I love the bakery counter in supermarkets. The fresh bread, hand-decorated muffins, and specialty cakes always catch my eye. I have fond memories of our former Saturday tradition of a fresh baguette from Sainsbury’s, which my brothers and I would hack to pieces and devour with masses of butter and cheese. The rows of packed biscuits will forever have a powerful influence over me, in the ‘Finest’ or ‘Taste the Difference’ range: chocolate and orange shortbread, triple chocolate cookies, salted caramel, oat and raisin… I am a sucker for baked goods.
As a teenager, I spent two weeks on a work experience placement in Sainsbury’s, working mainly in the bakery, which I believe helped to ignite my biscuit fetish. I had the opportunity to fill cream cakes and pack warm, newly-baked biscuits from the huge ovens. Although some of the goods were pre-frozen, the bakers still knew their stuff, and I would watch as they kneaded out dough with capable hands to bake bread. Proper bread is one of life’s greatest pleasures, in my opinion; at home we have a breadmaker, and the smell of a fresh loaf in the morning is possibly one of the best things in the world to wake up to. (Ok, so our loaves aren’t strictly proper, not being baked in an oven – but they’re certainly so much better than shop-bought, preservative-ridden loaves, which limit the greatness of a truly tasty sandwich.)
I’m rambling. I just love baking, so naturally I indulge in it quite frequently. My latest endeavour, however, cast into direct opposition the supermarket cookies I so greatly adore, with my own home-baked, humbler biscuits.
I followed a recipe for dark chocolate chip cookies from ‘Kitchen Know-How’, a Sainsbury’s cookbook I found in a charity shop. As with almost every recipe under the sun, I adapted it to suit my own tastes and ingredients.
I tried one of these alongside a Tesco Finest dark chocolate cookie. The latter, in comparison, was overwhelmingly sweet, and not really of a biscuit consistency at all – it was more, well, doughy. Home-baked triumphs over shop-bought! (Unless, perhaps, you buy something from an expensive artisan bakery.)
- 200g good quality dark chocolate (I did actually use Sainsbury’s. Shamelessly promoting)
- 125g butter, softened to room temperature (the recipe called for unsalted, but I find the salt in salted butter complements the dark chocolate well)
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 125g porridge oats (don’t use ready-cook oats!)
- 150g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
Start by preheating the oven to 180° F, or gas mark 4. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale. You can use an electric hand mixer, but a whisk worked just fine for me.
Crack in the eggs, then add the vanilla extract and the oats. Chop up the dark chocolate into small pieces – the recipe recommended 1cm chunks. (You could use chocolate chips, but chunks are nicer to bite into, I find, and taste better too. If you’ve got a really sweet tooth, add white chocolate as well – the original recipe asked for 125g dark and 125g white.) Mix until well combined.
Take blobs of dough the size of an apricot, and place fairly spread apart on the trays. I made 18 altogether.
Bake for about 15 minutes in the oven, until golden brown around the edges. If your oven isn’t particularly great (like mine), you might want to swap the trays round halfway through.
Leave to cool for as long as you can bear before eating. Store the remainders in an airtight container.