Ipsden altar frontal: a red rose

Weeks spent refining, reducing and reallocating possessions still leave us with  more than can be easily fitted into our little artisan’s cottage in Islington. Visits to charity shops and the local authority tip are a daily occurrence, the incinerator thrums constantly with the burning of a couple of lifetimes of bank statements and long-kept, but now useless documents and dithering has been replaced by curt and sometimes brutal decisiveness. (We do, however, still have a trunk full of children’s cuddly toys and Playmobil sets in plenty, all boxed up and awaiting a grandchild of the right age.  Who would have the heart to give a Sylvanian Family narrow (canal) boat  to charity after a nearly 30 year stint on  dark shelf?) But on we press.

Ipsden altar frontal: the rose

Ipsden altar frontal: the rose

Here is a rose I embroidered for the altar frontal. I’m not entirely happy with it  but having just read India Knight in the Sunday Times on how bad we women are for explaining how substandard our labours are, I shall say no more. Roses are difficult to render with a needle. If you would like to see some of the other roses I’ve embroidered do look here (rose wedding monogram), here (Arts and Craft style rose christening monogram) or here  (roses on a little girl’s cardigan) & here (more roses on a child’s cardigan). If you are curious about death by rose petals, do read here.

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The church biscuit: 93. Chocolate nougat cookies


Chocolate nougat cookies (adapted from a Nigellissima recipe)

Chocolate nougat cookies (adapted from a Nigellissima recipe)

I first had a go at making these cookies a couple of weeks ago for our last Italian film evening. Isn’t it dreadful when you join a really good class doing something you’ve always wanted to do – in this case, learn Italian – and then things conspire such that it comes to an end all too soon? The film evening was a bit of an add on extra, but we could have gone on and on with it as long as at least one member of the group came up with a great film. A bottle of wine, cups of tea, chocolates, biscuits and a trial run at a wedding cake, 3 sofas and a couple of comfortable chairs, not to mention a well-angled television and a gentle, funny Italian comedy – nothing more required for an excellent evening. Sadly the Italian teacher will move back to Sheffield and the vicarage will have new occupants but our 3 jolly Italian film nights will remain roseate and glowing in that corner of the memory that is for ever a small slice of arcadia.

Chocolate nougat cookies (adapted from a Nigellissima recipe)

Chocolate nougat cookies (adapted from a Nigellissima recipe)

To get back to the cookies. For the first batch I set off following a recipe in Nigellissima (Chatto & Windu, 2012). (I apologise in advance for boring you here. )Nigella suggests chopping the soft nougat into 1-2 cm pieces (rather big?)  I did it and then, also as the recipe suggests, I tossed the nougat into the second batch of flour before adding this to cookie mix.  The nougat lumps, however, made it too difficult to incorporate the flour into the mixture, so I picked out the nougat, piece by piece, mixed in the flour and then returned the nougat to the dough. A new problem came with the  cooking as the heat over-melted the nougat pieces which then spilled out of the cookie dough and caramelised on the baking tray, hardening when cooled to toffee and looking… a mess.  Moderate sadness as expensive ingredients result in dog’s breakfast.  Nigella’s cookies look utterly perfect.

Chocolate nougat cookies: first disastrous attempt

Chocolate nougat cookies: first disastrous attempt

Liking the concept of the cookies, yesterday, I tried the recipe again with modifications. This time, for each cookie, I cut a piece of nougat c. 1 cm x 1 cm x 0.5cm (which had the benefit of using less than half the nougat Nigella did and yet when you bit into the cookies there was still a lovely lump of the delicious confection). When the dough was ready, I then pressed the pieces of nougat into the little ball of cookie dough and then brought the dough mixture up all round the nougat until it was covered. The cookies baked perfectly with just a little squidge of nougat visible on a few cookies. Here’s my version.

Chocolate nougat cookies (adapted from a Nigellissima recipe)

Chocolate nougat cookies (adapted from a Nigellissima recipe)

Makes c 25

125 g softened unsalted butter

100 g golden caster sugar

75 g soft light brown sugar

1 egg

200g Self Raising flour

30 g good quality cocoa

1/4 teap sea salt flakes (optional)

2 teasp instant coffee

c. 75 g soft nougat

icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C/ 160°C fan oven/ Gas Mark 4

Prepare a couple of baking trays by wiping them with something like Lakeland Cake Release or by lining with baking parchment.

Beat together the softened butter and both sugars until light and creamy. Add the egg and beat in well.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, salt and coffee. Slowly add these dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Don’t overbeat as the mixture will get too sticky.

Using a teaspoon, scoop out a  nutmeg sized piece of the mixture and roll lightly into a ball. Into the middle of this ball gently press a piece of nougat and then bring the cookie dough up around it until  you can no longer see it. Re-shape with a gentle roll of the fingers, place on the baking sheet , flatten slightly and press lightly with a fork  or decoration. Place about 4cm apart on the baking sheets. (You could leave them to rest for 30 mins in a refrigerator which is said to help the cookie stay chewy rather than crisp – mine were quite chewy enough with out doing this).

Bake 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to  a cooling rack. If you like dust with a teaspoonful of icing sugar pressed though a fine sieve. (Yes, mine would look nicer with a little dusting.)

Excellent. A dark mocha biscuit with a soft gooey centre.

(Bright yellow hummingbird plate from Anthropologie.)

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