Thursday, 16 July 2009

Dogs, biscuits and birthdays

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Biscuits
The only thing I ever miss about working in an office is those sentences which begin ‘Oh my God, you won’t believe what happened last night’. I love working on my laptop at the kitchen counter while something delicious bubbles on the stove, popping out to water my herbs in between emails, catching an old episode of Gilmore Girls over lunch. (Have you seen Suki’s culinary marvels – I consider it essential research. At least that’s what I tried to explain to my accountant when I attempted to include a receipt for the Special Edition Box Set with my tax return.)
Since we got Barney, I don’t even have to miss out on those water cooler moments. Each morning, you can find me in the park with a dozen or so people and even more dogs catching up on local scandal, swapping recipes, scribbling down film and book recommendations, sharing expertise on anything from computers to ridding your wardrobe of cashmere-crazed moths – all the while trying to avoid the ducklings in spring and the deepest, muddiest puddles in winter.
We are plumbers and teachers, opera singers and mums, actors and life coaches, social workers and publicans, decorators and gardeners…All sorts really, a bit like the dogs, who range in size from Toy Terrier to Great Dane. Mark, king of the dog walkers, is our glorious leader and Clissold Park’s answer to Cesar Milan. He loves the odd drink, an occasional cigarette and has a passion for the choreography of Matthew Bourne. Actually, what I wanted to write was ‘booze, fags and ballet’ as it scans so nicely, but that makes him sound like a lush with a tutu fetish. This may or may not be true, but he’s the one I phone at nine o’clock at night begging for a bit of doggy day care for the next morning and he always says yes. This is not something I ever wish to jeopardise. For one thing, Barney would never forgive me. And for another, Michelin-starred chefs don’t really care for scruffy terriers in their dining rooms.
Strangely, my park popularity seems commensurate with the amount of baked good I have about my person. (On a couple of slobbery occasions, this has included treats for the dogs too.) It’s my birthday today, so I thought I might make something sweet to eat with our take-away cups of cappuccino. The coffee’s so wretched you need something to take the taste away. Brake fluid would do it, but I thought Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Biscuits would be better.
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Biscuits

All racked up

This is one of my favourite recipes from one of my favourite baking books, Rose Carrarini’s Breakfast Lunch Tea: The Many Little Meals of the Rose Bakery. If you’re ever in Paris, do seek out this wonderful Anglo-French café. It’s tucked away on the rue des Martyrs, conveniently close to the Gare du Nord for refuelling before you get on the Eurostar.
I’ve doubled the quantities for the biscuits (25 wouldn’t have even got us close to completing essential discussions on the latest Hackney Council lunacy), so it was a bit of a struggle to get everything into my mixer by the time I added the chocolate. I just stirred it by hand and it was fine. At least I had no complaints and that park lot can be picky. They may, however, have had their critical faculties dulled by the sight of Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, doing an enthusiastic Hokey Cokey at his kids’ sports day which was taking place in the dog-free area at the time. ‘You put your expense claim in, expense claim out. In, out, in out, your career is in doubt. You flip your secondary residence and you shake it all about…’
Makes about 50

400g (scant 2 cups) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
400g (2 cups) crunchy peanut butter
500g (2 ½ cups) soft light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
670g (4 ½ cups) plain flour, sieved, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt – I used Halen Môn vanilla salt as I love it with chocolaty things, but any salt will do
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
500g chocolate, chopped
The ingredients
The observant among you may notice a little bowl of raisins in this collection of ingredients. I’d measured everything out and realised I was 100g short on the chocolate, so added a few raisins to make up the weight. Not bad, but not chocolate…
Pretty eggs
Lovely Burford Brown eggs from Clarence Court
Chunky chocolate
Make sure you keep the chocolate quite chunky. Use whole bars and chop them up rather than miserly chocolate chips.
Beat the butter with the peanut butter and sugar until light, then add the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl and beater between each egg. Fold in the flour and salt. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with two teaspoons of hot water and quickly add this to the mixture. Finally, fold in the chocolate. Try to stop yourself from eating too much of the dough.
Mix it upAdd an egg or fourMixing in the chocolate by hand
Divide the dough into batches of about 300g (11oz). On a lightly floured surface, roll each batch out into a log about 4cm (1 ½ inches) wide, wrap and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours until hard. If you don’t want to bake it all at once, wrap the extra logs in cling film and freeze. You can cook them straight from frozen, just add a minute or two to the cooking time.
Rolled up and ready to chillKeep the slices thick
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/ Gas mark 4. Butter your baking trays and line them with baking parchment. If you’re making the full amount, you’ll need to do this in batches, so only cut enough dough for each batch. Leave the rest in the fridge until you’re ready to bake them. Cut the dough into slices about 10mm thick (½ an inch) and place them well apart on the trays. Bake them for 10-12 minutes until pale golden – don’t overbake or the texture will be dry. Cool on a rack. Take to the park, to the office, anywhere a conversation is likely to begin with ‘Oh my God, you won’t believe what happened last night’.


  1. Happy Birthday great cookies for a birthday girl love rebecca

  2. Happy birthday!! Those cookies look fab!!

  3. Happy birthday dearest Debora. That was a great day when you bounced into my life.

  4. ummm - how about "oh, you won't believe the cookies I ate last night"!!?? isn't that really what we say around here?

  5. Oh, where are my manners!!!???
    HaPPy BiRThDaY!!!
    I adore you, wish you many,many more and am so glad to have a wee bit of a window onto your glorious world!

  6. By the way I changed my site address to
    To match the name ! Love Rebecca

  7. Happy Birthday to you!
    Happy Birthday to you!
    Happy Birthday, dear Debora...
    HAAAAAAPpy Birthday to YOU-OOOOOOOOOoooooooooo

    (that last bit is a doggy-ish howl, much like you'd hear in Lady and the Tramp. I could play the louche-y hound in the corner who always is looking for a handout and you could be the stylishly adorable Peke in the middle of a group of adoring canines. Can't you see it??

    For pity's sake, have a marvelous one. Anyone (like me, for example) who has to put up with a Zodiac sign that makes everyone blanch when you say it (CANCER! Why on earth....?), knows what it means to party when you can.

    HUGE hug to you, my darling fellow (gulp) Cancerian.

    Love, Marline (the one with the nippy social pincers)

  8. Happy Birthday Debora! Belated most likely - sorry!
    What a wonderful bunch of canine club characters! It sounds so social and like there is never a dull moment. Isn't that great.
    Your batch of bikkies sound so yummy. I love how you use chunky bits of chocolate as opposed to those booooring choc chip bits readily available. It definitely adds more character to the bikky. I must say I think your biscuits have to be big in size. I cannot believe you only got 50 out of that batch. It sounds huge! I usually get 40 biscuits out of a batch half that size.
    Your pictures are really good too by the way. I particularly like the mixer shots. Keep it up dear and don't eat too many of those yummy bikkies. Everything in moderation.

  9. happy birthday! those cookies looks absolutely FABULOUS!! would love a batch via fed ex! ;)

  10. Hello all- Thank you so much for your lovely birthday wishes!
    C&C and CookiePie - Thank you, I do hope you'll try the cookies.
    Mummy - It was a pretty good day for me, too. Thanks for being breathtakingly wonderful in every way, for encouraging and supporting me always. You're fab.
    Lady P - It's entirely mutual dear. Now, when are you getting a puppy?
    Marline - Thank you dear, and I'd never call you a louche hound. You're more of an Italian Greyhound, sleek and sculptural.
    Mariana - How lovely to see you back! Missed you, dear. I know what you mean, it's a staggering amount of dough, but you cut them very thick - because of the big chunks of chocolate it would be very difficult to cut them into thin slices.
    Epicurean's Market - Thank you - perhaps FedExing North London cookies should be my next business venture??

  11. These look absolutely delicious - I've always wanted to make peanut butter cookies but all the recipes I've seen so far have called for smooth (how dull! I'm a crunchy girl) and needless to say none of them included chocolate. This is going straight on my to-do list!

    Strangely enough I promised the boyfriend I would bake cookies tomorrow - sadly I've already bought all the ingredients and I can't justify going out to get more :(

    There's always next week! :)

  12. I love this recipe for ice-box PB&C cookie. Delicious and very convenient to have at hand!
    I really like the interim shot, where the blender is working. Very cool!

  13. Happy belated birthday. I really enjoyed reading your story and your recipe looks delicious. Congratulatons on a blog well done.

  14. Just love your peanut butter cookies! Looks so crunchy and delightful. I have a similar recipe from an Aussie mag.

  15. Louise - I hope you'll give these a go. You know, you could always try substituting crunchy pb for smooth when recipes call for it - I agree with you, crunchy's better!
    Marta - It's great to have a couple or rolls of these in the freezer so you can have warm, delicious cookies in 15 minutes or so. Glad you like the pics!
    Karen and Nyonya pendek melaka - Thanks so much!

  16. Happy Birthday! We love to take Guthrie to the dog park, but he gets attacked! He's so big, and owners seem to think it's cute that their dogs snarl at him and try to bite him. He, of course, doesn't react, just hides behind our knees as he doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body. So...we now take him to the beach where he loves to swim. Have a wonderful day today!!!

  17. Thanks, Catherine! Such a shame about Guthrie, the Gentle Giant, being tormented by ill-mannered dogs and their owners, but swimming in the sea is great compensation. Barney loves the sea too.

  18. Ummm booze, fags and ballet? I think I'm in love. With your writing that is. Hope it was a great birthday!

  19. Jessica - Thank you, it was, and your lovely comment just made it even better!

  20. I love you, Debora. Will you come south and make cookies for us? Just been to Tooting Common, and not so much as a sniff of anything home-baked. BTW, just linked your blog from angels & urchins, because we all want to eat everything you make.

  21. Mands! You know I will. It would be a delight to make cookies for all those little Fox cubs and their mama. And thanks so much for the linking activity - you're fab.


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