Strawberry Shortcake

Yesterday was one of those days where I had loads to catch up on.  Having been ill or looking after ill children for most of last week, the weekend ended up full of doing chores and running errands.  My hubby was out for all of the morning and some of the afternoon at an antiques fair, at Homebase and also stocking up at the supermarket. With a growing teenage son stocking up at the supermarket is an almost daily occurence in our house at the moment!

Anyway, chores or no chores I like to keep my traditions or routines. We always have a family meal with a pudding on a Sunday.  In the Autumn and Winter months this is usually a roast and a hot pudding at lunchtime but in the summer months we have our main meal in the evening. I still like to have a pudding but it is more likely to be fruit or a cold dessert.  I made a traybake meal of chicken breasts with garlic, onions, sliced new potatoes, peppers, Italian herbs drizzled lightly with olive oil roasted in the oven and served with steamed green beans.  This was a massive hit with all the family and I was so happy when it was all eaten up.

For pud I chose to bake a Strawberry Shortcake.  I have been growing strawberry plants at home. I have one growing on my kitchen windowsill in a pot and the strawberries were ripe and ready (all five of them!!!) The ones outside have just got to the fruit growing stage and have lost the flowers so they’ll be a while yet. I had some strawberries from Morrisons that needed using up and I wanted to incorporate my “bumper” crop in the shortcake.

One of my favourite cookbooks at the moment, the fabulous Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook available in all good bookshops!
One of my favourite cookbooks at the moment, the fabulous Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook -available in all good bookshops!

The strawberry shortcake recipe was from my fabulous Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook and was one of Lynn Hill’s own recipes which are published in the book.  Lynn describes the shortcake as “a perfect summer treat”  I totally agree with that!

The shortcake itself is a scone recipe: self raising flour, baking powder sifted into a bowl with sugar stirred in. Then butter is added and rubbed in with your fingertips.  Afterwards, you add egg, milk and vanilla extract and then combine to form a dough. This was a bit on the sticky side but I took care not to overwork it.

The dough was then put into a greased and lined 8″/ 20cm round and loose bottomed cake tin. I had to press it down carefully so it went into all the spaces with no gaps.  Into the oven it went for about 20-25 minutes.  When it came out of the oven the cake was left to cool on the rack before I had to slice it in half horizontally.

The utterly scrumptious Strawberry Shortcake from the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.
The utterly scrumptious Strawberry Shortcake from the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.

As you can see from the photo, the cake looks a bit messy! Well, I don’t think the shortcake had totally cooled down when I sliced it, making bits fall off it. To be honest I was rushing by the end as I should have made it earlier on in the day but I had got sidetracked by ironing and all that.  I whipped up the cream but put far too much on the bottom layer, then adding halved strawberries made the cream ooze out everywhere.  At least it was still edible!  Dusted with caster sugar and topped with the five strawberries from my own plant,  it was okay.

So what was the family’s verdict behind the pudding?  Despite the messy appearance of the cake they all loved it.  We only had a small slice as it was quite calorific with all that cream.  My hubby had a piece earlier on today and said that it didn’t taste as fresh even though it had been in the fridge. This is clearly a cake you eat on the day you make it to taste it at it’s best.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Oat Cookies

A few weeks ago my mum came up to visit us when it was our village Open Gardens. She usually helps me with the baking for the cookie and cupcake stall that we have outside our gateway to raise funds for the village.  My mum had treated herself to a fabulous new recipe book called The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book.  I was fascinated by this book and even more amazed that my mum said it had only cost £5!  It had come from The Book People. I just had to buy a copy for myself.

Mum and I sat down planning what we were going to bake. I always have my staple favourites which I sell time after time on my Sam’s Smart Cookies stalls but occasionally I love to try something different.  Yet, I had to choose something that would taste delicious yet not be too sickly sweet.

Looking through the book we noticed a recipe for Oat Cookies.  I have made oat and raisin cookies before but some people say they don’t like raisins.  I thought these cookies would be a great alternative, they only contained five ingredients and were just like flapjacks in biscuit form!

For the stall, my mum made the cookies and they all sold.  I was keen to get hold of a copy of the book and was delighted when The Book People rep turned up at work. In the box of book samples was the very book I was looking for!  So, I was keen to make something out of it as soon as I could.

The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book by Antony Wild and Carol Pastor
The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book by Antony Wild and Carol Pastor

Here’s how they were made:

First, I melted butter, soft light brown sugar and golden syrup gently in a saucepan until the butter melted and the sugar had dissolved.  After this had cooled slightly I tipped rolled oats and some self raising flour into the pan.

This was stirred together until well combined.  I then used my small ice cream scoop to put small balls of cookie dough spaced well apart on baking trays covered in baking parchment. I only put six on a tray as they spread out when baking.

I like my cookies quite soft so I kept them in the oven for 12-15 minutes.  They were hard enough to move off the tray onto the cooling rack but still soft enough to eat!

Here they are, all ready to be eaten with a cup of tea! Gorgeously chewy oat cookies, nomnomnom!
Here they are, all ready to be eaten with a cup of tea! Gorgeously chewy oat cookies, nomnomnom!

Cherry Bakewell Muffins

At the end of April I treated myself to John Whaite’s eagerly awaited book “John Whaite Bakes”. I had baked some apricot and white chocolate flapjacks from the book a few weeks back but since then had not got round to baking anything else.  I wanted something that wouldn’t be too complicated or take too long to bake and also something that my family would eat.

I also wanted to make something that used ingredients I had already got in my baking cupboard.  So, I was pleased to see a recipe for Bakewell Muffins.  I had cherries and almonds to use up and some new muffin cases I wanted to try out. They were different fruit patterned ones I found in Boroughbridge Hardware, my local bakeware shop.  The muffin cases were of brilliant quality, they are a make where the pattern stays intact and doesn’t fade once they have baked. There’s nothing worse than a blurred cake case, it drives me insane!

So, Cherry Bakewell Muffins it was, then!

Cherry Bakewell Muffins, recipe on page 155 of John Whaite Bakes
Cherry Bakewell Muffins, recipe on page 155 of John Whaite Bakes

The oven was preheated first, while I looked in my cupboard for the muffin cases.  I found them easily in a large plastic box where I keep all my cases so that they don’t get damaged.  Once that was out of the way I got on with the baking.

First of all plain flour and baking powder was sifted into a bowl.  I also weighed out and rinsed the glace cherries carefully.  I was trying so hard to rinse all the sticky syrup off them, then I added a spoonful of flour to the bowl.  The cherries then got chopped up roughly into quarters so that they would be small enough. They were tossed in the flour and then added to the flour, baking powder and also to some caster sugar.

All the wet ingredients were mixed together in a jug- milk, eggs, melted butter and some almond extract. I love almond extract and it’s smell is just gorgeous. It is very powerful stuff though, so I had to be careful not to splash in too much.  The two mixtures were folded together carefully but not over mixed.

Finally the batter was divided between the twelve muffin cases and popped into the oven for about 25-30 minutes.

I was a bit rushed when I put the mixture into the cases and didn’t divide them that well.  I was thinking I had to get the lunch ready so I would have to crack on, sadly this was noticeable when the muffins came out of the oven!  One was only half the size of some of the others, then there was another one billowing over the top. Now, if they had been for a customer they would have gone in the bin and I would have made some more!

The better of the muffins!  Lots of lovely, luscious cherries to be seen inside the cake!
The better of the muffins! Lots of lovely, luscious cherries to be seen inside the cake!

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Once the muffins came out of the oven, it was lunchtime so I left them to cool on the rack while we had our soup and bread for lunch.  After lunch I made up a small bowl of glace icing to drizzle across the top of the muffins.  In the recipe book there isn’t an accompanying picture or mention of icing the muffins. I used icing sugar, lemon juice and water to make a stiff icing.  Once this was made up I found one of my disposable piping bags, snipped a tiny corner off the end of it and quickly drizzled the icing haphazardly across the top of the muffins.  Finally, I scattered a few flaked almonds on the top, hoping they would stick to the icing.

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The result looked great for the muffins that had risen well.  I immediately cut one open to photograph it so that you could see the cherries inside.  I was so tempted to eat one and I had to steel myself. It was torture.  After about half an hour I could bare it no longer.  I just had to have one and I caved in!  No wonder my excess weight is coming off very slowly!  I had to put the rest away in a box when the icing had set and well away out of sight!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Honey Madeleines

A few weeks ago I was really excited to get my copy of Jo Wheatley’s latest book “Home Baking”.  It has become another book I am determined to bake lots out of.  This book, however isn’t any old baking book and although there are traditional favourites, there are also some modern twists and different flavour combinations.  Some of which I would never have thought of using.

Honey Madeleines- little cakes which are perfect with a cup of coffee or a scoop of vanila ice cream.
Honey Madeleine s- little cakes which are perfect with a cup of coffee or a scoop of vanila ice cream.

A couple of years ago I bought a madeleine tin in Lakeland. It was one of those Buy One, Get One Half Price offers and I had gone in to buy another cupcake tin.  There were lots of different tins included in the offer but the unusual shell pattern of the madeleine tin caught my eye.  I had seen packets of madeleines in supermarkets and boulangeries on holiday in France but I had never actually tried any, let alone baked them!  I had to give them a try as I keep seeing them in lots of different recipe books.

Jo’s book has a recipe for Honey Madeleines based on some that she tasted in a restaurant in New York.  She described them as “warm, soft and buttery with a dust of icing sugar” and they stuck in her mind.  My mind was made up, I had to try them!

Last Saturday afternoon I was in an experimenting mood.  I had not baked for nearly a week due to the sickness bug that floored my two children (miraculously escaping my hubby) and I missed my baking fix.  I had some Welsh honey left over from my holiday at half term and thought it would be perfect in the madeleines.

So, I set to.  First of all I sifted self raising flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.  In another bowl I whisked eggs, sugar and half the honey.  Meanwhile I had melted butter and let it cool down.  After it had cooled, the dry ingredients were combined and whisked together.

Now, as I was being distracted, I ended up not reading some of the instructions. Jo suggests pouring the batter into a piping bag and piping the mixture in the madeleine tins until they are two thirds full.  I had been careful to grease the tins carefully with Cake Release but I ignored the piping bag advice and spooned the mixture into the 12 shells using two teaspoons like you do when you are filling cupcake cases!  No wonder I made a right mess! Also, I spooned far too much mixture in so when the madeleines were baked they puffed up and rose well out of the tin!

I was careful to watch the timer though as they only needed 5 minutes baking time, a quick tray turnaround and then another five minutes to finish them off.  They came out of the oven in record time and had overflowed but looked ok.  Once I had freed them from the tin after about 1/4 hour I brushed them with the remaining honey and dusted them with icing sugar.

The madeleines all ready and waiting to be eaten!
The madeleines all ready and waiting to be eaten!

I took a bite out of one and gave the rest to my son as I am TRYING to lose weight.  You could taste the honey flavour and they tasted very sweet, yet light and airy.  My son loved them and promptly took another.  I went off upstairs to put some laundry away only to find two more missing off the wire rack!  I had to put them away before the rest went.  So, all in all I think I will definitely make madeleines again but I would love to try different flavours.

One isn't enough says my 13 year old son!
One isn’t enough says my 13 year old son!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Welsh Baking

At half term week we had a holiday in Ceredigion, West Wales where we stayed in a lovely holiday cottage in New Quay.

 

We stayed in Forget Me Not Cottage which we rented from West Wales Cottages, a traditional cottage which was beautifully decorated and well equipped.

This was our fourth visit to Wales in five years as we love the area. My hubby lived near Cardigan from being a toddler until he was 11 so it is a place very close to his heart.  He grew up on a farm and loved the area. His family moved to Norfolk when he started secondary school.  Since I have been going to Ceredigion on holiday I can see exactly why he loved it so much and I now feel the same.

I have lots of connections with Wales, especially North Wales.  I have family in the Colwyn Bay and Llandudno area and spent four years living in Bangor and Menai Bridge when I was at the teacher training college there in the early 1990’s.  As I am such a greedy girl and a foodie whenever we go away anywhere I love trying all the local delicacies, especially the cakes.

Welsh cakes are very popular all over Wales.  In Welsh they are called Pice Ar Y Maen or Teisen Gri.  I saw these delicious specialities being cooked on a griddle in the window of a bakery on Cardigan High Street. The bakery was called Y Popty (which I think translates as The Bakery) In previous years my sister in law and I used to buy loads of them still warm off the griddle which was heaven.  This year I bought them ready sealed from Y Popty in a packet of 8, took them back to the cottage and reheated them in a frying pan to warm them through. Slathered in butter and eaten warm, you just can’t beat them!

Welsh cakes bought from a bakery in Cardigan. You could have them warm straight from the griddle though I warmed them up when we got back to the cottage!
Welsh cakes bought from a bakery in Cardigan. You could have them warm straight from the griddle though I warmed them up when we got back to the cottage!

While we were away we had some delicious meals out but one of the nicest meals we had was at a local honey farm down the road from where we were staying in New Quay. New Quay Honey Farm has a beekeeping/ honey exhibition and a Meadery which we had seen before back in 2009 when we visited.  The Honey Farm also had a well stocked gift shop selling their delicious honey, mead, mustard and other delicacies.  I bought two varieties of honey, some ginger chutney and some honey wholegrain mustard.  My mum treated herself to some walnuts soaked in honey, which also looked gorgeous.  My mum said she thought they would taste delicious with Greek Yoghurt.

My two jars of honey- one runny, the other set. As you can see, we have already been eating it!
My two jars of honey- one runny, the other set. As you can see, we have already been eating it!

Another thing I treated myself to was a little book of Welsh Baking, which I thought was a great bargain at only £1.50. It contained unusual and traditional recipes which I am keen to try as well as the more well known of the Welsh bakes such as Bara Brith and Welsh Cakes.

My Welsh baking book which I bought on holiday in New Quay.
My Welsh baking book which I bought on holiday in New Quay.

The Honey Farm also had a tearoom which had seating outside in tranquil surroundings.  We sat outside to eat our lunch where there was a stream and trees on a pretty patio.  It was great to enjoy the warm sun and eat our lunch. I loved my Welsh Rarebit made with local Welsh cheese served with a salad garnish. I tested out the mustard and the ginger chutney in the pots brought to our table.  To finish we treated ourselves to some traditional cakes baked with honey from the farm in them.  We ordered a honey flapjack, some honey Bara brith and some honey cake baked in a honeycomb shaped tin which we split three ways so my hubby, mum and I could taste each one. The kids missed out as they wanted to go into New Quay on their own for fish and chips and ice cream.

Back at home I tested out my baking book last weekend. I made Bara Brith but added a tablespoon of the runny honey to the mixture.

Bara Brith (Welsh fruit loaf).  I took this loaf into work to share with my colleagues.
Bara Brith (Welsh fruit loaf). I took this loaf into work to share with my colleagues.

The other recipe I was keen to try was the Aberffraw biscuits or Teisennau Aberffraw.  The introduction to the recipe says: “Named after Aberffraw in Anglesey, once famous as a residence of the Welsh princes, these sweet, biscuit like little cakes are traditionally cut out using a small scallop shell”

Not having a scallop shell I had to use something else.  I do have a seashell cookie cutter in my collection of cutters I use for my Sam’s Smart Cookies business so I thought I would use that instead.  The biscuits were made with three ingredients: unsalted butter, caster sugar and flour.  The recipe book is an old fashioned one and uses imperial measures and farenheit oven temperatures but this didn’t worry me.  It didn’t specify which sort of flour to use but I presumed they meant plain flour as that is usually used for biscuits.  The recipe did not say how many biscuits you would get from the mixture but I managed 14 cookies. I was careful not to overwork the mixture so it would roll out easily as it was quite crumbly.

The cookies were baked for 10-15 minutes in my oven and once cooled I dusted them with icing sugar.  My son ate most of them over the next few days and said they were delicious.  I will definitely be baking them again.

Aberffraw Biscuits- my take on the traditional biscuits from Anglesey.
Aberffraw Biscuits- my take on the traditional biscuits from Anglesey.

There are many more recipes I would like to try from my recipe book.  There is a recipe for a Honey and Ginger Cake (Teisen Fel a Sinsir) which I love the sound of.  Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx