Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Cookies

So I couldn't get a post up last week but I am returning with some delicious Christmas cookies. These cookies are a request from my boyfriend. Occasionally I will ask him what he would like to see on the blog (i.e. to eat) and he will come up with something that I might never have thought of myself. This was one of those occasions. He said that he want caramel AND fudge cookies. Hmm, I have to tell you that gave me pause. Initially I figured that the flavour combination would be too much for a cookie but after some thought I decided to try these and oh boy, are they delicious?!

So you should know ahead of time that these take time but they can be broken down into parts for different days and then assembled very easily at the last minute. The parts are as follows; salted caramel/dulce de leche; fudge and chocolate chip cookie bowls; and a chocolate lid (for simplicity I've used giant chocolate buttons.

For the caramel I've made a dulce de leche. This is so simple but takes some time and a good extractor fan. I use the saucepan method but as I've said before Little Rose Book has an awesome method for how to make it in a crockpot. For the saucepan method, you need 1 can of condensed milk and a large saucepan. Just stab the top of your can in a couple of places. Place it in your saucepan and then fill the pan up with water to near the top of the can. Heat the pan and refill for approx 90 minutes. Then remove from the heat and let cool before opening the can. Mix well and I also like to add some salt to taste.

Making the cookie-

I used a sugar cookie recipe instead of the usual chewy cookie recipe, still from Alton Brown of course!

Chocolate Fudge Cookie Bowls (Based on sugar cookies by Alton Brown)
Makes 32 cookies

226g Butter at room temperature
200g Caster sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
384g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
50g fudge pieces
50g dark chocolate chips

1 - Chop the chocolate chips and fudge pieces until you have very fine pieces

2 - Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3 - Beat the egg and milk together and add to the butter with a tbsp of the flour

4 - Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the butter mixture.

5 - Finally add your tiny chips and chill for 2 hours.

6 - Take you mini muffin cases and push the dough around the bottom and sides.

7 - Chill again and bake for 5-8 minutes.

8 - As soon as removed from the oven use a teaspoon or a gloved finger to push the cup shape into
     the cookie again.

9 - While the cookie is still warm add a half teaspoon of the dulce de leche into the cavern of the cup.

10 - Finish by covering the top with a giant button. The heat ill melt the button into place, so just leave and let cool.

Once these are cool they are incredible, crispy on the sides, chewy in the center with the hard chocolate top. Once all the parts (dulce de leche, cookie dough and chocolate buttons) are ready they take less than 15 minutes to throw together and make a wonderful Christmas present for anyone or a delicious snack for you ;)

Just try to resist!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Getting into the Holiday spirit

I think I've made it abundantly clear how much I love Christmas but there are aspects to this time of year that can be difficult and I understand that too. Two years ago I even wrote about how I was struggling to get into the holiday spirit and with everyone around shopping like lunatics and going to Christmas work-dos left and right, sometimes one can feel all alone and miserable. So I decided to compile a list of ways that I like to get into the holiday spirit and maybe they will help you or someone you know to feel good.

Fifth - Seasonal Drinks

We've all seen the holiday drinks in Starbucks and Costa and the like but these are expensive and filled with extra sugars and artificial flavours that are wonderful for a treat but are not my idea of an everyday drink (if it's yours then let me not offend, you do you as they say). So let me show you some of the drinks I enjoy to get into the spirit that are inexpensive and full of delicious seasonal flavours

Spiced coffee is amazing. I always add flavour to my coffee, usually just a splash of vanilla extract but for this time of year I like to add a pinch, more or less to taste, of cinnamon and all spice to my coffee. You can top off your delicious coffee with a mixture of raw cocoa and cinnamon to give even more flavour.

Also while I'm on the subject of coffee and starbucks, you can feel like every drink is a Christmas drink if you invest in a take-away Christmas mug. This one is from about 4 years ago and it serves me well every season.

Ok in non-coffee holiday drinks. I have previously written about my love for rooibos and apple tea when it is cold. Apple tea is absolutely delicious and can be customized with any amount of spices. My personal favourites are ginger, cloves and cinnamon.

Also pictured here is star anise, delicious
Fourth - Eating seasonally

I cannot over-emphasize eating seasonally. I have friends and family that think I'm odd because I will not eat sweet potatoes in summer but for me they are an exclusively autumn and winter affair. So why eat seasonally, well if you can eat locally seasonal produce then it's extremely eco-friendly. Thing is, I would be lying if I told you that was why I do it. I eat seasonally because it helps me to feel like there's a change happening from month to month and that I can have something to look forward to.

Holiday time is one of my favourite food times so there are so many examples of holiday foods. I'll tell you about one of mine. Marzipan is one of my absolute favourite holiday treats and it has so many different manifestations to enjoy. Just a tiny little bit of marzipan is enough to bring a smile to my face and one of the best ways to enjoy it is Stollen. Stollen is an amazing German Christmas treat of a fruited sweet bread with a center of delicious marzipan. Since first tasting this in about 2004 I have been obsessed and this obsession gets more intense year on year. This year I took it to new levels by sampling the stollen from every major shop in the UK, what's the verdict? Lidls is the best, a mon avie. Lidl make tiny little stollens that are not too sweet, have just the right amount of marzipan and box loads of Christmas flavour.

The ONLY issue with these delicious treats is how addictive they are. A point which is highlighted by the hilarious advertisements put out by lidl, which are well worth a look.

Third - Christmas Candles

Picture this. You're sitting in your favourite chair, with a good book and a cup of apple and cinnamon tea. What could possibly make this scene more seasonally appropriate??! Cinnamon spice scents filling the room. I usually buy my first seasonal candle in October and burn them throughout November and December. It can add a little bit of holiday joy into any activity. I know this to be true since most of the time in November and December I am studying for some big assignment or another. So if I can feel seasonal doing that then you know the candles are working. Some of my favourites are yankee candle in Christmas cookie or cinnamon spice, IKEA candles, Air wick candles in essential pearls cinnamon or the vanilla and caramel candle.

Second - (Controversially) Christmas music

I know you get battered with endless rounds of cheesy holiday music in every store from about October 1st and therefore this may not be your cup of tea but if you choose the music you might find that it can help. There are plenty of different varieties of Christmas music to choose from. I love classical and orchestral versions, jazz versions and choral music. My personal favourite is Anuna and the album 'Carols by Candlelight' says Christmas to me. Alternatively if you want to listen to Christmas music and would like to also give to charity can I suggest ChristmasFM. This awesome radio station based in my country of origin plays from the end of November until christmas eve in an effort to raise money for charity partners and I am a huge fan. You can listen online from anywhere in the world and donate online. 

Property of

First - Most Important - treat yourself well

This time of year can be tough even for the most foolhardy of Christmas lovers; between the shopping, planning, family visits or lack thereof, and memories of previous Christmases good and bad. It's no wonder then that some people dislike it. So my number one way to get into a 'holiday spirit' is to treat yourself well. Schedule time for yourself to relax and enjoy any of the above, or alternatively one of your own favourite treats. Don't forget to look after yourself while you run around looking after others. In all that planning for parties and visits maybe you can pen in some you time; get a manicure; read a new book (that's just for fun not for work); listen to your favourite music (Christmas or otherwise); have a bath; or just sit and meditate. My favourite thing to do is to sit and bask in the light of the Christmas lights in a darkened room. That's it, that's heaven for me. So my number one way to get into the spirit is to find your little slice of heaven and make sure that you get lots of it this December.

I hope you can find an idea here to warm up your seasonally good feelings and I'll have some delicious advent cookies up next week =)

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