My Favourite Shortbread

There’s nothing better than a piece of freshly baked shortbread with a cup of tea or coffee. I love baking shortbread. It’s a simple recipe but a delicious one. For my shortbread, you only need 4 ingredients plus any flavour additions. But the plain shortbread, liberally dusted with caster sugar is just perfect.

I bake my shortbread in a 23cm (9″) square loose bottomed tin like I use for my brownies and cookie bars, although if you prefer you can bake it in a circular tin of the same size! I cut it into 12 or 16 pieces depending on who they’re for or what occasion they are going to be used for.

My Favourite Shortbread Recipe.

Ingredients needed:

  • 250g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g rice flour or cornflour

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 150oC fan (160oC in a conventional oven)/ 325oF/ Gas 3.
  • Grease and line your tin with baking parchment.
  • Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together either in a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
  • Add in both types of flour to combine and bring together to form a dough.
  • If you are adding any flavours to your shortbread, then add them in now so they are combined well.
  • Press the dough carefully into the tin, ensuring the dough reaches all corners of the tin and that it is level. Prick the shortbread all over with a fork before putting into the pre-heated oven.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes approx. Watch out as shortbread can burn quickly!
  • When you take the shortbread out of the oven, give it 5 minutes or so to cool down and then cut it into the number of pieces you require. Keep it in the tin to cool down.
  • When completely cool, remove from the tin to a wire rack and sprinkle with lots of caster sugar.

There are lots of flavours you could add to the basic shortbread mixture to enhance it:

  • 100g chocolate chips (dark or milk) For orange chocolate shortbread, you could add the zest of an orange with the chocolate.
  • Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread: add 100g white chocolate chips and 75g dried cranberries
  • Stem Ginger Shortbread: add 75g chopped pieces of stem ginger and 1 tsp ground ginger.
  • Lemon Shortbread: add the grated zest of a lemon.
  • Chopping up your favourite chocolate bars such as salted Caramel Twix (I chop up two standard twin bars) These are one of my son’s favourites.
  • M&M Shortbread: use a sharing size pouch bag of the chocolate ones.

I’m sure there are lots of other shortbread flavours to discover, but these are the ones I love baking regularly. If you have any other flavour suffestions, then please do let me know.

My chocolate chip shortbread.

If you are short of time or don’t like baking yourself then we can provide Shortbread to order through our Facebook page or by contacting us via email. I know I will be sending a few boxes out in the next few weeks leading up to Christmas.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Jane’s Patisserie- Book Review.

Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered Jane’s Patisserie website with her delicious, foolproof recipes. Her cheesecake recipes are my absolute go-to, especially as cheesecakes always used to be a disaster when I made them before. Not any more. No more need for gelatine or for baking cheesecakes. I don’t need that with Jane’s recipes.

Jane’s Patisserie recipe book, published in August 2021.

Back in August, Jane brought out her recipe book with the same title as her website/ blog – Jane’s Patisserie and at first I was sceptical about buying it. After all why buy a book when the recipes are bound to be on the website. But thankfully, although there are several recipes from the website, the rest are actually specifically written for the book. A few recipes were actually created from Jane’s follower requests. I always find something I like on her website and I was pleased to say this book is no exception!

The book is split into nine main chapters: Cheesecakes, Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins, Cookies, Breads and Doughnuts, Traybakes, Desserts, Tea Time and last but not least, Sweets. As well as the main chapters, there is a detailed introduction which is useful for novice bakers including ingredient guides and useful equipment and ingredients. At the beginning of every chapter, there is also an introduction. For example, in the Cheesecake chapter, Jane explains the ingredients she uses as a base for all her cheesecakes as well as the top tips for making the perfect one. The same goes for the other chapters in the book.

I used Jane’s online recipe to bake these Double Decker brownies to send to my son at uni. He regularly gets brownie and cookie parcels from me and shares them with his housemates.

What is in my Top Ten Recipes to bake?

  • No Bake Speculoos Cheesecake
  • Cookies and Cream Drip Cake
  • Vanilla Traybake
  • Honeycomb Cupcakes
  • S’mores Cookies
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Triple Chocolate Brownies
  • White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
  • Malt Chocolate Fudge.
I love Jane’s cheesecake recipes and this one was for my daughter’s birthday last week. She wanted a birthday cheesecake instead of a cake. It contains Arran Gold which is a liqueur like Baileys but made with whisky from the Isle of Arran.
Last Christmas we used one of Jane’s cheesecake recipes as our Christmas pudding alternative. My kids don’t like Christmas pudding so we had a Lotus Biscoff cheesecake drizzled with chocolate sauce.

What recipes will I pass on?

  • Rhubarb Crumble Cheesecake (not that keen on rhubarb myself)
  • Brown Butter, Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies (sounds delicious but I can’t be bothered with browning butter!)
  • Doughnut Bites (you have to use a deep fat fryer and I don’t have one of those. I also don’t like deep frying things)
  • Rhubarb and Custard Blondies (for the same reason as above!)
Another favourite of Jane’s cheesecakes: this is a Mint cheesecake with Mint Lindt D’Or balls on top. Another Christmas favourite.

Jane’s Patisserie is one of those books where I know that I will get to use it to bake everything (apart from the four recipes above!) Jane has created a wealth of recipes using popular flavours and ingredients which are easy to obtain. No weird and strange flavour combos here and the bakes aren’t too over the top. As an experienced baker I find that her recipes are easily achievable and taste wonderful.

From the book I tested out Jane’s S’mores Cookies. They were absolutely delicious and I took them to work to share out. They contain marshmallows, chocolate chips and pieces of digestive biscuit.

I hope that there will be a follow up book in the future because judging by the huge success of Jane’s blog and her book sales so far, there will be a massive demand for it. I’m off to bake some brownies and blondies to take into work tomorrow using a couple of Jane’s recipes.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

A Bake For All Seasons #2: Jammy Dodgers

3rd October 2021.

I always love Biscuit Week on the Great British Bake Off. It was great to see that this year’s contestants were asked to bake Jammy Dodgers for the Technical Bake. I love making Jammy Dodgers, although mine always look boring. I so need to get a set of those Nordicware Cookie Stamps as featured in the show to get that beautiful pattern on top of the biscuits.

If you are on Twitter, you might have heard of #TwitterBakeAlong which has been running for the last 5 years or so. Jackie (aka The Baking Nanna) and Rob run weekly challenges over on Twitter. During Bake Off Season it becomes #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong and bakers can enter one of the challenges like the contestants bake and submit a photo of their bake on Twitter. As I’m busy a lot with work commitments, I don’t always get to join in but I was able to for this week with my version of Jammy Dodgers.

I used the recipe in The Great British Bake Off: A Bake For All Seasons and I must admit it was different to my standard “roll out” biscuit recipe in that there was added cornflour in the recipe. I also felt that I could have done with double the quantity of dough as to get the quantity of biscuits out of the dough, I had to roll the dough so thinly. I used my KitchenAid mixer to bring the dough together so that I didn’t overwork it.

No way was I going to make my own jam to go inside the biscuits as the original contestants had to. I hadn’t got time for making jam as well. To be different from the traditional, I found some Lemon Curd in the cupboard which needed using up as well as some Cherry Curd which I’d found in a local supermarket. The dark pink colour was so pretty that I thought I’d use it as well. Instead of a heart shape cut out in the middle I looked in my cookie cutter boxes and found a splat type cutter which I’d used on a psychedelic 1970s style cake from a few years ago. I thought it would make a change from the hearts and stars and other shapes you might find in the middle of a Jammy Dodger or those Linzer style cookies.

I took the cookies with me to work and left them in the staff room. I was a bit ashamed of the actual biscuits to be honest. Because they rolled out so thinly, they caught round the edges and baked a lot quicker than expected. But everyone enjoyed them and that was the main thing.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off- A Bake For All Seasons Book Review.

October 2021.

It’s always exciting when a brand new Great British Bake Off book is released. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be one this year, what with the pandemic but like last year it was a great surprise when it popped up on Amazon to say there was going to be a new book. This year’s book was released in time for the latest series and there is a slightly different format to it. Instead of being split into categories of bakes, such as cakes, biscuits, etc. the book has been split into sections concentrating on the four seasons.

The latest Great British Bake Off Book: A Bake For All Seasons.

It is great to work around seasonal baking and the delicious produce that is around at different times of the year. I personally try to shop seasonally if I can as I can’t stand watery, tasteless out of season strawberries. I like the certain flavours which evoke different times of the year and when you can use what is growing around you. How I wish I could grow my own veg but I don’t have the space in my back garden. I have managed some strawberries and tomatoes this year and I was so proud of them.

In every Bake Off book it is great to be introduced to that series of contestants and this year’s bunch seem so lovely and genuine. I always enjoy trying out their own recipes which get featured in the book if I can.

Starting with the Spring section, we are looking at bringing in Lenten and Easter festivities as well as pretty cakes which make use of Spring flowers such as primroses as well as seasonal fruit like rhubarb.

What I’d like to bake in Spring:

  • Semlor (Danish Lenten Buns) They look delicious and contain almond paste and cardamom, which are flavours I love.
  • Asparagus, Ham and Cheese Danish Pastries: Mr S loves his Danish pastries and I’m sure he’ll love these with some salad in asparagus season.
  • Ruby Grapefruit Bundt: as a bundt pan addict, I always look to see if there are any bundt recipes in the book first and as I’ve never used grapefruit to bake with before, this one is definitely top of the list.
  • Cherry Blossom Shortbreads: these look so pretty and would make a lovely Easter or Mother’s Day gift.
  • Crystelle’s Chai and Jaggery Cake: I haven’t a clue what jaggery is but I love chai spiced cakes. The icing is coconut flavoured as well which is another of my favourite flavours.
  • Pizza Bianca di Primavera: I love pizza although I haven’t made any homemade ones since the last lockdown. This one has sliced new potato on top of it! I’ve never had potato on top of a pizza before but the flavours sound incredible.
  • Mini Hummingbird Cakes: I just have to try these as I love Hummingbird cake and it will be a good excuse to use my mini 12 hole Victoria sponge tray!
  • Super Seeded Soda Bread: Soda Bread recipes were an absolute necessity last year. Especially on the three times when I had to self isolate and we ran out of bread and I didn’t have yeast with two or three days to go until the online food delivery came. I’d bake bread more often if I wasn’t so busy with work!
  • Chig’s Mango and Coconut Upside Down Cake: I love mangoes and coconuts and this is just a delicious alternative to a pineapple upside down cake.
  • Jairzeno’s Chocolate Mint Cake: Mint Chocolate is my absolute favourite flavour of all. I love the extra glaze layer that is included on Jairzeno’s cake and gives it a beautiful finish.
  • Wild Garlic Flatbreads: Last year I baked flatbreads a lot, especially when we had curries. They were so simple to bake and I think I’ll be looking out for some wild garlic to make these!
  • Hamantaschen (Haman’s Pockets) I’ve never heard of these delicious sounding Jewish biscuits before, which are circles of biscuit filled with jam (traditionally were dates or poppy seeds) and the biscuit folded over to represent Haman’s three pointed hat.

I won’t be making these in Spring:

  • Rhubarb and Custard Tart: I’m not a rhubarb lover, to be honest.
  • Passionfruit Souffles: I find souffles far too fiddly!
  • Spiced Lamb and Filo Pie: I don’t like lamb, especially when it’s cooking as it smells!
  • Prinzeregentetorte: Looks a stunning cake but all those layers make it far too fiddly for me.

I’ll be baking these in Summer:

I’ve already baked the Jammy Dodgers as part of #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong when it was Biscuit week on GBBO.
  • Jammy Dodgers: though mine won’t look as nice as the ones in the book because I need a set of those Nordicware Stampers. UPDATE: I baked these, separate post is coming soon!
  • Cherry and Almond Friands: these would be perfect sat outside in the summer with a cup of tea when fresh cherries are in season.
  • Chocolate and Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake Brownies: These would be ideal for a summer dessert at a BBQ or family gathering.
  • Free-form Tomato Tart: I’ve made something similar from another recipe book and I can see myself making this for a summer dinner sat outside with salad and a glass of rose washed down with it.
  • Strawberry and Clotted Cream Cake: this cake is like Victoria Sponge but on another level with added fresh strawberries and clotted cream. Sounds like heaven to me!
  • Rochica’s Strawberry Topped Cookies and Cream Cake: This looks like a summery version of the Cookies and Cream cake I baked for my son’s birthday last year. I wonder if he would like another one next year?
  • Amanda’s Lemon and Elderflower Palette Cake: I love the flower design on the top of this stunning cake. I definitely might try the cake itself as I love lemon and elderflower flavours.

I won’t be baking these in Summer:

  • Chouxnuts: they look delicious but I don’t have a deep fat fryer or like deep fat frying.
  • Apricot Frangipane Traybake: I wish I liked apricots. Maybe it’s because they’re so fiddly to eat.
  • Cheese, Ham and Piccalilli Pasties: Eww, no I think piccalilli is disgusting. Mr S bought a jar of it a couple of months ago and it made me feel sick just looking at it!

I’ll be baking these in Autumn:

  • Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf: this sounds delicious. UPDATE: I’ve baked this now!
  • Toffee Apple Cake: what a beautiful celebration cake for the Autumn with or without the caramel on top.
  • Pear and Walnut Cake: as seen on the front cover, this is a beautiful show stopper bake for an Autumnal celebration.
  • Giuseppe’s Celebration Cake: another stunning showstopper.
  • Jurgen’s Pear and Chocolate Charlotte: what a pretty looking dessert. I need an excuse to make this.
  • Pecan Pie: I love Pecan Pie and it reminds me of my last trip to Canada to visit my family where we had it for dessert!
  • Plum and Ginger Cake: I’m not that keen on eating plums raw but in cakes I love them. This would be an ideal Sunday lunch pudding with custard or cream.
  • Ciabatta Breadsticks: I’m not that skilled at baking bread but I bet my daughter would love to make these with me!
  • Pear Crumble Cake: This would be another perfect Sunday lunch dessert. UPDATE: I’ve made this but with apples instead!
My version of the Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf Cake. (Autumn )
My version of the Pear Crumble Cake which actually had apples in it as I didn’t have pears at home!

I won’t be baking these in Autumn:

  • Prue’s Vegan Sausage Rolls: I love sausage rolls and vegan ones too for that matter, but this recipe looks very complicated to me. I will be sticking to my lazy way of making sausage rolls!
  • Fig, Honey and Almond Cake: I wish I liked figs!
  • Apple, Pecan and Miso Caramel Tart: what is the fixation with putting miso in baking at the moment? Sorry, but it’s not for me.

I’ll be baking these in Winter:

  • Parsnip, Maple and Pecan Cake: I’ve never baked with parsnips before!
  • Paul’s Caramel Biscuit Bars: these home made Twixes look gorgeous.
  • Seville Orange Lamingtons: I’ve never made Lamingtons before so I’d love to try these.
  • Panettone: I’ve never baked a panettone before and it would be great to have one as an alternative to mince pies at Christmas.
  • St Clement’s Squares: I love baking these so I know they will go down well.
  • Mincemeat and Marzipan Couronne: perfect at breakfast time over Christmas.
  • Maggie’s Orange and Lemon Cake: I can see this being baked for a winter birthday celebration.

I won’t be baking these in Winter:

I can’t see anything in the Winter section that I will definitely not have a go at. Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Finch Bakery- Book Review

Back in the summer holidays (seems so long ago now!) I was shopping in my local Waterstones. I love going into bookshops and could spend hours looking through all the shelves. Especially at the cookery ones. I’ve not seen so many new baking books I’ve wanted to buy recently but the Finch Bakery one caught my eye.

The Finch Bakery Cookbook.

I must admit I had never heard of the Finch Bakery before but the front cover of the book caught my eye. Mouthwatering cupcakes, cookies, traybakes and layer cakes all adorning a counter. I was immediately interested as I bake cookies and traybakes for SmartCookieSam as well as the odd layer cake. I just had to look inside and was treated to a delicious sounding list of recipes.

The Finch bakery brownie recipe was delicious and fudgy. It was better served straight from the fridge!

As a background, if you don’t already know (and I didn’t, either!), the Finch Bakery was started by twin sisters Lauren and Rachel Finch. They started their business in their parent’s kitchen just before their 21st birthday and then as the business grew, they started a shop on Queen Street in Great Harwood, Lancashire back in 2016. This has now turned into an online business and a bigger store. I need to go over to Lancashire to try one of their bakes as they are very popular.

The Finch Bakery book starts with a useful chapter on Basics: the equipment you will need, ingredients, how to line a cake tin and details of sprinkles and other touches. There are also handy recipes for buttercream and other frostings which are used in the Finch recipes.

For the main body of the book, there are five chapters: Celebration Cakes, Cupcakes and Cake Jars, Cookies and Cookie Cups, Traybakes, No Bakes and Small Bakes.

Celebration Cakes: Wow, what an incredible array of cakes to choose from! Covering many different flavours of cake which you could possibly choose from. I don’t make many big celebration cakes now as I concentrate on the small bakes for my business but I am going to use one of these recipes next year as I am going to be celebrating my 50th birthday. What is a great idea is how each large celebration cake recipe can be adapted into corresponding cupcakes or cupcake jars. I must admit I’ve never eaten, let alone made a cupcake jar as they look incredibly sweet. And that comes from someone who has a sweet tooth! I also love the idea of the Vanilla and Chocolate Half And Half Cake, which are two layers of each of chocolate and vanilla sponge baked separately, then cut in half and reassembled. Great for those who love a bit of both flavour or don’t like chocolate!

As cookies are my favourite thing to bake, I went straight to the Cookies and Cookie Cups chapter in the book. I already have lots of recipes I use for my cookies but I was interested to see if there were any different flavours to try. I must admit I want to try the Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies as I’ve never baked them before. I love the idea of these cookie pies which seem to be everywhere at the moment and intend to try the Peanut Butter Cookie Pie recipe at some stage.

Brownies and Traybakes are another favourite of mine to bake and I always love comparing brownie recipes. I just have to try those Slutty Brownies! I went to meet one of my best friends for coffee and cake at a local farm shop a month or so ago and the farm shop sold Slutty Brownies. They were absolutely delicious with both a brownie and a cookie layer. Like a Brookie but up a whole notch! But I did actually test out one of the recipes and went with the original Brownies recipe as that was what I needed to bake at the time. There are lots of other brownie and blondie recipes in the chapter as well. I need to work my way through them!

A slice of Brownie was perfect with a cup of coffee.

The fourth chapter is called No Bakes and I always love a No Bake recipe or two. So useful if you are running out of oven space and time to bake. There are delicious cheesecakes as well as mouthwatering Rocky Road recipes including one based on one of my favourite flavour combos Lotus Biscoff! Not a cheap bake as you need a lot of Biscoff Biscuits, spread and white chocolate but you do get a huge tray from it! There are also many more recipes to choose from.

Finally, in the Small Bakes Chapter, there are cake pops and various flavours of macaroons. I love making macaroons but haven’t had chance to bake them recently. I might have a go before Christmas for foodie presents.

My Top Ten Recipes I’m going to try out:

  • Creme Egg Cake (next Easter will be fun!)
  • Vanilla and Chocolate Half and Half Cake (my 50th, maybe?)
  • Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Pie
  • Jammie Dodger Blondies
  • Slutty Brownies
  • Lotus Biscoff Rocky Road
  • Triple Layered Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bar
  • Lemon and Blueberry Scones
  • Caramel Mocha Macaroons

What I’ll pass on:

  • Hard Candy Lollipops
  • Geo Heart Cake Shapes (they look really fiddly to make to me)
  • Cake pops and cakesicles (as above, they look really fiddly to make!)
    • The cake jar recipes: they just don’t appeal to me. Sorry!

As I mentioned before, I tested out the Basic Chocolate Brownie recipe. It’s very similar to the recipe I use for my own brownies and I always add in extra chocolate chips as well as the melted chocolate and the cocoa powder for the chocolatey fix. I found they came out very fudgy, which is just how I like them and the tip to put them in the fridge after cooling completely in the tin really works with me. My only concern is that the recipe is suitable for a 30 x 23 cm traybake tin whereas I use a 23cm square one so that it fits in the boxes. I took the brownies along to work with me and they went down a treat.

I bakes these brownies in my traybake tin.

I would recommend this book to others, although I would not class the bakes as suitable for every day bakes, the recipes are just perfect when you want to bake for special celebrations and occasional treats.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

#BakeWithStork: Vegan Oat and Cranberry Cookies

It’s been nearly three weeks since my birthday but one of the presents I got with my birthday money was a fantastic recipe book. Called Stork The Art Of Home Baking, it is an amazing collection of recipes which celebrate the centenary of the famous baking ingredient. I sometimes use Stork in my sponges and cupcakes as it makes them lighter but I have never tried their block margarine.

The book contains lots of delicious recipes including both modern and traditional favourites. There are also plenty to suit special diets, including vegan recipes. I’m not vegan but I have several family members who are and it’s always great to know that Stork can be used as a butter substitute when baking vegan recipes.

With this in mind and thinking of what was in my baking cupboard because of lockdown, I chose to bake some Vegan Oat and Cranberry Cookies. They made good use of the end of a bag of dried cranberries and some desiccated coconut lurking in my baking cupboard.

These cookies were so quick and easy to make and were ready in less than half an hour. I can’t share the recipe with you, due to copyright but here is how they were made.

In a large mixing bowl, I weighed out porridge oats, desiccated coconut, plain flour, brown sugar, dried cranberries and some ground mixed spice.

In a medium pan, I put in Stork block, golden syrup and water and let it melt.

When the Stork block, syrup and water had melted into liquid form, I added some bicarbonate of soda. This frothed up and had to be taken off the heat.

Mixing the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stirring carefully to ensure everything was covered.

Mixing into a soft dough.

I had made up three baking trays with baking parchment. I put heaped dessertspoonfuls of dough on the tray putting them well spaced apart as they were bound to spread when cooking. There was enough for 16 cookies.

It didn’t take long for the cookies to bake in the oven. The baking time was from 8-10 minutes so you had to watch them as they brown very quickly.

After ten minutes cooling down on the baking tray, you can transfer the cookies onto the wire rack to completely cool down. If you move them before then, they might break before they have chance to harden up.

Please note, I am writing this to show what I’ve baked from the book bought from my own money. I am not being sponsored by Stork for this post.

If you have the book and have baked anything from it, do let me know what you tried. I’m hoping to bake a Victoria Sponge tomorrow.

Stay Safe.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mini Ginger Biscuits

Last weekend I wanted to test out one of the baking recipes in one of the Hairy Dieters books. In their third book: The Hairy Dieters Good Eating there is a recipe for Ginger Biscuits in the Sweet Treats chapter of the book.

Now I have a terrible weakness for homemade ginger biscuits, especially ones with chopped stem ginger in them. I slightly under bake mine as I love them chewy. I can never stop at one. They are so moreish!

What I wanted to know was if they are included in a diet book, what was the difference between these and the ones from my regular recipe? It would be interesting to taste and to compare the appearance. Looking at the photo in the book, it looked like there wasn’t any difference at all, only that they were slightly smaller than the ginger nuts you get in packets of biscuits from the supermarket. Comparing them to my regular homemade ones, they looked half the size. But hoping that meant I wouldn’t scoff two? Even two regular ones wouldn’t be enough more me, haha!

Ingredients wise, I didn’t need anything odd to make it lower calorie or lower in fat. In fact I still thought the sugar content was the same, as well as the butter and golden syrup content of the dough. What differed though, was the recipe asked for an egg yolk and a third more flour than my regular recipe. I wondered how it would work. The ginger flavouring came from ground ginger and two teaspoonfuls was plenty to give it the spicy kick I was after.

Making ginger biscuits requires the melting method with the butter, golden syrup and sugar is melted together on the hob. Once this has melted, in goes the egg yolk.

After this, I weighed out the dry ingredients and combined them thoroughly. You want the gingery flavour throughout. According to the recipe it said the dough would be dry and crumbly. This was not, in fact it was the complete opposite and I had to add a little extra flour to get it to work into a ball!

Each biscuit was meant to be about 15g or teaspoonfuls of the mixture dropped onto the lined baking trays. Teaspoonfuls looked so tiny and it was very fiddly to do this. No wonder I only got about 18 cookies and there were meant to be 25! Never mind. I just hope they tasted good.

Unfortunately I was very disappointed with the appearance of the biscuits. They did not get the distinctive crack that ginger biscuits are meant to have even though I put the 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda in the mixture. In my regular recipe it is meant to have a whole tsp so maybe that’s why. But the biscuits pictured had cracks on them! They just looked boring and unappealing to me. Appearances can be deceptive though. I tasted one and was pleased they were delicious! I had to hide the rest away in a box in the cupboard before I ate the rest!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mickey Mouse Cupcakes and Cookies.

On Tuesday night I met up with a few of my friends over in Meanwood, Leeds at a fantastic new bar called Boot and Rally. We held a cake club event in the bar’s snug which was a great space with the perfect atmosphere. Since The Clandestine Cake Club folded in July last year we have continued to meet up.

The cake club events are slightly different to the Clandestine Cake Club ones in that we are not limited to only bringing a whole cake to cut into and share. We can bring anything we like linked to the theme be it sweet or savoury or cookies or any other bake. As my first love in baking has always been cookies I enjoy doing this. This month’s theme was Mickey Mouse’s Birthday as the Disney legend is celebrating his 90th birthday this year!

Things didn’t quite go to plan when I started baking on Tuesday afternoon. I only had a limited time to bake as I had been to have my nails done in the morning and then had to fit it all in before a hospital appointment on the way over to Cake club. My original plan was to bake a chocolate Bundt cake cut in half turned upright and made to look like Mickey Mouse’s head. The cake would be covered in a chocolate ganache made from Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate spread and Mickey’s ears would be made from Oreo cookies. I would use the leftover chocolate spread as the filling for some shortbread biscuits with Mickey Mouse heads cut out in the middle.

When I started to get the ingredients out of the cupboard and fridge to start the baking I had a nasty shock. I opened the jar of chocolate spread to find three quarters of it had gone! I was so upset and angry as the only person who knew it was there was my eighteen year old son. He had been at home from work on Monday when I was working so he had obviously helped himself to it! He knew it was for my cake club cake as he saw it when I was putting the shopping away after Tesco had delivered it last Friday. It’s not the sort of thing Mr SmartCookieSam eats and my daughter is away at uni. It wasn’t me and it definitely wasn’t the dog!

So after this nasty surprise, what to do now? I looked in the cupboards and was so glad to see that I still had cocoa powder and other ingredients for cupcakes as well as some mini Oreos. For the cookies, I thought maybe I could use jam inside instead. However, I didn’t have much jam left, only honey and marmalade. Or I could hardly give my friends biscuits sandwiched together with Branston Pickle or Colman’s Mustard. I had half a jar of Peach Bellini jam left but only just enough for a few biscuits.

The shortbread cookies are a simple recipe with only four ingredients: unsalted butter, caster sugar, plain flour and an egg combined together and then chilled in the fridge for half an hour. When ready to roll, I rolled out eighteen circles and put them well spaced apart on three lined baking trays. On nine of the circles I used a small Mickey Mouse head shaped cutter to stamp out the shape in the centre of the circle. These were then baked in the oven on 160oC (fan) for about 10-12 minutes. My oven is being really inaccurate at the moment and I noticed two cookies burnt on the right hand side. One of them also snapped when I lifted it off the tray. Well that one went straight in the bin. It turned out that there were only 7 out of 9 which were ok to use. Then another one broke. It definitely wasn’t my day!

So the cupcakes had to work out better. There wasn’t enough filling in the biscuits for the chocolate spread to be used or in the ganache of a whole cake for that matter so it ended up flavouring some chocolate buttercream in some cookies and cream cupcakes with mini Oreo cookies for Mickey Mouse ears sticking up.

I used about 12 mini cookies crumbled up and stirred into the cupcake batter which was a simple chocolate one. I baked the cupcakes in some blue cases with stars in which reminded me of Mickey Mouse’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice Hat from Fantasia.

The chocolate buttercream was made with 100g melted plain chocolate and the only quarter jar of chocolate spread which was left along with icing sugar, butter and some milk. The result was quite a creamy and rich buttercream.

All finished with about half an hour spare to clean up the kitchen, tidy up, get changed, box up the cupcakes and cookies and get to the hospital for my appointment in time.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cookies.

I’ve had a day off work today. It was a great opportunity to catch up with my friends over in Leeds for lunch. They’re my cake club lovelies. We met initially through the now disbanded Clandestine Cake Club and got on so well we meet up regularly to put the world to rights over coffee and cake. But before I drove over to Leeds my dog had an appointment at the “pooch parlour” to have his nail trimmed and a good old shampoo. While he was up the road having his beauty treatments, I was at home baking cookies.

Last September when I was visiting my family in Canada, I bought a few bags of Hershey’s Chipits. I had bought some butterscotch and some mint ones the year before but this year I couldn’t find the mint flavour. I ended up with about four different flavours and the final bag which needed using up was this bright blue bag of Salted Caramel Chips. (Pictured below).

How I wish I could find these in the UK. No one seems to stock them or a similar product. If you do know where I can find them, please let me know. I’m hoping to go back to Canada in the Autumn so I’ll have to keep extra space in my suitcase for some more supplies!

I was wondering what I could do with the chipits and thought of baking “Brookies” which are double layered brownies and cookie bars. My son loves them and sometimes gets one from our local Co-op! But I didn’t have any spare plain chocolate for the brownies. Instead, I tried out the recipe which is on the actual packet for Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cookies. It was really quick to make and the recipe yielded 30 cookies! I didn’t need real chocolate for this, but cocoa powder for the chocolate flavour.

First, I creamed together butter and both light brown and caster sugar in a mixing bowl. To this I then added beaten egg and a spoonful of vanilla extract. When this was mixed in I folded in plain flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Then, I formed the mixture into a dough and finally folded in the whole packet of Chipits.

I needed five baking trays lined with parchment for the cookies. I scooped small balls of dough onto the trays, keeping the cookies well apart so they didn’t spread and join together. I usually put 6 cookies on each tray and two trays in at a time. If you don’t have that many trays you will have to cook in batches. Just remember to wait five minutes before moving the cookies off the baking tray or they might fall apart! I still have loads of trays left from when I baked cookies professionally.

The cookies were baked in my fan oven at about 160oC for about 8 minutes. At this point I take the cookie tray out of the oven and bang it on the hob. This flattens the cookies down. Then I returned the cookie trays back to the oven for a further 5 or so minutes. I don’t overdo my cookies as I like them chewy.

I was really happy with these cookies and my son enjoyed one or two today while he was off work. I have had to hide the rest and will be taking them to work with me tomorrow before I end up troughing the lot.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx