This year I spent my birthday at work and, mindful that Tuesdays do not lend themselves to wild celebrations, delayed birthday festivities to the weekend. Am I really a grown up now? Well, whatever the outward picture might suggest, I still feel exactly the same as I did when I was a fresh, green and often quite awkward 16 year old.
Birthdays are a good time to reflect on the year gone and, more importantly, the year ahead. For 23, I've decided to try and cut myself a little bit of slack. The plight of the perfectionist weighs heavy on my shoulders far too often, and I'm going to try my hardest not to beat myself up about the small stuff. The world won't end if a report waits until the next day, if I don't manage a run before work, if I don't blog every single week. Of course, the usual resolutions stick too, so I'll be trying hard to complain less, be more grateful and remind my nearest and dearest how much I love them more often.
A grown up I may be, but the awkward 16 year old in me is still a real sucker for sweet, chewy chocolate chip cookies. The secret to beautiful cookies is to make your own melting chocolate chips - they really are a million miles away from the rock hard chunks you buy at the supermarket. Peppered with orange zest and a hint of coffee, these cookies will bring out the child in every birthday boy or girl.
125g dark chocolate
140ml double cream
440g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp instant coffee
2 tsp boiling water
230g butter, softened
400g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
zest of 1 orange
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Begin by making your homemade chocolate chips. Break the chocolate up in a bowl, and set aside. In a small pan, heat the cream until it is just bubbling, then pour over the chocolate. Stir the mixture fast, until the chocolate is all melted and you have a glossy, thick and smooth ganache. Pour into a square tin, then set in the freezer and leave to freeze solid for 3 hours. Once the chips are frozen, remove from the freezer and cut into chunks. Store in the freezer until you're ready to use them.
For the cookies, preheat the oven to 190C. Line several baking trays with parchment and set aside. Next, cream together the softened butter and both sugars. Add the eggs, and once beaten in add the flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla and orange zest. In a small bowl, mix the coffee granules with the boiling water, and add to the dough, mixing well.
Finally, add the chocolate chips and fold by hand to combine and distribute among the dough. Next use two teaspoons to spoon the cookies onto the trays. Each cookie should have about 2 large tsps of dough. Don't flatten the balls, as they'll do this themselves in the oven. It's also important to spread them out, placing just 4 or 5 cookies on each tray.
Bake in the oven for 9-11 minutes, until the cookies have spread, risen and sunk again, and are just golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray for 10 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to firm up fully. Repeat this process until all the dough has been used up - yo can reuse the baking parchment, and should get around 30 cookies from the dough.
Enjoy with a strong cup of English Breakfast. De-licious.