Chocolate for everything

It’s been over a week since my last post, and I’ve only got one excuse – a new job has taken over my life. Crazy days and sleepless nights – that’s how it has been since February started.

“A new job is like a new pair of shoes – it takes a whole to get used to”

Someone said this to me today, and I think that’s the best comparison I’ve heard so far, especially since I’m definitely in the ‘wearing it in’ phase!

When you’re going through a ‘wearing’ time, it always helps to have something to look forward to. For some people it’s an ice-cold beer at the end of the day, for others it’s going to the gym. For the past week, I’ve been craving chocolate. Dark, 60% – 70% chocolate that isn’t too sweet or bitter. The kind that melts on your tongue, and leaves you craving for more.

Not just  chocolate, but chocolate cookies too – and I’m not talking about the kind you can buy from supermarkets. Aside from Famous Amos Cookies that have such a distinctive taste, I haven’t bought any chocolate chip cookies that really hit the spot. Sometimes, you’ve just got to make them yourself.

Whenever I need a chocolate fix, I turn to one of these chocolate recipes. These are just my current favourites – I love trying new recipes, so I’m sure I’ll find more to add to this list soon. If you’ve got some favourites too, please share in the comments below!

One thing all the recipes have in common – they only taste as good as the chocolate you use, so go ahead and use your favourite brand.

1. Chocolate chip cupcakes

Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book

This recipe is adapted from Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book, a very old, very retro recipe book that I got from my mum. The recipe is for Polka Dot Dandies, but I usually skip the icing, replace the coffee essence with vanilla essence, and use this recipe for chocolate chip cupcakes instead. It’s a simple, no frills recipe that really hits the spot.

  • 4 oz. butter
  • 4 oz. caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 oz. self-raising flour, sieved (or 2 oz. wholemeal flour, 2 oz. self-raising flour, and about 1 tsp baking powder)
  • 1 packet of chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp of vanilla essence

TIP: For a ‘healthier’ version, replace half the self-raising flour with wholemeal flour, and add a bit of baking powder to help it rise a bit more.

Preheat the oven to 175 °C (350 F). Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. It usually turns a pale, cream colour at this point. Beat the eggs, add in the vanilla essence, and add it slowly to the mixture. Make sure to mix in the eggs well each time, as adding them in too fast can cause the mixture to curdle.

TIP: If your mixture does curdle, don’t worry! Folding in the flour after that usually fixes it.

Fold in the flour using a metal spoon, and add in the chocolate chips. Spoon the mixture into paper cases lightly dusted with flour. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes turn golden brown. If you’ve added wholemeal flour, they will usually look darker.

2. Chocolate chip cookies with dulce de leche

Chocolate cookies with dulce de leche by Linda Lomelino

Photo from Call Me Cupcake by Linda Lomelino

Linda Lomelino’s blog Call Me Cupcake is one my favourite places to visit whenever I want to try something new. Her photos are beautiful, the recipes are easy, and they all sound so delicious!

After lusting over these cookies for weeks, I finally spent some time making the dulce de leche the week before, and got down to making the cookies on Sunday. Making the dulce de leche was rather troublesome, but the cookies were worth it.

TIP: If you’re using the microwave, keep an eye on it! I ended up putting it in for 1.5 minute intervals instead, after the mix boiled over once and made a sticky mess. It took a while longer, but at least I only cleaned up one mess.

They’re an addictive blend of sweet, salty and chocolatey – A had one bite, and couldn’t stop snacking on them.

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Baking my favorite almond cookies

Almond cookies are one of my all-time favorite CNY goodies

My aunt gives me just one jar of almond cookies every Chinese New Year, and I can never bear to finish them. They’re crunchy, crumbly, sweet and salty – all the things I love in a cookie, rolled into a bite-sized ball of goodness. I’ve only been desperate enough to make them once while I was in Melbourne. All I remember from that attempt was that it took a very long time to fill up one lonely normal jar :( That’s a lot of work for very few cookies! When I found out a few days ago that my aunt won’t be baking almond cookies this year, I decided to ignore the hesitation deep down inside, and to just go for it. How bad can it be anyway :p Can’t be more tiring than baking pineapple tarts, right?!

TIP: Set aside a whole afternoon for this. This recipe makes quite a lot of cookies, which means you may spend half a day rolling and baking if you want bite-sized cookies (approx. 1/4 tsp of dough per cookie)

For the almonds

You can buy the almonds skinned (they usually come chopped or sliced), or you can skin them by blanching the almonds at home. It only took me about 15 minutes to remove the skins from 500g of almonds :) It’s the easiest part of this recipe!

Heat a pot of water until it boils, and put almonds in for 1 minute – any longer, and the almonds will get soft. Use a sieve to strain the almonds from the water, then rinse them in cold water. Roll or pat them dry with kitchen towels. Hold the fatter end of the almond in one hand, with your other hand cupped in front. Squeeze gently, and the skin should come off easily. Cupping your hand in front of the almond prevents them from shooting across the room – it really happens, I tried ;)

Put the almonds into a food processor, and chop them into a mixture of fine and small almond bits. I like to have a mix for more crunch, but it’s really up to you. Set aside, and begin preparing the dough.

All you need is some flour, almonds, and a lot of patience

For the dough

  • 1 kg plain flour
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 2tsp fine salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tsp baking powder
  • 250g chopped almonds
  • 740ml oil (any brand will do, as long as it is tasteless and odorless)

For the glaze

  • 1 egg yolk, diluted with a bit of water

Heat oven to 160°C (320 F). Sift the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder together. Mix in the almonds, then slowly add in the oil, until the mixture begins to stick together and form a dough. Roll the dough into little balls – I used a 1/4 tsp to form bite-sized cookies. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and place the balls of dough about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the glaze, and bake for 13 minutes, or until the cookies turn a pale golden brown.

TIP: If the cookies are baked long enough, you won’t be able to smell or taste the oil used in the dough.

Sunday tea with quiche and skillet cookies

A and I planned a last minute Sunday tea for some friends, to get their help with a new venture A’s been busy with. To be fair, it wasn’t really that last minute – I was feeling a bit worn out after the pineapple tarts baking frenzy the week before, and kept putting off planning the weekend tea… until the day before ;)

While I could have bought something instead of baking, I wanted to make the most of my month off work. Besides, it’s still  January, much too soon to be slacking off on anything!

I’ve been following Linda Lomelino on Instagram for a while, and her desserts look like they belong in a fairytale. From cakes to cookies, and everything sweet in-between, I wish I had her magic fingers. Since I don’t, I decided to try something that looked fairly easy – chocolate skillet cookies. You can find the recipe here. I followed it exactly but added about 60g less sugar – just right for me!

Crispy and chewy, this is my kinda chocolate cookie

TIP: These cookies taste best straight out of the oven – crisp on the edges, soft and gooey on the inside. I kept one in the fridge and heated it up the next day. Not as amazing :(

Whenever I need an foolproof recipe, I look for Jamie Oliver – and he hasn’t let me down yet! This time I decided to try making a quiche for the first time. I did plan on making the dough as well, but the thought of rubbing in the butter early in the morning… I decided to get some shortcrust pastry from the supermarket instead :D The filling was very easy to make, and one of the tastiest I’ve ever had. You can find the recipe here.

My first quiche was a success!

TIP: If you’re using pre-made shortcrust pastry, it’s probably square shaped, while your quiche tin will be round. You’ll find that if you lay the pastry down gently, and cut off the edges, you can use the leftovers to fill in the gaps rather nicely!

After the early morning rush to finish baking, I wasn’t sure if the cookies and quiche were going to taste ok – especially since it was my first time trying both recipes. Fortunately for me, everyone was either too polite to complain, or they were too hungry ;) Looking forward to more (better planned) afternoon teas!

Our afternoon tea, gone in a flash