Monday, March 26, 2012

bread and cookies


Confession time: I am a bargain hunter, and never more so than in the supermarkets, where my eyes are always on the lookout for those little brightly coloured reduced stickers. So when the Boy and I were wondering through the supermarket aisles yesterday afternoon and I spied a bottle of beautiful creamy Jersey milk reduced to just 24p, I couldn’t help myself. My mind instantly filled with thoughts of freshly baked warm cookies and a glass of cool creamy milk, and into the trolley the Jersey milk went.

Minutes later, the same thing happened down the fruit aisle with a bag of equally bargainous bananas, only this time it was thoughts of banana bread that grabbed me. I went through an obsession with banana bread a few years ago, where I would stop by the market in town on my way home from university and buy ridiculously large bags of bananas that I had no hope of finishing, just so that there would be plenty of overripe ones leftover that I could mash into banana bread. I’ve managed to curb my obsession since, but that still doesn’t stop me from passing over an opportunity for banana bread when one presents itself!


Banana Bread Recipe
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking

3 mashed bananas
7.5oz / 230g plain flour
2.5oz / 75g wholemeal flour
2tsp baking powder
0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
0.25tsp salt
0.25tsp cinnamon
1oz /30g chopped chocolate
1oz / 30g oats
2 eggs
2.5oz / 75g brown sugar (I used white sugar without any problems)
3oz / 90g melted butter
4fl oz / 125ml milk

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4 and butter a loaf tin.

Mix together the dry ingredients (plain flour, wholemeal flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, chopped chocolate and oats) and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and stir in the sugar, melted butter and milk. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the mashed bananas. Mix until just combined but be careful not to overmix.

Pour the batter into the buttered tin and bake for about 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the bread comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes, and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. If you can wait that long…. I couldn’t, and the Boy and I only managed to wait about 20 minutes before helping ourselves to a couple of lovely warm slices!

This bread is delicious warm, cold, or lightly toasted and spread with a bit of butter. It’s also delicious with chopped toasted nuts added instead of the chocolate, or as well as if you’re feeling particularly indulgent.

But these cookies. Oh, these cookies.


They are all kinds of amazing. I am a sucker for oatmeal raisin cookies. Every time I dig in to a tub of Ben & Jerry’s I lament the fact that it isn’t my beloved and sadly discontinued Oatmeal Cookie Dough flavour, and I’m constantly craving the big chewy ones that the supermarkets sell in those waxed paper bags with the little plastic window. But they can be a little hit and miss, and sometimes they’re disappointingly crisp and dry. For years I’ve been searching for the perfect oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, because let’s face it, homemade is always better, but they’ve never been quite right. I think I might have finally cracked it though.

I adapted smitten kitchen’s thick, chewy oatmeal raisin cookies recipe (always with the adapting, but to be honest I very rarely follow a recipe exactly! I tend to use them more as springboards to something else, but that does sometimes make repeat results a little tricky) but added more raisins, a dash more vanilla and about twice as much cinnamon because I love the stuff. I was running low on brown sugar so I used white only, and I also chilled the dough for about 45 minutes. I then scooped it out into golf ball sized balls and then flattened them slightly before baking. I did a little experiment and flattened some of them out while leaving a few in a ball shape, and while they did all spread out I preferred the flattened cookies. The balled ones retained a bit of a dome shape and were a little bit too thick in the centre for my liking.

Strangely enough, I tried this recipe a few years ago and wasn’t overly thrilled with the results, but I think back then I made the cookies smaller and didn’t chill the dough.


Chilling certainly seemed to give this batch the edge that I was after. Warm from the oven last night, they were heavenly with crisp edges and lovely chewy centres, and they were just as good this morning at breakfast!

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