#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

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

Oat Cookies

Here I am only four days into the New Year and I’m baking cookies. Somehow, these little moreish beauties found themselves being put in the oven. How did that happen?

I’m cooking recipes from the three Eat Well For Less books this month as a basis for my blog. This recipe from the first Eat Well For Less book is so easy to make and can be adapted to use up whatever ingredients you have in your cupboard. You can use dried fruit, nuts and chocolate chips so long as the quantities remain the same. The original recipe also uses peanut butter but you can substitute other nut butters or even use all butter if you can’t have nuts.

I chose to use peanut butter and raisins in my cookies and put them straight into the freezer so I wasn’t tempted to eat them straightaway.

1. Cream butter, brown sugar and peanut butter together in a large bowl.

2. Add eggs to the creamed butter mixture and beat them in.

3. Weigh out plain flour, baking powder and porridge oats and mix them into the butter mixture.

4. Fold in the dried fruit, nuts or chocolate of your choice and form into a dough.

5. Heap teaspoonfuls of cookie dough on lined baking trays. I had to bake the cookies in two batches as I wanted to keep them well spaced apart.

6. Cool on a wire rack.

Will definitely bake these again although I felt the dough was a lot wetter than the cookie dough I usually use. Also the cookies looked rather untidy and rustic. When I get them out of the freezer, I’ll have to eat one to see if tastes better than it looks!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Florentines- The Great British Bake Off Christmas.

Friday 22nd December 2017.

Yet another new favourite from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book.  I love Florentines but have only ever made them once before.  They’re another perfect treat to make for foodie gifts at Christmas as well as handy for having around for visitors who don’t like mince pies!  I don’t know why I’ve only made them once before, maybe because if I did make them more often they wouldn’t even get to the serving plate or into the box!

The last and only time I made Florentines was about 3 years ago.  That year my mum, auntie, cousin and his wife came up to stay in a nearby holiday cottage in Yorkshire.  They came over to our house on Boxing Day but before we had lunch and went home to open the presents, we went out to the pub.  Normally I don’t leave anything food related under the Christmas tree  because our greedy Labrador would have the lot. Anyway I made the mistake of putting all the presents out under the tree for when we got back. I though I had shut the door into the lounge but obviously not. We left our dog at home for about an hour but when we came back we noticed that he had eaten half the Florentines and ripped open the cardboard gift box they were in.  It was a wonder he wasn’t ill, what with all the chocolate and glace cherries on them.  So my mum, auntie, cousin and his wife ended up sharing what was left of the Florentines between them! They didn’t look that marvellous anyway, quite rustic looking but I heard they tasted lovely.

This time I was planning on Florentines but this time I would bake them for my three step-sisters and their families.  I definitely wouldn’t be putting them under the tree!  I’d keep them up on the work top in my utility room with the door firmly closed.

The recipe introduction to the Florentines says: “These sticky little sweet treats are half biscuit and half chewy caramel goodness. They have become a classic at Christmas, probably thanks to the candied peel and glace cherries that are so beloved at this time of year,”

The recipe said it made 16-18 biscuits so I prepared two baking trays with lining paper.  I know that Florentines spread out quite a lot when they are in the oven so you need to leave plenty of space between each biscuit.  I wondered whether to set out a third baking tray just in case.

First, I melted butter and sugar in a small pan on the hob. When this was melted and turned into a paste, I stirred in plain flour and double cream.  This was kept on the heat until smooth and the sugar had dissolved.

After this I folded in flaked toasted almonds, candied peel, dried cranberries and glace cherries.  I love all the different jewel like colours in Florentines which does add to their seasonal prettiness.

When it was time to bake them I put teaspoonfuls  of the mixture spaced well apart on the two baking trays. They only just fitted on two trays.  Both trays went into the oven at the same time and baked for about 10 minutes.

A word of warning! Do not move the Florentines onto a cooling rack until you have given them time to cool first and harden up a bit on the baking tray.  Like with any cookies, if you move them before you need to, they will break!  That happened to two of mine so I left the rest for about half an hour and then moved them with a pallette knife.

To decorate the Florentines I chose to melt two different types of chocolate. I melted a pot of white chocolate and the other dark chocolate.  I turned each Florentine over so that the flat bases were uppermost and spread either the white or the dark chocolate on the top of it with my small pallette knife.  I then left them to set before putting them into gift bags, alternating white chocolate ones with dark chocolate ones.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Lebkuchen Cookies.

Friday 22nd December 2017.

I love spicy and aromatic Lebkuchen cookies.  My mum used to buy a special packet of them every year at Christmas from Sainsburys.  The biscuits were small and in traditional shapes like trees, stars and hearts covered with a crisp royal icing and sprinkles.  When I moved up to Yorkshire I discovered Betty’s own version of Lebkuchen cookies which they sell in their shop. The cookies are usually of a seasonal design and covered in a thin, white royal icing and finished with piping detail.

According to the recipe introduction Lebkuchen is “a classic German Christmas delight, these are a little bit like gingerbread, but with a deeper, more treacly and spiced flavour.” 

It was the last day of term but as a supply teacher on day to day work I thought there would be no work available that day.  Not only that, but with the last day of term being so close to Christmas Day I didn’t have enough time to get everything done.  I normally make some foodie gifts for friends and family but this had to be cut down a lot this year.  Anything I did make would have to be quick to make and bag up!

The recipe used a star cookie cutter but I chose to use another winter/ Christmas themed cutter, a mitten one.  I’d not used that one before and thought with white details piped on then that would make the cookies look pretty.

To start with I heated runny honey, black treacle and sugar with some butter in a pan.  When the sugar had disolved and the butter had melted I took the mixture off the heat while I weighed out and mixed the dry ingredients together.

In a large bowl I sifted self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground ginger and some mixed spice together. This was combined with the melted butter mixture and then a beaten egg. I then added in some grated orange zest.  Finally I could combine the dough in a ball.  The dough had to be chilled in the fridge for about half an hour while I got on with other baking.

When the dough had chilled sufficiently I rolled it out to a 5mm thickness and cut out the mitten shapes.  I lost count of how many mittens I cut out but there was enough to go on 3 baking trays. I can bake two trays of cookies at the same time so I had to put the 3rd tray in after the others had finished.  The kitchen smelled wonderful.  Baking gingerbread is one of my favourite smells of all time.

The cookies didn’t need long in the oven.  They usually take about 12 minutes for me.  When I took them out of the oven I left them on the tray before transferring them across to the wire rack.  I bet if I didn’t, they would have fallen apart! Later on, when they were completely cooled I put them into a plastic box overnight until I was ready to decorate them.

The following day, which was Saturday I finally got round to icing the lebkuchen cookies.  I chose to ice them differently instead of the traditional egg white, icing sugar and lemon juice mixture.  Instead I made up royal icing so I could pipe on the details, like spots, stripes and zig zags, etc.  I’m not really that confident at piping the icing on as sometimes I find the bag splits and the icing explodes all over the work top! I think I had three goes this time!  Anyway I got there in the end.

After the cookies dried for a few hours I was able to put them into their gift bags and tie them with some pretty Christmas ribbon.  There were two spare ones so I kept them back and ate them for my breakfast on Christmas Eve!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Vanilla and Chocolate Button Cookies.

Wednesday 6th December 2017.

Yesterday was full on at work and I came home with a thumping headache. I couldn’t face cooking anything for dinner, so we ended up at the chippy. The sooner I could sit down and switch off last night, the better.

Today was a different story. I was home earlier from work but wanted to try out a new cookie cutter I bought in Lakeland a few weeks back. It was a button shape with four mini holes in the middle. I thought it would be perfect to try out the vanilla and chocolate button cookie recipe in The Great British Bake Off Christmas book. The recipe looked simple enough and as I enjoy baking cookies I thought there wouldn’t be any problems.

How wrong I was! My go to recipe for vanilla or chocolate roll out cookies uses four or five ingredients. This recipe used icing sugar in place of caster which isn’t unusual but just used egg yolks and asked for baking powder.  Now, especially when I’m baking roll out cookies I never use baking powder as it makes the cookies expand and depending on the design can make them lose some of their shape.  I was tempted to leave it out but then if the recipe said so, it must have been put in there for a reason!

Ingredients needed to bake Vanilla and Chocolate Button cookies.
Softened butter, icing sugar, plain flour and baking powder added to the mixing bowl to be rubbed in and turned into a breadcrumb like texture.
Working the dough together. Unfortunately, although my recipe proportions were right, the dough turned out very sticky.

Then I divided the dough into two equal parts.  One half had vanilla added to it and the other cocoa powder to turn it chocolatey.  This did not work out too well as I felt as if I should have made the two doughs separately. The cocoa powder did not work into the dough as well as it should and the result was more of a marbled effect. Well I suppose you do get buttons that looked like that but that wasn’t the effect I wanted on these button cookies!

Then, after chilling the dough in the fridge for half an hour, it was time to get the button cookie cutter out and cut out the biscuits.  I was very disappointed with the cutter and despite the dough being chilled for the right time, the dough just wouldn’t come free from the cutter. The dough stuck to the rim of the cookie cutter and so I gave up. I don’t know whether it was the cutter or the dough so I went to my cookie cutter stash and found two round cutters. I cut out rounds of dough easily and then used a slightly smaller cutter to make the pattern for the rim. This just made an indentation and didn’t go all the way through the biscuit.  Then, to finish, I used a skewer to make four holes in the centre of each biscuit like a button.  Unfortunately due to the horrible nature of the dough used the skewers didn’t do a very good job of making the holes.

Vanilla button cookies on the cooling rack.
Chocolate Button Cookies on the rack.

As expected the cookies expanded in the oven, not a lot admittedly but enough to swell and look slightly out of shape.  I wasn’t impressed with the look of them. But as I love the recipe idea, I’ve decided to try and make them again with my own tried and tested recipe for roll-out cookies. Then I might actually be able to use my button cookie cutter without the dough sticking to it!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Advent Cookies.

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had the chance to bake anything, let alone blog about it.  It doesn’t help that my laptop isn’t working properly and I just can’t type my posts well on my iPad.  So, I know what I’ll be saving up for once Christmas is out of the way!  I don’t know about you but I’m so glad November is out of the way.  It’s always a really depressing month to me.  Hardly any daylight and you’re travelling to and from work in the dark.  I’m definitely a summer person and all I have wanted to do is to hibernate and eat comfort food.  But yayy, it’s December and finally Christmas month.  No organisation up until here in the SmartCookieSam house, unless you count making your Christmas pudding and soaking your dried fruit for your Christmas cake…

Which brings me to the subject of this month’s blog post themes.  I’ve got out one of my Christmas recipe books (see the rather awful selfie below) and decided to bake from The Great British Bake Off Christmas this month. Not only will it be baking as in cakes and mince pies but there will be a few savoury things, foodie gifts and baked main courses to try out right up until the New Year. I’ll be attempting a recipe a day throughout Advent and in between Christmas and New Year.  So watch this space to see what I try out every day.

Friday December 1st 2017.

It’s the first day of Advent and everyone in the SmartCookieSam house has an Advent Calendar, even the dog and the cat!  Though our Labrador would love to trough the cat’s treats out of the calendar as well as his own!

I’ve always loved the idea of baking mini cookies to put in pockets of an Advent Calendar but until this year had never got round to it.  I used the very first recipe in the Bake Off Christmas book for the basis for my very own Advent Calendar biscuits.  I baked a vanilla shortbread dough and used four different type of snowflake cookie cutters.  Three were of the same size but different patterns but there was also a larger cutter which would be suitable for number 25. The idea was that the cookies would adorn a tree and you would take one off the tree as each day passes, that’s if the cookies last that long in our house!   Baking cookies and decorating them has always been one of my favourite sorts of baking so it was great to get creative after a busy time at work.

It’s been a while since I’ve baked and decorated cookies.
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For the icing I used roll out fondant icing swirled with some blue food colouring to add a marbled effect.  Some cookies turned out bluer than others but that was the effect I was hoping to achieve.
My piping skils need work and the icing was a bit runny.  Hence the messy numbers.  But then it has been a while since I’ve done any piping.
Number 25 is a big, special shaped snowflake so it will stand out from all the others on the tree.
There was enough cookie dough left to bake five extra cookies.  One was decorated with the year 2017 on it and the other four had the initials of me and my family on them.
All the cookies ready and drying on the wire rack ready to be threaded with ribbon to hang on the Christmas tree.
Christmas 2017.

Baking and decorating cookies definitely did put me in a festive mood. I was nearly finished when my son got in from college and I was able to clear away the mess while enjoying a well earned gin and tonic.  Now I wonder whether any cookies will be left tomorrow?

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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