Tag Archives: coffee

Spiced coffee and chocolate wholewheat shortbread

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When I found out about the Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I thought it was one of the best ideas I’d ever heard: bake cookies, send them to 3 food bloggers, receive 3 dozen cookies in return.

That’s my kind of fun :)

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What’s even better about it? It’s not just another reason for food bloggers to bake, the purpose is to raise money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. We’ve managed to raise over $13,000 so far this year thanks to the expert organisation from Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen.

The cookies I made (recipe below) combined some of my favourite things in the world – coffee, chocolate and festive spices.

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Baking these cookies during December is the perfect way to prepare for the Christmas season, as is gifting them to people you don’t know.

I actually knew of two of the three people I sent cookies to – Kate (The Little Loaf) and Iris (Whatever Gets You Through The Day) are two of my favourite UK bloggers (which made me extra nervous!).

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Once my cookies had been carefully packaged and posted, I had the excitement of waiting for my cookie gifts. Poor Shake had to stare at the packages each day until I returned home from work to open them (not convinced I could have waited if I had been in his shoes…).

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Our first treats were addictive heart-shaped cinnamon sandwich cookies (with cinnamon icing inside!) from Lucy. Thank goodness we love cinnamon in this house, but honestly they were so delicious and perfect with a cup of tea.

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The following day we received two deliveries – sour cherry and almond shortbreads from Jennie and coconut oatmeal cookies from Jen. Both were incredible and we were thrilled to have a real variety of flavours and textures. You should really check out their blogs for the recipe details, I recommend all of them wholeheartedly!

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My recipients sent some lovely feedback about the cookies, and I’ve been itching to share them with you, but the rule was we all post our recipes today! So, without further ado here you go:

Spiced coffee and chocolate wholewheat shortbread
makes approximately 36 small shortbreads

Ingredients

220g unsalted butter – at room temperature
100g icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or seeds of 1/3 vanilla pod
1 teaspoon four spice (mine was from France and included cloves, nutmeg, black pepper (!) and cinnamon)
2 teaspoons finely ground fresh coffee (you could substitute 2 tbsp instant espresso, but it won’t be quite the same)
220g plain flour – I used wholewheat, because I prefer it
100g dark chocolate chips/chunks

Don’t preheat the oven just yet – the dough needs to chill before baking.

In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar for at least a few minutes, until thoroughly combined.

Add the vanilla, spices and coffee and mix again for a further minute or two so that the mixture is evenly speckled with coffee and spices.

Now add the flour and mix slowly, only until it has disappeared into the dough but has formed a ball – you don’t want to overwork it.

Lastly, stir through the chocolate chunks.

Lay a large piece of clingfilm on a flat surface and turn out the dough. Top the dough with another large sheet of clingfilm and start working with the rolling pin.

I warn you, the dough is sticky (but delicious).

Roll out the dough until it is approximately 1/4inch thick and relatively rectangular. Transfer to large dish or tray and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Once refrigerated, preheat the oven to 170degC.

Use a sharp knife to cut out your shortbreads. Mine were approximately 2inch by 1inch rectangles. I’m not especially good at being consistent, so some were larger than others ;)

Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 8 – 12 minutes, depending on size and shape made. You want slight colour around the edges.

Don’t panic if they are still very soft, the shortbread hardens as it cools.

Enjoy :)

Bake
xoxo

 

Macarons part deux

Coffee and chocolate macarons

I don’t know if you follow us on twitter, but if you do you’ll know that I managed to sneak in the second attempt of macaron making today.

Mixing on baby’s floor a.k.a multitasking

Those of you with babies will know that this is a minor miracle, especially when baby is napping less and moving more!

Nevertheless, I had my points for improvement from last time and was therefore focused and efficient.

Coffee macaron mix

I decided that whilst I’m still learning, I will reduce my quantities to just one egg white. I can’t stand waste! I didn’t weigh it though, so next time I will.

I made a few more folds when mixing than last time (although it was technically fewer as I had a larger volume then…but you know what I mean!). I think I should do more folds still next time as the mix was still a little pointy.

Time to rest

I also let the macarons rest for the full hour before baking, although I found some advice today saying 20-40 minutes is plenty…hmmm. Please ignore the fact that I didn’t fill my circles – laziness? lack of time? I just wanted to make more!

Some cracks did form, but only on half of the macarons – the ones at the back of the oven. Next time I might turn them around halfway through cooking.

Nicer bottom eh? This time only one stuck to the baking paper! I baked them for 15 minutes and then left them in the oven for another 2 minutes with the oven switched off.

Macaron “feet” starting to form

So the infamous macaron feet did start to form, which is much better than last time! Maybe with a little more folding the feet will improve. I’ll also reduce the resting time.

I filled the macarons with a chocolate buttercream, too generously according to just one person ;)

They were gone within an hour!

Bake

xoxo

Macarons in the making

Coffee macarons – first attempt.

I was tempted not to write this post. I definitely didn’t want to include any photos, but here we are!

For our anniversary (first year is paper) Shake bought me a little french book on making macarons. He always manages to pick something I have been thinking about without having told him! 

Today whilst baby napped I decided to make my first batch. I was really strict about measuring the ingredients accurately (very unlike me…) and borrowed an electric whisk for the egg whites as I wanted to make them as best I could.

I actually had to whisk the whites in the spare room so it didn’t wake the boy up – that’s one disadvantage of his room being next to the kitchen!

People seem to be daunted about making macarons, and having tried now I can see why! So, the purpose of this post is to document what went wrong and what I will change for next time.

Macarons resting

I am happy with my measurements, but having carried out some research after I made my mix, it is suggested to use egg whites that have been left out for at least 24 hours! Oops. Well, next time I will plan in advance.

Another factor I can change is that I think I needed to mix the mixture?batter? a little more as when piped onto the tray the macarons had little peaks (you don’t want to know what Shake said they looked like…!). I used a damp finger to smooth them down before baking, but this is apparently a sign of under-mixing.

Cracked macarons

I’m not 100% sure what was wrong with the shells above, but it might again be due to the mixture not being mixed enough? Or I didn’t leave them out for long enough before baking? Or they were in the oven for slightly too long? Hmmm….who knows!

Interestingly, these shells came off of the paper very easily, whereas the shells from the shelf above stuck to the baking paper. I say “interestingly”, but actually this was annoying!

I used a tip I read here (from the Macaron Queen :) ) and put some water under the sheet for a few minutes and they did mostly come off.

I made a coffee buttercream to fill the shells and we did sample a few.

They tasted pretty great, but obviously not as good as these (yet!).

If you have made macarons before and have any suggestions/hints for me I’d love to hear them!

Bake

xoxo

 

 

In review: A month drinking only water

When we decided to take on this little challenge for ourselves, I thought it would be hard for about a week, and then my body would clear out the caffeine from the system, and by the end of the month I’d wonder what all the fuss was about at the start.

But it didn’t go like that at all.

It wasn’t just the breaking of habit that was hard, but the breaking of social conventions. And although I often find this kind of challenge to ‘normal’ interesting, I didn’t enjoy this as much. Though I’m still happy we did it.

I spent most of the month mumbling “need coffee, need coffee, need coffee” on a regular basis. Particularly when I was trying to get my head around some of this stuff for work. Occasionally I was looking for a glass of wine or whiskey in the evening, but it was coffee that I really struggled without.

The caffeine withdrawal was to be expected. A few headaches and aches, but I can deal with that. What I really missed were the social aspects of drinking tea and coffee. When someone offers you a hot drink, it sends the wrong signal if you just ask for a glass of water. Drinking a cup of coffee at the end of a meal is a way of saying, “let’s talk longer, I’m in no rush”.

Though we lack the real ceremony of tea these days, the time taken to boil the kettle, make drinks to everyone’s taste, allow time to cool and then to savor, still offer the space in which interesting things are said. Come to think of it, I once started a business/social-enterprise over a cup of tea, and I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened over a glass of water. Most of the conversations that have best changed my life were over a cup of tea or coffee. Sure, there were enjoyable conversations when drinking alcohol too, but the plans that turned to action were always the ones involving caffeine. Our marriage even, if we trace it back to the start of our relationship, began while drinking tea. Cup after cup of tea. There were conversations that lasted whole days and stretched on into the early hours of the morning. I wouldn’t want to be without those.

So in review…

My sleeping has definitely been worse since I’ve been drinking caffeine again, and I’m drinking a fraction of the water I was drinking before, which I need to work on. But I’m happy to have these drinks back in my life. I’ve learnt more about their real value by testing my own limits, and one day I may repeat the experiment if I find myself taking them for granted.

Money bits…

Between us we drink about 8 Euros of coffee a week

Alcohol is sporadic, but it works out about 25 Euros a month

So let’s call it 60 Euros saved.

WaterAid donations work in £GBP so I’ve given a nice round £50.

Le fournil de Luc

Photo courtesy of Le fournil de Luc

We didn’t imagine when we moved here that we would be just 30 minutes away from an organic bakery and café, especially given how far everything else is from us.

But we are! And it’s wonderful :)

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Breakfast

On our first visit (of hopefully many) Shake sampled a chocolatine (the name for a pain au chocolat in the south of France) and I had a chocolate chip brioche.

Both were delicious and not as sweet as you would expect, which was perfect.

The coffee was great too and our waitress was adorable – completely charmed by our baby.

We couldn’t leave without buying some bread – maybe Shake will review it another time.

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Very pretty (and tasty) organic bread

We are sure to visit again soon :)

Bake

xoxo