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The New Kid on the Block: The Biskie – Cutter & Squidge, London

Address: 20 Brewer St, Soho, London W1F 0SJ

For: Cakes, biskies and afternoon tea

Average Price Range: £4-6

Cutter & Squidge: the creator of the biskie.

What is a biskie  you may ask? According to Cutter & Squidge’s website, it is a “a fresh, handmade, unique biscuit/cookie/cake creation filled with our special lightened buttercream.” It has ” a unique texture of crisp, soft, chewy and lusciously melty, as well as being a luxurious flavour fiesta in your mouth.”

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I stumbled upon Cutter while I was walking aimlessly around Soho with my boyfriend the and I couldn’t resist walking in. I mean, how cute is this decor?

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Aside from cakes, biskies, coffees and teas, they also have a product range which include gelatin-free marshmallows and jams. They would make great gifts!

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My boyfriend and I tried the salted caramel biskie. It looked very cute.

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Verdict? Yummy! It wasn’t to sweet and the biscuit part of the biskie was soft and crumbly and really did have a hybrid texture between a cake and a biscuit. It was really interesting!

Next time, I’m definitely going to try a slice of cake. Don’t they look absolutely gorgeous?

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And this display is just amazing. Perfectly instagrammable hehe.

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Seoul (Food)

I’ve been feeling a little poorly as of late and but my aunt made the best kimchi jjigae last night for dinner and not only did it make me feel much better, but it transported me right back to my summer holiday in Seoul. I know I haven’t blogged in a while but what better way to ease back into the blogging lifestyle than with a post about one of the coolest cities in the world?

First off, Myeong-dong (명동): the infamous shopping district right at the heart of Seoul. Tonnes of street food and make-up and skincare shops galore. Thinking of buying a face mask? Well, there are people literally waving free samples in your face in an attempt to lure you into their store. And don’t worry if you don’t speak Korean! If you’re a Mandarin speaker, pretty much everyone speaks Mandarin too. Aside from buying lots of skincare and makeup products (I’m looking at you Tony Moly, Banila Co and Innisfree), I also tried a couple of street food items.

Here is me with a tornado potato! Potatoes are spiralised on the spot and deep fried before being sprinkled with cheese powder, garlic powder or sea salt. If I didn’t feel guilty about eating MSG I would probably have gone with cheese…but… well…#health..?

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And here are the cutest little cheese/egg bread things. I didn’t try them this time but my mum did and she said they were delicious! DSC_1090

Other recommended items by my Korean friend are the chicken sticks and the tteokbokki. You can never go wrong with chicken sticks or tteokbookki can you?

Also in Myeong-dong is Gogung (고궁 – 명동점) , a place infamous for their bibimbap (비빔밥) or hot stone rice bowl. Personally? I thought their hot stone rice bowl or bibimbap  was a little lacklustre and was not as flavourful as I had expected it to be.

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Their spicy naengmyeon (물냉면) spicy cold noodle dish was really good though. However, if you’re not used to eating spicy food like I am – beware! This is spicy. So good…but so spicy…

And what about dessert in Myeong-dong?

My friend took me to a cute bingsu cafe called Poem. We ordered a Berry Bingsu and a Cotton Candy Affogato. Both were refreshing and very tasty.

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Continuing on with the dessert theme, my mum’s favourite cafe in Myeong-dong (though there are many other branches dotted around Seoul) is undoubtedly O’Sulloc. We went there three times in the span of a week and I’ve got to say…it really is amazing. The shop specialises in all things tea flavoured, from teas, to cakes, to bingsus, matcha toast spreads (think nutella but matcha) and ice creams. You can sample most of their teas in the shop itself, where they steep the leaves in cold water for all shop visitors to try.

Below are my favourite orders at O’Sulloc: The black matcha roll cake (tastes just like a matcha oreo) and their classic matcha latte.

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And here is their O’fredo. It’s a matcha ice cream sundae. The base is a matcha frappuccino, topped with cream, red beans, matcha brownies and a butter wafer. Delicious!

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Moving away from Myeong-dong, another highlight of my trip was my meal at Tosokchon Samgyetang (토속촌삼계탕) an infamous traditional Ginseng Chicken Soup restaurant (Samgyetang 삼계탕). And I know, the star of the show should be the actual chicken soup but I gotta tell you – their kimchi is the best. And I’ve eaten a lot of kimchi in my time. It’s just the right amount of spicy, salty, fragrant and even a little floral. Fantastic.

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But yes, here is the Ginseng chicken soup. Ginseng chicken soup is an authentic traditional South Korean dish. There are two types you can order a black chicken ginseng chicken soup (more expensive and supposedly more tender) and the original normal one. I got the normal. Inside the stone casserole pot is a whole young chicken simmered  in a broth for hours, adding depth to the whole dish’s rich flavour.

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The chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice, a red date and a ginseng. Half the fun is digging through the chicken to find the ginseng!

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And here it is! It’s massive, very bitter but I mean, it’s good for you and very expensive so you just have to eat it.

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Next, I’m going to talk about Michelin starred Jungsik (정식당 서울), a Korean fusion restaurant with branches in Seoul (1 Michelin star) and New York (2 Michelin stars). It may seem to come in a little pricey for a lunch at 80,000 KRW (approx. 71 USD) for 5 courses but considering the standard of food served, I think it’s worth it.

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A twist on a sushi roll. Kimchi and brown rice wrapped in hand-made nori sheets.

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One of my personal favourites is this platter of nine delicacies called Gujeolpan (구절판). Spoon what you want on a thick, crispy nori sheet and enjoy! The platter contains fresh, raw, marinated tuna, fresh wasabi, white kimchi, kelp gelee, smoke sour cream, seaweed, microgreens and tomatoes.

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This is a truffle gimbap. Yes. It was just as amazing as it sounds – if not better.

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Duck breast in chargrilled barley risotto.

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More duck – cooked to perfection.

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And grilled fish with house perilla oil.

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We had two desserts – the Rose Versailles which was a beautiful raspberry lychee sorbet dessert but unfortunately I don’t have a photo. But below is my little kroean statue dessert. The statute was made of white chocolate mousse and it was delicious.

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Of course, petit four. I ate the other choux before snapping this photo..sorry.

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Ahhh, Maple Tree House (단풍나무집). Only the best korean barbeque placeI can’t tell you how much I love this place. Best marinated shortribs, best kimchi tofu stew, best souffle egg. Everything. Just go. Don’t hesitate. Just do it.

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The following cafe is perhaps one of the most amazing cafes I’ve ever stepped into. I mean, taste-wise, I’ve had better but visually, the treats on offer here are amazing. It’s called Passion 5  and when you walk in, you are greeted by display after display or pastries, cakes, ice cream macarons…you name it, they’ve got it. The inside was like a food wonderland, they have apple cakes in the shape of apples, peach cakes in the shape of peaches, strawberry tarts, fig pastries, everything. This below picture is just one of  10+ displays of food.

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Choosing what I wanted to eat was the toughest job of all. In the end, I settled for a strawberry shortcake. I’d never had one before but after this, I think if I were to eat it again, more cake less cream would be the way forward.

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Though my shortcake was pretty though a little disapponting in terms of taste, the next cafe I’m going to recommend definitely exceed my expectations in terms of taste and aesthetic.

Cue Mr Holmes Bakehouse , what once was a small bakery in San Francisco, now an international phenomenon of a pastry shop (or should I say watering hole for millenials with Instagram…).

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Anyhoo, behold, this is a white chocolate caramel cruffin. Yeah that’s right. Forget Dominique Ansel’s cronut. This is a cross between a croissant and a muffin. A flaky, crisp, buttery, sugary pastry filled extremely generously with white chocolate caramel custard. Boy oh boy was this a treat. Probably two days worth of calories in this bad boy so do as we did, share. Or not. Who cares right? Death by obesity from cruffins sounds like a great way to go.

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See what I mean with the whole Instagram thing?

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This post is drawing to a close but I couldn’t leave you guys without letting you know about possibly the best churro place in the world. This is Churro 101 (츄러스). It’s a chain shop with branches in Seoul and in Singapore but wow this is no ordinary chain store. This is churro perfection multiplied.

These churros are served hot and fresh from out the fryer. They are crispy on the outside and fluffy and doughey on the inside. Below are two of my favourite flavours: dark chocolate and almond and cinnamon sugar. Normal dark chocolate also deserves a shout out. Oh and I think I should mentioned these churros are about 30cm long. They are monstrously big. But guess what? My mum and I went twice. The first time we ate 2 churros and the second time…3. Yup…no regrets.

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And last but certainly not least, Korean Fried Chicken. Of course I couldn’t finish this post without leaving you with a recommendation for KFC! This place is a gem. It’s called Han Chu (한추) and you know a place is good when it’s packed with Koreans. We didn’t see any tourists. It seemed to be the place to be for casual dates or post-work hangouts.

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Their original fried chicken is SO GOOD. It’s spicy from the green chili peppers mixed into their batter which is so, so delicious. I’m usually quite conscious about eating too much deep fried food but this definitely had to fall within the exception. I had no qualms with eating as much of this chicken as possible. Order a plate per person. Why bother sharing?

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Seoul is a hub for traditional and international cuisine, fashion, music, television, infrastructure and culture. This post just featured a few of my food highlights but it doesnt even cover 2/3 of all that I actually ate, and all that I saw and all that I shopped. What struck me as so amazing was the marriage of the old and new co-existing in harmony in this modern metropolis with ancient palaces and secret gardens juxtaposed against glass and steel skyscrapers office buildings. The city of Seoul flourishes and yet so much unrest surrounds its borders. Let us hope Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un learn to exercise restraint because South Korea has come so far from the days of the Korean War and I could not bear to see it all fall to pieces. I’d also really like to visit again without fear of winding up dead in the middle of a nuclear wasteland. So here’s to you Seoul, until the next time we meet – which I hope will be soon.

Cookie Shot Glasses and More – Dominique Ansel Bakery, London

Address: 17-21 Elizabeth St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9RP

For: Original creations like the Cronut, the DKA, Cookie Shot Glasses…and so much more

Average Price Range: £6

As soon as you walk into Dominique Ansel, you’re immediately met by a beautiful array of brightly coloured pastries, hand crafted to perfection.

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There are also simpler delights like large pain au chocolats, croissants, brownies and cookies the size of your face.

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Dan and I decided to get the classics – the cookie shotglass which you, if you want it filled with Tahitian-Vanilla Infused Milk, have to order in at the bakery. Among the other specialties that need to be prepared at the bakery are its Frozen S’mores and its banana paella – both of which I have yet to try.

We also tried the classic ‘DKA’: Like a cronut (a cross between a croissant and a doughnut) without any of the filling – I would prefer this over a cronut simply because it’s not as sweet.

Finally, we ordered the ‘Paris – London’: A twist on a Paris Brest. It’s a choux pastry ring filled with piped droplets of earl grey mousse, lemon curd and blackberry ganache.

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Ok, here is where I get a little bit critical. Firstly, the service was definitely left wanting. It was slow, and I couldn’t help but feel like the servers were less than capable. Our waitress spilt the milk that she was meant to pour into my shotglass and made my cookie soggy, making it almost impossible for the milk to stay within its cookie confines.

The cookie shotglass was also warm and the milk, tepid, which is not very smart at all because chocolate lining in the cup melted. The chocolate lining is supposed to be a solid barrier to keep the milk in so obviously once that melts…milk seeps out. For something that I paid good money for (£4.80), I was not very impressed at all.

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At least our waiter got Dan’s cup right so I could get a decent shot haha.

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As you can see the milk has already started to seep out.

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All the same, it did taste great.

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The ‘Paris-London’ was a highlight for me. I thought it was creative, looked quirky and fun and tasted great. No disappointments here. A very well, handcrafted pastry.

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The ‘DKA’…ahhh…what to say? It was exactly what I had hoped it would be. Buttery, flakey, coated in crunchy crystallised sugar – a real treat. Not very healthy at all but delicious.

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Ok. My last piece of advice: stick to the pastries and cakes. Dominique Ansel does not specialise in savoury foods and they simply aren’t worth it. Firstly…consommé is supposed to be clear. Ask Heston..ask Ramsey…ask, well…anyone who watches Masterchef. This beef consommé was cloudy, salty and lacked depth of flavour.

Anyhow, I would like to round off this review on a slightly more positive note. While there were many aspects of my experience at Dominique Ansel that were not entirely great, I would still come back if I found myself with the time to do so. What Dominique Ansel excels in are its pastries and cakes. Its canelés are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and whisk you straight off to Bordeaux in the South of France.

My suggestion: take away whatever you want to try and enjoy at home. It’s not really worth paying more to sit in given the lacklustre service available and the already expensive prices. Mix in vanilla extract and maple syrup into your milk at home? You can buy the cookie shot glasses without milk in boxes of five so that’s always an option. All in all, I’d still recommend Dominique Ansel to a friend for a pastry or a cake though. Well, once in a while anyways after my wallet has had some time to replenish itself.

Steamed Banana Puddings with Caramel Sauce – Recipe

This steamed sponge pudding is served at one of my favourite Thai restaurants in Hong Kong and is a soft, light take on a banana loaf. I  order it every time I eat there and recently, I thought to myself, why not bring the party home and try making them? Well, here is my take on steamed banana puddings with caramel sauce.

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Makes 9-10 puddings

For the puddings

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas (spotty/black/gross on the outside)
  • 110g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 90g castor sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 75g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  2. Mash the banana with a fork until it’s mushy
  3. Cream together (beat) the butter and sugar
  4. Add in one egg at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well in between to make sure all ingredients are incorporated
  5. Add the vanilla extract.
  6. Add the bananas, flour, baking powder and salt
  7. Fold to combine
  8. Butter the insides of nine ramekins (or more or less depending on how big these are)
  9. Boil some water in a kettle
  10. Create a water bath for the ramekins by placing them in a baking tray and filling that tray up half of the way with the boiling water
  11. Cover the tops of the ramekins loosely with a sheet of foil
  12. Carefully place the water bath and ramekins into the oven
  13. Steam for forty minutes

For the Caramel Sauce

Ingredients

  • 150g brown sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 140ml single cream

Method

  1. Simmer the brown sugar, cream and butter until it becomes a thick rich sauce

 

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The traditional recipe tops off the pudding with caramel sauce, honeycomb vanilla ice cream and honeycomb. However, I don’t like honeycomb so I didn’t want to make an entire batch just for a few puddings and end up having to throw the rest of it away. I also wasn’t in the mood for ice cream but by all means, go ahead and top these puddings however you like! I topped mine off with momofuku cookie crumbs instead which worked a treat and added that needed crunch element. My recipe for which can be found here.

I hope that you try this much loved pudding. It’s a great dessert idea for when friends or family come round! If you’re looking to impress but not necessarily have to faff around with persnickety, temperamental pastries that take years to perfect, this is the perfect recipe for you!

High Tea and the Best Cakes in Durham – Tealicious, Durham

Address: 88 Elvet Bridge, Durham, DH1 3AG

For: Cake, Specialty Teas, Scones, Afternoon & High Tea

Average Price Range: £4 (for cakes/teas), £11 pp (for tea sets)

Tealicious undoubtedly has the best cakes, teas and cheese scones in Durham. In fact, it has some of the best cakes I have had at any cafe ever.You can trust my judgment as well because I’ve probably eaten my weight in cake and I’ve also baked a lot of them as well – so I know good cake when I taste it.

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Tealicious always has a great spread of cakes. If you look at the picture on top, starting from the bottom row, there is a cherry loaf, a coffee and walnut cake and a lime and blueberry sponge. On the top row, there is a lime curd & coconut cake, a chocolate cake and right at the edge of the top right corner are some fruit scones.

My friends and I decided to share a high tea set for two between three people and it was more than enough. The price was £23 which basically added up to £7.7 pp. This price leans towards the high end of the spectrum as far as tea sets in Durham go. However, considering the quality of the food and drink served, it’s a total bargain.

Our tea set included one fruit or cheese scone, our choice of two teas, two sandwiches and two cakes. We chose:

  • the cheese scone
  • the honey rooibas tea and the vanilla early grey tea (free refills of hot water)
  • the pepper & hoummus sandwich and the regional cheese & chutney sandwich
  • the lime & coconut cake and the lime & blueberry cake

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The cakes were beautifully moist and packed with flavour. I personally loved the blueberry & lime cake because the zest was just enough to lift the buttery flavour of the sponge but not overpower it. The coconut lime cake was a bit of a hit and miss for my friends and me. I wasn’t a fan of the lime curd at all. I thought it was too tangy and tasted a bit too much like a green jelly baby but my friend absolutely loved it. That cake is down to personal preference I guess. Still, I could appreciate that the sponge was well baked and moist.

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I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a cheese sandwich so much. There was a thick slice of creamy, regional cheese in each sandwich triangle, making each bite indulgently delightful. They do also offer brown bread for the sandwiches but it just so happened that they ran out of that when we got there.

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The teas were absolutely lovely. The aromas of both were wonderfully fragrant and the tastes of both, delicate, yet robust enough to be distinct from each other. I personally adore the vanilla earl grey tea and would go back just for that.

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Add a splash of milk and perfecto.

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The ambiance is perfect for a little gathering of friends. I ten out of ten would recommend.

-a

Momofuku Inspired Milk Cookie Recipe

I celebrated the submission of a 4000 word legal philosophy essay by baking a mountain of these Momofuku inspired cookies. I halved the amount of ingredients from the original recipe because the original made close to 20 cookies. However, they were gone within 2 and a half days so if you live with cookie monsters like I do, then go ahead and double the amount of ingredients below.

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Let me talk ingredients for a second.

Always use good quality butter. It makes your product much creamier and it enhances the flavour of it significantly as well.

As for the clear vanilla extract, using it is very individual to Christina Tosi (the genius behind Momofuku Milk Bar). It’s her stamp of creativity. In comparison to the brown vanilla extract you get in stores, the clear version is an imitation flavouring that gives you that boxed cake or cookie mix flavour. It tastes like childhood and nostalgia. However, if you cannot get your hands on this, just use the normal brown stuff. It works great too.

Finally, the milk powder. This is my first time baking with it and I love it. This powder really adds depth of flavour to my cookies. I wouldn’t be able to achieve the same creamy milky taste without this.

Makes 8-10 Medium/Large Cookies

Ingredients

  • 110g butter
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 8g honey
  • 1 tsp clear vanilla extract
  • 185g plain/all purpose flour
  • 25g non-fat milk powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 20g rainbow sprinkles (preferably ones that don’t bleed colour like jimmies/strands)

Method

  1. Make sure you get your butter out from the fridge at least an hour beore bakingg so that it softens to room temperature
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together for 7-10 minutes. This is a classic Momofuku technique and ensures the the cookies are as fluffy as they can possibly be
  3. Add in the egg, honey and clear vanilla extract
  4. Beat this mixture until all the components are well incorporated
  5. Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, milk powder and salt to the butter mixture
  6. Add in the rainbow sprinkles (You can skip this step if you don’t have any)
  7. Fold in all the dry ingredients until the cookie dough comes together
  8. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. Minimum. I cannot stress the importance of this step enough. Because Momofuku recipes have a lot of butter and because they have been aerated so much from the sustained creaming of the butter and sugar, the dough needs time to firm up. If you were to bake them straight away, the cookies wouldn’t hold their shape at all and just melt away into a formless blob
  9. After 1 hour, preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius
  10. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper and using a medium sized ice cream scoop, a 1/3 cup scoop or simply your good estimation skills, scoop out even dollops of cookie dough onto your tray. These cookies spread and need to be at least 3 inches (ideally 4 inches) apart
  11. Bake for about 8 minutes or until golden round the edges
  12. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then enjoy

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The texture of these cookies should be crunchy on the outside but chewy on the inside and look a little like a Snickerdoodle. Here is a picture of my friend enjoying cookies on our College lawn that lovely spring afternoon.

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The original recipe called for Momofuku Birthday Crumb mix to be added to the mixture but I thought that was a little too cumbersome and made very little, if not negligible difference to the end product so I removed it from this recipe.

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Anyway, I hope you try this recipe because it’s seriously so so good. I’ve gotten so many compliments for them. I’m definitely going to make them again and I think this time I might add some chocolate chunks as well. But, free will is for all so if you do decide not to make these, you can simply live vicariously through me and through alycakesblog. Hehe.

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-a

For the Best Rustic Pizzas – Pizza East, London

Address: 56 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ

For: Pizza

Average Price Range:  £11 – £13

Previously, I trekked all the way down to London (figuratively because I took the train)  for an assessment centre in my never-ending search for the ever elusive training contract.

To some, Liverpool Street Station is a gateway to new destinations or to Shoreditch or Brick Lane. To me, it is the gravity that centres the map of Law Firms that spread out from the connecting street and roads.  Dread, trepidation…hope? Yeah, this station invokes in me a myriad of emotions.

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However, while my mind is predominantly preoccupied by my concern for my legal career, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t admit that I wasn’t also excited for my chosen post-interview meal. I had picked out a pizza place that I had been meaning to try for ages.

I hardly eat pizzas when I’m eating out because I associate the dish with grease and lazy movie nights. However, there’s something about a five page legal translation task that really ticks of a craving for carbs within me.

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This gem of a pizzeria is opposite Box Park on Shoreditch High Street. You can’t miss it.

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I walked right right as the place was about to open for lunch and I was kindly served some water by extremely helpful and friendly (and Italian?) staff, who offered me water while I waited for a table. Seriously though, their waiters can’t all be Italian, right? Or maybe the accent is a job requirement? Only joking.

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Pizza East’s menu boasted classic ingredients with simple flavour combinations. I ordered the ‘aubergine, tomato, scamorza (a type of smoked cheese), pesto pizza’ which was a crowd favourite according to my waiter.

By then I was starving and I couldn’t be more excited. After a short wait of about around 10 minutes, my pizza was served almost straight from the woodfire oven.

The crust was cooked to perfection – not too doughey-like or crispy in texture. As for the toppings…a more perfect combination could not have graced my taste buds. Despite each ingredient packing their own distinct flavour, none overpowered the other and all formed the perfect gastronomic harmony.

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This place filled up extremely fast and I can totally understand why.

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I mean, I did finish the entire pizza by myself. Whoops.

So worth it though. I really, really cannot recommend this place enough. EVEN to those, who like me, would argue that money is better spent elsewhere on some other dish. Trust me. You’ll change your mind once you’ve tried Pizza East.

-a