The Musette: chocolate chip oat cookies

My Thursday evening English class served as my first official guinea pigs. Now I agree that a bunch of teenage cyclists probably weren’t the most discerning of taste-testers. But mine were reasonably forthright and, while capable of inhaling their own bodyweights in baked goods, if they didn’t like something, I was left with more than just crumbs. Unsurprisingly, anything with chocolate in it scored highly and they simply loved home-made biscuits and cookies.

The recipe is based on one for shortbread type biscuits to which I’ve added chocolate chips – everything’s better with chocolate  – and oats for sustained energy. I like having a few home-made baked goodies for anyone who drops in to see me on the run in to Xmas.

You don't need many ingredients to make delicious baked good! (image: Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 24 cookies/biscuits)

  • 225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120g (1 cup)  caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp of fine sea salt
  • 275g (2⅓ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 30g (⅓ cup) oats (oatmeal)
  • 100g (6 tbsp) 70% min. chocolate chips

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°Cfan/ gas mark 6 (400°F/350°F).

2. Line two shallow baking sheets with greaseproof (parchment) paper.

3. Beat the softened butter until it lightens. Use really great butter as it does make a difference to the finished product.

4. Beat but don’t whip in the sugar and vanilla extract then gently fold in the sifted flour, salt, oats and chocolate chips. Don’t overwork the mixture, which should be of a similar consistency to that of pastry. Indeed you can roll the mixture into logs, wrap in greaseproof (parchment) paper and freeze for baking at a later date.

5. I use a small ice cream scoop – equally you could use a soup spoon – to portion the dough and ensure the cookies are a similar size. Place the balls on the baking sheets about 1cm (less than ½”) apart, as they’ll spread slightly while baking, and flatten the tops. I found the dough made 24 biscuits, each weighing around 30g (1 oz) uncooked.

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until they start to turn golden at the edges and they’re firm to the touch. Depending upon the size of your oven, you might need to rotate the sheets midway through the cooking process.

7. Remove from the oven and transfer to cool on a wire rack. Once cool, put them in an airtight container where they’ll keep for 3-4 days, providing you keep them out of reach of any cyclists, or enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.

Gone in a flash! (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the biscuits in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. I’ve made the biscuits with milk chocolate chips but found them too sweet for my taste.

4. I’ve successfully substituted the chocolate chips for a similar weight of fat juicy raisins.

5. The biscuits work equally well with a mixture of 50g (1¾oz) tart chopped dried cranberries and 50g (1¾oz) white chocolate chips.

The Musette: chocolate cake

A bit like little black dresses, a girl can never have too many recipes for chocolate cake in her armoury. I recently read about an Italian chocolate cake made with a particular red wine and decided I just had to recreate it, albeit with a twist. Mine was made with Rioja so I suppose that would make it Spanish!

I often find chocolate cakes that use cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate can be a bit dry but this time I reckoned the wine would counter the issue – and I was correct in my assumption. This is a lovely moist cake that, at a pinch, could be served warm as a dessert with either ice cream, creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Red wine and chocolate - what's not to like? (image: Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 96 fingers)

  • 300g (2 cups) sugar (use any type)
  • 200g (1⅔ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 75g (¾ cup) cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 large organic eggs beaten, approx 45g each (1⅔oz) without their shells
  • 250ml (1 cup) buttermilk  or milk with a tsp of vinegar or lemon juice
  • 250ml (1 cup) dry red wine
  • 125ml (½ cup) light-flavoured olive (vegetable) oil

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Grease a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil loaf tin 13cm x 23cm x 7cm (5” x 9” x 3”). They’re easier for storing the cakes in the freezer, which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake. This amount fills three cake tins.

3. Sift and combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), coffee and salt into a bowl, add the sugar and stir with a fork to combine well.

4. In another bowl, mix the beaten egg with olive oil, wine, buttermilk and vanilla extract.

5. Add wet ingredients to dry, fold gently with a spatula to combine, ensuring there are no remaining pockets of flour. The mixture will be quite runny.

6. Pour the mixture into the three baking pans, put them into the middle of the oven on a baking tray and cook for 30-35 minutes. Baking times will vary depending on the dimensions of your baking tins and your oven, so check regularly. The cakes are ready when a toothpick inserted into their centre comes out clean.

7. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and eating, or freezing for no longer than two months. The cakes will keep for a week in an airtight container providing I hide them from my husband.

A deliciously moist cake (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cakes in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cakes are browning at the edges, cover them with an aluminium foil tent.

4. You can substitute the olive oil for another mild or unflavoured vegetable oil.

5. I don’t think the type of wine matters too much, just so long as it’s both red and dry.

6. I cut each cake into 32 fingers – in total 96 finger sized portions to feed a lot of cyclists!

The Musette: muffins

This is my trusty go-to recipe whenever I need to whip up a few (or more) muffins. It’s an incredibly forgiving recipe as the batter will last for 30 days in the fridge. Trust me, I’ve tried it and the last muffin is just as good as the first which is great if you only want to bake a few each time. It’s based on a recipe from Rachel Allen.These make both a great breakfast or a mid-ride refuel.

Ingredients (makes 18 muffins)

  • 3 large organic eggs (approx 45g [1⅔oz], without shells)
  • 225g (2½ cups) soft brown, raw or coconut sugar
  • 500ml (2 cups) buttermilk or plantmilk with a dash of cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
  • 485g (5 cups) wholemeal spelt flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Your starter for delicious muffins

Your starter for delicious muffins

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Take a pastry brush, dip it in vegetable oil and gently paint it all over the muffin tin. This will stop the muffins sticking to the tin if you’re not using muffin cases. If you are, place the cases in the tin(s). I make my own muffin cases from squares of greaseproof paper. (I explain how in my ‘handy hints’ section.)

3. Put the sugar and eggs into a large bowl and whisk to combine until air bubbles appear on the surface of the mixture.

4. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla and whisk again.

5. Sift and mix together the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda adding back the bran from the flour which will collect in the sieve.

6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and lightly combine. I find using a rubber spatula in a figure-of-eight movement works best. Ensure that no pockets of flour remain but don’t worry if the batter’s a bit lumpy. Lumpy batter makes light muffins. You now have your basic batter mix to which all manner of yummy ingredients can be added. See Sheree’s Handy Hints below.

7. Pour the mixture into a jug and fill the muffin cases ⅔ full, ensuring that you have equal amounts of batter in each case. Bake in the oven for 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your muffin tin) or until soft and springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!

8. The muffins will keep in an air-tight container for 3-4 days, but they never seem to hang around that long.

9. Leave any unused batter in a jug in the fridge. Place clingfilm (plastic wrap) directly onto the surface of the batter to prevent a skin from forming.

A selection of muffins: here one minute, gone the next!

A selection of muffins: here one minute, gone the next!

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the muffins in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. You can slightly under-bake small cakes as they’ll continue cooking for a few minutes after they come out of the oven.

4. Variations: Take 400ml (14fl oz), approx ⅓ of the basic batter – enough for six muffins – and add the following ingredients:

Fruit and nut

  • 100g (3½oz) raisins
  • 75g (3oz) apple puree
  • 75g (3oz) finely chopped, cored and peeled eating apple
  • 50g (2oz) chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or mixed spice (optional)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest (optional)

Blueberry

  • 100g (3½oz) fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest

Carrot, apple and ginger

  • 75g (3oz) apple puree
  • 75g (3oz) finely chopped, cored and peeled eating apple
  • 100g (3½oz/1 cup) grated carrot
  • 1 tsp of ginger juice squeezed from a piece of fresh ginger

Banana and chocolate

  • 100g (3½oz) peeled and mashed very ripe banana
  • 100g white chocolate pellets, but you could also use either dark or milk chocolate
  • 75ml (2½fl oz) maple syrup

Strawberry and white chocolate

  • 100g (3½oz) firm strawberries, hulled and chopped into small pieces
  • 100g white chocolate pellets
  • 1 tsp of grated orange zest

Let your imagination run riot! Combine tastes and textures which you know go well together and, if necessary, add additional liquid in the form of dairy, fruit juice or maple syrup to maintain a soft pouring consistency.

5. Make your own muffin cases by cutting 15cm (6 inches) square pieces of greaseproof paper and put four into each muffin moulds. Push well down, pleating the sides and leave overnight to set.

The Musette: chocolate chip, oat biscuits

My Thursday evening English class were my first official guinea pigs. Now I agree that a bunch of teenage cyclists probably aren’t the most discerning of taste-testers. But mine were reasonably forthright and, while capable of inhaling their own bodyweights in baked goods, if they didn’t like something, I would be left with more than just crumbs. Unsurprisingly, anything with chocolate in it scored highly and they simply loved home-made biscuits and cookies.

These also found favour with a few professional cyclists who pretty much polished off the entire batch! I’m not sure exactly how many more kilometres on the bike were ridden to work off the surplus calories but safe to say it was plenty.

The recipe is based on one for shortbread type biscuits to which I’ve added chocolate chips – everything’s better with chocolate  – and oats for sustained energy.

You don't need many ingredients to make delicious baked good! (image: Sheree)

You don’t need many ingredients to make delicious baked goodies!

Ingredients (makes 24 biscuits)

  • 225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120g (1 cup)  caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp of fine sea salt
  • 275g (2⅓ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 30g (⅓ cup) oats (oatmeal)
  • 100g (6 tbsp) 70% min. chocolate chips

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°Cfan/ gas mark 6 (400°F/350°F).

2. Line two shallow baking sheets with greaseproof (parchment) paper.

3. Beat the softened butter until it lightens. Use really great butter as it does make a difference to the finished product.

4. Beat but don’t whip in the sugar and vanilla extract then gently fold in the sifted flour, salt, oats and chocolate chips. Don’t overwork the mixture, which should be of a similar consistency to that of pastry. Indeed you can roll the mixture into logs, wrap in greaseproof (parchment) paper and freeze for baking at a later date.

5. I use a small ice cream scoop – equally you could use a soup spoon – to portion the dough and ensure the cookies are a similar size. Place the balls on the baking sheets about 1cm (less than ½”) apart, as they’ll spread slightly while baking, and flatten the tops. I found the dough made 24 biscuits, each weighing around 30g (1 oz) uncooked.

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until they start to turn golden at the edges and they’re firm to the touch. Depending upon the size of your oven, you might need to rotate the sheets midway through the cooking process.

7. Remove from the oven and transfer to cool on a wire rack. Once cool, put them in an airtight container where they’ll keep for 3-4 days, providing you keep them out of reach of any cyclists, or enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.

Gone in a flash! (image: Sheree)

Gone in a flash!

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the biscuits in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. I have also made the biscuits with milk chocolate chips but found them too sweet for my taste.

4. I’ve successfully substituted the chocolate chips for a similar weight of fat juicy raisins.

5. The biscuits work equally well with a mixture of 50g (1¾oz) tart chopped dried cranberries and 50g (1¾oz) white chocolate chips.

The Musette: Coffee and walnut cake

I’m a sucker for anything coffee-flavoured, so this is one of my favourite cake combinations. I wouldn’t necessarily cover it with frosting if I were serving it at a cycling club event, but it’s a staple at my afternoon tea parties.

The French are not overly enamoured of what they perceive to be British cooking but they do agree that we make a cracking breakfast, fantastic desserts and delicious afternoon teas. Of course, without the frosting, a slice sits neatly in one’s back pocket for a spot of mid-ride refuelling with a coffee. French cafes don’t so much as blink an eyelid if you eat something you’ve brought with you after buying a drink from them.

More ingredients than usual - but worth it (image: Sheree)

More ingredients than usual – but worth it (Image: Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 16 thick slices)

Cake

  • 200ml (¾ cup) freshly made espresso coffee
  • 150g (1 cup) soft light brown sugar
  • 225g (2 sticks) butter
  • 225g (1 cup) golden syrup or honey
  • 2 tsp coffee essence
  • 1 tbsp dark rum or coffee liqueur
  • 3 large eggs, approximately 45g (1⅔oz) each without their shells, lightly beaten
  • 360g (3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate (baking) soda
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 75g (¾ cup) toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

Frosting

  • 1 tbsp instant espresso coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water or rum
  • 100g mascarpone or 100g butter, softened
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  • Chopped walnuts or coffee-flavoured chocolate to decorate

Method

1. Preheat oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3½ (325°F/300°F fan).

2. Grease a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil loaf tin 13cm x 23cm x 7cm (5” x 9” x 3”). They’re easier for storing the cakes in the freezer, which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake. This amount fills two cake tins.

3. Put the coffee in a pan and add the sugar, butter and syrup or honey. Heat gently, without boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour into a jug and leave to cool. Whisk in the coffee essence, eggs and rum.

4. Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) into a large mixing bowl and add the chopped walnuts. Make a well in the centre and slowly pour in the wet mixture, fold the flour in gradually with a wooden spoon or spatula. Pour the mix into the prepared tins and bake in the oven for about 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

5. Leave to cool in the tins for ten minutes then turn out onto a wire rack, peel off the paper and turn the right way up. Leave to cool completely.

6. Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 tbsp hot water or rum and leave to cool. Put the mascarpone and icing sugar into a mixing bowl and beat together. Gradually add the cooled coffee. You should end up with a smooth, soft mixture.

7. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake and then leave it to firm up a bit. I topped the cake with coffee-flavoured chocolate beans but a scattering of toasted chopped walnuts would also be good.

So good, half disappeared before I cold photo it! (image: Sheree)

So good, half disappeared before I could even photo it! (Image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cakes in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cakes are browning too much at the edges, cover them with an aluminium foil tent.

4.  Each cake provides eight fat slices.

5. The cake will keep for a couple of days in a cake tin or, unfrosted, in the freezer for a month.