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

Cooking The Books- March 2017.

It’s been a long time since I did my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge. Every month for a few months back in 2014 I chose a book and aimed to bake or cook one or two recipes from each chapter throughout that month. It meant that any book I’d bought and let gather dust on the shelf would get some use out of it.

Or so that was the plan…

A couple of weeks back I bought Mary Berry’s new cookbook “Everyday”. There’s so many recipes in there I want to try out and it’s not all about baking.  Especially as if I bake, I end up eating it.

Mary+Berry+Everyday

The original idea in the Cooking The Books Challenge was to choose at least one recipe from each chapter of the book I was using that month.  It could vary depending on the amount of chapters and what sort of things were being cooked. With a Mary Berry cookbook and also one which featured family meals, I knew that the Everyday book challenge wouldn’t be so hard after all.

The strapline for the book is to “make every meal special”.  I cook most of my dinners from scratch but we do have the odd takeaway and use shortcuts. I don’t have time after a busy day in the classroom to make every meal special.  In fact if I have been working as with a lot of working families, it’s what you can grab at first.

So as I opened the book I laughed my head off to see the contents of Everyday’s first chapter: Food For Sharing.  Mary does love her dinner party food with canapes and little nibbles.  The only time I do anything remotely like this is at Christmas. Do people really have nibbles and bites like this everyday? Perhaps I’m missing out.

The rest of the book is divided into eight other chapters and to me  they include more of your everyday foods and meals. This does do what it says on the book cover.  The recipes are mainly every day meals but with a special twist. Also there are ideas which look very fancy but actually don’t take as long to cook as they first appear.  I was keen to try out a few recipes on my family.

What is going to be tried out in the SmartCookieSam kitchen over the next few weeks?

Food For Sharing:  I won’t be holding any fancy dinner parties this month. I’m far too busy.  But I do love the sound of the two Samosa recipes in this chapter; Curried Beef Samosas and Spicy Mexican Samosas.  I’ve got some filo pastry in the freezer I’ve not managed to use up. I might try out the Guacamole with Coriander and the Olive Tapenade if I have time one weekend.

First Courses and Light Lunches: Often at work I take along a salad, a Mug Shot, yoghurt and fruit or a sandwich.  I sometimes take soup.  Or if I’m forgetful I end up rushing out of the house and forget my lunch meaning I have to stop off at the M&S at the local garage near me.  Better get my act together.  There’s a mouthwatering recipe in this chapter for a Winter Vegetable Soup.  I also fancy trying out Mary’s Crispy Bacon Rosti one Saturday lunchtime.

Beef, Pork, Lamb and Game:  I can’t stand lamb but don’t mind venison.  There is a twist on the Cottage Pie recipe here by using minced venison in place of beef.  It looks delicious but I’m not sure whether Mr SmartCookieSam and our son will eat it. I know they will love Mary’s special Chilli Con Carne,  the Fillet Steak with Peppercorn Sauce and the Sausage  and Herb Plait.  I’m really keen to try the Portguese Pork and Rice too.

Poultry: As with lots of people, we love chicken in our house. It’s a joke that when Mr SmartCookieSam cooks it’s always Garlic Chicken.  My son said until recently, “If Dad’s cooking, it’s garlic chicken!” Though recently hubby has started cooking curries.  Now my son says “Dad’s cooking curry again!”  I’m grateful for hubby cooking and he is a great cook but sometimes I like to try different things.  So I’m going to test out Marsala Mediterranean Chicken Thighs, the Chicken Stir Fry with Teriyaki Sauce and Chicken Dijon on them. I might even try more.

Fish:  I’m not a huge fish lover though I’m doing my best to eat more fish and seafood.  I had a lot of bad experiences as a child with my Nana Margaret’s terrible cooking and it’s put me off for life.  Even smelling kippers now at breakfast in a hotel room makes me want to throw up. But I’m not going to throw up testing out Mary’s Very Posh Fishcakes, her Yuzu Salmon with Buttered Leeks and her Fragrant Light Prawn Curry.

Vegetarian: I was really struggling with this chapter.  Not because I didn’t like any of the recipes.  It was more about what on earth my carnivore mad hubby would eat.  Any recipes which contain courgettes, aubergines or are risottos are out!  I think I might have to try out the Sun dried tomato pasta with Mozzarella and the Potato, Leek and Cheese Pie though.

Sides and Salads:  Lots of variety to choose from here but I think the two different salads with bulgar wheat in as well as the Satay Chicken Salad look delicious.Once again what I would eat and what Mr SmartCookieSam would eat is another thing!

Puddings and Desserts: Now for an everyday occurence, I definitely don’t have puddings and desserts.  I’ve even stopped having out weekly Sunday lunch dessert.  This is mainly because my son now works on a Sunday so we don’t eat our dinner until late. Eating a pie or a crumble late in the evening gives me indigestion so I don’t bother. All of Mary’s pudding recipes look scrumptious and I’m so tempted by her Apple and Lemon Galette and her Blackberry and Apple Crumble Pie.  But when would we eat it though?

Teatime: Now as you all know I’m a baking addict and I confess to always looking at the baking chapter first in a book like this.  As Mary Berry is the baking queen herself, her baking recipes never disappoint.  I’ve seen several recipes in this chapter I want to try but of course if I bake them, I eat them.  I would love to try out Mary’s Hummingbird Cake, her Pistachio Shortbreads, the Lemon Meringue cupcakes and her Chocolate Reflection Cake.

Watch this space and read on throughout the next few weeks to see how many recipes I actually do get to try out.

Love Sam xx

 

 

Hilton Doubletree Cookies

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My version of Hilton Doubletree Cookies. Soft and chewy and deliciously moreish.

A couple of weeks ago I was in one of those I want to bake moods.  This happens quite a lot as baking takes my mind off everyday worries and is pure escapism from my busy job.  When I have times like these I love to bake cookies. They are quick and simple to make and taste fab too. Not that I’m allowed at the moment. I’m doing Slimming World and I can’t even begin to think about how many Syns are in some of my baking creations.

I was in one of those moods where I wanted to try out something new so I went online and came across these stunners.  Hilton Doubletree Cookies.  Now, if you have ever stayed in a Hilton Doubletree Hotel they give you a fresh and warm cookie when you check in.  I stayed at one in London near Tower Bridge about five years ago with my family and my son for one thought this was amazing to get a cookie.  We had set off early down to London from Yorkshire and were just checking in late in the morning so the cookie staved off the hunger pangs until we could stop for lunch later.

From what I remember of my Hilton Doubletree Cookie, it was soft and chewy inside, just how I like a cookie.  So when I saw the recipe online, I wrote it down and attempted to have a go at making some.  The recipe was in American measurements so I got out my set of baking cups.  I’m always nervous of adapting American recipes as I’m worried they won’t be as accurate because I’m not used to them.  Especially as this recipe called for a cup of butter.  I had to scoop up the butter and put it into the cup which was quite messy.  Usually when I bake cookies you just weigh out the butter!

The cookies also asked for chopped walnuts in the mixture. I added pecans to mine as I didn’t have any walnuts in at home. Of course due to nut allergies, etc. you can omit the nuts.  I used chopped chocolate chunks as well.

It was torture not being able to eat a cookie. Why do I do this to myself? I don’t like cooking Slimming World friendly cookies.  The one time I did this I was not impressed at having to use artificial sweetener and low fat spread in my baking. All those chemicals and the bake felt wrong. So it’s better to abstain and give the baking to someone else who can indulge. And this is exactly what happened here…. until the following day when I’d been so busy I’d not had time for lunch and got home from work. Who wanted a banana or an apple then? Oh no, not me! I ate one and very gorgeous it was too. Now a few months back I would have eaten another and another but guilt stopped me. So I stuck at one!

Now if you want to try baking the DoubleTree Hilton Cookies yourself,  then this is where I found the recipe. Head over to  fabulous The Little Kitchen blog and you will find it there:

http://www.thelittlekitchen.net/doubletree-hotel-copycat-chocolate-chip-cookies-recipe/

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With the addition of chocolate chunks and pecan nuts, these cookies are heaven on a plate.
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These cookies didn’t last long in our house.

 

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Icing Sugar Winter Flavours- Creme Brulee Snowflake Bundt and Cupcakes.

I really love Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural flavoured icing sugars and was really keen to try out their new limited edition flavours brought out for this Christmas and the Winter season.  I was lucky enough to win a £25 gift voucher from them in a Great British Bake Off competition on their Facebook page. We had to predict the winner of the Bake Off for this year. My name along with another lady, won because we were drawn out of the names who predicted Candice would win. I was so happy when I heard I’d won the prize as I wanted to buy packets of the new four flavours released in time for Christmas.  Not only that but I wanted to get some more packets of my favourite flavours, like Chocolate Mint and Salted Caramel.

The four new flavours included the decadent sounding Creme Brulee.  I love Creme Brulee although I never make it at home.  It sounded like a perfect creamy vanilla flavour to enhance a Christmas themed sponge, cupcakes or fudge.

Those of you who read my blog regularly might see I’ve not been writing much recently. This is down to me working full time with a position in a nursery.  It has been very long hours and as soon as I get in on an evening, the last thing I think about is baking or blogging.  But baking is a massive part of my life, it keeps me sane and helps me relax.  I really missed it.

Before the end of last term it was going to be a Christmas tea party at the nursery I’ve been working in.  I baked some plain vanilla cupcakes with glace icing and snowflake sugarpaste shapes for the children.  I didn’t want the adults to miss out, after all in the busy lead up to Christmas you definitely need a sugar boost to get you through the day.

Plain vanilla cupcakes baked for the children to eat at their tea party.

The Snowflake Creme Brulee Bundt was a great excuse to use my Nordicware snowflake bundt pan bought back in July when on holiday in Canada.  I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw it on the shelf in Williams Sonoma in Edmonton. I made sure I greased the bundt pan carefully with cake release, then got on with baking the bundt itself.  The recipe I used is adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery’s book Life Is Sweet.  On page 28 there is a delicious recipe for a Tunnel of Fudge Bundt cake.  Here is my adaptation:

SNOWFLAKE CREME BRULEE BUNDT

INGREDIENTS:

390g unsalted, softened butter

375g caster sugar

6 large eggs

250g icing sugar (Sugar and Crumbs’ Creme Brulee natural flavour)

395g plain flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

extra icing sugar to dust 

To begin with preheat the oven to 170oC/ 325oF or Gas Mark 3.Grease the bundt pan with Cake release.

In a mixing bowl with a hand held electric mixer or a freestanding mixer, beat the softened butter and the caster sugar together until it is light and creamy.

Then add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture after each addition. Then add the icing sugar to the bowl, followed by the vanilla extract.

After that, add in the plain flour. Mix this with a metal spoon by folding in the flour until everything is incorporated.  

Spoon the mixture into the prepared bundt tin.  I found that there was some mixture left over when I use a smaller bundt pan.  I ended up having enough mixture to bake several cupcakes.  Of course this does depend on the size of your bundt pan, just make sure it is filled to three quarters full. 

Bake your bundt cake in the oven for about 55-60 minutes. I usually need to check with a skewer inserted into the cake but it is usually done when the cake starts to come away from the side of the tin.

As the snowflake bundt has so much pretty detail on it, I felt it didn’t need any icing. All it needed was a dusting of the creme brulee icing sugar on top and it was finished.

The remainder of the 500g packet of creme brulee icing sugar was turned into a simple glace icing for the top of the cupcakes.I then cut out some sugarpaste snowflake shapes with some mini plunger cutters bought from Lakeland.  They were gorgeous and looked pretty on top of the cupcakes in their sparkly foil cases.

The Creme Brulee Snowflake Bundt in all its glory.
The snowflake bundt only needed a dusting of icing sugar to show the beautiful detail off.
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Love these pretty snowflake plunger cutters from Lakeland.
Cupcakes baked with the remaining mixture which was left.  Topped with the remaining creme brulee icing and finished with sugarpaste snowflakes
Different snowflake patterns

Everything went down very well at work.  Though it’s nearly 3 weeks since I made them now, such a distant memory. But I’m determined to get myself organised and blog more in 2017.  Wonder if I’ll still be saying that next month!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mint Chocolate M&M Cupcakes.

So far so good with my Slimming World plan.  But I really miss baking.  And what I mean about that is proper baking without using rubbish ingredients to replace the sugar and the butter in cakes.  I’ll just have to be extra strict with myself and keep away from anything I bake.

I’ve had a large bag of Mint M&Ms in my baking cupboard for a few weeks now.  Every time my son comes in the kitchen he’s always asking me if he can have the packet of M&Ms as I hadn’t used them. I told him I was using them to bake cupcakes or cookies with but last Wednesday he’d asked again on his day off from college.  So I thought I would use the M&M’s as decorations on top of some  chocolate mint infused cupcakes which were finished off with a swirl of mint chocolate buttercream.  Those of you who know me well, know I have an addiction to all things mint flavoured and I’m also a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugars.  When they brought out a mint chocolate flavour icing sugar I was in heaven.

MINT CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

 125g softened, unsalted butter.

125g caster sugar

100g self raising flour

25g cocoa powder (I use Green and Blacks)

2 large free range eggs

1 tsp peppermint extract

  • Prepare a 12 hole cupcake tin with your cupcake cases and preheat your oven.  I have an electric fan oven so my oven temperature is about 1600C.
  • Weigh out all the ingredients and mix together in a large mixing bowl. I use the all in one method for baking my cupcakes.  These can either be mixed with a hand held mixer or a free standing one.
  • Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. I usually get two large teaspoonfuls into each case, making sure they are equally divided. I have used a small ice cream scoop to help me in the past but it has broken!
  • Bake the cupcakes on the tray in the middle of the oven for about 15-20 minutes until they are well risen and spring back when touched.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the icing:

250g softened unsalted butter

500g pack of Sugar and Crumbs Chocolate Mint Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar

Milk to mix.

  • Weigh out the butter and put into a large mixing bowl.  Whip it up with a hand held mixer so that it makes it creamy and easier to manage.
  • Sift in the icing sugar and mix carefully. Add in milk, bit by bit until the icing is smooth but not runny. It needs to be of a piping consistency.
  • Prepare a large piping bag with a large star shaped icing nozzle and fill the bag with about 1/3 0f the mixture. Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes.

As the pictures of my cupcakes shows, I used mint flavour M&M’s to top my cakes. You could use anything with a chocolate mint flavour: After Eight mints or Aero Bubbles or Matchmakers.

These cakes always go down well with my family and it was torture not being able to eat one.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Apple Amber Cake

I cannot believe how lazy I’ve been about my blogging recently.  Life has just been so hectic and every time I try to sit down and write something, there’s always something else to do.  I’ve also started on a diet, so I have been trying my hardest not to bake as much. This is torture to me as I really miss it.  So I made a deal with myself. I  said I would bake only for Cake Club or for special occasions. Famous last words: I lasted 4 days after joining Slimming World!  It got to Sunday lunch time and I was working my way through a massive bag of beautiful rosy apples my Dad and step mum had given me.  I just had to bake something and found the perfect recipe in Miranda Gore Browne’s book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can.

Apple Amber is a traditional Irish pudding which is a bit like an Apple Meringue Pie.  Miranda’s recipe is a cake version where the base is a whisked lemon sponge.  The apples are spooned on top as a filling and then the meringue goes on top and is baked in the oven.  It sounded too mouthwatering for words.

First, I had to make the apple filling.  This I tried to do on the Sunday morning when really I should have been finishing off my pile of ironing.  The ironing basket was getting as tall as the Empire State Building but that didn’t stop me from baking!  I used 3 apples as they were quite small and finely chopped them.  Miranda had said to grate them but I find grating things hard work. So I peeled the apples, cored and sliced them into little cubes. They were then put into a pan to stew with some sugar.  As my apples were eaters and quite sweet, I drastically reduced the sugar but added in lemon juice.  Once the apples were pureed down a bit, I took them off the heat and stirred in two egg yolks.

Miranda suggests using a springform cake tin but I couldn’t find the right size one in my cupboard. I just used a normal circular tin but a deep one I use for Christmas cakes.  This gave me enough depth for the lemon sponge cake base, the filling and the meringue part.  As the filling was cooling, I started on the cake part. I whisked butter and sugar together in my KitchenAid, then added in some vanilla extract and two more egg yolks.  While this was whisking away I weighed out the dry ingredients for the cake. I used self raising flour, baking powder and some lemon zest. Finally I added in some milk.

The cake baked very quickly in my fan oven and only took about 20 minutes. I felt the time passed by in a flash as I was doing the meringue part while the sponge was cooking.  Apart from smashing an egg on the work top and then making a mess of separating another egg, I finally managed to make some meringue.  I’m getting better at meringues but sometimes I worry about burning them.

At last it was time to assemble the whole cake together and finish it off in the oven.  I spooned the apple mixture on top of the sponge still in its cake tin and then finally on went the meringue.  I wanted it to look like a big snowy mountain but it just looked like a big mess.  I just hoped it would taste nice.  Back into the oven it went for 15 minutes.

When the cake was ready to come out it smelled wonderful in my kitchen.  I gave it time to cool down before attempting to get the cake out of the tin.  It slid out easily apart from one tiny bit of sponge which got stuck to the side of the tin.  I had greased it, too.

Later on I served the Apple Amber Cake up for pudding.  I had a tiny mouthful and found it quite sugary, even with my sweet tooth. Funnily enough Mr SmartCookieSam, who doesn’t have a sweet tooth liked it and over the next couple of days had more slices of it.  My son ate the cake and meringue bit and left the fruit! I will definitely have a go at baking it again but was wondering if there was a way of reducing the sugar content in the meringue and the apple puree so that it didn’t taste so sweet.

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