Sunday, 13 May 2012

Cookies - need I say more?

So, it’s yet another boring dull Sunday in a wash-out month of May… Just got a text from my little sister inviting us to lunch, excellent, that’s an excursion sorted! But oh dear, I can’t really turn up with one hand as long as the other, can I? Especially considering I’ll be dragging those two mini tornadoes – oops, I mean daughters, that will rampage through her pristine (child-free!) home.

So, I was considering dashing to the corner shop for a packet of biscuits, but then I thought maybe I could use the opportunity to wrestle the afore-mentioned Tornado-Twins away from the TV for a short while – let’s make some cookies.

The "Tornado Twins" mixing
Stirring in the flour
Luckily, I have an extremely simple and impressively tasty recipe to hand. Rachel Allen’s “Basic Cookie Recipe” is really the most foolproof recipe I have, quite literally child’s play, and the results are supremely good. I really would encourage even the most reluctant baker to give them a go, even if they end up misshapen and lumpy, they still taste fantastic.
The joy of this recipe is that is completely versatile and you can adapt the cookies to whatever flavours you have, making them more childish (chocolate chips) or more adult (crystallised ginger and dark chocolate) or anything in between.

The biggest problem is stopping the "helpers" from eating all the cookie dough! They do love to help with rolling the dough between their little hands and it's definitely a break from Dora, Peppa and the rest.

Cookie dough also freezes supremely well so, if you don’t fancy making the full batch, you’re much better off to make the full amount of dough and freezing half rather than trying to half the recipe.

The end result
Here’s my tip – don’t buy Rachel’s own branded chocolate chips. They are over a fiver – ridiculous! The Dr. Oetker ones are about €1.20 and taste fine. I always use the plain ones, the kids don’t mind the taste of the dark chocolate, especially as the biscuits themselves are so rich. Alternatively, you could easily chop up a bar of chocolate – I’m very keen on the super-dark chocolates from Lidl and Aldi. I chop them with the kitchen scissors, but it’s relatively tedious so I usually fall back on the packet ones.

Rachel Allen’s Basic Cookie Recipe
“This recipe is a basis for many combinations. Experiment with ingredients – flavourings, dried fruits, nuts, spices and even herbs such as lavender – to find your favourite. Makes about 35 cookies”

  • 225g (8oz) butter, softened
  • 110g (4oz) caster sugar
  • 275g (10oz) plain flour
  • Ground spices or finely grated zest (optional; see Variations below)
1.     Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas Mark 3.
2.     Cream the butter in a large bowl or in a food mixer until soft.
3.     Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
4.     Sift in the flour and spices or grated zest (if using) and bring the mixture together to form a dough.
5.     Using your hands, roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and place them slightly apart on a baking tray (no need to grease or line). Flatten them slightly with the back of a damp fork and bake in the oven for 13–15 minutes or until they are light golden brown and slightly firm on top.
6.     Carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool

PS, DinnerLady note here - the cookies will still be pale and totally pliable when cooked, they should be just very lightly coloured. The transfer to the wire rack for cooling is best done with a palette knife, but they can still crumble and break on you, so be careful

Notes & Tips
Poppy seed: Add 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds to the flour.
Lemon: Add the finely grated zest of 1 lemon to the flour.
Orange: Add the finely grated zest of 1 orange to the flour.
White chocolate and orange: Dip the tops of the orange cookies in 50g (2oz) melted white chocolate, then allow to set on greaseproof paper.
Spices (cinnamon, mixed spice, ginger): Add 1 teaspoon of a ground spice to the flour.
Crystallised ginger and dark chocolate: Add 25g (1oz) finely chopped crystallised ginger to the flour. When the cookies are baked and cooled, dip the tops in 50g (2oz) melted dark chocolate, then allow to set on greaseproof paper.
Double chocolate chip: Use 250g (9oz) plain flour and add 50g (2oz) sifted cocoa powder to the flour. Bring the dough together and mix in 125g (41/2oz) dark or white chocolate chips.
White chocolate and dried cranberry: Add 50g (2oz) chopped dried cranberries to the flour. When the cookies are baked and cooled, dip the tops in 50g (2oz) melted white chocolate and allow to set on greaseproof paper.

Roll leftover dough into a log shape, 2–3cm (3/4–11/4in) in diameter, then leave in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to a couple of months. To bake, cut off slices, about 1cm (1/2in) thick, and cook on a baking tray in a preheated oven. Always remove cookies from their baking trays while still warm otherwise they will stick.


  1. Chocolate Chip Cookies

    115g/4oz butter softened

    125g/4.5 oz soft light brown sugar

    125g/4.5oz caster sugar

    2 large eggs

    1tsp vanilla extract

    280g/10oz plain flour

    1 tsp – bicarbonate soda

    300g/10.5 oz chocolate chips


    Preheat oven to 180c, place butter and sugars in a bowl mix together till smooth add the egg and vanilla extract and mix till smooth again, add flour and soda mix well together before adding chocolate chips

    Spoon mixture onto baking trays using desert spoon sized dollops (if you use tspoon dollops will make more cookies so less points but will take shorter time to cook prob about 8-10 mins) make sure dollops are spaced apart about 2 inches apart bake in a preheated oven for 15 -20 mins till golden brown, remove from oven leave for about 2 mins to slightly cool before transferring to a wire rack for cooling