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Fat Rascals

When you hear of Fat Rascals you immediately think of Betty’s the world famous tearooms. As I live in North Yorkshire, a visit to Betty’s is a lovely treat even though I hate the queues outside the York and Harrogate cafes. I love the one in Northallerton the best as it has a beautiful conservatory at the back as well as being less busy.

A Fat Rascal is a traditional Yorkshire delicacy which is very similar to a rock cake or a scone. There have been different variations of the Fat Rascal. Some recipes include using leftover pastry but they do include dried fruit.

Bettys introduced their version of the Fat Rascal over thirty years ago. Their version is based on a rock cake recipe with a face made from cherries and almonds. This soon became a best seller and now Bettys own the registered trade mark for the name “Fat Rascal”.

I have been going to an evening class which was called Introduction To Patisserie And Confectionery at my local college which has been an absolute pleasure to do. The course ran for ten sessions and our last session was two weeks ago. See, it’s taken me ages to sort this post out! On our last session our tutor asked us to bake Fat Rascals. As they’re my favourite thing to choose off the menu when I go to Bettys (not that I’ve been there for ages), I was really excited to have a go at baking my own version!

Apparently the original Fat Rascal recipe uses lard but I don’t like it! So I was glad that our class version was using all butter.

First, we had to sift flour and baking powder together in a large bowl, then add some cubed butter. We then rubbed the flour and butter in until the mixture made fine breadcrumbs.

To the bowl, we then added some caster sugar, some grated lemon and orange zest, grated nutmeg, ground cinnamon and some dried fruit (currants, raisins and sultanas). These were mixed in evenly.

Then, it was time to add in a beaten egg and some whole milk to bring the mixture into a soft dough. We had to form the dough into eight equal rounds and place them well apart on a lined baking tray. I think if I was baking these at home I might use two trays but at college we use massive commercial size trays and ovens.

We then made an egg yolk and water glaze to brush the top of the Fat Rascals to give them a shiny finish. To complete them we decorated them with glace cherries and whole almonds. I chopped the cherries in half on mine or else the Fat Rascals’ eyes would have been very bulbous, like a goldfish!

I remember standing behind my work station in the college kitchen thinking what a gorgeous smell. There’s something wonderful about the aroma of Fat Rascals baking. Must be something to do with the nutmeg and cinnamon!

When the Fat Rascals came out of the oven I was so tempted to break into one there and then. I’d already had my dinner earlier and this being January I was dieting! It would have to be for breakfast the next morning!

At the end of the class we also got to bake ginger biscuits, which I really enjoyed. On the whole the class had been fun, even though there were some things I found really easy. But a few of us were already looking forward to starting the Intermediate part of the course and some fresh challenges! Though I was very tired that night, I completely forgot to add the ground ginger in. So the ginger biscuits were actually plain ones!

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx

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Marbled Mocha Muffins #MuffinMonday

I love baking muffins as they’re so quick and easy to throw together and stick in the oven. Though these are really more like cupcakes as I used butter in them.

A quick and easy all in one sponge mix with butter, caster sugar, self raising flour and free range eggs to start with. Then the batter is divided into two. One half is flavoured with cocoa powder, the other with espresso powder.

Then you grab two teaspoons and take it in turns to scoop both flavours into 12 muffin cases. I’ve been very impressed with these plain brown muffin cases from Asda as they’re not greasy and do not peel away from the cake.

I thought the muffins looked a bit plain and boring on top so I drizzled the tops with melted dark chocolate.

These muffins make a perfect Monday morning (or any other day!) treat with a cup of coffee. They’re great to share with friends or to take for the staff room at work.

Ingredients:

250g softened butter

250g caster sugar

250g sifted self raising flour

4 medium free range eggs

1 tbsp cocoa powder mixed to a paste with 1 tbsp boiling water

1 tbsp espresso coffee powder mixed to a paste with 1tbsp boiling water

100g bar dark chocolate (to drizzle)

  • Put the butter, sugar, flour and eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat with a hand held electric mixer for three to four minutes.
  • Divide the mixture equally between two smaller bowls. Put the coffee paste into one bowl and mix thoroughly. Do the same for the chocolate paste.
  • Take it in turns to spoon the two different flavour batters into prepared muffin cases in a 12 hole muffin tin. Use a skewer to gently swirl them together for the marble pattern.
  • Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until light and springy to touch. Put on a wire rack to cool.
  • Melt the dark chocolate in your preferred way. I always melt mine in the microwave and take it out after a minute, stir it and put it in for another 30 seconds.
  • Use a disposable piping bag with a tiny bit off the end snipped off. Fill with the melted chocolate and use to drizzle the chocolate all over the muffins.
  • Leave to set or eat straightaway depending how hungry you are! The muffins should keep for about 3-4 days in an airtight container (if they last that long!)
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Apricot and Almond Flapjacks.

Finally getting back to normality, if there is such a thing. Over the weekend I really fancied baking some flapjacks as I have loads of porridge oats in the cupboard. They are meant to be for breakfast though, Sam! But who can resist a chewy flapjack? I can’t, and unfortunately they’re a mega downfall for me. At the moment I’m battling with my hormones all over the place and I just wanted to relax while doing some therapeutic baking.

I’m testing out recipes from Mary Berry’s new book Quick Cooking this month. Although the book has some delicious savoury recipes, I always look out for the baking ones at the back. Most of the recipes looked easy enough for an experienced baker like me to cope with. As I was in the mood for flapjack, the recipe for Figgy Oat Squares caught my eye. I’m not really a great fig lover and even though I was given a jar or figs last year in a Christmas present hamper, they have stayed unopened in the cupboard. Figs and sunflower seeds might be someone else’s idea of a taste sensation, but not really mine.

Instead of figs I chose to add 50g of chopped, dried apricots to the flapjack mixture. In place of sunflower seeds, I substituted flaked almonds. I don’t mind dried apricots cut up in pieces.

Making the flapjack itself was easy enough to do. I melted butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in a saucepan. The recipe asked for golden syrup but when I got to that part of the recipe, I noticed there was only a tablespoonful left in the tin. That got scraped out and the rest had to be maple syrup.

After all the melted ingredients were ready, I stirred in some porridge oats, the dried apricots and the flaked almonds.

The mixture then was put into a square tin (probably 20cm) and baked in the oven for 25 minutes.

The flapjack was much more chewy than my regular recipe and although had got very dark around the outer edges, the inner pieces looked much better. I think flapjack, although can look plain and homely, is so moreish and comforting to eat.

Mary Berry’s flapjack recipe is definitely one I will keep in my baking repertoire. Though I’ll be passing on the figs, Thankyou very much!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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Rosemary Roasted Wedges

Well, hello everyone and I hope you’re having a great weekend. February is well underway now but I’ve not kept up with my blogging so far. I’ve had a very busy week at work and when I’ve got home I’ve been absolutely shattered. I haven’t even had the energy to do my cross stitch and that’s a real shame as it normally keeps me sane!

This month I had planned to use recipes from the six Hairy Dieters books to help inspire me with my meal planning and all things SmartCookieSam. This hasn’t gone to plan. Normally I do my weekly shop on a Friday but I was away overnight at a gig with my friend so Mr SmartCookieSam did the honours. Of course it wasn’t originally what I’d planned to cook but I was very grateful all the same. So this week I’m back to some normality.

Tonight we have had a relaxing dinner. I went out this morning to do a food shop at the fabulous Lister’s Farm Shop in Boroughbridge. It’s a great shop as their meat, fruit and vegetables are of exceptional quality. I stocked up on meat for the freezer as well as some fresh, seasonal vegetables. One thing I did treat ourselves to was an oven ready spatchcock chicken which can come with a variety of delicious marinades. I chose a garlic and herb one and thought it would be perfect for our dinner tonight.

At 5pm I put the spatchcock chicken into the preheated oven. I have a Rangemaster cooker and usually roast joints in the left hand, smaller oven but this time I chose to roast the chicken in the fan oven.

Now this is where I looked to one of my Hairy Dieters books for inspiration. Usually we have had a marinaded spatchcock chicken in the summer and served it alongside a salad. It’s definitely not salad weather at the moment here in North Yorkshire! I decided on some roast potatoes with other vegetables but ended up plumping for these beauties.

Rosemary Roaste Potato Wedges sounded like a perfect option to go with the chicken. New potatoes, quartered and tossed in olive oil. Roasted in a pan with dried rosemary, salt and pepper sprinkled on. I was meant to add garlic as well but didn’t want to over do it, what with the garlic and herb dressing on the chicken. These were put into the fan oven about halfway through the chicken’s cooking time. After about 15 minutes I went back to check on the potatoes and tossed them to give them an even coating.

The potatoes were absolutely delicious and were exactly what I wanted to go with the chicken. They were so simple to make and I found new potatoes were really tasty even though it isn’t really the season for them.

Enjoy your night!

Love Sam xx

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Winter Vegetable Soup

A new month and it’s a new set of books to cook and bake from. This time I’m using my much loved Hairy Bikers and Hairy Dieters books to help us with my meal planning and baking throughout February. It will be a bit difficult towards the end of the month as I am going to have a procedure on my foot but I’m sure when I’m up to standing up I’ll be raring to go in the kitchen.

This morning I decided to make some soup. I love homemade soup and wanted to have some for lunches this week at work. All I need is some fruit and yoghurt and I’ll be ok. The first Hairy Dieters book is fantastic and has been used constantly since I bought it a few years back. I looked to their vegetable soup recipe for a basis for my winter vegetable soup. I chopped a large onion, two large parsnips, three carrots, some butternut squash and the remainder of a swede and threw them all in my slow cooker.

Along with the vegetables I poured in some vegetable stock and seasoned it with some salt, pepper and a teaspoonful of dried Mediterranean herbs. I then left the slow cooker to work it’s magic for about four hours.

At one o’clock I came downstairs after doing some schoolwork to a delicious aroma of vegetables cooking. I switched the slow cooker off and gave the soup time to cool down before ladelling it in batches into my blender to purée it. I have often thought about buying a soup maker. My mum loves hers but until I get round to buying one, I’ll make do with my blender.

I had a bowl of soup for lunch and was very impressed with the flavour. The carrots and parsnips gave it a natural sweetness. I could have added some garlic or dried chilli but the Mediterranean herbs lifted it. I asked Mr SmartCookieSam if he wanted any but he refused, being still full up from his late cooked breakfast that morning. That’s probably as well as he doesn’t like parsnips or butternut squash!

Have a great evening.

Love Sam xx

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Maraschino Cherry And Cream Cheese Brownies.

I was planning on baking some muffins at the weekend but got on Twitter and saw that last week’s theme for #TwitterBakealong was to bake some brownies with fruit in. #TwitterBakealong is great fun. You bake something connected with that week’s theme then upload a photo to Twitter along with the hashtag. The photo has to have a handwritten sign to be included in the bakealong. Brownies are a huge favourite in our house and I love making them. Unfortunately though, they don’t do my waistline any good.

Looking on Twitter I could see lots of incredible bakes with different added fruit inside. I’m not one who usually adds fruit to brownies. It’s usually extra chocolate, candies, Oreo cookies or nuts that end up in my brownie batter. I just didn’t know what to do that would stand out.

Back in 2017, I bought a fabulous book which I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts. Flapper Pies And A Blue Prairie Sky by Karlynne Johnston, who is a Canadian blogger and food writer. I came across her book in the gift shop at Fort Edmonton and just had to have it. I’m getting the hang of working in cup sizes instead of grammes! I knew that the Flapper Pies book contained several traybake and brownie type recipes which would inspire me.

Eventually I settled on adapting the Peanut Butter and Jam Cheesecake Brownies recipe. Instead of using raspberry jam, I used two thirds of a jar of washed, drained and dried maraschino cherries which I stirred into the cheesecake mixture. The brownie was a triple layer confection. Starting with a plain chocolate chip base, then a cheesecake layer and finally topped with more decadent brownie, this time swirled with peanut butter in the mixture. It sounded so naughty but nice.

I had to giggle at the recipe introduction as Karlynne Johnston stated that “these brownies are now my husband’s favourite bar. I put them in the freezer so I could take a photo of them later and he snuck down for an entire week and ate them straight from the freezer, frozen as a midnight snack! You have to admire his dedication!” This did make me laugh as anything baking related that goes in the freezer, especially cookies or brownies usually vanishes and gets eaten frozen!

On Sunday afternoon I started to get everything out to start baking. I must admit this wasn’t a cheap bake, but did use up ingredients I bought on impulse when shopping in Lakeland before Christmas. I saw jars of maraschino cherries which I usually associate with cocktails or ice cream sundaes on display as well as a bag of dark Guillard chocolate chips. I knew that I had to bake something exciting with them.

First of all I melted some butter in a saucepan. When this had melted, I removed the saucepan from the heat and stirred in some caster sugar. After the caster sugar had dissolved, I stirred in some cocoa powder.

The next step was to add three eggs one by one and stirred into the mixture.

Then, I added in the dark chocolate chips.

The plain flour then was stirred in but it needed to be folded in carefully so that it wasn’t over mixed. The brownies really needed to be fudgy, rather than cakey in texture.

The brownie batter was ready apart for one thing. It needed to be split two ways: one third containing peanut butter and the other two thirds to stay plain.

The plain chocolate brownie base was put into a greased square loose bottomed tin. I don’t think mine was the same dimensions as the one suggested in the original recipe but this was the nearest I had.

The next step was to make the cheesecake filling. This was done by thoroughly washing and rinsing the sticky syrup off the Maraschino Cherries. There was loads to get off. I dried them on a piece of kitchen towel then started to chop the cherries into quarters. I had to re-rinse the cherries after they had been cut up as well, as they were still covered in syrup.

In a large bowl I whisked together some full fat cream cheese, some sugar, an egg and some cornflour. This made the cheesecake mixture quite runny so I wondered whether I should have used an egg with it. I then folded in the cherries. This turned the mixture a delicate purple colour.

The middle cheesecake layer was finally spooned on top of the chocolate brownie layer. Unfortunately whether it was because the cheesecake layer was runnier than expected or because there wasn’t enough of the far too stiff peanut butter layer, I found this incredibly difficult to spread. Also there didn’t seem to be enough mixture. It turned out that I ended up swirling the peanut butter layer into the cheesecake layer so that it was more of a marble effect.

You can just about make out the two layers when I cut into the brownies once they had cooled down enough. They baked in my electric fan oven for 35 minutes (which is slightly longer than other brownie recipes) at about 170oC. The texture came out perfectly and gooey just like a brownie should but I still wasn’t sure what it would taste like with cherries in it. My daughter hates glace cherries but she liked these. In fact my whole family loved them and I put the rest in a plastic box to take into work. Then I remembered that the brownies contained peanut butter and being that I work in schools and nurseries which are usually nut free environments for allergies, I put the box in the freezer.

It will be interesting to see if my family do what Karlynne Johnston’s husband did with her brownies when she put them in the freezer. On my last count there were sixteen pieces in the batch, we ate four so that leaves twelve. I bet if I go to the freezer now, there won’t be any left. I will report back!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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Soda Bread

I’m not experienced at making bread and would love to learn more. Recently I’ve come to realise that if I eat bread bought from the supermarket I feel bloated. I’m not gluten free but I feel as if there’s a lot of unnecessary additives in bread. I just wish I could bake my own all the time. I don’t want to cut out bread completely from my diet but I don’t have much time when I’m at work to bake bread on top of everything I do. I have a bread maker but my husband hates it out on the work top so it has to be put away in a cupboard when I’m not using it. Because of this, sometimes I forget it’s there!

This morning I wanted to have some bread to go with lunch that wouldn’t take ages to make. Soda Bread fits the bill perfectly when you are pushed for time as there is no need for yeast as a raising agent in the dough. Instead, the bicarbonate of soda does the job. It can be adapted to add flavourings to turn the dough into a sweet one by adding dried fruits and spices like cinnamon. Or you can add nuts and seeds to a savoury loaf.

The latest Eat Well For Less book: Eat Well For Less Quick And Easy Meals has such a recipe and this is the recipe I used for my soda bread today.

The recipe suggested using wholemeal flour and natural yoghurt. I didn’t have these but I had some spelt flour and some Skyr. I wasn’t sure whether they would have the same effect but it was worth a try.

The flour, seeds, salt and bicarbonate of soda was weighed out and added to a large mixing bowl. I mixed them together evenly.

To the dry ingredients I then added the natural Skyr and some milk.

When making up the bread dough, you have to get your hands into the dough to work it up into a ball. The dough was quite sticky!

The dough was gathered up into a ball and put on a baking sheet covered in baking parchment.

Then, I got a sharp knife and scored the top of the bread into quarters. As well as doing this, I sprinkled the top of the loaf with some left over flour before baking.

I was disappointed with how the bread turned out. The oven was put on at the specified temperature and was even baked for longer than the 20 minutes that was required. I am not sure if my oven isn’t working effectively any more. It is nearly 13 years old and has been in constant use for all that time. I bought an oven thermometer but forget to put it in the oven sometimes. The bread appeared to be hollow when I tapped it after 30 minutes so I took it out of the oven. When I cut the bread in half it looked stodgy in places. It tasted better when I toasted a couple of slices which I ate with some Allioli (Spanish Garlic Mayonnaise) spread on it.

Having said that, even though the bread looked under done, it tasted lovely and both my husband and daughter enjoyed some at lunchtime. I will try and bake some more again and see if I can improve!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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Suet-Free Mincemeat- How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Until about five years ago I could never be bothered to make my own mincemeat. Why go to all that trouble when you can buy it readymade in jars? It was when my late mother in law told me that making your own mincemeat was so easy, that I thought I might as well give it a go myself.

My mother in law loved cooking and baking. She used to use Delia’s recipe in her Christmas book where the mincemeat baked slowly on a low heat in her oven whilst she was doing other things. I tried this for a couple of years and realised that homemade mincemeat tastes delicious. This year I decided to go for a change and looked to Nigella for inspiration.

Nigella has a whole Christmas section in her Domestic Goddess book, which is where I looked first for Christmas recipes. Her recipe entitled Hettie Potter’s Suet Free Mincemeat looked delicious and easy to follow. Not everyone is keen on suet and I must admit it’s not something I use regularly. I don’t think I have ever made a suet pudding, apart from putting it in the Christmas pudding. It was interesting to see cider as an ingredient in the mincemeat, rather than brandy or whisky! Although this recipe contains both brandy and cider! Very potent!

My own Stir Up Sunday was actually eight days later! I had prepped all the dried fruit for my Christmas Cake and pudding exactly a week after but used the Monday at home to bake. More about the cake and pudding in a later post!

I was glad that this mincemeat didn’t need to be baked, but rather heated and then simmered in a large saucepan on my hob. That meant it could be cooked as the cake was baking and the pudding was steaming in the slow cooker.

All that I needed to do was to put some soft brown sugar in the pan with some medium dry cider. The recipe used approximately half a bottle. Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the cider as it was mid afternoon and I had to go out later that day to pick my son up from work! Once the sugar had dissolved, I added chopped Bramley apples, mixed spice, cinnamon, currants, raisins, glace cherries and some blanched almonds. As well as this I added in some lemon rind and a little lemon juice. The mixture had to simmer on a low heat for about half an hour so that the apples had softened and gone more squishy. When this had happened, I then took the mincemeat off the heat and stirred in some brandy.

This recipe makes approximately 2kg of mincemeat which is enough to last me throughout the festive season for home use. It smelled absolutely delicious and I can’t wait to put it in some mince pies as soon as I can!

Happy Christmas Baking!

Love Sam. xx

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Pistachio Sablés 

 

 

As I type it’s now a very wet and rainy September morning.  Most of the country’s children have gone back to school. I’m a supply teacher in my day job, which I love but as there’s no work around at the beginning of term I’m finally managing to catch up on my very neglected blog.

It seems ages ago now we’re back into school mode. Well in our house I have my older one back off to uni today.  She’s driving down in her car for the first time and my younger one doesn’t start back at college until next week. Time flies and before we know it we’ll be mentioning the dreaded “C” word!!  But for now I’ll still think about summer and our holiday.

When we were on holiday in the south of France a couple of weeks back we did a lot of our food shopping in the local Carrefour.  I always feel stressed and wound up in supermarkets at home.  I reckon it’s because I’m always in a hurry, they move things around and you end up forgetting half the things you came in for in the first place.  But in this Carrefour, even though it was a massive “grandes surfaces” it felt like a pleasure to shop there.

Of course wherever I go on holiday I have to search out their baking aisle.  I don’t always buy things from the baking aisle but I couldn’t help myself here.  The selection of nuts, dried fruits, flavoured baking powders, extracts and the usual cake decorations were amazing.  Seeing different flavoured baking powders was a new one on me.  I love pistachios so I bought a packet of ground pistachio nuts hoping to use them in a recipe somewhere.  Of course when I buy goodies to take home, my family make snide comments about how I’m going to make us go over the baggage allowance.  I think we had about 500g spare this time, thank God!

Two days after we got back from France I had invited my lovely Clandestine Cake Club friends over to my house for afternoon tea.  It was a great excuse to bake for them so I thought about how I could use my pistachio nuts in a recipe.  In the end I plumped for a biscuit recipe which I adapted from a recipe in The Great British Bake Off Everyday”  The original recipe was for Coconut Sables.

Pistachio Sables

Makes 20-24 biscuits

160g plain flour

a pinch of salt

75g icing sugar

160g unsalted, cold and diced butter

2 medium free range egg yolks

100g ground or crushed Pistachio nuts (I used Vahine Eclats de Pistaches Torrifiees)

First, put the pistachios, flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and combine them evenly.

Then add in the cubes of butter, rubbing them in until you get fine bread crumbs.

Next you add the egg yolks to the bowl until the mixture becomes like a ball of dough.  I then take the ball of dough out of the bowl and roll it into a disc that’s about 2.5cm thick.

 Wrap your dough in some cling film and leave it to chill in the fridge for about half an hour  until you are ready to use it.  Or if you are like me, you run out of time, leave it longer and then you find it is too hard to manipulate!

When you have the dough out of the fridge, sprinkle a little flour onto your work top and then roll out your dough to the thickness of a pound coin.  Cut out circles with a cutter (either plain or fluted) which is 7.5cm in diameter.

Put the biscuits onto greased baking trays and pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.  Oven temperature: 180oC/ 350oF/ Gas Mark 4. In the original recipe the biscuits should have been pricked with a fork before being baked but I forgot!

I found that once you ate one of these cookies, you didn’t want to stop.  So I had to hide them away until my friends came over. I could just imagine eating a massive bowl of pistachio ice cream with one of these little treats.

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Afternoon tea at SmartCookieSam’s. It’s also the perfect excuse to use my late mother in law’s china.
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Afternoon Tea at SmartCookieSam’s. Don’t look at the creased tablecloth!!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Tarte Tatin with Creme Anglaise

Last Thursday was the first session in the next part of my Patisserie and Confectionery Course at York College. It was a change of night and we had a new tutor. For my first session I ended up arriving five minutes late as there had been a massive traffic jam driving to York. I had to drive the back way and avoid the Ring Road! Still didn’t make a difference as everyone else had the same idea as me!

We made Tarte Tatin and Creme Anglaise in our first session. I love Tarte Tatin though I’ve never made it before. It’s because I thought you needed a heavy duty frying pan which can also go in the oven. But our tutor said that you didn’t have to use a frying pan but could use an ordinary saucepan and an ovenproof pie dish.

Tarte Tatin is a popular French dessert which was accidentally created at a hotel in Loire et Cher, France back in the 1880s. The hotel was run by two sisters called Stephanie and Caroline Tatin. The hotel was called Hotel Tatin as well. There are different stories regarding how the tarte came about. But the one that sticks in people’s minds is the one that Stephanie started to make a traditional apple pie. She left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. She smelled burning and tried to saave the dish by putting a pastry lid on top of the pan. She then baked it in the oven and turned it out upside down when it was finished. The hotel guests liked the dessert, much to her surprise. The sisters made it their signature dish after that. I have seen versions of Tarte Tatin with different fruits, such as bananas or pears but the apple is a delicious classic.

First, we set to work peeling, coring and chopping apples for our tartes. We had to cut the apples finely but not too fine that they would disintegrate. They were then put into a bowl of cold water and lemon juice so that the apple pieces didn’t turn brown.

The next step was to make the caramel for the apples. This was more fiddly than it looked and I had to throw mine out twice and start again. First we started in the ovenproof frying pans but this seemed to make everyone’s caramel grainy! Finally for the third time I used a saucepan and it worked. We learned that once the butter had melted into the sugar we were not to stir the mixture at all. We could swirl the mixture around in the pan and wait for it to change into the light brown caramel colour. As soon as it was ready, I immersed the pan in a bowl of cold water, then quickly transferred the caramel to the bottom of the ovenproof frying pan before it set! By this time I was struggling as the hotplates/ rings of the cookers in the college kitchens do give off a lot of heat and that did not do my menopausal hot flushes any good! The rest of my body was cold but my face felt like it was in a furnace!

Once the caramel was in the bottom of the pan, we had to arrange the apple pieces on top of the caramel. I chose to put mine in circles fanning round the edges and overlapping.

As we don’t have a lot of time to make puff pastry from scratch in our sessions, we used some ready made puff pastry. We cut out a circle of puff pastry no thicker than a pound coin to put on the top of our caramelised apples. The pastry had to completely cover the apples and we had to use a knife to make some slits in the pastry so that air could escape out.

After putting our tartes in the oven and setting the timers for 30 minutes, we started on our creme anglaise. I’ve never made creme anglaise before and presumed it was a French version of custard. We could flavour ours with vanilla or cinnamon which would complement the apples in the tarte tatin perfectly. I chose vanilla though.

Once again, the creme anglaise was tricky. We had to put some whole milk on to simmer in a pan while beating egg yolks and caster sugar together using a whisk. It took a while to get them pale and creamy. So that the eggs didn’t cook and scramble, we added a little milk to the mixture then put the whole mixture into the saucepan to gently heat until thickened. Unfortunately, my first attempt at the creme anglaise scrambled as some had stuck to the bottom of the pan. I had to start again from scratch. But thankfully it worked the second time around!

Meanwhile the Tarte Tatins had finished baking and were out of the oven cooling down. Then it was time to take them out of the pans. We had to use a plate to flip it upside down. I was impressed with mine because the caramel juice was oozing through and it just looked so tempting!

Once the Creme Anglaise was ready to pour, we were given a plastic tub to take it home in as well as a foil pie dish for our tartes. I was very happy with what I’d created even though I had found it awkward to make in places.

It was too late to try some that night but Mr SmartCookieSam was impressed. It gives me a huge sense of achievement and accomplishment when I get to try making things like this. I come home all happy and excited as Mr S is sat down watching TV usually at that time. I’m always telling him to come and see what I’ve made. He was saying he would eat some for breakfast!

He didn’t though and he ate a piece when he got in from work. I’m doing WeightWatchers at the moment but I wanted to have a taste. I cut myself a small slice and had a tablespoonful of creme anglaise with it. It was such a small piece, it was gone in two bites! At the time of writing there is still half of it left. More for Mr S tomorrow as our daughter is vegan so can’t eat it!

I’m excited to know what we’re baking next week at college.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Flamiche (Roquefort and Leek Pie)

December was a funny old month for me and it seemed to take ages to get to Christmas. All that build up and then bang, it’s here! The first week of December was fine, then I went down with the flu which wiped me out for two weeks. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I felt more like my old self in the week before Christmas, thankfully. I have been so grateful to Mr SmartCookieSam and to my two children (both grown up) who have held the fort. The mister is a great help to me on a work day as I don’t get home until nearly 7pm. I either eat some tea at work on my break or I eat something he has made. Cooking for my family is something I really enjoy but I don’t like being home late.

On the Sunday before Christmas, though it was a real tonic to actually be able to make something comforting for dinner.

I had some leeks which needed using up and some ready made puff pastry so I thought about a savoury tart. I looked in my recipe books for ideas and came across a recipe for a Flamiche which is a type of French puff pastry pie. I thought it reminded me of a pithivier, which to me is very similar. The filling contained leeks and blue cheese. I had some Roquefort, which did smell very strong like smelly socks but would be ideal for the pie!

To make the filling for the flamiche, I first sauteed the chopped leeks in butter and a little olive oil. I also added in a splash of white wine and vegetable stock. When the leeks had softened a little I then crumbled in the Roquefort.

The flamiche was made in my loose springform cake tin. This usually only gets used for cheesecakes so it was strange making something savoury in it! I rolled out the puff pastry first with enough to cover the bottom and sides of the tin. I tipped the mixture into the dish and then topped the pie with another circle for the lid. I then crimped the sides over the top and gave it an egg wash. The flamiche baked for about half an hour until it was golden and crisp.

It was served with some broccoli and a small portion of mashed potato (for Mr SmartCookieSam). The rest ended up being ideal to be served cold the next day with some salad. My kids weren’t too keen on it because of the blue cheese and leeks but it went down well with the adults.

I think I will definitely make this again on a winter weekend.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

SmartCookieSam is Back!

It’s been a few months dear readers as I mentioned in my previous posts. But I haven’t missed out on baking, just been too pre-occupied to write my blog. I have really enjoyed what I did bake, though and thought I’d share what I’d made over the past few months. I think the piece de resistance just has to be the two cheesecakes I enjoyed making, although I have the lovely, talented Jane’s Patisserie to thank for the recipe!

My son loves my shortbread and over the summer I experimented with adding different flavours to my standard shortbread. We tried mini Twix bites for one of the recipes.

I used to love Tutti Frutti Ice Cream. Haven’t seen it around for years. So I googled recipes for ideas of what to include in it. I then used the basis of the Sugar and Crumbs’ ice cream recipe with biscotti flavoured icing sugar, different types of dried fruit and pistachio nuts. It was heaven in a bowl!

We went on holiday to Iceland in July 2019. While in a supermarket in Reykjavik I found a packet of hazelnut M&Ms, a variety I had not even seen before. I chose to bake a batch of chocolate and hazelnut sandwich cookies using the M&Ms and some Nutella sandwiched in the middle. I have never seen a batch of cookies disappear so fast!

Over the summer I joined in #TwitterBakeAlong when I could. This Lemon Curd Layer cake was one such cake I made. The icing was flavoured with Sugar and Crumbs’ Lemon Drizzle Icing Sugar and I put some Mercers of York Lemon Curd in the middle of it.

Back in August 2019 at the start of The Great British Bake Off, I joined in the first #GBBOTwitterBakealong with a Fruit cake bundt. I chose to use my Crown Bundt pan and found a lovely fruit cake recipe in a bundt recipe book I bought in Canada last year.

For Cake Week in The Great British Bake Off, the contestants were asked to bake Angel Cakes for their Technical Bake. I started off by baking the Genoise sponge in three different colours and flavours. The sponge turned out like rubber. I was so disappointed. I then decided to try again, but this time with a triple layered all-in-one sponge method cake. I thought it looked brilliant until I tried to take it to work and found it was too high to fit in my cake tin! I had to slice it up and put it on its side!

During September it was quiet for baking, although we had a bake sale at the nursery where I work. I baked some vanilla cupcakes with different sugar decorations on, such as llamas, cacti and butterflies. I also made salted caramel cupcakes and used Sugar and Crumbs’ Salted Caramel Icing sugar in my buttercream. To decorate these, I found some cute autumnal woodland animal sugar shapes.

One of my work mates was celebrating a special birthday so I chose to bring some cupcakes into work. I baked a dozen prosecco and another dozen chocolate mint cupcakes and decorated them with the appropriate flavour buttercream again using Sugar and Crumbs’ Icing Sugar. Please note: I’ve mentioned Sugar and Crumbs a lot here! I don’t work for the company, I just love their icing sugars and cocoa powders!

In October 2019 it was my daughter’s 22nd birthday! She didn’t want a birthday cake but asked for a cheesecake instead. I looked on the internet for inspiration and found a fantastic recipe on Jane’s Patisserie’s website for a Bailey’s Cheesecake. Normally I only buy Baileys at Christmas so I had to buy a bottle there and then. Thankfully Morrisons had a special offer on for a litre bottle that week. I topped the cheesecake with cream swirls, fudge pieces and some glitzy chocolate bits and golden star decorations from Cake Angels. My daughter totally loved the cheesecake.

In November I was very busy but had time to bake some Pudsey Bear themed cupcakes and cookies for our work Children In Need Bake Sale. I didn’t have enough time to colour up the icing beyond red so Pudsey looked like he did in the very beginning where his scarf just had red spots on! The cake toppers and cupcake cases I used came from Lakeland Ltd along with the cookie cutter which I have had for several years now!

In the middle of November I also got to make a giant vanilla cupcake for a birthday. The recipient loves peanut M&Ms, so I decorated the cake with those.

When I had some leftover oranges, I found a recipe in one of Mary Berry’s books for a spiced orange layer cake. I adapted this to turn it into a chocolate layer cake. This ended up going to work for my work mates to share with their tea and coffee.

I also had left over lemons to use up so again looked for inspiration from Mary Berry. I made her Lemon Drizzle Traybake recipe and topped this with a lemon glace icing. I had a go at a feather design on top of the traybake. It was a bit runny but the cakes still tasted delicious, or so I was told!

After having a glut of apples, I also looked to Mary Berry (again) and baked her Apple and Almond Dessert cake for pudding. We had it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream after our Sunday roast at the end of November. As there was only Mr SmartCookieSam and I at home to eat it, I put the rest into a box to freeze.

At the end of November, I went along to my Cake Club event in Leeds. I hadn’t been to the previous one as it was when we were away on holiday. This one was held in a sugarcraft shop and we each brought something Christmassy along. I wanted to bake with my Yule Log bundt pan so I baked a Bailey’s Yule Log Bundt using Dollybakes’ recipe. Again, another way to use up the Baileys! Instead of using melted chocolate spread for the glaze, I used a mixture of chocolate ganache and Baileys.

I was asked to bake some cupcakes by one of my neighbours but had a dozen spare. I decorated them up and gave them Christmas sugar decorations. The robin was my favourite, he’s so cute!

Into December now, and this is when I got excited to try out some new ideas. I was given a box of Celebrations and normally would trough them all straightaway. In the end I took out all the Bounty ones (not everyone likes them, but I do!) and put them all into my regular brownie recipe. I was worried they might go all mushy but they didn’t. They didn’t even make it to work as my family had the lot!

In December 2019 it was great to have time to join in #TwitterBakeAlong again, especially when the theme for that week was for ginger biscuits. My take on gingerbread biscuits was to make some mini gingerbread men and also some large lattice iced hearts. I didn’t put holes in them to hang them up on the Christmas tree: I have a greedy labrador who would happily polish off the lot!

I was due at the hairdressers and then chose to make some Toasted Marshmallow cupcakes to take along to say thankyou to all at the salon for looking after me this year. I found some cute winter themed sugar decorations which I thought paired beautifully with the silver cases and the decorations. They went down really well at the hairdressers. All I hope was that there was enough to go round all the staff!

I had more Celebrations to use up, as well as a small box of Maltesers so I decided to make it into a huge tray of Rocky Road. It went into work as one of my work mates was having a birthday. The pieces were huge so people had to cut them in half!

On the Saturday before Christmas I got cracking with some foodie presents for family. Each of my three step-sisters and their families got a box of twelve cupcakes with three different flavours in. I made Malteser flavour cupcakes, followed by Salted Caramel ones as well as some gingerbread ones.

I had a small amount of Baileys left and some condensed milk as well as some chocolate with almond pieces in. This was turned into some special Christmas fudge for my step sisters and their families by using Jane’s Patisserie’s recipe. It was so easy to make in the microwave and I was so glad I didn’t have to faff with boiling and using a sugar thermometer.

I always bake a traditional Christmas fruit cake and mine was made in the middle of November. I bought all the ingredients to decorate it when Tesco had run out of marzipan apart from some ready rolled stuff. I wasn’t impressed with it. It was too thin (I like my marzipan layer to be as thick as the icing one) and was also sticky! Thankfully once the marzipan layer was on, I left it for a day to dry a little. The three dimensional Christmas roses and holly leaf design came from one of Mitch Turner ‘s books.

My son doesn’t really like mince pies so he asked if I would bake him something else to enjoy when everyone else was having mince pies. I had a large packet of Peanut Butter M&Ms which I had bought in the Duty Free shop at Keflavik airport last summer. I was surprised they hadn’t been eaten sooner. The peanut butter and chocolate traybake came from a recipe in the Canadian book Flapper Pie And A Blue Prairie Sky by Karlynn Johnson. I had made it before with Reeses Pieces.

I was working on Christmas eve so I took two treats for my work mates to enjoy with our Christmas buffet. I made some mini Christmas Puddings. They’re usually made like tiffin and with dried fruit but I left out the dried fruit and added mini fudge pieces and sprinkles to it. They were a bit lumpy but at least I could decorate them to look a little bit like puddings.

I also wanted to bake a Mint Cheesecake and again the scrumptious recipes from Jane’s Patisserie came up trumps. I absolutely adore anything with mints in it. About half the cheesecake got eaten by my work mates at our Christmas buffet. The rest got taken home and my two children ate it for their Christmas pudding instead of a traditional one.

It’s always a tradition to have a trifle for Boxing Day in our family. Most years Mr SmartCookieSam likes to make it but this year I did. I had been lucky to win a hamper of jams and marmalade from St Dalfour a week or so back. I opened the hamper and used the strawberry jam to fill the Madeira cake for the cake layers of the trifle. I cheated and bought a ready made Madeira cake when I was in Tesco. I sliced it in half horizontally, spread the jam on and then fitted it into the bottom of my trifle dish. I layered the trifle with two cartons of ready made custard, two tins of drained fruit cocktail and then topped with lashings of whipped cream. I decorated it with different coloured cherries, almond slivers and silver balls. It was absolutely delicious.

Happy New Year to all my followers and I hope 2020 brings you much joy and happiness.

Love Sam xx

Minestrone Soup

A

very retro feel to my latest blog post. I remember having minestrone soup as a child though it was probably a dried packet mix or a tin of Heinz. I’d never even made it before. Soup always looked complicated to me and so much easier to just heat up a out of a tin.

Recently I’ve had a go at making different soups in my slow cooker and as soup is so cheap to make, it has made lunch easier both at work and when I’m at home. Mr SmartCookieSam has been told to reduce his salt intake (doctor’s orders) so I season my soups with pepper and herbs, adding a little sea salt to mine if I feel it needs it.

I was in Tesco doing a weekly shop and spotted some mini pasta shells with all the other pasta on the shelf. I usually end up buying the same pasta (spaghetti, penne and fusilli) but was looking at the other shapes. The mini shells caught my eye and thought I’d have a go at some minestrone.

At home I raided the stock cup board and found a small tin of cannellini beans and a tin of chopped tomatoes. In the vegetable rack I found a couple of carrots and an onion. I should have added celery to this as the basis of the soup but I didn’t have any. No one likes celery in our house.

To prepare the vegetables, I diced the onions and carrots into small pieces. When this was done I then heated a tablespoonful of olive oil in a large saucepan. The vegetables were fried for 5 minutes or so. The vegetables softened and then the tinned, chopped tomatoes were added along with the cannellini beans to the pan. I also added 750ml of vegetable stock.

The soup was then left to simmer away on the hob for about 20 minutes. I then added two handfuls of the shell pasta and seasoned the pan. Another 15 minutes later, the pasta was soft but not over cooked and the soup was ready.

I also added some Parmesan cheese to the soup. Usually it is grated Parmesan on top of Minestrone but I had half a packet of shavings left over from when I made a Caesar Salad.

My picture below doesn’t do the Minestrone justice. It doesn’t look appealing but I assure you it tasted absolutely delicious. I might try it in my slow cooker next time.

Love Sam xx

Italian Galette

Last weekend I was at home alone. Mr SmartCookieSam was out at a motor racing event, my eldest is at uni and my youngest was at work. When I’m at home on my own usually I can’t be bothered to cook for myself. But I thought I’d better make the effort in case Mr SmartCookieSam was hungry when he got in from his day out.

I’d planned to try out the Italian Galette recipe from Mary Berry’s new book Quick Cooking but hadn’t got round to it. The book had arrived just after I had had my foot procedure and I went though the book planning out what I’d love to cook.

The recipe is according to the introduction notes: “A quick and easy way to make a savoury tart. Using shop bought pastry is a joy…” I can definitely go along with that. I can’t be doing with faffing about making puff pastry. I find it too fiddly and complicated. Short crust pastry, well that’s another matter!

First job was to preheat the oven and line one of my baking trays ready to put the galette on. I chose to keep the pre-rolled oblong shape instead of re-rolling and turning it into a circular shape.

The puff pastry cracked as I got it out of the packet but I didn’t worry too much. It would be covered up with the filling.

I scored the edges with a knife so I had a border to brush beaten egg on. Inside this border I then spooned sundried tomato paste. I totally forgot to buy some goats cheese to go on the galette so I had to use up some remaining grated cheese instead.

The next ingredient to go on top of the galette were some cherry tomatoes. I chose some vine ripened ones. I also added some pitted green olives. This was then ready to go into the oven for about 15 minutes at 200oC in my fan oven. After this, I then scrunched up some slices of Parma ham, returning the galette back to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Mr SmartCookieSam had had a large lunch so didn’t want much for dinner when he got in. We did end up eating the galette a little like a pizza in slices which wasn’t the most healthy way to eat it! But it tasted absolutely delicious, so much like summer on a plate.

Have a good night.

Love Sam xx

Mini Ginger Biscuits

Last weekend I wanted to test out one of the baking recipes in one of the Hairy Dieters books. In their third book: The Hairy Dieters Good Eating there is a recipe for Ginger Biscuits in the Sweet Treats chapter of the book.

Now I have a terrible weakness for homemade ginger biscuits, especially ones with chopped stem ginger in them. I slightly under bake mine as I love them chewy. I can never stop at one. They are so moreish!

What I wanted to know was if they are included in a diet book, what was the difference between these and the ones from my regular recipe? It would be interesting to taste and to compare the appearance. Looking at the photo in the book, it looked like there wasn’t any difference at all, only that they were slightly smaller than the ginger nuts you get in packets of biscuits from the supermarket. Comparing them to my regular homemade ones, they looked half the size. But hoping that meant I wouldn’t scoff two? Even two regular ones wouldn’t be enough more me, haha!

Ingredients wise, I didn’t need anything odd to make it lower calorie or lower in fat. In fact I still thought the sugar content was the same, as well as the butter and golden syrup content of the dough. What differed though, was the recipe asked for an egg yolk and a third more flour than my regular recipe. I wondered how it would work. The ginger flavouring came from ground ginger and two teaspoonfuls was plenty to give it the spicy kick I was after.

Making ginger biscuits requires the melting method with the butter, golden syrup and sugar is melted together on the hob. Once this has melted, in goes the egg yolk.

After this, I weighed out the dry ingredients and combined them thoroughly. You want the gingery flavour throughout. According to the recipe it said the dough would be dry and crumbly. This was not, in fact it was the complete opposite and I had to add a little extra flour to get it to work into a ball!

Each biscuit was meant to be about 15g or teaspoonfuls of the mixture dropped onto the lined baking trays. Teaspoonfuls looked so tiny and it was very fiddly to do this. No wonder I only got about 18 cookies and there were meant to be 25! Never mind. I just hope they tasted good.

Unfortunately I was very disappointed with the appearance of the biscuits. They did not get the distinctive crack that ginger biscuits are meant to have even though I put the 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda in the mixture. In my regular recipe it is meant to have a whole tsp so maybe that’s why. But the biscuits pictured had cracks on them! They just looked boring and unappealing to me. Appearances can be deceptive though. I tasted one and was pleased they were delicious! I had to hide the rest away in a box in the cupboard before I ate the rest!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx