Cookies any style

cookies any styleWhen my classmates discovered my blog, they immediately thought it was about time they saw some of the good stuff too, so I decided to take some cookies to the exam (the class in question is my evening class Polish, I quite like languages). I didn’t want to do the same old tried and tested recipes all over again, so I decided to have some fun with it and come up with my own combinations. I made a basic cookie recipe, divided the dough in 3 part and went for 3 different combinations: M&Ms cookies, white chocolate and peanut butter cookies and bresilienne cookies (with nuts and caramel) and they all turned out great, so there were not a lot of cookies left for my colleagues the next day!

Preheat the oven to 140 C and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Mix 250 g softened butter (you can use margarine as well) with 350 g soft brown sugar until fluffy and soft. Add 1 egg and beat well until incorporated. In two batches, add 375 g self-raising flour (or use regular flour and add 1 tsp baking powder as well), a pinch of vanilla powder (I used a small bag of vanilla sugar, you could use 1/2 tsp vanilla extract of the seeds of half a vanilla pod as well) and a pinch of salt and mix well. Now add 380 g of whatever you like, or split the dough in 3 parts and add 125 g m&m’s to one part (I used the one with peanuts in them and left them whole for a fun effect and maybe also because I’m a bit lazy). For the second part, I opted for 125 g white chocolate (chopped) and 2 tsp peanut butter and for the final part I added 125 g bresilienne mix or praline (I still had enough left from making the caramel and nuts for my almond praline cake – it keeps well in an airtight jar). Enjoy while listening to Mahna-mahnam from the muppet show.

More foolproof and delicious cookies:

> Rum raisin cookies
>  Ginger and white chocolate cookies
>  Cacao and white chocolate cookies
>  Green tea cookies
>  Caramel cookies
> Apple and oatmeal cookies
> Smarties cookies
> Chocolate chip cookies
> White chocolate and cranberry cookies

Simply delicious: almond praline cake

Almond praline cakeThis is a real show stopper and it’s absolutely delicious too! If you’re not baking for a crowd, you can easily half the recipe as well. And if you’re planning on making this more than once, I have some time saving tips along the way. This is not your everyday cake, as it does take some time to make it, but it’s totally worth it! And there is a lot of licking the pot along the way, so there are some cook’s perks too! I found it in Rachel Allen‘s Bake, a book full of delicious recipes.

The recipe consists of 3 parts: making the praline, baking the cake and making the praline buttercream icing.

Part 1: make the praline (you can easily do this a day or more in advance)
Place 150 g caster sugar in a non-stick pan and set over a high heat until the sugar turns a caramel colour. Do not stir, but you may carefully swirl the pan to allow the sugar to caramalise evenly (a bit daunted? Check out this video on how to make caramel). Scatter 150 g unskinned almonds over the top and swirl the pan again to coat the nuts. Pour the mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and allow to cool. When the praline is cool and hard, place in a food processor and whiz to a gritty powder. Alternatively, place the praline in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.

Step 2: bake the cake
Preheat the oven to 180 C and butter and flour a 20 cm diameter cake tin (the recipe suggests 2 tins, so you can bake 2 cakes, which you each slice in half to add a layer of buttercream. Being lazy, I stick to one tin and slice the cake in 2 or 3 depending on how well it has risen).
Mix 225 g softened butter  with 225 g caster sugar until fluffy and soft. Add 4 eggs one by one, beating well between each addition. Gradually stir in 225 g self-raising flour (or use regular four and add 1 tsp baking powder). Add 6 tbsp of the crushed praline and mix lightly, adding 1 tbsp milk to moisten. Put in the prepared tin(s) and bake in the oven for 30 min (or 10-15 min longer if in 1 tin), or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.

Step 3: make the buttercream icing
You can do this when the cake is in the oven, or you can make it upfront too. If you’re only making half a cake, you can still make all the icing and freeze half for next time. This is quite a big batch of icing anyway, so I usually freeze half and only use half to assemble my cake.
In a saucepan, bring 125 ml water and 350 g caster sugar to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat up high and let the syrup boil for 4-5 min to the ‘thread’ stage, when the last few drops that fall from the back of a metal spoon dipped into the syrup come off in one long, quite thick and syrupy thread.
While the sugar is boiling, beat 7 egg yolks (you don’t need the egg whites, but you can freeze them for later use. just defrost and you can use them again) for 1 min, then very gradually add the hot syrup. Continue beating until all the syrup is added and the mixture has cooled. The consistency should be stiff, mousse-like and able to hold a figure of eight pattern made by the beater (this should take about 10-15 min).
Place 350 g softened butter in another bowl and beat until very soft. Continuing to beat, gradually add the mousse, a spoonful at a time. Then stir in 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 12 tbsp of the crushed praline.

If you still feel your arm after all that beating (or if you have a food mixer that does the work for you) you are now ready to assemble (if not, take a break, wrap the cake in foil so it doesn’t dry out and come back tomorrow). To assemble, slice each cake in half horizontally (or if you made 1 cake and it has risen well, slice it in 3. If you only made half of the recipe, you can cut the cake in half vertically and your cake in the shape of half a circle). Spread the inside of each cake sparingly with butter icing and and sandwich together, stacking each layer above the other as evenly as possible. Ice the top and sides with the remaining icing. Sprinkle the remaining crushed praline all over, including the sides. Serve while loudly saying “ta-da!”, after all that work, you deserve all the oohs and aahs. Enjoy!