Friday, March 11, 2011

'Fast' Food

Walnut and Chocolate Oatie Cookies: makes 16
5 oz (125g) butter, softened
5 oz (125g) caster sugar
1 egg
1 - 2 tsp vanilla extract
5 oz (125) porridge oats
3 oz (75g) plain flour
half tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) walnut pieces, roughly chopped
5 oz (125g) dark chocolate, chopped or grated
Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together until well mixed and fairly light in texture (but no need to beat as light as when making cakes). Beat in the egg, vanilla extract, flour and baking powder until well mixed, then beat in the oats. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate.
Spoon out onto lightly greased baking sheets (you need two, otherwise bake in two batches), aiming for 8 spoonfuls per sheet, keeping them well apart for they will spread when baking. Flatten the tops slightly by pressing with a fork, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 (or 160C .. if your oven tends to bake 'hot') for 15 - 20 minutes, until golden. They will probably still be slightly soft (indeed should be) as they will firm up if left to stand on the hot tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a cake airer, then left to get cold. Store in an airtight tin.

Final tip for the day. When baking, all ingredients should be at least room temperature (unless otherwise stated), for when we use eggs or butter straight from the fridge, they are too cold and cakes (certainly) are best when made with ingredients that have been allowed to 'warm up' a bit. Often we can help bread to rise faster by slightly warming the flour (and certainly the bowl) before mixing in the rest of the ingredients.
Pastry is different, everything needs to be as cold as possible (especially the hands!). In the old days marble slabs and marble rolling pins were used, but today's wooden pastry boards and pins are not really cold enough. If you have a large enough freezer, store your board and pin in there, or alternatively fill an empty wine bottle up to the neck (but without a cap) and keep this in the freezer, then put the cap on once the water is frozen). Remove from the freezer and use this as a rolling pin.

Most 'proteins' - such as meat, fish, cheese, eggs, milk.... are best used at room temperature (but again depending upon the recipe). When a chilled piece of meat has to be cooked, especially a joint, we have to allow extra time (from 15 minutes upwards) to allow the 'innards' to be cooked to the degree a recipe intended, and as fuel is ezpensive, the less we use the better. Cream whips faster when the beaters, bowl and the cream itself is well chilled before starting.