, , , , , , ,

Beer bread, ginger snaps and chocolate biscuits with cheese on top, all on a pretty antique plate

The beautiful antique plate is Minton’s China Aster dating from 1861. Many thanks to The Collector for the kind loan.

Happy New Year everyone! It’s the first week of 2013 and I’m wondering what it has in store for us. The New Year finds me in the middle of a huge change, as I’ve packed in my “proper” job (you know, one that actually pays me a salary at the end of the month) to go off and work for a friend of mine who is starting his own company. Yes, a startup. A very popular word nowadays! There are people out there who surely think I’m nuts, especially since my job was with the British civil service. In these days of “The Crisis” the advice one tends to hear is “if you have a job stay put”. Well, I don’t really agree. Actually I think it’s kind of a miserable approach towards the one activity that takes up the largest chunk of our day – and our life for that matter. And we have enough misery around us, just by turning on the news. Of course not all situations are the same, and yes, I have the luxury of a support network, but I truly believe everyone should try their hardest to do something they are happy with. Don’t get me wrong, I spent 5 happy years working for an organization I have a lot of respect for, but the time was slowly arriving when I’d be ready for a change. So when the opportunity presented itself I grabbed it.

What will I be doing? Well, I’m going to keep you in suspense for a while. I have to work out what I can say here and when. Some elements have to be kept secret for a bit.  Gosh doesn’t that sound interesting?!

So for now I’ll stick to these gorgeous recipes. This is a platter of goodies I put together on New Year’s Day, most of which I spent lying in bed reading a good detective novel, drinking tea and snacking! I made these on New Year’s Eve, during a sudden urge to bake; they are perfect for midmorning snacking as they’re all somewhere between sweet and savoury and can be enjoyed as either. The chocolate biscuits are really interesting as you get the satisfaction of chocolate without too much sweetness and they can be paired fabulously with mature cheddar – just as Pigling Bland suggests in her Tales. It’s made me seriously rethink the amount of sugar I normally use in cookies; do I really need it? The ginger snaps are pure heaven smeared with a bit of butter – a discovery made by my mum the previous evening – but are also lovely dunked in tea. The strong ginger taste combined with the hot tea gives your mouth a sort of burning feeling but in a good way. Try taking a bite, chewing a bit, then washing it down with a gulp of hot tea. Aaahh. Can’t describe it.

Finally, the beer bread tipped the scales a bit further towards the savoury, creating a perfect balance. Again, butter makes it better. But what isn’t made better with butter? (I think I’ve got a bit of a slogan going there…). I remember seeing something on a blog, or maybe it was Twitter, about an apron that said on the front “Life is short, eat the damn butter”. I want that apron! The original recipe calls for pouring melted butter over the bread when it comes out of the oven. Surprisingly I haven’t tried that yet, but will do soon. This is my own version and it turned out great, but check my “Next Time” notes for my thoughts on improving it.

As I didn’t really make any changes to the first two recipes, I’ll just link back to the original sites. So we have:

  • Savoury Chocolate Biscuits (Cookies) by Tales of Pigling Bland. I didn’t have poppy seeds so I left them out, thus not using the egg wash either. They would have been prettier with the seeds.
  • Ginger Snaps by Alton Brown on the Food Network. I couldn’t be bothered to grate fresh ginger so left that out. The biscuits were gingery enough, but if you like them proper gingery then take the time do it. Or maybe add more dried ginger.
Top right: beer bread, bottom: ginger snaps, top left: savoury chocolate biscuits

Top right: beer bread, bottom: ginger snaps, top left: savoury chocolate biscuits

Beer Bread with Sundried Tomatoes and Amfilochia Cheese

Adapted from Beer Bread, 4 Ways by Bake at 350


3 cups self-raising flour
5 Tbs (60gr) chopped sundried tomatoes
3 Tbs sugar
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
330ml (about 12oz) Newcastle Brown Ale
1 cup Graviera Amfilochias (a strong Greek cheese, substitute with Parmesan or Pecorino or Grana Padano)


  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a loaf pan with grease proof paper (parchment).
  2. Put the flour in a large bowl. Spoon a little bit onto a plate and add the chopped sundried tomatoes. Mix them up so the tomato pieces are coated with the flour. Set aside.
  3. Mix the sugar and oregano into the flour in the bowl.
  4. Add the beer and stir.
  5. Mix in the cheese and sundried tomatoes, folding until you can’t see any flour. Don’t over mix.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan (it will be thick, level as best you can) and bake for approx. 1 hour.

Next time:
I will use a lighter tasting beer. Newcastle Brown is quite strong, and although I like the taste it leaves, I have a feeling it’s overpowering the cheese. I will try it with a lager as well, just to see what happens. I will also use more sundried tomatoes, maybe 100gr.

Before I go, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has nominated me for blogger awards during the past few months. I have been really useless at reciprocating and I’m sorry for that. I will try to do something about it!