme my friends and families have adopted fall under the food category. If it can be eaten, or used in the kitchen, then it can be added to the list. It's not my birthday for another 7 months but please forget the bracelet or designer bag you're saving up for and buy me a free-standing mixer, or a cast iron skillet, or a waffle maker instead. Or another book. I'm serious.

Silicone cases, candy moulds, cupcakes wrappers and toppers, and cookie cutters and amongst some of the things I've been given. And gosh I'm excited to use them all! And it's not just my friends and family, people I've never even met have been inclined to send me food related gifts. When the lovely Asmaa of Chocoholic Hijabi celebrated her blogs anniversary with a surprise giveaway, which yours truly was lucky enough to win, I received the cutest cupcake stickers. 

And if there's any gift I prefer more than books or something food related, it's anything handmade. It's the thought that counts (it really really is). Bonus points if it comes with a handwritten note. Amongst other things, Asmass also sent me a lovely letter and a beautiful canvas handpainted with Arabic calligraphy. It's sitting on my desk propped on a mini easel, but if I were allowed to drill nails into my wall, I would hang it for all to see. Speaking of calligraphy paintings, I was really excited to discover Mille Arabesques - a French company specialising in 'decoration orientale' and arabic calligraphy stickers you can apply directly to your walls. The effect is stunning! I've been browsing through their 'calligraphie arabe' and 'stickers Islam' and it's so difficult to pick which I like best. I guess I have no choice but to pick one for every room, hehe.

These cookies are the same cookies I had posted for Valentine's day, but with nuts instead of heart shaped confetti sprinkles. I actually made these ones first, but then V-Day came along and I decided the nuts just weren't cute enough. They are delicious though, and while the V-Day cookies may have looked prettier, I think I prefer the crunch of the nuts from these. Hey, if you're stuck just do what I did and make them both!

Half Chocolate Coated Sugar Cookies with Nuts

For the cookies
370g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
240g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 egg

To decorate
200g plain chocolate, roughly chopped
280ml double cream
50g unsalted butter
150g nuts, roughly chopped

1. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder and put aside.

2. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Add the egg and vanilla to the sugar mixture and mix well.

4 Add the flour mixture a little at a time and work the mixture into a dough.

5. Lightly flour the surface and roll the dough to about 1/4 of an inch thick, and use cookie cutter of your choice. Place the shapes onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake in the oven for approx. 10-12 minutes. Once baked, place on a cooling rack to allow to completely cool.

7. Heat the cream in a pan until it starts to simmer. Pour the cream over the butter and chocolate in a heat proof bowl and allow to sit for a minute before mixing to combine. 

8. Leave the chocolate mixture for a few minutes to slightly thicken. Dip half of each biscuit into the chocolate mix and sprinkle the nuts on top (I used hazelnuts and flaked almonds but you can use your favourite kinds). Place on greaseproof paper and leave them to set.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

{REVIEW}: The Underground Cookery School

I was invited to a bloggers event hosted by Currys at the Underground Cookery School in London two weeks ago. Despite having a lab assessment that same day, I just couldn't say no! I may have snuck out of the lab a little earlier than usual. Shhh.

This was my first bloggers event and meeting people as passionate about food as I am was refreshing and great fun. Finally a group of people who understood why I get so excited about food - I could get used to that.

We were a pretty varied group of food and lifestyle bloggers - there were restaurant reviewers, supper club holders, recipe developers and some had even been blogging for years and years. I was slightly worried I would be the amateur of the group and everyone else would be pros with awesome ninja knife skills and evolved taste buds. But the evening was really laid back and consisted of demos from our enthusiastic chefs and an opportunity to get stuck in ourselves.

Located just a quick two minute walk away from Old Street station, the school was really easy to find. Google map may also have had something to do with it. My first impressions? As the name would suggest, the school was of course underground, and the fun and quirky industrial kitchen interior is definitely a winner! I'm tempted to paint my dining chairs red.

Upon arrival we were greeted with drinks and nibbles, and dressed ourselves in aprons with #currysinthekitchen printed across the top. We were encouraged (and even rewarded) to photograph and share on our social networks. For once I got to photograph my food without impatient sighs and complaints - oh the freedom!

Before we were let loose in the kitchen, I helped myself to an orange and carrot juice aka 'starter in a glass'. I'm not a fan of carrots but with the tang of the orange cutting through it, it actually wasn't too bad. I didn't dare try the celery though. Also don't even get me started on the risotto balls - I wanted to quietly slip them all in my handbag and slowly walk away.

The menu for the night consisted of a curry and a pear souffle. Now, being of South Asian descent, curry is a staple in our household. Some of my friends laughed at the idea of me creating something I've eaten more often than I can count, and even I had to admit it was pretty funny. I get so bored of curry that you'll rarely see me order one when eating out. But, would you believe I've never actually made a curry before? My Mum makes the best curries with the perfect blend of spices and packed with lots of flavour, and so as you can imagine the bar was set quite high!

In the excitment of it all I may have made a bit of a mess of my curry with a spill, or two, woops. But what I did manage to keep in the pan smelled incredible. With ginger and chillies blended with a mixture of mustard, fenugreek, coriander and cumin seeds, and drowned in organic tomatoes and coconut milk, how could it possibly not?! 

Next was the souffle station. I've never made a souffle before - in fact I've avoided it on purpose because errr they're scary and so so hard to make! Atleast that's what I thought, but the chef made it look so easy.

Our first task was to separate the eggs. Now I'll admit, I don't find this the easiest of tasks, and usually opt for my handy little egg separator thingy. But, with 10 others watching and snapping photographs, it was a little more daunting. Umm, talk about pressure! Because let's face it, none of us wanted to be the one who got it wrong ... After letting a couple of other bloggers go first, I stepped up to the plate and boy did I feel a winner when I managed to do it without letting any yolk, or any shells for that matter, escape. *Dusts off shoulder*.

After whipping the egg whites with sugar and folding in the pear puree in a beautiful little Kenwood mixer (I need to get me one of those), we then took turns to scoop the mixture into ramekins ready to be baked. As our dishes cooked, the room was a hub of activity and conversation flowed easy. It was nice to finally put faces to blogs and twitter names. Although you had to be careful not to come off so stalker-y ... which isn't easy to do when a large part of your life is online! It was also nice to add a few more blogs to my feed and meet so many other lovely foodies.

Eventually it was time to take to our seats and enjoy the fruits of our labour. We felt torn between mood lighting and lighting for photographs. Yeah, blogger problems. I don't think I've ever sat at a table before where I wasn't the only one photographing my food!

I was eager to try the curry and wondered whether it would live up to my high expectations. And you know what? I think my Mum would have been proud! It wasn't as hot as I usually like it, but I was pleasantly surprised with the results. It's a shame I finished the whole thing because it sure would have been nice to return with proof. I guess I'll just have to recreate it at home. And, if you'd like to try it for yourself then see below for the full recipe!

And the souffle? Just look at the rise! It tasted a little 'eggy' and I couldn't really notice the pear, but boy did it melt in your mouth and feel lighter than air. And now that I've gotten over my fear of souffle I think I'll try my hand at another.

After prize giving of some shiny new Currys toys to a few well deserved winners, it was sadly time to call it a night.  I had such a fab time making new friends, learning new tricks and eating some delicious food. I'd like to thank Currys and the school for inviting me, and to all the wonderful organisers and bloggers who made it such an awesome night!

The school is great for parties, and even corporate events, and I would definitely encourage it to anyone looking for something fun and delicious to do. If you'd like to learn more about our night just search #currysinthekitchen or even check out Currys blog post!

Chicken Curry

THE RECIPE: Serves 4.

2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp tumeric
2 cardamom pods
3 onions
2 cloves garlic
3 chillies
2 thumb size pieces of root ginger
1 tsp chilli powder
1.5lb diced chicken
3 tins chopped organic tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk

1. Dry fry all the seeds and pods until toasted. Place in a pestle together, and pound until a powder is formed, and set aside.

2. Fry the chicken until coloured on all sides, and set aside.

3. Gently fry the onions in a pan. When golden add the ginger, garlic and chillies. Now add the curry powder, then the chicken, and the tomatoes. Cook for 30 minutes on the hob, or in the oven at 200C/400F/Gas mark 6.

4. Whilst you want a thick consistency, don't let the curry dry out too much; consequently add the coconut milk during the last 10 minutes in order to achieve your desired consistency and flavour. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

{RECIPE}: Windowpane Cookies from Sprinkles!

Earlier this week I shared my attempt at this recipe from Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers. Besides the candy crushing being a huge pain in the butt (entirely through my own fault, and not Jackie's recipe), and burning my hand (again, all me) the recipe was easy to follow and produced some really beautiful cookies. Click here to see how I got on.

They're great to give as gifts, and you can play around with cutter shapes and candy colours to suit any kind of holiday and occasion. I'm planning to make these for Eid!

You'll need a batch of sugar cookie dough to make these. You can find the recipe for mine by clicking here.

Also from Sprinkles!: Fairybread Sandwiches.

Windowpane Cookies

THE RECIPE: Makes about 45 cookies.

Thanks to colorful translucent candies, these cookies look like gorgeously intricate cut-glass windowpanes. Use candies in festive hues and two sizes of cookie cutters to create these special treats. Think red hearts for Valentine's Day, pastel flowers for spring, and emeral evergreens for the winter holidays.

1 batch sugar cookie dough
About 1/2 cup various sanding sugars,* sorted by colour

*Clear hard candies like Jolly Ranchers can be used instead. Just sort them by colour into ziptop plastic bags, seal, and use a hammer to crush the candies into bits. 

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line several baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut out shapes using the large cookie cutter and then use the smaller cutter to remove "windows" from those shapes. Arrange cookies about 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets.

3. Place candies in plastic zip-top bags (one color per bag), seal bags, and crush them with a rolling pin or metal mallet. Fill cookie windows with crushed candy pieces.

4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges start to turn golden, rotating sheets halfway through baking time. Place sheets on wire racks to cool for a few minutes before gently removing cookies with a metal spatula. Let cookies cool completely on wire racks. Store between layers of wax paper to prevent sticking in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Edible ornaments: It's fun to make Windowpane Cookies (and other festive rolled cookies, like Gingerbreads) into holiday ornaments. Use a bamboo skewer or chopstick to poke a hole about 3/4 inch from the top of each cookie before baking. Once baked cookies have cooled, thread 10 inches of ribbon or colorful bakers' twin through each hole and tie in a bow. 


  Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers is published by Quirk Books. © Quirk Books.

*Disclosure: The recipe has been posted with permission.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Windowpane Cookies from Sprinkles!

I burned my hand making these. Note to self: always wear oven mitts! You would think after all this time remembering something as essential as mitts would have become second nature. Nu uh. But the burns weren't extensive and I was quick to stick my hand under running cold water. They've been healing quite nicely, and it no longer hurts to write, although I'm slightly worried they'll scar. 

I have something of a hand fetish. If I were to ask you what the first thing you noticed about someone was, you would probably say something like their green eyes, or their smile, or something equally acceptable. Me? I like hands. I think they give away just as much, if not more, than our eyes and smiles.

I don't particularly like my own hands - I have a tendancy to acquire unexplained cuts and bruises. And now burns. It's other peoples hands I like ... Hey, it could be worse - I could have said knees. If last weeks post hadn't made you think me weird, then this one probably just did the trick, right? I think my friends cringe when they read me writing stuff like this. Sorry, guys.

These windowpane cookies come from Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers. The cookies themselves were easy to make and just so pretty! You can't tell well from the photograph, but if you hold them up against the light they really do look like stained glass windows.

But, minus the burns, the candy was a real pain in the butt to crush. Jackie recommends Jolly Ranchers, but I don't think we can't get them here and these were the only clear candies I could find. I also couldn't find our hammer, but I figured my rolling pin would be just as effective. Wrong. Despite repeated bashing, my rolling pin barely scratched the surface. Seriously, what are these candies made of?!

I considered calling it quits, but I had already worked up a sweat and lost an hour of my morning. It stopped being therapeutic like fifty minutes ago. But I was going to do this. This was happening. I was comitted.

I decided to blast the candy in the microwave for a few seconds to soften them up - which produced uneven results. Some of them still remained quite hard (whaaaa?), while others had turned liquid and were bubbling. And, you know what I did? I stuck my finger in it. Big mistake.Yeah, I wasn't feeling particularly smart that day.

Basically, the lesson you should all take away is this: Don't microwave candy, just buy ones that are easy to crush. Also, have a toolbox nearby. Preferably one with a chainsaw or machete.

I did manage to get some crushed candy, so my efforts weren't completely in vain. In addition to seperating according to colour, I had to go the extra mile and seperate according to size. Now that's commitment. But, it's a good thing I separated them according to colour first before crushing to make it easier - see, I do know what I'm doing!

After the candy had been crushed - let's not go into how long it actually took me - the rest of the recipe was relatively straightforward and easy. And I was rewarded with a batch of some of the prettiest cookies I ever did see.

I really love how versatile this idea is - you can use colours and cutter shapes to suit any kind of holiday or occasion, and they'll make great gifts. Of course if I make these again, I'll be sure to trade that rolling pin for a hammer. If you'd like to make these too then check back later this week for the full recipe!

EDIT: For full recipe, click here!
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