Did you see the quarter finalists in Great British Bake Off valiantly re-creating the chocolate marshmallow teacakes a few weeks ago?
Eat whatever you want is one of our principles…and it’s usually the one that Beyond Chocolaters find the most challenging. The reasoning goes that if we allow ourselves to eat whatever we want we will end up having a very unhealthy diet as what we really want is all the stuff we usually deprive ourselves of. For most of us that’s chocolate bars, biscuits, pizzas, takeaways, fast food, crisps, cake, pastries, sweets and so on. Everyone has a different definition of a healthy diet. For some it’s going to be eating five a day, for some it looks like eating less animal products or sugar or fat, for some it means eating local, organic, seasonal food. Whatever the definition it’s probably safe to say that for most of us, healthy eating involves as many fresh, unprocessed ingredients as possible. So how do you reconcile your ideal of a healthy diet with letting yourself eat whatever you want? We have talked about this elsewhere on this blog, in particular here and here and here’s another way to close the gap between your expectation of a healthy diet and the reality of what that diet might be once you legalise your forbidden foods.
One way to do that is to do food swaps. Not the unimaginably idiotic ones like having ribbons of courgette with bolognese sauce instead of the spaghetti that nature invented it for but the kind that swaps processed, mass produced, factory goods with home-made food. Which brings me right round, full circle, to the Great British Bake-off Teacakes. I loved the fact that millions of Britons are watching the brave bakers turn out a multitude of fantastic baked goods every week and I hope that many are being inspired to take that into their own kitchen and experiment with making their own version of their favourites. This is subversive cooking in the making.
When you make your own – whether it’s Jaffa cakes or chocolate chip cookies – you can decide exactly what ingredients go into your home-made version and by default you will be using much healthier ingredients anyway. High fructose glucose syrup is not readily available in supermarkets and neither is partially hydrogenated oil, not to mention other chemicals and additives used in industrial baking like humectants, flavourings and emulsifiers. Suddenly, your favourite goodies go from having a long list of unpronounceable, man-made ingredients to a few very simple basics: flour, sugar, butter, eggs and other bits and pieces to add texture and flavour. You can even decide to experiment with quantities and types of sugar and fat and flour in the recipe, if that’s your thing, tweaking until you get something that you feel is more in line with your healthy eating ideal. When you make your own you are also are in charge of deciding what a ‘portion’ is – and therefore how much you eat – because at the end of the day a biscuit could be the size of a 50p coin or as big as your hand – only you will know how big you like your biscuits and how big a batch you want to bake. You get freshly baked biscuits, whenever you want them and don’t feel obliged to finish off ‘the packet’ because there is no packet to speak of.
So next time you fancy a biscuit, reach for your scales and pre-hear your oven. Then make your own. You don’t have to have GBB skills. There’s loads of stuff which is seriously tasty, dead easy and pretty foolproff. Stuff like chewy oaty bars to chocolate chip cookies. I’ll start you off with a very easy and really, really good dark chocolate chip and pistachio cookie which takes 10 minutes to throw together and then sits in the fridge for up to 3 days ‘mellowing’. You can make yourself one or 16 cookies in one sitting and eat them still slightly warm, oozing with chocolate in the middle and a little crisped up and chewy around the edges. The dough does have to set for 3 hours before you can bake the cookies but this is a perfect opportunity to tune in – several times! – and make decisions about how many you are hungry for and if you’re not hungry you can make choices about how many you feel happy eating. By the time they come out of the oven, you can’t wait to bite into one and the joy is only enhanced by the wait. You savour every bite and give it the attention you just wouldn’t bestow on a Maryland Choc Chip from a packet.
And if, you might find happens, you decide that you don’t really want cookies after all, you can relax in the knowledge that you have loads of them waiting to be baked in your fridge. You have chocolate heaven at your fingertips in the time it takes to make a cup of tea and shoot off a few emails. You can even shape the dough into balls and freeze in single portions to bake whenever you like.
To the recipe…
Dark chocolate chip and pistachio cookies (copied from BBC Good Food Chewy scoop cookies)
200 grams unsalted butter – very soft
200 grams light soft brown sugar
125 caster sugar
1 large egg
half a capful of good vanilla extract
325 plain flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt flakes
200 grams dark chocolate chopped into small chunks and chards (I use Valrhona 68% when I’m feeling flush or Lindt Excellence 72%)
100 grams of shelled pistachios, chopped coarsely
- Use a large bowl, a wooden spoon and brute force to make these or use electric beaters.
- Beat the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
- Beat in the egg and the vanilla.
- Sift in the flour, bicarb and baking powder and scrunch the salt im with your hands.Bring it all together with a wooden spoon or a rigid spatula, mixing everything into a smooth, quite stiff dough.
- Add the chocolate and nuts and slowly fold them and squish them in.
- Cover with cling film and stick in the fridge for 3hours minimum.
- Keeps up to three days in the fridge and can be frozen in individual balls and baked from frozen (add 4 minutes to the cooking time)
- Preheat your over to 170C fan
- Shape the dough into balls (65 grams each for a gooey porker and 40 grams for a thinner, crisper cookie)
- Place the balls onto a lined baking sheet, spreading them out so they have room to grow. Six per sheet is the maximum in my oven but I’ve often made just one or two. If you want to freeze them put them into the freezer on a baking tray, covered loosely with cling film. When they are hard, transfer to freezer bags.
- Bake for 15 minutes for gooey in the middle and chewy on the edges or 8/9 for the smaller ones. Add 4 minutes to bake from frozen. Experiment with different batches and see how long it takes to get them exactly how you like them. The preferred chewy/crispy/gooey ratio in a cookie is a very personal thing.