A couple of weeks ago I was in one of those I want to bake moods. This happens quite a lot as baking takes my mind off everyday worries and is pure escapism from my busy job. When I have times like these I love to bake cookies. They are quick and simple to make and taste fab too. Not that I’m allowed at the moment. I’m doing Slimming World and I can’t even begin to think about how many Syns are in some of my baking creations.
I was in one of those moods where I wanted to try out something new so I went online and came across these stunners. Hilton Doubletree Cookies. Now, if you have ever stayed in a Hilton Doubletree Hotel they give you a fresh and warm cookie when you check in. I stayed at one in London near Tower Bridge about five years ago with my family and my son for one thought this was amazing to get a cookie. We had set off early down to London from Yorkshire and were just checking in late in the morning so the cookie staved off the hunger pangs until we could stop for lunch later.
From what I remember of my Hilton Doubletree Cookie, it was soft and chewy inside, just how I like a cookie. So when I saw the recipe online, I wrote it down and attempted to have a go at making some. The recipe was in American measurements so I got out my set of baking cups. I’m always nervous of adapting American recipes as I’m worried they won’t be as accurate because I’m not used to them. Especially as this recipe called for a cup of butter. I had to scoop up the butter and put it into the cup which was quite messy. Usually when I bake cookies you just weigh out the butter!
The cookies also asked for chopped walnuts in the mixture. I added pecans to mine as I didn’t have any walnuts in at home. Of course due to nut allergies, etc. you can omit the nuts. I used chopped chocolate chunks as well.
It was torture not being able to eat a cookie. Why do I do this to myself? I don’t like cooking Slimming World friendly cookies. The one time I did this I was not impressed at having to use artificial sweetener and low fat spread in my baking. All those chemicals and the bake felt wrong. So it’s better to abstain and give the baking to someone else who can indulge. And this is exactly what happened here…. until the following day when I’d been so busy I’d not had time for lunch and got home from work. Who wanted a banana or an apple then? Oh no, not me! I ate one and very gorgeous it was too. Now a few months back I would have eaten another and another but guilt stopped me. So I stuck at one!
Now if you want to try baking the DoubleTree Hilton Cookies yourself, then this is where I found the recipe. Head over to fabulous The Little Kitchen blog and you will find it there:
A few weeks ago I had a wake up call. It came about the time when I was sorting out some clothes and realised that about two thirds of the items in my wardrobe were far too tight for me. Trousers with zips that wouldn’t do up, buttons that wouldn’t do up and with gaping holes on my work shirts. Not to mention several dresses and skirts that made my stomach look like I was 6 months pregnant. My baby is 16 years old! I also saw several unflattering photos of me taken over the summer where I looked like a beached whale. All I can say is at least I wasn’t in a bikini on them. I’m not classed as obese but well within the overweight category. I blame my love of baking but if I don’t bake, I’m not tempted. Trouble is, I love baking and if I don’t do it, I feel I’m missing out. After a couple of attempts at Weightwatchers recently and feeling like I’ve not got anywhere, I decided to try Slimming World. I needed something new and with interesting recipes to motivate me and my family to eat what I cook.
So far in the past 3 weeks I have lost 5.5lbs. This, to me who takes ages even to lose a pound was a real motivator for me. Not only that but I’ve really enjoyed going to my local group, everyone is so friendly and warm.
Yesterday in group was the launch of Countdown To Christmas and we were asked to bring Syn Free or low Syn Christmas nibbles for a taster session to our group. I looked on the Slimming World Website for inspiration and came across some ideas for biscuits including a star shaped almond cookie. I was sceptical about baking cookies from a Slimming World recipe as I can’t stand using artificial sweeteners and low fat spreads in baking. Not only is the taste different, the texture is strange and it’s just not what my baking is all about. So I tried baking these biscuits with trepidation…eeeeekkk!
Yesterday afternoon I was in a rush after getting in from work late. Thankfully there were no distractions so I got all the ingredients out and started on the cookies. I mixed all the flour, baking powder, ground almonds, Canderel, Flora Cuisine and eggs all together to form a smooth dough. The dough felt more like bread dough than a cookie dough and was a bit springy and like elastic. It felt strange. I don’t tend to put raising agents in my roll out cookies, unless it’s gingerbread and I felt as if I couldn’t get the dough thin enough. Also I didn’t want it rising up like pastry or a cake in the oven.
As the cookies were meant to be bite size ones I couldn’t use the normal star shape I use for cookies. Instead I used the second smallest one out of a 3D gingerbread tree set, which gave the perfect size for a nibble. The recipe said I could get 48 biscuits, I lost count but there were definitely more than 48 there.
I kept a close watch on the oven as the cookies would bake quickly. I gave them about 8-10 minutes at about 160oC in my fan oven. They did expand and rise quite a bit.
To decorate, I mixed up a little bit of glace icing. If I hadn’t made them Slimming World friendly I would have spent ages decorating the stars covering the whole of the top with a flood and fill royal icing and lots of glitter and sprinkles. Instead I snipped a tiny hole off the bottom of a disposable piping bag and drizzled the icing on here and there, suppose Mary Berry would have said they were “informal”! I found a few bits left in different sprinkles tubs in my baking stash which needed using up. I chucked them altogether into one big jar, shook it up and sprinkled them on the cookies. Most of the sprinkles went on the floor and not on the cookies though!
My son tasted a couple and said they didn’t taste like normal cookies and tasted bland. I tried one and thought they were ok. I took them along to group and they went down well. I think, though for a tiny bite they are still 3 syns. That’s still quite a lot for a little biscuit.
Will I bake them again? I’m not sure. I would rather bake biscuits with butter and caster sugar instead of fake sweeteners and low fat spreads full of chemicals.
Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I’m a primary school teacher. I do supply now as it fits in much better around my family and home life but I’ve always loved teaching and working with young children. Although the teaching profession isn’t what it used to be, I feel I have the best of it doing supply. I don’t get all the stresses that permanent teachers have.
Before I did supply teaching full time I worked in a local primary school for eight years. I did a lot of supply there but also worked as a teaching assistant in the KS1 class. I loved that job, but sadly TA’s are very poorly paid for what they do. The money didn’t bother me, what I got out of it was a lot more than a pay cheque. I got job satisfaction and a lot of laughs, giggles and happy memories to treasure along the way.
I had only been working at the school a couple of weeks when the class teacher asked me if I wanted to cook with the children. I was so excited when I got asked to do this and we thought about a recipe we could use which fitted around the topic of Ourselves. I thought about some recipes we had and apart from the obvious, making gingerbread men I remembered a great recipe I had in one of my Nigella Lawson books. In Feast, there is a recipe called Cheesy Feet! This gave us all a big laugh because I said to the children, sometimes cheese can be smelly and so can people’s feet if they are hot and sweaty. This started the children laughing and saying their Dad’s feet smelled! I told them they hadn’t smelt Mr SmartCookieSam’s feet after he’d been wearing trainers!
I had a foot shaped biscuit cutter but we couldn’t make pairs of feet as you couldn’t turn it the other way round. So all of our cheesy feet biscuits were left feet!
Although it was ten years ago that I baked the Cheesy Feet with the children I worked with, we regularly cooked or baked in school. I also ran an after school Cookery Club for three years as I am passionate about getting kids cooking and learning life skills. Sadly the same school has just closed down and I was reminiscing about activities we had done in the classroom. Several former pupils remembered my cookery club and said they loved my cheesy feet! In fact it had been such a hit, several parents asked for the recipe!
This last weekend I was feeling in a very nostalgic mood. My daughter has just gone off to uni for the first time and my son has started college. I wanted to bake something and thought back to the Cheesy Feet. I just had to bake them again for old time’s sake!
The Cheesy Feet are simply like savoury biscuits and they taste just like cheese straws. You can make them in a food processor or by hand. I can’t give the recipe here as it’s not my own, it’s Nigella’s but I can give you a link to it.
I didn’t use a food processor as mine has broken and I still haven’t got round to replacing it. I’m trying to find one that juices as well, maybe it might have to go on my Christmas list? So instead I rubbed in the butter, baking powder and plain flour together until the mixture looked like breadcrumbs. After that I combined this with some grated cheese and formed it into a ball. Nigella said the recipe makes about 16 feet but her cutter must have been slightly smaller than mine. I only got 11 biscuits.
I baked the Cheesy Feet on a Saturday afternoon and put them on the cooling rack in my kitchen. I went upstairs to get ready as Mr SmartCookieSam and I were going out that night. When I came back downstairs I noticed there were only 6 feet left! Mr SmartCookieSam had been eating them! He said they were moreish and reminded him of cheese straws, which he also loves!
Yesterday we had had our lunch outside in the gorgeous September sunshine and then Mr SmartCookieSam asked for a cheesy foot to go with his cup of tea. One cheesy foot turned into the rest of the box apart from one which I ate with the dog sat there drooling at me.
A recipe which is easily adaptable, you could add herbs, or maybe some cayenne pepper or paprika to the dough or even some finely chopped garlic and onion! Now that would make your cheesy feet smell even more!
The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is the latest publication from food writer Annabel Karmel and was published a couple of months ago. My family have grown up with Annabel’s recipes right from when I started weaning my daughter back in 1998 using purees from the Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. I’ve bought several of her books over the years from her Family Meal Planner, to her Kids In The Kitchen inspired books, to her party recipe one. I’ve kept all the books though I don’t think my kids would appreciate butternut squash purees now! Having said that, I regularly go back to recipes from the Family Meal Planner, which has been my lifesaver in the kitchen for the past 16 years.
So, when Annabel brings out a new book which isn’t directed at babies and toddlers, I’m always keen to buy it. I was very impressed with the Busy Mum’s Cookbook as it fits into my lifestyle. I work most days as a supply teacher, a job I love but I’m always shattered when I get in from school. All the recipes I have tried out of the book so far have fitted into the slot of being suitable for busy parents and not just Mums!
The introduction states: “Many of us stick with what we know and trust when it comes to cooking, especially when our lives are busier than ever! Yet the result is often a collection of six or seven failsafe recipes that families rely upon week in week out!”
I have easily fallen into that trap. I think I’ve cooked chilli con carne or chicken curry every week for the past year but I do it because I know my son will eat it. Annabel Karmel’s own children have always been a massive part of her cookery career, she tests recipes out on them and there used to be photos of them in her earlier books. Now they are grown up but they still influence her recipes, just like I do when I try to recreate my own dishes at home.
The Busy Mum’s Cookbook is split up into seven sections each featuring a stack of recipes to suit all lifestyles.
Chapter One is called “20 Minute Recipes” and features plenty of recipes which can be cooked in a very short time. Last Monday evening I tried out the Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto on my family. It says the cooking time is 10 mins and the preparation time, 8 minutes. I had to roast the cherry tomatoes in the oven with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar which took all of 10 minutes. While the tomatoes were roasting the pasta was cooking on the hob. When it had cooked I added pesto sauce to the pasta and mixed it with the tomatoes and mozzarella pieces. Ideal for a a quick weeknight supper.
Annabel’s baking recipes are just divine and I must admit I always looked at the baking and dessert chapters first when I bought her earlier books. For every special occasion dinner I must have made Annabel’s naughty but nice version of Tiramisu and baked a lot of her cakes and cookies for children’s parties. I know sweets and desserts get a bad press but to be honest I can’t see the problem in having the odd treat here or there. So it was great to see a handful of delicious recipes at the back of the book in the Sweets chapter. Last Sunday I tried out the Golden Syrup Ginger Cake which is described as a “deliciously moist, gently spiced cake (which is) perfect for an afternoon tea treat.”
To me it sounded like McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake which I used to eat as a child for tea at my Nana Margaret’s house. I’ve not had it for years. So I was tempted to try baking the cake to see if it was the same. I used my Nordicware Gingerbread Man Loaf Bundt pan which has only been used once before, great to give it another outing. I greased the pan well with Wilton Cake Release. Flour, caster sugar, cinnamon and ginger were combined in one bowl. In another in went eggs, sunflower oil and golden syrup. They were then mixed together and the batter poured into the tin. It tasted lovely even though I could have done with more mixture to fill the tin! It looked very small!
Last Friday night was perfect to sit out and enjoy the gorgeous sunny weather. I had loads of tomatoes to use up and had the idea of making the Three Tomato Bruschettas for my family. Though we only had one type of tomato, this recipe was a lot more fiddly than I thought. I had to peel and de-seed a whole punnet of cherry tomatoes which took a lot of time. The Bruschetta recipe is in the Lunchboxes and Snacks chapter. Lunchboxes is something I never get right. When my kids were at primary school they had Lunchboxes and I used Annabel’s own Lunchboxes book for ideas when my daughter first started in Reception. Her pasta salads and fruit salads with dips would come back untouched and she used to say “Why can’t I have fruit winders in my lunchbox?” Or “……has Cheesestrings in hers, why can’t I?” I tend to be a bit disorganised with my own lunches, I end up with half a carton of soup or a noodle pot. If I’m feeling really lazy then I buy a sandwich from a local garage with an M&S food shop attached to it. Same goes for my husband, when he’s working in his office, he’s across the road from a fantastic bakery so he nips there for a sandwich or a pasty. The kids follow what their friends are doing in town. So unless I sort myself out, I can’t see myself using the lunch box recipes much!
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love baking biscuits, hence my blog name SmartCookieSam. Last Friday I had some spare time and decided to bake some of Annabel’s Chocolate and Oat Cookies. My son is going through his GCSEs at the moment and my daughter has been busy in her college course. What better than a sweet treat to start half term off? The cookies were very simple to make using butter, brown sugar, flour, an egg, some vanilla extract, baking powder, a small amount of ground ginger, porridge oats and dark chocolate cut into chunks. No sooner than they had been put on the cooling rack, then half of them disappeared! That’s a good sign. If they’re still there in the biscuit tin a few days later that’s when I start getting worried.
My son and husband aren’t massive pasta fans but they liked the Pasta Arrabiata recipe. It was a perfect standby storecupboard supper to knock up after a busy day at work. It went very well washed down with a couple of glasses of wine! I forgot to tell hubby that Arrabiata sauce has chillies in it!
There was another chapter in the book dedicated to Entertaining. Well I can’t remember the last time I had friends round for dinner. It was probably about 10 years ago. Ever since I went back to work doing dinner parties is the last thing on my mind. Though I have had several parties and get togethers. This usually ends up being buffet food or a BBQ or maybe cakes and lots of drink though! I can’t see me cooking any recipes from the Entertaining chapter soon, though!
So, to sum up I was extremely impressed with Annabel’s book. It is going to be well used in the next few years I bet as it was the case with her baby and toddler feeding books. I can wholeheartedly recommend it!
It’s been half term for me and for my kids this week. I love my job but I really needed a few days to catch up on things. My son has been working on a film project and had a few friends over to help him out with it. When there’s a houseful of hungry teenagers there’s always a need to have cookies about. Especially chocolate chip ones.
On Tuesday three of my son’s friends were round at our house and I was at home doing jobs. I don’t mind doing this but very soon the mind starts to wander and the boredom sets in. This is also when my baking addiction starts and I think of things I can create. It was a great opportunity to test out a recipe from my giant Great British Bake Off Calendar which is hanging up in my kitchen. February’s recipe was for chocolate chip cookies which on the picture were sandwiched together with vanilla ice cream. Though I didn’t have any vanilla ice cream left, the kids had troughed it all.
I’m a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs’ natural flavour cocoa powders and icing sugars and was keen to use some flavoured cocoa powder in my cookies. I had a choice of lime, orange, coconut or black cherry flavour. Knowing that all varieties were a great choice it was a difficult decision but in the end I went along with chocolate orange. A winning combination.
The cookies took minutes to prepare. Butter and brown sugar was creamed together in a bowl then a beaten egg and some vanilla extract was added to the mixture. In another bowl baking powder, plain flour and the cocoa powder was sifted together and folded into the wet ingredients. Finally I put in a packet of chocolate chips which I had found in my baking cupboard.
Once the dough was combined I chilled it for about half an hour in the fridge. This made it easier to handle. I always use an ice cream scoop to measure out cookie dough so I get even portions. They are always put well spaced on lined baking sheets as cookies of this type spread out. About halfway through the cooking time I always take the tray out of the oven and bang it down on top of the cooker. This flattens the cookies down and then they return to the oven to finish off. I don’t cook them for as long as they should be cooked as I like my cookies chewy.
When my son and his friends had finished filming the cookies were a welcome treat. I put a couple aside for my daughter to try when she came in from work but they vanished. I tried one myself and the cookies were gooey and chewy with the chocolate pieces melting into the whole cookies. The orange flavour in the cocoa powder worked really well. Judging by the response I got from the cookies I will definitely be baking these again.
I’m always up for trying out new baking products, especially those which add an extra dimension or an extra special something to my bakes.
Just recently I have discovered Sugar and Crumbs who make a range of natural cocoa powders and icing sugars to enhance your bakes and to turn them into something really special. Not only this but they also sell a great range of crumbs and sprinkles to finish off the top of your cakes with a pretty touch. Sugar and Crumbs sell their products online through their own website but they also have a really useful local stockist search facility on their website. If you type in your postcode it comes up with who stocks the Sugar and Crumbs products nearby. As I live in North Yorkshire I was pleased to see that Sugarcraft Supplies in Garforth sells them! I know where I’ll be heading on my next day off from work!
I belong to to the Clandestine Cake Club and a few of my cakey friends had bought Sugar and Crumbs products to try out in their cakes from a stand at The Cake and Bake Show last year. They were absolutely delighted with them and I was intrigued to try the products out for myself.
From coconut to lime and from Black Forest to Cherry Bakewell there is a flavour to suit everyone’s taste buds. I even noticed there is a chilli flavoured cocoa powder on the website which I would love to try out in the future! Though what I do wish to see is a mint flavour cocoa powder and icing sugar as that is my overall favourite and I would buy it by the shedload!
So when Sugar and Crumbs set me a challenge to bake with a goodie bag of their cocoa powder and icing sugars I jumped at the chance. Mother’s Day is coming up and what better occasion than to bake a cake or something delicious for your mum? I’m a mum of two teenagers myself but I love baking cakes for my own mum. She came to visit me when it was half term so I thought it was a great excuse to get out the cake tins and come up with some treats to share for Mother’s Day.
Sugar and Crumbs offered me a choice of cocoa powders and icing sugars from their wide variety of flavours and extensive range. I chose to go with the Chocolate Orange Natural Flavoured Cocoa Powder which was accompanied by two different icing sugars. One was the Jaffa Twist Natural Flavoured Cocoa Icing Sugar and the other was the Orange Zest Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar which all came in the most gorgeous pink or white resealable pouches. So pretty, just made me want to open it straightaway and get baking! I was very impressed with the packaging and I felt you got a lot in a packet, especially with the cocoa powder as it would last for a couple or several bakes depending on what you were making.
Those of you that read my SmartCookieSam blog regularly will know that I’m addicted to baking bundts and have started collecting Nordicware bundt pans. So my Mother’s Day bake just HAD to include a bundt cake somewhere. I adapted the recipe from the latest Hummingbird Bakery recipe book which is just out called Life Is Sweet. On page there is a recipe for the Tunnel of Fudge Bundt Cake which I turned into a Jaffa Orange Cake instead. Not only this but I wanted to see what else I could create with my big bag of cocoa powder and hit upon the idea of baking some chocolate orange cookies at the same time.
The smell coming from my oven was just so enticing. I chose to bake the cake in my Heritage Bundt pan which always produces excellent results so I thought I would try and see how the Sugar and Crumbs products worked when baked in a bundt!
Meanwhile I attempted to bake some cookies using some more of the Jaffa Orange Cocoa Powder. I adapted a recipe from a trusty cookie book I have had for a few years now, called The Genuine American Cookie and Muffin Book. In this book there is a recipe for double chocolate cookies. This gave me a great idea to adapt the recipe using the cocoa powder and also to sprinkle some Orange Zest natural icing sugar on top of the cookies for an extra orangey hit. The batch baked two dozen mouthwatering cookies to complement the Jaffa Orange Bundt Cake.
Meanwhile I had to finish off the bundt. This was done by creating a chocolate glace to adorn the top of the cake. I used the chocolate orange icing sugar accompanied with some sugar and mixed it all together with a little bit of butter to form a paste. This was then drizzled carefully in the grooves on the cake. Before it had chance to set I sprinkled on cut up pieces of mini Jaffa Cakes and then some whole ones on top. I used Marks and Spencers’ own ones which are retangular, not round.
The extra flavour that the Sugar and Crumbs cocoa powder and icing sugars added to my bakes was phenomenal. My whole family, including my mum said you could definitely taste the orange in the cake and the cookies. We had a small slice of cake and a cookie each. They tasted absolutely delicious. If there is cake around in my house it always disappears like lightning so I chose to take the rest into one of the schools I teach at to share out with the staff. I hope they liked their treats!
After my Mother’s Day baking session I was pleased I still had most of one of the icing sugars left to use up and also a small amount of Jaffa Orange cocoa powder. I ran out of time to bake more last Sunday but have earmarked a couple of the recipes featured on the Sugar and Crumbs website. There are numerous useful recipes including a mouthwatering sounding brownie recipe. I am definitely going to try that one out. There are also other recipes for fudge and for meringues amongst lots of others though I know that my mum would love a box of homemade fudge!
Here is a link to the Recipe section of the website:
Last weekend my village had a yard sale and I usually bake a couple of batches of cookies and flapjacks to sell on a stall. I had my eye on the Apple and Macadamia Nut Cookies in John Whaite’s latest book John Whaite Bakes At Home and wanted to bake them from the Breakfasts chapter at the beginning of the book. This was part of my latest Cooking The Books Challenge for June 2014.
I read the recipe and realised that the recipe needed dried apple, not fresh apple chopped up in chunks. I hadn’t got any dried apple so I found a bag of mixed, dried fruit which I thought I’d use instead.
John says “These inelegant cookies are nothing short of heaven sent. The dried apples are chewy, the macadamia nuts are crunchy and the oatmeal adds great texture in between the two” I could imagine me scoffing a whole plateful of these! So I thought I’d try them out on visitors to our Yard Sale.
First I creamed butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, then added vanilla and egg. After this I tossed in some oats, plain flour and baking powder. Once this was brought together into a dough, in went some mixed dried fruit and some chopped macadamia nuts.
The ball of dough was then formed into a long sausage on a piece of cling film and wrapped carefully to chill in the fridge for about half an hour. When it was chilled enough, I cut the cookie sausage into 1cm slices and arranged them on a baking tray, baking them for about 10 or so minutes.
The Yard Sale started off well and all my chocolate flapjack and my white chocolate fudge cookies sold. I was left with about six out of twenty of these beauties. Many people who realised they had dried fruit in said “Oh no, I don’t like raisins” or “My kids won’t eat those,” The people who did buy them said they were delicious. I would love to bake the recipe again but will buy in some dried apple especially!
Here are a couple of pictures of the other two bakes for the Yard Sale: