Can you believe it’s 30 years of Eurovision song contest?
Eurovision has a surprisingly large fan base in Australia, probably since we fell in love with ABBA way back when. These days, our multicultural broadcaster SBS despatches two commentators to the host city, dedicated to living, breathing, and relaying every sparkle, tassel, costume reveal, key change (intentional or otherwise) and pyrotechnics from the extravaganza. It’s almost like Tour de France season. We even got a mention from the presenter Petra Mede this year, *squeal*.
Some fans in Australia are pretty seriously committed. A previous Australian commentator got in trouble with some fans when he made fun of the show. (Really? They don’t find it mesmerising-funny that Cesar from Romania was channeling Dracula, and then broke out in a magnificent falsetto?)
On Sunday night, when Eurovision was broadcast on Australian TV, we were at an Eurovision party dressed up to the crazy nines. I was dressed as one of the Russian grandmothers or babushkas from last year. Anyone remember them? They brought out trays of cookies from an oven while singing on stage! My costume of course included a tray of freshly baked cookies – food as costume, wowza.
It’s not a proper Eurovision party without a smorgasbord of dishes from the contestant countries. Someone brought Portuguese chicken, which was technically not permitted because Portugal didn’t enter this year’s contest, but we ate the chicken anyway. I had two food entries: savoury brioche pockets, which was this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) assignment, and blinged up chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, which was part of my babushka costume.
Savoury brioche pockets (TWD)
Brioche is a recurring motif in my oven at the moment. Apple brioche pudding, brioche nutella scrolls, Hermé’s 100% butter brioche (post about this coming on the weekend), and now brioche pockets. Let them eat brioche, I say, and don’t even think about a diet.
This brioche isn’t as rich as, say, Hermé’s brioche, but you can definitely taste the butter. It also had a cake-like crumb from the eggs and butter enriching the dough. Fresh from the oven, the pockets were light yet rich, faintly sweet yet happy to complement other flavours, including savoury ones.
While these were baking, the kitchen smelled of butter, fresh bread, mingling with the aroma of goat cheese and caramelised onions. The savoury pockets were great with a beer or glass of wine. I imagine the plain brioche would be perfect with coffee.
I baked the pockets in mini square tart pans, without the decorate sage leaf or poppy seeds. It was basically the same as the ‘classic’ brioche pocket in the recipe, except I used a thicker (5mm) piece of dough to fill the tart pan, and a thin layer of dough on top. The tart pan resulted in mini brioche pockets that were square and fluted on the bottom, and round, dome-like on top. The golden domes were quite pretty when they were laid out at the Eurovision party. The thicker bottom layer of brioche made each pocket a more substantial snack – since we had the obligatory Eurovision drinking games, I wanted to make sure there was responsible service of alcohol!
The dough had a few steps, including lots of kneading (best done in a machine) before adding soft, pliable butter. The kneading helps to get strong gluten development in the dough before butter is added, so that the dough will rise despite the extra weight of the butter. The dough insisted on sticking to the bowl and my fingers, even though I kneaded it for a long time, but the final result was light, fluffy, and cake-like as I could wish.
The filling was assertive enough to make you sit up and take notice, but mild enough to allow the buttery taste of the brioche crust to shine. It consisted of three layers, and I followed the recipe with only minor tweaks. The first layer is a mixture of goat cheese and mashed potatoes. The goat cheese gave the brioche pockets much of the flavour. Next was caramelised onions with some softened zucchini slices. Lastly, thin slices of apples (instead of asparagus), whose sweetness suited the brioche crust.
Blinged up choc chip peanut butter cookies
It wouldn’t be Eurovision without the bling. And cookies wouldn’t be Eurovision cookies without some (unnecessary) sparkles. Enter cookies with extra sparkly bits.
This was slightly adapted from the Jacques Torres amazing chocolate chip cookies recipe. This is one of the recipes that inspired David Leites’ ultimate chocolate chip cookies, and I wanted to taste its reputed fabulousness for myself.
I made minimal changes to the recipe. The most substantial change was folding a ball of peanut butter and nutella mixture into each ball of cookie dough. Each cookie had a few mouthfuls of peanut butter goodness, which pleased an American friend no end. Other than that, I added 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the cookie dough, to give it extra colour and chocolate taste. Used a little less butter because I was baking it right away, and didn’t want a very soft dough that over-spreads. And of course, added handfuls of cachous to just-baked cookies to give them that Eurovision look.
On Sunday night, this recipe yielded soft, crumbly and slightly chewy cookies, with large puddles of melted, dark, finger-lickingly warm chocolate. The puddles of chocolate – their size will depend on the size of your chopped chocolate bits – looked just a little extravagant, just like some Eurovision entrants. They were good just out of the oven, and were still good a couple of days later when colleagues at work ate the last of the cookies. I’m always on the lookout for new cookie recipes, but these will be a hard act to follow.
Nerdy baking notes: this recipe provides instructions to let the cookie dough rest in the fridge for up to 72 hours or 3 days. I saved part of the cookie dough and baked them tonight (Wednesday). The long resting time made such difference to the texture of the dough and the final cookies: the dough was less sticky, had a finer texture and somehow felt more uniformly hydrated. The dough could be easily scooped into shape like ice cream at just-right temperature, and the cookies came out of the oven with a very distinctive crusty outside and chewy inside.
Worth the 72 hour wait? Yes, definitely, if you like crusty-gooey cookies. Next time (and there will be a next time) we will bake them for 2-3 minutes less, and dump the gooey-crusty mess onto vanilla ice cream. Like one giant messy lump of delicious, addictive ice cream topping. Who said the topping has to play second fiddle to the ice cream?
Blinged-up chocolate peanut cookies
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake or pastry flour (I used 200g wholemeal / wholewheat flour plus about 50g corn flour)
1 2/3 cup (about 220g) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cups or 285g unsalted butter, at room temperature (I only used 250g butter)
1 1/4 cups (about 250g) light brown sugar
1 cups plus 2 tablespoons (about 250g) castor or granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds or 560g dark/bittersweet chocolate, at least 60% cacao, either in disc form or coarsely chopped
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter (I used commercial peanut butter, which already had salt and sugar added, so you may need to adjust the amount of sugar to taste)
3/4 cup Nutella or other hazelnut spread
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 cup or 50g castor / granulated sugar
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Using a mixer or by hand, cream together butter and sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until each egg is incorporated. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined (I like to do the last bit by hand to avoid over mixing). Add the chocolate bits and stir until just incorporated, be careful not to break the chocolate discs if using.
3. Optional: set aside for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours.
4. When ready to bake the cookies: preheat the oven to 175C / 350F.
5. Mix together all the ingredients for the filling until no streaks remain. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then roll into small balls (about 1cm or less in diameter).
6. Scoop out cookie dough, roughly flatten in your hands. Place a ball of peanut butter-nutella mixture in the centre and do your best to close the cookie dough around the peanut butter and nutella ball. The chopped chocolate or discs will stick out everywhere, and you probably won’t get a perfectly enclosed lump of dough, but that’s ok, it all works out in the oven.
7. Place the lumps of cookie dough on a lined baking tray. Bake for 15-18 minutes. I find the cookies are still very gooey inside at 15 minutes – perfect for dumping onto ice cream; and holds their shape better after 18 minutes – good for transport.