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The baker is busy


Many changes at Yummy Nice HQ and sadly baking is on the back burner for now.  I’ll still post the odd birthday cake or fun sunday project, but for now – we’re off on tangential adventures!

To be continued.

Recipe: chocolate chunk cookies with walnuts


I got home late from my class and D got home late from work, so nobody felt like cooking.  It was getting to be too late for dinner anyway, but we were really hungry. A quick run to the corner shop turned up some tinned soup and sandwich fixings, and a craving for cookies.  But store-bought cookies are sooooo depressing.  I don’t know where the energy came from, but I mustered enough of it to say NO to the store-bought cookies and yes to baking.

Back home I turned to Joy.  She’s not always my first port of call for baking, but in an hour of need, when what I want is American measurements and the comforts of home, she’s there.  So, this is the bastardised chocolate chip cookie recipe I cranked out in about 30 minutes.  And all thoughts of dry, nasty store-bought cookies were gone.

Chocolate chunk cookies with walnuts 

(based closely on the chocolate chip cookie recipe from the Joy of Cooking, cut in half – we really didn’t need a few dozen cookies.  I’ve got the newest edition, but the note under the recipe says it’s been unchanged since 1943).

As always, measurements are American.  If you want metric, turn to the internet for the equations, or buy some cheap measuring cups and spoons.

Preheat the oven to 375F / 177C.  Line 2 baking trays.

Whisk together in a medium bowl:

  • 1/2 cup + 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
Beat in large bowl til well blended:
  • 1/4 cup  salted butter (it’s what they had in the shop)
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown molasses sugar
Add and beat til well combined:
  • 1 small/med egg
  • 1 t. vanilla
Stir in the flour mixture until well blended and smooth.  Stir in:
  • 1/2 bar Divine dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  • 1 handful well-chopped toasted walnuts
Drop the dough by heaping teaspoons onto the lined trays, about 2 inches apart. (Dip the spoon into a small glass of water between scoops for easy dropping and less mess).
Bake 1 sheet at a time for about 10min, or until the cookies are slightly coloured on top and the edges are golden brown.  Take out of the oven and let stand for a few minutes, and then move to a rack to cool completely.  Take at least one cookie from the rack to eat standing up, sucking air in over your almost burnt tongue, while you relish the molten chocolate.  Yum.

Recipe: Grandma Toots’ shortcake


“Strawberries on the table?  Here’s the shortcake:”

Strawberry shortcake at the picnic (photo by Polly Bowman Wright)

Those are the lines written atop the dog-eared original recipe card for my grandmother’s shortcake recipe.  This was my all time favourite cake as a child (ok – in the winter, maybe a close second to black magic chocolate cake).  The recipe yields a crumbly, sweet, slightly salty, biscuit base (biscuit in the American Southern sense, not the British).  It’s heavy with the fragrance of nutmeg, and pure heaven when split in two and topped with macerated strawberries and a great dollop of sweetened cream.  And just 10 minutes in preparation and 15 minutes in the oven – very little trouble on a warm day in early summer when the strawberries are waiting.

The recipe below, in American measurements as always.  If you prefer metric – take to the internet for equivalents, or buy a cheap set of measuring cups:

Grandma Toots’ Shortcake

yields approx 8-10 portions

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • Nutmeg (the recipe doesn’t specify, but my mother insists on a good grating of the fresh stuff, as I’m sure her mother did – maybe equalling 1/2 t.? )
  • 1/3 cup Crisco shortening (or Cookeen or Trex, but I think Crisco is nicer) or butter (I use mostly Crisco as my mother does, but cut a bit of butter into it for the flavour)
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 1/3 cup milk

Preheat the oven to about 450F, 220C.

Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Gently incorporate the shortening into the dry ingredients with your finger tips – it helps if your hands are a little cold.  (If it’s a warm day, wash your hands in cold water and run the cold tap over your wrists for a few seconds – it cools the blood flow into your hands).  The mixture should look like rough breadcrumbs.

Whisk the egg and drop it in along with the milk.  Roughly stir until everything is incorporated – don’t overdo it.

The pan you choose for baking is up to you – my mom used a 9in square pan.  In college I liked using a round pan to create a pie-wedge per portion.  Recently D suggested making them in a cupcake pan for individual portions and that turned out nicely – it made about 10.  So, it’s really down to personal preference and how you plan to serve up.  Either way, butter your pans and dust with a little flour to ensure you can get the cake out in the end.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake/a cake comes clean.  Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.

Prep strawberries: Roughly chop or gently slice your berries, or mash them to a pulp if it suits you.  Mix in a bit of castor sugar depending on how sweet the berries already are and your personal taste.  Ideally, leave a little time for them to stew in their juices before serving.

Again, it’s hard to say how many berries – this is one of those recipes that isn’t pre-planned – you just happen to have the berries that you have, so the shortcake must be made to suit.  If you have a few cakes left over, well you’ll just have a very nice breakfast tomorrow with butter and jam.  fOr if you’re left with too much berry mixture, there’s few things nicer than having those dregs poured over yogurt or ice cream.  But generally speaking, approximately 700grams of berries, or 1.5 quarts will provide a good helping of berries per portion.

Prep the cream: About 450ml or 2 cups of whipping cream or double cream should do it.  Add a little castor sugar and vanilla to taste (I like just a little hint of sweet vanilla, not overpowering), and whip until the cream holds gentle peaks.

To serve:  Slice each small cake or portion in half and lay each set of halves in shallow bowls.  Adorn with a big spoon of berries and a dollop of the sweet cream, and dig in, preferably while sitting in the sun.  Yum.

Birthday cake


It was our friend Tim’s birthday last week, so we grilled a big ol’ steak and had a little party.

He got to blow out the candles twice –

once for the big stack of meat straight off the grill,

and once again for the black forest cake.

Both cakes were really good, in their own ways.

Happy Birthday Tim!



I used to get my baking inspiration from books.

When I lived in Chicago, we had a little pantry with a window, and my roommate and I totally geeked out on this feature – it was so perfect for sitting in the sun and flipping through the pages of our favourite cookbooks….ahhh.

10 years later and I still sometimes get them off the shelf to browse recipes and pictures on a Sunday morning… but much more often I’m skimming through cookery and craft blogs instead.  There are so many clever cooks and crafters out there and they are so good with their cameras and computers – I’m hoping this comes with practice…

My current favourites:

1. Smitten Kitchen

SO good - chocolate peanut-butter cake

Smitten Kitchen is the amazing blog of Deborah Perelman. It’s inspiring and also a little irritating, just because she’s so on it!  The recipes are well written with lots and lots of detail, the photos are beautifully shot, and the site is so easy to navigate, which helps when you’ve got sticky fingers and a cake on the go, and just want to see what Deb has to say on the matter.  But the absolute best thing about this website, is that it’s comforting.  As Julian Barnes said of Edouard de Pomiane in his wonderful Guardian column, the Pedant in the Kitchen:

A lovely book

The moment I realised that De Pomiane was not just sympathetic but deeply on my side came in his recipe for Boeuf à la Ficelle (top rump suspended in boiling water by a string). When it is done, you are told to:

“Lift the beef from the saucepan and remove the string. The meat is grey outside and not very appetising. At this moment you may feel a little depressed.”

Isn’t that one of the most heartening and pedant-friendly lines a cook ever wrote?

Read more…