It’s been a while since I’ve made a batch of cookies or a round of shortbread. I’ve hit two birds with one stone with this salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread recipe from Alison Roman.
They’ve become so popular that she now simply refers to them as “The Cookies” – all her Instagram fans know what she’s talking about!
The recipe makes two ‘logs’. Cooking off one log at a time is enough for our 2-person household. The other log is now in the freezer, waiting for the first batch to be demolished.
Refrigerator cookies are so convenient. A quick ten or so minutes in the making, about the same amount of time in the oven, cook off as many as you want and no waste.
The recipe is very straightforward. However, there’s one step that needs to be followed to the letter. Chilling the logs in the fridge for 2 hours before cooking is the absolute minimum.
I whisked them out of the fridge a little too early as we wanted to catch some daylight for our photos. That’s why my cookies spread a little too much in the oven and the chocolate chunks didn’t hold their shape very well. The next batch will be super chilled!
They still tasted great – and that second log won’t be languishing in the freezer for long!
Whenever the biscuit stash in our store cupboard reaches critical levels there are normally two obvious options to remedy the situation. Firstly, I can whip out a pre-made refrigerator cookie dough roll from the freezer. Alternatively, if the frozen stock is depleted, I can whip up a quick batch of shortbread.
Justin bought me this vintage wooden biscuit mould a few weeks ago, so it was a great opportunity to use it for the first time to make some shortbread rounds.
We think the mould might be Indian so we’ve added a few spices in homage – cardamom, ginger and vanilla.
The swirl pattern it makes is just beautiful – I needed to sprinkle some polenta into the mould so the dough didn’t stick and it also helped with the definition.
We liked all three flavours. And it has to be said that, if we hadn’t been trying to think of suitable Indian spices for biscuits, we probably would never have tried cardamom shortbread – yet we both thought that it was very successful. I’ll definitely be making these again soon!
It’s elderflower season again – one of the classic smells and tastes of summer!
We see those frothy white flowers growing wild all around and can’t bear to see them going to waste.
We’ve already made a large batch of elderflower cordial which will last us a good few months. In the past, there’s also been elderflower champagne and elderflower cakes too. This week, we decided to try some biscuits – elderflower shortbread to be precise.
There are various methods for incorporating the flowers’ flavour into the biscuit. We experimented with three – using cordial as one of the ingredients, infusing the sugar with elderflower bunches and finally incorporating the tiny petals into the biscuit mix itself.
We found that cordial made the biscuits a bit hard, crystalline and possibly too sweet. The infused sugar runs the risk of lots of creepy crawlies escaping into the sugar (even if you shake carefully) – and the resulting elderflower flavour wasn’t intense enough for us. The last technique worked best for us – by quite a long way actually, so that would be our recommendation. The resulting shortbread was moist and crumbly with a wonderful distinctive flavour – give them a go before those flowers disappear!
Red Leicester cheese scones
175g/6oz self-raising flour
50g/1¾oz strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ tsp onion salt
55g/2oz unsalted butter, room temperature
25g/1oz red Leicester, grated
150ml/5fl oz whole milk, plus 1tbsp extra for glazing
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Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas mark 7
Grease or line a baking tray with baking paper
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the flours, onion salt and butter into a bowl and rub together using your fingertips until you get a fine breadcrumb consistency
Mix in the cheese
Make a well in the centre and add the milk
Bring the dough together with your hands, being careful not to knead or the dough will become tough
Dust the work surface with flour and press the dough out to the thickness of about 2cm/1in
Cut out the scones using a 5cm/2in circular cutter and place onto the prepared tray
Bring the offcuts together gently, again being careful not to knead and cut out as many circles as possible until there's no dough remaining
Brush the tops with milk and bake for 12-15 minutes until the tops are golden and well risen
Add the sugar, flour, dessicated coconut, egg and salt and pulse the food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (less than a minute)
Add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture just begins to come together
Tip the mixture on to the baking tin and press down firmly and evenly especially at the corners & edges (if using a mould, bring the mixture together to form a ball, wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes before moulding)
Sprinkle the top with a tablespoonful or so of caster sugar
Cook for 45-50 minutes or until the shortbread just begins to turn golden brown
Slice into fingers/petticoat tails while still warm before allowing to cool on a wire rack
As far as I could tell from the photos I’d seen, most red velvet cakes adhere to certain rules; layers, cream cheese frosting and a propensity towards flamboyance!
I need to point out, I used the Rowntree cocoa that I already happened to have in the store cupboard. It was Dutch processed, meaning that during production, it has been ‘alkalised’ to give it a smoother flavour. I could tell by looking at it that it had been processed because it’s quite dark brown. Unprocessed cocoa is often referred to as cacao and is much lighter in colour.
Unprocessed cocoa is called for in the recipe (although it’s not absolutely necessary) as all kinds of alchemy are involved in the making of the cake! The cocoa, buttermilk, baking soda and vinegar all commingle to produce the most moist, light, heavenly cake you’ve ever tasted – with the brightest, reddest crumb!
Now that I’ve got the Dutched versus un-Dutched details out of the way, let’s get on to the business of cake-making!
As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of science involved in making red velvet so the order in which the ingredients get added really makes a difference.
The buttermilk and the vinegar add acidity to the mix producing a bubbly chemical reaction with the alkaline baking powder and helping make the red colour really bright.
The eggs are separated and the egg whites whipped into peaks and folded in gently at the end to add even more lightness to the sponge.
I think I mentioned previously that big cakes are just too much for just the two of us (even with me being a greedy cake eater!). So, instead of making a 4-tiered cake, I made a large 2-tier and a smaller 2-tier cake, giving one of the cakes away to friends.
I wanted to use both my newly-acquired accessories in this recipe, so I thought I’d use the pastry cutters to make red, heart-shaped shortbread biscuits to adorn the cake.
I love cream cheese frosting, especially on carrot cake. Next time though, I’ll tweak the recipe so the mixture is firmer and less runny.
It’s delicious either way, but when it’s firmer you’re able to pipe the frosting on the top and have a thicker layer of it in the middle.
The resulting cake was so MASSIVE, we didn’t have a big enough plate to hold it!
I think I remained very restrained with my cake embellishments – I was considering red edible glitter, hundreds & thousands… in the end, I just studded it with a few little chocolate beans.
I’m really happy with my first attempt and can’t wait to have another go!
This nutty millionaire’s shortbread tastes SO much better than any I’ve ever bought from a shop. I happened to have bags of whole almonds and hazelnuts in the larder, but it would be equally as good if you made it using pecans, Brazil nuts or walnuts. Cashew butter instead of peanut in the shortbread could be a good alternative to try too!
100g/3½oz mixed nuts (I used ½ & ½ hazelnuts and almonds)
125g/4oz plain dark chocolate
To make the caramel topping, put the unopened tin in a heavy-based saucepan and completely cover with water. Cover the saucepan with its lid and boil for about 1½ hours, topping up the water level if needed.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350F/Gas mark 4, 10 minutes before baking.
Sift in the cornflour and plain flour and mix to form a smooth dough
Using the back of a dessert spoon, press the mixture evenly into the lined cake tin and prick all over with a fork
Bake for 20 minutes or until just turning golden brown
Put the nuts on to a baking tray and toast them in the oven for 10-15 minutes
Remove the shortbread from the oven and set aside on a wire rack
Remove the nuts from the oven and wrap them in a clean tea towel. Rub the nuts together to remove most of the skins (especially if you're using hazelnuts or 'red skinned' peanuts)
Reserve 9 of the nuts, roughly chop the remainder and sprinkle them evenly across the shortbread
Open the tin of boiled condensed milk (if the contents are quite rigid you can soften it by warming slightly in a saucepan on the stove or decant into a microwaveable container and heat for 20-30 seconds). Pour the caramel over the nuts and spread evenly. Refrigerate while you prepare the chocolate
Break up the chocolate into pieces and put them into a heat-proof bowl
Using a saucepan small enough not to allow the bowl to touch the bottom, fill the bowl with just enough water so that it doesn't come into contact with the base of the bowl
Simmer the saucepan of water until the chocolate has just melted
Pour the chocolate evenly over the top of the caramel
Place the whole nuts on top of the chocolate, one for each portion
Allow to set before slicing into squares & serving
You can parboil the tinned condensed milk in advance and the caramel can be stored for months & months before use. I always have a few cans of 'cooked' condensed milk stored in our larder.