Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sugar, flour, butter. It’s amazing to think that these three simple ingredients can come together to create so many different textures and tastes. Cookies, cakes, pastries, pancakes… the variety is incredible.

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I guess my love of sugar and everything sweet began at a very young age. For my fourth birthday party, my babysitter made me a castle cake made entirely out of sugar cubes piled on top of each other and stuck together with icing. She decorated it with colourful gummies (which, to me, looked like jewels) and lit candles inside it, making it glow from within. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and watched over her shoulder (mouth watering) all week as she built it in preparation for my big party. I looked forward to finally tasting my castle all week. But until the cake was brought out and everyone sang happy birthday, it hadn’t occurred to me that no one else would want to eat pure sugar. As I happily broke a chunk of sugar off and bit into it, I looked around and was surprised none of the other kids were fighting to do the same. Who wouldn’t want to eat pure sugar?? Surely that was the epitome of amazingness for anyone with a sweet tooth!

Luckily, my taste buds have developed a bit since then, and I now appreciate more flavours than just SWEET. These cookies are my ultimate chocolate chip cookie. They’re so simple, yet when baked everything combines to form something much greater than the sum of its parts. I don’t think chocolate chip cookies need very much of an introduction. These are nice and chewy, crispy on the outside, and really satisfying with a large glass of milk.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from over here and here.

½ cup butter, softened
2 ¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon of salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 medium egg
1 medium egg yolk
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, vanilla and milk. Beat well. Add the flour, baking soda and salt. Beat until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate overnight, or for up to 72 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 160°C. Line baking tray with parchment paper.

Form dough into 2cm wide balls and place on baking tray, leaving enough space in between the cookies for them to expand. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Remove from baking sheet and leave on wire rack to cool (or eat while still warm!)

Lemon & Sage Polenta Cake

It turns out I can’t bargain. There must be a bargaining gene of some sort and I most certainly don’t have it. Most people in Cambridge cycle, and, well, when in Rome…

So I’ve decided to buy a bike. I had a day off today and went scouring the second hand bike shops around here. I wanted to get one of those retro Dutch-style bikes with a basket and a comfy seat, but apparently those are in high demand and expensive. I know nothing about bikes, and when I finally found something I liked I tried to bargain with the guy selling it. It was a complete failed attempt, ending up in me leaving, then coming back, then coming back again and still not managing to get the price down. It was all very awkward. I don’t think bargaining is something you can learn. You either have it in you or you don’t. And I don’t. I hope the same can’t be said for photography, as my crappy iPhone attempt at capturing this cake needs a lot of improvement.

Anyway, onto the recipe. Anyone having spent some time in Switzerland will be familiar with Ricola, a Swiss cough drop made of herbs. It seems to me that every Swiss above 50 carries a pack of these around. I remember eating these as sweets. Their herbal flavour is actually quite refreshing, and brings back memories of summer hiking trips in the Alps. I wanted to capture this ‘herbal freshness’ in a loaf cake, and also wanted to experiment with using polenta in a cake, which I had never done before. I was actually really happy with the result. It definitely has that herbal tone to it coming from the sage, but it’s not overpowering. Infusing the butter with sage by browning it really helps with this I think. The polenta gives it a moist crumb which I like, and overall it feels like a simple, rustic cake with a fresh ♥.

Lemon and Sage Polenta Cake

½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cup ground almonds
½ cup polenta
¼ cup flour
3 medium eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
Juice and zest of 2 large unwaxed lemons
A pinch of salt
15 sage leaves

Make the sage brown butter: Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. When melted and beginning to bubble, add 6-7 sage leaves. Leave to bubble until the butter begins to brown and smell nutty. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
Preheat oven to 160°C
Butter a medium-sized loaf pan. Place sage leaves along the walls of the pan with the top side facing the cake pan. If you have trouble making them stay flat against the pan, spread a small amount of butter on the leaves to help them stick to the pan.
Combine the ground almonds, polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
Remove the sage leaves from the brown butter and discard (or eat, they’re really crispy and tasty). In a large bowl and using an electric mixer, beat the brown butter and the sugar together for 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla and blend. Fold in the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just combined (do not over mix!). Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for one hour, or until a skewer or a sharp knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan and leaving to cool completely.

It starts here!

Welcome to Sugar Cubed.

This blog is an excuse to bake. Having just moved from London to Cambridge for  job as a science geek scanning human brains,  I have found myself with an excess of free time. Having just finished university, I am starting a new phase of my life. Giant metropolis to small town (where, incidentally, I know no one), student to young professional; the most striking difference to my life so far has been that I now have TIME. Not just time to get things done, but free time to myself. When I was a student, there was always an essay to write,  a paper to read, a lecture to prepare for or a dissertation to agonise over. There was always something I could be doing, and when there wasn’t (or even when there was), I had friends to see. There was always SOMETHING I could be doing.

Now, when I leave work, that’s it. As soon as I shut my office door, I can switch off. I’m guessing this isn’t going to last forever. So for now, while I settle in to the sleepy town that Cambridge seems to be and struggle to make friends, I’m going to take advantage of my time for ME and bake.