Chocolate Orange Star Cookies. 

The other day when I was in WHSmiths I ended up buying a copy of Lorraine Pascale’s new book “Bake”.  I was only meant to go in there to buy some new highlighter pens and a notebook but I came out with them plus Lorraine’s book and a magazine.  I was then meant to be doing my weekly shop so I went across the road and found myself sat in Costa coffee looking through the book. Instead of writing my shopping list I was sat there looking through all the recipes and mentally bookmarking which ones I wanted to try out first.

Now I’m not meant to be baking at home at the moment unless it’s for someone else or when I go to my local Clandestine Cake club event.  But I can’t help it. Baking is part of me.  So I try to make things for others.  I sometimes take bakes into schools I work in or give to other people.  This is what I did with the very first bake I tried from Lorraine Pascale’s “Bake”.

The first recipe I tried from the book was funnily enough also the very first recipe chronologically in the book.  It is an easy recipe to try and also looks effective.  The original recipe was for Chocolate and Vanilla Stars but I adapted this to turn them into Chocolate Orange Stars.  Instead of adding a vanilla pod or some vanilla extract to the dough, I used Sugar and Crumbs’ Chocolate Orange Cocoa Powder instead.

Lorraine’s recipe introduction says “These stars look great and are perfect for making with children. They are also awesome as presents.”  

The first job was to cream together some butter and sugar in a bowl or with a hand mixer. This needed to be done until the mixture was light and fluffy.  After this I added in a beaten egg.  The mixture was then divided carefully into two bowls.  Although I tried to take great care over this and to split the mixture evenly, I still thought there was slightly more chocolate dough than plain dough! To one bowl I added half of the quantity of self raising flour  and some cocoa powder. To the other bowl I just added the remaining amount of flour.

My star cutters looked a bit bigger than the ones featured in the photo next to the recipe but I still had enough mixture.  I rolled out the chocolate dough first and cut out the stars.  Once all the chocolate stars were cut out, they were laid onto two lined baking trays.  I then got a smaller star cutter and cut out the middle of the biscuit leaving a star shaped hole.  The chocolate mini stars were then put to one side to become the centres of the plain cookies.  On another two baking trays I did the same but with the plain dough. When I had cut the stars out of the middle they went into the middle of the chocolate ones and vice versa.

I had to bake the cookies in two batches as I needed four trays and I can only fit two trays in at a time in my oven.  They expanded in the oven and puffed up slightly, maybe because the recipe asked for self raising flour rather than plain flour.  Once cooked in the oven after about 10 minutes I let them cool down on a wire rack then planned to get ready for work.  When I was about to go out of the door I would put them into a box.

That never happened.  Just as I was getting ready to leave my phone rang so I was locking up and getting my things together.  I left the boxful of cookies on the worktop and drove off to work.  Over the next few days they got eaten at home.

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.

img_0517
Ready for the oven.
img_0522
Apple Scone Round; a great way of using all those leftover apples.
img_0523
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

 

 

Very Easy Double Chocolate Cupcakes.

This year I was lucky enough to to get two useful calendars for Christmas. My Dad and step mum bought me a “his and hers” cupcake design calendar which is where I write down all mine and my husband’s work commitments. I work as a supply teacher so my work patterns and locations can vary from week to week. Hubby isn’t always in the office but can be out and about or can be away overnight. So a calendar showing one another’s whereabouts in full view in the kitchen is very helpful.  I was also given a Great British Bake Off Family planner.  This is where I put all the family and home commitments. Even the dog, cat and horse have a slot! The bonus with the planner is that each month features a delicious recipe. 

The recipe for January was for some easy Double Chocolate Cupcakes. They use cocoa powder to create the chocolate flavour instead of real chocolate. I was glad as I didn’t have any chocolate in the house. Well I’m MEANT to be doing Weightwatchers but all this cold and wet weather has made me want chocolate all the more. So I’ve made sure there wasn’t any in the house! But I really miss baking and I knew that my son was having friends over to help him with a film project the day after. I didn’t want to go out buying more ingredients so I wanted to use up what I had.

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s simple enough to be mixed up in a food processor. My food processor kicked the bucket last year and I haven’t got round to replacing it yet. You can use an ordinary stand mixer or a hand held mixer instead. I used my hand held one as I couldn’t be bothered with getting the big mixer out of the cupboard just for baking one thing! 

The fat content comes from using sunflower oil instead of butter.  First I weighed out and sifted the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl: self raising flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. These were then mixed together. In another bowl I weighed out the sunflower oil, a beaten egg, a spoonful of vanilla extract and some caster sugar. Once this was combined, some milk got added to the mixture. Finally the dry mixture was folded into the wet mixture to create a delicious fudgy and gooey brownie like batter. It was slightly runnier than my standard chocolate cupcake mixture so I poured it into the prepared cupcake cases rather than spooning them in with a teaspoon. 

The cupcakes rose beautifully in the oven and took roughly about 20 minutes to bake. I took them out of the oven and made the most of the gorgeous sunny day by going out for a four mile walk with my dog. It was a rush for me to get the cupcakes iced before I went out to pick my son up from school. The icing is a flavourful one with this recipe. It was a buttercream but instead of all icing sugar in the mixture it also contained caster sugar. I’ve never made icing with anything other than icing sugar in it before so that was a new one on me. The icing apart from containing cocoa powder to give it its chocolatey flavour had some strong coffee in it. Not sure how strong the coffee flavour would come across but I thought it was an interesting addition. 

Easy Double Chocolate Cupcakes from the 2016 Great British Bake Off calendar.
  
The cupcakes had a simple but delicious coffee chocolate icing.
 
I chose to bake my cupcakes in red cases because red looks great with chocolate and I had a pack of red, white and blue sprinkles to use up. The picture on the calendar showed mini Smarties or chocolate beans on the top but anything goes with these babies.

Surprisingly none of the cupcakes got touched until my son’s friends arrived. I don’t know how that happened. They went down well and my daughter said she preferred them to cupcakes swirled with a heap of buttercream on top like a Mr Whippy ice cream. Trouble is they look better. 

This recipe is perfect for baking with kids if you want to encourage them into the kitchen.  

Happy baking! 

Love Sam xx

Cookie Dough Brownies- John Whaite Bakes At Home.

042
Cookie Dough Brownies- another example of heaven on a plate!

My family are obsessed with brownies and who can blame them?  It’s just heaven to sink your teeth into some chocolatey gooiness.  My fourteen year old son loves any excuse to bake or eat brownies and had he not been at school when I baked them, I’m sure he would have been in the kitchen with me hovering around to lick the bowl out!

So,  last Friday when I planned to bake John Whaite’s Cookie Dough Brownies from his latest book John Whaite Bakes At Home, I knew I would be popular.

  I realised l I couldn’t bake the brownies straightaway as  I’d forgotten to buy plain chocolate!  So off I went to the shop, came back with what they had to offer plain chocolate wise (Bournville) and got ready to start.  It wasn’t a quick recipe to knock up but it was worth it!

So, once I was ready to get down to baking I started on the cookie dough part of the recipe. I then realised this was going to take much longer than I thought as the cookie dough has to be frozen in little balls first before you get round to making the brownie batter.  Thankfully I didn’t have a deadline for baking them or I would have been in trouble.

The cookie dough was quickly made up using a rubbing in and getting the dough together method then I separated the dough out into about 16 walnut sized balls.  These were then put in my freezer (easier said than done, my freezer is tiny!) on a lined baking tray.  I had to move everything about to fit the two small trays in.  I yearn for one of those massive American fridge freezers sometimes that fits more than a bag of peas or a pint of milk in.

025
The cookie dough balls put onto the lined baking tray and ready for the freezer.

After a couple of hours in the freezer it was early afternoon and I wanted to get on with the brownies before my son came home from school.  I got on with making up the brownie batter.  Usually my brownies are made with Green and Blacks Organic plain chocolate but I couldn’t find any in the local shop so I had to use Bournville.  I like Bournville, though I know some chocolate snobs would be horrified to hear me say that!

035
The chocolate and butter were melted gently in the microwave.
036
To this I added in two free range eggs..
037
and then some mayonnaise! Yes, you read right, mayonnaise! Well I know it sounds an odd ingredient for a cake but then again it does contain eggs and oil!
038
Now for some milk and some vanilla extract along with some sugar.
039
Finally, I folded in some plain flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Just look at that, yum, yum!

Out came the cookie dough balls which had frozen well and these were then put in the bottom of my greased square tin. I spaced them well apart, thinking that there would be about 12-16 pieces of brownie, so you would get at least one large cookie dough ball in it!

040
Cookie dough balls in the greased tin.
041
The brownie batter was then carefully poured all over the top of the cookie dough balls.

The brownies baked in the oven for about 25 minutes and the kitchen smelled wonderful.  I had been so careful eating healthily so far this week but the brownies would soon be my downfall.  I hoped I could hide them so that I wouldn’t be tempted.

042
Cut up on a plate to share round the following day. Just how I like brownies, all fudgy and gooey inside with the cookie dough flavour and texture complimenting the brownies.
043
It was very difficult to see the cookie dough in the cut pieces in the photo as they were inside the pieces of brownie. But believe me they were there and they were just sublime.

When my son came home he begged to have a brownie there and then.  He wasn’t very happy when I said no but he could have one for tea.  He kept trying to wheedle one out of me but I was having none of it.  Finally we ate one for pudding, I succumbed to the temptation and it was wonderful.  The other pieces went in the freezer for another time.

Well John Whaite, you have created a winning recipe with these brownies and I am sure my family would love me all the more if I made them again and again, thankyou so much!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Fruity No Bake Granola Flapjack Bars

Last week I felt really tired, exhausted and hormonal.  I just wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep for a week yet at night I really struggled with my sleep. It took  me ages to drop off, then I was waking up at 3am  and 5 am.  I couldn’t understand why.  When I feel like this I just want carbs and comfort food and to bake stuff like flapjacks. So I got in from school and after the dog had his walk and I made myself a cup of tea, I got out the scales and looked through the cupboards.

I came up with these Fruity Granola Flapjack Bars which are full of dried fruit, pumpkin seeds and dessicated coconut.  They aren’t very healthy as they have lots of butter, sugar and golden syrup in them but taste fab and ideal if you need a burst of energy when you have had a rough day.  I think they would make a quick grab as you go breakfast as well if you are in a rush.

Ingredients:

100g dried fruit (just chuck in anything you have up to this weight you have in your cupboards- currants, raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, cherries, mixed peel) I used what was left of a bag of mixed dried fruit

100g porridge oats

50g Rice Krispies

85g dessicated coconut

50g pumpkin seeds (you could add in sunflower or sesame seeds if you want instead)

50g of chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

100g light brown soft sugar

125ml golden syrup

100g unsalted butter

001First you need to tip all the dried fruit, nuts, seeds, oats, coconut and Rice Krispies into a large bowl.

002

Give everything a really good stir so that it is evenly mixed through. Then in a large saucepan melt the butter and add the sugar and golden syrup.  Heat through until dissolved and like a syrupy mixture. Tip this into the large bowl with all the dry ingredients in and mix together thoroughly, ensuring that everything is well coated.003

When this is done, grease a 20cm/ 8cm square tin.  Then spoon the mixture into it carefully, pressing it down into the corners. I use the back of a spoon or a potato masher to level it out evenly.004

This flapjack bar is a no bake one so it goes straight into the fridge for about 2 hours to set instead of being cooked. Once set, you can cut it up into 12 bars or 16 square pieces.

006

Be warned, they are moreish!

008

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx