A couple of weeks back we had an event in my local village hall. I was asked to bake a couple of things to take along. I was surprised to be asked as it was an evening event. Usually cakes and bakes are meant to be eaten during the day but not alongside wine and nibbles. I presumed this was because there would be children there.
So with this in mind I got baking one Saturday afternoon. I started with some flapjacks, then some Oreo Cookie Brownies and then decided to make a traybake. Traybakes, to me are perfect for big gatherings as they take no time at all to prepare and a little goes a long way. I thought a plain vanilla sponge would go down well and thought about a suitable topping.
I use a lot of Sugar and Crumbs’ natural flavoured icing sugars and their cocoa powders. Every now and again I get a few packets and stock up, trying out new flavours. Or I go back and repeat buy flavours I know everyone loves. This is what happened with their Strawberry Milkshake flavour. Last year I tried making some cupcakes with strawberry milkshake flavour buttercream. This time I decided to make up some buttercream and put it on the top of the traybake. I also had some pastel coloured heart sprinkles and some edible glitter to finish off the decorations.
As expected the traybake went down well with the children and not so much with the adults. After all, who wants to eat cake with wine? I had also eaten my dinner quite late that afternoon and was still full up from then. There were a few bits left. I was still happy with the result though and will make another traybake like this another time for a coffee morning.
I’d had a manic few days at work so to come into the kitchen and bake was a great tonic for me. I feel guilty every time I bake at the moment though. I shouldn’t be doing it as eating the sugary stuff is not good for my health. But at the same time I love the process of making it. Why does baking always feel so much more exciting to me than cooking a casserole or a roast dinner?
It was a cold, damp and foggy Thursday morning last week and I was very tired. I’d taken my son to the bus stop three miles away and gone out and walked the dog. My warm, cosy and inviting kitchen beckoned. As I was walking across the muddy field with my dog, all I could think about was getting back home and into my kitchen. I was thinking about some ingredients I had in the cupboard left over from Christmas. These included two bars of white chocolate and some dried cranberries. It was a miracle that the chocolate hadn’t been nicked by the kids but then one of them is away at uni! My son has been trying to eat sensibly too.
Looking through one of my favourite cookbooks The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days, I found the perfect recipe on page 49 for Cranberry Magic Bars. There wasn’t a picture to accompany the recipe so I had to guess what they might look like. From looking at the ingredient list it said what I needed for the base and for the topping. So that meant it was baked in two parts. Nothing explaining it in the recipe introduction either. I had to go on my own instincts here and worked out that the bars were made up of a shortbread type base and topped with a condensed milk, chocolate, dessicated coconut and dried fruit concoction. Sounded scrumptious to me.
Luckily I had a tin of condensed milk in my baking stash from Christmas. Bought with the intent of using it to make fudge with, it never got used. I also needed white chocolate, cranberries and pecans. I didn’t have any pecans. The only nuts I had left was some flaked almonds so I put those in the recipe instead of the pecans.
I lined and greased my well loved Alan Silverwood Traybake pan and then put the made up base into the bottom of it. This was quite a challenge. The base had to be extremely thin and I ended up pressing it down with the back of a spoon to make it even. It only just covered the bottom of the tin. Into the oven it went at 150oC (fan oven) for about 15-20 minutes. I wanted the base to be a gentle golden brown.
While the base was being baked I made the topping. This was simple enough. The condensed milk, white chocolate, cranberries, desiccated coconut and the nuts were mixed together. I used a whole 100g bar of white chocolate chopped up instead of a bag of white chocolate chips. I had two bars but I thought I’d save the other one for another time. The mixture was spread onto the base and back into the oven it went for about 20 minutes.
Being as I wasn’t sure what the bars were meant to look like, it was confusing. When they came out of the oven they looked a bit boring. So, to make them more enticing to eat I melted my other bar of white chocolate and piped on a lattice pattern onto the cooled bars. They smelled absolutely gorgeous and I was tempted to grab at one and eat it there and then.
I will definitely be making these again. I usually have a stall at my village’s Open Gardens event every May selling my cookies and cupcakes so these might end up on the stall. You never know!
I know it’s New Year now but I can’t bear throwing things out or wasting things. As I’ve been doing Slimming World up to Christmas and hoping to start back at my local group on 4th January, I can’t really be baking things or eating leftover cake and mince pies.
But what to do with the two spare jars of homemade mincemeat which were sat taking up space in my cupboard? Mr SmartCookieSam said it would last until next Christmas but I’m not always so sure. So I had a look through my recipe books and spotted an ideal way of using up a whole jar of mincemeat without taking too much time and effort up.
This Mincemeat Loaf Cake recipe comes from Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection. The recipe actually makes two small loaves.
As Mary says in the recipe notes: ” These are great to have on hand at Christmas time. They freeze superbly and make a nice present…. the mincemeat adds spice and moisture to the cakes,”
The idea that the cakes freeze well was a real winner for me. I don’t want to be eating cakes right now but there is room in my freezer to put the loaves away and bring out for another time. They’re always useful if one of my friends pops round for a cuppa or for taking into work to share with colleagues.
The recipe was simple to make. I mixed mincemeat, softened butter, light muscovado sugar, 2 beaten eggs, self raising flour, currants and raisins together in a large mixing bowl. To this I also added an extra teaspoonful of ground mixed spice. This was all mixed together and put into two loaf tins lined with special loaf tin liners.
To finish off I needed to stud whole almonds into the top of the loaves. I realised I didn’t have any whole almonds left, only flaked ones. I sprinkled some flaked almonds on and also added some whole glace cherries before sticking the loaves in the oven. They baked for about 1 1 /4 hours while I got on with the ironing. As I was doing the ironing there was a lovely smell wafting about the kitchen, very tempting but not helpful when trying to lose weight!
The loaves didn’t look that big compared to what I was expecting, I would have preferred to have baked one big loaf instead of two tiny ones. It smelled wonderful though and once it had cooled down I was tempted to cut one of the loaves open and see what the inside looked like. I didn’t eat any, honest!
Wrapped up in cling film they’re now in the freezer. Let’s hope I don’t forget I’ve made them!
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
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.
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.
A couple of weeks ago I was so happy to win an Easter Hamper in a competition on Fentiman’s Facebook page. I couldn’t believe it, I never win anything like that and there were loads of entries. The hamper was a huge, gorgeous wicker basket filled with a massive selection of Fentiman’s popular Spring favourites. Not only that, but there was an additional treat for us, Being Easter, the hamper also contained a giant Quality Street egg, a Harry Hopalot rabbit egg from Thorntons and some delicious dark chocolate mini eggs. I was so excited when the courier delivered it a couple of days afterwards.
My only grievance about the hamper was that one of the small bottles containing the Seville Orange and Mandarin drink was smashed to smithereens inside the hamper. The drink obviously had leaked out but I was more worried about reaching inside the hamper among the shredded tissue paper to see if I could retrieve the broken glass. I was so lucky I didn’t cut my hand!
Now as you know, I always like to have any excuse to bake. So having a few bottles of my favourite soft drinks was no exception. I’ve seen cakes being baked with Coca Cola with it and wondered if I could do the same with a couple of the drinks from the hamper. I love Lemon Drizzle Cake and thought maybe instead of lemon juice I could use the lemonade in it. Last Saturday I was at home for the afternoon, so I had time to play around and experiment.
LEMONADE DRIZZLE LOAF CAKE
165g unsalted butter, softened
320g caster sugar
3 large eggs, preferably free range
200g plain flour
Grated zest from 1 lemon
90ml Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade
For the glaze:
160g caster sugar
60ml Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade
There should be about 1/3 of the bottle of Lemonade left over, so pour it into a glass and enjoy drinking it while you’re baking!
How to make the Loaf cake:
Pre-heat the oven to 170oC/ 325oF or Gas Mark 3. Line a 900g/ 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment or use a ready made loaf tin liner which can be bought from a good cookware shop. I use the ones available in Lakeland and swear by them!
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer or whisk until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. If you need to, scrape the mixture down the sides of the bowl.
Mix in the flour and lemon zest until thoroughly mixed. Then fold in the Victorian Lemonade.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level off the surface of the cake. Bake for about 1 hour in the oven. To test if the cake is done, insert a skewer into the cake. If the top bounces back when touched and the skewer comes out clean, then the cake is ready.
Keep the cake in the tin until it is completely cooled, although transfer the tin over to a wire rack.
While the cake is cooling, mix caster sugar and lemonade together in a bowl to make a syrup. When the cake is completely cool, use a skewer to prick holes in the top of the cake. Pour the syrup over the top of the cake. Allow it to set on the top before taking the cake out of the tin and the wrapper. This stops all the syrup completely soaking into the cake and gives the cake a contrasting, crunchy topping.
Cut into slices to serve. Any uneaten slices need to be kept in an airtight container and should keep for about 3 days.
Lemon Drizzle cakes always go down well with my family and I cut the cake up to put in a tin for another day. It was all too tempting for me to nibble some and I did take half of one piece to try out. It’s quite a sweet cake as lemon drizzle cakes are so you won’t want a massive piece. Then again, where cake is concerned I don’t do small!
After the success of the Lemonade Drizzle Loaf Cake I was tempted to have another go but adapt the recipe for an alternative flavour. My favourite Fentiman’s drink is their Ginger Beer and I always have it if I’m going out for dinner at a local pub when I’m driving. Luckily for me, my kids don’t like Ginger Beer. so they hadn’t guzzled it all up. Last Wednesday I found myself with a day off work so I chose to do a spot of baking once I’d done all my jobs. I thought I’d try out some Ginger Beer Drizzle Loaf Cake and see if that worked.
GINGER BEER DRIZZLE LOAF CAKE
Ingredients are the same as for the Lemonade Drizzle Cake but with a couple of substitutions and additions:
Instead of the grated zest of a lemon, use 3 balls of stem ginger which have been rinsed, chopped into tiny pieces, rinsed and tossed in a tablespoonful of flour.
Instead of Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade, use their Ginger Beer.
Optional: I also added a tsp of stem ginger extract available from Lakeland.
The only problem I found with the Ginger Beer Drizzle Cake is that it didn’t have that punch of ginger I was expecting. Next time I bake it, I will add a couple of teaspoonfuls of ground ginger to the mix along with the dry ingredients and see what happens. Also, I found that despite rinsing and flouring the ginger pieces, they still sank to the bottom of the cake. I ate a thin sliver off one of the pieces I’d cut and thought maybe the recipe needs tweaking a bit. Then again, if you don’t like a big ginger hit, then you don’t have to change anything. The other treat was, to sit and drink the remainder of the 275ml bottle with your lunch.
At the time of writing there are two bottles left and my kids have been clamouring to drink them. I have let them have a treat at the weekend but there’s no way I’m letting them near the large bottle of Rose Lemonade! Hands off!
Happy New Year to anyone who might be reading this. I’m determined to get back into my neglected blog this year. It’s been so long but you know what it’s like leading up to Christmas, things just go crazy. Here’s another recipe I had a go at a few weeks ago. I just love anything with ginger in it and was keen to have a go at baking the Sticky Ginger Traybake from the latest Great British Bake Off cookbook. The recipe introduction made it sound even more mouthwatering: “..this dark, almost black, sticky toffee gingerbread with a crunchy topping. Dark muscovado sugar and black treacle give it a rich bitter sweetness while stem ginger adds fire and heat,”
The traybake is a sticky gingerbread base with a crunchy topping and just speaks of Autumn and Bonfire Night to me. The base is baked separately from the topping.
First of all I put butter, treacle and dark muscovado sugar into a pan and heated it gently. Then I chopped some stem ginger into large chunks and added it to the pan with some reserved syrup from the stem ginger jar.
As this was melting, I sifted plain flour, ground ginger, mixed spice and some bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl. Once this was done I then mixed in two medium eggs. The melted ginger mixture was also added to the bowl to make the gingerbread. This was then poured into my prepared traybake tin and baked in the oven for about 15 minutes.
While the gingerbread base was in the oven I made the topping which was made up of plain flour, ground ginger, light brown muscovado sugar, unsalted butter and stem ginger. It was a rubbed in mixture. When the gingerbread base came out of the oven I sprinkled the topping onto it and then put it back into the oven for another 25 minutes. The aroma of spicy gingerbread was just gorgeous and I couldn’t wait to try a piece.
I was really pleased with how the gingerbread traybake turned out and it will be something I’d love to bake more of in the future. The flavour of the gingerbread was very spicy and intense so it might not appeal to those who love strong flavours. It did to me though, in fact if I’d not stopped myself I would have eaten more slices. I put them in a box and took them to the school I was teaching in the following day to share out in the staff room. I’m not sure whether they went down well or not, I forgot to ask!
I can’t believe I haven’t updated my blog for weeks and weeks. Time has just slipped by. Even during the Christmas holidays I didn’t have time to log on and update on what has been baking in the SmartCookieSam kitchen.
A few weeks ago one of my Cake Club friends very kindly bought a couple of cans of Libby’s Pumpkin Puree when she was shopping for some herself. I was grateful as I wasn’t sure when I would be able to get hold of some myself. I’ve bought it in Waitrose before. My family think pumpkin tastes disgusting but I love it so any excuse to bake something that wouldn’t get troughed before I manage to get a slice!
Anyway, what to bake? I wanted to try something different so I had a look through my recipe books and spotted an interesting looking bake in the Primrose Bakery Christmas.book. I don’t really associate pumpkin with Christmas, more with Autumn and Thanksgiving but I was keen to try it out.
The recipe introduction states: “This spicy and slightly alcoholic pumpkin slice would actually make a great dessert served with some whipped or double cream or vanilla ice cream on the side,”
So, with an afternoon to spare out came my traybake tin and on went the oven. The pumpkin slice has two parts to it, an unusual crumble base and a mousse like topping which are baked separately. The base comprised of sugar, oats, plain flour and butter which were rubbed in together just like you do when you make a crumble. Once the mixture looked like breadcrumbs I had to press the mixture into the base of my greased traybake tin. The crumble base was baked in the oven for about 20 minutes.
While the crumble base was baking I prepared the mousse topping. I was meant to put rum in the mixture but I didn’t have any so I used some leftover brandy instead. To make the topping I simply mixed together a whole can of Libby’s Pumpkin Puree, three large beaten eggs, some caster sugar, self raising flour, vanilla extract, cinnamon. ginger and nutmeg.The mixture was a bright orange colour and reminded me of the purees I used to make for my children when they were babies!
The mousse like topping was then spread over the cooked crumble base. To finish off I sprinkled over some flaked almonds before putting the slice back into the oven for another 20-25 minutes.
The pumpkin slice came out of the oven and looked a bit unappealing to me. It wasn’t a very deep slice but it looked claggy and stodgy. I thought I would try a piece when it had cooled down. I was disappointed. I ended up eating a couple of mouthfuls and the rest went in the bin. It was revolting and the topping wasn’t the texture I was expecting at all. What a shame.