Chocolate Rolo Cookies

Mum let us (M&L) use the kitchen again. We are going to make chocolate Rolo cookies.

Here’s what we need …

8 oz butter
8 oz caster sugar
2 egg yokes
2 tablespoons milk
9 oz plain flour
1 oz coco powder
3 packets of Rolos (which gives you some left over … to test, just to make sure they’re okay)

We weighed the butter to the right amount and put it in a big mixing bowl with caster sugar.

Now we needed to cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.We started it slowly and got  faster.

Then we separated the egg yoke from the egg whites  and put the yokes into a bowl.

We beat up the egg yokes a little bit with a fork.

L checked the recipe and we added the milk to the eggs yokes. Then we put them in the big mixing bowl and beat them all up together with the sugar and butter.

Then we sieved the flour and coco powder into the big mixing bowl. We did it without getting too messy.

We mixed everything together and scraped the sides of the bowl down. It turned into a sticky dough.

We used our hands to get the dough into round balls and placed them on the trays. We had to space them out.

Our hands got quite messy. It was so tempting to lick them but we didn’t.

Then we placed the rolos on top. Some of them we pushed down too far and they made a hole in the cookie and we said that we wouldn’t do that again.

We had to keep on looking at the recipe to see what to do. The recipe told us to put the cookies in the oven for 12 minutes (at 180 degrees C).

In the oven they spread out lots and stuck together. We cooled them for 5 minutes on the baking trays and then used a spatula to put them onto wire racks.

L says, “Welcome to Cookieworld!”

M says, “You can tell which ones are mine – they’re the ones that are all crumbled up!”

Raspberry Crumb Bars

When M was little and I used to collect her from Preschool at lunchtimes, I could only ever find out how she’d spent her morning by a process of elimination.

Me: Did you have a good morning?

M: Yes.

Me: What did you do?

M: I didn’t do the cylinders (she went to a Montessori Preschool)

Me: So … what did you do?

M: I didn’t do any painting.

Me: And instead you did …?

M: I didn’t polish the mirror.

And in that way, I’d eventually discover that she had had a thoroughly enjoyable morning absorbed in weeding the garden, climbing the apple tree and pegging out woollen socks to dry on the clothes line.

L has a similar habit. As part of her recent science project for school, she decided to label a picture of a capybara to show “their adaptations to an aquatic lifestyle” (a phrase that featured often in the course of working on this project). After highlighting their webbed feet, highly-placed eyes, ears and nostrils, and water-resistant fur, she took great pleasure in adding a label to show ‘no tail’. I’m not convinced this lack has anything to do with an aquatic lifestyle, but she found the idea of labelling something that wasn’t there particularly amusing.

I think there are similarities here somewhere to Lacan’s theory that la femme n’existe pas, but it would be a bit of a conversation killer if I go any further along that line of thinking …

Anyway, if you ask M what she’ll be wearing to school next term, she’ll probably tell you, “Not a yellow jumper.” Which will be true. It’s the end of term and the end of key stage 1 for M. In September, she will be growed up enough to wear blue instead of yellow – only you’ll have to find that bit out by a process of elimination.

It being the end of term, I baked a couple of trays of raspberry crumb bars for my children to take into school for their teachers. There very nearly weren’t any of these left after L and I ‘sampled’ them last night. It was just to make sure we weren’t going to poison the staff – honest! Scientific measures of quality control.

At least, that’s the line we’re sticking to. We didn’t eat three slices each straight from the oven, we didn’t burn our tongues on hot, gooey jam and Captain Blackadder definitely did not shoot the delicious plump breasted pigeon, sir.

Raspberry Crumb Bars (adapted from a recipe by Joanne Chang)

12 oz unsalted butter
3 1/2 oz caster sugar
3 tbsp icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz plain flour
6 1/4 oz cake flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 jar of raspberry jam (with seeds)

Cream the butter with the sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla.

Whisk the dry ingredients together, then add gradually on low speed to the buttery sugary eggy mixture. Stir just until the flour is incorporated and evenly mixed.

Remove 8 oz of the dough, wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the freezer.

Press the remaining dough into a flattish disc shape, wrap it in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Roll out the fridge dough to a 9″x13″ rectangle between two lightly-floured sheets of baking parchment. Leaving the dough on the lower sheet of parchment, transfer the dough to a 9″x13″ baking tray. Neaten the edges and trim any excess overhanging parchment.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Let the shortbread base cool for 10 minutes and then spread the jam evenly over the top. Use a large-holed grater to grate the frozen piece of dough over the top of the jam.

Bake for a further 20 minutes until the top is bubbly and golden.

Leave to cool completely in the tray on a wire rack before removing and cutting into bars.

Blast Off Biscuits

Conversation at home can become quite surreal sometimes. Take yesterday, for example. My three children (aged 9, 6 and 5 years … which reminds me that I really should get around to updating my About page – they would all seriously object to being described as ‘small’ now) were sitting around the kitchen table, drawing pictures whilst waiting for their dinner to appear magically before them.

M: Is that a spaceship?

L: (no response)

M: Please tell me that’s a spaceship because it looks like one.

L: It’s a fried egg.

M: Really?

L: No. It’s a spaceship.

T: It looks like a fried egg.

M: Flying saucers look like fried eggs. That’s a spaceship.

I’m enormously unqualified on the subject of space travel and was therefore unable to contribute anything particularly insightful to their discussion. Instead, I mumbled something about chocolate and biscuits and rockets and stars and cookie cutters. There was a brief silence while the three of them stared at me and came to a mutual, unspoken conclusion that their Mum was going crazy again, and then they bent their heads once more over L’s picture and continued debating the various attributes of fried eggs and flying saucers.

Although I have to admit that I may at times have a fairly tenuous grip on reality, on this occasion I wasn’t spouting nonsense. You see, my post on Jubilee Nutella Cookies was featured recently in a review of favourite blogs by the online gift shop, Dotcomgiftshop. I was then invited by the very friendly Dotcomgiftshop team to review some of their products and present them to … well … you lot, really. Normally I’d say thanks but no thanks (hrumph corporate hrumph blogs hrumph advertising), but I took a look at their website and was swayed by the quirky appeal of their product ranges. Candy-striped fizzy pop cups and retro popcorn holders, vintage party ice cream tubs with wooden spoons – just like the ones the ice cream ladies sold from trays hanging around their necks in the interval between the trailers and the main feature in old picture houses. And Charlie & Lola hot water bottles (I can always be swayed by anything Charlie & Lola).

Sorry, I’m getting side-tracked. What was I going on about again? Oh yes, fried eggs. No, that was my children. Chocolate and biscuits and rockets and stars and cookie cutters – that was it.

Well, the Dotcomgiftshop team kindly sent me a Spaceboy Children’s Baking Set to try out at home – which is why I thought that the mention of  chocolate and biscuits and rockets and stars and cookie cutters might be something not entirely unrelated to my children’s apparent interest in space travel. Once they’d caught on to the idea, they thought so too.

The baking set contains a spaceboy-themed collection of cupcake cases, rocket and star cookie cutters, a small wooden spoon and rolling pin, a child-sized metal whisk and a gingham pinny (which has very useful ties rather than a loop to go around the neck – which avoids the need to thread a too-big loop through an excess of waist ties just to stop the whole thing slipping downwards). T was also delighted to find a booklet for keeping a record of his recipes. We wrote up the first recipe in his book together this afternoon – Blast Off Biscuits.

I love this biscuit dough. It’s so smooth and velvety but holds its shape beautifully when baked. I can’t remember where the original recipe came from so many years ago, but when T wrote on his Mother’s Day card that he loves me because I make chocolate biscuits, these are the chocolate biscuits he was talking about. Biscuit love.

And so my little helper and I set off on the ultimate spaceboy baking trip.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 …

BLAST OFF!

Blast Off Biscuits (as written by us in T’s little spaceboy recipe book)

7 oz butter
6 oz golden caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz plain flour
2 oz cocoa powder

Cream the butter and sugar.

Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Mix in the flour and cocoa.

Make a ball.

Wrap in clingfilm.

Chill in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Line a baking tray with parchment.

Roll out the dough.

Use a rocket and a star cutter to cut out the biscuits.

Lift them onto the tray.

Bake for 6 to 10 minutes.

Leave to cool on the tray.

Jubilee Nutella Cookies

There is a connection between The Queen’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee and these chewy Nutella cookies. Honestly, there is – just bear with me.

My Mum likes trees. A lot.

So … for her birthday last year, we gave her a gift membership of the Woodland Trust, the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity. She hence became the proud owner of a native tree in a wood not so very far away from here. I’m not sure where that wood is, but Mum received the details in her welcome pack.

Mum also receives regular copies of the members-only magazine, Broadleaf. It was in one such issue recently that she discovered the Woodland Trust’s plans to get everyone madly planting trees in celebration of the Jubilee. I hadn’t especially registered the fact but it turns out that Her Majesty The Queen is the only British sovereign ever to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee (other than Queen Victoria in 1897, that is). I guess the Woodland Trust can be forgiven for getting so excited about the whole thing then. And also for using it as a springboard for planting 6 million trees across the UK.

The part of the magazine article that most interested my Mum however was the statement:

We hope neighbours, communities, schools and families will come together to plant thousands of individual trees in their gardens, playgrounds and community spaces – each taking the chance to mark this special moment in history in a way that will stay with them forever.

Can you see where this is heading?

Yep, both my sister and I are in line for receiving a special Jubilee tree that we can plant in our own gardens at home.

It’s good timing. O has been hacking and slashing the overgrown heather in our garden since we moved here last November, whilst my sister also has a new garden to plan after moving house only a few weeks ago. Going down the edible route, we have each requested a Jubilee Hazel from the selection of trees on offer in the Woodland Trust shop. Thanks, Mum 🙂 .

So you see, there is a connection after all.

Hazel trees make hazelnuts … hazelnuts make Nutella … Nutella makes cookies.

Jubilee Nutella Cookies

6 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
4 oz butter
6 oz Nutella
3 1/2 oz light muscovado sugar
2 1/2 oz golden caster sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz chopped roasted hazelnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C and line several baking trays with parchment paper.

Put the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly.

Cream the butter and Nutella in a mixer bowl, then add the sugars. Beat until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and vanilla gradually, beating after each addition.

Fold in the flour mixture, stirring just enough to combine. Stir in the hazelnuts, if using. Pop the batter in the fridge for 15 mins or so until it’s firmed up a bit.

Plop dollops of batter onto the prepared baking trays, leaving plenty of space between them for the cookies to spread (I used about 1 1/2 tbsp of batter for each dollop).

Bake for 15 mins (for soft and chewy cookies) to 17 mins (for crisp and chewy cookies), rotating the baking trays once during baking.

Leave the cookies to cool on the tray for a couple of minutes before removing them to a wire cooling rack.

Makes 14 to 18, depending on the size of your dollops.

Ancient Roman Banquet

After L’s successful guest post in October, my younger daughter told me today that she also wanted to write a guest post for A Merrier World (not that there’s ever a hint of sibling rivalry between them, of course …) So, here is M – she is six years old and has been having a lot of fun at school this term …

We have been learning about the Ancient Romans at school. A Roman centurion came in to help us learn about them. We made shields and then we had a battle with the Year Ones. We used balls instead of cannons and swords. The Year Ones (who were supposed to be the Celts) kept on running away, so we won. The centurion also brought in some fish sauce that smelled disgusting!

Anyway, on Friday the 23rd we did a Roman presentation. I was in the Roman banquet scene. My line was, “The Romans loved holding feasts. One of the things they loved was… peacock brains!” Somebody else in the Roman banquet said they also liked surprises in their food such as doves flying out of the stomach cavity of a roasted suckling pig. We discovered that the Romans lay down to eat and that they made themselves sick so that they could eat more (but that was only in fancy banquets).

Today we had a Roman banquet in our classroom. Everyone dressed up as Romans. I was a slave who opened the door. Here’s an interesting fact – the slaves who opened the doors had to look fancy so everyone knew that the person who owned the house was rich.

Our teachers had researched lots of Ancient Roman recipes. Some of the recipes were in the cookery book that I took into school for them. At our banquet, we tasted lots of food that the Romans would have eaten. I only liked the grapes and the apple as well as the bread dipped in olive oil. I didn’t like the peacock brains, which were really just mince cooked in the oven. When we were making the peacock brains, we had to put our hands in the mince. I hated the honey cake – it looked like an omelette (and I don’t like them either!). There were some olives as well, but I didn’t try them.

For dessert, we all ate some Ancient Roman biscuits that I had baked last night with my Mum. They were called ‘serpette’ and they used honey instead of sugar. We sprinkled sugar on the top instead of sesame seeds because we thought they would be tastier that way. Unfortunately, the Romans didn’t have sugar, so that bit wouldn’t have been invented in Roman times. We made them into ‘S’ shapes like the serpette biscuits that are made today in the Castelli Romani near Rome.

My friends said that the biscuits were really delicious. They asked me how I had made them into ‘S’ shapes. I told them that we rolled some of the dough into a sausage shape and then we curled it around so that it looked like an ‘S’.

Ancient Roman Honey Serpette

12 1/2 oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder (which the Romans didn’t have – sorry!)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda (as above … sorry!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
6 oz honey
2 eggs
1 egg white and castor sugar to sprinkle (or sesame seeds)

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and use a whisk to mix them all together.

Use another bowl now. Put the butter and honey into it and beat them together. Add the eggs a bit at a time. Make sure that everything is mixed up very well.

Tip the flour and stuff into the bowl and mix it all together to make a dough.

Cover the dough bowl with cling film and put it into the fridge until the dough is cold and firmer.

Put the oven on to 180 degrees C.

Grease some baking trays and line them with baking parchment.

Sprinkle some flour on the work top. Roll bits of the dough into long sausage shapes. Cut them into shorter lengths and curl them to make an ‘S’ shape. Put the S’s onto the baking trays.

Brush some egg white onto the top of each serpette (this is a bit like glue) and sprinkle the tops with a bit of castor sugar.

Bake the serpette in the oven for about 7 minutes or until they are just turning golden.

Cool the serpette on a wire rack.

Eat – yum, yum!