I was on the tube yesterday on my way to work when I realised that everyone around me looked absolutely exhausted. Rather than flicking through the day’s metro or reading their kindles, most people were just staring into space.
Partly this is because almost by definition anyone on the Jubilee line heading to Canary Wharf at 7am on a Thursday morning is going to be exhausted but there is also a definite case of end-of-the-year-itis sweeping across the country.
Nearly all of my colleagues are ill at the moment. We’ve turned one of the desks in the office into a pharmacy, spread with a variety of cold and flu (and hangover) remedies. We’ve devoted most of our lunchtimes this week to finding the best source of germ-busting spicy ramen.
I should add that in my case, this is entirely preemptive as I have not (yet) succumbed to anything nasty but I can’t help feeling that it’s only a matter of time.
And whilst I am still surprisingly healthy, I definitely feel in need of a break over Christmas. In the meantime, I think the best way to cope with these last few weeks of the year is chocolate chip cookies and lots of them.
I saw Carey’s smoky cardamom ginger cookies a couple of weeks ago and it served as a timely reminder of Izy’s technique of infusing the butter pre-cookie making. Having recently made mulled wine, I wondered if those same spices could be used to make some sort of mulled spiced butter.
Clearly, the answer was yes.
The lovely thing about flavouring the butter, rather than the cookie dough, is that the taste is much more rounded and subtle. The spices are not too aggressive – it doesn’t feel like you’ve got a mouthful of Christmas potpourri – but they are definitely there, adding another dimension of flavour. And they all, of course, work very well with the rich chunks of dark chocolate spread throughout the dough. If I’d had more time, I might have made homemade chocolate chips, a la Heston, and added a dash of mulled wine to the truffle mixture just to carry the theme through. Alas, time is a bit of a luxury in December.
This excellent technique of infusing the butter was the brainchild of the ever inspiring Izy of Top with Cinnamon and her Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies. I was extremely lazy and used a little sachet of mulling spices to make the mulled brown butter. You can just throw in a nice mix of orange/lemon peel, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg though for a similar effect For some extra-Christmassy flavour, I used Green and Black's Maya Gold chocolate with all its orangey spicy goodness but plain dark chocolate (or dark chocolate with ginger) would be equally delicious.
- 115g (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 sachet of mulling spices (or whatever spices you'd use to make mulled wine)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bit (does it have a better name?) to star anise
- 175g (1 1/2 cups or 6 oz) kamut flour (or whatever)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 150g (2/3 cup) unrefined caster sugar
- 1 medium egg
- 100g (4oz) dark chocolate, preferably with some kind of orange/spice flavour like Green and Black's Maya Gold, chopped roughly
- Sea salt for scattering on top (optional)
- Put the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat with the mulling spices, cinnamon stick and star anise. Heat until the starts to bubble and has turned a lovely golden brown colour. Take off the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda/baking soda and salt.
- When the butter has cooled, strain it through a sieve into a large bowl and cream it together with the sugars until combined. Add the egg and beat again. As this isn’t a recipe for a cake, you don’t need to keep on beating forever – you just want everything all nicely mixed together. You can do it by hand if you want although I used my electric mixer.
- Fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the chopped chocolate.
- Chill the mixture in the fridge for any time between 30 minutes and 24 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F (fan) and prepare a couple of baking sheets with either greaseproof paper or a silicone mat.
- Using an ice cream scoop or a cookie scoop, place spoonfuls of the dough on the baking sheet, squidge down with your fingers and, if desired, scatter a little sea salt on top.
- Bake for 8 – 10 minutes until the edges of the cookies just start to turn golden brown and are firm to the touch.
- Allow to cool on the baking tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.