lemon thyme ice cream sandwiches. and life

dish3

If you follow me on Instagram you’d be aware that I was diagnosed with a combination of carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis in my right (dominant) wrist just over two weeks ago. Although I’m seeing a specialist, I’m temporarily off work as both conditions reduce my ability to write and type (key aspects of my professional role, unfortunately).

I’ve also been unable to complete upper body workouts at the gym, lift heavy objects, clean the house and cook (chop, whisk, use a mortar and pestle) with my right hand which has led to a lot of frustration and ‘experimental’ left handed activity.

thyme

For instance, I’m predominantly typing this blog post with my left hand. It’s gosh-darn slow, but manageable. Left-handed cleaning yielded similar results; slow but steadily achievable.

Left-handed cooking? Uh, let’s just say that I’m far from ambidextrous. Flipping pans was fine, but left-handed chopping was downright dangerous. I ended up positioning the knife with my right hand and pressing down with my left to limit stress through my right arm. I felt like a three-legged tortoise trying to complete an obstacle course (only to be overtaken by a sprightly, ambidextrous hare).

doughthyme

dish1

Thankfully, things have improved since the horrid first week and I’m part-way back to normality (with a bit of residual wrist tingling). Props should be given to sAaron for interim nourishment, sous chef services and love, alongside catch-up episodes of Masterchef Australia (for saving me from absolute boredom).

Anyway, I intended this to be a short post (reasons for which should be obvious) and here I am past paragraph four (reasons for which should be obvious; this blog is pretty much an omnibus). Let’s, uh, cut to the chase (that gosh-darn ambidextrous hare) which in this case, is otherwise known as a lemon thyme ice cream sandwich.

honey

The idea for these frozen treats came from (unsurprisingly, refer to above) an episode of Masterchef Australia. The recipe below is mine, however the flavour profile can be mostly credited to contestant Georgia Barnes (her version can be found here).

The cookies below are entirely dreamy; buttery soft (melt in the mouth), lemon scented and slightly savoury thanks to the addition of thyme. They can be eaten on their own with a cup of tea or sandwiched together with creamy ice cream and a drizzle of thyme-infused honey.

As noted, I used Wild Thyme honey from J.Friend and Co which beautifully echoed the herbal notes in the shortbread cookies. However, you can use regular honey, lemon curd or nothing extra at all. It’s entirely up to you.

Enjoy, with sticky fingers and honey dripping down your chin. With either hand (you ambidextrous hare).

dish2

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

  • 1 cup (250g) salted butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s (icing) sugar. sifted
  • 1/4 cup cornflour (pure corn, not the wheat variety)
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest (roughly the zest from 1 medium lemon)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (or lemon thyme) leaves, chopped

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand held or electric whisk. When creamy and pale, add in the flour and cornflour. Continue mixing until well combined (the dough will still be rather sticky and soft).

dough

Add in the lemon zest and thyme, then turn out onto a bench lined with plastic wrap. Shape into a log (about 6cm diameter. 20cm length), then transfer to the freezer. Freeze for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

When your shortbread dough is frozen until firm, preheat oven to 170 degrees C (338 degrees f). Line two baking trays with parchment paper, then set aside. Unwrap the shortbread log and slice into 20 x 1-cm rounds. Lay 10 pieces on each baking tray, ensuring that each round is at least 2cm apart (they will spread slightly during the baking process).

Bake immediately for 15-20 minutes* or until pale golden. The cookies will spread a bit and still be slightly soft when you remove them from the oven, so allow them to cool on the baking tray before transferring them to a wire rack.

*I’ve based this recipe on my gas oven with no fan, you might need to watch them a little more if you have a fan-forced electric oven. They spread and brown fast due to the high butter content.

clsup

To serve you will need:

Carefully spread half of the cookies with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream (be careful as the cookies are extremely ‘short’, i.e. crumbly).

honeydrop

Drizzle with a little thyme-infused honey if desired, then sandwich with another cookie (I probably didn’t need to tell you that, but anyway). Dust over a few edible flowers if you’re feeling dreamy.

Serve immediately (and quickly, mine started to melt instantly – hence the messy photos) or re-freeze, wrapped in a loose layer of plastic wrap. Enjoy. Unless you’re Loki. Poor Loki.

loki1

cookie

Advertisements

soft-baked cinnamon walnut cookies with dulce de leche

stack3A few weeks after my husband and I started dating, we attended a Christmas eve barbecue hosted by the parents of his best friend (and later, Best Man) Will. I was reasonably excited; mostly as I was about to meet Will’s beautiful parents, Nafa and Susan, who had swiftly adopted Aaron into their family after he and Will became best mates. Aaron has shared countless stories of this couple’s love, acceptance and generosity towards him, so it was a privilege to meet them as a ‘second set of in-laws’, so to speak.

I was also quite excited about the barbecue itself. Now, for those of you who are used to throwing a couple of snags on the barbie (‘sausages’ on the ‘barbecue’, for my non-Australian friends), let me explain: this was not just any barbecue. Will and his family are Argentinean migrants, and his father Nafa has become famous amongst our friends for his traditional, slow-cooked Asado (Argentinean-style, hot coal barbecue).

flowernutsAs soon as we arrived at the house, I understood what all the fuss was about. The smell of slow-roasted beef, sizzling pork ribs and chicken filled the air in a smoky, fragrant cloud. We were swiftly greeted with warm hugs, snacks and icy cold Coronas before tucking in to creamy potato salad, hot baked rolls, seasoned rice and mountains of charred meat laced with garlicky chimichurri. When we’d eaten our fill, the men started exchanging garlic-scented burps whilst the women sipped on maté and shared narratives of days gone by.

dulce1Towards the end of the evening, Susan and her daughter Miriam re-set the table with another spread: an assortment of teas, coffees, chocolates, fresh hot water, ‘first dessert’ and the requisite ‘second dessert’. Despite being full, I partook in fruit salad with ripe, fresh cherries, vanilla ice-cream and dulce de leche, a thick, glossy caramel that has since become a personal obsession of mine. Eaten straight from the jar, it somehow manages to taste both like thick condensed milk and deep, dark burnt sugar; when melted over ice-cream or pound cake, it transforms into the warmest, thickest and most delicious caramel sauce you can imagine.

walnutmontSince that night, Aaron and I have become loyal consumers of this Argentinean confection, usually over ice-cream but also in baked goods such as cheesecakes and more recently, soft-baked cookies. Up til now, I’ve been purchasing my supply from El Asador, a Perth company that locally manufactures their own chimichurri sauces, empanadas and homemade chorizo according to the family recipes of owner Max Pineiro.

However, despite the convenience I’ve recently been tempted to try and make my own caramel at home via David Lebovitz’s tutorial. Most other recipes for dulce de leche involve the hazardous step of boiling a can of condensed milk in water for hours. David’s method involves a baking tray with less pressure (consequentially removing the potential of an explosion… big yay for occupational health and safety).

fillingSo, after that prolonged introduction (sorry) today’s recipe is a variation of a soft-baked cookie recipe that I originally found on Sally’s Baking Addiction. I’ve enriched the basic cookie dough with fragrant cinnamon and toasted, crushed walnuts before stuffing each cookie with a spoonful of rich dulce de leche. The end result? Soft, chewy cookies with a fragrant, toasty walnut batter and a sweet caramel centre.

They’re some of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted, and I’m saying that entirely without bias (as to be honest, I’m harder on my own cooking than anyone elses!). Try one on its own, or crumble a couple (preferably straight from the oven) over cold vanilla ice-cream for a deliciously sweet and easy dessert.

stack2

Soft-baked Cinnamon Walnut Cookies with Dulce de Leche

Makes 40 cookies

  • 170g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (165g) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) white caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/4 tsp extra, for sprinkling
  • 2 cups (250g) plain white flour
  • 2 teaspoon cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • sea salt
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts, crushed + 2 tbsp extra, for sprinkling
  • 100g dulce de leche (substitute with cajeta or Nestlé Top n’ Fill)

Place the butter and sugars into a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream together until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla, then continue to mix at medium speed until well combined.

chopcream

Sift in your flour, cornflour, baking soda, cinnamon and a large pinch of salt. Mix together with a spatula or wooden spoon, adding in your walnuts when the mixture starts to come together. The dough will be thick, moist and sticky. When well combined, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate your dough for at least 30 minutes, or until firm.

siftstirWhilst your mixture is chilling, line two medium-sized baking trays (or cookie sheets) with baking parchment. Check your dough – if it’s firm to the touch, it’s ready for shaping.

Scoop out 1 tbsp of dough from your mixture. Flatten it into a 0.5cm-thick pancake in your hands, then place 1/2 tsp of Dulce de Leche into the centre of the circle. Bring up the corners to enclose your caramel filling, then gently roll the dough into a ball. Place onto the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough and Dulce de Leche, placing each ball about 2cm apart on the baking tray or cookie sheet. When you’ve finished rolling all of your cookies, return the trays to the refrigerator to chill for 5-10 minutes.

stuffballsPreheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Take the cookies out of the refrigerator and flatten each ball slightly with your hands. Press a few bits of crumbled walnut into the top of each cookie and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place the cookies into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, swapping trays half way through the cooking process.

doneWhen ready, the cookies will be pale golden (not browned) and soft to the touch. They will firm up considerably upon cooling, so don’t worry if your finger sinks into the cookie surface when you touch it. Once you’ve removed the trays from the oven, leave the cookies to cool on their trays or cookie sheets for at least five minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

These cookies will keep fresh in an airtight container for up to one week. I’d suggest separating each layer with greaseproof paper to prevent sticking (as they’re quite soft, they’ll break if you try to separate them… and broken cookie = sad day).

crumbemptyAustralian Manufacturers of Dulce de Leche:

  • Mi Casa Fine Foods – based on the Gold Coast, Queensland
  • El Asador – based in Leederville, Western Australia
  • Crella – based in New South Wales. Product comes frozen.

dark chocolate, sea salt and walnut cookies

cookiesolo

Get ready for an obscene statement.

I love cookies.

Okay, so that might be just slightly anticlimactic; especially seeing as almost the entire population of the Western world shares the same view. What may be a little more surprising is the fact that I love pretty much all cookies, whether they be soft or crunchy, chewy or crumbly, well-browned or pallid and slightly underdone. As long as they’re buttery and crammed with ‘the good stuff’ (e.g. chocolate chips, toasted nuts, dried fruit) I will happily consume every last crumb with a satisfied smile on my face. Cookie goodness equals happy Laura; especially when accompanied by a fresh cup of piping hot tea.

butternuts

In recent months, I’ve realised that this kind of statement may seem quite unusual to some bakers. Most cookie consumers seem to be a lot more discerning, especially when it comes to the hallowed chocolate chip variety. In fact, some bloggers have even gone to the extent of testing and comparing various recipes for flavour, consistency and texture (see here, here and here for some examples) in the hope of finding the ‘ultimate’ chocolate chip cookie. As this ‘research’ is entirely subjective, the jury remains out as to which cookie reigns supreme. However, as far as I can tell, American audiences largely favour the soft, chewy cookie varieties whilst the British prefer crunchier, crumblier versions that stay true to the original definition of biscuit. Yes, Americans and Canadians, I classify your ‘biscuits’ as ‘scones‘. You are entitled to argue.

beatermont

Anyway, moving on. You’ll find below a recipe for a chocolate chip cookie that my 20-year-old self first discovered whilst reading the January 2004 edition of Good Taste magazine in a Woolworths supermarket. The main draw card was the walnuts; I love anything with walnuts, especially when combined with dark chocolate. So, after a moment’s deliberation, I squirreled the magazine home in my handbag (after paying for it, of course), hauled out my mother’s old General Electric hand-held mixer and spent the evening covered in flour, butter and melted chocolate. By the next day, all of the cookies had mysteriously disappeared. The recipe was declared a great and glorious success.

eggsalt

Fast forward, uh… nine years. I’m still baking these cookies as part of my regular rotation. Sometimes I mix things up a bit by adding dried fruit, white chocolate, macadamias instead of walnuts, sea salt (as per this more sophisticated version) or extra butter and more eggs (read on to ‘notes’ for information on how these ingredients change the consistency of a cookie). Each variation has been equally delicious and eagerly consumed by my friends, family and work colleagues.

So. If you haven’t already found your favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, I’d encourage you to try this one. It’s not a chewy cookie recipe (unless you try one of the variations below) but you’ll end up with a deliciously crisp, crunchy cookies with buttery dough, smooth dark chocolate chunks and the bitterness of toasted walnuts. Try them on their own, with a fresh cup of char or crumbled up over vanilla ice-cream and hot fudge sauce. Either way, they’re absolutely delicious… and with the protein-packed nuts and antioxidant content, I convince myself that they’re healthy, too. Sort of.

cookiejar

Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt and Walnut Cookies

Adapted slightly from this recipe by Sarah Hobbs.

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 100g (1/2 cup) soft brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 free-range egg, at room temperature
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour, sifted
  • 200g dark eating chocolate
  • 150g (1 1/2 cups) walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Murray River flaked pink sea salt (or other delicate sea salt), optional

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (356 degrees f). Line two medium baking trays with greaseproof paper, then set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together with an electric beater until pale and creamy. Add in your egg, then beat until thoroughly combined. Sift in your flour, then stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add in your walnuts and dark chocolate. Stir to combine.

mixingbowlmix

Use your hands to roll tablespoons-full of mixture into balls. Place the balls, 2-3cm apart, onto your prepared trays. Flatten slightly with your hand or a fork.

rawdoughmont

Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes, swapping the tray positions in your oven half way through. When ready, your cookies should be light golden. Remove from the oven, then set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

closeup

When your cookies are almost cooled, sprinkle each with a few flakes of good quality, mild sea salt. This little step is entirely optional, but trust me; the crunchy, salty flakes pair perfectly with the earthy, sweet dark chocolate, butter and brown sugar. Yum.

seasalt2

Notes:

  • As aforementioned, this recipe will produce thick, crunchy, crisp and crumbly chocolate chip cookies that are more in line with a traditional English biscuit. If you’d like them to be chewier, I’d suggest adding an extra egg yolk during the whipping process, alongside a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Add 1/4 tsp baking soda to the flour during the sifting process, then continue as per the recipe.
  • If you’d like thinner, crispier cookies, you need to add more butter (try 150g) and substitute the brown sugar for white, granular caster sugar. Brown sugar is more acidic and hydrophilic, which means that it retains more moisture during the cooking process. White sugar, being less dense, can help produce a crisper end product. Increasing the butter content will also add further milk protein which aids in browning and crisping.
  • If you’re baking these cookies on a warm day and the dough seems to be too sticky, refrigerate it for a while before baking. Don’t add more flour, as this will likely produce a drier, hard finished product.
  • Over-mixing your dough can also result in tough cookies (and contrary to the saying, this is not a good thing). When flour is combined with liquid, the embedded gluten starts to develop into a network of protein strands that become stronger and more elastic when mixed. This holds your baked goods together (a positive) but can also toughen them (a negative) if over-worked. In any cookie recipe, use the minimum amount of mixing required to create a uniform dough (a good indicator is that there should be no visible patches of flour).
  • I these bake cookies between two baking trays (or cookie sheets) to allow space for spreading. Even if you have room for both trays on one oven shelf, I’d suggest rotating your trays between two different oven positions half way through the cooking time to allow for better air circulation and heat distribution. Most ovens have hot spots (mine definitely do!) so this will result in a more evenly baked product.
  • Do you tend to eat left over cookie dough? I’ve recently broken the habit. Why? Well, cookie dough contains very perishable items, the most significant of which is raw egg. Consumption of chicken eggs in their raw state can lead to serious food poisoning (and death) through the ingestion of salmonella, so if you’re going to eat raw cookie dough I’d suggest making a special egg-free batch.

walnutdust

End note: This recipe reminds me of my beautiful, talented and generous mother (as I continue to use her now-gifted, 25+ year old mixer; she also adores anything with nuts and will always be my first official taste tester) and my best friend, Vicky (who consumed a whole tin of these in one week whilst pregnant; she has now added this recipe to her own family’s repertoire). These amazing women are inspiring, supportive and generous with their love and time. I’m so grateful to be traveling through the ups and downs of life with them. Oh, and whilst I’m adding links, also check out the freshly minted website of my husband and new official taste tester, Aaron. He and the poker boys gave these cookies their manly endorsement last night, so they must be good.

With The Grains

Whole Grains and Wanderings by Quelcy

Cashew Kitchen

vibrant food. quiet soul. wild at heart.

Brooklyn Homemaker

modern classic recipes, story telling, and a little bit of history. Oh yeah, and schnauzers.

better than a bought one

as homemade should be

Chompchomp

Perth Food Blog | Restaurant Reviews | Food & Travel Blog | Gluten Free

The Veggy Side Of Me

Deliciousy Green...