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.

img_3434-1
Afternoon tea at SmartCookieSam’s. It’s also the perfect excuse to use my late mother in law’s china.
img_3436
Afternoon Tea at SmartCookieSam’s. Don’t look at the creased tablecloth!!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Suet-Free Mincemeat- How To Be A Domestic Goddess. #12daysofNigella- Day 1

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

Chocolate Vegan Bundt Cake

My daughter’s 21st birthday cake/s. A vegan chocolate Bundt cake baked in my 6 cup Anniversary Bundt pan, along with some mini bundtlettes.

I’m feeling very old right now. I’m officially the mother of an adult. My older child, my daughter had her twenty first birthday a few weeks ago. Of course Mother SmartCookieSam wanted to bake her a cake even though she didn’t want much fuss. It made me think back to my own 21st back in the 1990s. I was also at uni like my daughter and having a cake was the last thing on my mind. Having a massive party and going out with my mates was more my thing. I did have a cake which was very traditional. My Dad got it and it was a fruitcake decorated like a basket with sugar flowers on top. How times have changed.

For my daughter who is dairy free and follows a vegan diet at uni, her cake had to be vegan. She also has two Vegan housemates who were going to be sharing the cake with her. Vegan baking is a relatively new thing for me. My family over in Canada are vegan and when I was there recently I was able to bake them a couple of things to try out. It’s a pity they couldn’t taste this decadent vegan chocolate Bundt I baked for my daughter.

To bake this a Decadent Vegan Chocolate Bundt I first whisked together plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and some salt. In another bowl I beat together some caster sugar and some vegetable oil until well combined. After that I added some strong coffee, vanilla extract and a little cider vinegar.

I wondered why the recipe contained cider vinegar and in the tip section it explains that “the cider vinegar acts as an acid that reacts with the baking soda to give the batter a lift as it bakes. You will not taste it in the finished product, I promise!”

To incorporate all the ingredients together, I then alternated between adding the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and then folding in coconut milk. The coconut milk gives the cake a rich texture.

The recipe is for a 10 cup Bundt pan but my daughter only wanted a small cake. I hadn’t a clue how to scale down a recipe which uses American cup sizes so I baked the full mixture. Instead, there ended up being a 6 cup Bundt as well as four bundlettes.

The cake was topped with an adapted version of a vegan chocolate glaze. I made the icing thicker by using more icing sugar and slightly less coconut milk. As for the Bundt recipe, the glaze can also be found in Julie Ann Hession’s book, Beautiful Bundts.

The gold and silver sprinkles are from Dr Oetker and were bought in a local supermarket. They added lots of sparkle and bling to the top of the cake.

We were due to visit my daughter at uni the weekend before her actual birthday so I made sure I wasn’t working the day before we had to go away. I wanted her cake to be perfect. More recently I’ve been so snowed under that baking has taken a back seat, which really upsets me as baking is a real stress buster!

I found one of these sparkly word cake toppers on EBay from Honey and Ladle and it contrasted really beautifully with the chocolate. The cake had to travel in the boot down to Southampton so I took the cake topper off the cake and put it inside the box until we got to my daughter’s house.

I was absolutely furious with Mr SmartCookieSam, though. People who have never baked a cake do not realise how delicate they can be when you carry them out to a car or how important it is to put it in the boot without someone putting something on top of the box. He was all set for balancing the box on top of a suitcase . There was no way I was going to allow that and more so letting the cake share the boot with a greedy Labrador! Of course he thought I was going off on one but cakes have to be treated with care, not thrown about like a ball!

Fortunately, we and the cake got to Southampton in one piece. My daughter and her friends enjoyed the cake although I didn’t get to taste a piece for my verdict.

It was one of those cakes you could use to turn into a special occasion cake or one you could eat as a weekend pudding.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Butterscotch, Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Bars

When over in Canada staying with my brother and his family earlier on this year I noticed that there were these peanut butter and marshmallow bars for sale in a few of the coffee shops we visited. I must admit they were very large bars and looked double the size of a similar traybake type cake that you would see in the UK. I didn’t try any, which is unlike me as I have a terrible sweet tooth and get easily tempted by all the goodies on show.

When I got back home to the UK I searched for a recipe so that I could try to bake these at home. As luck would have it, I found the recipe I was looking for in a Canadian baking book I had bought on my previous visit to Canada: Flapper Pies And A Blue Prairie Sky by Karlynne Johnston. Karlynne writes a blog called The Kitchen Magpie and she hails from the same part of Canada that I visited, which is Alberta. Karlynne’s recipe for Butterscotch and Chocolate Rainbow Marshmallow Dainties is a recipe based on the bars that she ate back in the 1970s. You can use either Butterscotch chips or chocolate chips to make these bars but Karlynne suggests using rainbow coloured mini marshmallows as they have “a slightly fruity taste that white marshmallows don’t have,” What’s more is that this recipe is a no-bake one, where the bars set in the pan in the fridge.

I was pleased to be able to find some Chipits in a local Safeway (now there’s a name you don’t hear of in the UK anymore) including some butterscotch ones which were perfect for this recipe. But back home in the UK I couldn’t find any rainbow marshmallows in the supermarkets near me, only pink and white ones. They would have to do. I had all the other ingredients to hand.

One cold and miserable Saturday morning I was meant to be tackling the humongous pile of ironing sat looking at me on the counter in the utility room. I ignored it and decided to make these instead. I got out my traybake tin, lined it carefully with cling film and found all the ingredients I needed. I raided the cupboard for hubby’s breakfast peanut butter, mentally planning to replace it next time I went shopping. I then remembered I also needed my American baking cups out. I’m sorry to have to say this but I really struggle with using cups for measuring out the ingredients as I’m convinced I’m not as accurate as I could be.

After the traybake tin was prepared, I put peanut butter, butter and the butterscotch Chipits into a pan. I heated them gently on the hob until the mixture was melted and was smooth. I then added vanilla extract and cooled the mixture down. When cooled, I stirred in the marshmallows, some desiccated coconut and some Rice Krispies so that all the mixture was completely covered. Finally, the mixture was spooned into the tin and levelled out.

I popped the traybake into the fridge to set. This took about three hours until it was ready to be cut into squares. The recipe made about 24 small squares which was more than adequate as they are very rich and indulgent. What I also didn’t realise was that the bars can easily be frozen which is useful to know. Always handy to have something to fall back on if you have people coming round that you can whip out of the freezer at the last minute. Only trouble is, they wouldn’t even get there in my house!

A little treat for myself with a cup of tea that afternoon. I convieniently forgot I was meant to be on a diet!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Lemon Baby Bundts.

img_0206
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.

img_0205

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