Christmas Leftovers- Mincemeat Loaf Cake.

I know it’s New Year now but I can’t bear throwing things out or wasting things.  As I’ve been doing Slimming World up to Christmas and hoping to start back at my local group on 4th January, I can’t really be baking things or eating leftover cake and mince pies.

But what to do with the two spare jars of homemade mincemeat which were sat taking up space in my cupboard? Mr SmartCookieSam said it would last until next Christmas but I’m not always so sure.  So I had a look through my recipe books and spotted an ideal way of using up a whole jar of mincemeat without taking too much time and effort up.

This Mincemeat Loaf Cake recipe comes from Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection. The recipe actually makes two small loaves.

As Mary says in the recipe notes: ” These are great to have on hand at Christmas time. They freeze superbly and make a nice present…. the mincemeat adds spice and moisture to the cakes,”

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The idea that the cakes freeze well was a real winner for me.  I don’t want to be eating cakes right now but there is room in my freezer to put the loaves away and bring out for another time.  They’re always useful if one of my friends pops round for a cuppa or for taking into work to share with colleagues.

The recipe was simple to make.  I mixed mincemeat, softened butter, light muscovado sugar, 2 beaten eggs, self raising flour, currants and raisins together in a large mixing bowl.  To this I also added an extra teaspoonful of ground mixed spice. This was all mixed together and put into two loaf tins lined with special loaf tin liners.

 To finish off I needed to stud whole almonds into the top of the loaves.  I realised I didn’t have any whole almonds left, only flaked ones.  I sprinkled some flaked almonds on and also added some whole glace cherries before sticking the loaves in the oven.  They baked for about 1 1 /4 hours while I got on with the ironing.  As I was doing the ironing there was a lovely smell wafting about the kitchen, very tempting but not helpful when trying to lose weight!

The loaves didn’t look that big compared to what I was expecting, I would have preferred to have baked one big loaf instead of two tiny ones.  It smelled wonderful though and once it had cooled down I was tempted to cut one of the loaves open and see what the inside looked like.  I didn’t eat any, honest!

Wrapped up in cling film they’re now in the freezer.  Let’s hope I don’t forget I’ve made them!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Welsh Honey and Camomile Bara Brith- My Own Recipe Featured in The Clandestine Cake Club A Year Of Cake.

Last year myself and the other Clandestine Cake Club members were invited to submit recipes to be included in a brand new cookbook due to be published in September 2015. It was to be called “A Year Of Cake” and members were asked to contribute recipes which celebrated both festivals and famous people’s birthdays from all over the world.  I had joined the Clandestine Cake Club just after all the recipes had been submitted and shortlisted for the hugely popular first book The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook which came out in February 2013. It is one of my ambitions to write a recipe book so I was tempted to have a go but wasn’t sure if it was what they were looking for. I was a bit nervous about sending in my own recipes but I chose three that I had tried out and worked well enough for me. Lynn Hill, founder of the Clandestine Cake Club was to have some recipes in the book herself and the rest of the book would be made up of members’ own recipes.

A few months later I was absolutely thrilled when Lynn emailed and told me that I was to have not one but two out of the three recipes included in the book!  All the recipes are scrupulously tested out so I’m glad the testing team thought they would work ok! I was so excited when the email came through on my phone I shot through to where my hubby was sat watching telly in the lounge and upstairs to tell my two teenage children. They couldn’t see why I was so excited though, which dampened it down a bit.

We had to keep the nature of our recipes secret until the book was published but as soon as we got our copies of the books my cakey friends and I were looking excitedly at each other’s recipes and wondering what we’d bake first out of the book.

The first recipe I submitted was my Welsh Honey and Camomile Bara Brith.

This is the recipe introduction in the A Year Of Cake book: Bara Brith means speckled bread in Welsh and is a delicately spiced fruity tea bread. It is sometimes made with yeast to make it more like a bread but this version is firmly anchored in the cake category with the use of self-raising flour which keeps it wonderfully sticky and moist. As a tea bread, soaking the fruit in a brew is obligatory and Sam has chosen to steep hers in a camomile and honey tea giving it a unique aromatic flavour.  It’s an easy recipe to bake with children and the perfect cake to celebrate the feast of St David, the patron saint of Wales who died on this day in 569AD.  Mwynhewch eich bara brith! (Enjoy your bara brith!)

The inspiration for this recipe came from lots of happy memories of childhood holidays, my time at uni in Bangor in the early 1990s and more recently holidaying in Ceredigion where my husband lived as a child. On one holiday we visited NewQuay Honey Farm and ate delicious honey bara brith made with the honey from the farm.  I always stock up on the honey to take back home with me so I was really keen to replicate the recipe myself at home.

The idea is with a bara brith or other fruit bread is that you soak the fruit in the liquid the night before so that the fruit absorbs the flavours.  I wanted to choose a tea which complimented the honey flavour in the bara brith and inspiration came to me when looking in my cupboard.  I often drink camomile tea to relax me at night and found some Twinings Camomile and Honey teabags. So i tried it out with my recipe in place of the usual builder’s tea.  The result tasted gorgeous.

After you have soaked the fruit overnight (and again I am not one of those who sticks to a certain type of dried fruit in my bara brith, I just go with what’s left in my cupboard!)

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The dried fruit is soaking in a large bowl with the camomile and honey tea, stirred in with runny local Welsh honey and boiling water. This was left to soak overnight though I took the teabag out after 10 minutes.
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The following day I strained the liquid out of the dried fruit mixture but kept it just in case I needed moisture in the cake mix.

After straining the liquid I added beaten egg to the dried fruit and then afterwards added the remaining ingredients.  These were soft light brown sugar, a grated zest of a lemon, some self raising flour and some ground mixed spice.

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Here is the mixture about to go into the oven. You can line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with baking parchment or you can buy special loaf tin liners in specialist bakeware shops.

The loaf is baked in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours but if it looks like it is going brown well before the end of cooking time then you need to cover the top of it with a bit of foil.

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The finished Bara Brith. all ready and waiting to be boxed up and taken to the Cake Club Launch party so other members could taste it for themselves.

I hope lots of people will try to bake the Bara Brith for themselves as it is such a delicious tea loaf.  It freezes well too! I baked it again as I was invited to a book launch party last weekend and took along both bakes from the book. It was also easy to carry in a tin- no cake wrecks here with it being a loaf cake and easy to transport!  It’s also a fab recipe to bake with kids, as a teacher in my “day” job I have baked this with children and they adored it.

The excitement about A Year Of Cake being published was amazing amongst our community of cake clubbers and we couldn’t wait for our own special copies of the book to arrive just prior to the official publication date. On Saturday 5th September my own copy arrived and I was so emotional at seeing my own name in print.  Though sharing the same name as a famous singer who also happens to be singing the new James Bond theme means I do see my name a lot now, but this was to do with me and not Sam Smith the singer!

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Not every recipe in the book has an accompanying picture. This can be annoying to some who would like to see how the recipe is meant to turn out but usually it is down to the sheer cost of printing. My Bara Brith recipe did have a picture to go with it. Picture courtesy of Quercus Books.
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Here it is! My very own recipe in print!
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My Bara Brith on display at the launch party along with just some of the other mouthwatering cakes we all got to taste.

Please note I have not given out my recipe on the blog- you will have to buy the book to be able to see the full recipe. Not my rules, I’m afraid.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Fruit and Macadamia Nut Cookies from John Whaite Bakes At Home.

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A variation on John Whaite’s Apple, Macadamia Nut and Oatmeal Cookies.

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.

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The finished cookies piled up on the cooling rack ready to be boxed up for our yard sale.

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:

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White Chocolate and Fudge Cookies.
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Chocolate Covered flapjacks.
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Bakes laid out on the table ready for the customers.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cut and Come Again Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Last week I had to take a few bakes along to my local WI meeting to serve up at suppertime.  We take it in turns in groups of three. Usually we liaise between one another and make or buy a selection of savoury and sweet items to take along to share with all the other ladies.  As I was the one out of the three ladies who liked baking the most the others took care of the savoury and I brought along the sweet stuff.  As some people aren’t so keen on fancy decorated cakes I always try to offer something plain like a fruit cake.  The Cut and Come Again Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible seemed to fit the bill.

In the recipe introduction Mary says “This is a traditional name for a cake that is so delicious that everyone will come back for another slice.”  She also said it was “good for a hungry family,”  As I was going to be away for a couple of days over the Easter holidays with my hubby and the kids were going to be at home with my Mum, any leftover cake would come in very useful as a pudding.  I was also hoping that the cake would live up to it’s name and that the cake would be so popular that people would come back for more!

Cut And Come Again Cake couldn’t be more simpler to make.  It was prepared by simply adding all the ingredients measured into one big bowl and mixed together thoroughly.

The ingredients in Mary’s Cut and Come Again Cake are: self raising flour, ground mixed spice, butter (which has to be very soft), caster sugar, eggs, currants, sultanas, raisins and a little milk to mix.

All the ingredients for the Cut and Come Again Cake were added and mixed together in this bowl.
All the ingredients for the Cut and Come Again Cake were added and mixed together in this bowl.
I used my deep 8" diameter cake tin.  This is my favourite one I use regularly for baking Christmas cakes.
I used my deep 8″ diameter cake tin. This is my favourite one I use regularly for baking Christmas cakes.
The mixture was spooned into the tin and the top levelled out.
The mixture was spooned into the tin and the top levelled out.
Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.
Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.

The cake smelled heavenly when it was baking.  My kitchen was filled with a spicy aroma and it made my mouth water.  It took about 1 1/4 hours to bake which meant I had to leave it until last when I was getting it ready for the meeting.  By this time it was the afternoon and I was feeling very hungry and in need of a pick me up!  I was so tempted to cut into the cake and scoff a slice.

At the meeting I sliced the cake up but as there were so many cakes and other goodies on offer I still had half of it left to take home.  I enjoyed my slice with a cup of tea, it wasn’t as heavy and rich as other fruit cakes but still tasted gorgeous.  My Mum and my kids ate some more at the weekend, though it doesn’t keep as well as an ordinary fruit cake.  And yes I was tempted to come back for more but I didn’t!

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

Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess- Christmas Morning Muffins.

Nigella’s Christmas Morning Muffin recipe from her Domestic Goddess Cookbook is just one of those recipes I’ve been keen to try ever since I bought the book nearly 10 years ago.  In the introduction Nigella suggests that these muffins are good as part of establishing your very own Christmas morning traditions or rituals.  To us in our house, we have our own traditions but I’ve never bothered with traditions for food on Christmas morning. We usually have something light and quick like tea and toast. About 11 am we’ll have a glass of Champagne or Prosecco with a mince pie to put us on until dinner is ready, usually about 2 o’clock.  Then again things are never set in stone in our house.  But I was keen to try out the Christmas Muffin recipe, it looked simple enough to bake the night before as I didn’t want to be baking on Christmas morning and the ingredients sounded festive and delicious.

Instead of the cranberries Nigella suggested I chose to use the same quantity of dried fruit.  I had some mixed dried fruit left over in an open bag.  I thought I’d save the cranberries for something else.

Here’s how the Christmas Morning Muffins were made:

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I used these pretty Nordic inspired Christmas muffin cases from Waitrose. I bought them last year and loved them.
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All the “dry” ingredients were weighed out into a large bowl. This was flour, baking powder, mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger and some brown sugar.
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The “wet” ingredients went into another bowl: orange juice, milk, eggs and some melted butter.
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Everything was combined carefully in one bowl with the dried, mixed fruit added into the wet ingredients right at the end.
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The muffin mixture spooned into the cases and all ready to go into the oven.
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Fresh out of the oven. Some muffins rose better than others!

Nigella suggests sprinkling the muffins with demerara sugar and cinnamon before baking.  I totally forgot to do it so I ended sprinkling icing sugar on the top of mine.  However, I was a bit heavy handed as you can see in the picture below!

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Ready to be eaten dusted with a little icing sugar on Christmas Day.

So, will this be a tradition to come in my family?  I don’t think so. Sadly I was the only one who ate a muffin!  It was just the four of us on Christmas morning and my hubby said no to a muffin.  As soon as the kids noticed there was dried fruit in the muffins they turned their noses up at them. Bet it would have been different if it was chocolate.  So it was toast all round.  It did taste lovely though.  The rest ended up being used as the trifle sponges towards our Boxing Day Trifle!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas Day. It would be lovely to know if anyone reading this also has their favourite baking traditions over Christmas.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx