Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies


My Sundays have started to develop two traditions. The first is that I will spend the day in my pyjamas.  I love pyjamas.  LOVE them.  Especially cute, fleecy ones.  The sleepwear section in clothes shops is one of my favourite places to be though I have to restrain myself or I'll end up buying all of the stock, and I already have too many pyjamas.  The second tradition that is developing is that I will bake.  With the way things are right now, it is the only day I can bake, and take pictures.  During the week I have to leave home when it is dark and come back when it's dark.  So that means no natural light to work with, which results in quite ugly photos.  So it has to be the weekend and, for the last few, has been a Sunday.  That being said, I was not able to finish these biscuits during daylight hours so they ended up being shot at night.  Hence the pictures are not as lovely as I would have liked.

Anyway, for the last three weeks (and for the next six right up until the end of the school term) I have been on placement in a primary school as part of my teacher training.  It was a daunting thing when I started and I was waking up with dread.  However that has gone away and being there reminds me exactly why I want to go into this profession in the first place.  I love it!  I really enjoy teaching, even though I'm still ironing out the kinks in my methods.  And even better, I am apparently good at it.  My formative (so ungraded) assessment was on November 4th and my tutor was very impressed!  She did add that she was pleasantly surprised by this but I am overlooking that and am just being pleased that I am suited to this job.  Hooray!

However, being part of the school is not just about the teaching of the children.  You do have to get along with the staff too and my first impression was not the best.  I am VERY shy and come across as closed off and withdrawn (something I am trying to get rid of).  According to my supervising teacher, I was looking like I didn't want to be there.  Not good!  So to try and improve myself in their eyes I've been meaning to bake something to take in to the staff room.  Unfortunately I only got around to doing so this past weekend.  The previous ones got taken over by the Dessert Challenge (coming Thursday) and Hallowe'en.  Plus it's hard to work out what to bake for people you don't know very well so really I benefited from a few weeks of observing what sort of biscuits got brought in and listening to talk of what people liked.  If reconnaissance had failed, I would have fallen back on my chocolate and orange shortbread.  But no, luckily  I got to try out something new and slightly fancy and also, just a little bit festive.  I have no problems with starting the Christmas baking early. 

So here we have cranberry and white chocolate cookies.  Cranberry and white chocolate was a combination I heard mentioned a lot, and always favourably so I thought I would try my hand at it myself.  Now I wanted to present something that was pleasing to the eye as well as the stomach so I decided I would cut out shapes for my cookies, rather than making drop ones.  Of course, that meant finding a roll-out dough recipe.  Easier said than done and even the one I ended up with did not co-operate to the extent I would like.  Admittedly, I did make a mistake with the first two thirds of the batch.  I had chilled my dough as a ball, rather than rolling it out and then chilling it.  I still made a point to chill the cookies in that batch after I cut them out but they still spread and all my stars were a bit fat.  So with the last third I rolled it out and chilled it.  It was not sticky and I could cut shapes from it a bit easier than before.  Still spread in the oven though.  So, being a perfectionist who did not want to present lumpy stars to my work colleagues, I removed them from the oven a few minutes early, re-cut them and put them back in to finish.  Yes, overly complicated but hey, it worked.  Really, I'm going to recommend chilling it for several hours, maybe even overnight.  And if that fails, you always copy my crazy method.

The cookie itself is delicious though.  I'm not a cranberry fan so I ate some of the off-cuts that didn't have cranberry in.  They were yummy!  As for the finished ones that did have cranberries and a generous layer of white chocolate everyone has loved them.  The staff called them moreish and they vanished very quickly.  I was even awarded a (metaphorical) gold star!  And the fiancĂ© was jealous that they were not for him, though he did get to eat all the other off-cuts plus a reject and one that I snapped for the photos.  He also thoroughly enjoyed them.

Recipe - inspired by Semi Sweet Designs
Makes about 36
  • 225g/8oz butter
  • 70g/2.5oz golden caster sugar
  • 85g/3oz light brown sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g/8oz plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 150g/5.3oz dried cranberries
  • 250g/9oz white chocolate
  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter, both sugars and the salt until light and creamy.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and the egg yolk and beat until well combined.
  3. Add half the flour and mix in, then add the other half and mix that in too.
  4. Fold in the dried cranberries.
  5. If dough is too sticky to roll out at this stage, wrap in clingfilm and chill for a couple of hours.  Otherwise skip to next step.
  6. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 0.5cm/0.25inch thick.  
  7. Chill in the fridge until dough is quite firm to the touch.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and prepare 3 baking trays by covering them with greaseproof paper.
  9. Cut out shapes (my star cutter is about 6cm/2.5inches across) from the dough and place on the prepared trays, spaced about 1cm/0.5inch apart (I got 12 per tray).  If the dough gets a bit soft from being handled, put it back in the fridge for about 15 minutes before baking.
  10. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the edges are just slightly golden. (If they start to spread, remove after 10 minutes and re-cut shapes if you want, then put them back in for a few minutes).
  11. Remove and let rest on the trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  12. Melt the white chocolate in a glass bowl placed over a pan of gently simmering water.  Do not let the water touch the bowl or let the chocolate get too hot.
  13. Dip the underside of the cookies in the chocolate to coat them, lift out and shake off the excess.  Place back on the wire rack, chocolate side up, and allow them to set.

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