Food, Recipes

Coconut + Cranberry Cookies

It’s been aaaaages since I last shared any of my recipes with you, so I thought it’s about time I do just that. Last night I baked some cookies and just on the off chance that they may turn out delicious, I did my best to document the process. It wasn’t without a few bumps along the road though. The recipe that I used as a base to change to suit my taste had all the measurements in cups, but I’ve never been very good at following said measurements, so I wanted to convert it to grams. Which I did. With some ingredients… And completely forgot to weigh the others. Sooooo yeah. I did manage to get all the measurements in grams by the end, and even though it was quite a lot of hassle, I’d say it was worth it. I have a recipe! Woohooo!

Coconut + Cranberry Cookies

  • 100g of coconut oil (it should be soft, but ideally not quite liquid)
  • 100g of brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g of flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 100-150g of coconut flakes (depending on how coconutty you want it)
  • 50g of dried cranberries

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Step 1 – Mix the soft coconut oil and sugar together. It shouldn’t take any real effort to be honest. It should feel like they’re long lost lovers who have just been reunited, know that they belong together and then they merge to form a blob. Hmm, I need to work on this particular story I think. In any case, in a perfect world the ‘blob’ should be nice and smooth but as I’m not always the brightest of bakers, my sugar had quite a few lumps in it and I couldn’t really get to all of them so I decided to just go with it. It worked out in the end so I wouldn’t worry too much about lumps.

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Step 2 – Add the egg and vanilla and just keep on mixing. You can see my mixture still has quite a few sugar lumps here but hey, there are worse things in the world so once again I just let it go (although I did manage to crush a few more of them at this stage – as they were more visible, it was a bit easier).

Step 3 – Add the flour and baking powder and just keep mixing, just keep mixing, mixing, mixing. Also, you’re ‘supposed to’ add the flour gradually, but I just went for it and added all of it in one go. Now, there’s one occasion where I’d advise against adding it all at once, and that’s if you want your cookies to be chewier. If you add the flour gradually you can stop if it looks too dry for your liking. If you’re a bit of a devil-may-care baker like me, then at this stage it may start to feel a bit too dry, but it’s not. It’ll all work out in the end, I promise.

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Step 4 – Add the coconut and cranberries. You probably already know what else to do at this stage without me having to repeat it. To be on the safe side though – just keep mixing, mixing, mixing. It’ll look and feel drier still, but it’s fine. You’ll soon find out how it’s going to work out and what kind of sorcery it is.

Step 4.1 – Chill the mixture for about 30 minutes. Also, turn your oven on. I had mine at gas mark 5/375°f/191°C, but if your oven is not an uncooperative maniac, you could probably get away with it being at gas mark 4/350°f/177°C, to make sure they don’t over bake.

Step 5 – That’s where the magic happens. As the coconut oil in the dough is now chilled and quite solid, the dough will be pretty hard. However, as the melting point for coconut oil is super low, once you’ve spooned out a seemingly crumbly and dry piece of dough, just place it on your hand and quickly press it together to form a flat ball shaped dough blob. The heat from your hands will melt the oil on the surface of the ball and help it stick together. To not let all the hard work of chilling the dough go to waste though, try to make the actual human contact with them as brief as possible and if you do need more time to form the balls, you can just pop them back in the fridge for a bit.

Step 5.1 – Pop them in the oven for 10-15 minutes. This step actually makes me quite frustrated. My oven is really old and I never know what temperature it actually is in different parts of the oven, so my first lot were in for 20 minutes, but second lot only for 15 minutes. So I think with a normal oven it should take around 10-15 minutes to bake them enough that they’re still a bit soft and chewy. It will also depend on how flat you make them. The thinner they are the quicker they bake.

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Step 6 – Enjoy your freshly baked coconut and cranberry cookies!

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Quick steps:

  1. Combine coconut oil and sugar
  2. Add egg and vanilla. Mix until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add flour and baking powder (gradually if looking for chewier result)
  4. Add coconut and cranberries
  5. Chill dough for 30 minutes
  6. Preheat oven to gas mark 4/350°f/177°C (or equivalent, if you have a pain in the neck oven that’s never the right temperature)
  7. Form flat balls from the dough
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes

That was my last night’s impromptu baking extravaganza. My SO said he thinks they’re the best cookies I’ve ever baked. I mean, he says it almost every time I bake/cook something, but I do believe him still. I think I just get better with practice, like we all do. Right? Right?! Well, that’s what I choose to believe anyway.

They’re all gone now by the way. To the last crumb. Omnomnom.

G.

 

Books, Challenges, Food, My life

Out with the old…

I love taking on challenges and what I like even more is having completed all of my challenges and being able to take on new ones. So I decided that for a little bit of a closure, I’ll do a recap of my challenges from 2016 and let you know what I’ve decided to do in 2017.

The Baking Challenge – 2016

In 2014 I made 20 different cheesecakes, 2015 I made 20 different cookies and in 2016 I decided that 20 was a tad much so I decided to do 14 cupcakes/muffins. And I did. It was quite a journey. I made about a quarter of them in January and the last 4 batches on 31st of December. Quite nicely balanced, right? No? Oh well. Unfortunately I often leave things for the last minute which is something I’m going to try and tackle this year. We’ll see how that goes. Anyway, the biggest hits were definitely the breakfast muffins with chorizo, bacon, cheddar etc, closely followed by red velvet + buttercream cupcakes and salted caramel + vanilla frosting ones. Let me know in the comments if you’d like the recipes for any of them and I’ll try to dig them out.

  1. Red velvet + cream cheese
  2. Pina colada filling + coconut frosting
  3. Pineapple upside down cupcakes
  4. White choc + summer berries
  5. Banana + yoghurt
  6. Winter spice cupcakes
  7. Almond muffins
  8. Chocolate chip muffins
  9. Breakfast muffins
  10. Lemon drizzle muffins
  11. Star Wars cupcakes (vanilla cupcakes with vanilla glaze)
  12. Red velvet cupcakes + buttercream
  13. White chocolate + cranberries
  14. Salted caramel filling + vanilla frosting

The Cooking Challenge – 2017

You probably noticed I changed it a bit. I decided that I’ve had enough of baking for a while so I’ll make something else instead. And for that something else I chose soups. I’m going to be making 12 different soups this year. Quite a change from all the baked goodies, but I like change and trying new things. Plus soups are quite good for you, so there you go. I’d love it if you joined in with me on this one and shared your results with me. I’ll try to post as many recipes of my challenge as I can.

The Reading Challenge – 2016

Last year I set my goal to read 30 books which I finished a few days ago. I think I enjoyed this challenge the most as I absolutely love reading. I’ve always been a bookworm and proud of it. I’ll leave a list of all the books I read this year below and I’ll include links to their Goodread pages as well.

My favourite new discoveries were definitely Joe Abercrombie with his First Law books and Zoe Sugg with her Girl Online series. I just realised my two favourites are as different from each other as they could be. Pretty much complete opposites. Another book I really enjoyed was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, it was so emotional and I loved everything about it. I also really liked the last book I read in 2016 – Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell. It was very different from my other books as it was soooooooo spooky but I just couldn’t put it down. I started reading it one night and finished it the next morning.

  1. Cell by Stephen King
  2. The Scorch Trials  (The Maze Runner #2) by James Dashner
  3. The Death Cure (The Maze Runner #3) by James Dashner
  4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  5. The Kill Order (The Maze Runner) by James Dashner
  6. Heat Wave (Nikki Heat #1) by Richard Castle
  7. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (Illustrator)
  8. Angel of Storms (Millennium’s Rule #2) by Trudi Canavan
  9. Wyrd Sisters (Discworld #6) by Terry Pratchett
  10. The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie
  11. Prada and Prejudice (Dating Mr Darcy #1) by Katie Oliver
  12. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  13. Pyramids (Discworld #7) by Terry Pratchett
  14. Before They Are Hanged (The First Law #2) by Joe Abercrombie
  15. Paper Towns by John Green
  16. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  17. Last Argument of Kings (The First Law #3) by Joe Abercrombie
  18. Me Before You (Me Before You #1) by Jojo Moyes
  19. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two (Harry Potter #8)
    by John Tiffany (Adaptation), Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling
  20. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #1)
    by Douglas Adams
  21. Best Served Cold (First Law World #4) by Joe Abercrombie
  22. The Heroes (First Law World #5) by Joe Abercrombie
  23. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #2)
    by Douglas Adams
  24. Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #3)
    by Douglas Adams
  25. Girl Online (Girl Online #1) by Zoe Sugg
  26. Girl Online: On Tour (Girl Online #2) by Zoe Sugg
  27. After You (Me Before You #2) by Jojo Moyes
  28. The Way of Shadows (Night Angel #1) by Brent Weeks
  29. The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1) by Lemony Snicket
  30. Frozen Charlotte (Red Eye) by Alex Bell

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The Reading Challenge – 2017

This year I’m also aiming to read 30 books. I think it’s a good amount as I can read some easier ones, like young adult books which I like and mix them with a bit harder to read ones. I got a lot of books for Xmas (thank you everyone!) so I’ve already got my reading pile ready, just waiting for me to begin. If you’d like to join me, check out the Goodreads reading challenge page on their website here: https://www.goodreads.com/ (and add me as a friend whilst you’re there!)


I did actually also set myself a crafts challenge last year and I will do one this year as well, but I’ll make a separate post about that another time, as I gave a lot of my crafted items away as Xmas presents and forgot to take pictures of them before doing that (very silly of me, I know), so I’m going to have to track them down now.

In any case, I hope my post has perhaps encouraged you to take on some challenges of your own this year to explore new territories and experience new things. If it has I’d love it if you shared it with me 🙂 I’ll leave you with a quote that I like and that has helped me along the way.

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

G.

Food, Recipes

Festive Baking – Gingerbreads

There’s no way around gingerbreads during Christmas time. The smell of freshly baked spicy biscuits wafting through the house is enough to make anyone feel festive. I love baking my own gingerbreads and then decorating them with royal icing. It is a bit more work than my previous recipe, so I’ve divided it into three parts, so it’d be easier to follow. Even though it’s more work than the Xmas tree brownies (which were made from brownie mix so can’t get much simpler than that), I hope you’ll still enjoy making your own gingerbreads from scratch. My favourite part is always the decorating in the end and once again my Mr joined in with me and we had a lot of fun experimenting with different icing techniques.

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Part 1 – Making the dough

What you’ll need (it makes quite a lot, so if you’re not that keen on gingerbreads or don’t have a big Christmas party coming up you can half the ingredients):

  • 250g of golden syrup (or black treacle)
  • 170g of soft dark sugar
  • Spices, there’s a lot of room to play around with what you like and what you have at hand, so go crazy:
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • 1 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
    • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    • Pinch of pepper
    • OR you can use gingerbread spice mix, which is what I did
  • 250g of unsalted butter, melted  
  • Freshly grated orange peel/zest
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 600g of plain white flour, sifted
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • A saucepan
  • A wooden spoon

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Step 1 – Pour the syrup, brown sugar and spices to a saucepan. Stirring frequently (so it won’t stick to the saucepan) heat until the ingredients have fully combined (melted) together and bubbling away. Then take it off the fire and stir in the orange zest.

Step 2 – Let it cool a bit and then add the melted butter and eggs. It’ll look pretty disgusting and reluctant to mix together, but keep at it and eventually you should have a nice dark and spicy mix.

Step 3 – Add the sifted flour bit by bit. It’ll get increasingly harder to mix in, but in the end it should come off the saucepan with no effort. You can add more/less flour as needed.

Step 4 – Split the dough and wrap in cling film. Put it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, but best left there overnight. Mine look a bit like kidneys, but that’s ok.

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Part 2 – Baking

What you’ll need:

  • A rolling pin
  • Cookie cutters
  • Baking parchment
  • A baking tray
  • An oven set to 190C/gas mark 5/375F

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Step 1 – Once the dough has firmed up in the fridge, take it out, break a chunk off it (I prefer rolling it bit by bit, rather than the whole thing at once, as I wouldn’t have the counter space for it), sprinkle some flour on it for easier rolling and roll it out quite thin. It doesn’t even matter too much how thick or thin it is, as long as it’s as even as possible (so it’d bake evenly). Then use the cookie cutters to cut out the shapes from it. You might find that you have to wriggle the cutter around just a little as you’re doing this, to make sure you get a clean cut and your gingerbread will come away without any damage. You can also cut shapes out with a knife if you’re more creative.

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Step 2 – Place the shapes on the baking tray covered with parchment. You don’t need to leave too much space between them as they’re not going to expand much. Stick them in the oven for 6-9 minutes, depending on your oven and the thickness of your gingerbreads.

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Step 3 – It can be a bit tricky to know when they’re done as they don’t change colour like biscuits normally do. I like my gingerbreads quite soft so when the edges start to get a little darker, I know they’re done to my liking. Take them out of the oven to cool. Repeat the steps of part 2 until you’ve either used up all the dough or realised that if you bake any more you’ll have to throw a bake sale or a party. You’re going to have a lot of gingerbreads.

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Part 3 – Icing

What you’ll need:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2+ cups of icing sugar
  • Lemon juice or vanilla extract or almond extract or orange extract or… well, you see where I’m going with this. I used orange extract myself.
  • Food colourings
  • Zip lock bags or anything similar
  • A hand mixer (or a tabletop one. Or even a whisk if you’re brave enough)

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Step 1 – To make royal icing (it hardens when it dries so you can stack the gingerbreads without having to worry about losing any of the icing) whisk your egg whites until they’re frothy. Then start adding icing sugar about half a cup at a time. Now, I’m not going to lie, I had a big disagreement with the first batch of my icing and had to scrap it, which left me with a bit less icing sugar than I would’ve liked but hey, that’s baking for you. Full of exciting twists and surprises (well apparently it’s actually supposed to be all very measured and accurate but I just… I’ll make it work. Usually.)

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Step 2 – The above mentioned disagreement with the first batch of icing I tried to make is also the reason why I don’t have any pictures for this step, but I’ll do my best to describe it. Once you’ve added all the icing sugar followed by lemon juice/vanilla extract/etc and whisked it all about on high speed for a little bit and reached the desired consistency – it should be thick enough to hold but thin enough to pipe (or as in my case… you know, never mind. Everything that could’ve gone wrong with my first attempt, did go wrong) – spread it between different bowls for colouring. Or if you just want white icing, leave it as it is.

Step 3 – Spoon/pour the icing into plastic bags and then whilst pushing the icing to one corner of the bag as best as you can, tie a knot to the bag for as mess free work as possible. Then snip the tiniest little bit off the corner of the bag with scissors. You can always make the hole bigger, but it’d be quite a challenge to make it smaller.

Step 4 – Start decorating! I made a freestyle cut dragon which I then piped with green, yellow and white. Then my Mr joined me and we spent quite a long time just decorating away, creating some really cool patterns and colours. Let the icing set for a bit and enjoy!

Here’s a summary of the steps:

For dough

  1. Mix syrup, brown sugar and spices in a saucepan. Stir and heat until simmering. Take the saucepan off the fire and add orange zest.
  2. Let the mix cool and then add melted butter and eggs. Stir to combine
  3. Add flour a little bit at a time. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Split the dough and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate overnight.

Baking

  1. Roll the dough out to a couple of mm thickness or according to personal preference. Cut out desired shapes.
  2. Bake at 190C/gas mark 5/375F for 6-9 minutes.
  3. Leave to cool.

Icing

  1. Whisk egg whites until frothy. Then add icing sugar a bit at a time.
  2. Once icing sugar is added, keep whisking until desired consistency is reached. Add lemon juice/vanilla extract/etc. (Optional: for colouring divide the icing between different bowls and mix the colouring in)
  3. Spoon icing into piping bags and prepare the bags for icing
  4. Decorate the gingerbreads

Thank you very much for reading if you’ve reached this far. I’d love to know if you’re going to make your own gingerbreads this Christmas so don’t be shy leaving the results in the comments. Me and my Mr had lots of fun making these and we’ll probably be eating them for a while, with the amount we made.

G.

Food, My life, Recipes

Festive Baking – Xmas Tree Brownies

Is that title too long? I want there to be no mistake what this post is about – re-organising wardrobes! Just kidding. Today I finally made the Xmas tree brownies that I’ve been wanting to make for so long now. I used as many shortcuts as I could, to make this easier. Nobody’s got time to be making things from scratch during the festive holiday period. Also, it’s a great recipe to make with kids (or your other half – greetings to my Mr who helped me decorate the trees!). I promise it’s a minimal amount of effort and a lot of fun instead.

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What you’ll need:

  • A box of brownie mix (or a brownie recipe of your choice)
  • What your brownie mix says you need to add. Mine asked for an egg, 75ml of water and 45ml of oil
  • Vanilla flavoured frosting (or you can whip up your own)
  • Green food colouring
  • Sprinkles
  • A mixing bowl and a spatula (or a spoon, whisk, etc)
  • A lightly greased brownie tin (I give you my permission to use a round tin instead of a traditional rectangular one, if like me you don’t have a rectangular one big/small enough)
  • You’ll also need a little bowl where to mix your frosting and food colouring together
  • And an icing bag with a simple nozzle

 

Step 1 – Empty the brownie mix and add the ingredients it’s asking for (egg, water and oil. Doesn’t look too appealing at this point, but just wait until step 2)

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Step 2 – Mix it all together. Now that looks better, doesn’t it? Make sure there’s no lumps by the time you’re finished.

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Step 3 – pour the mixture into lightly greased tins. Or a single tin if you’ve got the right sized one. I actually found the round ones worked really great to make them Xmas tree shaped.

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Step 4 – Bake them according to the instructions on your brownie mix pack. Mine were ready in 25 minutes at gas mark 4. I poked holes in one to test if it was ready. The dimple you see on the second one happened when my oven mitt sank into it when I was trying to fish it out from the back of the oven. Once they’re cooled, cut them into triangles.

Step 5 – Whilst the brownies cool (they need to be completely cooled before you can ice them), prepare the icing. For this put a couple of dollops of icing from the tub to the bowl and add some food colouring. You can gradually build the colour up by adding more colouring, until it looks like you want it to look. Mix well to avoid any clumps of colour.

Step 6 – Turn the edges of the icing bag down (like turning it inside out but stop half way) and spoon the icing in. Once you’ve got a good amount in the bag, fold the edges back up again and twist the bag a little, to make sure all of the icing is in the nozzle end of it and that it won’t escape out of the back when you’re piping. Honestly, trying to explain piping when you’re not too sure what you’re doing yourself is great.

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Step 7 – Start piping! My nozzle was a bit small so the lines came out wavy in some places and lumpy in others. That’s ok though, we’re having fun, not looking for perfection in piping. You’ll get better it with practice (mind you, mine seemed to get worse as I kept going but hey, I enjoyed doing it)

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Step 8 – Add the sprinkles straight after icing, before it gets to dry. Go nuts. That’s the best part so enjoy it!

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Step 9 – Repeat with the other trees. Wheeeee!

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Step 10 – Tuck in!

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Here’s a quick summary of the steps:

  1. Add the liquid ingredients to your brownie mix
  2. Mix it until there’s no lumps
  3. Pour the mix into slightly greased tin(s)
  4. Bake according to the instructions on your brownie mix. Once baked and cooled, cut into triangles
  5. Prepare the icing by mixing it with food colouring. Add more colouring to reach desired intensity.
  6. Spoon the icing into the icing bag
  7. Pipe one brownie with side to side movements
  8. Whilst icing is still wet, add sprinkles
  9. Repeat with the other brownie slices
  10. Enjoy 🙂

I had a lot of fun making these and even my Mr joined in with the  decorating and it looked like he was enjoying it, too.

G.