Pistachio Sablés 

 

As I type it’s now a very wet and rainy September morning.  Most of the country’s children have gone back to school. I’m a supply teacher in my day job, which I love but as there’s no work around at the beginning of term I’m finally managing to catch up on my very neglected blog.

It seems ages ago now we’re back into school mode. Well in our house I have my older one back off to uni today.  She’s driving down in her car for the first time and my younger one doesn’t start back at college until next week. Time flies and before we know it we’ll be mentioning the dreaded “C” word!!  But for now I’ll still think about summer and our holiday.

When we were on holiday in the south of France a couple of weeks back we did a lot of our food shopping in the local Carrefour.  I always feel stressed and wound up in supermarkets at home.  I reckon it’s because I’m always in a hurry, they move things around and you end up forgetting half the things you came in for in the first place.  But in this Carrefour, even though it was a massive “grandes surfaces” it felt like a pleasure to shop there.

Of course wherever I go on holiday I have to search out their baking aisle.  I don’t always buy things from the baking aisle but I couldn’t help myself here.  The selection of nuts, dried fruits, flavoured baking powders, extracts and the usual cake decorations were amazing.  Seeing different flavoured baking powders was a new one on me.  I love pistachios so I bought a packet of ground pistachio nuts hoping to use them in a recipe somewhere.  Of course when I buy goodies to take home, my family make snide comments about how I’m going to make us go over the baggage allowance.  I think we had about 500g spare this time, thank God!

Two days after we got back from France I had invited my lovely Clandestine Cake Club friends over to my house for afternoon tea.  It was a great excuse to bake for them so I thought about how I could use my pistachio nuts in a recipe.  In the end I plumped for a biscuit recipe which I adapted from a recipe in The Great British Bake Off Everyday”  The original recipe was for Coconut Sables.

Pistachio Sables

Makes 20-24 biscuits

160g plain flour

a pinch of salt

75g icing sugar

160g unsalted, cold and diced butter

2 medium free range egg yolks

100g ground or crushed Pistachio nuts (I used Vahine Eclats de Pistaches Torrifiees)

First, put the pistachios, flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and combine them evenly.

Then add in the cubes of butter, rubbing them in until you get fine bread crumbs.

Next you add the egg yolks to the bowl until the mixture becomes like a ball of dough.  I then take the ball of dough out of the bowl and roll it into a disc that’s about 2.5cm thick.

 Wrap your dough in some cling film and leave it to chill in the fridge for about half an hour  until you are ready to use it.  Or if you are like me, you run out of time, leave it longer and then you find it is too hard to manipulate!

When you have the dough out of the fridge, sprinkle a little flour onto your work top and then roll out your dough to the thickness of a pound coin.  Cut out circles with a cutter (either plain or fluted) which is 7.5cm in diameter.

Put the biscuits onto greased baking trays and pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.  Oven temperature: 180oC/ 350oF/ Gas Mark 4. In the original recipe the biscuits should have been pricked with a fork before being baked but I forgot!

I found that once you ate one of these cookies, you didn’t want to stop.  So I had to hide them away until my friends came over. I could just imagine eating a massive bowl of pistachio ice cream with one of these little treats.

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Afternoon tea at SmartCookieSam’s. It’s also the perfect excuse to use my late mother in law’s china.
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Afternoon Tea at SmartCookieSam’s. Don’t look at the creased tablecloth!!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Tomato Provençale Tart.

The SmartCookieSam family have just come back from our summer holidays in the South of France.  It’s been 9 years since we last went to France.  We’ve always loved going there and as I speak French, it always feels like a special place to me.  Of course part of going to France is to enjoy all the lovely food and wine and our holiday  was no exception.

We stayed in a beautiful villa outside the medieval town of Flayosc near Draguignan and for most of our shopping used the huge Carrefour supermarket on the edge of Draguignan.  I was blown away by the sheer quality of the fruit and vegetables for a start.  Tomatoes never taste the same in the UK as they do in the mediterranean countries, to me.

The day after we got home I had to head up to our local supermarket to stock up.  I’d been so taken by all the Provencale type foods and dishes I’d seen, I was keen to make something  French for our dinner.  My son was over at his girlfriend’s house and he balks at anything with tomatoes in it unless it’s ketchup! I was looking in one of the Great British Bake Off books and found a mouthwatering sounding recipe in the book to accompany the 2013 series The Great British Bake Off Everyday.  There was a recipe for Roast Tomato Tart.  It captured all the typical Mediterranean flavours and could be adapted to have pesto sauce  in it in place of mustard.  I chose to stick with mustard.  The tart is a shortcrust pastry base infused with rosemary, baked blind and then spread with Dijon mustard and grated Gruyere cheese.  Then the tart is topped with sliced tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and then salt and pepper.

The recipe makes a tart in a circular 1 x 23cm loose based quiche tin but I chose to try out a rectangular flan tin I’d bought in John Lewis last year and never used.  I found I had slightly too many tomatoes to go in the tin but I just added them to the side salad I was serving with the tart.

Ingredients:

200g plain flour

1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary (I used dried, as I didn’t have fresh)

140g butter chilled and diced

3-4 tbsp iced cold water

800g ripe tomatoes

1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard or pesto sauce

175g Gruyere or Emmental cheese, grated

1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

A couple of pinches of herbes de Provence

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, you make up the rosemary shortcrust pastry.  This can be done in a food processor or by hand.  I thought that by the time I’d faffed about getting the food processor out, I could have made up the pastry.  But if you have one and it’s not a pain getting it out of the cupboard, it makes making pastry so much easier.  Rub the butter into the flour until it makes fine breadcrumbs then add the water little by little.  Form into a ball with the end of a round bladed knife.  It should be a soft but not sticky dough.  Wrap the dough into cling film and put in your fridge to chill for about 15 minutes.

Flour your work top with some plain flour or if you’re like me, pour too much out so it goes all over the kitchen floor.  When you have done that, get the dough out of the fridge and roll the pastry out to fit the flan tin allowing extra to overhang because of shrinkage.

Then the oven needs to be heated up to 190oC/

 

Excuse the awful pictures but I was taking the photos in a hurry.  Especially doing them before Mr SmartCookieSam saw me taking the pictures and would say he didn’t “want to see his dinner on bloody Facebook!”

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Apple Scone Round

img_0522Last week my Dad and step mum gave me a bag of beautiful looking apples from the tree in their garden. I was delighted with them as the apples on my own tree in my front garden aren’t quire ready yet. The apples are a bit small and hard at the moment. To top all that, Mr SmartCookieSam had to prune the tree a couple of weeks back as our greedy and nosy Labrador worked out a way that he could shake the tree to make apples fall down. He had a great time doing this until he ended up hurting his tail after jumping up at the tree! I’ll have to see if they are worth using in a couple of weeks time.

Every year I think about what I could bake with the apples and I get fed up of the same things. Of course crumbles and pies work well and I did make a few different apple cakes. But sometimes you just want to try something different.  I gor out my recipe books and looked for all the apple recipes I could find.

One simple but delicious recipe is one I’ve baked before but never actually made it at home. In my previous post about Cheesy Feet I mentioned about working in a school and running a Cookery Club. This was a big success and wherever possible we tried to use fruit and veg that was grown in the school garden.  We did have an apple tree which on one year only produced two apples. So we made a big thing of using the two apples in a yummy apple scone round.

The original apple scone round recipe comes from the very first Great British Bake Off recipe book published back in 2010 to accompany the first series: The Great British Book Of Baking.

It’s a great recipe and I found it perfect for baking with children.

First, you need to peel, chop and core some apple. I used two medium sized ones. I put the chopped apple to one side in a bowl but worked quickly so that the apple didn’t start to turn brown. Then in another bowl I rubbed in butter, self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon to create a breadcrumb texture. Then some demarera sugar was added to sweeten the mixture.  When this was done I added a little bit of whole milk bit by bit until it formed a manageable ball of dough.

On a large baking sheet covered in baking parchment, I put the dough but flattened it out gently until it was about 20cm in diameter. I then got a knife and divided the scone into 8 by scoring the lines on the top of the dough.  Into the oven it went for about 20 minutes.

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Ready for the oven.
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Apple Scone Round; a great way of using all those leftover apples.
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A slice of apple scone with a cup of tea and some Cheddar cheese.

To get the best out of the flavour and taste, as with all scones it is best to eat them warm and fresh.  As I’d baked the scone round on a late Saturday afternoon and was going out for dinner, we didn’t eat any til the following day. It was ok but probably should have been eaten straightaway. A great serving suggestion popular round my way is to serve it with a slice of cheese: something like Cheddar or Wensleydale would work well. Failing that, it would also be delicious with a good dollop of clotted cream on the side.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

 

Jaffa Cakes #GBBOTwitterBakealong (Series 7 Cake Week Technical Challenge)

I’m so excited that The Great British Bake Off is back. What do you think of it so far? In the first couple of episodes I spend most of the time getting confused as you begin to find out who’s who. I get muddled up with what each contestant bakes to begin with but after this week’s programme I felt ravenous. I’d already had my dinner but all I could think about was eating a great big piece of drizzle cake, followed by some Jaffa cakes and finished off with a slice of a mirrored chocolate cake! Much too tempting and as someone who really struggles with dieting, it’s going to be hard not to succumb!

Anyway, Bake Off mania started the day before the first episode came out in SmartCookieSam’s house. My copy of the brand new Bake Off book arrived. The book to accompany this series is called Perfect Cakes and Bakes to Make At Home. I wasn’t disappointed and this year the book wasn’t too heavily bread and yeast bakes biased as last year’s one was. I was impressed with the layout and the introduction featuring all the bakers too. The recipes in this year’s book are also ones which I can see myself baking so I think I’ll be having a go at a few over the next few weeks- watch this space! 

It didn’t take me long to plan out what my first bake from the book would be. Week 1’s Technical Bake was for Jaffa Cakes. Not only that but it was the theme for this week’s #GBBOTwitterBakelalong. This was perfect as they’re my son’s favourites as well. He has always loved Jaffa Cakes and once came home from school at Christmas with one of those giant metre long packets. His mate had bought him it as a Christmas present. We were allowed to have some but I think it was me who gave him the taste for them! When I was pregnant with him, I loved eating Jaffa cakes. Then again I had a craving for mushy peas when I was expecting my daughter and she hates them!

The thing is though, when you have a much loved shop bought biscuit or cake, you never know what a homemade version will turn out like. I never forget my one and only time trying to make chocolate teacakes and faffing about with making homemade marshmallow! I’ve never made them since, only bought Tunnocks instead! The same applies to Jaffa cakes, could I make them taste like McVities ones and would they be too much faff?

Last Saturday afternoon was typical August Bank Holiday weather. I’d done my cleaning and was about to go outside to start hoovering out my car. It’s in a terrible state as my dog sat on the back seat after a muddy walk and I’d forgotten to take a towel with me. But just as I was about to get the Hoover out, it started raining. Secretly I thought this was great as I could do some baking.

The first job was to make up a packet of orange jelly as you would usually do. I usually buy the sachets with powder in but this time I used a traditional block.

Baking the Jaffa Cakes didn’t take that long even though it was broken down into stages.  Once the jelly was setting in the fridge I got on with the sponge bases.  These are a fat less whisked sponge mixture, where you whisked sugar and eggs together for five minutes and then some self raising flour was folded in. To bake the sponges I used a shallow 12 hole tart or mince pie tin which was greased before with Wilton Cake Release. The sponges didn’t take much baking, only 9 minutes. I took them out when the sponges sprung back when I touched them.

After a few minutes the sponges were ready to come out of the tin.  This is where I always panic as I didn’t want anything sticking.  Thankfully apart from one cake which was a bit on the small side, they came out ok.  By the way, the recipe says that there is more than enough mixture and when spooning it into the tin, you only need to fill it three quarters full! There was a bit left over but I wouldn’t have had enough chocolate to cover any extras.

I left the sponges to cool down but as it was a day when I was trying to catch up on everything I was desperate to get on with the next stage.  I poked the jelly setting in the fridge and it seemed alright.  So I thought I’d try and cut out the jelly circles.  The recipe says you are meant to turn out the whole jelly rectangle onto a piece of baking paper and cut circles out of it.  I was rushing so much that I realised the jelly wasn’t properly set and it slid out onto the baking paper in a massive orange blob!  So there was one thing for it, I had to pile teaspoonfuls of orange jelly on top of the sponges, not neat little circles!

I then melted some dark chocolate and spooned it on top of the jelly blobbed sponges. Of course this wasn’t going to be a neat job with the mess I’d made with the jelly! The jelly began to move about as I spread the chocolate on. As for doing the criss-cross pattern on top of the Jaffa Cakes- forget it!

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A delicious and well-loved family treat, home made style.  Don’t mind if I do!

Would I bake the Jaffa Cakes again? They tasted wonderful and not as sweet as the shop bought ones.  They were quite faffy to make though but I might try again when I’m not rushing things.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Stem Ginger Shortbread #GBBOtwitterbakealong

When August comes around, it’s always exciting in lots of ways.  For me being a teacher the summer is my one chance to catch up.  It’s also usually when my family go on our summer holiday.  This year we went away in July instead but there has still been loads of things to enjoy.  Not only that but August means Great British Bake Off time!  This year it’s starting later (think it’s Wednesday August 24th) due to the Olympics but the excitement and the build up for GBBO fans has started already.

On Twitter I love to get involved with anything GBBO related and a few of my Twitter followers and friends are doing a bake along.  It’s called #GBBOTwitterBakealong and there’s a different theme each week. When the Bake Off is actually on, we’ll be baking something from the show like the technical bake for that week or something connected with that week’s theme.  This week on the Twitter Bake Along has been biscuits so we had to bake some biscuits and post them on Twitter.  I love any excuse to bake biscuits so I had a look at what was left in my baking cupboard and also looked at recipes I wanted to have a go at.

I looked in Mary Berry’s Foolproof Cooking and found the perfect recipe for busy weekend baking around all the other jobs I had to do.  It was her recipe for Stem Ginger Shortbread.  My whole family love it when I bake shortbread for them but aren’t so keen on the ginger.  The recipe called for five balls of stem ginger and that’s exactly what I had to use up.  It’s funny how my kids say they don’t like my ginger cookies, yet when I bake them they miraculously disappear.

Out came my well used and loved Alan Silverwood traybake tin.  It’s been bought thinking of Mary Berry and traybakes though this time, it was to make shortbread fingers.  I greased it carefully with Wilton Cake Release then started on the shortbread itself.  The stem ginger needed to be rinsed and patted dry so that the sticky syrup came off it.  This was easy enough and then I chopped the ginger into little chunks to go into the shortbread.  When I’d finished this, I then started on the shortbread itself.  I put tiny cubes of butter into a large mixing bowl and then added plain flour, rice flour and caster sugar to the mixture.  Mary’s recipe used semolina but I didn’t have any so I used some rice flour from the last time I baked shortbread. It gives the shortbread a nutty taste but works wonderfully well in the recipe.  All the ingredients were rubbed in together and then formed to make up a dry dough. At this stage, I tossed in the chopped stem ginger and then mixed it into the dough evenly.

The dough was carefully pressed into the tin with a back of a teaspoon so that it was level. To give it a crunchy topping Mary Berry suggested sprinkling on two tablespoonfuls of  Demerara sugar to the top of the shortbread.  I didn’t have any demerara sugar so I used light brown muscovado sugar instead. This was a bit clumpy though.

The shortbread baked for about 40 minutes and by this time it had turned a pale golden brown.  The smell was just heavenly and I was so tempted to scoff one there and then.  But I had to let them cool down so they could be cut up into fingers!

The shortbread fingers were divine and they went down very well.  As I type the day after, there are only 4 left! I need my jaw wiring with shortbread around! I didn’t eat them all though, please believe me!

The shortbread was cut into 12 fingers. Though one finger is never enough!
The Stem Ginger shortbread fingers were sprinkled with two types of sugar.
Stem Ginger Shortbread- from Mary Berry’s latest recipe book Foolproof Cooking.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Almond and Coffee Cake- The Cardamom Trail.

A few weeks ago I got a copy of Chetna Makan’s new book The Cardamom Trail.  Chetna was a semi finalist in the 2014 series of The Great British Bake Off . Her bakes were unique in that she added in the spices she grew up with and then gave them a unique twist.  I love adding different flavours to recipes and some of Chetna’s creations seemed so mouthwatering.

It took me a while to get round to trying out a recipe from the book.  It was so difficult to choose which to try out first but I needed an opportunity to get the mixing bowl out.  Last Wednesday I was at home and once again the urge to bake something overcame me.  I had picked my son up from school from his GCSE exam and was trying to put off doing the ironing. As you do! My mind wandered to what I could bake.  I’m trying not to eat too much sweet stuff (famous last words) but I knew I was going to be teaching in one of my regular schools the following day and I sometimes take cake in for the staff to try out.

As I browsed through the book several recipes leapt out at me.  But one which stuck in my mind. It was for an Almond and Coffee Cake which sounded delicious. It was also one which contained ingredients I already had in my baking stash. Including a mountain of flaked almonds and ground almonds which needed using up as soon as I could.

Chetna says “I love the combination of almonds and coffee. Normally it is associated with rich desserts, such as gateau opera but in this cake the sponge is made with ground and flaked almonds which makes it light. The richness comes with the buttery chocolate icing and can be topped with yet more almonds!”  So not only will the cake taste fantastic, it will be simple to decorate with a sprinkling of almonds. 

In the gorgeous photo of the cake it is shown baked as a bundt. Though for those who don’t have a bundt pan, the cake can also be baked in a 25cm diameter circular cake tin. Me being a bundt addict and an avid collector of all things bundt I was keen to get out one of my pans. I chose my square one which was a Christmas present to bake the cake in and  made sure it was properly greased with Wilton Cake release.

First some butter and sugar was creamed together with my hand held electric whisk. Then I added three large eggs, beating them well after every addition. Then in went some self raising flour, baking powder, ground almonds, some coffee and milk. The coffee was actually 2 tablespoons of very strong coffee dissolved in boiling water. This was all mixed together and well combined. In the mixture went into the bundt pan but I was concerned as the mixture only seemed to fill half the pan. Really it should fill three quarters of the tin so maybe the tin I used was too big. I hoped the cake would rise a lot in the oven!

Baking is normally a relaxing experience for me but today I was a bit impatient to get the cake out of the oven and finished off. Looking back it was getting near tea time and I had to sort out other jobs. Why do I do it? I forgot what time the cake went in the oven and didn’t set the timer. Then with that I looked at the cake too early. 

When the cake was ready it looked like it hadn’t risen much. Maybe the bundt tin was too big. At least it was one where it didn’t matter if the top half was missing. Thankfully also the cake came out of the tin in one piece!

Then it was time to slap the icing on and I mean slap or throw it on! I made up the icing by  melting some butter in a small pan on my hob. When it was melted I took it off the heat and mixed in some icing sugar and some cocoa powder mixed into a paste with boiling water. The icing was runny  but was ideal to spread on the cake and clung to the grooves of the  bundt. The final finishing touch was to sprinkle the flaked almonds on top of the cake!

The following morning I took the cake into work. It went down well but I left the cake there so I don’t know what happened to the rest of it. I collected an empty box the next time I was in. I didn’t try any myself though. I need to try it again, would be a perfect cake to bake if you have friends round for a cuppa or to donated to a coffee morning.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies.

 

 It’s been half term for me and for my kids this week.  I love my job but I really needed a few days to catch up on things.  My son has been working on a film project and had a few friends over to help him out with it.  When there’s a houseful of hungry teenagers there’s always a need to have cookies about.  Especially chocolate chip ones.

On Tuesday three of my son’s friends were round at our house and I was at home doing jobs. I don’t mind doing this but very soon the mind starts to wander and the boredom sets in.  This is also when my baking addiction starts and I think of things I can create.  It was a great opportunity to test out a recipe from my giant Great British Bake Off Calendar which is hanging up in my kitchen.  February’s recipe was for chocolate chip cookies which on the picture were sandwiched together with vanilla ice cream.  Though I didn’t have any vanilla ice cream left, the kids had troughed it all.

I’m a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs’ natural flavour cocoa powders and icing sugars and was keen to use some flavoured cocoa powder in my cookies. I had a choice of lime, orange, coconut or black cherry flavour.  Knowing that all varieties were a great choice it was a difficult decision but in the end I  went along with chocolate orange.  A winning combination.

The cookies took minutes to prepare.  Butter and brown sugar was creamed together in a bowl then a beaten egg and some vanilla extract was added to the mixture.  In another bowl baking powder, plain flour and the cocoa powder was sifted together and folded into the wet ingredients.  Finally I put in a packet of chocolate chips which I had found in my baking cupboard.

Once the dough was combined I chilled it for about half an hour in the fridge. This made it easier to handle. I always use an ice cream scoop to measure out cookie dough so I get even portions.  They are always put well spaced on lined baking sheets as cookies of this type spread out. About halfway through the cooking time I always take the tray out of the oven and bang it down on top of the cooker. This flattens the cookies down and then they return to the oven to finish off. I don’t cook them for as long as they should be cooked as I like my cookies chewy.

  

 When my son and his friends had finished filming the cookies were a welcome treat. I put a couple aside for my daughter to try when she came in from work but they vanished. I tried one myself and the cookies were gooey and chewy with the chocolate pieces melting into the whole cookies. The orange flavour in the cocoa powder worked really well. Judging by the response I got from the cookies I will definitely be baking these again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx