Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Gizzi Erskine's Ginger and White Chocolate Cookies

OCD Panic Rating: 1/5
Handwashes: 3

I've not had much opportunity to cook over these last few weeks so I have reverted back to my comfort recipes.  Baking cookies is not a hardship for me and spotting this particular recipe left me in no doubt as to what my blogpost would be about this week.  One of the benefits of working in a library is having access to a world of amazing cookbooks, and Gizzi's recipe jumped out at me not just because it sounded scrumptious but also due to the recipe's apparent simplicity.  Freshly-baked cookies in just twenty minutes?  Hells yeah!

I put the recipe to the test yesterday morning when I was in an exceptionally good mood.  I mention this for two reasons.  First, I tend to have more control over my OCD when I'm happy.  Second, it can also make me more relaxed about measurements and method, so there is always a greater likelihood of mistakes being made.  And mess.  Lots of mess.

I had to mash together the butter and sugar first.  This was excellent exercise as I'd neglected to soften the butter before I started.  Oh well.  Then it was just a case of adding the other ingredients.  I fluffed the ginger completely.  The powdered ginger missed the spoon entirely so I have no idea how much ended up in the bowl.  I also used stem ginger in syrup rather than the dried stuff, resulting in a stickier dough than was perhaps intended.  It was one of the firmest doughs I've ever used.  I practically had to insert each chunk of chocolate by hand.  Gizzi suggested mixing with a wooden spoon but I found that impossible.  I had to mix by hand (thus the slightly higher number of handwashes than normal for a cookie mix) but successfully produced the requisite number of dough balls ready to go in the oven.

Because of the firmness of the dough and the size of the balls, I didn't think ten minutes would be a long enough cooking time.  However, they had the required golden tinge and looked cookie-shaped:

The cookies have a slightly gooey inside and a strong gingery flavour, so I can't have done too badly with the ingredients.  I managed to save some for today and they have firmed up overnight nicely, a crunchy outside but a slight chew on the inside.  Great texture, great taste, and pretty easy to make.

Key points:

  • Softening the butter saves on arm pain later on.
  • It takes an infinite amount of will power to keep any of these for later.
Win rating: 5/5

Monday, 9 February 2015

Asda's Sweet Potato and Ginger Cake

OCD Panic Rating: 1/5
Handwashes: 2

After two not-entirely-successful forays into the kitchen, I felt the need to do something with which I was a bit more comfortable.  As a rule, I've found loaf cakes spectacularly easy to make.  All you need to do is mix all of the ingredients together, bung them into the tin, and bake for an hour or so.  My banana and chocolate bread is a household favourite and my Dad testifies to the strength of my lemon drizzle loaf cake.  The recipe used for this ginger cake was found in Asda's free February magazine.  In general, their recipes are simple and unfussy and obviously use ingredients you can find on their own shelves.

Unlike many loaf cakes, this involved a little bit of prep work.  The sweet potatoes function in this recipe much like bananas do in banana bread, but they need pre-baking first.  It was easy enough though: wash them as you would a baked potato (handwash #1), prick them with a fork, then bake in a hot oven for an hour.  When they're done, you have to scoop out the insides and put them to one side to cool.  It's oddly satisfying, and the orange gooey insides make an exciting change from your usual baking ingredients.

Once that had all cooled, it was time to put together the rest of the cake mix.  This was much more usual.  It specifies a two-bowl method: the eggs (handwash #2), butter and sugar are combined in one; the other dry ingredients done separately.  Everything was meant to be combined in the egg bowl but, due to my inability to read the recipe ahead of time, I didn't have room to do this and had to bung everything into a larger bowl instead.  I did my best to fold the ingredients as recommended but was slightly concerned that I might have upset the air in the mixture by my mistake.

I needn't have worried.  After just over an hour in the oven (my fan-assisted oven seems determined to undercook everything), it came out looking delightful and smelling decidedly gingery.  I left it on the side to cool and rushed out of the house to catch up with my husband and friends for our weekly pub quiz.  The only OCD issue came when I got halfway down the road and decided that I had almost certainly left the kitchen burning.  I ran home, checked the absolutely-fine flat, then headed back out.  I didn't include this in the OCD rating as, frankly, that's not the cake's fault.

After icing, the cake looked pretty good:

Yeah, I'm not a photographer

And it tastes even better.  The use of three different types of ginger (ground, crystallised and stem) means that there is a real depth to the flavour, and the sweet potato makes it soft and moist.  The lemon-infused icing adds a tang to it that finishes off the flavour nicely.  It's awesome. 

Key points:

  • Read the recipe in advance.  Moving the mix between bowls wasn't an issue here, but for more refined bakes it can be a real killer.
  • Don't rush the process.  Because I was running late, I ended up giving myself a bit of an OCD panic on leaving the house.  If I'd arranged my time better, it wouldn't have been a problem.

Win rating: 5/5