Sunday, January 30, 2011

My cure to the winter Blues - Oatmeal Raisin protein cookies

There are too things that always cause me to be depressed this time of year. It is not my dwindling savings, nor the cold weather like many people. The first is the simple knowledge that Christmas is over and the next one is so very far away. The second is all the eejits harping on about new years resolutions to lose weight and the unfortunate fact that I too have gained a few pounds over the holiday festivities and could probably do with losing weight too. Everyone is on a diet in January and it annoys me. I want to bake, I want to share my baked goods with others. However the usual joy and excitement in people's eyes I see when I produce cookies or brownies in January is replaced by an entire faceful of guilt and mild dislike of the person who is making them break their resolution. My delicious offerings are met with choruses of 'I can't,' and 'I am not eating...' and I hate this.
So this January I am changing it up. I am on  mission to create a cookie that is both delicious and tempting as well as healthy and guilt-free. This is my first attempt. I am aware that January is almost over so the project will continue into February but the winter blues cure will be achieved before the daffodils appear.

Oatmeal Raisin Protein Cookies

3 Egg whites and 1 egg
1 cup/125g Peanut or Almond Butter
2 Tbsp Agave Nectar/honey
3 scoops Protein powder
2 Cups/250g Oats
1 Cup/125g Raisins
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla essence
Icing sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Beat together the eggs, almond or peanut butter, agave nectar/honey, vanilla essence and protein powder until it forms a thick but smooth consistency. Add the raisins and cinnamon and stir until they are covered. Finally add the oats and mix thoroughly. The mixture will be very thick and sticky. Using wet hands form the dough into 18 balls and bake for 10-12 mins. Half way through the baking process press the cookies flat with the back of a fork or a spatula.  Once done, move to a cookie sheet and dust with icing sugar.

The end result is quite tasty and the cinnamon and icing sugar is a delicious reminder of holidays past. Each cookie has about 80-90 calories and 4.5-5g protein. That's a lot of protein bam for your buck. However in my next attempt I intend to make the cookies smoother and slightly sweeter with the addition of more agave nectar or possibly something else. It would probably mean about 100Kcals per cookie but the extra sweetness is needed in these. I will update further when I know. These cookies certainly got the stamp of approval from the picky eater in our house so despite tasting, as he called them, 'healthy,' they are definitely delicious and worth a try. Enjoy = )

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Skins US and UK Season 5 Review

It has been a while since I did a TV review and I think that it is necessary to write something about Skins. There is a lot of talk in the US at the moment about Skins. It seems that American networks may have run out of new ideas and decided to steal old ones from the UK, I mean if it worked for 'The Office,' it can work for everything else, or...?! Then came 'Shameless US,' and now 'Skins US.' Now I can't say that I have seen 'Shameless US,' but I truly hope that they are at the very least using different plots and dialogue, because Skins US isn't!!
The first episode of the US show was identical to the original first episode, except for a few American anachronisms, name changes, one sex change and what was the other thing....... oh yeah, it looks like they decided not to bother casting anyone that can actually act! Then somehow, who knows how, the show received criticism, well I never! The whole thing is ridiculous, why not just buy the rights to broadcast the original first season of skins, instead of wasting time and money on this drivel? I wager that if they had shown Skins UK on a major network, it played on BBC America a few years ago to be fair, then the show wouldn't have stirred up half as much trouble. I can imagine that all the naysayers would just blame the fact that English teenagers are.... fill in the derogatory cultural slur here, and everyone would have watched with morbid fascination and disgust, while the Network executives racked in the cash!! This current mess could have been prevented if they had asked me first!! ; )
Now on to Skins UK Season 5. *Spoilers*
I want to premise my remarks with the statement that I have been a long time fan and viewer of Skins and have always thoroughly enjoyed the show. However after the first episode of season 5, my hopes are set pretty low. The Frankie character, while endearing, seems to have only the superficial depth that accompanies an alternative lifestyle and artistic pursuits, and her intelligence level must not be up there if she thinks that the blond bimbo wants to be her friend 2 hours after they had a mud fight and her life was threatened. I can understand the desire to be accepted, to think the best of people, but inviting these girls straight into your home and leaving your computer unlocked?! As I mentioned, she must not be the brightest spark! The other characters presented so far also leave little to be hopeful for. There's the perfect, but hurt on the inside, enemy, her little girl group who want to be nice but yet go along with everything bitch queen says, the comedy relief red head and the metal wannabe.......... Fun times! The first episode ends in the most random of scenarios that while unlikely will probably remind many a young person of nights spent in a field with a bottle of something cheap. The reminiscing aside however, that may have been our part of our boring adolescence but then there's a reason no-one filmed us doing that, it's just not good TV!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Adventures in Cookieland

Given the name of this blog it is not surprising that I like cookies. Since I lived in America I have also been obsessed with finding a recipe for the perfect oatmeal raisin cookies. I used to get these absolutely amazing oatmeal raising cookies in the GIANT bakery and since then I am determined to better those cookies, but have yet to succeed.
This week I finished my essays and finally managed to use my Kitchenaid mixer, I'm planning on posting seperately about the initial experience but one of the recipes that I had to try as soon as possible was Alton Brown's Chewy chocolate chip cookie. This recipe specifically calls for the use of a mixer and it makes me smile that Alton Brown uses a Kitchenaid in the episode 'Three Chips for Sister Marsha.' I tried the recipe and although I usually alter the recipes that I find, based on my preferences and little knowledge of baking, since I have a new toy it seems important to stick closely to the recipe.
Therefore the only alteration to this recipe is what I used as well as chocolate chips and I need to be honest about that. So here is the original recipe in US measurements, I will here include European measurements to the best of my ability.

Alton Brown's Chewy Cookie Recipe attempt, plus Fudge

200g Butter, melted
150g Brown Sugar
30g white sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 tbsp Milk
1 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
280g Bread Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
125g chocolate chips, dark and milk
125g mini fudge pieces

In a stand mixer beat together the melted butter and sugars, slowly incorporate the eggs, milk and vanilla. Then beat on high until the mixture is silky smooth. Turn the mixer to low and sift together the flour, salt and baking soda, then incorporate this slowly into the butter mixture. Alton Brown says that this should be done in three sections, beating the dough on high in between additions, the first time I tried the recipe I ignored this and the cookies were not as chewy, so the next time I tried it his way and they were perfect. Once the mixture is thoroughly combined the add the chocolate and fudge pieces and mix to incorporate.
The mixture needs to be chilled then for 1 hour, although I left it overnight just because this suited my schedule. Then scoop the mixture with an ice-cream scoop onto a lined cookie sheet.

Bake in a oven preheated to 200 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Alton Brown discusses cookie baking in this episode and mentions that the cookies must be taken out once they brown and look crisp around the edges. Once they look done, they are burnt! This is never so true as in this recipe. If you over cook these cookies, they lose all their chewiness and become nothing but small cakes. So watch them and remove before you think they are done. To this end I used silicon sheets so I could slide the cookies off the tray but put them back on if necessary. The cookies turned out delicious and now the only problem is not eating them all in one sitting!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What happens when a baker has the best boyfriend in the world?? and Christmas truffles

This is what happens -

Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about it.

We only actually picked it up today so I haven't had a chance to try it out but there will be many many cakes, cookies, meringues etc coming soon.
This Christmas I also received a number of other baking items and it seems that having a baking blog is the best way to say 'I like to bake,' as loudly as possible. My wonderful parents got me silicon sheets for cookie baking, measuring spoons and lots of other fun things, my lovely sister got me a new bowl, special type of spoon and more muffin cases and lots of my friends and boyfriends parents bought other baking related items. I am happy out after this Christmas.
Every year now since 2004 I have made little food presents for my close friends and this year despite my busy college schedule I was reminded by a friend that they must be made or 'it wouldn't feel like Christmas!' So on the 23rd of December I set about making my delicious Christmas truffles. The recipe calls for chocolate cake and this year I used a store bought cake, other years I made my own. I have found no real taste difference, although the cake that was store bought must of course be very good quality in itself as it is the base for the truffles.

Chocolate Truffles

5 1/2 Cups (700g) Chocolate Cake crumbled
1 cup (125g) Ground almonds
1/2 cup (60g) Icing Sugar, more if desired up to 1cup/125g
50-100ml whiskey, to taste
2 cups dark chocolate
100ml cream
1 tsp vanilla essence


Coco Powder
Coco power and icing sugar mix
chopped or ground nuts

Crumble up the cake and add the ground almonds and icing sugar. Mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly combined. Melt the Chocolate and the cream together on a double boiler or in a microwave. Add the whiskey and vanilla essence to this. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir to combine. Cool this mixture in the fridge for 15minutes before making balls of mixture and rolling them in one of the various covering ingredients. These can then be stored in an air tight container in the fridge to ensure freshness until you gift them or just eat them!!

So.........that went well......but I'm back with a bang!

At the start of the year I said that I would try to post more regularly and......yeah....that didn't happen =/ Finishing this doctorat...