Monday, 25 January 2010

Hummingbird Double Chocolate Cookies

All this snow has done nothing for my waistline. It inspires in me the desire to trudge about in my wellies (a Christmas gift which have become invaluable during the last few weeks, plus, you know, they're really pretty!!), making snow angels and snowmen, kidding myself that this is all 'exercise' then returning to the comfort and cosiness of home to whip a batch of treats, which obviously I deserve as a reward for all my hard work... and what better treat is there than a huge hit of warm, gooey, rich, soft cookies? And to make them even more irresistible, they are an absolute doddle to make. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, stopping you from making these...which brings me back to the old waistline issue. Hey ho, one has to prioritise, and I don't know about you but I prioritise chocolate.

I have searched high and low for the best double chocolate chip cookies. I've bought many recipe books dedicated to cookies, I've trawled the internet, I've asked friends and family...and now, I can put my hand on heart and tell you that I have found the best recipe, and it has been sitting in front of me for months! Once again, I turned to my relatively new friend, the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. (I think I might be addicted to this book. It seems all I ever make are delicious morsels from it, Cupcakes, Brownies, Cakes... but I promise to find recipes elsewhere from now on, I'm going cold turkey.)

So, one particularly cold weekend after finding untouched snow in Fulham Palace Gardens and promptly making lots of footprints and smiley faces in it, I shook the snow of my wellies and made my way into the kitchen to prepare my reward for all that virtuous exercise. First, melt lots of dark chocolate and butter over a pan of simmering water (I know, it's a good start isn't it?!), and when it's cooled beat in a couple of eggs. Then add flour and baking powder and a pinch of salted if using unsalted butter, and mix until smooth and glossy and utterly irresistible. Then throw in some generously sized chunks of chocolate, any type you want, I used dark again. I'm a firm believer that if you're making chocolate chip cookies, they should really be chocolate chunk cookies, and the chunks should be big so that when you take a bite you get a big old mouthful of gooey chocolatey goodness! Then place in dollops on a greased baking tray.

Then lick the bowl clean (I guarantee you won't be able to resist) while the cookies bake for about 10-15 minutes until they begin to crack on the top. As usual with cookies, I took them out a little early because they continue to cook while they cool, and besides, I love it when they're still squidgy inside.

there really is nothing left to do but to devour greedily while warm with a cup of tea and watch the snow fall outside. Alternatively, if you are lacking the snow, just tuck in! These keep really well in an air tight container too, ours lasted a week until they were all gone - yes, a whole week! - and they were just as squidgy at the end of that week. So I thoroughly recommend these delicious cookies; they're easy and quick to make, completely irresistible, and as is tradition with most Hummingbird recipes, absolutely jam packed with chocolate!!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Perfect Pecan Pie.

I disappeared of the face of the earth again. I honestly don't know where the last month went, I could have sworn my last post was just the other day, but it turns out it was over a month ago!! Shocking.
Anyway, I'm back again with some delicious treats that I've cooked up in the last week or so, and first off is a Pecan Pie that will just make your New Year virtue melt's one of the yummiest things I've ever made, and I didn't even know I liked Pecan Pie!! Once again, it's a recipe from the Hummingbird cookbook, a firm favourite with me and those around me!!

I was given some maple syrup brought all the way from Canada from my sister not long ago, and wanted to use it for something really special, so when I came across this recipe after a flick through my growing collection of recipe books, I knew this was the perfect time to open it. The recipe tells you to use golden syrup, but I think the maple syrup gave it a really lovely subtle taste, and probabaly a slightly lighter filling, which was mouth-wateringly moist, buttery and sweet. God bless those Canadians and their syrup!

I have to admit that I wasn't overly impressed by the pastry recipe from the Hummingbird book, it needed much more liquid than the recipe specified, and was rather hard to work with. Neverthless, it did the job and was tasty enough with the filling. It was a plain pastry recipe without any sugar, which I think was probably for the best - any more sugar on top of the maple syrup and sugar in the filling would have been overkill.

So on to the filling, let me just list the ingredients for you: maple syrup, sugar, butter, eggs, pecans...need I say more? When has a recipe consisting of those ingredients ever been something other than deliciously naughty, and completely irresistible?! Melt everything down, pour on to the eggs, beat, then add the crushed pecans, and pour the silky mixture into the pastry case. Then lay on top pecan halves to decorate, put in the oven, and try to distract yourself for 40 minutes untill the pie has browned on top, with a slight wobble in the middle.

The mixture rises while it cooks, creating some cracks on the top, but I personally love how it looks with the caramelised top giving away sneaky peaks of the golden centre, just begging me to cut a slice an tuck in! Eventually, as it cools, the pie sinks back to its original height, and the cracks disappear, keeping the secret inside until you dive in.

This is hardly a good start to the traditional January detox, but it's worth it. Perfect for those cold evenings, or with a cup of tea for a decadent afternoon snack, I can't think of a more satisfying sweet fix. This is definitely a recipe I'll be using again, surprisingly easy and completely hassle free, it ticks all the boxes, and of course, as seems to be tradition with the Hummingbird book, completely extravagant and wicked. Enjoy!