After 6 years of expat living, I’ve started to figure some things out. Drive on the left. “You alright?” is just a greeting, not a concerned question for your well-being. Fish and chip Fridays. Yes, being an expat is a constant challenge in reassessing the way you live life.
Out of all the ways I have been challenged in becoming an expat (and there are many!), one of the most frustrating is baking. I know, there are bigger problems in the world, but as an avid baker, this one really got me. I used to churn out cakes, breads, cookies without issue. But since moving to the UK, everything, well, stopped working.
The ingredients here are different. Butter, for example, has a higher butterfat than in the States, and this makes a big difference in the way cookies and cakes turn out! On the other hand, some ingredients are impossible to find, like really good sprinkles and certain types of sweeteners.
I also left my stand mixer behind in the States. I thought we’d only be here for a year or two (whoops haha, going on 6 years in the UK!). I made do with an electric mixer, but it wasn’t giving me good results.
Then SMEG came into my life. You may know SMEG from their adorable colorful line of small kitchen appliances. The Italian company makes elegant and powerful machines – from stylish high-performing ovens to beautiful vintage-style colorful refrigerators, and smaller kitchen appliances, like kettles and mixers. I am beyond thrilled to be working with SMEG this year, and to kick off the partnership and learn more about the brand, I went to their colorful flagship London shop in Piccadilly for a tour.
Color and design inspiration in every single corner of this shop!
I love the pastel refrigerators! It’s a life goal of mine to own a pink SMEG fridge, and my husband will just have to deal with it when it happens.
These are the Dolce and Gabanna line of appliances – the design is beyond incredible. Each refrigerator is hand-painted! Jaw dropping. Worth a visit into the shop just to see the craftsmanship. SMEG is run by the 3rd generation of the Bertazzoni family, and the Italian craftsmanship and commitment to style (and good food!) is so evident in their designs.
SMEG kindly gifted me a stand mixer to try at home. So, for the past few months, I’ve been using the chic-cream coloured SFM03 stand mixer.
I can’t tell you what a difference this stand mixer has made in my baking results. My chocolate chip cookies are no longer flat, my cakes have a near-perfect crumb, and no more bread kneading required (thank you dough hook). It’s a powerful machine with a die-cast aluminium body and 800 W motor, no weak links here – turn it to 1 for bread kneading, or up to 10 for a high-speed whisk for my pavlova.
Apart from baking results, it’s also beautiful. In our tiny London kitchen, space is a premium, and design plays a huge part in what I decide to introduce to our home space. I don’t just give that space to any old product! I love the new model with its cream gloss finish. It’s very very pretty, and makes me happy every time I look at it.
Today, I want to share a recipe that – thanks to SMEG – works in my British kitchen just as well as my American kitchen. My tried and tested American-style chocolate chip cookie, with PLENTY of chocolate, thanks to a few chopped chocolate bars that melt throughout the cookie. They are also excellent served as cookie ice cream sandwiches, if you can get them to last long enough to make into sandwiches (I have to admit they go really quickly in my house!).
Chocolate Lovers Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from NY Times recipe)
8.5 oz. pastry (cake) flour
8.5 oz. strong (bread) white flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
10 oz. unsalted butter
10 oz. light brown sugar (Tate and Lyle for UK is best)
8 oz. white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
550 grams bittersweet chocolate – between 50-70% cacao (I usually get 1 big bar of 40% and 2 bars of 70% for a good mix of both)
Sea salt for finishing (Maldon or similar)
Combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt in a medium bowl, set aside.
Cream butter and sugars together in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.
Incorporate the flour, mix until combined (use a plastic guard if you have one to prevent flour dust everywhere)
Chop the chocolate diagonally into small slivers. They don’t all need to be uniform, but generally the size of a chocolate chip is what you’re going for here. The different sizes are what makes this cookie so special, as the shavings get incorporated into every part of the cookie, ensuring chocolate in every bite.
Make the cookie portions – each dough portion should weigh about 3 oz. A standard sized cookie scoop will be a good assist here. Store the dough in a bowl or platter, cover tightly (I use this reusable wrap) for 24-72 hours, or freeze for up to a month.
Preparing to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 175 C and prepare your baking trays with parchment paper or non-stick baking mat, like silpat.
Place 6 – 8 dough balls on the baking tray, finish with a pinch of Maldon sea salt, bake until golden, 15 – 20 minutes. Keep a close eye on the cookies as you approach 13 minutes, and take them out as soon as the middle of the cookie has risen. I like my cookies a bit underdone in the middle so they’re nice and gooey. Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, and enjoy. This recipe will make 24 large cookies or about 36 medium sized cookies.