Chilli Thins (or, an alternative to coco pops)

When the going gets tough, the though stay home on a Friday night and make crackers. Or something. 

This week, work has been a bit difficult – just in terms of unpredictability and the additions that brought to my To Do list, rather than anything especially terrible. My upstairs neighbour seems to have a new partner and they are enjoying throwing each other onto the bed with full force at regular intervals throughout the night, while my downstairs neighbours have rediscovered their love of thumping dubstep at any and all hours of the day. So, I’ve been a bit tired and it’s been a week of mostly having coco pops for tea. 

So it’s a quick update this week – these fiery wee chilli crackers, which are simple and for a small amount of ingredients yield a massive amount. They are also still quite delicious even if you burn them a little bit since you nodded off during the cooking time. I’m quite glad to have them on this blog because, despite it’s other endless virtues, the internet is not a good resource for cracker recipes. 

Crackers are one of those things it maybe seems a faff to make yourself, but a) a chilled dough needs a good hammering, which is good after a stressful week and b) they are customisable and so can be adapted to whatever you want. This recipe is adapted from the fennel seed thins in Richard Burr’s BIY (actually a super handy cookbook), essentially with slightly less stuff and, y’know, chilli. Eat with a mild, creamy cheese or stuff them into your mouth in much the same way one might with crisps. 

Chilli Thins
Fiery little biscuits.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 250g plain flour
  2. 1 tsp baking powder
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper (or, a lot more, if you are a fiend for this)
  5. 1 - 1 1/2 tsps dried chilli flakes (I used the latter, they were spicy - adjust to your taste)
  6. 1/2 tsp paprika
  7. 60g unsalted butter, chilled
  8. Some extra sea salt flakes
Instructions
  1. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and parika in a bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes and pop in the bowl. Rub the butter into the spices and flour until the mix resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add in 100ml of cold water, get your hands in and bring together to a smooth dough. Don't overmix or knead.
  4. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 20 mins (or up to 4 days).
  5. Cut the dough in half. Between two sheets of baking parchment, roll out on half of the dough until it is only about 1mm thick.
  6. Cut out small biscuits using the cookie cutter of your choice, then place the cut crackers on a lined baking sheet. Using a fork or similar pointy thing, stab the crackers all over to create small holes. Place the cut crackers in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  7. Preheat over to 170°C.
  8. Remove crackers from fridge, place in oven for 18 - 20 minutes, or until a light brown (do not use my pics as a guide because they are a bit over). Once cooked, transfer to a wire rack to cool. I also sprinkled some extra sea salt flakes over them t this point.
  9. Repeat steps 5 onwards for the other half of the dough.
Adapted from Richard Burr
Adapted from Richard Burr
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

White Chocolate and Lime Shortbread (or, basic maths)

Lime and White Chocolate shortbread

I’ve been thinking about maths. 

When I was at school, I dreaded maths. Sitting in the corner, pining for the use of a calculator and struggling on question four while everyone raced ahead onto question 30-something.

Shortbread_Sugar and butter

Now, I find maths quite enjoyable. I don’t necessarily sit around doing simultaneous equations or transforming a triangle around a grid in my down time, but I do find the methodical-ness of maths incredibly satisfying. I like things that have an order,  and a definite answer. In my day to day life I’ve developed a love of spreadsheets that is at times a little worryingly intimate, and I firmly hold the belief that data makes everything better. 

Lime and White Chocolate shortbread

I think a lot of the comfort I find in numbers is part of why I like baking stuff. When I was at school, I felt quite fiercely dedicated to being an artsy type; full of words and otherness and being an outsider. Now, settled into the person I actually am, I like structure, clarity and efficiency. Baking is a bit of both; it is precision and it is science, but it is also flair and fun. 

Lime and White Chocolate shortbread

Shortbread is good because it is based around a beautifully pleasing ratio of 3:2:1. Flour, butter, suagr. It is easy to change the yield of your recipe with the ratio, easy to do less or more, and it’s still easily 3:2:1. It is lovely, simple maths that produces crumbly buttery goodness. This version has lime and white chocolate, and those are my little additions to satisfy the bit of me that still wants to be one of life’s creatives. These zesty, sweet little morsels are the intersection of me and maths. 

Lime and White Chocolate shortbread

White Chocolate and Lime Shortbread
Zesty, sweet, buttery and crumbly little biscuits.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
55 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 300g plain flour
  2. 200g unsalted butter, room temperature
  3. 100g caster sugar
  4. A big handful of white chocolate, in chunks*
  5. Zest of two limes
Instructions
  1. Line a large baking tray (or, a few littler ones) with baking parchment. Preheat your oven to 160°c.
  2. Using a wooden spoon, mix together the butter and sugar until combined into a paste.
  3. Gently, mix in the flour, the hunks of white chocolate and the lime zest. Use your hands if you need to. Don't be too rough; you want it to just come together - be careful not to overmix. The less you work it, the more crumbly your final biscuit will be. Since this is shortbread, crumbly is the ideal.
  4. Wrap your dough in clingfilm and chill it for a bit in the fridge - about 30 minutes will do.
  5. Roll out your dough (mine were about the thickness of my phone, or about half the thickness of a DVD case, but it's all down to preference) and cut into desired shapes** Prick them a bit with a fork, which will stop them rising up and keep them snappy.
  6. If you have time, chill your shaped biscuits in the fridge again (they'll spread less in the oven)
  7. Put in the oven The best advice here is from James Morton's How To Bake: "Baking time will depend heavily on the thickness of biscuit... the key is to check regularly and if they are beginning to brown at the edges, take out the tray." A slow bake at a lower temperature will make them a little crumblier, and means they are less likely to burn.
  8. When cooked, transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool. Or eat them warm, while the chocolate is still melty and delicious.
Notes
  1. *I used a big old Milky Bar, hacked up into big chunks with a knife - which means I used 100g. You might want to use cooking chocolate, because the Milky Bar went a kind of caramel coloured brown - and I'm not sure white chocolate in a cookie should. It was, however, delicious, so don't discount a Milky Bar for flavour.
  2. **I used a little flower cutter, which looked alright but did play havoc with the dough a bit and made them difficult to remove from the cutter.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/