Baking With French Glace Cherries.

About three weeks ago I went along to Pudsey Clandestine Cake Club‘s last event which was very exciting.  It was sponsored by French Glace Cherries. Sharon the group organiser had been given lots of fantastic freebies for us all to take away and enjoy.  The event’s theme was A Kind Of Magic which to me conjured up images of the Queen song!  Though we all got our baking thinking caps on and there ended up being a little bit of cherry magic in there too!

You can find out more about the fun we had at the event here:

 I ended up baking a Cherry Bundt cake in the shape of a tree as I thought of  a childhood favourite storybook, The Magic Faraway Tree. Watch this space for a post about this cake coming up as soon as I have time to type it!

I was really intrigued to hear about French Glace Cherries.  They are a company I have not come across before.  The cherries themselves are grown down in the South of France (Provence, to be precise) and are completely natural in colour. Not at all like the bright red glace cherries my Nana used to buy to stick on top of her Angel Delight or trifles back in the 1970s!  I am a huge cherry fan and love glace cherries and love adding them to my baking when I can.  So I couldn’t wait to try and bake with them.  We were given a set of recipe cards but there are also loads of suggestions on the French Glace Cherries website.  I loved a lot of the ideas but I did fancy having a go at something myself.

The cherry freebies included two pots of natural coloured cherries. There was a pot of purple cherries and another one full of red ones.  I was very impressed with the quality of the cherries, round and plump and of a substantial size. I thought the purple cherries would work really well with chocolate, both with the colour and with flavour.  As I also love Empire Biscuits, I had a go at baking a chocolate and cherry version!

A batch of chocolate shortbread cooling down on the rack in my kitchen.
The Chocolate Empires were filled with a good quality brand of Morello cherry jam. I love Tiptree jam and their cherry jam has always been a favourite.
The chocolate shortbreads were sandwiched together with the jam and then topped with a cream and dark chocolate ganache.
I didn’t have enough purple cherries to top all the biscuits so had to add two more cherries to finish decorating off the batch from my own stash!
Although I’m doing Weightwatchers I did allow myself one of these little beauties as a treat with a cup of tea!

I was thinking what I could do with my red cherries and came up with a few different ideas.  In the end I settled for some chunky all butter shortbread.  I haven’t baked any shortbread for a long time and I love it, it was always hugely popular when I ran my Sam’s Smart Cookies and Cupcakes stalls.  Trouble is shortbread doesn’t love my figure though!  The temptation was too much to bear though and I made up a batch of shortbread and added the cherries to it.  I washed the cherries thoroughly and patted them dry as well as chopping them up into quarters.  They then got pressed into the mixture hoping that they would stay intact.

I used my regular shortbread recipe which is simply butter, caster sugar, plain flour and cornflour and then added the natural red cherries into the mixture.
The shortbread was cut into 12 large pieces and thankfully the cherry pieces stayed intact. All it needed was a dusting of caster sugar!
Mouthwateringly moreish shortbread. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to touch any- I’m doing Weightwatchers!

The cherry shortbread has been a huge hit with my family over the past few days.  I put the pieces into a box but when I got back in from work yesterday the box was completely empty.  My son and daughter have been eating it after school and my husband who doesn’t have a sweet tooth has been nibbling at it too!

A huge thankyou to French Glace Cherries for sponsoring various Clandestine Cake Club events over the past month.  We were all really happy with our goodies and I look forward to trying out my new kitchen timer and wearing my new apron when I’m next in the kitchen baking!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chicago Town Takeaway Stuffed Crust Pizzas.

Well hello there, long time no see! I’ve just looked through my blog and realised the last time I posted was during the Easter holidays.  All has been very busy in SmartCookieSam land.  I’ve been doing a lot of supply teaching and generally trying to juggle everything life has to offer.  I couldn’t do any blog updates over half term as I was away on holiday in a remote part of Wales where our cottage had no phone signal or WiFi.  I love to get away from things every now and again but you do need the internet for a lot of things these days.  Anyway, enough of my waffle.  Better get on with the job in hand.

I was really looking forward to trying out two of the brand new Takeaway Pizzas from Chicago Town.

A few weeks ago I was given a couple of vouchers to try out two of Chicago Town‘s pizzas from their brand new Takeaway range. To be honest I’m a bit of a snob about pizza.  I only like thin crust ones and rarely buy them for me and my husband to eat at home.  If I do buy pizza, it’s usually as a treat for my kids.  They love deep pan and stuffed crust ones, these types just make me feel bloated up after I eat them.  I make my own pizzas sometimes during the school holidays if I have time but they always look very rustic! I’ll eat pizza if it’s really thin crust from a genuine Italian restaurant or from Pizza Express but I avoid other types.

It was great to try a well loved brand of pizza though.  I remember the mini deep  dish pizzas that Chicago Town do. I used to buy them as a student and when I was a single girl working full time who couldn’t be bothered to cook properly after a long day’s teaching.  Now I find deep dish pizzas too full of carbs for me. Since I’ve married and had kids though most of my cooking is done from scratch.

Chicago Town have brought out a new range called The Takeaway and it features several flavours on two different bases as well as side orders of doughballs.  Just like you would get in your local pizza takeaway.  The two bases included a stuffed crust one and the thin Classic one.  I also noticed there was a limited edition Pulled Pork topping on the stuffed crust base which I knew would be very popular with my 15 year old son!

This is what Chicago Town says on their website about The Takeaway pizzas: “Our takeaway pizzas are made with our unique rising dough that’s not pre-cooked to give you that real takeaway taste”.

I took the vouchers along with me when I was doing a weekly shop at Sainsburys.  It was quite a small Sainsburys so it only offered two varieties of the stuffed crust pizza.  One was the Pepperoni Plus and the other was the Four Cheese Melt.  The pizzas looked very big and would be ideal for a family to share or if you feel peckish to eat the whole one!  I didn’t measure how big the pizzas were but they looked enormous to me.

The pizza  turned out to be a godsend for me.  A couple of days later my husband had to go out to a meeting and we ended up eating separately.  I had to take my daughter to her dance class so a quick tea was needed.  Out came both pizzas, quickly popped into the oven and dinner was ready 1/4 hour later.  We shared the two pizzas between the three of us which gave us four enormous slices.

The Pepperoni Plus Stuffed Crust pizza was enormous and had a generous helping of perpperoni and cheese on it.
Here is the Four Cheese Melt Stuffed Crust pizza about to be put in the oven.
The cooked Four Cheese Melt pizza was cut up into six large slices, two each for myself and my two children!
My kids absolutely loved the Pepperoni Pizza, another two slices each for us

I tried both the Pepperoni Plus and the Four Cheese Melt varieties and I really enjoyed them. The pizza. despite being a stuffed crust one didn’t feel at all doughy to me.  The stuffed crust contained a delicious tomato sauce and the toppings showed a generous layer of cheese and pepperoni under a mouthwatering tomato sauce.

The verdict? Great tasting pizzas and ideal for those times if you are busy and want something to pop in the oven.  Tasted a lot better than the pizza I once had from a local national pizza takeaway.  Much less “doughy”, cheaper at about roughly £4 for a pizza if you bought one from a takeaway and also took a lot less time.  Would I buy them again? Well as I’ve said before I don’t really buy pizzas and haven’t made one of my own for ages.  It tends to be a treat for me if I go out for an Italian meal.  I would try them again if I knew I was in for a busy week and was pushed for time to cook.

I was sent the vouchers for free so that I could try out the pizzas and review them.  I have not been paid to write the post.

Love Sam xx