This past weekend I participated in what is known as "The Sisterhood Ninja Bake 2013". This is where a group of women all over the country, secretly bake and drop off homemade goodies to hundreds of others. The idea behind this is to brighten someone's day, bring them a little joy if they are going through a hard time, or just to let them know someone out there cares.
A good friend of mine over at mnmsadventures did it last year, you can read Meghan's post about it here. It was really inspiring to hear of people doing random acts of kindness, without any expectation or reward in return.
So when this year's Ninja Drop rolled around, I agreed to give it a go. Especially seeing as I know more than a few people who are going through some really tough times at the moment. I registered to be a Ninja Baker, and then waited to hear who my recipient was.
When I received the details via email, I actually started getting a little nervous! I couldn't think of what I would bake, then I was worried as I had no idea where the address was (thank you Google maps!), and of course, the drop off itself! The idea is to be as stealthy as possible, so that the person you are baking for just discovers a lovely treat in their letterbox or on the doorstep.
Anyway, after a bit of a google search and remembering some delicious cookies that Meghan makes, I found a recipe for double dark chocolate sea salt cookies. The main thing that appealed to me about this recipe is that I had everything I needed for it in my pantry! (One thing about our groceries is that we generally only buy what we need for each week during the grocery shop). So anything that doesn't require me to visit the supermarket definitely is worth a go to me! Of course we have the staples like sugar, flour etc always there, but I don't generally have supplies of special ingredients like condensed milk, or 70% dark organic chocolate or even any kind of nuts most of the time! I am all about ease and convenience, this recipe specified a type of cocoa and chocolate, I just used regular cocoa and chocolate chips! With cocoa I think as long as you don't use the Cadbury Bournville one, most supermarket brand ones available here are of a really good quality and quite dark and rich. If I had some chocolate in the cupboard I would have used it, but the cookies still came out really delicious even with regular dark chocolate chips!
I also remembered that I had some hazelnuts left over from a brownie I made recently, so decided to adapt that recipe and add the nuts to it as well. I think they make a great combo!
Double Dark Chocolate Cookies with Hazelnuts & Sea Salt
(inspired by Double Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies at sweetfrenchtoast.com)
1/2 cup butter, softened (approx 114g)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon hot water
Heaped 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup cocoa
1 & 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup of dark chocolate chips or roughly chopped chocolate of your choice
1/2 cup hazelnuts (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
Cream together with a mixer or hand beater the butter and both sugars until light and smooth. Add in the egg beat until fluffy, then stir in the vanilla extract.
Dissolve the baking soda in the water and add to the mixture, along with the sea salt and cocoa. Finally add in the flour and chocolate and nuts if using them. Mix until smooth and even coloured.
Roll teaspoon sized balls out on to a lined baking trays. Sprinkle with sea salt before baking.
Bake for 10-15 minutes. You will know they are ready when the balls have flattened out and the tops are have cracked open. As they are a dark cookie, they will not "brown" while cooking. If you over cook them you will get a crunchy cookie, rather than a soft a chewy one which is nicer in this recipe. Let cool completely before eating.
The author of the recipe also advises that the cookie dough freezes well. You could freeze in rolled balls and then let thaw before cooking. This is a large recipe that can make up to 2 dozen, depending on the size you make.
The next part of the Ninja Challenge is wrapping your baking up in a presentable way that makes it seem really special. Luckily I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to gift wrapping supplies, so I found a lovely box that was perfect.
The organisers of the Ninja Bake also emailed through a poem to go with the gift, and I copied a note from another Ninja Baker (thank you rhiannontoast) so that my recipient could find more information and the facebook page if they wanted to.
Some of the nominations are anonymous, and some people bake for people they already know.
I felt like it would be nice for someone to know the idea behind receiving a random gift of home baking.
Maybe it might inspire them to join in next year.
Here is my Ninja Bake Cookie gift all wrapped and ready to go:
Once I was all ready to go, I had to wait aaaaaaages for my son to wake up from his nap so we could go and do the drop off. Finally he woke up and we went on our mission. It was a BEAUTIFUL Wellington afternoon on Saturday, perfect for a long drive in the sun. I set my Google maps app on and away we went.
I actually found the drop off place really easily, the letterbox was well marked (I had put a little name and address label on my package in case the address was a little ambiguous), and big enough to fit my parcel in.
I jumped out of the car and walked to the letterbox, quickly stashed my gift and then as I turned to leave, I saw the intended recipient (I think- as I don't know them personally!) in the driveway, I gave them a quick smile and then gapped it!
In hindsight, perhaps I should have handed them the gift in person, or stopped to have a little chat, but I panicked a little bit and thought I should just get out of there!
At least I know my gift was received however!
And then a really lovely message was posted on The Sisterhood Facebook page from this person, and it made me feel so good! Not because I'd received a thank you, but because this person genuinely felt blessed by this small act.
So, my challenge to you, is sign up for next year! Do something kind for someone else without asking for something in return. Appreciate small things people do for you.
For more information about The Sisterhood, visit Sophie Slim blog and The Sisterhood page, or go to The Sisterhood Facebook page here.