We had a sneaky weekend break in the capital city of Abu Dhabi recently. It was, I have to say, just what the doctor ordered. There were no big plans, there was no sight seeing, no shopping took place and in fact we didn’t even leave the hotel. We took books, magazines, a bit of homework (boo hiss) and that old favourite, Junior Scrabble (I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it). And there were plenty of cold drinks, a buffet breakfast (and I always know for certain that BUFFET BREAKFAST = HAPPINESS for all three of our children) and of course there was a pool – which was cool (edging towards flippin freezing for the first few minutes) and inviting. And during one of my moments when I was sitting on the pool’s edge, dangling my feet in the water, I got chatting to a gorgeous little boy who was visiting the hotel with his parents. Of course, he was very quick to share his age with me (6 years old) – and to tell me that he had just moved from the UK to live in Abu Dhabi which was the best thing in the world. Ever.
Our conversation ricocheted from his age, to his ‘six pack’ (pointing to his chest he declared, “My Mum says I have a ‘six pack'”), to a demonstration of all the exercises he could do – “and I’m not even a tiny bit tired” – to what he liked doing at school. When he finally paused to take a breath, I asked him where in the UK he came from. (It’s worth noting that small talk as an expat has an exact formula – “Where are you from?” “How long have you been here?”) Now this question seemed to perplex him and he pondered for a few seconds before looking mighty pleased with himself and confidently answering, “Tesco. That’s where I’m from in the UK.”
Sweet. So very sweet and comforting to know that when our children are growing up, it doesn’t matter where they live, their memories will be based on what they spend their time doing – shopping for groceries in Tesco maybe or perhaps perfecting that junior six pack.
So for our three children, what will their memories look like? There’ll be plenty of memories of being in the car (everything is very spread out in Dubai, so lots of driving is required), lots of me screeching, “Quick! We’re in a rush. We’re going to be late.”, there’ll be plenty of swimming pool action (our 2nd home) and visits to the orthodontist (our 3rd home). Maybe if we could find a house close to the pool and the orthodontist we’d spend less time in the car and there’d be no need for screeching or rushing. Eureka.
But I do hope that there will also be plenty of food memories in the mix – birthday cakes, TV dinners, favourite school night dinners and sneaky treats in packed lunches. Somebody asked me the other day about my earliest food memory (Aged 4 – Mr Kipling Bakewell tarts on the train with my Mum … in case you were wondering) and I did lodge a ‘note to self’ to ask the children about theirs.
This year, Hella’s 9th birthday fell on a school day but it also happened to be the day of an inter-school swim gala for her and her fellow swim squaders at the fancy schmancy Hamdan swimming stadium (only in Dubai!). No school. Just swimming. And it’s your birthday. Life is good. And to make life even better, she took some of these Chocolate Marbled Cookies to share when the racing was done.
Initially, my plan was to create pinwheel cookies using chocolate and vanilla doughs, but to be honest it ended up being a bit of a faff so they morphed into these little beauties. And I was really pleased that I changed course, in the end. They have a melt-in-the-mouth quality with a contrasting sugar crust, and are chocolatey enough to be interesting without being overly rich. They were popular with the swimmers but also went down a storm with both teenage sons. My lovely husband thought they were perfect with a strong coffee and #2 teenage son’s preference was to have them served with vanilla ice cream. Job done.
And why do I think you might be donning your apron to bake a few of these Chocolate Marbled Cookies?
- These are easy and definitely look more complicated than they actually are. Go on … be a bit showy offy.
- They use very basic, standard ingredients so you can possibly/probably put them together without needing a trip to Tesco (or your equivalent). A bonus.
- You wont even need any cookie cutters – just a sharp knife.
- These cookies are ideal for preparing ahead of time. Make the mixture up to the end of stage 7 and it will then sit nicely in the fridge (for up to 3 days) until you are ready to slice and bake the cookies.
- And if you want to get them baked and finished ahead of time, that’s no problem either. Store the finished cookies in an airtight container and they’ll be good for 3 or 4 days.
- This is a versatile mixture. The first time I made them, I got 20 out of the batch, but the next time I made them much thinner (better with ice cream if they are thinner) and I ended up with a batch of 35.
So … ready, steady – bake up some new memories.
- 150g (5oz) butter, at room temperature
- 150g (5oz) caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 210g (7½oz) plain flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons demerera sugar
- Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
- Now beat the egg and the vanilla extract into the mixture.
- Divide the mixture equally between 2 medium sized bowls - mine was about 165g (5½oz) of mixture in each bowl.
- For the chocolate cookie dough, add 100g (3½oz) plain flour and the cocoa powder to one of the bowls and combine until thoroughly mixed.
- For the vanilla dough, add the remaining 110g (4oz) plain flour to the other bowl and combine until thoroughly mixed. You now have two bowls of cookie dough - one which is chocolate and one which is vanilla. Wraps the doughs separately in cling film and let them chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
- After an hour, cut a piece of baking parchment about 37cm x 37cm (15" x 15") and roughly build up a cookie dough log alternating the chocolate and vanilla mixtures (see photo above). You want your log to end up being about 23cm (9") long - so that it will fit on a dinner plate. Now use the baking parchment to tightly roll up the log so that it ends up being a fairly smooth cylinder of cookie dough inside the paper.
- Chill the cookie dough log (still in the paper) in the fridge for at least an hour or until it is very firm. The firmer that it is, the easier it is to slice. At this stage you can leave the cookie dough in the fridge for up to 3 days if you wish.
- When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 190°C 375F (gas mark 5) and lightly grease 2 or 3 baking trays (depending on how many cookies you choose to make).
- Measure the demerera sugar onto a flat dinner plate and remove the cookie dough from the fridge. Take off the paper and roll the dough in the sugar so that you have a sugary crust to your log.
- Use a sharp knife to slice the cookies to your chosen thickness - about 20 thicker ones or 35 thinner ones - and lay on the prepared baking trays leaving room to spread during cooking.
- Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the trays as soon as they are cooked (or they will stick) and cool on a rack.