Nigel Slater’s recipes for chocolate oat cookies and crisp lemon creams

Nigel Slater

The smell of melted butter and muscovado sugar is curling its way through the kitchen and up the stairs. Vanilla extract and warm oats hang in the air and now again there is the fizz of lemon zest – little clouds of citrus among the mellow notes of biscuits baking. The kitchen is as warm as toast, its surfaces dusted with flour, its windows fugged up. This is not a particularly sweet kitchen: baking days are rare and magical treats, as looked forward to as those of Christmas Eve or Easter Sunday. Special days that end in a cake tin full of homemade cookies.

This has been a long winter and the first shoots of spring, those longed-for pink buds and green shoots, took forever to appear. Spring always puts me in a baking mood – a batch of fruit-studded buns or a tubby brioche, a basket of flatbreads or a bubbly cushion of focaccia – but right now I am a craving sweet treats: soft oat cookies or crisp lemon biscuits, not to wolf gluttonously (though that is always an option) but to serve with coffee for a mid-morning “fika” or at about 3pm when my energy takes its mid-afternoon dip.

So much of the cooking in this kitchen is about supper: nourishing food to sustain and reward, food cooked to bring people together round the table. It is too rarely about something as frivolous as sugar-dusted titbits to tuck into your lunchbox. Yet, this week has been a total joy, with every baking sheet in the kitchen getting its moment in the oven, recipes endlessly tweaked and tasted to hit the spot. Delicious to eat, but, to be honest, I would do it just for the smell alone.

Chocolate oat cookies

As the crisp, chewy cookies come from the oven, I like to press the tines of a fork into their still-warm surface to give deep furrows. We tend to eat these within 24 hours, but they will keep for several days in air-tight tin if needs be. Makes 20

butter 125g
caster sugar 85g
light muscovado 85g
egg 1
whole milk 2 tbsp
plain flour 250g
bicarbonate of soda ½ tsp
sea salt ½ tsp
dark chocolate 100g
jumbo oats 120g
vanilla extract ½ tsp
demerara sugar 5 tsp

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugars together till light and latte-coloured. The most successful results come from using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle beater. Break the egg into a small bowl and mix lightly with a fork. With the beater still turning, add the egg to the butter and sugar. When thoroughly incorporated, stir in the milk (if there is any sign of curdling add 1-2 tbsp of the flour).

Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt together then fold into the mixture with a metal spoon. Chop the chocolate into small nuggets about the size of a shelled hazelnut and add to the mixture together with jumbo oats and vanilla. Mix lightly but thoroughly.

Put the demerara sugar into a small bowl. Break off pieces of the cookie dough to weigh 40g. You should have about 20. Roll the mixture in your hands into balls, dropping each into the demerara sugar as you go, rolling them round till coated with sugar then place them on the baking sheet.

Bake them in the preheated oven for 12 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven then press down on the top of each cookie with a fork to give 4 or 5 deep grooves. Lift on to a cooking rack using a palette knife and leave to cool.

Crisp lemon creams
Citrus zing: crisp lemon creams.
Citrus zing: crisp lemon creams. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

I had never come across the idea of adding condensed milk to a biscuit dough until I discovered a recipe in Rose Prince’s wonderful book, The Pocket Bakery (Weidenfeld & Nicolson). The thick, sticky milk was something that brought back fond memories and introduced a delightful sugary crispness to the biscuits. Unfilled, in an air-tight container, they will keep for a week or more. Once filled with the lemon mascarpone cream the biscuits are best eaten within a few hours. It is worth noting that the biscuits are soft when they come from the oven, but crisp on cooling. Makes 15 biscuit sandwiches

For the biscuits:
butter 110g
light muscovado 50g
caster sugar 65g
self-raising flour 175g
condensed milk 50g

for the filling:
mascarpone 150g
lemon curd 150g

Line a baking sheet. Using an electric mixture, beat the butter and sugars together until light and creamy. Mix in the flour and the condensed milk. Bring the dough together into a thick roll, wrap in greaseproof paper or clingfilm and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. (Don’t skip this otherwise your cookies will spread.)

Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Tear off small pieces of the dough and roll them into about 30 small balls (roughly 15g a piece). Place the balls on a baking sheet, allowing them space to spread then press each ball down with the back of a spoon to lightly flatten. (I do this in 2 or 3 batches.)

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are pale gold and till slightly soft to the touch – leave to cool for 5 minutes before lifting on to a cooling rack with a palette knife.

Stir together the mascarpone and lemon curd. Divide between half the biscuits – they should be thoroughly cool – then place the other halves on top and press gently together until the filling reaches the edges.

Courtesy: theguardian