Cookies, as far as the eye can see.
I spent a happy evening turning the kitchen into a factory. A biscuit factory to be precise. In the space of a few hours I made eight dozen chocolate crackle cookies and four dozen oatmeal and raisin cookies. When I bake like this I go into a sort of trance of measuring, whisking, beating, sprinkling and rolling, punctuated by the ping of the kitchen timer. I rotate the baking sheets through the oven and put them onto the table in the garden to cool quickly between batches, enjoying the cooling blast of evening air.
Clearly even I can’t eat that many cookies, at least in one session. I parcelled them up in little bags to give to my neighbours and my favourite local shopkeepers. So if you’ve chatted with me over the fence, sold me a book or a bra, a lamb chop or a cat collar, a newspaper or a bunch of flowers, the chances are you’ve already tried the pretty Christmas Crackle Cookies here. If not, they’re fun to make in a mud-pie sort of way. I’ll post the oatmeal cookies in January, when we can all do with a cosy, chewy, pretending-to-be wholesome (they’ve got OATS in - they’re practically health food) cheer up. In the meantime, thank you to all of you who visit my blog and leave such lovely comments, both here and on Twitter. I wish you all a delicious Christmas and a sweetly chewy New Year.
Christmas crackle cookies
This makes about eight dozen cookies, but you can halve it quite easily if that’s too many for you. The dough also freezes well so you could keep some of the packages in the freezer, ready for when you want to rustle up a quick batch.
I took as my inspiration for this recipe Martha Stewart’s recipe here, though I tinkered with the method quite a bit. My tips for success are these:
· Chill the dough for at least four hours, or overnight if possible. Take the packages of dough out of the fridge one at a time – you want the batter to be very cold when you work on it.
· It helps if your hands are really cool. Run them under the cold tap or dip them in chilled water from time to time. You’ll need to wash them quite frequently anyway, as it’s a rather sticky business.
· Handle the dough as little as possible to turn them into little balls. They don’t have to be perfectly round. Roughly round is fine – the oven will do the rest.
· It’s quite pleasingly messy, so line your work surface with baking parchment or clingfilm to make cleaning up easy.
225g plain chocolate, about 70%, broken up into small pieces370g plain flour
4tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
400g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
150ml whole milk
2 tbsp Kahlua, optional
2 tsp vanilla extract
Icing sugar and caster sugar for rolling
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely-simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl). Melt, stirring from time to time. Cool.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. If I’m making this quantity, I sift it twice to make sure it’s well blended.
In a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth then add the sugar and beat until very light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs about a tablespoon at a time, beating until well combined after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and Kahlua if using, then the cooled chocolate.
With the beater on a low speed, add a third of the sifted flour mixture, then half of the milk, and repeat, ending with the last third of the flour. Mix until just combined – with this large quantity, I finish it off by hand, but with a half batch you should be fine. Be careful not to overmix though or the cookies will be tough – the dough should be soft and cakey, rather mousse-y. Divide the dough into eight flattish discs of about 220g each and wrap them in clingfilm. Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Line baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment. You will need to cook these in batches. Make sure the sheets are cool and the oven back up to temperature before you embark on each batch.
Ready to roll.
Ready for the oven.
Place a large sheet of baking parchment or clingfilm on your work surface and set up a bowl of caster sugar and a bowl of icing sugar, ready to roll the cookies. Remove one batch of dough from the fridge and use a teaspoon to scoop out little balls of dough. Roll them quickly into balls roughly the size of a small walnut. Toss them first in the caster sugar then in the icing sugar until they’re well coated, then arrange on the prepared baking sheet about 2cm apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until flattened and the sugar coating has split into a crackle pattern. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. They will keep in an airtight container for about 4 days.