Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Marvellous Cookie Press

A cookie press is a great alternative to rolling out dough and using cookie cutters. The press is ideal when you don't have a lot of time but still want enticing, inviting cookies! I have mine for almost twenty years and I must have made a couple of thousand cookies.

Mine is made of metal and is very easy to use. The press can give me four different sizes which is really useful. Turning the cutting disks either up or down gives you flatter and larger cookies or  smaller, higher ones. My cookie press can also be adjusted under the lever, so one gets a single or a double portion of dough in each cookie, which means you can have little, delicate ones or more substantial ones.
My trusty cookie press with original
and substitute discs

A variety of discs come with the press, so it is ideal for making cookies for any occasion. Unfortunately some of my discs have gone missing over the years, so I added the plastic discs of another press which broke. Luckily they are the same size!

To create cookies with the cookie press the
dough has to be softer than the one used for
cookie cutters which would be too difficult
for the press to handle.

Here is the recipe which is so adaptable that you can use it for Christmas with the spice mix, change the spices to lemon or orange zest, add finely ground almonds or any traditional ingredient for your particular festivities.

Depending on the size of cookie you choose this recipe will make between 40 to 90 cookies!

Ingredients:                                                                                               
                                                                              
250 g softened butter, 100 g brown sugar, 125 ml treacle or molasses, 1 egg, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 450 g flour, 4 tsp spice mix (see previous post), 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder.                                                                                                                                   
Method:

Cream butter and sugar, then add treacle, egg and vanilla and mix until creamy. Sift the dry ingredients and add in three batches, mixing in first and second batch until completely absorbed. The third portion should be kneaded in. Wrap dough in clingfilm and allow to rest and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 190 C.
Fill cookie press and make cookies on ungreased baking sheets. Bake in centre of oven for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on size chosen, or until slightly brown around the edges. Remove from oven and cool cookies on a cooling rack.


If you wish you can decorate the cookies with various icings or glazes, dribble with melted chocolate, add sprinkles or sugar beads to make them extra special.

Remember to remove the spice mix for other variations, but don't replace it with anything textured or grainy because then the cookies will not shape well.

When you try this recipe, please let me have feedback about taste, any difficulties or problems so I can make adjustments if necessary!


Just a few cookies fresh from the press!

I need a name for this recipe! Who can give me some good suggestions?






Saturday, 9 December 2017

S-Cookies for Christmas

S shaped cookies are traditionally a year round treat. But today I will give you a variation which tastes and smells of Christmas. The secret is the added spicemix which makes these cookies extra scrumptious! The taste is reminiscent of Spekulatius, a traditional picture cookie from Germany. But not many home bakers have the necessary moulds to make those. So, a piping bag with a star shaped tip of at least one centimetre  will give you an excellent result.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
S shapes piped on a lined baking tray

As I was piping merrily along the idea came to me to try the other letters of the alphabet. That way I can pipe all the letters to spell someone's name, which should be fun for children (of all ages)!


Not so easy without practice, but fun!


I also piped circles, otherwise known as Kringel, another traditional shape.


Fresh out of the
oven


Filled disposable piping bag






Now let us bake! You will need several baking sheets lined with parchment or baking paper. Piping bag with star nozzle or a piping syringe with a suitable tip.


Ingredients and method:

200 g soft butter             } cream together with handmixer
100 g sifted icing sugar  } till smooth then add

1 medium egg                }
1 tsp vanilla                   }
2 Tbsp milk                   }
a pinch of salt                }and mix to combine. Add half
3 tsp spice mix              }of
(recipe below)                                       

270 g all purpose flour  } and mix in at low speed. When combined add the remaining flour 
                                         and knead by hand until smooth. The dough should be soft but not
                                         sticky.

Spice Mix:

2 tsp ground cinnamon                          1/4 tsp ground green cardamom
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg                           1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cloves                             1/4 tsp ground white pepper (I prefer black pepper)
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Except for cinnamon and ginger which I buy already ground, use only whole spices which you toast and grind yourself in a spice blender. The taste is far superior to already ground spices which lose their flavour rather quickly. Likewise, nutmeg should be bought whole and grated finely according to need.

Now preheat the oven to 175 C and start piping the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets. This recipe yields at least 40 large cookies. I was able to get double the number because I used a tip of 1 cm diameter. Bake on middle shelf for 15 minutes until edges turn light brown. Cool on wire racks.
If you do not have enough baking sheets to use up all the dough, use the same sheets again but make sure they have cooled down completely between batches.

If you decide to make some alphabet cookies you should draw parallel lines on your parchment paper about 5 or 6 cm apart, turn paper over so the lines are on the back and will not affect the cookies.

Look closely and you see the lines



I hope you enjoy making these and eating them too! In my house these cookies do not last long. I would love to hear from you, comments, questions or other observations.



Saturday, 2 December 2017

Coconut Candy

A very common treat in Nigeria, but not so well known in other countries, is coconut candy. It is made from fresh coconuts, not the desiccated type. Now that Christmas is only a few weeks away you might want to try this out to serve along with your regular Christmas cookies.

Fresh coconut

First, obtain a good sized coconut which should be fairly heavy for its size. Shake it to hear if any water sloshes around inside which is very important. If you do not hear any liquid moving around, the coconut is bad and should not be bought. The coconut water is used in the preparation of the candy, so drain it into a container after piercing the "eyes" of the coconut.

The coconut water has been drained

Now you need a hammer to crack the coconut all around and with a final sharp blow it will break open. Using a sharp knife remove the flesh and also the brown skin adhering.



The fresh flesh from a very juicy coconut





                                                                                                                                                                                   

Now it is time to grate the coconut on a grater like the one shown in the picture. If you use a coarser grater the finished product will not stick together very well. And now for the recipe.


You need a baking tray for tiny cupcakes or a mini ice cream scoop. One can also use two teaspoons for shaping the candy and a lightly greased plate.

Ingredients:

2 cups freshly grated coconut (about 240 -250 grams)
1 cup sugar (280 grams)
the reserved coconut water plus enough plain water to make 250 ml
1 tsp butter

Method:

Place coconut and sugar in a heavy bottomed stainless steel pan and mix well, add the liquid and place on high heat. When the mixture starts to boil give it an occasional stir. When the liquid has almost evaporated add the bit of butter and keep stirring. When dry it will start to caramelize very quickly. So keep stirring until golden brown. Immediately take the pot off the heat and start shaping the candy, using a teaspoon or scoop to press into the cupcake tray. Or use one teaspoon to take a little heap from the pan and a second teaspoon to compress it into a quenelle or ball shape and place on greased plate. If not well compressed the balls will fall apart, so care should be taken to give each a good squeeze!



Cooling off in the mini cupcake tray


Total time spent including the prep work on the coconut is about two hours. I hope you enjoy making it and sharing with friends and family! 




The finished coconut candy


Pssst! For some extra indulgence you could dip the cooled candy in melted dark chocolate!

If you enjoyed this post, please share and let me know what you think!






Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Gingerbread Cookies - Pfefferkuchen

Christmas is around the corner once again and so I want to share with you some recipes which after some tweaking here and there have become my favourites. Todays' recipe is meant for cookie cutters, stars, hearts etc. But if you have a gingerbread man cutter, all the better because the cookies are ideal for decorating with coloured icing. Or coating with melted baking chocolate or couverture. Both methods are great in temperate zones but here in the tropics any icing will just melt. Nevertheless the cookies are delicious!



First batch


And now for the recipe:
500 g wheat flour                                                          2 Tbsp water
1 tsp. baking powder                                                     1 medium egg
1 Tbsp bicarbonate of soda                                           2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
100 g sugar                                                                    2 Tbsp ground ginger
200 g golden syrup or molasses                                    1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract                                                       1/2 tsp ground green cardamoms
125 g soft butter                                                            1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt                                                                                     

Ready for the oven
Method:
Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl, including the spices. Then add the soft butter, syrup or
molasses, vanilla extract, water and egg. Mix with the dough hooks on your hand mixer, use a stand mixer or do it the old-fashioned way by hand. When dough is smooth wrap in clingfilm and chill for about an hour. Then cut dough into about 4 portions for easy handling.

Lightly flour your work surface and start rolling out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness or slightly thicker. Place shapes on lined baking trays and bake at 190 degrees Celsius (375 F) in preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Remove to cooling racks together with the baking paper and allow to cool. Initially the cookies will be quite soft but will get crisp by next day. Once they are completely cool, store them in airtight tin containers. I find that plastic containers are not as efficient in keeping cookies fresh.

On the cooling rack
If you wish to decorate your cookies, the next day will be best. This recipe yields about 90 cookies, depending on size and thickness.


I would love to hear from you if you decide to try these cookies!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Potted Pineapples

Growing your own pineapples is quite easy when one lives in a warm or tropical country because pineapples love sunshine! But even in cooler climes it can be accomplished if one has a greenhouse or a sunny corner in the home.

To start you need a good tasting pineapple, not one which is too tart. It should be fully ripe. Next a flowerpot of about 20 cm (8 inches) diameter and potting soil. Cut off the top of the fruit with about 2 cm of the flesh included. Scoop a little from the soil to accommodate the size of the cutting. Press the cutting firmly onto the soil and cover all around with the soil you removed. Then water just enough for the soil to be moist. Place in a sunny position and keep plant just moist, not letting it dry out.

Initially the leaves will start wilting before new growth occurs and eventually they dry up completely. By then new leaves should have sprung up strong and sturdy. You will also notice a difference in colour compared to the old leaves.

The plant in the photo is now about 3 months old and I hope I will soon see a sign of a new fruit. Some years ago I was successful in harvesting my own fruit from such cuttings but they were planted in open soil which is more beneficial to the plants. Now I have no garden and have to grow what I want in containers.

I would love to hear from anyone who has successfully grown a pineapple in a pot with a delicious fruit as reward! While mine is still in the process of growing it is time to transplant it into a larger pot to give it the needed room for good growth.

Three months old pineapple plant



Sunday, 23 July 2017

Let's Make It A Date!


In my last post I promised the recipe for my date paste or puree which is an excellent substitute for sugar in baked goods. It is likewise good on a slice of bread and butter instead of jam. Maybe it can be used to sandwich cookies together or use it as filling for donuts Once you taste it other options will surely come to mind!

This post will be a bit lengthy, so let me start with the main ingredient, namely dates. The second ingredient is water and nothing else. Other items required are a bowl or two, a saucepan, cooking spoon, paring knife, a nylon sieve ( metal gives the puree a not so nice taste and also affects the colour ), jam jars or preserving jars and a wide-mouth funnel.


Raw dates 
I buy my dates locally from the market and usually they are really dry and hard, so they can't really be properly enjoyed until they get some TLC treatment.

Dates soaking in warm water

Put the dates in a bowl and cover with very warm water, not hot! Allow to soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how hard they were to start with.
All seeds removed


Use the paring knife to cut the dates open lengthwise to remove the seeds. If dates are still too hard allow them to soak some more.


Place deseeded dates in your saucepan and cover with water. Cover with lid and bring to boil. When boiling, reduce heat to low and remove lid. Allow water to evaporate until you have just 3 or 4 spoonfuls of liquid left which should be a rich brown colour and look rather syrupy. The dates should be very soft now. If not add extra boiling water and again allow liquid to reduce.

Remove from heat and drain off the syrup and set aside. Allow dates to cool a little, then place in  a food processor and process until smooth, adding a little of the reserved liquid to soften the paste. 


Processing the dates

Now is tasting time. If you are satisfied with the texture you can fill the paste into the sterilized jars and seal, using a funnel for convenience. But I find that the skins of the dates don't quite disintegrate, so I add another step to get it really smooth like a proper puree. Turn the lot into a sieve and use a wooden cooking spoon to press through.
Pressing paste through sieve
That way you get a super smooth puree! Fill your jars  just up to the neck and seal with the lid. The puree will keep like this in the fridge for 4 - 6 weeks. To keep for longer storage use a simple preserving method. Choose a pot with a well fitting lid, large enough to hold your jars with at least 3 cm head  space and wide enough so the jars will not touch each other. Place a folded dishtowel on the bottom of the pot, fill with water and bring to boil. Using tongs, place the jars in the pot and bring water back to boil. Water should cover the jars completely. Reduce heat to medium and boil for 10 minutes. Place folded dishcloths on a work surface and carefully add your jars. Let them cool completely before labelling and storing. 

Please, let me know your verdict after you make it. 


Saturday, 15 July 2017

Anya's Muffins

 Since my last post a lot of things have happened to me healthwise. I am not going into gory details, but just want to say that the removal of the gallbladder requires some re-assessment of one's dietary habits. So, now in addition to creating a heart friendly/ diabetic meals for hubby, I have to plan my own with a serious reduction in fats and an increase in fresh fruits and veggies.

In the last couple of months I have designed a few smoothies which I greatly enjoy and take every day as my breakfast. They must be good because my young granddaughters want a share whenever they see me sipping mine!

The recipes for them will come in a later post. Today I will give you a recipe which will indulge your sweet tooth but has no sugar (good for hubby), low in fat (good for me) but rich in taste which is good for everybody!

INGREDIENTS:

2 - 3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
2 Tbsp date paste (recipe will follow in next post)
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
10 - 12 Tbsp milk (keep 2 or 3 Tbsp milk back)
-------
1 cup plain flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup tiger nut flour (or any other nut flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp rum (optional)

METHOD:

Lightly grease a muffin tin for 12 pieces. Preheat oven to 180 C.
Mash bananas with a fork and place in a large bowl. Add remaining wet ingredients and mix well. Sift all dry ingredients and add to bowl. Mix by hand or an electric whisk until well combined. Dough should fall in a heavy ribbon from spoon when lifted, if too solid, mix in the remaining milk.

Use an ice cream scoop to portion dough  into muffin tin. Makes 12. Place in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. An inserted toothpick should come out clean when muffins are done. Let stand in the tin for a couple of minutes then remove to a cooling rack.

Another option is to use the same ingredients to bake a cake instead of muffins. For this you use a loaf tin which has been greased and floured. Bake at same temperature for 40 - 45 minutes.

Bon appetit!




Latest Post

The Marvellous Cookie Press

A cookie press is a great alternative to rolling out dough and using cookie cutters. The press is ideal when you don't have a lot of tim...