Just two more sleeps until my new television series Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook: Simple Pleasures hits our screens here in New Zealand. The first episode screens at 7pm on Saturday night, and I can't wait to hear what you all think. Please do let me know by posting a comment at the end of this blog or on my Facebook page or Twitter.
One of the most satisfying parts of launching a new book is sending out advance copies to the media and everyone who's been involved in putting it together. For the launch of Simple Pleasures we decided to include a little gift of freshly baked cookies, using one of my favourite recipes from the TV series and book (see below for the recipe).
The pictures below were taken during one huge day in the kitchen when we made 160 little cellophane bags of biscuits, each containing six different kinds of cookies – that's almost 1000 biscuits!
While we were baking up a storm we decided they'd also make terrific Christmas presents, or you could even make them in bulk for school or club fundraising. You just make the Butter Cookies base recipe (page 269 of the book) then add whatever flavours you can think of. Better still, get the kids in on the action to roll the cookies and add the sprinkles.
For our sampler we made Hazelnut and Chocolate Cookies, Raisin and Cornflake Crisps, Carnival Cookies (with hundreds and thousands – so cute), Almond Biscuits, Ginger Crisps (with yummy chunks of crystallised ginger) and Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies, but you can add whatever flavourings you fancy – you're limited only by your imagination!
When I was a kid all my friends wanted to come home with me for afternoon tea, arriving to the warm smell of my mother’s biscuits baking. This is her Butter Cookie recipe, into which I mix different flavours to make my Cookie Sampler. You can also freeze portions of raw dough, whip them out of the freezer in the evening and bake them before school or morning tea!
Prep time 20 mins + chilling
Cook time 20 mins
Makes about 7 dozen
- 500g butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
- a few drops of vanilla extract
- 4½ cups flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- flavourings of your choice (see below)
Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 3 or 4 oven trays with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla, then stir in the flour and baking powder. The raw dough can be made ahead to this stage and frozen until needed. Defrost before baking.
To make Cookie Sampler, divide dough into 7 portions. Mix flavourings (see below) into each portion. If not making all 7 variations, divide dough according to the number of variations you are making and increase the flavourings to match. Taste a little raw dough as you go and adjust the flavourings to suit.
Chill mixture for 15 minutes. Roll into walnut-sized balls, place on baking trays and flatten slightly. Decorate according to instructions for different flavourings. Bake until lightly golden and set (about 20 minutes).
Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the tray then transfer to a rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container or jar. They will keep for several weeks – if they become a little stale simply refresh for 5 minutes in an oven preheated to 180ºC.
Once you’ve made a batch of Butter Cookie dough, divide it into seven and mix a different flavouring into each portion (you’ll get about 12 cookies in each flavour). If you don’t want to make all seven, adjust the flavourings by the appropriate ratio. Cook according to instructions for Butter Cookies.
Mix 3 tsp lavender petals into 1 portion of the dough. Decorate by pressing the tines of a fork into the cookies in a spoke pattern. Brush with water and sprinkle with Lavender Sugar made by whizzing 1 cup sugar and 2 tbsp lavender petals in a food processor.
Hazelnut and Chocolate Cookies
Add 3 tsp dark cocoa, 3 tbsp chopped dark chocolate and 2 tbsp chopped hazelnuts to 1 portion of dough. Decorate with melted chocolate and ½ tsp toasted chopped hazelnuts.
Raisin and Cornflake Crisps
Add 3 tbsp raisins and 6 tbsp lightly crushed cornflakes to 1 portion of the cookie dough.
Roll 1 portion of dough into balls, dip each ball into hundreds and thousands then flatten onto tray.
Add ½ tsp almond extract to 1 portion of the cookie dough. Decorate by pressing a blanched almond into the top of each cookie.
Add 1 tsp ground ginger and 2 tbsp chopped crystallised ginger to 1 portion of the dough.
Add ¼ cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries and ¼ cup coarsely chopped white chocolate to 1 portion of the cookie dough.