Monthly Archives: March 2013

dirty chai and milk chocolate cookies

When I lived in Berlin a couple of years ago, all the students on my travel writing course would descend on this one cafe in Kreuzberg called Pfeiffers. It was small and unassuming, bit tired around the edges, but we kept coming for the free wifi  – the password was Sommerzeit which I found adorable – and one coffee a day. We regularly broke the internet (15 students trying to load pictures of our holiday snaps to Facebook at the same time will do that) and were often hounded out by the staff who simply turned the lights off on us. We only ever purchased one drink to use the net and probably put the place into administration by taking up all the sockets for our laptops and paying €2 a time for the pleasure. It was in this lurid orange cafe that I first fell in love with chai.

When I had arrived, three of my friends had already been there a month and were educated in the stuff to a tea (excuse the pun). Pick one of the many barrels of blends and have it topped up with frothing milk to create the tastiest chai latte around. My nose for coffee was confused, and regularly would I switch between a Milchkaffe (the nearest equivalent to a latte) and a tiger chai latte. The spiced aromas were so inviting yet strong coffee would make me go weak at the knees. Caught between drinks, it never came to me that the two could be combined – hello dirty chai.

I can’t take credit for this idea though – my friend V2 sent me a message the other day daring me to make dirty chai cookies after becoming hooked on the drink of the same name. But they are wonderful. The spiced aromas of chai mingle with coffee to create a bitter taste that melts into light, nutmeg-like notes. Smooth milk chocolate works best in this cookie – dark would be too bitter – and remember to go quality or go home. No-one wants a Dairy Milk cookie. Sorry.

Baking these beauties will fill your kitchen with the scent of sweet spices and the milky notes of the nibs of chocolate folded through the mix. For you, these cookies will be a taste revelation – for me, they evoke happy memories of that pokey Berlin cafe.

You Will Need

250g butter

130g caster sugar

130g brown sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

338g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

2 chai teabags

1 tsp coffee granules

100g good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped (I like Tesco’s Finest 40% Cooks Milk Chocolate)

chai cookie ingredients

Whisk the butter and two sugars together in a large bowl with a hand mixer for 3-5 minutes until thick and creamy. Add the egg, yolk and vanilla paste then whisk again.

eggs in cookie dough

To make the dirty chai powder, empty the contents of two chai teabags into a mortar and pestle along with the coffee. Grind to a fine powder then add to a bowl along with the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and whisk to combine. Add to the creamed mix and whisk until fully incorporated and fluffy. Stir in the finely chopped milk chocolate, then cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

adding chocolate to cookies

Once chilled, preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/Gas Mark 4. Line two baking trays with baking parchment and set aside. Remove the cookie dough from the fridge and place heaping tablespoons spaced widely apart onto the baking sheets. Place in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden round the edges. Cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

dirty chai and milk chocolate cookies

Blueberry honey buttermilk scones

Baking comes in many forms for different people. For some, it presents itself as a yearly birthday cake; dusting off flour from the back of the cupboard and grumbling about who hid the cake tins. For others it’s a job; weighing, precision and timely execution. For most, it is about impulse; an offer on luxury chocolate that suggests a weighty ganache to be slicked over a chocolate cake; a desire to recreate a bake nibbled at in a cafe; or even a glimpse of a magazine (this month’s Good Food for example) that winks a rainbow cake from its shining cover, suggestively saying “oooh, bake me”.

Ok, that last bit was weird.

But it’s true. Impulse is what drives me to bake 95% of the time (the other 5% for bake sales and occasions).Yet I’ve managed to go two weeks without blogging and despite an aching inside of me to post, no words, recipes or ideas have sprung forth from my fingertips. I’ve beendreaming up unrealistic plans of productivity but when the 6am alarm chimes a chance to catch the early blog post, I roll over and press snooze. Such is life.

I’m not a blogger who sticks to schedules. All the best ones do; they announce they are going on holiday and pre-live three posts and leave an automated comment-response message. They post regimentally on certain days of the week. They have moleskins filled with ideas and notes and tweaks. I have a big pad I rip shopping notes out of, attempt to remember recipes in my head and never ever post with any semblance of regularly. Does that make me a bad blogger?

These scones are a lesson in patience. Not that they took long to make or are particularly difficult, but that it has taken me the full week to blog them. And that is ok. I could have rushed; photographed fuzzy, distorted photos and bashed up a post about cleaning the bathroom and linking the bleach bottle in some banal way to the colour of blueberries. But I think its best we don’t talk about bleach scones. Euughhh.

No, my name is Victoria Sponge Pease Pudding and I am an impulse baker/blogger. These scones were a week long blogging project, but by Friday they are firmly in a corner of the internet that is all the better for imposing some restraint. Blogging lessons yo.

But scones. Fat and rotund. The kind of scones that need no real introduction or topping – just slice up and eat. Warm, the berries burst and add a jammy depth of texture that requires no other condiment. A sour tang from the buttermilk is given a honey smackdown of sweetness and a painted top with a crunch of sugar equals scone-on heaven. It’s time to restrain me now; I gotta bake another batch…


Adapted slightly from Joy the Baker

You Will Need

450g plain flour

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 ½ tsp baking powder

A pinch grated nutmeg

170g cold unsalted butter, cubed

1 egg

2 tbsp honey

180ml buttermilk, plus extra for brushing

150g fresh blueberries

1 tbsp light brown sugar to finish

Blueberry Honey Buttermilk Scone ingreidents

Preheat an oven to 200oc/180oc fan/Gas Mark 6. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and nutmeg. Rub in the butter, moving the fat between your fingertips with your thumbs. Repeat until the mix resembles breadcrumbs, with the butter roughly the size of peas.

diced butter

Lightly whisk together the egg, honey and buttermilk and add all at once to the dry mix. Stir through to form a soft, shaggy dough then fold through the blueberries. Tip onto a floured work surface and lightly knead to a smooth-ish dough. Take care not to crush the berries too much at this stage, as they will make the dough wetter.

brushed with buttermilk and topped with sugar

Roll out to a 1 inch thickness and cut out with 2 inch sized round cutters. Roll and repeat with scraps until you have 12-13 scones. Brush with buttermilk and top with a sprinkling of brown sugar then bake for 15-18 minutes until golden. Serve warm with blueberry jam, butter or nothing at all. Add a hefty black coffee for a sunshine spring breakfast.

single scone