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

Tiger Cake from The Nordic Bakery.

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 A couple of weeks back I dug out my copy of the Nordic Bakery Cookbook.  It’s been sitting on the shelf in my spare room for about a year.  I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I last tried something out from it.  Anyway, what the hell. It was the summer holidays and I had the chance to bake something. 

In the book’s Cakes chapter is a recipe for Tiger Cake.  It “gets its name from the tiger stripes formed by the two colours of the cake mixture- vanilla and chocolate.”  This is explained in the recipe introduction, that it’s really a marble cake but the staff at the Nordic Bakery like to call it a tiger cake instead.  Either way, it still looks very impressive and even more so if you bake it in a bundt pan.  As I collect Nordic Ware bundt pans, it was a great excuse to use one.  The photo in the recipe shows a traditional ring shape but I chose to bake my version in my Star bundt pan bought earlier this year and was yet to get used.  I also adapted the recipe slightly to suit ingredients I had in and to make the cake look more special.  Here is my adaptation:

Tiger Cake

300g unsalted butter at room temperature

250g golden caster sugar

3 tsp vanilla extract

5 large, free range eggs

3 tsp baking powder

300g plain flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp full fat Greek Yoghurt

200g plain chocolate

Various chocolate sprinkles to decorate

You will also need a 23cm/ 9″ bundt pan  or a 19cm/ 7″ diameter springform tin for this recipe.

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180oC/ 350oF or Gas Mark 4. I have a fan oven so I put it on at roughly about 160oC.#
  • Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until it becomes pale and fluffy.  Add in the vanilla extract.  Then add the eggs in one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
  • In another bowl, sift the baking powder and plain flour together. Then fold this in to the egg mixture.
  • Separate one third of the mixture into a separate bowl and fold in the cocoa powder and the Greek Yoghurt.
  • At this stage I then grease my bundt tin with some Wilton Cake Release.  The tin is then ready for you to put the mixture inside it.
  • Take it in turns to spoon vanilla mixture then chocolate mixture into the bundt pan. Make sure the cake mixture is evenly spread out.
  • Bake in the oven for about 50-60 minutes until the top is firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean after you have inserted it into the cake.

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Leave your cake to cool down in the bundt pan for about 15 minutes and then take it our of the tin carefully.  Leave it to cool down completely before serving.

The original Tiger Cake recipe was left plain but I thought mine looked a bit bland and boring without some decoration on the top.  I had 200g plain chocolate in my baking cupboard so I chose to melt that and to drizzle it onto the top of the cake.  To finish off I found a tub of various milk, plain and white chocolate sprinkles I’d bought a few weeks ago in the supermarket and not used up.

I’m sorry to say I broke my diet here and scoffed a slice.  Well who can blame you when you’re faced with chocolate cake?  The cake had a delicious aroma of vanilla and chocolate and the icing tasted wonderfully fudgy. Didn’t last long in the SmartCookieSam house, I can tell you.

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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

My Favourite Cookies.

Back in my favourite place.

Well hello everyone!  I’m back on my blogging after a break.  I’ve been teaching full time and there’s been no time at all to get jobs done at home, let alone having time to bake.  I really missed baking though, as that’s definitely my chill out and relax go-to activity. I broke up for the summer holidays yesterday and that means more time to bake.  Yayyy! Though my waistline won’t thank me for it!

On Sunday afternoon, though I had time to bake for the first time in a month at least. I baked cookies as an end of term treat for the class I’ve been teaching for the past few weeks. We had watched a DVD and half way through before playtime.we had a cookie break. I baked three types of cookies so they had a choice. The leftovers went into the staff room.

I’m sharing my fool-proof recipes for my cookies here.  They’re the recipes I always swear by and I always get compliments about them.

Chocolate Chip  or White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients:

100g softened, unsalted butter

100g each of caster sugar and soft, light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

175g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

100g dark or milk chocolate chips (whatever you prefer)

For the Cranberry and White chocolate cookies, add 100g of chopped white chocolate and 50g of dried cranberries into the mix instead of the dark chocolate chips.

Preheat the oven to 180oC/ 350oF or Gas Mark 4.  Line 3 baking trays with non- stick baking parchment.

In a large bowl, weigh out the butter in small cubes. To this, weigh out both sugars, the baking powder and the plain flour. Rub the mixture together until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Break the large egg into a cup and beat it. Add the beaten egg and the vanilla extract to the cookie dough and bring it all together with a blunt knife.  When the dough is nearly together, throw in the chocolate chips and cranberries, if using them.

If you wish, you can chill the dough in the fridge for about half an hour before baking the cookies.  I didn’t have time for this, though.

If you have one, use a cookie dough scoop to place the mixture on to the baking trays so that they are spaced evenly.  These cookies grow enormously, so I tend to only have 6 cookies on a tray. I usually get about 18 cookies out of a batch.  My cookie scoop broke so I use a tablespoon now to get evenly sized cookies.

Put the cookies into the oven. Depending on the size of your oven you might need to bake them in two goes. (I do, I would love to have a massive oven where I could bake hundreds at a time!)

Bake for about 12-15 minutes.  About half way through cooking, take the cookie tray out of the oven and give it a sharp bang on the top of the cooker.  This flattens the cookies out. A wonderful tip picked up from Great British Bake Off 2011 winner, Jo Wheatley.  Then return the cookies to the oven for the final 7-8 minutes.  The cookies should still be slightly soft and chewy. Don’t be tempted to move them straight off the baking tray as they’ll fall apart. Give them 5 minutes or so and then move them onto a wire rack to cool.

 

Chocolate M&M Cookies

The recipe above can also be adapted to use Smarties or M&Ms in.  I love M&Ms, especially the mint and the peanut butter ones.  The link to the mint recipe can be found here: Mint M&M Cookies

I chose to bake a plain version using an adaptation of the recipe above.  To bake them, this is what you need to do:

  • Instead of 175g plain flour, use 150g plain flour and 25g cocoa powder.
  • Substitute the chocolate chips and cranberries, etc. for a large “sharing” resealable type bag of M&Ms.  By the way, these bags make me laugh, Chocolate manufacturers know us only too well, once you open the damn things, that’s it!
  • I put half the quantity of M&Ms in the actual dough. Then halfway through baking when I tap the cookie tray on the top of the cooker, I stud about 3 or 4 extra M&Ms on the top of the cookie before returning them to the oven for the rest of the baking time. This makes sure the M&Ms don’t burn or split open and also ensures you get a good selection of colours on one cookie.
Baking chocolate chip, white chocolate and cranberry and M&M Cookies.

Hoping to share some more favourite cookie recipes with you over the summer.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx