Peanut butter and chocolate cookies

I’m sorry, but this is one of those annoying posts where I tell you about something delicious I made and then don’t share the recipe. You can take the librarian out of the library, but you can’t convince her to be less anxious about copyright! I’ll share a link to the cookbook on WorldCat, though, so you can quickly find it at your local library.

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These cookies are AMAZING. I use caps lock very sparingly, so you know I really mean it! It had been a while since I’ve been inspired to bake, but when R gave me the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for our anniversary, I couldn’t wait to make something from it. As with the website, there was a lot to choose from. But a friend had recently given me a jar of peanut butter (which is less random when you know that I love peanut butter) and the idea of peanut butter cookies was already in my head, so these won. They were just the right texture, a nice mixture of crunchy on the outside & soft/light on the inside.

P1080787I was nervous about the idea of making sandwich cookies, to be honest. Chocolate ganache can also be a little tricky to get right. But the recipe was very straightforward and easy to follow, so they turned out just fine. I think what made it work was the fact that I was cutting the cookies from a frozen log of cookie dough – genius. I don’t know why I’ve never done it before. I suppose uniformity in baking/cooking has never been that important to me, but this definitely helped with that aspect (though I stupidly made the two logs different sizes, so they weren’t all identical).P1080786

I brought these cookies to both workplaces, and they went down an absolute storm at both. The one thing I would say about these cookies, though, is that while everyone loved them, I found them a tiny bit salty and also didn’t think they tasted like peanut butter. I think this is down to me thinking of peanut butter as a sweet thing, though, whereas British peanut butter isn’t particularly sweet. If you use British or natural peanut butter, I would suggest you might want to leave the pinch of salt out of this recipe. I’m going to try that next time & see if it makes a difference.

Find out if your local library has the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook here.

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Happy baking! 🙂

Cooking with leeks

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As you saw in my last update about the allotment, the only food left there is leeks. Lots of leeks. 3 rows of leeks, all for R & me, because the person I share the allotment with is currently on a restricted diet that doesn’t include leeks. So guess what we’re eating at the moment?

It’s okay, though, because I love them. You might remember my first ever meal with our new stove was macaroni & cheese with leeks. As you’d expect, leeks are perfect additions to cozy, warm, winter food. That’s the beauty of seasonal eating! They are a great substitute for onions or garlic (more onions, but they do give a nice taste when you’re running short on garlic, too); they have a sweet flavour which complements a lot of lighter ingredients; and they smell amazing when you saute them.

I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve been cooking, and a few of the recipes I’ve encountered while looking for interesting things to do with this overabundance of leeks. I’m not really one for following recipes wholeheartedly, so I never really feel like I can share my own recipes. Perhaps someday I’ll get the confidence to do it, but for now, I’ve tried to share links to recipes similar to my own food. Anyway, without further ado:

What I’ve cooked:

  • Leek & potato soup (my own recipe – sauteing the leeks in my cast iron casserole dish, adding enough stock to boil potatoes, boiling said potatoes, and pureeing it all up. Yup, I’m lazy.)
  • Leek, parsnip, & potato soup (same as above, but with added parsnips. Proper recipe here.)
  • Sauteed leeks with roast chicken
  • Cannelini bean & pearl barley crumble (adapted from recipe in The Kitchen Revolution)
  • Smoked haddock & parsnip fishcakes (recipe from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook)
  • Pork, leek & potato tart
  • Leek & white bean galette
  • Leek & cheese quiche

What I’d like to try:

How about you? Any favorite recipes for leeks? I’d love to hear them.

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Vegan Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake)

p1060688Pflaumenkuchen is a traditional German coffee cake. I don’t mean that it contains coffee, but that, like most German cakes, it is a fairly dry cake and meant to be eaten with coffee (or tea, if you’re a non-coffee drinker like me). My mom made this at least once every summer. The important thing to know is that the dough is just a standard sweet yeast cake base & can be used for any soft fruit – we often made a version of this with peaches. As you can see, I added some blackberries to the version I made. It’s also important to know that, though it is a cake because it’s sweet, it is really a dough, so if you make it, don’t expect it to look like a traditional English or American cake batter. It’s much more like bread dough.

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It’s not normally vegan, but as the person I share the allotment with is now vegan, I thought I’d give it a go, and it turned out pretty well. The original recipe is in German if you’re interested. Google also turns up a fair few English language results for non-vegan Pflaumenkuchen if my recipe is too relaxed for you. I made one significant change to the recipe (apart from ingredients), and that is that the original makes the recipe in 2 steps, whereas I just made it in one.

I’m afraid I also haven’t been very precise in the liquid measurements. This is because I forgot to measure the extra water I added, sorry! You see, the original recipe uses 250 mL of milk, but I failed to take into account that soy milk is a little thicker than regular milk, so I had to add a small amount of extra water to make up for this as the dough was too dry. You will want to keep an eye on the dough throughout so you can do the same. When I say too dry, I mean it wasn’t coming together as a dough, that there was still flour that couldn’t be incorporated because there wasn’t enough liquid.

You’ll see at the end that this makes a pretty massive cake, so it’s definitely one to bring into work or make for a gathering.

Ingredients

Base

500 g plain flour

35 g yeast

80 g caster sugar

250 mL unsweetened soy milk, plus approx 50 mL water, lukewarm

8 tblsp oil (I used sunflower)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cardamom

Topping

approx 1.2 kg plums, quartered. The juicier, the better.

Cinnamon, to taste

Oats crumbled with margarine & brown sugar (optional)

Plum jam (optional)

In a bowl, make a well out of the flour. In the middle, add the soy milk & yeast. Mix the yeast & soy milk together, and let rest 5 minutes, until slightly foamy. Add the sugar and salt, then start to blend together. It will be very sticky and very messy! At any point, if the mixture seems dry, add extra water (slowly). Mix together until smooth but thick. This resembles bread dough more than it does standard cake batter. Add the oil, and knead it in. The oil goes a long way toward softening the dough, so don’t worry if it feels a little tough before this step. Knead until the dough is smooth. Put the dough in a warm place, and let it rest until doubled in size.

If you have a bread machine, you can use the dough setting to make the dough instead of doing it by hand. Just look in every now and then to make sure the dough isn’t too dry.

While resting, preheat the oven to 200º C. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or grease the sheet.

Once the dough has doubled, knock it back and spread it over the baking sheet. Arrange the plum quarters to cover the dough, leaving a border of around 3/4 in. Sprinkle with cinnamon and oats to taste. I recommend lots of oats! Glaze with melted plum jam, or any other sugar-based glaze (a simple syrup of water & sugar will do fine, as will honey) of your choice.

P1060668.JPGBake for 40-45 minutes or until evenly browned around the edges. Ignore the fact that mine isn’t evenly browned at all (a little bit of burned cake never hurt anyone, right?), and enjoy yours!

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A German would probably never have it with cream, but it is a nice addition. I made this because I was homesick, and I even used my Oma’s cake fork when eating it. Homesickness eased.

If you do try this, let me know how it turns out. I’d love to see how it works for others!

 

A first meal: macaroni & cheese with leeks

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Our beautiful new stove finally arrived at the end of January, after quite a bit of hassle. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say I was very relieved and grateful to have a stove again by the time it finally arrived! We’d gone for quite a posh one as there was an exceptionally good offer on. The delivery coincided with visits from friends and it was lovely to know I’d have a fully functional kitchen when they next stop by, even if I couldn’t offer them the usual homebaked goods the first time around. I hope the slight chaos was a prelude of things to come – it was nice to have a busy house for a couple of hours.

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Leeks are the last thing left in our allotment, and as the allotment is now a 4-minute walk from my house, I was determined they would be used in whatever I cooked first with the new stove. I also wanted to use both the stove and the oven, so macaroni & cheese with leeks was the only choice, really. It was pretty delicious.

As you may know, I haven’t yet mastered the art of creating recipes. If you want to make your own, just saute some leeks (I used 3, but use more or less depending on how much you love leeks), make some cheese sauce (I recommend from scratch, of course, but really a packet would probably be fine), and boil some macaroni. Mix it all together in a baking dish. Bake at 180 for about 20 minutes, then crank up the heat to 200 for about 10 minutes to get the top nice & crispy.

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Thanksgiving: the food

P1030757.JPGFor me, there are only two things needed to make a successful Thanksgiving: good company, and good food. Really, good is negotiable when it comes to the food. There just needs to be food, preferably lots of it! At the end of the day it is the company that makes Thanksgiving good or not. This year was a lovely one; there were five of us in the end, and for the first time we were able to sit around our (quite small) dining table & eat properly.

I’ve shared the menu previously & alluded to the challenges. The big one for me is always timing; I start cooking the day before so I don’t feel rushed on Thanksgiving. Some foods, like the red cabbage, are actually better the next day anyway. But making sure they’re all hot at the same time is so hard, and I still haven’t mastered that! Nonetheless it all went down very well. A couple of things were particularly tasty, so I thought I’d share links to those recipes.

For my vegetarian friends, I made Smitten Kitchen’s roasted leek & white bean galettes. The leeks came from the allotment, hooray! I made a couple of tweaks. I didn’t use Deb’s pastry recipe, substituted goat’s cheese for the Gruyere, and used lemon juice instead of lemon zest. They loved it. I didn’t get to have any of the final product, unfortunately, but I tried a bit of the filling to check the seasoning and it was absolutely delicious, if I do say so myself. They were also surprisingly easy, so I definitely recommend them.P1030749.JPG

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Dessert also went down very well, with two of our guests taking some home with them. I made a cranberry, pecan, almond and cardamom cake based on a recipe in Scandilicious. The original cake used blackberries, but of course I had to use cranberries. This is the first time I’ve made a gluten-free cake and I think it was okay. I liked the texture a lot, and I absolutely loved the cardamom running throughout. However, I’m still not sure if it turned out like it was supposed to; it feels quite heavy, so I think maybe something went a bit wrong with the butter. Definitely one I’ll be trying again soon, perhaps even as a Christmas cake to bring into work. P1030756.JPG

Speaking of which, are you baking anything for work? Or is it just me who does that?

PS Thanksgiving was also great because it was an excuse to open my homemade damson gin. Yum. I should point out that in this picture it was mixed with lemonade – I can’t drink that much gin!

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Thanksgiving prep

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This sums it up well, though my laptop should probably be in it as well. Here’s the menu so far:

Turkey

Leek & white bean galette

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Parsnips coated in Gran Padano

Mashed potatoes

Red cabbage

Sweet potato fries

Roasted butternut squash

Succotash soup

Cornbread

Cranberry, maple syrup and pecan almond cake

Excessive, maybe. The right choices, yes. 🙂

Here are some of the contributions from the allotment:

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Isn’t that red cabbage gorgeous?! Some things in this photo are going to be decorations.

How do you get inspiration for your Thanksgiving menu? Or is it traditional all the way for you?

Finnish butter eye buns

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Voisilmäpulla were one of my favourite discoveries in Helsinki. I decided during my second voisilmäpulla that I would be trying to find a recipe for it.

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I found a recipe online and it seemed quite straightforward, so I decided to try it out this weekend. For copyright reasons I only post links to recipes (sorry, being a librarian has made me a little paranoid!), but do go check it out.

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Voisilmäpulla are enriched dough, and as the name implies, there is lots of butter involved. At one point in the recipe you literally knead melted butter in. It doesn’t have very much sugar, though, so it is like a cross between bread and cake. The majority of the sweetness in them comes from the well of butter and sugar that goes in the middle of the pulla. This is quite nice, really, because it means I don’t feel too guilty for eating lots of them!

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Given that this is the first time I’ve attempted these, I’m pretty happy with them. I will certainly be attempting them again. Next time I will do a few things differently, though:

  • Add more cardamom – it came through, but not as strongly as I think it should have
  • Add more sugar into the well in the centre, or sprinkle more sugar on the top of the dough before baking
  • Deeper butter wells
  • Figure out why these rolls were dry. They were slightly dry, and I’m not sure why. I may have overbaked them, or added too much flour, or overkneaded them. One thing I really need to work on is identifying what goes wrong with my bakes. Any recommendations for books or websites that might be useful?

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