Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

My daughter goes mad for these cookies and while I totally understand why she does, they’re such a palaver to make that I really need to be in the mood – and I’m not in that mood as often as she’d like me to be.

So why are they a palaver to make? It’s the whole waiting thing. You mix them, then you wait for the dough to be firm enough to work with, then you roll them into balls, then you wait some more, then you bake them. I can’t be doing with all of this waiting around.

Anyways, this is a seriously, sinfully, chocolatey, fudgey biscuit that answers every possible urge you may have around indulgences – if, of course, you’re inclined to an occasional indulgence or three. As such, they’re worth the waiting around for. Besides, sometimes it’s a good thing for gratification to be delayed…just a tad…

What you need:

235g dark chocolate (at least 55% cocoa solids), chopped roughly

150g plain flour

40g unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons bicarb (baking) soda

½ teaspoon salt

100g unsalted butter

240g soft brown sugar

2 eggs

85g dried sour cherries or unsweetened cranberries

What you do with it:

  • Preheat the oven to 165C, and line some oven trays with baking paper
  • Melt the chocolate in the usual way (I do it in a stainless steel bowl over, but not touching, simmering water)
  • Sift flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt into a bowl
  • Cream butter and sugar in your mixer
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating each in well
  • Add dry ingredients in 3 batches, beating well after each
  • Mix in the melted chocolate
  • Fold through the cherries or cranberries
  • Hand the mixer blade to the waiting “helper” for cleaning
  • This is a seriously sticky dough so you’ll need to pop the bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes or so – until it is firm enough to work with
  • Take large teaspoonfuls of the mix and roll into balls. Place on the tray, allowing room to spread and put the trays in the fridge for 30 mins, or until firm.
  • Hide the bowl so that the “helpers” who miraculously emerge don’t eat all the cookie dough.
  • Bake for 15-20 mins, or until risen and cracked on top. You’ll know they are done by the rich chocolatey smell.
  • Cool on the trays. They should be quite fudgey in the centre and are best eaten within a few days.

 

How to make chocolate olive oil mousse

My protagonist, Kate Spence, makes a batch of these chocolate olive oil mousses in a scene in my new novel (working title Happy Ever After). It’s one of those scenes, you know, the ones where the story changes direction, and these little mousses are partly responsible for that change.

My daughter, who has never read a word I’ve written – and probably never will – nevertheless agrees that these have the power to create a change in direction. They really are that luxuriously good.

The recipe comes from Nigella’s At My Table, but I’ve also experimented with adding some orange rind to the melting chocolate. It makes the finished result a little like a Terry’s chocolate orange.  I’d encourage you to play around with them. I haven’t tried it yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if chilli wouldn’t also work – just a touch, mind you.

These are quick and easy to make, but I’d urge you to make sure that you use the good olive oil in them – you know how you have your cooking olive oil and the one you use for drizzling? It’s the drizzling quality one that you want – just not too peppery. I know, I’m getting picky. You also want to make sure that your chocolate is the good stuff – 70% cocoa solids – and have your eggs at room temperature. Oh, and sea salt flakes – don’t be tempted to use the stuff in your salt shaker.

You need to pop them in the fridge to set for at least 20 minutes, but if you’re making them ahead, it’s best to have them at room temperature to eat. You want them to be smooth, not hard set…if you know what I mean.

Finally, because they’ve got raw egg in them, don’t eat them if you’re pregnant or immune challenged…I’m sure that you know the drill about raw egg.

One last thing – I know I’ve only just finished posting my wellness goals for 2018, but these are quite rich so a little bit really does go a long way…

What you need

150g chopped dark chocolate

100ml extra virgin olive oil

4 large eggs, separated

50g caster sugar

sea salt flakes

What you do with it

Melt the chocolate in the way you normally would. I do it in the microwave at 30-second intervals, but you can also do it over simmering water if that’s the way you normally do it. However you do it, take it off before it’s completely melted and stir until the last of the chocolate is melted. Leave it to cool for about 10 minutes and then stir in the olive oil.

Whisk the egg whites and a pinch of sea salt until you get firm peaks. As old as I am I still love turning the bowl upside down over my head to make sure it doesn’t fall out.

In another bowl whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt until it’s pale and fluffy and almost doubled in size.

Gradually pour the chocolate and olive oil mix into the eggy mix and fold until it’s all combined. Now take 1/3 of the egg white and fold it in. You can smash this about a bit until it’s all smooth, but you’ll need to be gentler with the rest – which you’ll do in two more batches.

Once it’s all folded through and there are no white streaks, spoon it into your ramekins or espresso cups. I also put some into a sherry glass – just so I can have a taste.

 

How to make Christmas Crack

New Zealand Christmas Tree

New Zealand Christmas Tree

Ok, I need to say at the outset that this really is the name of the recipe. Christmas Crack. My friend made some for her builders and wondered whether she could therefore legitimately call it Builder’s Crack? Hmmm….you’re probably going to need to be an Aussie or a Kiwi to understand that one.

Anyways, this is a relatively easy little recipe that is festive enough for this time of the year. After all, how could you possibly go wrong with caramel, chocolate and salada biscuits? Am I right or am I right?

As for the crack part of the Christmas Crack recipe? Some say it’s the sound as you break the biscuits, others could say that it’s because of the addictive nature of the salty caramel and chocolate combo. I’ll leave that one up to you.

As per usual, the ingredients and quantities are a tad loose. From this recipe we got 2 trays of crack (that really does sound so wrong).

What you need

  • Salada biscuits – or some other salted cracker e.g. premiums or saltines – enough to line the tray/s
  • Dark chocolate – we used Whittaker’s because I was in New Zealand and because this is an amazing chocolate…just saying. Anyways, you’ll need 300-340g…or thereabouts.
  • 220g dark brown sugar
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Maldon salt or other salt flakes
  • Pohutukawa blossoms to style the finished result are an optional but oh so perfect finishing touch. Just saying. These ones were acquired from an obliging tree in Petone.

What you do with it

  • Preheat your oven to about 200C
  • Line a cookie tray with alfoil. Spray it lightly with olive oil or cooking spray.
  • Line your lined tray (yes, that did come out loud) with your saladas

  • Make your caramel. For this caramel you need to stir – and keep stirring – but it’s worth it. Pop the sugar, butter and maldon salt – into a saucepan. Re the amount of salt you use, ¼ of teaspoon for a regular caramel, a tad more for salted. Your call. Anyways, cook it over a medium heat, stirring until the butter melts, then stir some more – for another 5 minutes or so – until it boils and darkens in colour. Don’t get too precious about the colour. Add the vanilla extract and stir that in.
  • Pour the caramel over the biscuits to make a relatively thin, even coat, and pop it into the oven for 5 minutes. the caramel should bubble away happily.

  • Now you can melt your chocolate. The easiest way is in the microwave in 30sec stages. Cook for 30secs, then stir…and repeat until melted.
  • As long as the caramel has stopped bubbling, pour over the caramel in a thin layer. As a little extra, sparkle over some extra malden salt, or maybe some coconut or even red and green M&Ms for that festive look.
  • Allow to cool on the tray and then transfer to the fridge for an overnight rest.
  • Once it’s cold, take it out of the pan and remove the foil. Now you get to crack the biscuits. Of course, you could make score lines down the natural break marks of the crackers to get a neat square, but where would be the fun in that?

 

  • Transfer your Christmas Crack to an appropriately photogenic plate and pop some pohutukawa on top. Then move it around the house until you find the perfect light and background to photograph your ummm crack.

Note: The pohutukawa is the New Zealand Christmas tree – so called because it blooms very dramatically during December. You probably won’t find it anywhere else in the world…but once you’ve seen one you won’t forget it.