Hot Cross Cookies

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first. I suck at piping white chocolate. Try to ignore how messy these look, and appreciate that hot cross cookies are an excellent addition to the Easter baking roster. I am a big fan of Easter brownies, and generally go for the ‘add creme eggs and mini eggs and it’s a done deal’ school of Easter baking.


But sometimes, you’ve got to mix it up. I love hot cross buns passionately, but there’s no denying they’re a bit of a faff to make. They’re not stupidly difficult or anything, but as with most breads you have to wait for things to rise and prove and so on. And sometimes (okay, often) I am just too impatient for such things. Enter: hot cross cookies.



This recipe makes around 20 generously sized cookies.

If, like me, you live in a two person household, and don’t want to bake 20 cookies at once because you know you will just eat them all, I have a solution for you. Freeze all the cookie dough (i.e. get up to the end of step 2 in the recipe), then bake the cookies off in batches of two or four or whatever is manageable for the next few weeks. You will have delicious freshly-baked cookies in fifteen minutes in small batches.


250g butter, softened
200g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
3 large egg yolks
325g plain flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
100g mixed peel (should come diced but chop it finely if not)
100g raisins or sultanas
75g white chocolate


  1. Line a baking tray which will fit in your freezer with parchment paper. In your largest bowl or in a stand-mixer, beat the butter and both types of sugar together until just combined and even, then beat in the egg yolks – all at once is fine. Add your flour, salt, bicarbonate, cinnamon, and allspice. Mix to form firm dough. Finally, fold in your mixed peel and sultanas.
  2. Using a small ice cream scoop (or spoons, or your hands…) scoop the dough into golf ball sized rounds and pop them on your lined tray. Freeze for an hour, or up to a month.
  3. Heat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and take the cookies out of the freezer. Spread the frozen dough between three or four lined baking trays – you need to give them a lot of space to expand.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the outsides of the cookies are baked and crispy, but the insides still feel soft and underbaked. Let them rest on the counter to firm up for at least 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely before piping on your chocolate.
  4. Melt your white chocolate however you see fit (in a bowl over a pan of simmering water is safest, but I often just microwave on medium power in short bursts for such small amounts). Pop it in a piping bag (or a sandwich bag), snip off the end, and pipe crosses onto your cool cookies. Alternatively, skip the cross thing and just drizzle them recklessly with chocolate. Less Easter-themed, but slightly easier.

Oatmeal Rum Raisin Cookies

I initially made these cookies by accident. I was making a huge batch of various baked goods for an event. The kitchen was completely full of finished and half-made delicious things, with trays of macarons and cooling cakes on every surface (my tiny kitchen doesn’t really have many surfaces). I was making a pan of brownies that had a cookie dough base and Oreos in the middle, and I messed up the quantities and ended up with a load of spare cookie dough. Maths is not my strong point.


So I had this plain cookie dough without a purpose, and no time to think properly about what to do with it. I had raisins. I had oats. I had rum. The cookies were born.

The first time I made these, I threw the ingredients in randomly, without measuring, and didn’t pay much attention because I was making loads of other things too. And they were amazing. So very good. I had to give them away to stop myself from eating them all immediately.


So I was then faced with the task of recreating the cookies of joy. I mean, you know, there have been worse tasks. I played around for a bit, and this is what I came up with. Unfortunately I can never make them again, unless I’m prepared to eat an entire batch of oatmeal rum raisin cookies myself very quickly.



This recipe makes around 20 generously sized cookies.


150g raisins
75ml rum
250g butter, softened
200g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
325g plain flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
a little grated whole nutmeg
120g oats


  1. Pop your raisins and rum together in a bowl to soak. Line a baking tray which will fit in your freezer with parchment paper. In your largest bowl or in a stand-mixer, beat the butter and both types of sugar together until just combined and even, then beat in the vanilla and egg yolks – all at once is fine. Add your flour, salt, bicarbonate, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Mix to form firm dough. Finally, fold in your oats, raisins, and any un-absorbed rum.
  2. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the dough into golf ball sized rounds and pop them on your lined tray. Freeze for an hour, or up to a month.
  3. Heat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and take the cookies out of the freezer. Spread the frozen dough between three or four lined baking trays – you need to give them a lot of space to expand.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the outsides of the cookies are baked and crispy, but the insides still feel soft and underbaked. Let them rest on the counter to firm up for at least 10 minutes. Eat with reckless abandon.

The Taste Test: Chocolate Digestives

We’re back! And we’re back with biscuits. I thought I’d ease us in with something classic and beloved. And who doesn’t love a chocolate digestive? If you answered ‘me’ to that, then there is no place for you here, I’m afraid. This taste test post will not be to your liking.

This is one of those taste tests where there is a clear brand leader. When you think of chocolate digestives, you most likely think of McVitie’s. I certainly do, anyway. And before I got into this taste test mentality, it never would have occurred to me to try another brand. I’d just automatically go for the one I knew. But it’s definitely something that’s worth thinking about, considering the McVitie’s biscuits are more than twice as expensive as the Aldi version. Are they twice as delicious? Find out below.

As before, I feel I need a rambling disclaimer: obviously, I am doing this in my kitchen and not in a lab and I am not a scientist. These are the opinions of one person – that said, one person who has been trained to taste for quality. Also, the products used in this series are just examples – obviously each supermarket has, say, eight or nine different types of chocolate biscuit or whatever the product may be, and I’m not going to try every single one because what am I, made of money?

Finally, I should highlight that I tasted all the products blind, and at the time of tasting and making my notes I didn’t know which product came from which shop. I sat in one room while my glamorous assistant (er, my husband), prepared the samples in another. Any notes added regarding packaging and so on were only done after blind tasting, when I learned which who had made product A, B, C, D, or E.

The Blind Taste Test: Milk Chocolate Digestives


Milk Chocolate Digestives
per 100g
Belmont – Aldi

A – Tesco – 6/10

  • The chocolate looked slightly darker on this biscuit than the others. The biscuit itself was very crumbly and soft, going to crumbs in my hands if I applied pressure. Maybe a bit too soft – you want a bit of crispness with your biscuit. But a decent thick layer of chocolate and tasted perfectly fine.

B – Sainsbury’s – 6/10

  • Immediately more snap than A. Much crisper. However, it felt like a thinner layer of chocolate than A – basically, the opposite to A in terms of biscuit/chocolate. Both had flaws, but both decent biscuits.

C – Waitrose – 7/10

  • Thicker chocolate than B, and a good crispness to the biscuit. The biscuit itself also had a slight hint of saltiness to it, which offset the sweetness of the chocolate well. My second favourite.

D – McVitie’s – 6/10

  • Like B, a thinner chocolate, but tasted fine. A decent snap to the biscuit – probably the second crispest of the bunch. Nothing too exciting though.

E – Belmont for Aldi – 8/10

  • A satisfying, thick layer of the chocolate. A good snap, not falling apart, didn’t have loads of crumbs coming off it. The crispest biscuit of them all, with plenty of flavour and an oaty texture. More texture than any of the other biscuits. My favourite.


At first glance, all of these biscuits looked pretty similar – maybe the chocolate on A and E was shade darker than the others, and it was spread a little differently on all of them. But, in essence, much of a muchness. However, when you got into the tasting there were significant differences. It turned out the the Aldi offering, by far the cheapest by weight, was my favourite.

The other thing to note, though, was that none of these were terrible. They were all perfectly decent and edible chocolate biscuits. And, really, even a chocolate biscuit that’s just ‘reasonable’ is still a chocolate biscuit. The main thing to note, though, was that the most expensive brand leader was certainly no better than the bunch. Next time you’re buying chocolate digestives, you might as well get the cheaper option – they’re really just as good and, in some cases, better.


The Bake Off Bake Along: Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Biscuits

How are we all doing? Are we all settled in to the new season of Bake Off yet? What do we think? Everyone up for some chocolate peanut butter sandwich biscuits for today’s bake off bake along?

I am definitely enjoying the show, and I will keep watching, but I have to say I don’t think it’s quite where it used to be. I caught a bit of a old season four episode when I was channel-flicking the other day, and the show was really in its prime then. Although I do like Sandi and Noel, and think they’re doing a great job, they obviously haven’t got the same chemistry as Mel and Sue, who worked together for so many years before Bake Off. I am also finding the ad breaks more and more annoying. There are so many of them! I rarely watch stuff on live TV, so I’m not really used to the constant interruptions, and it’s a pain. Also, for some reason, I haven’t quite gotten attached to any of this year’s bakers yet. I’m having trouble remembering all their names, which I haven’t done in previous seasons, and I haven’t particularly picked out any front-runners.

Anyway, enough of all that. You don’t need to hear my rambling opinions about the show. Let’s get on to the baking.


One of my friends, who also does the bake off bake along, messaged me a couple of days ago, telling me she had had hours of trials and tribulations trying to do the technical this week, only to come out with some funny looking fortune cookies and burnt fingers. I am totally not even attempting fortune cookies. She is far braver than I. The technical challenges are really hard this year, and we’re only in the second week! Also, obviously I am not making a biscuit board game. Remember last week, when I said I was going to be taking the path of least resistance with these bakes? That definitely rules out biscuit board games.

So, sandwich biscuits it was.


Chocolate peanut butter sandwich biscuits just sound like a win, don’t they? Unfortunately, not so much. I mean, don’t get me wrong. They tasted fine. But they were such a surprising hassle to make. Sandwich biscuits, usually, shouldn’t be. For these, though, everything kind of went wrong early on. I pulled it back, but I did almost chuck the biscuit dough in the bin at one point. I know a bad workman blames their tools, but for this, I am definitely blaming the recipe.


So where is this recipe?

There isn’t one. I mean, there was one. But the base recipe I was working from was so flawed that I’m not going to share it here, because I don’t want anyone going through the same amount of hassle that I did. The biscuit dough was entirely the wrong texture and literally impossible to shape into a log and slice as directed. I ended up rolling it out and stamping out rounds, and even that was tricky. The biscuits are therefore overworked and completely the wrong texture. Still perfectly edible with a peanut butter filling (which I also ended up improvising because the quantities in the given recipe were way off), a drizzle of chocolate, and a pinch of salt. But not as they should be.

Normally, I’d keep tinkering with the recipe and try out new versions until I got it right. Unfortunately for these chocolate peanut sandwich biscuits, I did not have the time to do that this week. Working and commuting full time has made my baking sessions pretty much non-existent. Making batches and batches of biscuits in a quest for perfection simply wasn’t happening.

So, a pretty poor attempt at the bake off bake along from me this week! Sorry gang. Hopefully I’ll be back on form next time. And if anyone has a good recipe for chocolate peanut butter sandwich biscuits, give me a shout.


Date, Hazelnut, Chilli, and Chocolate Biscotti – Bake Off Bake Along Week 2

So, um, remember last week when I predicted that Marie would be in the final three? My prophetess skills clearly leave a lot to be desired. No one’s going to be starting a religion in my name any time soon.

Ah well. Goodbye, Marie. You will be missed. I very much enjoyed your warm, Scottish, grandmotherly vibe.

Cake week was always going to be my best week for this bake along; it’s a shame it came first, in a way, because it’s all downhill from here. I make a lot of cake. Really, too much cake. There is indeed such a thing and you can find it on my kitchen counter. And in my fridge. And the freezer. I am now realising that I almost never make biscuits, and next week is bread week, which will be… interesting. Not good interesting. Interesting in the way that it’s interesting to watch a drunken friend flirting with an inappropriate crush: you feel like you should stop it, but a small, mischievous part of you wants to sit back and watch the fun when someone does something ill-advised.


The biscotti were an obvious choice for me to bake this week, and I am betting that the majority of people taking part in the bake along will do the same. When I started this (er, last week), I wanted to try and bake the things from the Bake Off that I didn’t necessarily gravitate towards automatically, in an attempt to expand my repertoire a little. We’re a mere two weeks in, and I have already dropped those high and mighty ideals. I was short on time this week. The Arlette biscuits didn’t hugely appeal to me – they didn’t seem to be quite worth the faff, and there wasn’t much opportunity for creativity in the recipe. As for the biscuit box, it seemed to me like a bake focused far more on appearance than on taste, which is fair enough for a show-stopper. Don’t get me wrong: I like the things I make to look attractive, if at all possible, and I really was incredibly impressed by some of the bakers’ beautiful boxes. I don’t think anyone could have failed to be charmed by that fire engine. But I’d much rather something looked plain and tasted amazing than looked amazing and tasted plain. I just don’t think I’d particularly want to eat four walls and a roof’s worth of shortbread covered in icing. Anyway, any biscuit box I made would look rubbish.

So, I skipped Biscuitception (biscuit within a biscuit… no?), and more by process of elimination than anything, biscotti it was. In fairness, I’ve never made biscotti before, so you could argue it is expanding my baking horizons a bit. And it was actually trickier than I thought it would be, mostly because I am a massive idiot and initially added too much egg, turning the dough into delicious superglue. I then decided the best way to incorporate the egg would be to knead the dough with my hands. Spoiler alert: this was a bad idea. I ended up wearing huge, sticky, dough gloves. I mean, this wasn’t the worst thing in the world, because raw dough is delicious (come on, we all know it’s true), and it gave me a legitimate excuse to eat the spare scraps off my fingers, once I’d gotten most of the dough back together with a spatula. Anyway, I added a bit more flour and it all turned out okay in the end.


Source: It seemed only right and proper to start with a Paul Hollywood recipe but I went pretty off-piste after that.

Notes: I got a bit obsessed with the concept of a chilli and chocolate biscotti, but also wanted to include fruit and nuts in the recipe. I went for hazelnuts, as they go so well with chocolate, and dates for their deep – almost caramel – flavour. I thought I chocolate dough might be overkill with dates, so I decided to dip the baked biscuits in dark chocolate instead. As for the chilli, I simply added a teaspoon of hot chilli powder to the dry ingredients, with ginger as a slight accent. This gives these biscotti a lingering warmth in the mouth rather than a full on chilli kick, which was what I was going for. If you want them to scream ‘chilli!’ at you, then add an extra teaspoon of chilli powder.

250g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp baking powder
250g caster sugar
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, beaten
200g skinned hazelnuts
150g stoned dates
150g melted dark chocolate, for dipping
100g chopped toasted hazelnuts, for dipping


  1. Preheat your oven to 160C/ 140C fan/ gas 4. Line a baking tray – I have re-usable silicone mats, which I would really recommend. Get your largest bowl, and pop your dry ingredients in there: flour; baking powder; caster sugar; chilli powder; ginger powder; salt. Mix them all together so that everything is evenly distributed.
  2. Whisk your eggs in a small bowl, and then gradually add them to the dry mix. Really gradually. Far more gradually than I did. Make sure the egg is well mixed/ kneaded in after each addition. You are not going for a sticky dough here. If it does feel sticky, add a little more flour.
  3. Chop your hazelnuts roughly, leaving some of them whole. Knead them into the dough with your hands. Chop your dates and do the same – the dates will disintegrate and marble a little in the dough, which makes the biscotti all the better.
  4. Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a moment, making sure it’s smooth and everything is incorporated. Divide it in half. Shape each half into a log about 4cm wide and as long as you can fit on your tray. Space them apart, as the dough spreads in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Take your tray out of the oven and leave the biscotti to cool for ten minutes, to help prevent cracking when you cut them. Slice the logs on the diagonal into 2cm thick slices, and move them back to the tray, cut side up. Put the tray back in the oven. Paul Hollywood would disapprove of my biscotti, because I don’t like them completely dry – I prefer them with a little chewiness in the centre. I baked my biscotti for another 15 minutes. If you want them completely dry, bake for another 20-30 minutes. Remember, they firm up as they cool.
  6. Once the biscotti are completely cold, dip them in your melted dark chocolate and then sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts to decorate.