Traditional British Teatime Favourite Biscuits.

Not only do I have a Nordicware Bundt pan addiction, I also love collecting cookie cutters.  I’ve hundreds of them in themed plastic boxes on shelves in my garage. I’ve kept them from when I ran my small cake and cookie business and hope to put them to good use again in the near future.  A couple of weeks back we were down in Southampton visiting my daughter who is now at uni there. We went out shopping while we were in the city centre and my daughter showed me The Steamer Trading Company cookware shop. We have a couple of branches near where I live in Harrogate and also in Northallerton but it was the first chance I’ve had to look inside.  I was so pleased to see a set of cookie cutters which I could use to bake traditional British favourite teatime biscuits. Not only would I get the right shape, as they were plunger cutters they would also imprint the pattern which gives the biscuits an authentic look. The set of four cookie cutters are for Bourbon Biscuits, Custard Creams, Party Rings and Jammy Dodgers.  I’ve baked Jammy Dodgers and Custard Creams before but was looking forward to trying out the other two recipes.

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For recipe inspiration I used Miranda Gore Browne’s book Biscuit to help me recreate the perfect Bourbon Biscuit, Custard Cream and Jammy Dodger.  I used my own Shortbread recipe and adapted it to make the Party Rings and the Empire Biscuits.

On Friday I ended up getting an unexpected day off.  I hadn’t baked for ages and I really miss it.  I wanted to immerse myself in a bit of baking therapy so on went my Ipod and I lost myself in making up batches of biscuit dough and cutting out the shapes. I tried out Miranda Gore Browne’s recipe for Bourbon Biscuits first.  This dough came out quite sticky as it used golden syrup to bind the dough together instead of an egg.  I had to heavily flour my rolling pin and the worktop.  Miranda’s recipe doesn’t use a cutter as such but you cut out neat rectangles.  The chocolate dough smelled wonderful and my will power caved in when I got a bit of dough stuck to my hands!

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Miranda Gore Browne’s recipe from Biscuit was perfect for these traditional home made Bourbon Biscuits. 

 

Some of the biscuits did swell up in the oven, maybe because there was bicarbonate of soda in the dough?

The Bourbon biscuit cutter produced a perfect dainty rectangle shape for the both halves of the biscuit. Then by simply using the plunger you make the indent of the classic Bourbon name and dots on the tops of the biscuits.

 

Using the Jammy Dodger cutter.  It produces a scalloped edge which didn’t come out neatly to be honest. The plunger part made the classic “Splat” design to adorn the top of the biscuit. Sitting atop the plunger is a separate mini heart cutter which you use to take the centre out of the biscuit so you’re left with the jam heart shape poking through.

My second bake of the day was the Jammy Dodgers.  I’ve baked different versions of these over the years.  Miranda’s recipe is similar to one I’ve used before and she says you can substitute 50g of the flour in the recipe for the same quantity of ground almonds. I went with this although I felt that the cutter didn’t make a clean edge as it came out.  The picture shows the edge of the cookie was a bit jagged and there were tiny bits of dough caught in the ridges between the scallops.

The messy effect of the Jammy Dodgers didn’t detract from its taste though. I must admit I succumbed.  Third recipe on the list was the final one from Miranda’s Biscuit Book.  Custard Creams: another favourite in my house. My teenage son loves custard creams and he must have inherited that from me. I haven’t bought any for ages as I know that once I open the packet, that’s it! If you taste this recipe though, you will never want to buy a shop bought one ever again. Not only do you get a lovely custard flavour, by using Birds’ custard powder in the biscuits and the filling but it gives the biscuit a golden yellow colour.

My custard cream shaped cutter made the mini rectangle shape and then indented the classic diamond “Custard Cream” logo/ motif on the top of the cookie.

For the fourth batch of biscuits I created my own version of Party Rings.  I used to love Party Rings when I was a child and I bet there isn’t one single person who hasn’t enjoyed these at a party and some stage in their lives.  I always used to love the pink ones and loved all the different pastel colours of the rings but as it was time consuming to colour all the icing I decided to stick with one colourway. A couple of weeks back I was over the moon to win a Twitter competition from Sugar and Crumbs where the prize was a £25 voucher to spend on their website. I was going to put in an order to test out the company’s new limited edition Winter flavours, anyway. As well as the new flavours I reordered a couple of favourites, including their Lemon Drizzle natural icing sugar.  The Lemon Drizzle icing sugar ended up flavouring my Party Rings. I coloured a quarter of the icing in a bright yellow colour but left the rest in white.  Decorating the cookies was quite messy and I left the cookies to drip dry with a couple of plastic mats underneath my wire rack.

My fifth and final bake of the day was to bake Empire Biscuits. These are a huge favourite of mine and every time I go up to Scotland on holiday I can’t get enough of them.  I wasn’t intending to bake them with the other cookies to be honest but the cookie dough for the Party Rings made up a massive quantity. I decided to use half the dough to make party rings, the other would make Empire biscuits.  I used the Party Ring cutter to make the circles for the Empire biscuits but to make them into Party Rings involved cutting a centre out with a tiny hexagonal cutter.

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I can never resist an Empire Biscuit!

To sandwich the Empire Biscuits together I used the remains of the jam I’d used to stick the Jammy Dodgers together.  Instead of plain glace icing, I chose to use another favourite Sugar and Crumbs flavour of their natural icing sugars. This time I used the child friendly Strawberry Milkshake icing sugar which is quite a sweet icing but very popular.  To finish off I sprinkled lots of hundreds and thousands on top of them and left them to dry.

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I made up a special selection box for my friends to try.

I then divided all the finished biscuits into four and put them into a cupcake box (without the cupcake inserts in the bottom) to share with my friends who I’d be seeing that weekend.  There were a few biscuits left over which I put in a tub for Mr SmartCookieSam and my son to eat.

The next few weeks are going to be very busy in SmartCookieSam land so I doubt I’ll have much time for baking as I’m going to be working full time up until Christmas.  I might have a go at my Christmas pudding or cake next Sunday if I have time, though.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

#2write: A Review of Graeme Clark and Dean Johnson’s Gig at Thornton Hough Village Hall, Wirral.

My regular blog readers will know that I’m a huge Wet Wet Wet fan and have loved the band right from the beginning back in 1987 as a 15 year old! I don’t want to repeat myself from what I’ve written from previous reviews but their music is a very big part of my life.   Music is always on at home, whether it’s on in the kitchen when I’m cooking or baking. It helps me get through the ironing or the cleaning. I also have music on in the background when working at my sewing machine. Music is always on my iPod when I go out running or in my car driving to work. A lot of the time it’s a Wet Wet Wet album or one of Graeme Clark’s solo CDs.  Of course I do listen to other music but it’s always the Wets’ music which I go back to. It cheers me up if I’ve had a long day, helps me to relax or even listening to a song just calls up a special memory in life. More recently I have been listening to Graeme Clark’s latest album The Thought Collector a lot.  Just after it was released I had it on my Ipad when we went on holiday to Canada. I woke up in the middle of the night jet lagged but I put the music on through my headphones to drown out Mr SmartCookieSam’s loud snoring and the soothing music soon relaxed me and got me back to sleep again!

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I went to see Graeme Clark (also known as Wet Wet Wet’s bass player) play in a solo gig in Siempre Bicycle Cafe in Glasgow’s West End. This gig was on a beautiful sunny  Sunday evening last June and was a runaway success. More about that night here:

https://theyorkshirebakery.com/2016/06/17/graeme-clarks-gig-at-siempre-bicycle-cafe-glasgow-a-review

We were absolutely over the moon last month when Graeme announced on his Facebook page that he was going to play a unique and special gig  with his friend Dean Johnson who he has collaborated with in the past.

So, last Saturday myself and my three lovely friends Julie, Dot and Cindy (AKA the Yorkshire Wetties) headed over the Pennines) to the Wirral. We had met up only a few weeks ago for a girlie weekend in York and were saying it would be fantastic to get together again soon. Graeme must have been eavesdropping as we now had a perfect excuse to get together a few weeks later over in Cheshire! 

We set off at midday, heading first to collect Cindy after Dot and Julie met up at my house. I was still seething as Mr SmartCookieSam had let me drive his car but was watching me like a hawk reversing out of our drive. He’s the one who crashed into our neighbours’ van when he wasn’t looking! I shouted at him out of the window to stop looking at me! Anyway, once Dot, Julie and I were on our way!  The traffic on the M62 around Manchester was a nightmare and we got stuck in a huge jam. Don’t tell Mr SmartCookieSam that someone nearly cut me up trying to get in front Fortunately once we’d refuelled ourselves we weren’t that far away from the Wirral and the pretty village of Thornton Hough. I don’t really know this part of the UK very well, although I went to a wedding at the church in Port Sunlight many years ago followed by the reception at a hotel near Bebington. Thornton Hough was a beautiful picture postcard village with half timbered style houses. We chose to go and find the venue first in the light before we checked into our hotel. Luckily it was easy to find in the village and was next door to a pub with a car park.

When we got parked up and found the Village Hall the manager of the Village Hall, a great friendly guy called Neil came out and chatted to us. He very kindly took a photo of the four of us in front of the Village Hall although the poor man nearly got run over trying to cross the road to get a decent shot on Dot’s phone camera!  Thank you, Neil and you made us feel most welcome.

Later on we got to the Village Hall which was a real gem of a building.  Inside it had high ceilings and original wooden beams with another room and a bar attached to it.  A perfect place for an intimate gig. The seating was arranged around tables and it looked like a full house once everyone was in and sat down. We got our table organised and eagerly waited for the evening to start.  It didn’t disappoint us.  We first were entertained by Steve   with his acoustic guitar. His music warmed up the show, which we really enjoyed.  Then it was time for Graeme and Dean.  Dean started off their part of the show with a couple of songs of his own.  Graeme appeared from behind a large curtain at the side of the stage to join Dean playing one of his songs.  Dean then left the stage so that Graeme could perform some of his own songs.  He started off with his “Kiss Of Life” a song I’ve always loved from his Mr Understanding album, closely followed by “Heart Of Stone”  Heart of Stone also had an excerpt of “A Hard Day’s Night” with it. Graeme then followed this with a newbie from the fabulous “Thought Collector” album: “Summer Rain” which we first heard him perform back in June in Glasgow.

Then it was time for the part of the show which made this into the unique experience it was. Dean and Graeme had been thinking of some themes for the song which they were going to write together live in front of us with possible contributions from us, the audience! I had been wondering what the theme for the song would be about. Would it be a love song? Or about the cities which both Graeme and Dean both grew up in?  Or would it be a political song or about musical heroes of theirs? It was going to be an intriguing experience.  In the end both Graeme and Dean came up with the idea of “The Politician and The Poet” as Donald Trump had just been elected President of the USA and Leonard Cohen had sadly died. 

 We were also invited to contribute some lyrics. I didn’t offer any suggestions as I am totally the opposite of Dean.  If I have to write something it takes me ages to do with constant drafting and redrafting. Thinking of something off the top of my head is a real struggle for me even though it happens a lot in my job. Now if I’d been asked to go away and come back 1/2 hour later with some ideas, I would have been fine. I was happy to sit back and watch it unfold.  Anyway they had worked out the guitar chord progression they wanted to use and it was amazing to see Dean scribbling away all the lyrics in his notebook.  He got it all to fit in and a song began to emerge in front of our eyes.  Even Marti Pellow got in on the act and had recorded a voice message with a line for the song. This appeared on Graeme’s phone which was a funny moment in the show. 

 It wasn’t long before the song was finished and it was going to be videoed for Dean’s website and YouTube. Graeme asked the audience if anyone would like to come up and be backing dancers!  I don’t know what came over me but I stood up and walked behind Graeme on the stage.  It was an amazing feeling to be stood behind someone I’ve admired for nearly 30 years but I enjoyed every minute.  After the song was complete, Graeme performed Goodnight Girl and Love Is All Around for us. Finally, we were invited to get up and dance along to Roll Over Beethoven followed by Status Quo’s Sweet Caroline! I love a good dance so any excuse to get up and strut my stuff is fine by me. 

All too soon an incredible evening was over and we all said what a fantastic show it was. Thankyou so much to Graeme and Dean for putting it on, what an original and unique idea to write a song on stage in front of an audience.  As Graeme explained when he first met Dean that Dean said he was “a twenty a day man,” which Graeme thought meant how many ciggies he smoked but really meant how many songs he could write!  What a unique talent. I hope that Graeme and Dean put on another show like this in the future, it was a massive success.  To hear the song and see the video I have seen it on Facebook but am not sure how to share it here.

For us Yorkshire Wetties the night was still young.  We walked into the Village Hall bar to have another drink before we went back to the hotel and heard there was a Wet Wet Wet Greatest Hits CD playing on the stereo. We were on a real high after the gig and started singing along to the songs, our impromptu Wets karaoke session.  Unfortunately I had taken full advantage of not being the designated driver for once and had had far too much Prosecco. I don’t normally drink much on nights out but I wasn’t the only one, though! By this time I was drinking fizzy water and diet coke  but it didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves, including me completely forgetting I was hopeless at playing the violin and trying to play along to the string section in Angeleyes without a bow! I played for a year at secondary school and I sounded like a cat being strangled. Thank God there wasn’t a bow with the violin, we would have been barred for life!

  Finally it was time for us to go back to the hotel but we were full of what amazing night it had been.  Thankyou once again to Graeme and to Dean.

For more information about Graeme:

Graeme’s Website: www.graemeclark.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GraemeClarkOfficial/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/graemeclark1

For more information about Dean:

http://www.deanjohnsonmusic.co.uk/index.html

Mint Oreo Cookie Brownies.

When you’re on a diet you find all the yummy goodies on special offer in the supermarket. Either that or you see tempting treats you haven’t seen in the U.K before. During October half term week a couple of weeks back, I was in Morrisons with my son. I was meant to be buying some dishwasher tablets but on the spur of the moment we decided to get a DVD for a movie afternoon. My son wanted some Pringles and some Oreo cookies to eat. This was torture to me as once I eat one Pringle, that’s it! It’s fatal with me. The same goesn for Oreos. Anyway, polish my Halo! I bought some mini packets of Sunbites popcorn and also a packet of Maltesers. I counted my Slimming World syns and stuck to it. But, I’m not all that perfect and saintly. A packet of Mint Flavoured Oreos found their way into my basket. I told my son they were not to trough, they were for my baking stash.

Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon of half term week.  I’m at home feeling like I want to bake something. But I know I can’t eat it. I want to try something out. I’ve done my jobs, well as much as I can because my Hoover’s broken and I’ve got to wait in until my new one arrives. I try to keep my hands busy doing cross stitch but I want to bake.  My son gets up late, eats his breakfast just before I’m about to eat my lunch and half way through the afternoon says he’s hungry. He looks in the cupboard and spots a giant tub of Haribos which I’ve bought in for Trick or Treaters. He nags and pleads me to open the tub so he can have one. I know that if he has one there will be none left for Hallowe’en. He tries to run off with the tub but I grab it off him. He then spots my Mint Oreo cookies. In my present mood, I cave in and let him have a couple to test out.  I now have to bake something with it, or he will eat the rest of the packet when I’m not looking.

Brownies are a massive favourite of mine and it would take iron willpower not to eat one. I knew it would be hard not to resist them, especially as I was bored and fed up. But I kept telling myself I’ve lost nearly a stone since I came back from my holiday in Canada last July and half a stone on Slimming World. I just have to keep focussing on fitting into clothes that haven’t fitted me for years. This has been my goal as my favourite red dress fits me again, although it is a bit tight.

MINT OREO COOKIE BROWNIES

Ingredients:

275g softened butter

375g light brown soft sugar

4 large, free range eggs

75g cocoa powder

100g self raising flour

1 tsp natural peppermint extract

100g  coarsly crushed Mint Oreo Cookies

  • Grease and line a 30 x 23cm traybake tin with butter and with baking parchment. Preheat your oven to 1800C/ 160oC fan or Gas Mark 4.
  • Measure all the ingredients except for the cookies out into a large bowl and beat together until the mixture is evenly blended.  Fold in half the crushed cookies.
  • Spoon the mixture into the tin, making sure it is evenly spread and level. Sprinkle the remaining crushed cookies on top of the brownies.
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for about 40-45 minutes or until your brownies begin to get a crusty top.
  • Leave the brownies to cool down in the tin then cut into pieces. I usually cut brownies into 12 pieces if they are for a dessert or 24 for a cakey treat.img_0754img_1574

When the brownies had baked my kitchen smelled heavenly.  I didn’t try one but Mr SmartCookieSam and my son said they tasted gorgeous.  Another one to try in the future.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pumpkin Bundt With Ginger Cream Filling.

A week last Sunday was Pudsey and West Leeds’ Clandestine Cake Club event. The theme was Harvest Time and it was a great opportunity to bake with fruits or vegetables which are abundant at this time of year.  I don’t have green fingers or the space to grow vegetables in my garden though it’s something I would love to be able to do if I had a bigger back garden.  Instead I used a tin of Libby’s Pureed Pumpkin which had been in my cupboard for a few months.  My friend Linda had bought me a couple of tins when she was out shopping in Waitrose for herself and I thought a Pumpkin Bundt cake would be perfect for cake club.

I keep telling myself I have enough Nordicware Bundt pans.  I’ve lost count of how many I have.  Then again, I see a new one or one I’ve coveted for a while and I think !I just have to have that! On my day off from work I went over to TKMaxx thinking I could do with a couple of nice cake boxes and ended up coming out with the cake boxes, a mini chopper, some Christmas cupcake cases and the Nordicware Kugelhopf pan.  Did I need it? Did I heck? But it’s a beautiful pan and will last forever.  Being as it’s a traditional design it will get used all year round, too!

My baking inspiration came from a Bundt recipe book bought a few months back. It’s a Nordicware publication entitled “Best Of The Bundt” and I was very impressed with the quality of the recipes.  Even though it’s an American publication with measurements in cups, etc. thankfully there are metric equivalents given as well.

Last Sunday morning I started on the Pumpkin Cake with a Ginger Cream Filling.  The bundt contains a filling of cream cheese, ginger, sugar and flour which is baked into the middle of the cake. The cake itself was a delicately spiced pumpkin bundt infused with cardamom and cinnamon and then flavoured with buttermilk. It sounded too mouthwatering for words and perfect for an Autumn cakey gathering.

I’d left it a bit late to start on the baking. Normally I bake my cake the day before but we were out and about, so I ran out of time.  So last Sunday morning it was. I greased and floured the Kugelhopf pan which is quite a narrow and tall tin.  I hoped this wouldn’t affect the bake.  I reckoned I would have to stick the tin onto a flat baking tray so it wouldn’t tip over in the oven.

First I opened up the tin of pumpkin puree and reserved 2 tablespoonfuls of the puree towards the frosting.  The rest was going into the cake itself.  In a large bowl I creamed together butter and sugar.  As I weighed out the sugar I couldn’t believe how much was going into the cake.  Then into the bowl went 4 large eggs, followed by the pumpkin puree.  This got mixed well together. In another bowl I sifted together some dry ingredients which included some plain flour, ground cardamom, cinnamon and baking powder.  Then, I measured out some buttermilk.  The dry ingredients and the buttermilk got folded into the creamed mixture bit by bit until I ended up with a delicious and aromatic mix.

Then it was time to make up the ginger cream filling.  I’d bought a large tub of full fat Philadelphia cheese especially for the cake.  I was really angry when I got the tub out of the fridge and found it had been opened! Mr SmartCookieSam must’ve nicked some to go on his crackers! It can’t have been my daughter, the other cheese lover in our house as she has been at uni for the past month!  About 2 tbsp had gone which wasn’t much but it meant I didn’t have enough for the frosting. I hoped it wouldn’t spoil it but I wasn’t going to make a fuss over 2 tbsp of cream cheese!

The cream cheese, ground ginger, light brown sugar and 2 tbsp of plain flour all got mixed together to make the ginger cream filling.  I then started to fill the cake tin, starting with 2/3 of the pumpkin mixture. I followed that with the ginger cream cheese mixture, taking care that it wouldn’t get mixed in with the pumpkin flavour or to touch the sides of the pan. Finally, I finished off the cake with the remaining pumpkin mixture.

The bundt was meant to be baked for 65 to 70 minutes but after this time it still felt like the cake wasn’t cooked. I tested it with a skewer but there was still soggy mixture stuck to it in about three places.  After about 80 minutes the cake looked like it had cracked on the top and was ready to come out of the oven.  I had to give it about 10 minutes before I was able to turn it out onto a wire rack. I always panic at this point. This is when all your hard work can be undone in seconds if the cake won’t come out of the tin or it comes out in several pieces.  Thankfully the cake slid out in one piece which made me feel so relieved. Usually I find if the cake is meant for a special occasion or for cake club it turns into a disaster area!

While the cake was cooling down I had to make a glaze cum frosting for the top of the cake. I whipped cream, icing sugar and a little bit of milk together to form the frosting. To this I added finely chopped pecans.  The frosting was then piped onto the top of the bundt with my large star nozzle. To finish off I added whole pecans to decorate the top.

When I cut the cake at cake club later that afternoon I was bitterly disappointed. Despite the cake being in the oven longer than needed and presumably I did stick it in at the right temperature, it came out looking like the middle was uncooked.  I thought it looked disgusting inside but it still got eaten.

Would I bake the cake again? I’d like to try it out again but will have to watch the baking time and the oven temperature.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mint Chocolate M&M Cupcakes.

So far so good with my Slimming World plan.  But I really miss baking.  And what I mean about that is proper baking without using rubbish ingredients to replace the sugar and the butter in cakes.  I’ll just have to be extra strict with myself and keep away from anything I bake.

I’ve had a large bag of Mint M&Ms in my baking cupboard for a few weeks now.  Every time my son comes in the kitchen he’s always asking me if he can have the packet of M&Ms as I hadn’t used them. I told him I was using them to bake cupcakes or cookies with but last Wednesday he’d asked again on his day off from college.  So I thought I would use the M&M’s as decorations on top of some  chocolate mint infused cupcakes which were finished off with a swirl of mint chocolate buttercream.  Those of you who know me well, know I have an addiction to all things mint flavoured and I’m also a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugars.  When they brought out a mint chocolate flavour icing sugar I was in heaven.

MINT CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

 125g softened, unsalted butter.

125g caster sugar

100g self raising flour

25g cocoa powder (I use Green and Blacks)

2 large free range eggs

1 tsp peppermint extract

  • Prepare a 12 hole cupcake tin with your cupcake cases and preheat your oven.  I have an electric fan oven so my oven temperature is about 1600C.
  • Weigh out all the ingredients and mix together in a large mixing bowl. I use the all in one method for baking my cupcakes.  These can either be mixed with a hand held mixer or a free standing one.
  • Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. I usually get two large teaspoonfuls into each case, making sure they are equally divided. I have used a small ice cream scoop to help me in the past but it has broken!
  • Bake the cupcakes on the tray in the middle of the oven for about 15-20 minutes until they are well risen and spring back when touched.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the icing:

250g softened unsalted butter

500g pack of Sugar and Crumbs Chocolate Mint Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar

Milk to mix.

  • Weigh out the butter and put into a large mixing bowl.  Whip it up with a hand held mixer so that it makes it creamy and easier to manage.
  • Sift in the icing sugar and mix carefully. Add in milk, bit by bit until the icing is smooth but not runny. It needs to be of a piping consistency.
  • Prepare a large piping bag with a large star shaped icing nozzle and fill the bag with about 1/3 0f the mixture. Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes.

As the pictures of my cupcakes shows, I used mint flavour M&M’s to top my cakes. You could use anything with a chocolate mint flavour: After Eight mints or Aero Bubbles or Matchmakers.

These cakes always go down well with my family and it was torture not being able to eat one.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Apple Amber Cake

I cannot believe how lazy I’ve been about my blogging recently.  Life has just been so hectic and every time I try to sit down and write something, there’s always something else to do.  I’ve also started on a diet, so I have been trying my hardest not to bake as much. This is torture to me as I really miss it.  So I made a deal with myself. I  said I would bake only for Cake Club or for special occasions. Famous last words: I lasted 4 days after joining Slimming World!  It got to Sunday lunch time and I was working my way through a massive bag of beautiful rosy apples my Dad and step mum had given me.  I just had to bake something and found the perfect recipe in Miranda Gore Browne’s book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can.

Apple Amber is a traditional Irish pudding which is a bit like an Apple Meringue Pie.  Miranda’s recipe is a cake version where the base is a whisked lemon sponge.  The apples are spooned on top as a filling and then the meringue goes on top and is baked in the oven.  It sounded too mouthwatering for words.

First, I had to make the apple filling.  This I tried to do on the Sunday morning when really I should have been finishing off my pile of ironing.  The ironing basket was getting as tall as the Empire State Building but that didn’t stop me from baking!  I used 3 apples as they were quite small and finely chopped them.  Miranda had said to grate them but I find grating things hard work. So I peeled the apples, cored and sliced them into little cubes. They were then put into a pan to stew with some sugar.  As my apples were eaters and quite sweet, I drastically reduced the sugar but added in lemon juice.  Once the apples were pureed down a bit, I took them off the heat and stirred in two egg yolks.

Miranda suggests using a springform cake tin but I couldn’t find the right size one in my cupboard. I just used a normal circular tin but a deep one I use for Christmas cakes.  This gave me enough depth for the lemon sponge cake base, the filling and the meringue part.  As the filling was cooling, I started on the cake part. I whisked butter and sugar together in my KitchenAid, then added in some vanilla extract and two more egg yolks.  While this was whisking away I weighed out the dry ingredients for the cake. I used self raising flour, baking powder and some lemon zest. Finally I added in some milk.

The cake baked very quickly in my fan oven and only took about 20 minutes. I felt the time passed by in a flash as I was doing the meringue part while the sponge was cooking.  Apart from smashing an egg on the work top and then making a mess of separating another egg, I finally managed to make some meringue.  I’m getting better at meringues but sometimes I worry about burning them.

At last it was time to assemble the whole cake together and finish it off in the oven.  I spooned the apple mixture on top of the sponge still in its cake tin and then finally on went the meringue.  I wanted it to look like a big snowy mountain but it just looked like a big mess.  I just hoped it would taste nice.  Back into the oven it went for 15 minutes.

When the cake was ready to come out it smelled wonderful in my kitchen.  I gave it time to cool down before attempting to get the cake out of the tin.  It slid out easily apart from one tiny bit of sponge which got stuck to the side of the tin.  I had greased it, too.

Later on I served the Apple Amber Cake up for pudding.  I had a tiny mouthful and found it quite sugary, even with my sweet tooth. Funnily enough Mr SmartCookieSam, who doesn’t have a sweet tooth liked it and over the next couple of days had more slices of it.  My son ate the cake and meringue bit and left the fruit! I will definitely have a go at baking it again but was wondering if there was a way of reducing the sugar content in the meringue and the apple puree so that it didn’t taste so sweet.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Slimming World Low Syn Christmas Star Cookies.

A few weeks ago I had a wake up call.  It came about the time when I was sorting out some clothes and realised that about two thirds of the items in my wardrobe were far too tight for me.  Trousers with zips that wouldn’t do up, buttons that wouldn’t do up and with gaping holes on my work shirts. Not to mention several dresses and skirts that made my stomach look like I was 6 months pregnant.  My baby is 16 years old!  I also saw several unflattering photos of me taken over the summer where I looked like a beached whale.  All I can say is at least I wasn’t in a bikini on them. I’m not classed as obese but well within the overweight category.  I blame my love of baking but if I don’t bake, I’m not tempted. Trouble is, I love baking and if I don’t do it, I feel I’m missing out. After a couple of attempts at Weightwatchers recently and feeling like I’ve not got anywhere, I decided to try Slimming World. I needed something new and with interesting recipes to motivate me and my family to eat what I cook.

So far in the past 3 weeks I have lost 5.5lbs. This, to me who takes ages even to lose a pound was a real motivator for me.  Not only that but I’ve really enjoyed going to my local group, everyone is so friendly and warm.

Yesterday in group was the launch of Countdown To Christmas and we were asked to bring Syn Free or low Syn Christmas nibbles for a taster session to our group.  I looked on the Slimming World Website for inspiration and came across some ideas for biscuits including a star shaped almond cookie. I was sceptical about baking cookies from a Slimming World recipe as I can’t stand using artificial sweeteners and low fat spreads in baking.  Not only is the taste different, the texture is strange and it’s just not what my baking is all about.  So I tried baking these biscuits with trepidation…eeeeekkk!

Yesterday afternoon I was in a rush after getting in from work late.  Thankfully there were no distractions so I got all the ingredients out and started on the cookies.  I mixed all the flour, baking powder, ground almonds, Canderel, Flora Cuisine and eggs all together to form a smooth dough.  The dough felt more like bread dough than a cookie dough and was a bit springy and like elastic.  It felt strange.  I don’t tend to put raising agents in my roll out cookies, unless it’s gingerbread and I felt as if I couldn’t get the dough thin enough. Also I didn’t want it rising up like pastry or a cake in the oven.

As the cookies were meant to be bite size ones I couldn’t use the normal star shape I use for cookies. Instead I used the second smallest one out of a 3D gingerbread tree set, which gave the perfect size for a nibble.  The recipe said I could get 48 biscuits, I lost count but there were definitely more than 48 there.

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I kept a close watch on the oven as the cookies would bake quickly.  I gave them about 8-10 minutes at about 160oC in my fan oven.  They did expand and rise quite a bit.

To decorate, I mixed up a little bit of glace icing. If I hadn’t made them Slimming World friendly I would have spent ages decorating the stars covering the whole of the top with a flood and fill royal icing and lots of glitter and sprinkles.  Instead I snipped a tiny hole off the bottom of a disposable piping bag and drizzled the icing on here and there, suppose Mary Berry would have said they were “informal”! I found a few bits left in different sprinkles tubs in my baking stash which needed using up. I chucked them altogether into one big jar, shook it up and sprinkled them on the cookies. Most of the sprinkles went on the floor and not on the cookies though!

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My son tasted a couple and said they didn’t taste like normal cookies and tasted bland.  I tried one and thought they were ok. I took them along to group and they went down well. I think, though for a tiny bite they are still 3 syns. That’s still quite a lot for a little biscuit.

Will I bake them again? I’m not sure.  I would rather bake biscuits with butter and caster sugar instead of fake sweeteners and low fat spreads full of chemicals.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx