cold comfort for change

I used to have a much, much sweeter tooth than I do currently. My idea of a good time tastebud-wise is generally on the savoury-salty-oily-sour side of things, but the me who used to have a thousand-dollar-a-day candy necklace habit (a moderate exaggeration) and think nothing of hooning through love hearts or boxes of Nerds as a modest snack, will apparently always be there below the surface. I say that because I recently found myself having actual dreams, as in while I was asleep, of tables laden with chocolate and cookies and caramelly things and cakes. Naturally, I would then wake up feeling kind of empty, because when you eat in a dream – whatever it signifies – it’s always blurred and hard to get a grip on and leaves you wanting. Because you’re not actually eating, you’re just thinking about it with your eyes closed, duh.

I also recently found myself strongly requiring some kind of soul-soothing comfort food, and so naturally turned to Nigella Lawson. Her book Simply Nigella yielded a recipe for these cookie dough pots – literally just chocolate-studded dough that you bake in ramekins instead of in cookie form, so you get a pleasing combination of slightly crisp top and gooey middle into which to greedily plunge your spoon.

They take about three minutes to throw together and twelve-ish minutes to bake so comfort is really not that far away, however I had like two spoonfuls of the finished product and immediately needed a lie down from the spike in blood sugar. However the second: the actual act of baking something for myself was actually pretty calming in itself, which I guess is worth keeping in mind – sometimes you just need to spend some time doing something that’s for you and you alone, to remind yourself that you are okay. Part of my immediate reaction was possibly also due to the fact that like, Nigella specifies that this makes six ramekins’ worth of cookie dough and I divided the entire mixture between two larger ramekins, so proportionately and with the curve of the earth and whatnot I’d probably actually eaten more than I thought I had. I don’t know, but what I do know is that I bravely soldiered on and consumed the rest of the first, plundered cookie dough pot (pouring some milk into the crevice left by the spoon) and was highly pleased with myself, and was even more pleased with myself when I returned from work many hours later to see the second cookie dough pot waiting for me beside my bed.

cookie dough pots

From Nigella Lawson’s book Simply Nigella, but changed to use cup measures because that’s all I’ve got and much as baking is all specific and stuff, it’s definitely easier this way.

  • 110g soft butter
  • half a cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • one egg
  • one teaspoon vanilla extract
  • one cup plain flour
  • half a teaspoon baking soda
  • one teaspoon sea salt flakes, or half a teaspoon table salt
  • as many and whatever kind of chocolate chips/chunks/pieces as you fancy, really, but like roughly 75g is a good place to start  

Set your oven to 180C/350F and prepare as many ramekins as suits you, but up to six of roughly 200ml capacity. Again, I used only two, so.  

Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the egg and the vanilla and give a further vigorous stirring. Fold in the flour, salt, baking soda, and chocolate, and divide the dough between your ramekins. Bake for 12-15 minutes, at which point the dough should be firm and cookie-like on top, but gooey not much further below. That’s all you have to do.

These are really delicious, which is hardly surprising considering the ingredients, but the just-cooked and barely-barely-cooked dough in tandem feels ludicrously gratuitous and gratuitously ludicrous at the same time, which, I assure you, is a very good thing. I used good milk chocolate because I’m the kind of heathen who can’t really handle just up and eating dark dark chocolate for like, joy and pleasure, but as with pretty much all recipes that I put on here, you do as you please.

Anyway I had a monumentally enormous weekend at work and so any brain capacity that I might have even had the ghost of a chance of possessing beforehand has hitherto been drained, but if comfort food is what your soul also needs right now, may I, by way of further reading, recommend these other hug-like recipes I’ve blogged about: Instant Coconut Custard Semolina (which is also vegan!), Nigella’s Butternut Pasta Soup (also also vegan) and something I that at the time of making I called Demi-lasagne. 

title from:  Pink Floyd’s song Wish You Were Here, I’m all galaxy-brain-meme on Pink Floyd in that I used to be desperately into them at about 18 and then felt like it was uncool to be into them and now I’m all, I think it’s…okay…..to enjoy….things….that I enjoy. Anyway, it’s a good song, you know it is, and a masterpiece in making you wait and wait and wait for the chorus before only playing it ONCE, you spry mavericks.   

music lately:

Speaking of enjoying things that I enjoy, I decided to branch out from just relentlessly thrashing various cast recordings of Les Miserables and also lean into the troubled and patchy musical Chess, which is a musical, about chess, like, how did they not realize this was going to be trouble. Anyway MATE the premise aside – and since when have musicals burdened themselves with worrying about the legitimacy of premise anyway – the music absolutely BANGS. You might know, so well, the song I Know Him So Well or One Night In Bangkok, but Nobody’s Side is the lost ABBA song that gets much less attention than it deserves: try my queen Idina Menzel’s rendition of it at the 2008 concert performance that I remember discussing on message boards and LiveJournal like it was yesterday.

The glassie at work put on Bad Karma by Axel Thesleff while we were closing the other night and I was like what IS this I LOVE it, it’s all hypnotic and mellow which, despite the previous breathless paragraph about no less than two bombastic musicals from the 80s, is a vibe that I really enjoy.

 Vul’Indlela by Brenda Fassie. Just do yourself a favour and listen to this soaring and upbeat and happy pop song.

next time: something aggressively savoury, I imagine  

cold as ice cream but still as sweet, dry your eyes sunday girl

My current response to “how are you” is that my one personality is being overheated and that’s how I’m doing, thanks very much (and honestly, how am I? What kind of a question is that in this economy?) As such, the only thing to do is make ice cream, put it in the freezer, and then eat it, in lieu of being able to stash myself in said freezer. Oh sure, one shouldn’t complain, this is Wellington, city of a thousand winters, but as a pale vampire nursing a thriving vitamin D deficiency living in a bedroom with a microclimate that’s increasingly not unlike a dense rainforest, it’s all a bit much! (An alternate response to “how are you” is to coolly inform them that you’re coming out of your cage and you’re doing just fine.)

This is not just any old ice cream – although it never is. I suppose we could generously concede that I have one other personality trait, that I’m a bartender, and as such concocting cocktails and imagining various combinations of x and y poison regularly occupy my thoughts. In this case, I thought it would be fun to take Fernet-Branca, the “bartender’s handshake”, an ancient and storied Italian bitters that we doggedly take pride in necking shots of at every opportunity, and incorporate it into my favourite food.

I first became aware of Fernet-Branca when it was mentioned in Jilly Cooper’s rollicking and bonk-heavy novel Rivals; (side note: it’s really the only book of hers I can stomach and it’s heavily problematic but on the whole I adore Declan and Caitlin and Taggie and Rupert and Lizzie like they’re old friends and basically she was never more winning than in this particular book and I like to reread it every summer.) The character Rupert Campbell-Black has had the memoirs of his ludicrously prolific sex life published in the local paper in an attempt to Campbell-Blacken his name ahead of a bid for a television franchise (idk, it’s the plot) and his friend Basil Baddingham (really) offers him a Fernet-Branca as fortification before he reads it. If it’s the sort of thing offered on that level of apocalyptic magnitude, you can see why it’s a bolstering shot for bartenders to drink at any occasion, like a wine match but for your emotions. All of them.

When I was at Motel bar we would have shots of it at midnight, as an oh-we’re-halfway-there-living-on-a-prayer type reinforcement. Like sailors with their rations of rum, we had our Fernet, and we kind of revelled in the romanticism of it all, from hosting a tasting with the (wonderful, lovely, raucously good fun) brand supplier to making a fidget spinner in the shape of the logo (never thought I’d use the words romanticism and fidget spinner together in a sentence, but it is 2018.) On the final night of Motel’s existence – New Year’s Eve – my contribution to the cocktail list naturally had Fernet Branca in it.

Not everyone likes it, and nor should they, but I am not particularly sorry for taking joy in the shared experience of it because honestly, bartending is a hard, often thankless, mop-bucket-water covered, underpaid, underslept occupation and you’ve got to derive joy from stuff where you can! Don’t get me wrong: the flavour is challenging. Some would say appalling. As my brand t-shirt says, it contains 27 herbs and all of them legal, and it’s literally medicinal (or so we insist), so if you get “mouthwash but harsher” or “jaeger but without the sugar” vibes then that’s, like, more or less accurate. But I figured that against a backdrop of soft, mellowly rich cream and sugar its aggressiveness would be mollified into gentle tones of mint, and I was delighted to be proven right. In all honesty sometimes I swear I taste actual dirt when I drink the stuff, but any rough edges are muffled and calmed by all that dairy. Before it gets all too easy though I also folded in paper-thin, irregularly shaped shards of dark, dark chocolate (made by melting it on a sheet of baking paper and then letting it set before breaking it up.) The bitterness of the chocolate is a natural pair for the Fernet and interrupts the smoothness of the ice cream with its fragile crunch.

It’s also, as is so often my aim, really easy to make. I’ve no capacity for making a yolk-heavy anglaise in this heat, so instead I just bung together some cream and some sweetened condensed milk, which come together to make an ice cream of rapturously soft velveteen-ness. Oh and you don’t need an ice cream machine to make this, or any of my ice cream recipes.

fernet-branca stracciatella ice cream

a recipe by myself

  • two shots (60ml or quarter of a cup) Fernet-Branca
  • one tin of sweetened condensed milk 
  • 800ml cream
  • 100g dark chocolate

Firstly sort out the chocolate: rip a large sheet of baking paper and lay it on the bench, then gently melt the chocolate (I do it in short bursts in the microwave, once the squares start to look like they’re about to collapse and lose their shape you can give it a stir and it should just turn into liquid.) Spatula it out in an even, thin layer onto the sheet of baking paper and leave to harden. If your house is super warm, pop it in the fridge instead. 

Whisk the cream with moderate enthusiasm until it’s thickened and lightly aerated but not whipped, which should only take thirty seconds or so. Tip in the tin of condensed milk, scraping out every last sticky vestige from inside, and add the Fernet. Whisk again to combine.

Tip it into a container of about 1.5L capacity and put it in the freezer for a few hours. At this point, crumble up the sheet of chocolate – the easiest way to do this is to just fold up and scrunch the baking paper so it all breaks up into uneven pieces – and fold it into the slightly-solidified ice cream. Return it to the freezer and leave until it’s, well, ice cream. 

 Yes, I did take home quite a bit of merch when the bar closed.  Yes, I did take home quite a bit of merch when the bar closed.

                  I considered calling it Mint Choc Chip for Grown Ups but that felt a bit elitist, although possibly it’s even more elitist to call it Stracciatella, which refers to the thin, shard style of chocolate stirred in. Since Fernet itself is Italian I figured, might as well go full immersion. But all you need to know is that it’s just extremely delicious stuff, an icy herbal minty kick blanketed in sweet frozen cream with the welcome interruption of chocolate, what’s not to love? Don’t be tempted to add more Fernet to the ice cream itself, or the alcohol content will act as aggressive anti-freeze, I suggest instead eating it affogato style with a further shot upended over a scoop of the stuff.   

Oh and speaking of conviviality and bartending and stuff I’m now working at Laundry Bar, and having an excellent time of it, thank you. It’s so good to be bartending again! There’s a bit in the aforementioned book Rivals where Cameron Cook is all “I only feel alive when I see my name in the credits of shows I’ve produced” and while I don’t want to be that codependent on my job I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being immensely fulfilled by something that also happens to pay your rent, and in my case making cocktails is what makes me super happy, it just is what it is.

Should all this talk of ice cream get your fancy tickled, I’d also like to recommend some other supremely easy recipes of mine that I’ve blogged about:  apple cinnamon ice cream; cocoa and olive oil sorbet; or grapefruit ripple ice cream are a fine place to start.

title from: Blondie’s upbeat yet wistful (best genre) song Sunday Girl. 

music lately:

I’ve been listening to a LOT of Teenage Fanclub. Their song Norman 3 is just like, so bloody nice, don’t let the suspiciously drab title fool you. The chorus is repeated so many times that you think your brain is short-circuiting but then you just never want it to end.

I have also been fiending Less Than Jake, to pluck one from the air, History of a Boring Town is v good.

Don’t even think for a second that I’m not still on my Les Miserables buzz. Let’s hear it for Philip Quast, whose surname sounds like a Harry Potter in-universe curse word, generally accepted to be the definitive Javert, just flawlessly delivering on his big number, Stars. I adore his enunciation (“this I swehhhhh by the stars”).

next time: I made some vegan coconut pikelets the other day but it was too hot to talk about anything but ice cream so this recipe took precedence. So; next time! 

and her pink skies will keep me warm

I was a very righteously-opinioned child. For example, I took the mathematics curriculum as a DIRECT PERSONAL SLIGHT against myself and would injuriously huff about it at any given opportunity (and especially in opportunities that weren’t given.) Like, in any schoolbook from my youth I’ll take jabs at it – not least in the actual maths workbook itself where I’d constantly write evaluations of my work complaining about how unfair and stupid maths is, and take great pleasure in defacing each and every possible blue-lined square with colours and stars and patterns. God help the defenceless teacher if there was an “about me” section in any piece of work – I’d be all, “I’m Laura Vincent and I hate war, people who don’t understand the genius of the Spice Girls, and the fact that I have to do pointless, irritating mathematics.”  

 the rose tint

the rose tint

That’s just one example. I was also vehemently against the colour pink, simply because I wanted to rebel against the generally held gender norms that pink was for girls and blue is for boys. I definitely went through a distinct Barbie doll phase (I was in it mostly for the fashion, but I do remember being with my cousins and pretending to burn a Shaving Ken at the stake while several other Barbies danced around him triumphantly as we sung Sacrifice by Elton John – “we’ve got a Shaving Ke-e-en, and he’s our sacrifice”) but after a point I truly felt like not seeking out pink things made me somehow more superior. Pink was obvious. Obviousness was weakness. 

Tiny jerkfaced me could never have predicted that in the year 2017, I would embrace the very shade that I so long derided (okay so from the years like, 1999 – 2014 I was honestly neither here nor there on it) in the form of Millennial Pink.

Millennial Pink is a real phenomenon (there’s a great article charting its rise to prominence) and I ADORE it. In these garbage times, this shade is soft, it’s kind, it’s calm AS HELL, it’s really, really pretty. And it’s increasingly charmingly genderless, which I feel lil no-wave feminism me might have appreciated. It’s the colour of soothing tumblr aesthetics, of Drake’s puffer jacket, of Rihanna wearing pyjamas in the club, of watching makeup tutorials till you fall asleep, of brutally plain late 90s slip dresses, of rose quartz crystals, of Jenny Holzer truisms, of the icing on top of cream buns and doughnuts, of peonies and rose petals, of bleached and coloured hair on Instagram, of sun-faded walls with bright green plants propped up against them, of fluffiness and softness and dreaminess. 

All of which possibly sounds stupid but like, I like what I like. 

Hence why I found myself starting with a colour as an inspiration point and working backwards from there, and ended up with this extremely delicious toffee.  

I had some almonds kicking around from making orgeat for work and in the spirit of sustainability or the illusion thereof, I decided to surround them with crunchy, buttery toffee and smother them in rose-tinted white chocolate. Anything caramelly just bloody does it for me, and I sheepishly prefer white chocolate over the other sorts, so this resulting slice was extremely 100% my idea of a good time. Making toffee from scratch does require some patience and a healthy fear of getting too close to the relentlessly boiling sugar. What you get though is the most glorious stuff – your teeth sliding effortlessly through the silky, vanilla-y white chocolate into hard, almond studded salty toffee which shatters as you bite down into chewy caramel crystals.  It’s intense and it’s wonderful.

millennial pink salted almond white chocolate toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 250g butter
  • one and a half cups caster sugar
  • a decent pinch of sea salt
  • one cup of toasted almonds, blitzed in a food processor so they’re rubbly and chopped
  • 250g white chocolate
  • one teaspoon vegetable oil
  • a few drops of pink food colouring

This recipe looks really really long but it’s just a convoluted way of saying boil stuff then chill it then cover it in chocolate, it’s all pretty straightforward I promise. 

Line a regular sized brownie pan with baking paper . In a large saucepan, heat up the butter, sugar and salt and allow it to come to the boil. Let it bubble away, stirring only occasionally (it might seem like the butter won’t absorb into the sugar but as it boils the sugar will take it in, give it a few gentle stirs though if it eases your mind.) After a while, take a spoonful of the boiling sugar and drop it in a glass of cold water. Let it sit for a few seconds and then taste it – the texture you’re after is a good hard toffee crunch. If it’s more fudge-like, then you need to let it carry on boiling. 

Once you’re at this point, remove it from the heat and dump in the almonds. Give it a quick stir and spatula it briskly into the waiting brownie pan. This is like, the hottest thing on earth and it will continue to bubble VERY disconcertingly in the pan so just let it settle down for a bit before you put it in the freezer or it will throw your entire ecosystem in there out of balance. 

Once the toffee is cooled and firm to the touch, melt the white chocolate gently with a teaspoon of vegetable oil and add the merest droplet or two of pink food colouring. Stir gently and add more colour if you desire but go slowly! I used literally like, three drops for this stuff. Spatula it evenly over the surface of the toffee, and gently bang the base of the tin against the bench to settle any lines in the chocolate. Return it to the freezer, and then when that is finally set, slice it however you like and eat the damn stuff. 

 pink is the flavour, solve the riddle

pink is the flavour, solve the riddle

To be honest almost every time I make something starting with aesthetic instead of flavour or texture as the inspiration point I end up screwing up the recipe completely, as though the universe is admonishing me for being driven by such base instincts, but this worked out perfectly. Proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that wanting things to be pretty is like, not the worst. I ended up taking it around town and dropping off tasters of it at various beloved establishments before bringing the rest to work for my team like some kind of actual heroic angel. I know there’s some still waiting for me tonight when I go to work and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Just one woman’s opinion, but go forth and embrace pink. Oh and maths really does suck, I was right about that one. 

title from:  Frank Ocean, Sierra Leone, from his extremely very perfect album Channel Orange. 

music lately: 

I am regrettably completely head over heels for this guy from the UK called Rat Boy, who was clearly bred in a lab with the express purpose of being to my personal taste. Sample song: Revolution. 

As well as being an absolute BOP, Charli XCX’s song Boys is like…Millennial Pink condensed into one explanatory video. 

next time: It’s (SOMEHOW, and I suspect HIGHLY ILLEGALLY) September now, so like, let’s shuck off the heavy winter food and get into spring (it’s honestly colder outside than it has been all year but a gal can remain optimistic!) 

looking good when it comes to the crunch

When I was a child I joined, for some odd reason since I really only loved dancing – although I do remember saying loftily, at some point, that “I want a busy life” – an organisation called Brownies. It was like a pre-Girl Guides/Scouts activity group for sprightly, do-gooding young gals and you’re welcome to google what their aspirations are but my main memories of it are as distinct as they are strange – a billowing brown sack of a dress that was the uniform; performing an elaborate song and dance about snails as some kind of occasional treat; going away on camps that had the inexplicable themes of Snoopy; Wombles; and Rock’n’Roll respectively; and the constant working towards getting badges for various exploits, such as Planting A Tree or Something. 

There was also, however, access to Girl Guide biscuits. If you’re in America I know you’ve got Girl Scout cookies of all different flavours and permutations because I’ve like, seen movies, but here in New Zealand we had but one, plain, vaguely sugary round mass-produced cookie to push onto the masses, damn it. I still have, at my parents house, a Girl Guide Biscuit box that’s used as a storage container for old stage show programmes and booklets, the vessel itself by this point providing as much nostalgia as that which it contains. 

Anyway so where I’m going with all this is that during Girl Guide Biscuit season everyone had an overabundance of them because New Zealand is small and there’s only so many people you can palm them off to before the degrees of separation means that literally every third person is your aunty and yes they’ve already bought three boxes and no they don’t want any more. 

So you made Girl Guide Biscuit slice: crushed up biscuits held together by an appealing buttery, sugary, cocoa-y gunge. It’s magnificently delicious and so much better than just choking down another plain dry biscuit for no discernable reason whatsoever (seriously, why would you eat these biscuits? They’re SO PLAIN. NO OFFENCE IF YOU LIKE THEM, YOUR OPINION IS VALID AND I RESPECT IT.) 

I recently came into possession of an unmarked shopping bag full of packets of biscuits very similar to these – the kind of nothing-spectacular biscuit that you’d make a cheesecake base out of. It was just some leftover stock from work, in case I made that sound far more excitingly illicit than it is. I’d held onto them for a while, just knowing that the perfect use for them would present itself to me. And lo; I started making batches of this Crunchie Bar Slice, an incredibly souped up version of the original Girl Guide recipe, and bringing it in for the people I work with at the bar on Fridays or Saturdays to provide some kind of sugary boost to get through the long shift. 

And then I kept making it every week. Smashed up biscuits, which I stirred into a buttery, sugary, cocoa-y mixture with milk chocolate melted softly into it and topped with sparkling golden smashed up Crunchie bar honeycomb dust. And it got to the point where I was like, well this is cute and I’m going to take some photos of it and blog about it. 

And then I realised I kind of buried the lede here: the people I’m making this slice for aren’t just my colleagues, they’re…my staff. Because I have become General Manager of the cocktail bar I work at. Large and in charge, queen bee, those kinds of words, y’know? Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that nice? Not to undersell myself but if you were all “Laura, quick! Describe yourself!” I’d be like “…despite all my rage I am still just…a rat…in…a cage? Am I doing this right?” but here I am, with all this responsibility and a wonderful little team to look after and nurture and a fancy cocktail bar to run. I’m going to be straight up with you, I’ve never been in charge of ANYTHING in my life and I really thought this was how I was going to live out my days, always the bridesmaid never the manager; so obviously I’m determined to learn everything immediately and be a spectacular juggernaut of a success by approximately forty minutes in to my first day on the job otherwise I’m a complete failure. I’m also trying really hard to be nice to myself and let myself learn stuff slowly and go with the flow. Literally both these things at the same time. 

More importantly though, this slice tastes incredible and is so easy to make. It’s a textural triumph – the bite of the biscuits against the soft, fudge-like chocolate, ever so slightly gritty from the grains of sugar and the bursts of crisp Crunchie bar dissolving on your tongue. The chill from the freezer and the (once more for the people in the back) plainness of the biscuits counteracts any oversweetness, although by all means feel free to put, I don’t know, chocolate chips or drizzled white chocolate or something on top.  

As per, my recipe is really long and over-explainy but I strenuously assure you, this is easy to make. Actually the only real effort involved is reading through the recipe without being put off by how wordy it is. 

crunchie bar slice

a recipe by myself

  • 150g butter
  • one cup sugar
  • 50g milk chocolate (this is generally the size of a chocolate bar) 
  • one tablespoon of cocoa
  • one egg
  • one packet of malt biscuits/plain cookies/the sort of thing you’d make cheesecake base from
  • one regular-sized Crunchie bar or similar honeycomb style bar. 

Get a rectangular tin – the kind you might bake brownies or slice in – and have it sitting there along with a large piece of baking paper to line it, while you make the slice. I sometimes put it in the freezer if I’m in a hurry so that the mixture starts to cool as soon as I spoon it in. Whatever!

Using a rolling pin or something heavy, carefully bash the unopened packet of biscuits on all sides so that you can feel them crumbling beneath the surface of the packet. You don’t have to have created dust, just attempt to smash them up a bit. 

In a large pan, melt the butter gently over a low heat. Stir in the sugar and the milk chocolate, allowing the chocolate to melt into it. Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa, then open up the packet of biscuits and tip them in, using your hands or your spoon to crush up any larger bits. Finally, stir the egg in as quickly as possible – the mixture will still be warm so you don’t want the egg to cook against it – and then spatula the lot into your waiting tin. Use the back of a metal spoon to press it evenly down into the corners. Finally, give the unopened Crunchie bar a bit of a bash as well, then open it up and sprinkle the golden chocolatey dust evenly over the surface of the slice, using the back of that spoon to push it in. 

Freeze for at least an hour, and then use a large knife to cut it into slices. 

As you can see from the recipe it’s really just a couple of pre-packaged things held together by not much at all, but a thick slice of this, straight from the freezer in the middle of a busy shift or indeed, any time at all, can leave you feeling briefly invincible. I accidentally typed invisible just now instead of invincible but same difference, all things considered. 

If bopping about making things that can be sliced up and received with happiness are your thing right now, may I also recommend my recipes for Ginger Crunch Slice and/or Peanut Butter Chocolate Caramel Nut Slice.  

PS: I’m honestly so excited about this sudden career trajectory, definitely come visit me.  

title from:  Neneh Cherry’s perfect song Buffalo Stance. 

music lately: 

will I ever stop listening to Disappear by INXS? Will you ever stop asking me stupid questions? 

Kill Em With Kindness by Selena Gomez sounds aggressively of this moment, but wow it’s so good. Your lies are bullets, your mouth’s a gun? Hello. 

next time: I have some frozen prawns in my freezer. So maybe something prawn-y. 

oh you bite your friend like chocolate

As soon as I marched out into this earth, a freshly begotten newbown, I was immediately three things: extremely Aries, extremely ready for attention, and extremely terrible at dealing with things being over. I mean, as far as the latter goes, I was already like ten days past my due date and then immediately contracted colic, possibly as some kind of bloody-minded way of implying that I really shouldn’t have had to farewell the womb where there was food on tap and no responsibilities and calming ocean noises.

What say you, baby Laura?  “You mean I have to wait like twelve years for a coffee culture to develop in New Zealand?”

This week I’m moving from the bar I’ve been at for 18-ish months to start being a bartender at another bar owned by the same business. It’s an interesting mix of sentimentality and excitement. However on this rare occasion I’m not feeling entirely terrible about something being over, because there’s so much new stuff to learn and take on and absorb and learn. I’m sad, I’m happy, I’m so delighted about the opportunity, but ultimately my gut instinct told me I should do it and I think it was correct. (My gut instinct tells me really stupid things sometimes, like “you should work out what that crumb on the floor is by putting it in your mouth for some reason” and “you’re terrified of pelicans, lol”) As well as being in the same business group it’s also in the same building, so I’m still very much in the general family that I’ve grown to adore.

Also, did you know how much attention you get when you announce you’re going to leave a place? It’s delicious. Almost as delicious as these cookies I made to take in on my final Saturday shift at my old job which were definitely made out of the pure goodness of my noble heart and not motivated by “the glory”. But really though, I do like to bake nice things for people and wanted to have some kind of sugary vehicle for my gratitude to the team I was leaving, to help boost us through a long night, our bods filled with chocolatey energy.

In the interests of everyone’s allergy needs being met (okay fine, in the interests of “the glory”) I was after some kind of gluten and dairy-free cookie that I could make without having to gather and hunt too many random ingredients. The answer is this, which is vaguely based on an Italian cookie recipe from this book I have called The Scotto Family: Italian Comfort Food. It’s so easy – just plain egg whites stirred quickly into a mountain of icing sugar, cocoa, and cornflour, baked briefly. Somehow this bowl of not-much-at-all turns into these chewy, soft, rich-rich-rich cookies, with a kind of macaron vs brownie texture. I love them.

There’s a lot of cocoa in this, so use the darkest, strongest, high-fat-percentage stuff that you can find, if possible. That, plus the pinch of salt, is going to counteract the blatant sweetness blast of all that icing sugar, meanwhile the chunks of chocolate punctuate each bite with delicious texture.

flourless double chocolate cookies

a recipe by myself

  • three cups of icing sugar
  • one cup of good cocoa
  • two tablespoons of cornflour
  • three egg whites
  • 250g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Whittaker’s Dark Ghana which is dairy-free.) 
  • a pinch of sea salt

Place the icing sugar, cocoa, and cornflour in a large bowl and stir gently to get rid of any lumps and to make it into a uniformly dusty-brown dust. Tip the egg whites in and carefully stir – it will seem like there’s not nearly enough liquid for all the dry ingredients but damn it if it doesn’t come together suddenly to form a thick batter. About halfway through this point tip in the chopped up chocolate and salt and stir it all through. 

Refrigerate the mixture for fifteen-ish minutes while you heat the oven up to 180C/350F and get a baking tray lined with nonstick paper. Bake small spoonfuls, around five on the tray at a time to allow for spreading, for eleven minutes or until firm and slightly cracked on top. I just used a regular spoon from the cutlery draw, the kind you like, eat stuff with. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. I just slid the baking paper sheet off the tray onto a wooden board to let them cool and started again with a new sheet of baking paper rather than trying to prise them off individually but you do you. 

Allow the cookies to cool completely and then store in an airtight container. 

Despite not having tried it I know for a fact that these would be incredible sandwiched around ice cream, however on their own they are just perfect. It was noted on Saturday night that they don’t taste as though they’re lacking in gluten or dairy, which comes down to that magical texture – a crisp outer shell barely encasing a chewy, almost gooey, aggressively chocolatey centre. The fact that they are so massively easy to make just renders them even more delicious to me.

So with these cookies ends one era and another starts. If you yourself are thinking of taking something sweet into the workplace, I thoroughly recommend these: they’re fast to make, most people can eat them, and there is of course, The Glory of being that person who brought cookies to work. To be honest I love the people I work with so much that I’d make them cookies even if it didn’t get me attention though. (What an attention-seeking thing to say.)

Let’s weigh in with toddler Laura, what say you? “I can’t believe I have to wait like twenty literal years before I can look up Aries memes on the internet”

If you’re on a cookies-with-chunks-of-chocolate vibe, may I further recommend these Smoky Triple Chocolate Buckwheat Cookies (also gluten free); Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies; or Maple Peanut Butter Cookies.

title from: The 1975’s song Chocolate, gee they are good though right? Sliiiight INXS vibes, yeah? 

music lately: the work playlist edition

Roots Manuva, Witness Dub. Walk me down the aisle to this song, lower me into the grave to this song, dance around my glowing risen spectre to this song, honestly: this song can cure the longest hardest tiredest shift at work.

Santigold, Les Artistes. The sparkly poppy sound with the slightly plaintive chorus gets me right in the ventricles. This is from 2008 but sounds like it fell out of the internet just yesterday.

Phoenix, 1901. So joyful!

next time: hopefully it won’t be quite so obvious how underslept I am. Time for a nap now. Also might as well bake something to bring in for the new team I’m joining, yeah?

frozen inside without your touch

It’s so interesting to me how the body doesn’t remember pain. As any scientist will tell you, it’s super necessary for us to forget what hurting feels like, to ensure the human race can continue…to get tattoos. And also give birth. On a smaller scale, hunger works like that. When you are hungry, it’s all like “I could definitely eat an entire cheesecake and probably a large bowl of chowder; I also think that seventeen is a good quantity of whole grilled eggplants for one human to consume. God I want some Nando’s.”

And then when you’re feeling nauseous and the thought of food leaves you blank and numb, suddenly it’s like…why do humans eat? What possible joy is there to be derived from food? Do the words “food blog” seem really weird to you? So it’s like…you write about food? That seems confusing? And so it goes, round in circles. Don’t even get me started on that “wait why do humans drink?” feeling that I get when hungover. Aren’t humans funny!

 scoop! there it is (so not sorry for this pun, but I would unrelatedly like to follow this up with a sincere apology for it  scoop! there it is (so not sorry for this pun, but I would unrelatedly like to follow this up with a sincere apology for it

Anyway the point of all this high level impressive science talk is that I made this dark cocoa and olive oil sorbet simply because I was hungry for it. The ingredients seemed so rich and alive and I wanted to see how the flavours would work together. I’d been given a bottle of Seresin Estate olive oil, so aggressively green that the overture from Wicked would play in my head every time I looked at it; and had some organic cocoa that I was given by my godmother a while back, soft and dark like iron sand.  I made it and ate it, and it was incredible. I photographed it, and it looked really pretty. And now that I’ve come to write about it, I’m, well, not feeling very good. But this is my opportunity to write, and I am not going to let a mere thing like the sight of food making me recoil suspiciously get in the way of this super important blog, especially since I only just relaunched it with this shiny new pretty look. You know that “mere flesh wound” bit from Monty Python? (If you don’t, just ask literally any baby boomer and they’ll enthusiastically recreate it for you.) That’s me with this blog.

The thing is, I do remember this sorbet tasting unbelievably good: pitch-dark chocolate flavour saved from throat-burning intensity by all the sugar, with the glossy olive oil adding the slightest suggestion of black pepper and some general lusciousness. If you use a more buttery, less grassy olive oil it will absolutely be delightful, but I like how this particular one brought out the almost meaty richness of the cocoa. In case all this talk of meat and grass and pepper sounds unhelpful, like, please know that this sorbet is honestly just massively good with enormous chocolatey flavour and a pleasingly yielding texture. The icy coldness of it all just makes the taste of chocolate even more delicious.

dark cocoa and olive oil sorbet

a recipe by myself. 

  • one and a half cups of good dark cocoa
  • one cup of sugar
  • two and a half cups of boiling water
  • two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • a tiny pinch of sea salt

Either in a bowl, or in the container you plan to freeze it in – and you know I went for the latter – carefully mix the cocoa and sugar together so they form a sugary cocoa-y dust. Slowly pour in the olive oil and salt, and mix in a little. Add the water, a little at a time, stirring slowly till you have a thick, dark soupy liquid. I keep saying to do everything slowly because it’s really easy to fling clouds of cocoa everywhere or spill the lot, or at least it definitely is for me. 

Stick it in the freezer, and give it a stir every hour or so – normally I wouldn’t make you stir it this often but this is just to keep the olive oil all fully incorporated. After a few hours it should be frozen fully and ready to spoon into waiting mouths.  

Possibly more exciting than any aspect of the flavour that I can lay an alarming quantity of adjectives upon is: you can make it in the container that you’re going to freeze it in, thus avoiding the horror of washing one bowl. You’re using a lot of cocoa, but I do urge you to buy as good a quality one as you can muster – it doesn’t matter what brand, as long as the fat content is at least 20g per 100g of cocoa. At least. It’ll just be all palely not-quite-chocolatey without it. I just love ice cream so much and don’t want you to end up with frozen garbage! On the upside, water is free and sugar is really cheap and usually someone in your flat has a bag of it anyway. One other point about this sorbet: if you don’t get the chance to stir it every hour or so, the olive oil will obstinately separate from the water and freeze solid on its own: this is actually not the end of the world. It is, however, also science. Just break up the frozen oil by stirring it in – any remaining bits of it have the exact texture of nice chocolate and taste not unlike it too, so no harm done.

Leaving ice cream to the side for a minute: something in my life that I’ve been immensely proud of is being a contributor to The Toast website. (Noted readers include Hilary Clinton, I’ve just found out.) The Toast closed its doors this week, which left a particular emptiness in my heart and/or soul – it was always such a warm, safe place where I could go for an absolute escape; to find myself in the incredible specificities of the writing or to learn a ton of new stuff. It was a kind and clever and beautiful website and I’m bummed that it’s done but I’m so happy that I got to be a part of it with my Crush Cake series. I don’t know where I’m going to take the series next – maybe I’ll pitch it to someone else, maybe I’ll just let it be, but either way I feel like you should definitely read my two favourites: the profiterole mountain I made for Lucy Liu, and the giant bagel that I made for Sandy Cohen.

 don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened

I know it’s the middle of winter here in New Zealand and tucking into food that you’ve wilfully frozen seems counterproductive but let me remind you of one of life’s greatest pleasures: sitting on the floor in your underwear with the heater blasting artificial warmth your way as you merrily eat vast amounts of ice cream. The very minute I feel like not-nauseous again – and I hope I did an okay job of convincing you to make this sorbet in spite of my present lack of enthusiasm – this is what I’m going to do. I hope it’s soon.

If you liked the look of this you may also want to suss out my recipes for lemon poppyseed ice cream, quince sorbet, lychee and cucumber sorbet, and this cocoa sorbet recipe I blogged about in 2010 which inspired today’s recipe.

title from: Evanescense, Bring Me To Life. Do not come into my blog and imply that this song does not hold up. Also don’t not try to analyse whether all the double negatives I’ve used just now render my point meaningless. 

music lately:

Beyonce, Sorry. You can really just count on Beyonce, can’t you?  This is from her brilliant and important visual album Lemonade and if you haven’t watched it yet I strenuously insist that you make time for it; it’ll improve your life, no biggie.

The 1996 song Jellyhead by Crush was already fairly forgotten as far as 90s nostalgia goes but even more injurious, you could only find an amazingly cheap-sounding house remix on YouTube. Today I discovered this terrible quality version of the original song, and it’s honestly one of the best pop songs of all time and even though it sounds like it was recorded through a sock I’m so happy to hear the original again finally! (As in, for the first time since 1997-ish.) 

next time: I found this broth recipe that looks super cool, and as broth normally makes me all like “ah yes, lightly salted water” the fact that I’m interested in this recipe is surely indicative at all of its potential.