Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Secret to the World's BEST Chocolate Chip Cookie

Whilst trawling the web one day I came across a very interesting article written by The New York Times titled 'Perfection? Hint: It's warm and Has a Secret' . The article discusses Mrs Ruth Graves Wakefield who for those of you who may not know, invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie in the 1930's.

The article is definitely worth the read and it highlights the two main secrets to producing the ultimate chocolate chip cookie:

1. The cookie dough must be allowed to rest (refrigerated) for at least 36 hours before it is baked; and

2. The cookies must be LARGE - this allows for three distinct textures - The crunchy outer edge, the soft centre and the ring between them where the two flavours and textures blend.


The article also discussed the use of quality dark chocolate ( no less than 60%) and the addition of salt - both in the dough and sprinkled on top. According to American baker and author Dorie Greenspan "You can't underestimate the importance of salt in sweet baked goods". 

This is SO true! You only have to think of the peanut butter and chocolate obsession or the salted caramel and chocolate phenomenon to know she is right.

The article concludes with the 'Ultimate' tried and tested recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies. I have included the exact recipe for you below.

I made a batch and everyone loved them. Some didn't appreciate the sprinkling of salt on top but I really think it added a greater depth of flavour.

Enjoy x

2 cups minus 2 tbs cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content ( I used 70% couverture chocolate chips I bought at Thomas Dux Grocer and one block of Nestle Plaistowe dark purely for chunk factor)
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. 

Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 (176C) degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop small balls of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie.

Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

The 36-72 hr resting time produces a dark richer style of cookie

Gooey Chocolatey Goodness

Makes : 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies. Or a heap of smaller ones!!!!

Disclaimer: Please do not hold me responsible if your cookie dough doesn't make it from the bowl to the oven. As I almost forgot to mention that this is the best tasting cookie dough ever! 

Enjoy xx

Monday, April 25, 2011

ANZAC Heart Biscuits - 25th April 2011

As a child I can remember spending ANZAC Day at my Nan's place each year. My Grandfather having served Australia in World War II, spent time in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. He would always march in the parade and we would watch it in person or usually on television, eagerly waiting for his division to come up. One of the things I can remember very fondly was the smell of ANZAC biscuits in the oven. Every year my Nan usually makes a batch and then tries to discredit them by saying they are too soft or too crunchy. They are always good regardless, and never warrant her criticism. Easy to make,the ingredients are usually kitchen staples, especially for those of my Nan's era.

The biscuits themselves are inextricably linked to Australian culture and heritage. Ask anyone what Australia's biscuit is and they'll tell you it's the ANZAC. Originally the biscuits were made during WWI by the wives and mothers of those at war and were packaged up and sent to them in sealed tins. The biscuits therefore serve as a reminder of  WWI, Gallipoli and the ANZAC spirit. These days the biscuits have become synonymous with ANZAC Day, and a reminder of Australian's who serve in war.

This year I decided to make a batch of the biscuits myself to take over to Nan's place, more than likely she will have made a batch too. I searched the Internet and found several recipes,the recipe is pretty standard anyway.

I decided to make my biscuits into heart shapes to symbolise the love and respect I have for my late Grandfather and those Australian's who have or are currently serving in war.

I chose Donna Hay's recipe mainly because it called for a little less sugar and slightly more golden syrup than the other recipes out there:

From Donna Hay Magazine, Autumn 2001

ANZAC Biscuits

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons golden syrup
125g butter ( I used regular salted butter)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbls hot water

Preheat oven to 160C. Mix the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl.

Place the golden syrup and butter in a saucepan over a low heat and melt. Mix the bicarb with  the water and add to the butter mixture.

Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Spoon tablespoons of the mixture onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper and flatten to about 7cm in diameter, leaving space between each for spreading.

Mix well until well combined
Here I placed some of the mixture on to a board and using a cake smoother flattened it out to about 1/4 inch thick. I then used a heart shape cutter and cut out my biscuits. I then placed them on a non-stick baking tray and flattened them slightly before baking.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until a deep brown. Cool on baking trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 28 biscuits.
Lest we forget

I hope you get to enjoy some of these biscuits this ANZAC day. X

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter - Cookbook Challenge # 8 - Layered Easter Chocolate Cake

Happy Easter Everyone!

I thought this was the perfect Cookbook Challenge to try out this chocolate layer cake recipe. The theme for this challenge was eggs and as you can see it is covered in gorgeous chocolate Easter eggs. In addition, it has 8 eggs in it as I had to double the recipe to get the 4-layer height which is depicted in the photograph in the magazine. Despite the extra work, I ended up only using 3 of the layers as it started to get too high and I had visions of the leaning tour of cake crashing down.

The recipe for this challenge comes from the April edition of Australian GoodFood Magazine and as you can see the cake features on the cover.

The great thing I found with this recipe is that you literally throw all the ingredients into a food processor, blend then bake. SUPER Easy!

Recipe notes:

The Good: Super easy to make, the buttercream was delish and using the 70% dark chocolate for the ganache balanced the sweetness of the cake and the buttercream.

The Bad: Unfortunately the cake was a touch on the dry side. Not sure if it was my oven, the recipe or a combination of both *sigh*.

However, in the spirit of Easter, fun and cake I would urge you all to watch this comedy skit about cake by British Comedian Paul Foot : it is hilarious! Let me know what you think of it below.

Layered Easter Chocolate Cake 
from Australian GoodFood magazine ( April 2011)
Serves 12

1 1/2 cups (225g) SR Flour
1 1/4 cups (275g) firmly packed brown sugar
250g unsalted butter, softened
75g dark chocolate, melted ( I used Nestle Plaistowe 70%)
1/2 cup (50g) cocoa
1 1/2 baking powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
16 mini Easter eggs, to decorate

ganache icing
1/3 cup (80ml) cream
160g dark chocolate, chopped

buttercream filling
375g unsalted butter, softened
500g pure icing sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) milk

1. Preheat oven to 180'C or 160'C fan forced and line two 20cm cake pans

2. Place flour, sugar, butter, chocolate, cocoa, baking powder, vanilla, eggs and 2 tbsp water in a food processor and process until smooth.

3. Spoon into pans, level surfaces and bake for 35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand for 5 minutes, then turn our onto a wire rack to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, to make icing heat cream in a small pan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir through chocolate and then whisk until smooth. Let stand for 20 minutes until it thicken slightly.

5. To make buttercream filling using an elecric mixer to beat butter until as white as possible. Alternately beat in sugar and milk, starting and finishing with a little sugar.

6. Using a bread knife, split each cake into two laters. Sandwich together all four layers with buttercream. Top with ganache and decorate with Easter eggs. 


Make sure you watch the Youtube link above and let me know if you found it funny.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Foodie's Heaven - Les Halles de Lyon, France

Pete! Pete! LOOK! They have foie gras macarons!!!!!!!! 

I squeal in delight! and know instantly that we are in foodie heaven!

Les Halles de Lyon is an indoor food market in Lyon, France.

Lyon is situated in East-Central France, about 390km from or a 2 hour train ride from Paris. It is best known for it’s ‘dedication’ to food and wine and is said to be the gastronomic capital of the world.

After checking in at Evasion Loft ( which was amazing by the way!) our gracious hosts Therese and Olivier gave us maps of Lyon, suggested restaurants, and after discovering we were crazy foodies told us about Les Halles de Lyon.

After settling in to our room we set off bound for Les Halles. It was about a 15 minute walk from our accommodation which we didn’t mind, we figured we would need it if Les Halles was all we were hoping for.

With over  59 food traders, Les Halles is said to be the place where the top chefs in Lyon go to stock up on top quality ingredients.

We start off together wandering down each isle mesmerised by the variety and quality foods surrounding us.  There is cheese, bread, pastries, oyster bars, jamon bars, salads, meat, snails, macarons, fresh fruit and vegetables, chocolates, and everything else in between. 

Nothing about this place is mediocre.

 We walk past a few oyster bars and notice several food traders solely dedicated to the sale of Jamon. Pete is besotted! After having a good look at everything , we decide to stock up on a few items to snack on later. We will need sweet and savoury and decide to surprise each other by splitting up to purchase these items. Pete will buy savoury and I’ll take care of the sweet. We agree to meet back at the front of the market in 30 minutes.

Wandering around you can’t help but feel the buzz! Everyone is there for the same reason – for the love of food! So much fun!

Join me for a visual feast down the isles of Les Halles de Lyon....
Perhaps we could start with some cheese?
Now for a mushroom or foie gras macaron
Or would you prefer the real stuff?
Escargot may be more your style?
Lets move on to a something a little more substantial. Seafood anyone?
Alternatively, you could have some chicken and potato rosti?
How about a few sides? Mac & Cheese, French style, Oh Yeah!
How are you going? 

Feeling full yet? I'm actually feeling like something sweet myself.

Shall we start with a little fruit?
A piece of cake?
Or perhaps a slice of praline tart?
Maybe a chunk of Valhrona chocolate for later?
A cheese plate might be nice? Where's the wine?
A cake to take with?
Or do you fancy a piece of Turkish delight heaven?
A box (or 3) of Richart chocolates to take home?

How should we pay for all of this?
Maybe we can use one of these chocolate credit cards
I head back out to the meeting place armed with bags. With me I have a small praline tart, some nut pastries, a few boxes of Richart chocolates to bring back to Australia, some olive oil, a few blocks of Valhrona and Weiss chocolate, some figs and a few salads. I got carried away. I know I have deviated slightly from the sweet brief but Pfft! who cares! 

Pete is 15 minutes late and when he finally shows up it becomes clear why. He too is armed with bags of stuff! He managed to pick up some crusty bread, several cheeses, some french sausage (saucisson) and tells me he managed to make a stop at one of the Jamon stalls, Yay!

Jamon, Jamon, Jamon!

We reluctantly drag ourselves out onto the street, realising if we don't leave now we won't get to see the rest of Lyon!

We then drop off our purchases back at the Loft and head out to hire some bikes and cycle around Lyon.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, we went back to Les Halles de Lyon the very next day!

Les Halles de Lyon
102 Cours Lafayette
Lyon (Rhône) France
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun
7am-7pm (closed between 12-3pm)

Evasion Loft
21 Cours Vitton,
69006 Lyon, France

Monday, April 4, 2011

Middle Eastern Orange and Almond Mini Cakes & New Tetley for Soy Tea

 For this challenge I decided to host an afternoon tea. You see, it was going to be a challenge for two reasons: one because I had to find something to make for the ‘Celebration’ theme and two because I had new Tetley for Soy tea to sample and introduce to my friends and family.

Searching through my ‘Wheat & Gluten Free’ cookbook  I chose the Middle Eastern Orange & Almond cake recipe as it suited the ‘Celebration’ theme. It suited it because it was perfect for the afternoon tea which was a celebration of sorts and it is representative of the wonderful fusion of food and culture that we share here in Australia.

I decided to host the afternoon tea at my Nan’s place. She has some gorgeous tea cups and pots that would be perfect for a great cup of tea.

There were 4 of us and we had the perfect selection of sweets to go with our tea. There was my Nan’s famous date and sesame slice (Yum!), mini custard filled yoyos and profiteroles and the mini orange and almond syrup cakes.

New Tetley for Soy tea was the perfect accompaniment. Tetley for Soy uses 'high grown' Kenyan tea, which gives it a very fresh flavour which is not bitter at all. This blend acts to neutralise the unusual taste that soy milk can often give regular tea. And it does this really well!        
I absolutely love soy  milk! I love its creamy, slightly nutty flavour. On its own I prefer it over regular milk, and unlike regular milk it has less saturated fat and no cholesterol. It is also a great source of lecithin and vitamin E.  

The tea challenge involved trying regular Tetley tea with soy milk and then trying the specially blended for soy milk tea with soy milk.

I prepared two separate pots of tea. One contained the regular Tetley tea ( white teapot) and the other contained Tetley for Soy tea ( green teapot). We then all tried the first cup and sampled a few of the delights on the table. The green tea pot belonged to my great grandmother and it is simply gorgeous! It comes with a matching green milk jug and I filled this with the soy milk.

Next,we tried the specially blended tea with the soy milk.

There is a real difference in taste and everyone noticed it. The soy milk overpowered the regular Tetley tea whereas it complemented the blended tea really well.

For those of you who are soy regulars or you will absolutely love this tea! Finally a tea suited to soy milk – what’s not to celebrate here!? Tetley for Soy tea is available at most supermarkets.

I now bring your attention to the delicious Middle Eastern Orange & Almond mini cakes with orange syrup. It's from the Wheat & Gluten Free cookbook put out by The Coeliac Society of Australia and is written by Jody Vassallo. It is one of my favourite cookbooks because it is full of beautiful recipes some of which include sticky date polenta puddings, polenta bolognaise bake,dense fruit bread and rhubarb crumble. Yum!

I have included the original recipe which makes one cake. If you prefer to make it into little cakes as I did, place the mixture into muffin cases in a muffin tin (12 capacity) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

The ingredients listed below makes 12-15 mini cakes or 1 large cake.

I also added 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water to the syrup and I found this really added extra deliciousness to the syrup. If you have some at home, try it!

Middle Eastern Orange & Almond Cake


2 large navel oranges
6 eggs
2 ½ cups (250g/8oz) almond meal
1/1/2 cups (375g/12oz) caster sugar
½ cup ( 125ml/4 fl oz) water
Zest of 1 orange

Wash the oranges and scrub the skins. Put the whole oranges into a pan, cover with waterand boil for 2 hours or until very soft. Drain and leave to cool.

          Preheat oven to 190’C (375’F/Gas 5). Line a 22cm (9in) spring form tin with baking paper.

       Put the cooled oranges into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
     Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the pureed oranges, almond meal and 1 cup (250g/8oz) of the sugar and mix to combine. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1 ¼ hours or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.


      Put the remaining sugar into a pan with the water and orange zest and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook over high heat for 5 minutes or until syrupy

Whilst still hot spoon a little of the hot syrup of the cakes - it helps make them really moist

Serve wedges of the cake with the syrup drizzled over the top.
Serves 8 ( 0r 12-15 if making mini cakes)

Don't you just love this gorgeous cake plate? - it too belonged to my great grandmother
Tell me, do you have a favourite wheat or gluten free recipe?

This was the tester I served to Pete. Served with extra syrup & a little mascarpone.