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Nut and cocoa nib cookies

Nut and cocoa nib cookies

I’m the kind of guy who always has to have some homemade biscuits or cookies waiting in a tin at home. Just in case of visitors, or in case of the munchies. So I’m always on the lookout for good recipes. I particularly like versatile recipes that can be tweaked depending on what you have in your store cupboards. I’m also enjoying adding cocoa nibs to things; see, for example, my crystallized ginger and cocoa nib cookies.

This one is based on a recipe for a biscuit Justin Gellatly calls “The nutter” in his book Bread, Cakes, Doughnut and Pudding. His recipe uses blanched almonds, blanched hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts and macadamia nuts, but he does say you can use whatever nuts you’ve got; I’ve done various versions, and they’ve all been great, with a nice crunch and warm nuttiness (unsurprisingly). You can even use nuts that aren’t technically nuts, like peanuts, which are actually the seeds of legumes.*

200g nuts, unsalted, mixed
50g cocoa nibs (or indeed cacao nibs)
125g butter, soft
125g caster sugar (you could also use soft brown, for a more caramelly flavour)
1 egg
150g plain flour
Pinch of salt

1. Heat the oven to 180C.
2. Put the nuts on a tray and roast for about 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Turn off the oven.
3. Put the toasted nuts in a food processor and whizz to a rough consistency – I like it a bit powdery, and bit chunky for crunch.

Grind the nuts and nibs
4. Add the cocoa needs and give it one last whizz, to break them a bit.
5. Beat together the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the egg. If it starts to curdle, add a little flour.

Form a dough
6. Add the flour and nuts and bring to a dough. It’ll be pretty sticky. Flour your hands a bit if it helps, and form a ball or disc.

Wrap in plastic and rest
7. Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for a few hours.
8. Preheat the oven again, to 170C.
9. Flour a work surface then roll out the dough to about 5mm thick. It’s quite a sticky dough, so be relatively liberal with the dusting if needs be.

Roll out and cut
10. Cut out biscuits with a cutter. I use a round 65mm one, but it’s up to you – and again, depends on what you’ve got.
11. Gather any scraps, squidge together and roll out again.
12. Put the biscuits on baking sheets, lined with parchment or silicon mats.
13. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until nicely browned.
14. Cool on wire racks.

Enjoy with a cuppa or coffee. We have hot chocolates most evenings in the winter. As the English summer seems to have given up, we seem to be starting to do that again already, and the cookies go well with that too. It’s a bit different to this time last year when we walked the South Downs Way in warm, rain-free weather.

Nut and cocoa nib cookies

* Peanuts are basically beans, but even weirder, unlike other beans, the pods grow underground. Anyway, if we’re being pedantic about nuts, in botanical terms, they are defined as dry fruits with one, or possibly two, seeds.

By this definition, most things we call nuts in English are technically not nuts: Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, cashews, and as mentioned, definitely not peanuts. However, when we say “nut”, we’re usually defining it in culinary, not scientific, terms, and can therefore include all these. In fact, the only nuts that seem to qualify both botanically and culinarily are hazels.

Many of the culinary nuts are actually the seeds of drupes – but who’s heard that word before, besides botanists and specialists??

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Filed under Baking, Biscuits, cookies, Recipes

Justin Gellatly almond cake

Gellatly almond cake slice

This is my first recipe from the book Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding by Justin Gellatly, formerly of St John now of Bread Ahead bakery, London. It’s a book I needed on my shelf, really, given the overlap with my area of interest – and the name of this blog. So thanks Rachel for the gift.

Gellatly lists this as Swiss almond cake, but I can’t quite bring myself to do that. Thing is, I’m sure this is a version of toscakaka – a Swedish almond cake (here’s a version on Poires au Chocolat). Either way, it’s delicious. A huge, almondy beast with an absurdly rich, crunchy, buttery almond topping. As with the classic toscakaka, you partially bake the batter, then add the topping, then continue baking.

Topping mix
200g butter
200g caster sugar
4 tbsp milk (full fat)
40g plain flour
50g ground almonds
200g flaked almonds

Cake mix
200g unsalted butter
260g caster sugar
400g plain flour (I use Stoate & Sons stoneground, which isn’t that pale bleached colour of more mainstream flours)
1 tsp baking powder
100g double cream
1 1/2 tsp almond extract or essence*

1. Grease and line the base and sides of a 26cm springform cake tin.
2. Preheat the oven to 160C.
3. Make the topping mix by gently heating together the butter and sugar in a saucepan. When melted, add the milk, flour, ground almonds and flaked almonds and stir to combine. Put aside.
4. Make the cake batter, starting with melting the butter.
5. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and caster sugar until the colour lightens and the mix is airy. (I reduced the sugar from 300g to 260g and it was still very sweet!)
6. Beat in the melted butter, then the cream and essence (or extract!).
7. Sieve together the flour and baking powder then fold this into the batter.
8. Pour the batter into the cake tin, then bake for 25 minutes.
9. Carefully take the cake out of the oven, and gently spread the topping on.
10. Increase the heat of the oven to 180C then put the cake back in and bake for another 40 or so minutes. It’s tricky to judge when this cake is done, as the skewer may come out of the cake itself clean, but the topping will still be smeary. You want the topping itself to be browned nicely.
11. Cool in the tin for 20 minutes then remove and either serve warm with cream or whatever you fancy, or allow it to cool completely.

Gellatly almond cake

Oh, and you might want to invite friends over to help you as it is substantial. The best bit is the edge of the topping where it’s caramellized against the tin. Good stuff, thank you Mr Gellalty.

Gellatly almond cake side

* I’m not going to try and explain the difference here, just use what you have – preferably a natural not synthetic product)

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Filed under Baking, Cakes