Cooking The Books March 2014- Baking Update on A Passion For Baking.

I’ve not been very organised at keeping up with the old blog posts recently.  Life has been very busy both at work and at home so blogging has gone a bit by the wayside!  I also managed to delete a load of photos on my phone I’d taken of some Peanut Butter M&M cookies and some Raspberry Iced Fingers!  They were two of the ten recipes I needed to bake from my “Cooking The Books” challenge from this month, which is to bake one recipe from each chapter of Jo Wheatley’s A Passion For Baking. I got as far as sticking the photos on Facebook and Twitter but that was it!

As I don’t have time to write much at the moment I thought I would produce an updated blog post to show everyone how I’m getting on so far this month!  I’ve managed to bake seven out of ten of the recipes and as I’ve had so much on (but then who doesn’t these days, it’s a fact of life!) I can’t even remember how the recipes were baked.  Isn’t that awful but let’s hope as soon as the Easter holidays are here I can concentrate a bit more!

I was very pleased with how the Peanut Butter Cookies from the Biscuit chapter turned out.  I adapted the recipe and added in some Peanut Butter M&Ms bought in Gob Stoppers, an American sweet shop in Trinity Leeds.  This was based on a similar idea from a few months earlier where I baked Chocolate Mint M&M Cookies.  They turned out MAMOOOSIVE and even though I lost the picture to post on here, if you follow me on Twitter (@smartcookiesam) there will be a couple of pics of them somewhere about. The cookies disappeared very quickly as everyone in my family love peanut butter. A big success and one to try again in the future.

A couple of days after I tried baking the Raspberry Iced Fingers from the Bread and Yeast chapter for Sunday lunch pudding instead of a massive, stodgy dessert.  Anything involving yeast is my nemesis but I managed ok with these apart from the fact they looked a bit messy.  They were very naughty but nice but better eaten fresh as my hubby tried eating one the day after and it tasted stale.  No pictures here, either but once again if you are really bothered about seeing what they look like, look through my tweets!

If you like Blueberry Muffins then you will love the Blueberry Muffin Loaf which is in the Brunch chapter of A Passion For Baking.  It has a crumbly streusel like topping which gives the cake a lovely texture.  The cake itself was easy to make and very quick, all put together into a loaf tin.  It was moist and kept well for a couple of days in an airtight tin. Although it was a brunch recipe I baked it to have over the weekend for my family to have with a cup of tea.

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The delicious Blueberry Muffin Loaf Cake.

My hubby went away overnight a couple of weekends ago so I cooked some Singing Hinnies for my two children one Sunday breakfast time.  They reminded me of Welsh cakes which you cook in a griddle pan but Singing Hinnies originate from the North East as they “sing” as they are cooking on the griddle. Hinny is a term of endearment used in the north east, a bit like honey I suppose!  I thought they were delicious and I devoured them spread with jam. Definitely a recipe I have to try again and again!

Singing Hinnies "singing" away in the griddle pan.  They contained currants and were absolutely delicious!
Singing Hinnies “singing” away in the griddle pan. They contained currants and were absolutely delicious!

Last week I had another go at making macaroons, this time it was to try out some Coconut and Pineapple ones.  Unfortunately they burned a bit and the colour came out a bit brown rather than the delicate pastel yellow they were meant to be. My daughter said they tasted nice, though I wasn’t convinced.  I might have another go when I get time as I love the pina colada combination.

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Pineapple and Coconut Macaroons from the Afternoon Tea chapter.
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Even at a better photo angle the macaroons didn’t look their best! Never mind!

Last Sunday I attempted to bake a Swiss Roll for the first time.  I chose to try out the Chocolate Cardamom Swiss Roll from A Passion For Baking as I loved the idea of baking with flavoured sugars.  I made up a jam jar of Cardamom sugar a few days before, leaving the flavour from the cardamom pods to infuse into the sugar.  The smell was gorgeous and the leftover sugar will go beautifully in some shortbread in the future!

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My made up jar of Cardamom Sugar to go in the Chocolate and Cardamom Swiss Roll.
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A bit squished and probably wouldn’t impress Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood but who cares? It tasted fab!
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Oooh all that cream and chocolate made this cake quite calorific but it was worth every mouthful!

So what’s left to bake this month for the Cooking The Books Challenge? I have three recipes left to bake this weekend, after all it’s the end of the month on Monday!  Onion and Port Salut Tart for Saturday lunch with some salad, Eton Mess for Sunday lunch dessert and that leaves something from the Celebration Cakes chapter.  I’m thinking of the chocolate cake decorated with lots of sweets on top!

Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Chocolate Macaroons from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

A week last Friday, when it was Valentine’s Day marked the end of a very busy week for us.  We had just got over a nasty flu virus and were still not feeling one hundred per cent.  The last thing on my mind was Valentine’s Day.  To be honest I don’t really care much for Valentine’s Day, if you love someone you show them every day, not just on 14th February. I do like to buy my hubby a card, we have a nice meal at home and I bake something for him.  It’s usually a big chocolate cake but this year I wanted to make something different.

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Chocolate Macaroons- a pretty Valentine’s Day treat for my hubby.

After I had managed to bake some pistachio and hazelnut macaroons a few weeks back, I was keen to try another recipe.  My hubby was pleased when I bought some macaroons home from Betty’s in Harrogate once and he enjoyed them.  So once again I turned to my trusty Nigella book “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” which I am baking from for this month’s Cooking The Books challenge.  Nigella has a recipe for Chocolate Macaroons within the Chocolate chapter of her book.  These sounded utterly sublime sandwiched together with a swirl of chocolate ganache.

So off I nipped to Morrisons to buy some chocolate and cream to make the recipe.  I had everything else in the cupboard and I hoped that Nigella’s method for making the macaroons would work as well as Lorraine Pascale’s did the previous time.

I needn’t have worried.  The macaroons came off the baking tray perfectly and I spread chocolate ganache in between two shells to sandwich them together.

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Deliciously chewy, the chocolate macaroons came out well. I’m afraid to say my hubby wasn’t the only one who ate them!

When my hubby got home he ate a couple with a cup of tea and said they were delicious.  My appetite had begun to come back after my flu virus so I must admit I sneaked a couple out of the tin, so did my daughter.  They vanished very quickly.  I will definitely bake them again as they worked out so well. I need to try some other flavours, my daughter has asked if I’ll make some raspberry ones.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pistachio and Hazelnut Macaroons using Whynut Pastes.

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The fabulous goody box which Whynut sent me. It contained two types of pistachios, some hazelnut paste and some pistachio paste.
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I had two small tubs of nut paste, here’s the pistachio one. A little goes a long way!

A couple of months back I was excited when WhyNut sent me a goody box through the post inviting me to try out some of their pistachio nuts and nut pastes.  I used the fresh nuts in different ways in to make some Pistachio Cupcakes and in cookies but wanted to try out the nut pastes to delicately flavour some macaroons. Now this was going to be a big challenge for me.  I’ve always wanted to be able to bake macaroons but always thought they looked far too fiddly and complicated.  I tried once but to be fair I rushed them and didn’t follow the recipe properly.  The result was a sloppy mess and since that bungled attempt about 3 years back I’ve never bothered since. But I had the nut pastes to try out so all I could do was try and try again!

So I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook what recipes they would recommend for baking macaroons.  One suggestion was to try the recipe in Lorraine Pascale‘s first book “Baking Made Easy”  I remembered seeing a macaroon recipe in the book, it was for strawberry and lemon ones.  Being as the title had “made easy” in it, I did hope that would apply to the macaroons too!

A couple of weeks ago we had a get together with my mum’s side of the family. We didn’t get round to exchanging presents at Christmas and I love making foodie presents. I always think macaroons look so pretty in a gift box and I had some brightly coloured ones bought from Lakeland to put them in.  I knew my family would appreciate the macaroons and wouldn’t take the mickey out of me if they looked like they’d been trodden on either!

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Delicate pistachio flavoured macaroons, flavoured with Whynut Pistachio Paste.

So, jobs done and dog walked I started on the macaroons.  First I preheated the oven to 150oC as I was using my fan oven to bake them in and found my silicone macaroon baking sheets.  They hadn’t been used before so I hoped I could use them properly.

I weighed out icing sugar, some ground almonds and some egg whites into a bowl and mixed it so it formed a paste. When that had done I had to heat some water and sugar on the stove.  I was dreading this after my fiasco of burning my thumb when I got hot sugar syrup on me when I tried to make lemon meringue cupcakes a couple of years back.  I tried to be so careful.  I did rely on my sugar thermometer to help me.

After this some more egg white was mixed in a bowl until I got medium stiff peaks, then to this I added the sugar syrup. This was then whisked until the mixture became stiff and shiny.  At this point I added a teaspoonful of the nut paste and a couple of drops of food colouring paste.  For the pistachio macaroons I used a small dab of mint green paste, for the hazelnut ones I had to use a cream coloured food colouring as that was all I had left in the cupboard! After this I then folded the egg white mixture with the almond paste mixture.

Now for the piping bit.  To make it easier to carry I put the silicone macaroon mats on top of a flat baking sheet (the sort I use for cookies) and then started to pipe the macaroons into the bases.  I used one sheet for the pistachio flavour, the other for the hazelnut ones.  To pipe I used a large “Get A Grip” disposable piping bag from Lakeland which I swear by.  The nozzle I used was a straight one and I’m so glad I used a piping bag.  Otherwise it would have gone everywhere.

Before putting the macaroons in the oven I gave each tray a sharp tap on the side of the cooker and also left them for about 1/2 hour to stand before baking them.  Apparently this forms a skin on the macaroons.  Then they went into the oven for about 12-15 minutes, Lorraine suggests leaving the oven door slightly ajar! This was a new one on me but I tried it.

When the time was up and I looked in the oven I was so pleased.  The macaroons actually looked like they should. I was all set to do a big happy dance around the kitchen.  It was a major achievement to me.  What’s more they came off the tray without sticking as well.

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The macaroon shells were filled with some whipped cream flavoured with a little pistachio paste.

After leaving the macaroon shells to cool for a while I got on with the filling.  I whipped up a tub of double cream then halved it into two bowls. To one bowl I added a spoonful of Whynut Pistachio Paste and to the other a spoonful of  their Hazelnut Paste.  These were spread carefully onto the shells with a small pallette knife and left to set.

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Here’s the second attempt at macaroons- this time they were hazelnut flavoured using Whynut Hazelnut Paste.
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The macaroons were filled with whipped cream and hazelnut paste.

Each family member got a gift box of 6 macaroons each and along with their spice jars and granola, the macaroons went down very well. They looked smaller than the ones I’d seen in the shops but everyone loved them.  I was so happy it has inspired me to try out some more flavours in the future.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx