Monday 16 September 2013

National Cookie Swap 2013 & Spiced Dark Chocolate Cookies

Well readers, I can't wait to tell you about an exciting event that I attended over the weekend. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter then you'll no doubt know what I'm talking about - the 3rd annual Cape Town Cookie Swap! This year it was a national event with cookie swaps also taking place in Johannesburg and Durban on the same day (Saturday). Proceeds from the event went to Khayelitsha Cookies, and I'll be telling you a bit more about this fantastic company in a little bit... 

When I heard about this event I couldn't wait to get involved. I mean let's be honest - an excuse to bake a huge batch of cookies, the prospect of devouring a selection of homemade treats and a chance to meet up with some fellow foodies all in the name of a good cause - what's not to get excited about? 

It turned out to be a wintery Cape Town afternoon, but the cold and wet weather couldn't dampen the spirits of 60 bakers (and a few non-bakers) who arrived, biscuit barrels in hand, at Dear Me in Cape Town's CBD. The Cookie Swap took place in the bright upstairs area of the venue, and after checking in and popping our biscuits on the display table there was a chance to mingle, have a drink and peruse the sumptuous selection of cookies.  Later on there was an auction with fabulous goodies and spot prizes on offer, and then it was onto the main event - swapping and sampling of the gorgeous array of cookies. To be honest, I was so busy chatting that I only ate one or two at the venue, but left with plenty of samples to take home. All in all it was a fabulous afternoon. My personal highlight was having the opportunity to meet in person many of the food bloggers that I've conversed with over social media over the last few months - what a lovely bunch! 

So as I mentioned a little earlier the beneficiary of this years Cookie Swap was Khayelitsha Cookies. At the event we heard from Adri Williams, Managing Director of this inspiring company that provides permanent employment for previously disadvantaged women, training them to produce delicious handmade cookies. Not only that, the company also empowers these women by teaching other life skills such as budgeting, and by encouraging them to study and promoting their career growth. Proceeds from the event were to go towards the purchase of new shoes and chairs for the women at their factory. As Adri spoke, it quickly became clear that this is a company passionate about producing quality products as well as community upliftment. I do encourage you to pop a box of Khayelitsha Cookies into your shopping trolley next time you're in the biscuit aisle! 

Onto my cookie contribution... I decided to go with a favourite recipe, but adapt it for the occasion. I first made this recipe about 2 years ago as Christmas gifts for a few people. They went down a treat and since then I've made them many times. The original recipe is by Donna Hay, but I've adapted it to make a richer, darker and more decadent cookie. I've nicknamed these cookies "Christmas in your mouth", and when you taste the warm spices and dark chocolate I'm sure you'll understand why. Dense, chewy and dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar, I hope these will become one of your favourites too! 

Baking tip: when measuring out golden syrup I always start by greasing the cup with a smidge of vegetable oil. This makes it much easier to scrape the syrup out with minimal waste. 



(Christmas in your mouth!)

Makes 28-30 cookies

350g plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/4 teaspoon bicarb
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
150g butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup treacle sugar 
1/3 cup golden syrup
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate, finely chopped

For the sugar coating:

1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Step 1.) Preheat your oven to 180°C and line a tray with baking paper.  

Step 2.) Sift the flourcocoabicarbcinnamongingernutmeg and cloves into a bowl and mix. 

Step 3.) Cream the butter and sugars in a bowl until fluffy. Add the golden syrupegg and vanilla extract and mix to combine. 

Step 4.) Add the dry ingredients and dark chocolate and mix until you have a soft dough. 

Step 5.) Roll  the dough into walnut sized balls and arrange on a baking tray. (Depending on the size of your tray you may need to bake the cookies in 2 batches.) Flatten each cookie just lightly with the palm of your hand. 

Step 6.) Bake the biscuits for 8 minutes. Turn the tray in the oven and bake for a further 8 minutes, or until the biscuits have risen slightly and are cracked on top. 

Step 7.) Transfer the biscuits to cooling rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Sift the icing sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and mix. Toss the warm cookies in the cinnamon sugar mix to coat. Set aside on the cooling rack to cool completely. 

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