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

Lemon Baby Bundts.

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Lemon Baby Bundts. Made in my Nordicware six hole Anniversary Bundtlette Pan brought back from my trip to Canada.

It’s been an absolute age since I’ve last blogged.  The intention has been there! In fact there are eight posts in draft form but I’ve decided to sideline them for now and do them later when I have more time.  I realised it was six months since my last post! SIX MONTHS? How did that happen?

Why the absence?  I bet you all hadn’t really noticed or missed my little blog.  I know my little blog is a tiny one but I get enormous pleasure out of creating it and sharing recipes.  My son has been creating a few baking videos with me so hopefully I’ll be able to share them on here as well.

To be honest, it’s been absolutely crazy in SmartCookieSam world recently.  I’ve been concentrating on my day job, trying to cope with all life has thrown at me and blogging has just drifted further down the to-do list! I’ve been away as well, including a trip to Canada to visit my family.  This was the inspiration behind this bake.

My favourite recipe book of all time is Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess. As mentioned before in previous posts, Nigella and her book helped me through a difficult time in my life.  I had always wanted to try her Baby Bundts recipe which Nigella said had been inspired by a trip to New York where she “ate a little yoghurty lemony ring moulded cake and wanted to whip up something similar immediately on my return”  For this recipe you need a six hole mini Bundtlette pan, which I didn’t have.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instagram will know that I have a Nordicware Bundt pan obsession and collect them.  I think they’re such pretty designs, well made and will last a lifetime.  So when I go over to Canada, I always go on a shopping trip to West Edmonton Mall where there is a fabulous Williams Sonoma.Williams Sonoma.  I’m always in Bundt heaven when I go there!  I only had room in my suitcase for two pans.  One just had to be a mini bundlette pan so I could bake Nigella’s recipe and the other was a loaf pan.  More of that in another post.

What a huge choice of bundt pans! I’ve highlighted the ones I chose this time!
The staff at Williams Sonoma are so helpful. How I wish we had these stores in the UK. I think our nearest equivalent is probably Lakeland.

Back home in the UK and still recovering from jet lag a few days later, I decided to have a go at the Baby Bundts.  For copyright purposes, I cannot share the recipe here but I can explain how I made it.In a jug I first measured out and mixed together natural yoghurt, melted butter, free range eggs and some lemon zest.  Next I put all the dry ingredients into a bowl, which were plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and some caster sugar.  These were then mixed together carefully before combining the wet and the dry ingredients.

To prepare the Bundt pans I always swear by Wilton Cake Release, which I buy in the UK from shops like Lakeland and Hobbycraft.  I know other bundt bakers might use a special spray bought online or some may use butter and flour to grease their pans.  On the whole Cake Release works well for me but I take great care to grease in all the nooks and crannies of the pan so that the cakes just slide out.  Sometimes I do have disasters, though and feel like giving up.

When the mixture was ready and the mini bundtlette pan greased, I filled each hole carefully.  The mixture filled about two thirds of the pan.  I baked them in my fan oven for about 25 minutes on about 160oC.

After the cakes were cooling for about 15 minutes, I managed to get them out of the pan in one piece.  In fact they just slid straight out.  I left them to continue cooling on the rack and went off out to walk the dog.  When I came back, it was time to make the icing.

The icing is just a simple lemon glace icing made with icing sugar and lemon juice made to a semi running consistency.  I wanted it to run to drizzle down the side but wanted it to be thick enough so that you couldn’t see the cake underneath.

Even thought the cakes are meant to be individual ones, they do come out quite big and are larger than cupcakes.  I ended up taking them to work and I cut each one in half so there were twelve portions.  I left them on the table in the staff room on the morning and I was pleased to say they had all gone by lunchtime.

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Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cornflake Crispies.

Chocolate Cornflake Crispies are always a popular treat with adults and children alike.

I have a new favourite recipe book. It’s actually one I bought about 5 years ago and never got round to testing out any recipes. Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is a classic which millions of people use (including me) but Annie Bell’s Baking Bible is a fabulous book. It features many classics and traditional favourites but also includes special twists and more unusual bakes that we might not have heard of.

I would like to be able to bake through the whole of the book but I don’t know if I will have chance to do this. I start off projects and then work gets busy . And life in general just takes over. So I’ll have a go and even if I bake some recipes I’ve never had a go at before, that’s a great start.

I like to use a mixture of dark and milk chocolate in my crispies.  As it was nearly Easter I chose some pretty yellow spotty pastel cupcake cases from my baking stash.

To begin with, I thought I would take one of the simplest recipes ever. One we always start off learning as children. Cornflake Crispies which Annie Bell describes as “an oldie, but a goodie, these remain a classic favourite of children, teenagers and a few grown ups. You can also make them using dark chocolate only, but the mix of milk and dark creates a good balance,” I agree, the presence of milk chocolate for children seems to work better although dark chocolate is delicious as well.

This is what I chose to use when I made Cornflake Crispies at home a few weeks ago when it was Easter. I had some Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, which to me are seriously addictive. In fact, I’m really surprised there were enough to put in the crispies to turn them into Easter nests. Usually you’re meant to use Shredded Wheat to make them into a chocolate nest but I didn’t have any in the cupboard, only cornflakes.

First, I melted a mixture of dark and milk chocolate in a microwave proof bowl, along with a small portion of butter. Once this had cooled down slightly, I folded in some cornflakes. Another version I have uses golden syrup as well but this wasn’t needed in this recipe. The chocolate I used was Tesco’s own brand and it works really well. I tend to get it in when it is on special offer.

I spooned the mixture evenly among twelve cupcake cases which I had already put inside a muffin tin. Although the crispies is a no bake recipe, and sers in the fridge I always put them into a muffin tin so that they keep their shape. Before putting in the fridge I put some mini eggs on the top of the nest.

I put the chocolate crispies into a muffin tin so that they keep their shape while they set in the fridge.
One for me with a cup of tea!

After an hour or so, the crispies had set in the fridge. We had them over the course of the Easter Weekend with cups of tea or instead of pudding. They didn’t last long. I just wish I had made double the amount!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

#30daywritingchallenge: Day 29- Organised Or Messy?

It’s the second to last post of my #30daywritingchallenge and I have really enjoyed focussing on other things apart from writing about baking. It has been a great experience and taken me out of my writing comfort zone.

Today I have to talk about whether I am organised or messy? This is a difficult question to answer as I would say I am both these things! I am organised for work as I have to be. The same goes for at home but this does depend on my mood. I can be messy and untidy at other times.
In my job I have to be organised. I have to plan lessons when I am in a long term post and make sure I have all the resources and activities ready for the children. On a busy working day I have to be up and ready, showered, dressed and dog walked all by 7.15am. At the end of the day I have to remain focussed to complete my marking and preparations for the next day regardless of what is going on at home. I have to almost be blinkered like a shire horse and think that I don’t go home until it is done. If things are not done at home then that has a knock on effect at school and vice versa. Also, I make sure I am tidy in school as I am in other teachers’ classrooms. Some are tidier than others but I always leave a classroom exactly as I found it.

At home I used to be fairly organised when the children were younger and before I went back to work full time in a supply teaching role. When my daughter was a baby and I was a new mum there obviously were days when I didn’t get out of my scruffy tracky bottoms (I never stayed in my PJs all day apart from the first day after we came out of hospital) I knew jobs didn’t get done by themselves so I had to get going. It took me a while to get into a routine with the children as it does with all new parents. There were times when my house looked like a bombsite and other times when it was immaculate. Though I never forget one afternoon Mr SmartCookieSam came home from work early to find toys all over the lounge floor after I’d had my friends from the NCT group round. We went off to the park after a cup of tea leaving all the toys on the floor. My husband thought we had been burgled and couldn’t understand how children could make so much mess! That’s life, dear!

With cleaning and other housework it worked for me to have set days for doing certain jobs. Since I’ve been married I’ve always done my ironing on a Sunday morning unless we’ve been busy doing something else. When my children were little Mr SmartCookieSam used to take them out for an hour or so which gave me chance to crack on with it. Now I do the ironing when I can fit it in around everything else. We tend to have mainly a tidy house (Mr SmartCookieSam is a control freak like that) but I have clutter where I keep all my hobby stuff and with all my recipe books. I think I might be messy because sometimes I think, well I need that out first thing tomorrow so what’s the point of putting it away? Though Mr SmartCookieSam is trying to train me. I’ll never be a Stepford Wife though, and I don’t want to be. This is who I am!

So, in answer to the question “Organised or messy?” I’m both!

Sam xx

#30daywritingchallenge: Day 27- My Top Five Drinks.

Coffee

I can’t remember the place where I ended up with jelly beans with my coffee.  All I remember is that my mum was with me, might have been somewhere in York City Centre.

I’ve always loved strong coffee and can’t manage to get off to work without my first cup of the morning. If I am teaching the younger children and depending on the school set up, I don’t always get a break until lunchtime. So I treat myself to a nice takeaway coffee from somewhere like Costa or I take my own in my special lidde travel mug. I’m not a coffee snob where I won’t touch instant- I do. But it has to be a quality instant. I tend to have instant at home unless it is the weekend or the school holidays and then I might make some fresh coffee in my individual cafetiere. My coffee is always with a little drop of skimmed milk and no sugar. If anyone makes my coffee too milky or with full cream milk, it makes me feel sick. I like skinny cappucinos but I’m not keen on lattes or those syrups you can put in coffees. I have used those coffee syrups for flavouring cakes, though.

I love my special personalised travel mug.  It’s great to take with me going into different supply schools.  The only problem is that there are a lot of Mrs Smiths about!
If I know I’m not going to get a break all morning then I sometimes buy a takeaway coffee.

Tea

I sometimes drink green tea.
I love a cup of tea, especially if it is Yorkshire.

I love a good cuppa and even better if it is Yorkshire Tea. If that’s not around then I like Twinings Breakfast Blend. We have them at home and that’s our go to drink for the rest of the day. I’ll drink other teas, like Earl Grey and I love green tea as well. For bedtime I love to take a cup of camomile tea up with me to sip while I’m reading my book. But with coffee, if someone makes me a cup of tea and it is as weak as dishwater I just can’t drink it. Mr SmartCookieSam doesn’t drink coffee but drinks tea. If he makes me a cup of tea I have to tell him to leave the teabag in a bit longer. If I am on my own at home in the afternoon, sometimes I use my individual Cath Kidston teapot and cup.

Prosecco

Having a great prosecco when I’m away with my friends.
This was a gift and a lovely treat.
Enjoying a drink with my friend, Julie.

This is my favourite drink when I meet up with my friends, especially my friend and fellow Wet Wet Wet fan Julie. We have lots of laughs on nights out when we go out and they always involve Prosecco. I don’t really drink it at home, unless we get given a bottle as a present. It’s more of a celebratory drink. Though I might end up having a glass or two on my birthday next week. Then again I might not as it’s a school night!

Gin and Tonic

Masons of Yorkshire Gin Tea Edition.
Whitley Neill gin with Aromatic Tonic Water.

I got a gin miniature gift set for Christmas, and I really enjoyed trying out the Bottle Green Elderflower Tonic Water with some Gordons Gin.
Some Portobello Road gin which we had in our drinks cabinet last year. It was delicious

I’ve always enjoyed the odd gin and tonic at home on a Friday or Saturday night. I used to enjoy Bombay Sapphire and so does Mr SmartCookieSam. But since the resurgence of artisan gins and speciality tonics, such as the Fevertree mixers, we enjoy a little tipple now and again. We’ve discovered local gins such as the ones made by Masons of Yorkshire and also Slingsby Rhubarb gin. At the moment I am slowly working my way through a bottle of Whitley Neill.

Sparkling Water with Lime Cordial

I love a glass of fizzy water with a splash of lime cordial, it’s so refreshing on a hot day. I don’t put too much lime cordial in. Even though I’ve got a sweet tooth, sweet drinks just taste horrible to me. I try to drink plain water as well, even though sometimes I forget to drink enough. This especially happens when I’m at work!

A refreshing non- alcoholic lime and soda drink.
A lovely glass of chilled rose outside on a rare, sunny evening.
I bought some Katla Icelandic Vodka recently in the duty free shop at Keflavik airport last year. We toasted the New Year in with it and haven’t had any since.
Love a nice glass of red wine but I hate the really heavy “blackcurranty” ones and they give me a horrible headache.

What are your favourite drinks?

Sam

#30daywritingchallenge- Day 30: This Month’s Highs And Lows

Well April has been a funny old month. It has gone quickly in some ways, yet dragged in others. For my final post in the #30daywritingchallenge I am to reflect back on the month and share it’s highs and lows with you. It has been great fun writing these posts, although in the last ten days or so I have had limited time to devote to them. That is why I’m sharing them all at once, on May 6th!

April’s Highs:

  • Having my daughter back from uni for the Easter holidays and having some special mum and daughter time with her. This included a day out in York where we went for lunch and cocktails.
  • Meeting up with friends during my school Easter holidays from the Clandestine Cake Club and putting the world to rights over tea, coffee, cake and lunch!
  • A few teaching supply days in some lovely schools in my area.
  • Baking cakes and getting lovely compliments about them.
  • Booking my flights to go and visit my brother, sister in law, nephews and niece over in Canada in September. Always wonderful to have a holiday to look forward to.
  • Been out for a couple of meals with Mr SmartCookieSam which has been great to go out on our own as a couple.
  • Great to finally see signs of Spring, such as the blossom on the trees, daffodils and to see lambs frisking about in the fields.
  • The three or four days where we had gorgeous weather and made our spirits rise!
  • Always lovely to sit outside and eat a delicious salad after months of comfort eating in the cold and wet weather.

April’s Lows:

  • The awful weather at the beginning and the end of the month, which has been cold and wet, making me feel really low.
  • Not doing very well at my diet as a result of it being cold and wet and me feeling like comfort eating.
  • Saying goodbye to my Mum at Manchester Airport as she goes away for two months to Canada to see my brother. So glad for Facebook Messenger, Facetime and What’s App but I know she’ll have a ball visiting them and it will be my turn in September.
  • Not having as much income this month as I have had the Easter holidays for the first two weeks of April. As a supply teacher I only get paid when I work!
  • Running over a pheasant who shot out in front of me as I was driving down a country lane on my way home. I had no time to stop and the pheasant damaged the front grill of my car. Thankfully it was mended the very next day.
  • The damage that the pheasant did to the kidney grill on the front of my car.  Thankfully it was easy enough to fix and the new part only cost £33.  I’ve heard of people having to pay hundreds of pounds of damage.

    Although my mum is having a lovely time visiting my brother and his family in Canada, it was still a bit emotional saying goodbye to her at Manchester airport.  She’s away for two months.

As I type, it is now May 6th and we are bathed in glorious sunshine. We have lots to look forward to. Life goes on.

Sam xx

#30daywritingchallenge- Day 28: Annoying Habits

We all have annoying habits. Even people who think they are perfect have traits which winds other people up. In fact, to me being perfect is annoying. No one is perfect all of the time. I am not perfect and I have loads of annoying habits.

Playing with my hair

I would think this is my most annoying habit and I do it when I am wound up, nervous or near the time when I need a haircut. Last week I had a spate of playing with my hair and I think this was when I was feeling worried I wouldn’t have any supply teaching work come in for the rest of the week. It was also on the day I had taken my mum to Manchester Airport so she could fly to Canada to visit my brother. My hair went in for a battering as I worried we would get stuck in a traffic jam on the M62. Then I worried that she would have problems on the flight. Once I got back to work last Monday I felt a l. lot better. To stop myself playing with my hair I have started to put it up if I haven’t had time to straighten it properly. At the time of writing I’ve got it up in a clip. I used to play with my hair when I was at uni and I had longer hair so when the children were young I had it cut off to stop me doing it. But I think I look better with longer hair. That is also partly why I have to knit or do cross stitch when I am watching TV as it keeps my hands busy.

Tapping on the steering wheel in time to music as I’m driving

This irritates the hell out of my children if they are in my car. They think it’s embarrassing but I can’t help it if it’s a good tune I’m listening to. It also stops me from playing with my hair!

Interrupting people

I hate it when people interrupt me which happens a lot. I think it is really rude, disrespectful and shows that you don’t care about what the other person is saying, only about what you want to say. I only interrupt my immediate family but that is because I would never get a word in edgeways or have my say if I didn’t. Mr SmartCookieSam doesn’t like it and says “Will you let me finish?” but I know for a fact that if I did, then my son and daughter would then speak and I wouldn’t be able to say anything. So therefore, in order to be heard then I think I have to push my way in. When people interrupt me it is usually because what I have to say isn’t important to them, they just want to talk about what they want to talk about.

Looking at my phone too much.

I only look at my phone at breakfast time but I do not look at my phone at other mealtimes while I am eating unless I am eating alone. I usually look at my phone to look at BBC News over breakfast so it could be like how people read newspapers at breakfast time. But I insist that my children do not have their phones at the table for other meals. Occasionally I might bring my ipad to the table at the end of the meal to show something to Mr SmartCookieSam or the children but I feel that phones have no place at a family meal. Trouble is I am tempted to look at my phone a lot more since I got a smartphone as it is always pinging with notifications. Mr SmartCookieSam gets really annoyed by it as he uses his phone as a phone. He texts on it but doesn’t understand why I have emails, Facebook and the like on my phone. It does depend what mood I’m in. Some nights I’ll be checking my phone all the time and at other times I’ll leave it well alone hidden in my handbag. It is typical, though that the moment I put my phone away or accidentally leave it at home, is when I get an important work phone call or message.

What annoying habits do you have?

Sam x

#30daywritingchallenge: Day 23- What Is My Favourite Season?

When I was asked to write about what my favourite season was, the answer was obvious: Summer!

These are all the reasons why summer is the best for me:

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Sitting outside on a summer’s evening with a glass of wine after a busy day at work.

Enjoying my summer holidays doing some crochet, watching the dog play and drinking a cup of tea.
Cross stitching in the sun.  One of the best things about summer is seeing all the beautiful embroidery silks glistening in the sun.
Going to the pub for lunch and sitting outside in a beer garden with the dog.  
Eating ice cream!
Wearing sandals and showing off your new pedicure.  Although my kids think my Birkenstocks are horrible.  
Eating breakfast outside in the summer, even if I have a greedy Labrador slobbering over me!
  • light evenings when you can sit outside in the garden
  • light mornings. I hate getting up, walking the dog and driving to work in the dark.
  • being able to eat dinner outside and have a BBQ. Having said that, the BBQ only came out three times last year because the weather was so lousy on the days we were actually free to have one.
  • looking at all the flowers and trees with leaves
  • being able to hang my washing out. Washing smells so much better when it has dried on the line.
  • going for long walks with my dog
  • having the time to go out for a run. No one wants to go out for a run in the dark.
  • the summer holidays. As a supply teacher I don’t like the six weeks holiday for the lack of work meaning lack of income but I do enjoy being able to spend time with my family and to go out on day trips, etc.
  • It’s usually the time of year when we go on our family holiday or holidays. Although it would be better to go and get some sun in the winter, this is the busiest time of year for Mr SmartCookieSam at work so we go when it suits him, not me.
  • Eating ice cream.
  • Being

Which is your favourite season of the year?