Gluten-Free Cookies

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I don’t have coeliac disease, nor am I gluten intolerant, but my friend is and as I’m a keen baker I thought I would have a go at baking something tasty for her. She explained that gluten-free foods aren’t as tempting as “ordinary” foods so I set to work finding something for her… and these were the result! Even Mr Travelstodge loved them. His comments were “these are the best biscuits you’ve ever baked” … and believe me, I’ve baked many; much to his waistline’s disapproval!

The ingredients you will need are:

180g Rice Flour (I use Doves Farm)
100g Caster Sugar
100g Milk Chocolate Chips
90g Light Brown Sugar
70g Unsalted Peanuts, Chopped (or use mixed nuts or any combination you want)
60g Unsalted Butter, Softened
2 Large Eggs, Beaten
1/2 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Always make sure you measure out the ingredients before you start, otherwise you will be back and forth across the kitchen… believe me, I’ve been there!

Start by mixing together the rice flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl. In a large mixing bowl, or a free-standing mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, caster sugar and vanilla extract until light. Next, add the egg bit by bit, making sure it’s mixed in well each time (you don’t want it to split at this point). It will now look rather runny, which is perfectly fine, as you will now add the dry ingredients from the other bowl in to this mix. Put it in one tablespoon at a time otherwise it will end up all over the place! Once combined, add the chocolate chips and peanuts.

large-cookies

Now, depending on how you want the cookies will depend on how long you leave the
mixture in the fridge. For round, crunchy cookies, leave the mixture in the fridge for an hour so it is solid. If you want large soft, floppy cookies (like the ones you get a Millies Cookies) then leave it in the fridge for about half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190˚C (170˚C Fan) Gas Mark 5. Line three baking sheets with baking paper. If they move about, dab a little butter on each corner of the tray to anchor the baking paper down.

Use a teaspoon amount for little biscuits, or a dessertspoon for larger ones. If you are leaving them in the fridge for the hour then leave a gap of around 5cm between them. If you are leaving them for only half an hour then double the gap, if not triple… they will spread out considerably and end up joining together! You can always break them apart so not the end of the world if they did.

Bake them for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Leave them to cool… but you all know that!

If you want to leave the nuts out,  just add the same amount of chocolate chips to the mix so it becomes a nut-free recipe too.

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Chocolate Biscuits

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I decided that, as I had an egg left in the box, and it was up today, I had better bake something with it… well, I don’t like waste so these Chocolate Biscuits were the result! So far Mr Travelstodge’s work colleagues have given them the thumbs up along with several at my place of work, so they can’t be that bad.

The ingredients needed are:

175g (6 oz)        Caster Sugar
125g (4½ oz)     Butter at room temperature
125g (4½ oz)     Plain Flour
35g   (1¼ oz)     Cocoa Powder
1                         Egg, beaten
½ tsp                  Bicarbonate of Soda
½ tsp                  Vanilla Extract (Not the artificial suff, get proper extract!)

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F, Gas Mark 4) and line three or four baking trays. I used two square trays and one rectangular one but whatever you have will be fine. I find baking paper the best, and a smidge of butter on the tray will help anchor the paper on so it doesn’t move when you are putting the dough on the tray.

Mix together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale in colour and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth.

Next, sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa and beat together until everything is combined. (Travelstodge tip: I mix together all the dry ingredients and sift them into a separate bowl and spoon the dry ingredients into the mix. It’s easier if you are using a hand mixer and or a stand mixer too, as you don’t have to keep stop-starting to sift, it’s all ready to spoon in!)

Now, you can create the biscuits in two ways. The first is with wet hands and roll the dough to create the ball shape needed, but this is messy and I always have the temptation to lick my hands clean… or… you can do what I do and use two teaspoons. Keep transferring the dough from one teaspoon to another to make the desired shape.

The size of the dough shape now will determine the size of the biscuit. A teaspoon size will create the biscuits in the photo, but smaller or bigger will mean adjusting the time in the oven. I made around 26 biscuits using a teaspoon size amount of dough. Make sure when you put the mixture on the baking trays you leave enough room for them to expand, otherwise they will come out all joined together… or one massive biscuit, depends how big your stomach is!

Bake in the oven for 15-17 minutes, based on a teaspoon sized dough.

Once baked, take them out of the oven and leave to cool for five minutes and transfer to a wire rack to completely cool. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a wire rack, I just leave mine on the baking tray to cool completely, it just takes a little longer.

And there you have it! Scrummy chocolate biscuits that everyone will want… all because I needed to use up an egg.

Day One of Barcelona, Chocolate and Picasso

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My fiancé is an artist so he said he wanted to go to the Picasso Museum. This was somewhere I had been to previously years ago so I wasn’t that bothered about going again, but as he had never been to Barcelona before, I said of course we will go. Having looked around the area for something else to do in the afternoon, I came across the Museu de la Xocolate (The Chocolate Museum). This was music to my fiancé’s ears as he has a rather healthy obsession for all things chocolate. Once we had a look at their website and saw the chocolate sculptures they had on display, we were both in agreement that this was on the itinerary list.

Museu Picasso de Barcelona (The Picasso Museum) is located on Carrer de Montcada, 15-23 in the El Born / La Ribera district. It’s housed in five 13th-15th century town houses, with original courtyards and staircases and it’s a beautiful sight to see. Photographs wouldn’t do it justice, you really need to see it for yourself. The entrance is, we found, harder to find than first thought. We walked around the whole building before we found the entrance. We thought the street it was on would be like a road, when in fact it was more like a side street. It’s very narrow compared to the streets we were used to.12096431_10208028287931436_7520862877185822196_n

The tickets are all timed entry, so if you can, plan your trip and buy your ticket before you leave as the Picasso Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Barcelona, and you may end up disappointed if you leave it until the day you go to pay for your ticket. We had out tickets booked for 9:15am and when we got there is wasn’t busy or crowded so… a Travelstodge tip… get there early! When we left, queues were starting to form so we were glad we could get around everywhere and see everything without falling over people.

The last admission in to the museum is 30 minutes before closing time, so if you do decide to go without a ticket, please bare that in mind. The first Sunday of every month they have free admission between 3pm – 7pm otherwise admission for adults is €11.00 for the general collection and €14 to include the temporary exhibits as well. No photographs are allowed in the exhibitions but you can in the courtyards, and if you have a backpack or large items of luggage, you will need to leave them in the cloakroom. You can find all the ticket prices, opening times and book tickets here: http://www.bcn.cat/museupicasso/en/museum/times.html

And you can find out how to get there here: http://www.bcn.cat/museupicasso/en/museum/getting-here.html

IMAG1269.jpgSo, once we left the Picasso Museum and stopped off for something to eat after having a walk around the streets of El Born, we went over to Museu de la Xocolata (The Chocolate Museum). Located on Carrer Comerç, 36 this little gem only costs €5 to enter and the bonus is… your ticket is also a chocolate bar! It is however, dark chocolate which I really don’t like, but my fiancé loves it so he was a happy chappy!

Dragon of ChocolateIt’s only a small museum and cheap at €5 to enter, but the models they have made out of chocolate were stunning. It’s amazing what can be done, and also how high they can make these chocolate statues. I say statues, as some were nearly as big as one! Chocolate can also be brought without having to enter the museum. They also do chocolate with no added sugar, which tastes just like normal chocolate, but with less calories and perfect for diabetics.

You can find all the details on where it is and opening times etc. here: http://www.museuxocolata.cat/?lang=en

 

We spent the rest of the day and night walking around the city, absorbing the culture and sights this beautiful place had to offer.

Day two will be up shortly but in the meantime, I’m working on a list of sights and attractions that you can get to from various metro stops around Barcelona.