Thursday, 15 January 2015

Chocolate cookies shaped as gingerbread men which should have been a house

Lately I can hardly find time to blog. Not that I do not like it anymore. In fact, I even have a few recipes prepared for posting, but it seems that there is a general conspiracy against me so that I am continuously asked to focus, my attention, and my energy and my time into everything but this.

 On the good side I would say I have been cooking quite a lot lately. And that, whether or not is to be published on the blog, makes me happy and brings happiness to those around me. And I have so many other things in which to put my energy that I often have to remind myself that the blog is still here. 

Among the things I've prepared lately there two Roscones de reyes. (This is the traditional baking for the Epiphany in Spain, which closes our Christmas celebrations and all the feasting on the 6th of January). I made them with the same recipe as always, as it is still the best I’ve found so far. In Belfast, however, I have yet to find where to buy fresh yeast, so I have to bake with the lyophilized stuff. The first attempt was good as for the flavour, but more the texture was more compact than it should be. The second, on time for the 6th of January, when we were back here, was just perfect. Therefore, I had to freeze it in portions or we'd eaten all at once. Yes, on the 6th, my daughters returned to school, being probably the happiest children at school, as they had rosc√≥n for breakfast. 

 And then I've done crazy things that have nothing to do with me, like trying to make a gingerbread house before Christmas, just because I came across this magazine and my daughters begged me to make it a weekend before our holiday trip. So, much to my regret, as intrincate decorations and crafts are my kryptonite in the kitchen, but maybe full of a Christmas spirit, I printed the shopping list, bought the long list of ingredients, and I prepared for a weekend of playing to build a house and decorate it with my daughters.

 And then I made a rookie mistake. I do not know if it was all the Christmas sugary emotion in the air or just the rush and the thousands of other things I was doing at the same time, but for some reason, I did not read the whole recipe. And something as basic as that, something I always recommend everyone, that was simply foolish. Because by the time I had a table full of everything you can imagine and a little more, when I had printed templates for different pieces and parts of the house and I was mentally prepared with loads of patience for what was about to come, then I kept on reading the recipe and realized the amounts needed for the dough –well, there is much to build I said to myself, being a beginner on this myself-. There was also enough dead time to wait between dough preparation and the time to use it, which when working with children is a no-no , as their patience is something that simply does not exist. But with butter cookies it is similar, I said again to myself –by the I should have realised it was my hopeful Christmas spirit talking-. 

The problem came when I discovered that it took several days to build the house. I could not believe. It's faster to build a real prefabricated house that to bake all that thing. Not to mention the half kitchen needed to let the pieces still while drying. Who has time / desire / site / patience and stomach to do something and then eat it? For me this was too much. So as the dough was resting in the fridge, I decided that the plan had changed and pulled out the little ginger men cookies cutter, and in a moment my kitchen was full with an army of chocolate mini men. One, two, three trays were filled in what was beginning to look like a cookie factory. There is still another thing I would suggest you never do, especially when you're baking cookies: never leave your oven unattended. Anyway, when I had just put the last tray in the oven, J. asked me something. I went upstairs, we started talking and kept talking, and when you live with someone you really enjoy talking to, chances are you engage in an interesting conversation. Needless to say, when I returned to the kitchen a smell of burnt cookie was already filling the last corner of the house. 

Conclusion: even when you've spent years cooking you keep doing, occasionally, all those things you know you should not do. The good side of this all (it has one, for sure), is that the cookies were spectacular. They are only suitable for chocolate lovers, because they are as chocolate loaded as they could be. It's like a butter cookie but with all the goodness of dark, velvety chocolate: a real bomb. And also on the positive side is that what my daughters wanted to do with the house was playing with the icing and doing all the decorations. The taste of royal icing on a cookie is too much sugary for them not. So we prepare a couple of coloured icings and they decorated the burnt cookies. I then gave some to some friends as a gift, because at home they started to quickly disappear from the tray, and we were more than capable to eat them all at once.

So, even though you might still feel fill up after all the Christmas overeating, I just wanted to post this recipe because I am sure I will repeat it at some point (probably just half of the original amount will be enough). At the end of the day, the blog is perfect for keeping this all together.

Chocolate cookies shaped as gingerbread men which should have been a house. 

100g Belgian dark chocolate
400g soft unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
100g golden syrup
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
700g plain flour
100g cocoa 

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Set aside to cool a little. In a large bowl (or using the bowl of a stand mixer), cream the butter and sugar together until well combined.
Beat in the melted chocolate and golden syrup. Mix in the eggs until well combined and sift in the flour and cocoa. Mix until it forms a cohesive dough. Chill for 45 minutes.
Lay a sheet of baking paper on the worktop and place a quarter of the dough on top. Put a sheet of baking paper on top and roll out the dough to about 35cm x 25cm, roughly the thickness of a £1 coin. Repeat with the other quarters of dough to create 4 pieces. Carefully stack the pieces of dough in their baking paper on a chopping board or baking tray; rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Cut out the dough in the form you prefer -I used a gingerbread men cookie cutter- and  put them into trays covered with baking paper. Chill again for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C, fan 170°C, gas 5. Bake the cookies, in batches, for about 10 to 12 minutes. Leave to cool completely on the trays. The cooled cookies should be firm to the touch. If still a bit soft, bake for a little longer, taking care not to burn the edges.

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