Recipe: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I strongly believe, that for every amateur baker or cook, there is at least one food item that they struggle to make. For myself, American style cookies and shortcrust pastry have always proven challenging. With cookies, every single batch I'd ever tried to make either spread into each other on the baking tray, crumbled as soon I tried to take them off the baking paper, or were overcooked. 

A fortnight ago, I became determined to overcome my 'cookie issues'. Over two weeks, I made endless batches of dough: I tried everything from refrigerating the dough overnight, to placing the baking tray in the freezer and I played around with the ingredient balances.

Finally, my two weeks of testing produced something edible. 

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Ta Dah! Crackle Socks

I was hoping to post this last night, but unfortunately I had a bit of an accident in the Kitchen where I managed to take a slice out of the ring finger of my right hand. Due to the number tiny blood vessels we have in our fingers, I then had to spend most of the night trying to get it stop bleeding by applying pressure to it. It stopped eventually, although it does start to bleed again when I change the dressing, but I wasn't able to take photos or type last night. Probably a good thing to be honest, as I much prefer to take pictures of my knitting using natural light...

So guess what? The Crackle Socks are finished. They've been washed, blocked and are ready to be sent to their recipient...

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Recipe: French Onion Soup

Now we're through the first working week of the New Year, it looks like things have finally started to turn colder. As I've mentioned before, my office is very cold most of the time and I really started to notice how so at the end of last week. Soup has become my choice of lunch for the moment, and as with most things, I typically prefer it to be homemade. Not only can you make a huge vat and freeze individual portions for later, but it's generally very cheap and you know what it contains in terms of ingredients. Although the soup you can buy from Waitrose etc, is usually very good, I've yet to find a shop that can properly replicate the delicious simplicity and richness of a proper hearty French Onion soup.

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Recipe: Leftover Muffin Pudding

If there’s a downside to baking all of your own bread, cakes and muffins etc, then it is certainly the potential for waste. As I share a two bedroom flat with only one other person and I bake almost everyday, there’s usually a selection of items hanging around at any one time. Generally, I use a fair bit up by taking it to work with me, but even so, there’s often a few things left.

Last Sunday, I baked a small batch of strawberry muffins. Only eight, but homebaked muffins are best eaten fresh (i.e. on the day of baking) or they go a bit dry. By last night, there were four left in my cake tin and I thought I would get creative. 

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London, Oh London!

Well, here I am: a Londoner, at last.

I’ve moved, unpacked and started my first graduate job in Central London. The transition has been quite something and I’m still a little overwhelmed by everything if I’m honest. For the first time since leaving school, my life has a regular rhythm, schedule and commitments. At University, things changed very frequently and my timetable was largely of my own devising and highly variable as a result. Now, with work, I have a regular wake up time and day-to-day pattern. It makes things a lot easier for me.

All in all - despite minor clashes with my flatmates habits - I’m really happy with where I’m living….


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New Beginnings...

It’s been nearly two weeks since my last post, which was meant to happen. During the time I’ve been away, my life has changed drastically as I’ve been offered a full time job in Central London. Since then I’ve had to act very quickly to get all the paperwork done, find a place to live down in London and pack up my life possessions to move out of my parents home for good. Although I’ve moved out several times before whilst to-ing and fro-ing from University, this time my move out is permanent and everything feels so much more final as a result. I can safely say that the emotional and physical stress of moving to take up my first ‘real job’ has been utterly draining and that’s why I’ve been unable post for so long.

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Cambridge Lunch Spots: Bread & Meat

Here in Cambridge, I've just reached the end of my year studying for an MPhil. Over the course of that year, or nine months to be more precise, I've often found myself pottering around the city centre after my classes or library trips. Invariably, this has nearly always been towards lunch time. As a result, I've become rather well acquainted with a variety of places to grab a quick bite before heading back to work in College. 

Waking up on Saturday morning, neither Alec nor I seemed to possess a bad head from my College's May Ball the night before. This was partially because we had both decided in advance that we wanted to head down to the riverside to watch the last day of May Bumps, before heading off to another event later that evening. 

After waking up late, we left my somewhat deserted college (most people had stayed until the Ball ended at 5 am) shortly after 11 am for a wander around the city centre. After dashing into a few stores in search of emergency Black Tie provisions, brunch time hunger set in. My stomach was very much attuned to the idea of a bacon sandwich, but usual brunch venues had just stopped serving breakfasts.

We ended up meandering onto Benet Street, as a result of my mishearing his suggestion that we go to 'The Regal' (the local Weatherspoons, which practically serves Breakfast 24/7). I thought he'd said 'The Eagle', and duly led him onto Benet Street - completely the wrong direction for Weatherspoons. 

For those unaware of the geography of Cambridge, Benet Street is a side street that runs off King's Parade, where King's College, the No.1 city tourist destination, is located. King's Parade is easily the busiest street in Cambridge. Aside for a few hours in the late evenings, it is consistently packed with day trippers waving cameras and jostling to join a walking tour or to get into King's College Chapel. Benet Street thus serves as a popular cut-through to the city centre, although it is famous in its own right. The Eagle Pub - where I thought Alec wanted to head because of an interest in science that's much greater than my own - is close to the old site of the Cavendish Laboratory. This is where James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA on 28th February 1953. Upon making this discovery, Crick had dashed over to the Eagle to announce that he and Watson had found 'the secret to life'. The Eagle also has a very interesting RAF bar at the back, which is covered in graffiti and stickers left by Airmen during the Second World War. Consequently, the Eagle is regularly used as a stop on walking tours and Benet Street receives a lot of cut-through and tourist traffic. 

Almost certainly, the everyday bustle of the street led me to overlook Bread & Meat as a lunch destination. Only as I walked slowly along the road with Alec, dodging tourists where necessary and paying close attention to offering of the numerous food establishments, did I notice Bread & Meat. I can honestly say that, before that day, I had no idea it existed. It is such a shame, given how much I enjoyed it, that it's only come to my attention just as I'm preparing to move away from Cambridge but this is almost certainly a good thing for my ever-increasing waistline! 

The chalkboard sign located outside Bread & Meat was the first thing to catch our eye. Mainly because I walked straight into it (I am naturally very clumsy).

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Recipe: The Very Best Sugar Cookies

About a week before Christmas, it hit me. The Christmas baking bug. An annual occurrence, it's usually met with the outright hostility of my father and the semi-relief of my mother. Anyone, who has had the misfortune to meet my favour will agree: he is the most unreasonable person you will ever meet. His general awfulness reaches an all-time head when I am in the house and wanting to use the kitchen. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time hungry because a) He will not cook and; b) Will not - willingly - allow me to either.

However, I have grown part of a spine since then. I am so very used to being shouted  and told that I'm useless on a daily basis whilst residing at home, that I ignored him. As I do on every occasion. I ignored him and set upon my baking frenzy, drowning out the sporadic terms of abuse with the electric mixer and Christmas films.

Out of outright defiance, my natural instinct was to proceed in making the messiest and most time-consuming baked good first. Christmas cookies. But not just any Christmas cookies. Sugar cookies. More precisely, the best cookies I've made. The recipe I fall back on - with a variety of twists - whenever I'm asked to make either biscuits or cookies.

Before I start, let me warn you that this recipe will produce a LOT of cookies. See this picture?

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That's only 75% of the batch.

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