Icelandic Marriage Cake.

Whenever I go on holiday I like to find out if there are any traditional local cakes either to try  or to recreate at home.  Last month we went to Iceland for four days as a stopover on our way to Canada.  I didn’t eat any cake or sample any Icelandic baking but was curious to know if Iceland has any traditional cake recipes.

On our flight back from Edmonton to Keflavik flying with IcelandAir I was looking through the menu card for the inflight meals and snacks.  They were offering what looked like a flapjack bar with jam in the middle called a Marriage Cake.  Although I didn’t eat one, I thought I’d Google it when I got home and see if I could make one myself.

Looking up about the marriage cake was interesting, there were lots of recipes around but nothing mentioned the origins of it and why it was called marriage cake. Maybe in years gone by it might have been one of the first things a newly married wife would bake for her husband to please him. It seemed quite an easy recipe so, maybe if the new wife wasn’t used to cooking.  I don’t know.  Maybe it contains aphrodisiacs?!!  Anyway, most recipes I came across had a few things in common. They tended to be baked in a circular cake tin with a crumble type base. There would be a layer of mixed raspberry jam with rhubarb, then the remains of the crumble mixture would be sprinkled on top.

Eventually I came across this recipe on the Delicious Magazine website:

http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/happy-marriage-cake/

The recipe uses a mixture of rhubarb and strawberry jam in the filling. I didn’t have any of that jam in my cupboard, although Mr SmartCookieSam sometimes loves MacKays Rhubarb and Ginger Jam on his toast for breakfast. I used some Bonne Maman Blueberry Jam instead. It wouldn’t have been that authentic but I didn’t want to go out buying more jam when I had plenty in the cupboard.

I chose to bake the Marriage Cake in a square tin instead of in the circular loose bottom tin like other recipes suggested. I wanted it to be cut in bars instead of slices so I used a tin I use a lot for when I bake brownies and shortbread. To prepare the tin, I greased it with some Wilton Cake Release, which I swear by.

In a large mixing bowl I creamed together some softened butter and light brown muscovado sugar. I thought that if this was meant to be a crumble type mixture then you would need to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Instead this sounded more like baking biscuits! I followed the recipe anyway and then added a beaten egg to the creamed mixture. Once this was added in, then I put in some plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and some porridge oats. This did look more like a cookie dough at the end of it.

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Two thirds of the crumble mixture was pressed into the tin to form the marriage cake’s base.

The middle of the cake was made up of blueberry jam, although this was a bit runny!
The final layer was the topping which was the last third of the crumble mixture. Very rustic looking but it was all in the taste.
The Marriage Cake cooling on the rack before being cut into bars,
Cut into 12 bars, the Marriage cake was a little too sweet for me.

 On the day that I baked the Marriage Cake I was in a funny mood.  The weather was lousy and every time I tried to start something I would get interrupted.  Not by my kids, though, they were both out at the time but by cold callers phoning!  Then as soon as I got the cold caller off the phone,  the phone went again.  The warmth of my kitchen is my sanctuary, where I go to relax and unwind.  It was having the opposite effect today.  Soon though, the delicious smell wafted through the house from my oven.  I was meant to be dieting but with the rubbish weather I felt like I needed something full of carbs. I could hardly wait for them to cool down.

To be honest I was a little bit disappointed.  The blueberry jam made the Marriage Bars far too sweet. Maybe if I had used the rhubarb jam, which is more tart then it wouldn’t have been so sickly.  I took a bite out of one of the bars and that was all I had.  This is unheard of for me, I began to wonder if I was ill! Me finding something too sweet?  I left the bars out on the worktop and when my kids came back in they had one each.  Funny how they would usually turn their noses up at most things but they enjoyed these.

What was so funny was that I posted a photo of the bars on Facebook later and then put the bars into a plastic tub in the fridge.  Mr SmartCookieSam who only goes on Facebook to spy on me and the kids saw the post about the Marriage Cakes  a couple of days later and commented “I haven’t seen these!” Funny how the man I’m married to was the only one  who hadn’t seen the cakes. I told him to look in the fridge but found a completely empty box!  My kids never wash out empty boxes, they just leave them there for me to clean! Such is life!

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.

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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.

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Be warned, they are moreish!

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Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Italian Biscuits from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

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Italian Biscuits- cherry topped swirls of lemon flavoured shortbread. Featured in the biscuit chapter of Nigella’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Last week I baked for a tea party at the school where I work as a teaching assistant.  My friend and work colleague was retiring from her post and we held a special party for her in the afternoon.  The children had made sandwiches and decorated cupcakes and I decided to bake some biscuits along with the large celebration cake.  As I looked through the biscuit chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess I wanted to choose something which wasn’t too overpowering and would be fairly simple to bake.  This was to be my Biscuit chapter recipe for my Cooking The Books challenge this month.

In the recipe introduction Nigella says “This is a rather sweeping description of those shortbready swirls punctuated by glace cherries that  you see everywhere in Italy, mostly sold by weight.” I saw some of these pretty biscuits for sale when my hubby and I went to the Italian Lakes nearly two years ago.  I didn’t buy any as I don’t tend to crave biscuits and sweet things (only maybe ice cream) on holiday in warmer climates.  But I did think they looked rather pretty, they reminded me of a cross between melting moments and Viennese Whirls! 

So here is how I made them:

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I washed roughly about 20 glace cherries. Nigella says to use natural coloured ones. I had the bright red ones as I couldn’t find any in the supermarket at the time.
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Then I creamed some butter and sugar together until it was light and fluffy. I used the hand mixer though it would have done my bingo wings some good if I’d got the wooden spoon out!
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After this I beat in a large egg and grated in some lemon zest.
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Now for the flour, salt and baking powder.

At this point I felt the dough was a bit stiff to pipe with and I wondered how on earth I would get it through the piping nozzle.I managed after a little bit of wrestling with the bag though.  What did surprise me was how the recipe said it made 40 cookies, I couldn’t even get 20 out of the dough.  I tried piping small but maybe it was due to the mixture being a bit stiff and me being over generous with the sizes.

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The dough was put into a large piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
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The piped swirls on the prepared baking sheets.
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The finishing touch! Half a cherry is added to each biscuit.
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All ready and waiting in the tin to be taken along to the tea party.

I was impressed with the overall flavour and appearance of the biscuits. I sneaked one at the tea party even though I’m meant to be dieting. You could taste the lemon flavour without it overpowering the flavour.  They were a winner at the tea party and I’m definitely going to make them again.  They would make lovely gifts wrapped up in a cellophane bag tied with pretty ribbon for birthdays or Christmas.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Vanilla Sables- The Great British Bake Off Everyday

For my third bake towards the family picnic I never went on last week I chose to make some Vanilla Sables.  Vanilla Sables are the French equivalent of shortbread biscuits and I’ve seen them when I have been on holiday in France, especially in the Normandy and Brittany regions.  I’ve seen them called Sables Au Beurre too.  Unfortunately there is meant to be an acute accent above the “e” in the word “sable” but I still don’t know how to add different languages and characters on my laptop.  I can do it on my phone as I have the French keyboard installed but not on the computer.  I still struggle to write my posts on my WordPress App so one of these days I might actually learn how to do it.

These delicious French biscuits were a hit with the adults and children.
These delicious French biscuits were a hit with the adults and children.

The recipe introduction in The Great British Bake Off Everyday book states that sables are “very rich, crisp, sandy textured biscuits”. That’s probably where they get their name from then as sable is the French word  for sand if I can remember rightly from my A Level French days.

I made up the cookie dough quickly in my food processor by adding flour, salt and icing sugar to the bowl and then adding cubes of butter through the funnel bit by bit. This was blitzed together until I was left with the sandy like texture. Once this was done I added the yolks of three eggs bit by bit through the funnel until the dough formed into a large ball.

The dough was chilled for half an hour wrapped in cling film in the fridge so that the dough would be easier to roll out.

After 1/2 hour out came the dough again and it was then rolled out on my floured work top to the thickness of a pound coin.  I then cut rounds out with a fluted circular biscuit cutter.

Here is one half of my biscuit dough rolled out. I tend to roll it out to the thickness of a pound coin and I try to make sure it is even throughout.
Here is one half of my biscuit dough rolled out. I tend to roll it out to the thickness of a pound coin and I try to make sure it is even throughout.
The biscuits are cut out into fluted rounds and placed on baking trays.
The biscuits are cut out into fluted rounds and placed on baking trays.

Before baking, the biscuit rounds needed to be brushed with beaten egg. Once this is done, they are then scored with the side of a knife in the traditional lattice pattern. Then there is another layer of beaten egg to glaze on the top. This gives the sables their distinctive appearance.

The baked cookies just out of the oven.
The baked cookies just out of the oven.
Delicious buttery Vanilla Sables. Perfect with a cup of tea or a scoop of ice cream!
Delicious buttery Vanilla Sables. Perfect with a cup of tea or a scoop of ice cream!

Although these were meant for the family picnic, once my family had seen them, that was it!  The biscuits vanished!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx