Saturday, 27 September 2008

Chocolate Cake...

...or, to be more accurate, chocolate chip cookies.
"Satan's Own Cookies", in fact, to give them their proper title - named by one of the "Friday toddler group" members, clutching what was probably her third - ah, come on, we weren't going to waste them on the kids, now were we? That'd be daft)
So, since they seemed to be well received, and nobody ended-up in hospital, I thought I'd go for a complete departure from this blog's usual fare, and post the recipe (complete with small annotations for those who are clueless about baking -like me!) for these cocoa-laden dollops of anti-dieting evil.

Now, before we go any further, I'd better make a couple of things very clear. Firstly, this is a highly-modified version of the basic chocolate-chip cookie recipe from that publication of unrivalled splendour, "The Be-Ro Book" - no "kitchen numptie" (again, like me) should be without one. Secondly, all the cookies pictured are the genuine finished article. Whether the also-pictured "Gods of Rock" are actually eating them or not, I'll leave up to your critical faculties to determine. (If you are, however, quite that gullible, you'd best steer well clear of the Cruisefarians and their little "make you feel like a complete failure", so-called "personality assessment" sessions).


150g (6 oz) Butter (not margarine. Nae trans-fats here!)
112g (4+1/2 oz) "Soft light brown sugar" (except I only had really dark sugar, so I used a 2-parts dark stuff-to-one part granulated, which worked fine. Fairtrade "wholemeal" sugar, too, ideally. Mine was, but telling you that makes me look horribly self-righteous, doesn't it?)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) Maple Syrup (I use Canadian - sorry Vermonters, but them's the breaks...and yes, it does taste slightly different)
220g (er...8 oz?? sorry, but I'm going by the book's slightly 'odd' conversions) Wholemeal Flour
45g (2 oz) 'Green & Black's' Cocoa Powder (in other words, "power cocoa". These have to be "none more chocolate", as Nigel Tufnell might have put it if he'd been eating them in 'Spinal Tap'...which, er, he wasn't.)
100g (4 oz) Plain Chocolate Chips (you could always put in a few more if you want...and again, the darker the better)
3 tablespoons (45ml) Milk
3 teaspoons (15 ml) Baking Powder
(apparently size does matter)


1. Heat oven to 180C, 350F, 'Gas Mark 4' - in other words, keep the mini-primates out of the sodding way. Oh, and you're going to need an oven mitt, unless you're particularly partial to the smell of your own flesh charring. Grease 2 baking trays. Or just one, if that's all you have. (Don't worry, nobody round here's judging you. Well...maybe only a few of them. You know, the ones who host dinner parties for more than 6 people, and know how to make 3 different types of pastry...them.)

2. "Beat the butter until soft" (much easier if it's been sitting out a while beforehand - if you've only just hoiked it out of the fridge, then a brief low-power blast in the microwave (NB Kitchen numpties - not still in its wrapper!) will work wonders. Add the sugar and "cream together until light and fluffy". I'm sorry, but I made these entirely by hand, and "light and fluffy" was never on the agenda. School Home Economics teachers must have had the power of cement mixers in their forearms, because there's no way me and a wooden spoon are going to achieve "fluffiness". I'd settle for what looks like "thoroughly mixed"...they still came out ok...

3. "Stir in the syrup, flour, chocolate chips and milk and mix well". Not forgetting the cocoa powder & baking powder, of course. And as for the stirring and mixing, yeah, it's likely to induce hand pain & sweating (as per step 2). But don't give up now - you've almost made it to the eating stage! Just a brief interlude of applied heat to go!

4. "Place spoonfuls of the mixture on the prepared trays and bake for 8-10 minutes". Hmmm. I was using a wee fan-assisted oven, and 8 minutes was absolutely all they needed. Any longer and they burn on t'bottom, which is never recommended. Erring on the side of caution, (and sensible usage of the appropriate protection), is always advisable...and also gives you a greater-than-98% chance of avoiding pregnancy - always a bonus. "Remove from the tray immediately and place on a wire rack to cool".

Oh, yeah, should have said - get one of those wire cooling rack things ready before you start, because if, (like me), you completely forget about it, you might end up scrabbling around in a cupboard for one, while trying to hold a (hot) tray of still-slightly-soft cookies perfectly flat in the other hand. Add to this state of unpreparedness and minor panic a very saggy, almost grip-free oven glove, and you just know there are going to be cookie casualties. Which is extremely vexatious after all the effort you went to in steps 1 to 3.

(Mr. Blackmore here is giving a fine demonstration of precisely how annoying dropping freshly-made cookies on the floor can be, even though somebody's given him a clean one to nibble. There's no pleasing some folk...)

And that's it! Let them cool sufficiently to 'solidify' fully, of course, and then...well...they're all yours. All yours. Nobody else's. Yours! Mwahahahahahahahahahha!!!

Hope that works - oh, and one final thing, since there's no eggs in the recipe, mini-primates can happily indulge in a vicious battle for the "scrapings".

"Vaguely music-related ramblings" will return next week. Possibly. Unless global capitalism has collapsed in on itself by then, and I'm too busy looting.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

I Think I'll Disappear Now

I must admit, I've been having quietly seductive thoughts about 'disappearing' lately, and frankly, it's been so long since my last blog entry I might as well have done...a lamentable lapse for which I can only, as too many times before, humbly apologise - to the three (or fewer) people reading this who might be slightly interested.

I am, of course, about to dive into a plethora of pathetic excuses and not-at-all-mitigating circumstances, none of which, however, sound particularly convincing...even to me. Worse still, that's really all there's going to be this week - no tenuously-linked, topical cultural references welded clumsily onto a chassis of music-related mumblings, no gratuitous insults aimed at highly successful artists to whom I'm less than a dab of wash-hand basin soap on the underside of their coke spoon. Not even a personally prejudiced/under-researched/almost certainly wrong review of some instrument, or lump of musical gadgetry...

No, this week it's all about me! (Exactly like every other post, in other words. Just this time, the desperate egomania won't be skulking about in the depths of the verbal foliage).

Trouble is, for a variety of reasons, I've been having serious motivational issues. (Oh, in case you were wondering, there's something that you might find humorous at the end of the post - if I were you, I'd give all this solipsism a miss and head on down there). Part of the problem has been the inevitable single-parent-two-energetic-small-boys childcare exhaustion. That, and jazz. Actually, I blame the jazz far more... of my "projects I have no real time for" is to learn, finally, to play the piano 'properly'. That, of course, means knuckling down and practising loads of 2-octave scales, learning how to shift hand/finger positions, and plonking my way (oooohhhh ssssoooo sssssloooooooooowwllllyyy) through (simplified!) versions of t'Moonlight Sonata and its ilk. Which is far too much like hard work - so it's been out with the jazz books instead! Loads more fun, yes, but I've found that after 40 minutes of trying to twist my unwilling digits around some demented chord sequence I wrote on a guitar nearly 2 decades ago - and man, is it easier to jump from hand-mashers like "Gbm9 [flat 5th, sus4, carry the 3rd and subtract the number you first thought of]" to...anything...when it's strings and frets that are involved - my brain has scrambled itself, and it's all I can do to remember how to unplug the piano and slump on the sofa without falling off.

Then there's the "sympathetic teething". Oh yes - timed perfectly to coincide with smaller mini-primate suffering from the "hot-swollen-cheek blues", I've got a long-dormant wisdom tooth which has, after an interval of about 15 years or so, decided it's time to have a growth spurt. Didn't expect that one. Nor did it engender thoughts of a spontaneuosly comedic nature. Still, it's a pity that "wisdom teeth" fail to live up to their name - it would have been nice to think "hey, I'm teetering on the brink of life's scrapheap, but I'm about to get less stupider! Cool!". Ah well...

Finally, there's the stress. I know, we've almost all got it - but right now, my financials are creaking almost as ominously as an American investment banker's, I'm stuck facilitating my 'to-be-ex' wife's "sex and the city" lifestyle, and I appear to be a completely unattractive prospect to women...this is worse than it sounds, since I can't even afford to put any cash aside for my cunning solution to the latter problem - radical genetic surgery to turn me into a bass-playing version of George Clooney. Now you've got to admit, judging by the (highly realistic) photo - this idea's a winner!

Fine, so "Human Clooney-ing" upsets some (anachronostic) faith groups and bio-ethicists, the scientific techniques behind it are, shall we say, "untested" ("non-existant", "piffle", and "oh dear, he's finally gone over the edge, hasn't he?" may be a little closer to the mark), and it's been specifically prohibited by the governments of 217 countries...yes, that's right, countries that don't even exist yet have banned the Clooney-ing of human beings. But think of the potential benefits - especially for women:

"If you, too, want to save the future by banishing unattractiveness in men, just reach for your credit card and send lots of money to my PayPal account today.
Human Clooney-ing - a chance for a better world. The more you give, the better it might get."

Anyway, after all that, I'll leave you with an upstanding example of accidental honesty from the Freshman Guitars' "Cedar Creek" series catalogue, (page 9):

Right...time for some bad jazz piano...unless I fall asleep first...