White Chocolate Pretzel Blondies

The other day I was in Leeds with my two children. Whenever we go into Trinity shopping centre I like to go into Gobstoppers, the American sweet shop as I look for things I can add to my baking. Usually I buy M&M flavours that aren’t widely available in the UK, such as the mint ones. Or I might try out something else that would look good on the top of a cupcake. This time, though I couldn’t find any different M&M flavours to ones I had already seen but I came out of the shop with a packet of Flipz. I’ve seen chocolate covered pretzels before but I found some white chocolate “birthday cake” one. I’ve found out that if sweets or cakes are labelled “birthday cake” it means they usually have sprinkles over them.

Last Sunday I wanted to bake something and to try the Flipz in a recipe. I have baked brownies with plain pretzels in before and that has worked. But this time I wanted to see what happened if I put the white Flipz in a blondie recipe. I love blondies, especially ones with peanut butter and big chunks of white chocolate in. I didn’t have any peanut butter so I had to look through my recipe books to find a blondie recipe without peanut butter in. As I had my copy of Annie Bell’s Baking Bible still out on the kitchen work top from baking muffins the other day, I looked through the book to see if there was a blondie recipe in the book. There was. Annie Bell’s version does not use peanut butter but the blondies’ sugar content comes from using a mixture of set honey and golden syrup. To the mixture I swirled in some whole and some broken Flipz as well as the remaining half a packet of white chocolate chips I had left over from some cookies in my baking stash.

The blondies were very sticky, no doubt due to the honey and syrup content but they tasted absolutely wonderful. We had one with a cup of tea on Sunday afternoon and then I put them in the rest of the freezer to keep me away from temptation.

Happy baking

Love Sam xx

Nostalgic Bakes from Paul Hollywood’s “A Baker’s Life”

The recent spate of snow days has made me want to stay in my warm kitchen and bake comfort food.  Never mind me trying to diet.  Forget that! When you feel cold and tired, all you want to do is to hibernate with a giant piece of flapjack in each hand!

I ended not being able to work for three days due to the snow last week but then again I wasn’t the only one.  Then again it gave me chance to catch up with jobs and to try out some recipes from Paul Hollywood’s latest book A Baker’s Life.  I had got it at Christmas last year and had my eye on several things I wanted to test out.

The book spans the five decades of Paul’s life so far from his childhood as the son of a baker in Merseyside right up to the present day as a judge on The Great British Bake Off.  Each chapter in the book concentrates on recipes from a certain time of life.  I wanted to start with the first chapter: Nostalgic Bakes from Paul’s early years.

There were loads of recipes to choose from, including traditional favourites that we would all remember from our own childhoods.  Some of the recipes are perfect for actually making with children, such as Cornflake Cakes and Jam Tarts.  As well as these, there were also recipes for bakes that your grandma or mum may have made in years gone by.  The first recipe in the book was actually called My Mum’s Ginger Biscuits.  I absolutely love ginger biscuits and they remind me of the Yorkshire Ginger Biscuits my Nana Margaret would buy.  She would never bake them as she was a walking disaster in the kitchen.  If she could buy it in Marks and Spencer’s food hall, she would have it and pass it off as her own.

Paul says in his recipe introduction: ” Not only are they a doddle to make, but they’ve got the right balance of being crispy and chewy.” The recipe was an old-fashioned melting method one, where the butter or margarine is melted in a saucepan on the hob with golden syrup and caster sugar. Then once the melted mixture was cooled enough to handle, then self raising flour and a beaten egg were added to the mixture.

The mixture was then gathered up into a ball and made into a dough.  I separated the dough into about 24 pieces and spaced them out carefully on lined baking trays.  I put two trays in the oven at a time and watched them like a hawk. They could easily burn quickly after about 10 minutes.

I always like my cookies on the chewy side and to be honest I would add tiny pieces of chopped stem ginger to the dough.  This version has the ginger flavour coming from ground ginger and wow, did my kitchen smell wonderful! I honestly don’t know how I managed to keep them from being scoffed instead of taking them into work.

When the biscuits were cooling down on the rack, I decided to have a go at another recipe from the Nostalgic Bakes chapter.  This time it was for a Tea Loaf.  I have baked countless tea loaves in my time, including my own version of a Welsh Bara Brith which recipe is featured in the second Clandestine Club Cookbook A Year Of Cake.  I can’t resist a slice of tea loaf, slathered in butter and with a cup of my beloved Yorkshire Tea.  The recipe doesn’t feature any spices or citrus fruit zest but is crammed full of raisins, sultanas and currants.  I did not have any currants but made up the difference in weight with extra sultanas and raisins.  The dried fruit had been previously soaked in some strong Yorkshire Tea and to this I added self raising flour, demerara sugar, milk and a beaten egg.

Once this was mixed up, I lined my 2 lb loaf tin with a special loaf tin liner and put it to bake in my fan oven.  I completely forgot that I also needed to bake some potato wedges to go along with the Cajun Chicken breasts cooking in the slow oven for our dinner that night.  So half way through the baking time I had to whip the oven door open and stuff the tray of wedges in on the shelf underneath the tea loaf.  Luckily they were both ready at the same time as I didn’t want the cake sinking.

I left the cake to cool on the side with the ginger biscuits and then took them along to work the following day.  I left them in the staff room and found that half the biscuits had gone along with a couple of slices of cake when I popped in at lunchtime before going home.

Next week I’m thinking of trying out some Millionaire’s Shortbread if I have time.

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Coconut Traybake.

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Coconut and Marshmallow Traybake.

 I’ve been testing a few recipes out of a favourite book of mine this month: The Great British Bake Off Christmas.  There’s been loads of different things to choose from and we’re not just limited to cakes and biscuits here.   I was tempted to have a go at Cathryn Dresser’s own recipe featured in the book, her Snowy White Coconut Traybake. Cathryn was one of the contestants on the Bake Off from the third series in 2012. I liked her and who can forget her catchphrase “Oh my giddy aunt?” Her coconut traybake is bound to be a big hit with young and old alike as you can add optional marshmallow snowmen to the top of the cake. I didn’t do this as I didn’t have any marshmallows in.  I had completely forgotten to blog about this bake as things became so hectic in the run up to Christmas.

Sunday 9th December 2017.

After dropping my son off at work and catching up on the ironing, I fancied some baking. Anything with coconut in goes down really well with me and I had the perfect excuse to use some Sugar and Crumbs Marshmallow Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar in the frosting. I thought coconut and marshmallow would work really well together. As stated in the introduction “this sweet, simple cake is a delicious treat to enjoy with your visitors during the festive season,”  Or a great recipe to try out with children as it’s so easy and fun to bake.

After preheating my oven to 170oC (fan oven) I weighed out all my ingredients and greased my traybake tin.  Butter and sugar were creamed together with my electric whisk.  After that I mixed together some sour cream, buttermilk and eggs in another bowl.  Finally, these were combined, along with some desiccated coconut.  I could have added some ground cardamom pods to the mixture but I didn’t have any.  

Once all added together I poured the mixture into the prepared tin and baked it in the oven for about 25-30 minutes.  As usual I got distracted and ended up forgetting to put the oven timer on. I went off upstairs to put some washing away and forgot I’d put the cake in the oven.  It wasn’t until I smelled coconut coming from the kitchen that I remembered! Luckily I got the cake out in time.  Aftter another half an hour or so it was ready to be flipped out of the tin. Thankfully I had no problems with that coming out and falling to bits.

The frosting or icing for the top of the traybake was a combination of butter, icing sugar and soured cream.  As I said before, I was keen to try out one of Sugar and Crumbs’ new winter flavours which was a Marshmallow one.  The ingredients were simply added together in one bowl and then spread on top of the cooled cake.  My final flourish was to sprinkle some snow themed sprinkles on top of the cake.  I thought I had some snowflake themed ones but I found some pale blue, white and lilac hundreds and thousands to decorate instead.  I could have used some more dessicated coconut and/ or some edible glitter but the other choice worked well.  

To decorate the top I found some winter themed hundreds and thousands.

I’m definitely going to add this to my baking list for next year at Christmas.  Though the coconut bake being reminiscent of snow could be linked to Christmas and winter, I think that you could bake it all year round.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Jamaican Gingerbread Loaf.

4th December 2017.

Today being a Monday I really struggled to get out of bed this morning. I’d had a good night’s sleep until something woke me up at 4.30am. That was it, I was wide awake for an hour. The alarm was due to go off at 6am but of course I drifted back off to sleep just as I’d got back into the land of Nod! Then, could I get myself moving? Course I couldn’t. I’m not a morning person at the best of times. There’s only one type of work that would get me out of bed early and that’s when I’m baking! It doesn’t seem like work to me when you’re in the kitchen with music playing in the background.

But needs must. I love being a teacher though some mornings I wish I could be beamed direct from my house to the school I’m at, especially with the horrendous traffic congestion I have round near where I live. This morning was no exception. My journey to school should have taken me 35 minutes. It took me nearer 50.

Back home this afternoon I got out the mixing bowl and scales to test out another recipe from The Great British Bake Off Christmas. I love the spicy aroma of gingerbread at any time of the year but Christmas definitely lends itself to these flavours. I was really keen to try out the Jamaican Gingerbread loaf which was a perfect way of using up some treacle left over in a tin after baking some Parkin and also putting it in my Christmas cake. The loaf is an ideal bake to have as a standby, say if you have people popping over for a cuppa and it was really easy to make.

To begin with you melt butter in a saucepan with some dark brown muscovado sugar, some treacle and some golden syrup. When this has melted you take it off the heat and leave it to cool. In another bowl you weigh out some plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and some mixed spice. Add the melted mixture to it, along with a beaten egg and then fold in the flour mixture. Finally add in some chopped stem ginger pieces.

I always use pre made loaf tin liners which save me a lot of faffing about. The mixture was poured into the prepared loaf tin and put in the oven at about 160oC for about 45-50 minutes. Unfortunately I set the oven timer to 45 minutes but promptly forgot to switch it on. I suddenly remembered about the loaf when I could smell gingerbread coming from the kitchen. Luckily it came out of the oven just in time and although had sunk slightly in the middle, it looked wonderful.

After about an hour of cooling I cut the loaf up into 8 generous slices. It took all my willpower not to scoff a slice there and then. I boxed up the loaf and decided to take it with me to work tomorrow to leave in the staff room.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Cherry Bakewell Loaf

It’s been a couple of months at least since I’ve been to a Clandestine Cake Club event.  I’ve been working full time and I haven’t baked much recently.  The Clandestine Cake Club’s VCake Events are a fantastic idea if you can’t get to an event but you still want to bake.  I love taking part in them and I baked a cake.  But unfortunately, I forgot to email my cake photos to the Club’s founder, Lynn Hill so my cake wasn’t included in the event write up.

The  event write up is featured on the Clandestine Cake Club website and the link is here  Magazines, Leaflets and Booklets 

The idea was that many people collect or stash recipes gleaned from magazines, leaflets and booklets. I do. I buy Good Food magazine and Delicious magazine but only get chance to cook recipes out of them sometimes.  I’m always picking up recipe leaflets and booklets but never seem to get round to cooking anything from them. This event was such a good idea to get you searching through those cake recipes you wish you had had chance to bake.  Funnily enough this month’s Good Food magazine came with a free cake recipe booklet to celebrate the magazine’s 300th issue! I’ve not been buying all of those, I was only 18 when the first issue of Good Food mag came out and as a sixth former cooking was the last thing I was interested in!

There were several recipes I wanted to try in the booklet but the one that I thought my whole family would eat was the Chocolate Cherry Bakewell Loaf.  All the flavours of a bakewell tart but in a loaf form and with chocolate as well.  Bound to be a hit!

Last Sunday I chose to bake this, along with some scones.  Mr SmartCookieSam was out at a Classic Car show and my two grown up children were at work. So it was me on my lonesome! Perfect opportunity to get my apron on and the scales out, especially as the weather has been so rubbish.

Recipe as featured in Good Food Magazine.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

Ingredients:

200g softened butter

140g fresh, stoned and halved cherries *

140g plain flour

200g golden caster sugar

3 medium eggs

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

75g ground almonds

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp each of vanilla and almond extracts

200g dark or milk chocolate, chopped.

2 tbsp toasted, flaked almonds.

  • First, heat the oven to 160oC/ 140oC fan/ Gas Mark 3.  Line a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment.  I swear by the ready made loaf tin liners readily available from shops like Lakeland.
  • Now to deal with the cherries.  If you are using fresh cherries, you need to wash, destone and half them first.  Then toss them in a tablespoonful of the flour from the quantity already weighed out.  If you are choosing to use glace cherries like I did, then thoroughly wash them to get the syrup off.  Then pat dry on a paper towel, halve them, rinse and dry again.  Then toss in a tablespoonful of flour.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.  When this is done, add the eggs one by one and mix well between each addition.
  • Fold in the rest of the flour, the baking powder and the ground almonds.
  • Stir in the milk, the two extracts and half of the chocolate.  Then add in the cherries.
  • Bake in the oven for 1 hour 10 minutes approx or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out on to a wire rack to cool down completely.
  • When the cake has cooled down, melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave and drizzle or pipe it on top of the cake.
  • Scatter on top with toasted, flaked almonds.
  • Wait for the chocolate on top to set a bit before slicing the cake.

Now as I’m always doing things in a hurry or have a zillion things on the go at once, I was a little bit disappointed to find my chocolate and cherries had sunk to the bottom of the cake.  I’ve made cherry cakes before which have remained in the middle.  So why not this one? I thoroughly rinsed and dried the cherries as well as tossing them in flour.  Maybe it was the rest of the cake mixture.  Didn’t spoil the taste of the cake though.  I also didn’t bother with adding toasted almond flakes to the top of the cake.

I demolished a slice of this gorgeous cake with a cup of tea on that Sunday afternoon while reading a magazine.  It had the almond flavour running through it and tasted just like a cherry bakewell cake should taste with the added dimension of dark chocolate.  Cherries and chocolate work so well together.  I will definitely make this cake again as my family really enjoyed it.  The remainder froze well, although the cake apparently does keep in a cake tin for up to four days.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

White Chocolate And Raspberry Fridge Cake.

It’s been nearly two weeks before I broke up for the summer holidays but it’s taken me ages to get round to blogging this recipe.  My White Chocolate and Raspberry Fridge Cake turned out to be a real experiment.  It was the last day of term in the school I’d been working in on a long term supply placement.  I’d come home the night before wanting to bake two or three really gorgeous layer cakes for the staff to share.  By the time I’d got myself sorted I couldn’t face icing the cakes so I just thought of quick things that people would like. I’d originally wanted to bake a white chocolate and raspberry cake topping it with some Lind’t Dor White Chocolate and Strawberry balls. I had 12 in my baking stash, bought with 12 mint chocolate balls and 12 caramel ones from the Pick n’ Mix in the Lindt shop at the York Designer Outlet. But all my plans were also scuppered when I found 3 strawberry ones missing and 4 caramel ones had gone!  Both my children swore blind they hadn’t eaten them and I must be senile because I hadn’t counted them properly! One of these days I’ll get some chocolates made with disgusting flavours in the centres and trick them!

So, what could I bake instead that wouldn’t take long to prepare?  I thought about a no bake cake as that could just set in the fridge while I baked something else.  I had white chocolate, Cadbury’s White Chocolate Fingers, digestive biscuits, double cream and a punnet of raspberries.  I had forgotten about the unopened pack of digestive biscuits lurking in the back of my baking cupboard from the last time I made Rocky Road.  Then the idea of a White Chocolate Fridge Cake came to me as soon as I saw the digestive biscuits.

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY FRIDGE CAKE

Ingredients:

500g good quality white chocolate (I use Green and Blacks or Lindt)

3 large packets of Cadbury White Chocolate Fingers

400g Digestive biscuits

200ml double cream

250g raspberries

200g dark chocolate (good quality)

First, weigh out all the ingredients.

Then find a 20cm x 30cm traybake tin, preferably with a loose bottom and line it with cling film.  Make sure the cling film overhangs the sides of the tin.

When you have done this, melt the white chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water or in the microwave.  If you are melting the chocolate in the microwave, put the chocolate in for a minute on high, then take out and stir. Repeat for another 20-30 seconds then take out and then continue stirring until the chocolate has completely melted. Allow to cool for a little.

Stir in the double cream.

Break up the Digestive biscuits and the white chocolate fingers into small pieces. Don’t crush them completely but leave them in little pieces to add texture.  Stir into the melted cream and chocolate mixture.  Fold in the raspberries.

Tip the mixture into the prepared traybake tin and spread out with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher.  Put in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.

Later on, if you want to have a topping on your fridge cake melt 200g of dark chocolate in the same way as the white chocolate.  Leave to cool slightly, then snip a tiny hole off a disposible piping bag.  Pour the melted dark chocolate into the piping bag then drizzle chocolate over the top of the fridge cake.

Put back into the fridge to set for another half an hour.  When set, remove the fridge cake from the tin and slice into 16 pieces.  Best kept in the fridge until needed, though but I can guarantee it won’t last long.

 

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

My Favourite Brownie Recipe

I just love baking brownies and they’re one of the first things to go when I have a stall.  Not that I’ve done many stalls recently.  My family love my brownies and they’re always popular when I’ve taken them into schools where I teach in the past.  I still laugh my head off from the marriage proposal I got once from a man who bought a pack of my brownies from my stall.  He came back about half an hour later having eaten the brownies, bought another pack and asked if he could marry me!  Sorry, but I’m already taken!

Anyway, it’s always fun baking brownies and I bake loads of different versions.  My most popular varieties are the plain ones, my Maya Gold ones and the Oreo cookie ones.  I experimented with using Green and Blacks Maya Gold chocolate in them a couple of years back and loved the taste.  I now have a baby niece called Maya so one day maybe I can teach Maya to bake them!  The Oreo cookie ones are so naughty but nice as well, though.

SmartCookieSam’s Favourite Brownies

100g  good quality chocolate of your choice

150g unsalted butter

125g plain flour

15g cocoa powder

300g soft light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large, free range eggs

100g chopped nuts/ chocolate chips/ dried fruit, Oreo cookie pieces/ Smarties or similar.

This recipe is so adaptable.  For instance if you want to have mint brownies, use a good quality bar of mint chocolate.  I recommend Lindt Intense or one similar where the mint flavour comes from crispy bits, not fondant like an After Eight Mint.  Instead of vanilla extract, use a good quality peppermint extract. Just remember to keep the quantities the same.  Let your imagination run wild!

Preheat the oven to 180oC/ 350oF/ Gas 4.  Grease and line the base of a loose bottom square baking tin (mine is about 8″ square). I swear by Wilton Cake Release available from Lakeland to help here!

Break up the chocolate into squares and add the butter in cubes. Melt the butter and chocolate over a saucepan of barely simmering water or if you prefer use the microwave.  I must admit I use the microwave. I put the chocolate to melt for 1 minute, then take it out, stir it and put it back in for 10 second intervals. Works for me.

Allow the chocolate to cool slightly and then sieve the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder and salt into another mixing bowl.

In yet another mixing bowl, beat the eggs and add the brown sugar in, along with the vanilla extract.  Stir the ingredients together but until they are just combined. Make sure there isn’t any flour visible.

Finally, fold in the melted chocolate along with any additional ingredients, such as Oreo cookies.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes.  Brownies should be chewy and gooey inside, so don’t overbake them.

Let the brownies cool in the tin before you cut them into squares.  I usually get 16 squares from a batch.  Now try to keep them from being scoffed all at once!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx