Cornflake Crispies.

Chocolate Cornflake Crispies are always a popular treat with adults and children alike.

I have a new favourite recipe book. It’s actually one I bought about 5 years ago and never got round to testing out any recipes. Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is a classic which millions of people use (including me) but Annie Bell’s Baking Bible is a fabulous book. It features many classics and traditional favourites but also includes special twists and more unusual bakes that we might not have heard of.

I would like to be able to bake through the whole of the book but I don’t know if I will have chance to do this. I start off projects and then work gets busy . And life in general just takes over. So I’ll have a go and even if I bake some recipes I’ve never had a go at before, that’s a great start.

I like to use a mixture of dark and milk chocolate in my crispies.  As it was nearly Easter I chose some pretty yellow spotty pastel cupcake cases from my baking stash.

To begin with, I thought I would take one of the simplest recipes ever. One we always start off learning as children. Cornflake Crispies which Annie Bell describes as “an oldie, but a goodie, these remain a classic favourite of children, teenagers and a few grown ups. You can also make them using dark chocolate only, but the mix of milk and dark creates a good balance,” I agree, the presence of milk chocolate for children seems to work better although dark chocolate is delicious as well.

This is what I chose to use when I made Cornflake Crispies at home a few weeks ago when it was Easter. I had some Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, which to me are seriously addictive. In fact, I’m really surprised there were enough to put in the crispies to turn them into Easter nests. Usually you’re meant to use Shredded Wheat to make them into a chocolate nest but I didn’t have any in the cupboard, only cornflakes.

First, I melted a mixture of dark and milk chocolate in a microwave proof bowl, along with a small portion of butter. Once this had cooled down slightly, I folded in some cornflakes. Another version I have uses golden syrup as well but this wasn’t needed in this recipe. The chocolate I used was Tesco’s own brand and it works really well. I tend to get it in when it is on special offer.

I spooned the mixture evenly among twelve cupcake cases which I had already put inside a muffin tin. Although the crispies is a no bake recipe, and sers in the fridge I always put them into a muffin tin so that they keep their shape. Before putting in the fridge I put some mini eggs on the top of the nest.

I put the chocolate crispies into a muffin tin so that they keep their shape while they set in the fridge.
One for me with a cup of tea!

After an hour or so, the crispies had set in the fridge. We had them over the course of the Easter Weekend with cups of tea or instead of pudding. They didn’t last long. I just wish I had made double the amount!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Blueberry and Lemon Yoghurt Muffins

It’s very hard when you want to bake but you can’t because you know you’ll just eat it all. The other day I had the urge to bake some muffins. I told myself that it would be ok if I ate one for breakfast. Yes, it was very nice but I don’t recommend it because two hours later I was starving. Mind you, it didn’t help that in that two hours I’d done a load of jobs and walked the dog in between. So maybe I was genuinely in need of something. Well, that’s my excuse anyway!

These blueberry and lemon yoghurt muffins were so easy to knock up and were so light. The recipe was adapted from one in Annie Bell’s Baking Bible and was originally a blueberry and orange muffin recipe. They are dairy free and the fat content comes from using olive oil in the batter. Instead of using orange zest and juice, which I didn’t have, I used lemon zest and natural yoghurt in its place. This worked extremely well and I was pleased with the result.

Annie Bell has a tip at the end of her recipe saying “It is only one step on in imagination to use extra virgin olive oil in a muffin, rather than groundnut or sunflower. It mellows with cooking and the resulting scent, while distinctive, is very pleasing,”

I must admit I had never thought to bake with olive oil before as I thought the flavour would be too strong. It was, as Annie Bell said, a very mellow flavour within the muffin.

Happy baking!

Love Sam xx

Bounty Bars

I didn’t buy Mr SmartCookieSam an Easter Egg. Then again he didn’t buy me one. Not that I was bothered anyway. He told us not to buy him an egg a few weeks back as he didn’t need one. So I really hope he was joking yesterday morning when I put out the eggs and Easter treats I had bought for my two children.

I thought, well I didn’t buy him an Easter Egg so I’ll make him something else he likes. Last week I treated myself to Sarah Rainey’s new book Three Ingredient Baking. It’s a great book and has loads of recipes in there I’d love to try out. One recipe was for home made Bounty Bars. Now Mr SmartCookieSam loves Bounty Bars and if he ever fills up with diesel and fancies a bar of chocolate he always gets a Bounty Bar. I must admit I like them too.

The three ingredients in the homemade Bounty Bars were a tin of condensed milk, a whole 200g packet of dessicated coconut and 300g of dark chocolate.

I tipped the dessicated coconut into a bowl, then poured the tin of condensed milk over the top of it.

The condensed milk and the dessicated coconut were mixed together to make the creamy filling of the Bounty Bars. Then I put some cling film over the top of the bowl and put it into the fridge to harden up for a while. In Sarah Rainey’s recipe she says to chill them for 2 hours. I chilled them for about two and a half hours but I still thought the filling was a bit too soft and squishy. Maybe I should have tried the freezer instead?

After the chilling time I laid out some cling film on my work top and worked the coconut mixture into a large slab. This helped me to cut them into bars. I couldn’t get them into neat bars all the same size.

Definitely not neat and pristine but I hoped that a bit longer in the fridge being hardened in the bar shape would help them to be easier to work with. The bars were meant to stay in the fridge for another hour which I did. Unfortunately, an hour didn’t seem long enough and my fridge was working at the right temperature. I reckon I should have put them in the freezer.

Meanwhile, I melted 250g out of the 300g plain chocolate I had. I had to use two different types of dark chocolate but they were high in cocoa solids. Unlike real Bounty Bars, then! I used 200g of Morrisons The Best dark chocolate and then the rest of the chocolate was from a bar of Dr Oetker 72% cocoa solids dark cooking chocolate. It melts really well and I use it for many things.

The coconut bars were still very squishy and if I had had more time I would have put them in the freezer before adding the melted chocolate. I need one of those coating forks like chocolatiers have but instead I tried to use a normal fork and a teaspoon. This didn’t work! The coated bars went into the fridge to set as I melted the remaining 50g of dark chocolate. This was then decanted into a small piping bag with the end snipped off so I could drizzle the rest of the chocolate over the bars.

Be warned, this recipe is quite fiddly! I got into a big mess, especially when coating the bars with the melted chocolate and had to wash my hands several times in between. It didn’t help that I had the mother of all hot flushes as I was in the middle of this. Bad timing, or what?

When I put the bars in the fridge to set for the final time, my daughter came into the kitchen to start cooking the dinner for us. She burst out laughing and said they looked like giant dog turds! She was right, they did!

After we’d had our dinner which was actually a non-traditional Easter dinner made by my daughter of her special toad in the hole, I brought out the Bounty Bars (aka dog turds) to show Mr SmartCookieSam. The beauty of these is that my kids don’t like coconut so they won’t be pinching their dad’s chocolate. Despite their messy appearance they actually tasted delicious.

Will I make them again? I might, I might not. Time will tell.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx

Praline Brownies

There’s nothing like a great big gorgeous gooey chocolate brownie.  Just pure decadence.  I was off work for three days last week due to the snow and by last Friday afternoon I had cabin fever.  Now if you’re a baking addict like me you begin to think of what you can bake, never mind cooking the tea.  I was thinking I might have to get my breadmaker out but thankfully we had enough to keep us going.

A couple of weeks back I bought Martha Collison’s second recipe book “Crave” and ended up craving things after looking through the recipes.  One of her recipes for Pecan Praline Brownies including some homemade pecan praline to add to the mixture.

I had a packet of Vahine Pralines Concassees which I had bought from a Carrefour Supermarket when on holiday in France last year.  I didn’t know what I would use them for until I saw the recipe for the Praline Brownies.  Instead of making the praline with pecans, I would substitute the packet of pralines.  The pretty pink colour contrasted well against the rich, dark brown colour of the brownies.

What I also loved about this brownie recipe was that it used real, dark chocolate in the mixture and not just cocoa powder.  I also chose to bake mine in a square tin, rather than a traybake tin so I would get deeper pieces.

Instead of melting the dark chocolate separately, the recipe asks you to melt butter and sufar together on the hob.  Then, once this is melted then you add in the chocolate pieces using the heat of the melted mixture to melt the chocolate.

When the mixture had cooled, I added in beaten eggs, flour and cocoa powder and then finally tossed in the pralines.  Then it was poured into the prepared tin and ready to bake in the oven for between 25-30 minutes.

When the brownies were baked, they were taken out of the oven and left to cool.  I always worry about overcooking brownies as they are meant to be fudgy and chewy, not like a cake.

As not to tempt me to scoff them, I cut up the brownies and put them straight into a plastic box to go in the freezer.  I knew if they were frozen, I’d not be able to eat them all up. I did love the way the brownies turned out, though.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Half Term Baking

It feels like an eternity since I last updated my blog. I was working in a long term and full time post last half term. Baking, let alone any blogging was the last thing on my mind.

The last few weeks have been extremely stressful. Even though baking helps me to relax and unwind, I didn’t have the time and the energy to lift a wooden spoon. As soon as my work was finished for the night, it was bedtime and the cycle would start again at 6.00am the next morning.

Although half term week was last week up here in Yorkshire, it’s taken me that long to get my head back to writing up my latest post. But I was so happy, esctatic even to be back in my favourite place doing what I love. So I am sharing with you what I have baked this last week.

At Christmas I was given a copy of Jamie Oliver’s latest book “5 Ingredients” which I really love. As there are only 5 ingredients in each recipe, a lot of the recipes are simple to make and quick to throw together after a busy day. Although poor Mr SmartCookieSam ended up cooking our dinner most nights last half term! As usual, whenever I get a new recipe book I’m always looking at the sweet stuff at the back of the book.

On the Monday of half term week I went over to Leeds to meet up with my cake club friends at one of our friends’ houses. Linda cooked us a delicious Spanish Chicken Traybake (from the Hairy Dieters first book) and we had some sweet treats afterwards. This was a real tonic to catch up with my friends as I hadn’t seen anyone for a couple of months. My contribution was a Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake (more of that to follow) and some St Clements Polenta Biscuits from Jamie’s 5 Ingredients.

The St Clements Polenta Biscuits could have been used with lemons or oranges but I used just lemons in my recipe. The five ingredients were: butter, fine polenta, self raising flour, caster sugar and lemons or oranges. The biscuit dough could be made up in my food processor, so it was really quick to put together. When the dough had formed into a large ball, I split the dough into 24 equal pieces and laid them onto a lined baking tray. The biscuits spread a lot during the baking so I needed to space them well apart on the tray. I usually put 6 biscuits per tray. These were baked for about 10 minutes in the oven, but my oven temperature is a bit out at the moment so I was watching them like a hawk.

I was very pleased with the biscuits and they went down well. My only problem was not to eat them before I met my friends! It’s the first time I’ve used polenta in a biscuit recipe. I’ve baked polenta in savoury recipes and also in a cake. The latter was a complete disaster and the cake fell apart. Cake balls, anyone?!

The other bake I took along to my friend’s house was a Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake. Anyone who knows me well will know that I collect Nordicware Bundt pans. Much to the annoyance of Mr SmartCookieSam who complains about them taking up space in the garage! I chose to use my Elegant Heart pan to make my cake in, being as it was two days before Valentine’s Day. I had a packet of mini Chocolate Orange Lindt D’Or balls in my baking cupboard which I could use to decorate the top. I’m still confused. How were they still there in the cupboard? I’m surprised they hadn’t been scoffed.

I adapted the Tunnel of Fudge Bundt recipe from one of my Nordicware cookbooks and used one of my favourite products in the mix. I’m a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Flavoured Icing Sugars and Cocoa powders. I used the chocolate orange cocoa powder in the cake itself and in the glaze on top.

The third bake of the week was on the Thursday of half term week. I was at home on my own that day just catching up on jobs around the house and by the afternoon I was fed up of doing boring chores. The kitchen beckoned again so I had a go at making another recipe from Jamie’s “5 Ingredients” This time I baked “Buddy’s Flapjack Biscuits” Jamie must have made the recipe for his son, Buddy. The five ingredients in this recipe were: butter, mixed dried fruit and nuts, porridge oats, self raising flour and golden syrup. Basically a flapjack style recipe without sugar in it, only syrup and more sweetness derived from dried fruit. I chose to substitute the dried fruit for a packet of Vahine choco-caramel chips which I had in the baking cupboard. They had been brought back from France last August and I hadn’t got round to using them. They melted into the mixture, though and turned it darker. I was hoping they might stay solid, rather like chocolate chips do in a cookie. Once again, this recipe was simplicity itself pulsed together in my food processor.

I also treated myself to Mary Berry’s latest book “Classic” and used her recipe for flapjacks which definitely are a classic to me. If I could only ever eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would easily be a flapjack. Though it has to be said, both my son and Mr SmartCookieSam ate these.

Finally, I had a very special cake to bake at the end of half term week. My friend was celebrating her 60th birthday so her husband asked me if I could bake her a cake. Marion and I met a couple of years ago before our favourite band of all time Wet Wet Wet were playing in Scarborough at the Open Air Theatre. Her husband was bringing her away for the weekend at Nidd Hall near Knaresborough in North Yorkshire and they asked Mr SmartCookieSam and I to come over to Nidd Hall for drinks and afternoon tea. I baked Marion’s special cake the day before and had great fun decorating it with a fanastic cake topper from mycupcaketoppers.co.uk. I used the image from Wet Wet Wet’s very first album cover Popped In Souled Out and added stars, hearts and sugar coated crispy balls around the edge. The cake itself was a Madeira sponge which I cut in half horizontally (not straight as you can tell from the photos), and layered with strawberry jam and buttercream. I then crumb coated the cake with buttercream, left it to dry and then added the sugarpaste layer. I hate covering cakes with sugarpaste and even though I’ve been decorating cakes for years, I still get anxious and nervous about the sugarpaste breaking and falling off the rolling pin. But thankfully today, it all worked out fine.

As I type, it’s now the following Thursday morning and I’m not at work today. I’m wondering what I can bake. I daren’t bake anything as I know I’ll eat it though. Maybe I’ll have to keep out of the kitchen and do my knitting instead once I’ve done all my chores.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Panforte- The Great British Bake Off Christmas.

Friday 22nd December 2017.

Panforte is a traditional Italian delicacy which is usually eaten with coffee after a meal. It is full of dried fruit, nuts and spices and baked in the oven on rice paper. A little piece goes a long way as it is very rich.

I had tried some Panforte one Christmas when my Mum had bought some. It might have come from Lakeland or Waitrose but I couldn’t get enough of it. I remember seeing whole hazelnuts inside the Panforte and it felt very chewy, almost toffee like in consistency. No wonder I couldn’t stop at one piece!

When I was looking for ideas to make for foodie presents this year I saw a recipe for Panforte in my Great British Bake Off Christmas Book. It was quite an expensive sweet to make as I don’t know about you but I think both dried fruits and nuts have gone up a hell of a lot in price in the past few years. Don’t get me started on all the other baking ingredients! So, I would only choose to make two panfortes and for those who I knew would like one.

It was the Friday before Christmas (can you believe that’s over a week ago now, where has the time gone?) and I was trying to do everything on that one day. By the time it got to Friday teatime I had a meltdown and started crying thinking why am I doing all this? I still had a birthday cake to bake, I hadn’t finished my Dad and step-mum’s Christmas present and I hadn’t made our usual mince pies and sausage rolls. Any normal person would have gone out and bought them but I’d bought all my mincemeat in and also the sausagemeat and I didn’t want to go out spending any more money. I guess, what with my day job and school breaking up so late I was struggling time wise.

But earlier on in the day I felt as if things were more under control. I was keeping going drinking endless cups of tea and coffee but later I got Mr SmartCookieSam to pour me a large gin and tonic. That did calm me down!

Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent. Back to the panforte. In the Bake Off recipe the dried fruit you need are figs and apricots. I don’t mind dried apricots but figs- yeuggghhh! I needed most of the packet of them and boy did they take ages to cut up. Then I cut up the dried apricots and put them, along with the figs into a pan and heated it on the hob with some runny honey, some light brown muscovado sugar, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and some ground mixed spice. The recipe needed cardamom pods (which I’d not got in) and also ground cloves. I had whole ones but not the plain ones. I had used the mixed spice instead of the cardamom and cloves. Also to the pan I added about a tablespoonful of water. This mixture was heated for about 10 minutes until it became soft and sticky,

Meanwhile I had weighed out some mixed peel, whole blanched almonds and some pistachios. I had to buy pistachios with the shells still on (so I had to remove these before mixing them in) Along with that I put in 3 tablespoonfuls of plain flour.

Panforte is traditionally lined with rice paper but I couldn’t find any in my local Morrisons with the baking stuff. I just lined the base of two loose bottomed round 18cm or 7″ cake tins with baking parchment. Though obviously that’s not edible!

I spooned the mixture between two tins as I had made double the quantity and baked both the panfortes at the same time. They took about 45 minutes in the oven. I must admit they didn’t look very pretty when they came out of the oven. They looked like giant cow pats! But dusted with a bit of icing sugar then they would be fine.

When the panfortes were cooled, I put them onto a thin circular cake board and wrapped them in clear cellophane. To finish I chose some pretty Christmas ribbon to tied them up with.

I gave one of the Panfortes to my Mum, the other to our family friend Paul. I hope they both like them and don’t break their teeth on them!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx