I was really keen to bake the Coconut Macaroons from the Great British Bake Off’s Biscuit Week Technical Bake as I love coconut. I’d never baked coconut macaroons though so this was a first for me. I don’t really think of macaroons as biscuits though, I think of them as small cakes!
The Technical challenge followed Prue Leith’s recipe which is featured on the Bake Off website:
I cheated a little with the recipe and instead of making my own mango curd, I used ready made lemon curd! It needed using up and there was no point in buying in a mango especially.
Half the macaroons were filled with small pieces of chocolate and the other half with a small amound of lemon curd. I then put the rest of the coconut mixure on top so the filling was encased.
When the macaroons had baked, I let them cool down and drizzled them with dark chocolate.
I have seen versions of coconut macaroons where they are baked with rice paper on the base. I couldn’t find any when I was out shopping so I was really hoping that if I used the baking parchment underneath the macaroons at least they wouldn’t stick to the tray! I’ve also seen coconut macaroons where the the base is also dipped in chocolate but I didn’t have enough chocolate left to do that.
Love Sam xx
How are you all doing? As I write, I’m catching up on my day off after a busy first week back at work. My workplace reopened last Monday and it’s just fantastic to be back. To mark the day of reopening, I just had to celebrate by taking in some baking to share with my workmates. I hadn’t baked for a couple of weeks as I just haven’t had the interest or the motivation to do it.
I baked lemon cupcakes to begin with. It’s been a while since I’ve baked lemon cupcakes even though they usually go down well. I have struggled to find plain icing sugar recently but I had some packets of Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugar left from a big order I had back in April. One of the packs was a lemon and blueberry flavour. I can’t really remember if I have tried it before but I thought I’d get it out and make something with it. I know it looks like I’m always mentioning Sugar and Crumbs, but it’s genuinely because I love their icing sugars. I’m not on commission from them or anything!
My lemon cupcake recipe is so simple because I use the all in one method. I also don’t use baking powder because I want my cupcakes to have a level top for icing. When I add baking powder to a cupcake recipe I always get a peaked top like a mountain!
You will need a 12 hole cupcake tin and some cupcake cases.
125g Stork or softened butter
125g caster sugar
125g self raising flour, sifted
2 large free range eggs
1 grated zest of a lemon
For the icing:
250g softened butter
500g icing sugar *
Juice of 1 lemon *
4- 6 tbsp milk to mix
Yellow food colouring (optional)
Sprinkles or jellied lemon decorations
*If using Sugar and Crumbs Lemon and Blueberry or Lemon Drizzle icing sugar then omit the lemon flavouring. If you find the flavoured icing sugar too strong, you can use half ordinary icing sugar, half flavoured. I would also leave out the lemon juice. Adding food colouring is also entirely up to you.
- Pre-heat your oven to 180oC/ 160oC fan/ 350oF/ or Gas Mark 2. Put the cupcake cases into the tin.
- Weigh out all your ingredients into one large mixing bowl and mix together until well combined, light and fluffy.
- Spoon into cake cases. I usually get two heaped tablespoonfuls in each case.
- Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. When the cakes are done, they should spring back to the touch.
- Place on a wire rack to cool.
- Make the icing: beat the butter until light and fluffy. This might take a few minutes to get it really creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat in bit by bit. Don’t do what I do and end up with clouds of icing sugar all over the kitchen! Add in the milk and lemon juice until you get a great piping consistency.
- Prepare a large piping bag with a star or a plain nozzle and fill it with about a third of the mixture. Pipe in swirls on top of the cupcake. I normally get about 4 cupcakes iced, then add the decorations before the icing begins to set.
- Repeat until all the cupcakes are iced and decorated.
Let me know if you do try out this recipe. I’d love to see how you decorate your lemon cupcakes as well!
Love Sam xx
I’ve been meaning to write this blog post up for ages. Having a bit more time being in lockdown has given me the time to add more things on the blog. Scone’s have always been one of my favourites. You can’t beat a fresh, homemade scone. One of the things I am really looking forward to doing when cafes and restaurants have opened up again is to meet up with one of my besties, Sharon. We love to put the world to rights and have a good old catch up over a cream scone and a cuppa at Fodder on the outskirts of Harrogate.
This scone recipe works for me every time. I always put dried fruit in mine but if you don’t like it, just leave it out. Make sure you have lots of clotted or whipped cream alongside a good quality jam to serve with it. The last time I baked scones I served them with some Blackcurrant and Sloe Gin Jam which my mum had bought for me when she visited a National Trust property.
To also make the perfect scone, I have a few tips which have helped me over the years.
Remember not to overcook the scones or they will become heavy. You are looking for a soft and light texture here. When you are forming the dough, use a round bladed or palette knife to bring it together a bit like you do with pastry. Try not to handle the dough too much. I do use a rolling pin to flatten out the dough, but I don’t roll the dough much. It’s more like a light pressing. When putting the cutter into the dough, don’t twist it or it distorts the shape of the scone.
My Favourite Sultana Scone Recipe
Makes 12 scones.
You need two baking trays lined with non- stick baking paper. I use a medium sized cutter for my scones. I think the one I use is a 5cm one. Some people prefer plain edges, some fluted. With me, I read somewhere that you use a plain edge for sweet scones and a fluted one for savoury. I must admit I’ve done both, depending on what I fancy using at the time.
450g self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g caster sugar
100g sultanas or raisins (optional)
1 medium free range egg, beaten
Whole milk to mix
- Pre-heat the oven to 190oC/ Fan 170oC/ 375oF/Gas 5.
- Weigh out all your ingredients and cut your butter into small cubes.
- Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
- Add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and the sugar and stir through carefully.
- Stir in the sultanas if you are using them.
- Pour in the beaten egg and work the dough together. You might need to add a few drops of milk as well.
- Sprinkle some flour on your worktop as well as on your rolling pin. Then roll or pat the dough lightly. The dough should be about 1.5cm thick. Cut into rounds. Gather up the remaining dough and re-roll carefully taking care not to overwork the dough. Cut more rounds until you have used the dough up.
- Put the scones onto your prepared baking sheets. I usually have two sheets with six scones on.
- Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack but serve as soon as you can, the fresher the better!
You can choose whether you want to use a plain or a fluted cutter.
You can’t beat scones served with jam and whipped cream. I love clotted cream as well when I can get hold of it.
I have also baked this recipe as a plain scone as seen in the photo above. This was taken at a family birthday afternoon tea last year and the scones were made without fruit in.
Let me know if you try my recipe and what you think about it.
Love Sam xx
It’s been ages since I’ve baked muffins. At the beginning of the lockdown when going off to the supermarket for our weekly shop, my son asked if I could buy some of those mini muffins you can buy in plastic tubs on the bakery counter. I never usually buy these as they taste horrible to me. I bought him a tub of them but when he asked again the following week, I said I would make him some homemade ones instead. After all, even though they come off the supermarket bakery counter, you still don’t know what they put in them. Would you believe, I couldn’t find any dark chocolate or milk chocolate chips. Luckily my local village shop had them in on a couple of visits.
I love making muffins as there’s not a lot of preparation goes into making them. They can be done in just about half an hour. But I do reckon they taste best on the day you make them. I love a muffin with a cup of my favourite coffee or a mug of tea and even have the odd one for breakfast if I’m in a rush on a working day morning.
My recipe for Chocolate Chip Muffins makes 12 generous size ones and they do fill over the tops of the muffin cases. I love those tulip muffin cases the best for baking in. They look pretty and give great results. I haven’t got any left at the moment so the red spotty ones I used here in the picture were from a tub from John Lewis mixed with yellow and orange spotty cases. They are still very pretty and good quality, though.
I also chose to add some vanilla yoghurt to the muffins to keep them moist and to add flavour. Use full fat yoghurt, though.
CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS
Makes 12. You will need a 12 hole muffin tray and 12 muffin cases.
350g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large, free range eggs
200ml full fat vanilla yoghurt
200g light brown soft sugar (preferably) but I ended up using Demerera as there wasn’t any other brown sugar in the shops
115g butter (melted before adding)
200g dark or milk chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 180oC/ Fan 160oC/ Gas 4 or 350oF. Prepare your muffin tin by putting the paper muffin cases in the holes.
- Weigh out all your “dry” ingredients into a large mixing bowl: the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the chocolate chips. The only exception is the sugar. Mix these together with a wooden spoon.
- In another bowl, weigh out all your “wet” ingredients and the sugar. I find it easier to melt the butter beforehand in the microwave for about 30 seconds and to pre-beat the eggs in another bowl so you just tip them all into the bowl with the sugar and yoghurt. Mix together with a wooden spoon.
- Fold all the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not over mix but just fold to combine. This is best done with a large metal spoon.
- Spoon the muffin batter into the cases. Try and fill to the top as much as you can.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the muffin tops spring back when you press them gently with your finger.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes then remove from the muffin tin. Put the muffins to cool down on a wire rack.
These muffins could be adapted to make chocolate orange ones if you substitute the vanilla yoghurt for natural yoghurt and add some grated zest of an orange to the mixture.
I couldn’t wait to tuck into a muffin. I made myself a cup of tea and sat with it out in the garden enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
Let me know if you try out this recipe and what it comes out like.
Love Sam xx
When you hear of Fat Rascals you immediately think of Betty’s the world famous tearooms. As I live in North Yorkshire, a visit to Betty’s is a lovely treat even though I hate the queues outside the York and Harrogate cafes. I love the one in Northallerton the best as it has a beautiful conservatory at the back as well as being less busy.
A Fat Rascal is a traditional Yorkshire delicacy which is very similar to a rock cake or a scone. There have been different variations of the Fat Rascal. Some recipes include using leftover pastry but they do include dried fruit.
Bettys introduced their version of the Fat Rascal over thirty years ago. Their version is based on a rock cake recipe with a face made from cherries and almonds. This soon became a best seller and now Bettys own the registered trade mark for the name “Fat Rascal”.
I have been going to an evening class which was called Introduction To Patisserie And Confectionery at my local college which has been an absolute pleasure to do. The course ran for ten sessions and our last session was two weeks ago. See, it’s taken me ages to sort this post out! On our last session our tutor asked us to bake Fat Rascals. As they’re my favourite thing to choose off the menu when I go to Bettys (not that I’ve been there for ages), I was really excited to have a go at baking my own version!
Apparently the original Fat Rascal recipe uses lard but I don’t like it! So I was glad that our class version was using all butter.
First, we had to sift flour and baking powder together in a large bowl, then add some cubed butter. We then rubbed the flour and butter in until the mixture made fine breadcrumbs.
To the bowl, we then added some caster sugar, some grated lemon and orange zest, grated nutmeg, ground cinnamon and some dried fruit (currants, raisins and sultanas). These were mixed in evenly.
Then, it was time to add in a beaten egg and some whole milk to bring the mixture into a soft dough. We had to form the dough into eight equal rounds and place them well apart on a lined baking tray. I think if I was baking these at home I might use two trays but at college we use massive commercial size trays and ovens.
We then made an egg yolk and water glaze to brush the top of the Fat Rascals to give them a shiny finish. To complete them we decorated them with glace cherries and whole almonds. I chopped the cherries in half on mine or else the Fat Rascals’ eyes would have been very bulbous, like a goldfish!
I remember standing behind my work station in the college kitchen thinking what a gorgeous smell. There’s something wonderful about the aroma of Fat Rascals baking. Must be something to do with the nutmeg and cinnamon!
When the Fat Rascals came out of the oven I was so tempted to break into one there and then. I’d already had my dinner earlier and this being January I was dieting! It would have to be for breakfast the next morning!
At the end of the class we also got to bake ginger biscuits, which I really enjoyed. On the whole the class had been fun, even though there were some things I found really easy. But a few of us were already looking forward to starting the Intermediate part of the course and some fresh challenges! Though I was very tired that night, I completely forgot to add the ground ginger in. So the ginger biscuits were actually plain ones!
Love Sam xx
I love baking muffins as they’re so quick and easy to throw together and stick in the oven. Though these are really more like cupcakes as I used butter in them.
A quick and easy all in one sponge mix with butter, caster sugar, self raising flour and free range eggs to start with. Then the batter is divided into two. One half is flavoured with cocoa powder, the other with espresso powder.
Then you grab two teaspoons and take it in turns to scoop both flavours into 12 muffin cases. I’ve been very impressed with these plain brown muffin cases from Asda as they’re not greasy and do not peel away from the cake.
I thought the muffins looked a bit plain and boring on top so I drizzled the tops with melted dark chocolate.
These muffins make a perfect Monday morning (or any other day!) treat with a cup of coffee. They’re great to share with friends or to take for the staff room at work.
250g softened butter
250g caster sugar
250g sifted self raising flour
4 medium free range eggs
1 tbsp cocoa powder mixed to a paste with 1 tbsp boiling water
1 tbsp espresso coffee powder mixed to a paste with 1tbsp boiling water
100g bar dark chocolate (to drizzle)
- Put the butter, sugar, flour and eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat with a hand held electric mixer for three to four minutes.
- Divide the mixture equally between two smaller bowls. Put the coffee paste into one bowl and mix thoroughly. Do the same for the chocolate paste.
- Take it in turns to spoon the two different flavour batters into prepared muffin cases in a 12 hole muffin tin. Use a skewer to gently swirl them together for the marble pattern.
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until light and springy to touch. Put on a wire rack to cool.
- Melt the dark chocolate in your preferred way. I always melt mine in the microwave and take it out after a minute, stir it and put it in for another 30 seconds.
- Use a disposable piping bag with a tiny bit off the end snipped off. Fill with the melted chocolate and use to drizzle the chocolate all over the muffins.
- Leave to set or eat straightaway depending how hungry you are! The muffins should keep for about 3-4 days in an airtight container (if they last that long!)
On Tuesday night I met up with a few of my friends over in Meanwood, Leeds at a fantastic new bar called Boot and Rally. We held a cake club event in the bar’s snug which was a great space with the perfect atmosphere. Since The Clandestine Cake Club folded in July last year we have continued to meet up.
The cake club events are slightly different to the Clandestine Cake Club ones in that we are not limited to only bringing a whole cake to cut into and share. We can bring anything we like linked to the theme be it sweet or savoury or cookies or any other bake. As my first love in baking has always been cookies I enjoy doing this. This month’s theme was Mickey Mouse’s Birthday as the Disney legend is celebrating his 90th birthday this year!
Things didn’t quite go to plan when I started baking on Tuesday afternoon. I only had a limited time to bake as I had been to have my nails done in the morning and then had to fit it all in before a hospital appointment on the way over to Cake club. My original plan was to bake a chocolate Bundt cake cut in half turned upright and made to look like Mickey Mouse’s head. The cake would be covered in a chocolate ganache made from Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate spread and Mickey’s ears would be made from Oreo cookies. I would use the leftover chocolate spread as the filling for some shortbread biscuits with Mickey Mouse heads cut out in the middle.
When I started to get the ingredients out of the cupboard and fridge to start the baking I had a nasty shock. I opened the jar of chocolate spread to find three quarters of it had gone! I was so upset and angry as the only person who knew it was there was my eighteen year old son. He had been at home from work on Monday when I was working so he had obviously helped himself to it! He knew it was for my cake club cake as he saw it when I was putting the shopping away after Tesco had delivered it last Friday. It’s not the sort of thing Mr SmartCookieSam eats and my daughter is away at uni. It wasn’t me and it definitely wasn’t the dog!
So after this nasty surprise, what to do now? I looked in the cupboards and was so glad to see that I still had cocoa powder and other ingredients for cupcakes as well as some mini Oreos. For the cookies, I thought maybe I could use jam inside instead. However, I didn’t have much jam left, only honey and marmalade. Or I could hardly give my friends biscuits sandwiched together with Branston Pickle or Colman’s Mustard. I had half a jar of Peach Bellini jam left but only just enough for a few biscuits.
The shortbread cookies are a simple recipe with only four ingredients: unsalted butter, caster sugar, plain flour and an egg combined together and then chilled in the fridge for half an hour. When ready to roll, I rolled out eighteen circles and put them well spaced apart on three lined baking trays. On nine of the circles I used a small Mickey Mouse head shaped cutter to stamp out the shape in the centre of the circle. These were then baked in the oven on 160oC (fan) for about 10-12 minutes. My oven is being really inaccurate at the moment and I noticed two cookies burnt on the right hand side. One of them also snapped when I lifted it off the tray. Well that one went straight in the bin. It turned out that there were only 7 out of 9 which were ok to use. Then another one broke. It definitely wasn’t my day!
So the cupcakes had to work out better. There wasn’t enough filling in the biscuits for the chocolate spread to be used or in the ganache of a whole cake for that matter so it ended up flavouring some chocolate buttercream in some cookies and cream cupcakes with mini Oreo cookies for Mickey Mouse ears sticking up.
I used about 12 mini cookies crumbled up and stirred into the cupcake batter which was a simple chocolate one. I baked the cupcakes in some blue cases with stars in which reminded me of Mickey Mouse’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice Hat from Fantasia.
The chocolate buttercream was made with 100g melted plain chocolate and the only quarter jar of chocolate spread which was left along with icing sugar, butter and some milk. The result was quite a creamy and rich buttercream.
All finished with about half an hour spare to clean up the kitchen, tidy up, get changed, box up the cupcakes and cookies and get to the hospital for my appointment in time.
Love Sam xx
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.
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.
Love Sam xx
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.
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.
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!
Love Sam xx