comfort, again

Like I said a few days ago, I like to bake to calm myself down, it makes me happy. Today I made choc-chip condensed milk cookies, which I’d never made before – I never thought of using condensed milk in biscuits.

I was going to make them last night because I was super frazzled and basically at the end of my tether, but we ended up whiling the night away by other means, like eating pizza and chatting with friends, then getting into a long discussion on what actually happens when we die; what happens at the end; and how we would cope if we didn’t have hope in Jesus. Because really, at the moment, that’s what’s keeping us together.

So I was home alone for a few hours and I couldn’t just spend it all trawling the internet, much as I’d love to; I’d go stir crazy simply because I need to DO something. So cookies it is.

I promised them for after Easter, because I was giving chocolate up for Lent; I’m sure I’ll pontificate at some point on sacrifices and the importance of them, but that went out the window approximately a week ago and for some reason, I don’t think God will mind. So here they are; a day late and a buck short, but here they are.

Choc-chip condensed milk cookies

This makes a lot of cookies. A LOT of cookies. I fit about five or six on each pizza tray (we don’t have baking trays; pizza trays work just as well. We’re students. We make do.) Also, I think you probably won’t need as much butter, I felt there was too much there.

adapted from the back of the Nestle Sweetened Condensed Milk* can

450g butter

½ cup sugar

1 can sweetened condensed milk

3 ½ cups self raising flour

250g dark chocolate, chopped

250g milk chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line baking trays with baking paper (I used two and reused them. It worked fine, even though I didn’t really let the trays cook in between uses). Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in condensed milk; add flour and stir till combined. Mix in choc bits. Roll teaspoonfuls of mixture into balls, place on trays and flatten gently with a fork. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until golden.

*Look, I know Nestle are evil; I’ve read the articles and I totally support fair trade and ethical eating and shopping (check out the ethical consumer’s guide to shopping for more on that) but it was either this or home brand and that’s just as bad. We wanted to make condensed milk cookies and after the week we’ve had, ethics are pretty much the last things on our minds.

date muffins and a confusing life

It’s been a while, I know.

I’m sorry. It’s been a busy few weeks. Uni, work, SURRENDER:11, home life… and to be honest, it’s kind of taken its toll. I’m happy, but my life is stretched out over so many different spheres of living. Or rather, existing, at the moment. It’s hard to admit that I may be doing too much, stretching myself too far, but when I’m almost in tears because of the exhaustion it’s obvious even to me.

And so. It’s time to take things a little slower, enjoy what must be done. Dive into my studies. Reach out to a few close friends. Have proper conversations with people. Enjoy cooking for its own sake. Reflect on everything.

And eat cake. Because cake makes things better, especially when it’s in miniature form. Like muffins.

Muffins are the perfect university snack. They’re sturdy, they don’t mind being squashed or shunted around in bags. They can be savoury or sweet, but because they’re cakey and full of carbohydrates, they give you a boost of energy and really do help you study. And since I’m off chocolate for Lent (more on that later) I made date muffins last night.

I like to make up recipes, to just throw ingredients in a bowl and see what comes out the other end. Unfortunately, this time was a little too sweet for my liking. And I’m a sweet tooth. So I’ve modified the details a bit, although I haven’t tried it out with this new one yet.

Date muffins

This recipe was made to the soundtrack of How I Met Your Mother. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. Please don’t judge me.

1 ½ cups self-raising flour

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

40g butter, melted

1 ½ cups Greek-style yoghurt

1 ½ cups dried, pitted and chopped dates

Preheat your oven to 180°C and place the oven rack in the middle slot. Grease and flour a twelve-cup muffin pan (a spray with cooking oil does the trick well, then just scatter some plain flour in and tap it out). Sift the flour and sugar into a bowl, whisk together and make a well. Put the rest of the ingredients in the bowl and mix together; don’t worry about how lumpy it gets. Divide the mixture into the muffin pans and place in the oven. Mine took about 25 minutes but my oven runs a bit cooler, so I’d suggest 15-20 minutes. When they’re done, they should be golden brown on top; take them out and let them rest for a few minutes, then place them on a rack to cool. Eat with butter while still warm, or take to uni/work/school and devour to the envy of your friends.

 

flourless chocolate cupcakes

I love love love to bake. So any occasion where I get to bake and not have massive amounts of leftovers (living, as I used to, pretty much by myself) is  a happy occasion. Today, I had an incredible day where I heard many stories of everyday missionaries, people who live their lives for God just as they are. These people live in urban areas and just live life with people, reaching out to all different types of people, and making a worldwide community of hope. And I get to be part of that. Isn’t that awesome?

I brought cupcakes, in case you couldn’t tell by the title and/or first paragraph. One of the people I was spending the day with is allergic to gluten, so I made these amazing flourless chocolate cupcakes that I found on Smitten Kitchen, where Deb calls them chocolate soufflé cupcakes and tops them with mint white chocolate cream. I dislike the pairing of chocolate and mint (call me a heathen, call me a pagan, call me an idiot, it’s not going to change my mind. I’m sorry, I know it’s a classic, it just does nothing for me.) so I omitted the mint but I still got raves about them. They look awesome, too.

So. Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream. Made while listening to all released albums of The Cat Empire on shuffle.

For the cupcakes:

170g dark chocolate, broken up into pieces (I used a combination of 85% cocoa and 70% cocoa solids; I’m sure regular dark chocolate would be fine although I suspect milk could be overly sweet. Use your discretion.)

90g unsalted butter, cubed

1/4 tsp ground espresso coffee (apparently you could also use instant. I’m a snob so I don’t keep it in the house. It doesn’t add any coffee taste, just enhances the chocolateyness.)

3 eggs, separated

6tbsp caster sugar

1/4tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line eighteen cupcake cups with paper pans – I managed twelve cupcakes and nine mini cupcakes, so I’m speculating as to the exact amount, because I was told there would be nine or twelve cupcakes. Maybe the Smitten Kitchen cupcakes are larger than these cupcakes. I wouldn’t make them any bigger, although the minis were  well received.

Stir butter, chocolate and coffee in a small heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat until almost melted, then remove and whisk until fully melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat yolks and 3tbsp of the sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale. Briefly beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla extract.

In a separate, clean, dry bowl, beat (with clean, dry beaters/whisk) egg whites until soft peaks form; add 3tbsp sugar and salt gradually and beat until glossy and stiffer. Fold into chocolate mix with a metal spoon in three batches.

Fill cupcake pans to about 3/4 full – if any fuller, they will overflow, I promise. 3/4 means they will puff up beautifully, almost like soufflés.Bake in preheated oven 15-20 mins. Mini cupcakes will take 10-15 mins. Keep an eye on them, though.

For the white chocolate cream:

60g white chocolate

200ml thickened cream

Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering. Place white chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream over; stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Chill at least two hours in the fridge or overnight. Beat to soft peaks and scoop quenelles over cupcakes. Scatter with dark chocolate shards. Eat and enjoy.