It has been a whole month of me not baking.
My apartment overseas doesn’t have an oven, so when I returned two weeks ago I rapturously embraced my old, creaky, temperamental oven with much fondness. And old it is, for it not even has a light inside and every time I want to check on the progress of something I have to shine a torch in (as opening the door will release heat) and coo at whatever I’m baking. I’ve been told that I involuntarily say ‘how are my babies?’ under my breath when I check on them, which is a little embarrassing.
On Tuesday I had quite a heinous day at work and knew that I needed baking therapy. But what to bake? After a month’s sojourn I was completely out of ideas, before I realised that I had not ever made a single thing from my Nigella Quick Collection iPhone app I downloaded ages ago.
As some of you may already know, I dearly admire and love Nigella Lawson. I haven’t followed a lot of her recipes as I find they do have a bit more butter than I would like, and not to mention a lot of the measurements are in the annoying pounds and ounces format. But it’s the passion she has about food and the sensuality that simply oozes out when she handles it with respect, squeezing out every potential bit of flavour and taste. I remember the one time I met Nigella was when she came to Sydney’s David Jones for the signing of her book Kitchen. I lined up for ages, thinking of how I was going to say how much I loved her TV cooking shows and how she had inspired me to step into the kitchen.
Eventually, after a whole hour, I was at the front of the queue, in front of the domestic goddess herself. And then she beamed a warm, gorgeous smile at me, and all I could squeak out was a very timid ‘hi’.
That was pathetic, Cath, I told myself as I scurried off afterwards, clutching the book to my chest.
I do think however, that my favourite recipes out of the iPhone app are the sweets. It’s well known that Nigella has a bit of a sweet tooth, and I think we have that in common.
I saw the recipe for her Coffee Shortbreads and it looked simple enough and despite not having done a shopping run in a while, I knew I had most of the ingredients at home. Unfortunately, when I got home I realised the recipe asked for espresso powder, but all I had was a jar of caramel-infused coffee.
Well, I thought – surely this would make the biscuits take on a bit of caramel-ly essence? Surely it would make them even more delicious? Done.
You will need:
- 2 C plain flour;
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda;
- 3 tablespoons coffee powder, ground finely;
- 220g butter, softened;
- 2/3C caster sugar;
- About 30 walnut pieces, optional.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celcius and put the flour, baking powder, soda and coffee powder into a bowl. Into a separate bowl cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
Work in the flour, raising agents and coffee powder mix gradually, mixing with the electric beaters until it forms a dough. Keep going and it will eventually form a soft, buttery clump.
Roll tablespoonfuls of this mixture between cold hands, flatten each ball slightly between your hands and place on lined baking trays, leaving space between the balls, as they will spread as they bake. Nigella’s recipe said the mix will yield 20, but I found it gave me almost 30. Maybe my balls were just smaller than hers.
Gently press a walnut piece onto the top of each ball, if desired. Nigella’s recipe asked for walnut ‘halves’, but looking at the bag of walnuts in my cupboard, they all seemed different sizes and so I broke bits off to ensure some consistency.
Put the trays in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 150 degrees Celcius. Cook for 20 minutes. The smell that filled the kitchen while these were baking was INCREDIBLE. Truly one of the most fabulous food smells you will ever experience in your life. The Sister came home about half an hour later and declared that the house smelled ‘sensational.’
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the trays before moving them to a cooling rack, as they are extremely fragile while hot.
I found the biscuits unlike any shortbread I’ve ever tasted. I was expecting something along the lines of an Arnott’s Scotch Finger, but what they were were discs that were a little chewy and quite crumbly in texture. The biscuits weren’t too sweet, counterbalanced by the bitterness of the coffee, and the caramel aroma was quite subtle and pleasant. While they were delicious biscuits (my work colleagues certainly thought so the day after), it wasn’t quite my version of shortbread. Regardless, they are an absolutely perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of coffee on a lazy morning.
Have a fabulous weekend, lovelies… I’m off to Peter’s of Kensington today to find for my kitchen a new knife block. Much excitement! I cut myself the other night with the vegetable knife and it didn’t even break the skin. They’re quite useless, really.
Over and out xx