Macadamia and chocolate chunk cookies

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Who knew that the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia was a hot bed of macadamia nut growing?  I for one did not, and yet, I find myself in possession of a packet of macadamia nuts from Nutworks, thanks to my parentals and their recent visit to this part of the world.

I just love macadamia nuts.  They are so rich and meaty and make such good friends with chocolate.  They seem to be one of the fattiest nuts available, and this is pretty much in line with the rest of my tastes.  I always like the foodstuff that’s supposedly the worst for you.  Well, life just wouldn’t be any fun otherwise, would it.

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Having attacked this packet of nuts over the past week or so and marauded it for idle snacking purposes only, I decided I really owed it to these fine little nuts to do something substantial with them.  The idea of a chewy biscuit and some good chocolate appealed.  Macadamia and chocolate chunk cookies it was.

I adapted this recipe from my go-to chocolate chip biscuit recipe, Cadbury’s own. I rather proud of myself because, as discussed in earlier posts, my biscuit-making can be a little hit and miss, but these were quite pleasant; sweet and chewy.

To make these, you will need:

  • 70g butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 t vanilla paste or vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Makes: 15

Set your oven to 160 degrees celsius.

Start by creaming the butter and sugars together until they are light and fluffy.

Whisk in the egg.  Add the vanilla paste or essence and mix this in too.

I include reference here to vanilla paste, as recently I decided to splash out and buy some of this stuff.  And it’s lovely!  It looks a little gloopy, but it adds a lovely flavour to one’s baking, and has those delightful little flecks of vanilla seed that make any dessert seem a little bit posher and gourmet.

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Stir in the flour.

Chop up your dark chocolate – I used Whittaker’s 50% dark chocolate because I love it so.  I think you could go for even darker chocolate and it would still be lovely in these cookies.

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Chop up the macadamia nuts too (which is a bit challenging because the little blighters roll away…watch your fingers!).

Add the nuts and chocolate to the mix and fold through.

Put teaspoonfuls on a greased tray and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown.  I would urge you not to make them bigger than this – I got greedy with a couple, and they when they spread out they were a little unweildy.

Cool on a plate or rack and enjoy!

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Almond biscuits

We now found ourselves at Almond Biscuits in the Edmonds Cookbook index.

Almond Biscuits, as a category of baked good, enjoy a little more history and reputation than I had suspected.  The internet informs me that these popular biscuits are “prepared in different ways across various cultures and in various cuisines.”  Versions of almond biscuits are found from China to Norway, Spain and Turkey.

Who would’ve thought?  New Zealand, not to be outdone, has its own Almond Biscuit and of course, where else would you expect to find this but New Zealand’s baking bible, the Edmonds Cookbook.

The ingredients for Almond Biscuits ask for:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond essence
  • 1 & 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 12-15 blanched almonds

The first thing that caught my eye as I read through the ingredients were the blanched almonds. I realised that although I know what a blanched almond looks like and could pick one out in a line-up, I didn’t know much about how they got this way.  Hurrah, another educational opportunity presents itself in the space of one blog post!

The internet to the rescue again….blanched almonds are made through plunging the unsuspecting almonds into boiling water, then after a timed interval, plunging them into icy cold water to halt the cooking process.  This softens the almond skin, meaning it can be removed.

For your educational benefit, please see below a blanched almond compared to its unblanched cousin.  The naked one is the blanched one, and the one with its clothes still on is unblanched.

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Anyway, on with the baking.

The best thing about many biscuit recipes is that they start with my old favourite, creamed butter and sugar, and happily Almond Biscuits begin by creaming the butter and sugar.

Then, in goes the egg.  I bought these lovely free range eggs from our Harbourside Market – don’t they have such a beautiful orange yolk?

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The almond essence goes in at this time too.  Confession – personally, I’ve always been a little mistrustful of almond essence as it smells a bit like loo cleaner to me.  But dear readers, I’m not about to let you down.  Personal misgivings aside, in it went.

One beats well and then sifts in the flour and baking flour, mixing to a firm dough.  Then the mixture is rolled into balls.

Time now for my second confession – I’m not a terribly consistent biscuit maker.  It was at this point of proceedings this fact came home to roost.  My mixture was a little too soft to be rolled into balls.  I added a bit more flour and put it on the greased tray, not really in balls, more in lumps.  I’m not sure why this happened, but it will certainly be me, and not the glorious Edmonds.

Half a blanched almond is pressed into each biscuit before baking.  If you can figure out how to half one of these things without losing a finger in the process, let me know.  I couldn’t, so the almonds went on whole.

They are baked for fifteen minutes at 180 degrees celsius.

I watched anxiously, feeling a little fearful they would remain funny little lumps with a blanched almond perched atop. They baked up well enough however, and once cool enough, I snaffled one up for testing.

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Mine were quite cakey in texture as demonstrated below, when I really suspect they are meant to be quite crisp.

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But not all was lost at all, and I’m pleased to report that taste really quite lovely, sweet and subtle, and perfect with a cup of tea on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

A roast beef date with Delia

On a recent trip to the supermarket, ample signage informed me that Sunday 4th August was National Roast Day.   Although no doubt a ploy to sell more products, it’s been a while since my tiny kitchen knew the joys of a hearty roast, so Sunday was National Roast Day chez nous.

In my household, the only type of roast that counts is that of the beef variety.  And when preparing roast beef, I simply cannot go past Delia Smith.

My copy of Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course is pictured below.

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I picked up this little gem for a mere $2 at the Downtown Community Ministry’s annual book fair a couple of years ago.  I love the cover; Delia in her 80’s finery and for some reason feeling the need to pose with an egg.

All joking aside, it’s a wonderful book and many tips and recipes have stood the test of time.  Not least of these is Delia’s roast beef method.

It’s really pretty simple.  All you need, asides from your beef of course, is flour, mustard powder and pepper.

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One beings by preheating the oven to a whopping 245 degrees celsius.  I’m putting this bit first in case any of you happen to be following these instructions, because there’s nothing more annoying that getting everything ready to go in the oven then realising the damned thing is stone cold because you forgot to turn it on.

One dusts the surface with a mixture of flour and dry mustard, followed by a sprinkling of ground pepper.

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Delia asks that you add a knob of beef dripping to the tin before placing the beef in.  I have no beef dripping – can you even buy it nowdays?! – but a little olive oil came to the rescue.

The beef is given 20 minutes at 245 degrees, after which time one reduces the heat to 190.  If you hanker for meat on the rarer side of cooked as I do (bad ex-vegetarian!) then the beef cooks for  a further 15 minutes per pound, which in our case equalled another half an hour.   Treat your beef kindly by basting it with the pan juices from time to time.

You can use this time to get your other bits and pieces in the oven…in our case, kumara and potato.

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Once out of the oven, Delia counsels that one should leave the beef to relax for about 30 minutes before carving.  My idea of relaxing usually involves sauvignon blanc.  Sadly for our beef, no wine was forthcoming and it had to make do with resting on the bench in a teetotal fashion.

Mind, this seemed to relax it all the same as it carved up nicely and I was most pleased with its pinky-rareness.  Roast veges, some token greens and savoury gravy courtesy of the roasting pan completed the set.

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Thanks Delia!