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.

I could be tempted to wolf down these little beauties but I resisted.

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 take on a traditional childhood classic family favourite: Lemon Party Rings.

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.

Mini Strawberry Milkshake Empire Biscuits. 
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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