The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Caramelised Onion and Stilton Tart.

Thursday 7th December 2017.

I love making pies, quiches and tarts but I always worry about the fat and calorie content in the pastry and the fillings.  But nothing beats a homemade pie or tart, especially on a cold Winter’s evening.

I had planned out the meals to cook for this last week but forgot I was a day behind with what needed eating up first in the fridge.  I had some chicken breasts which needed to be used so they ended up being cooked for Thursday night’s dinner.  Being a supply teacher and at the time having no work booked in for the day after, I thought I’d prep ahead just in case I ended up working.  We’d all be starving by the time I got in from work. Not only that but the last thing I’d want to do is to start cooking something from scratch.  I’m glad I was prepared.  I ended up working and didn’t get home until 6.15pm.

The Caramelised Onion and Stilton Tart from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book ended up being our dinner along with some new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn.  It was assembled and cooked the night before and it was reheated carefully the following night.

So, back to Thursday tea time and I’m cooking two meals one after the other.  I started off with the tart and then went on to cooking the chicken breasts in a chipotle marinade with new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn.  Yes I know we had that two nights running but it was what I was trying to use up in the fridge before doing my weekly shop at the weekend.  I began with making up the shortcrust pastry which was fine.  It was chilled in the fridge for half an hour as I was cooking three medium onions in some olive oil and butter. The long, slow and low heat of cooking the onions really helps them to caramelise.

When the pastry was chilled for long enough, I got it out of the fridge and rolled it out to fit it into my tart tin.  There was enough pastry to overhang the edges. I filled the pastry case with baking parchment and my ceramic baking beans so I could blind bake it.  After 12 minutes I had to remove the paper and the beans then pop the pastry case back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

As the pastry case was baking, I mixed together the filling.  I mixed together two eggs and another egg yolk, along with some double cream, some grated Parmesan Cheese and some crumbled Stilton.  I was also meant to add pine nuts to the mixture but when I looked in the cupboard I’m sure I couldn’t find any.  So I left them out altogether.  I’m sure walnuts would have gone well in the tart as well.

When the pastry case came out of the oven, I mixed the filling, along with the caramelised onions together. The mixture was poured into the case and I popped the tart back into the oven.  I always put the tart case onto a flat baking tray in case it leaked out all over the oven floor.

The following day, when we chose to eat the tart, I asked Mr SmartCookieSam to put it back in the oven to reheat through for half an hour.  The result was absolutely delicious.  I’m sure it was hugely calorific, what with all the cheese and cream in the filling not to mention the butter in the pastry as well.  But it simply melted in the mouth.  What’s more is that as the tart was so big there was enough left over to eat cold the next day for lunch. It was a big hit and a recipe I’ll definitely be making again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Rudolph’s Carrot Cake.

Wednesday December 6th 2017.

I love a good carrot cake.  This version from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book has a special twist to it in that it’s decorated with a reindeer red nose and antlers on the top of it.  Although my children are too old for the leaving goodies out for Santa tradition, I can imagine that Santa and Rudolph will love a slice of carrot cake as a change from all those mince pies and raw carrots!  It does take me back to when we used to leave Santa a glass of whiskey, a mince pie and a carrot for the Rudolph. As the recipe introduction says: “Father Christmas and Rudolph will be over the moon when they receive a little slice of this moist carrot cake before heading back to the North Pole.  It is best eaten on the day it is baked as the icing needs to be kept in the fridge which can make the sponge a little bit heavy”

As it’s still over 2 weeks until Christmas, there’s no way that this cake will be left out for Santa to eat at our house.  Instead it was to be baked and taken as a treat along to one of my regular schools I teach in as a supply teacher.  As I have to be extremely careful with allergies, etc. I made sure that the cake did not contain nuts.  Instead of pine nuts which this recipe called for, I substituted the same amount of nuts for raisins.

The most tedious part of baking a carrot cake, to me is the carrot grating.  Of course I could cut corners and put the carrots through the grating attachment on my food processor. But, by the time I’d got the machine out, I could have grated the carrots by hand. When I’d grated all the carrots I needed I put them to one side in a bowl so that I could get on with weighing out the other ingredients.

In one bowl I whisked together sunflower oil. maple syrup, eggs and some light brown muscovado sugar.  Then in another bowl I weighed out and sifted together the dry ingredients: self raising flour, ground cinnamon, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. The raisins then got added in, instead of the pine nuts along with the grated carrots.

I then greased and lined two 20cm or 8 inch diameter loose bottomed sandwich tins.  The mixture was divided between the two tins and baked in the oven for about 35 minutes.  By this time I was feeling really hungry.  I’d come home from work, grabbed a sandwich and a cup of tea and now the smell of baking carrot cake wafting around the kitchen was too much for me.  I made myself another cup of tea and sat in the lounge away from temptation to nibble at something sweet.

When the cake was out of the oven and cooling down on the rack I made up the cream cheese icing.  It was a miracle that Mr SmartCookieSam hadn’t nicked any of the cream cheese to put on his toast at breakfast time.  This recipe needed 400g of full fat cream cheese.  I always use full fat Philadelphia as it gives great results and is really creamy.  To this I added some icing sugar and about 50ml of double cream. This version doesn’t use butter so wasn’t as sickly as some cream cheese frostings I’ve had in the past.

Half an hour later the cake was cooled and ready to be iced and filled.  I decided to decorate the cake differently to how it was illustrated in the book.  Instead of melted chocolate and red sprinkles to make a reindeer face and antlers, I found some reindeer themed sprinkles in my baking stash.  They contrasted well with the carrot cake.

On Thursday morning I was in such a rush to get off to work that I left the cake at home in a box in the fridge. I’d kept it in the fridge what with the frosting containing cream cheese and double cream. Of course out of sight, out of mind!  So what did I do when I got in from work? Yes, you guessed right, I had a piece!

Definitely a cake to start new traditions with children on Christmas Eve. Or even a great cake to eat with a cup of tea or coffee instead of a mince pie to relax with at any time over the festive period.

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

 

Spiced Dorset Apple Traybake.

Another tried and tested favourite from Mary Berry’s “Cooks The Perfect..Step By Step” recipe book,  Mary says in the introduction: ” As well as being a good coffee or tea time cake, this makes a comforting pudding, served warm with clotted cream or creme fraiche. I often make it in Autumn when I have a glut of apples,”

This was the very reason I bake this traybake often.  I get lots of beautiful apples given to me and although we like crumbles and pies in our house, sometimes you always want to make something different.  Traybakes are great as you can use them like a pudding or a slice of cake but a little goes a long way.  I also find them so easy to make, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to bake.

My dad and step mum gave me two huge bags of apples from their tree in their garden. I’m sure they said they were Pink Lady apples.  Not only did they look really pretty on the outside, but the inside had a lovely pink hue to them too.  They always tasted delicious so I knew they would taste incredible in this bake.

I have a well used and loved Alan Silverwood traybake tin which came out of the cupboard again on this wet and cold Sunday afternoon.  It doesn’t need a lot of greasing but I used a small amount of Wilton Cake Release to stop any stubborn bits sticking to the tin.

Once all the apples were peeled, cored and cut into thin slices, I put them into a shallow dish and sprinkled them with some lemon juice to stop them going brown.

Next, I mixed together butter, light brown muscovado sugar, self raising flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, eggs and milk into a large bowl.  So easy being an all in one method and I made sure everything was well mixed.

Now this is where I lost concentration.  I got distracted and put all the apples in a layer on the bottom of the tin and then topped them with all of the sponge mix.  In the recipe you are meant  to put half the apples on the bottom, then half the cake mixture, then to repeat it. Rather like making a lasagne!  In the end my cake turned up a bit like an upside down cake and didn’t have the defined layers that Mary Berry mentions in her “Keys To Perfection” part of the recipe.  My motto is well if it tastes fine, then who cares what it looks like?

We had Toad In The Hole for Sunday lunch followed by a slice of the traybake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I love the smell of apples and cinnamon as they’re cooking. Definitely an aroma of Autumn there! As the traybake was so big, the rest of it got cut up into slices and put in the freezer for my family to eat in weeks to come.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pecan and Maple Bundt Cake- Nigella’s Kitchen.

Once again I’ve lost my way a bit with my blogging.  I have all these posts in draft on my laptop but that’s as far as they’ve gone during the last month. A lot has happened in the past month. I’ve been on a trip to visit my brother, sister in law and their gorgeous family including my four month old niece who completely stole my heart. Auntie Sam was in her element and as my niece is very similar in temperament to my own daughter, it really did take me back to twenty years ago when my brother became an Uncle to my daughter. What special times. With all this in my mind I chose to bake a Canadian inspired cake for the last Clandestine Cake Club event I went to. This was a few days before I was due to jet off over to Alberta but the theme was Around The World In 80 Cakes Although there weren’t 80 cakes there, there were definitely a delicious array of cakes representing lots of different countries.

I chose to bake a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book “Kitchen” which is a maple and pecan nut bundt cake.  Although I’m a huge Nigella fan and I bake lots of her recipes, it’s been a while since I baked from Kitchen. It’s such a huge book too, wouldn’t like to drop that on my feet or I’d be in agony.  It was also a great excuse to get out one of my bundt pans off the shelf and to use it again.  My Crown Bundt pan also has a Canadian connection as I bought it last year on my first visit to Canada.  We went shopping and I got carried away in Williams Sonoma.  But it was worth it.  The pan was half the cost of UK prices!  Nigella uses the Fleur de Lys Bundt pan in her recipe and says: ” The reason I chose this particular shape for this cake was that it seemed to show it’s nutty, gooey stuffing off to maximum effect once sliced,”

The bundt cake has a separate maple pecan filling which is swirled into the vanilla batter once in the cake tin and looks really pretty when the cake is cut into.  So, as Nigella says you really need a tin which looks great when it’s cut up into slices.

I baked the cake the night before Cake Club as I was working a full week.  It had to be done in the evening once we’d had tea.  I normally love baking but it had been the first day back at work after the summer holidays.  I’d had a lot of running around and standing on my feet to do so the last thing I wanted to do was to stand up in my kitchen baking. But at least it was the first episode of the latest series of The Great British Bake Off!  So I set up my Ipad in the kitchen and watched it as I was weighing out, mixing and chopping nuts up.  I soon forgot my legs and feet ached and immersed myself in my hobby.

I always grease my bundt pans with Wilton Cake Release.  Once this was done, I pre-heated my fan oven and set myself going with the filling part to the cake.  For this I mixed flour, soft unsalted butter, ground cinnamon, chopped pecan nuts and some maple syrup. This formed a slightly more fudgy version than a crumble topping.  When this was done I put it aside and made up the rest of the cake mix.

In another mixing bowl I weighed out plain flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Though it took  me 5 minutes to find my pot of bicarb as it had somehow managed to hide itself behind everything else in the cupboard.

In yet another bowl (lots of washing up tonight!) I creamed together butter and caster sugar using my hand held mixer.  Following this I put in 2 eggs and then in went the flour mixture.  Finally, I folded in some sour cream before putting about half the mixture into the bundt pan.  The pecan mixture went in next followed by the remaining cake mixture.

The cake baked for about 40 minutes or so. I kept on checking it through the oven door and it seemed to be fine after the allotted 40 minutes.  I always panic that the bundts are going to fall apart or not come out of the tin.

Sheer relief!  A few crumbs had stuck inside the tin but not enough to worry about and the cake slid out effortlessly.  I let it cool down on the rack in the kitchen while I cleared up.  When it was cool, I dusted it with icing sugar and hoped that the cake would be ok in it’s box in my car boot while I was at work the following day.  Thankfully, even though I drove over loads of speed humps going to the venue in Leeds, the cake was intact!

I really love going to cake club events. I’ve made loads of friends through cake club and we regularly meet up for a chin wag and a catch up over cake and coffee. I can’t wait for the next one in October which is to be a Hallowe’en themed one. Better get my thinking cap on!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

White Chocolate Percy Pig Cake.

This cake was an almalgamation of two recipes which I’ve used plenty of times before.  The cake part came from John Whaite’s first book John Whaite Bakes which contains a delicious recipe for a White Chocolate and Raspberry Cake.  The decoration idea came from the second Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook A Year Of Cake which has a fantastic recipe for a Cadbury’s Chocolate Finger and Smartie Cake in it.  This opened up lots of ideas to adapt a design to suit flavours and themes.

I was off to a Clandestine Cake Club event in Leeds which was held in the historic Tetley building. I remember the days of the brewery being open in my childhood when I used to see the shire horses delivering the beer to the local Leeds pubs.  I was very impressed with the bar and restaurant at The Tetley and hope to go back to look around the exhibition soon.

 The theme for this cake club was Childhood Sweets and I chose to incorporate Percy Pigs on my cake.  Incidentally Percy Pigs just celebrated 25 years which gave me the idea.  I was definitely not a child when Percy Pigs came out but my own two children love them and we always buy a bag if we go on a long train journey. I can’t stop eating them!

To assemble the cake together I made up some white chocolate buttercream with Lindt White Chocolate and some Sugar and Crumbs White Chocolate and Raspberry natural flavour icing sugar.  I was so excited to use the icing sugar as it is one of Sugar and Crumbs’ new flavours brought out for this summer.  It smelled wonderful and definitely tasted of white chocolate and raspberries, just heavenly.

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My White Chocolate and Raspberry Percy Pig Cake for The Clandestine Cake Club event I went to a couple of weeks back. The theme was Childhood Sweets.
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All ready for baking and decorating the cake. I used two different recipes for inspiration. In the end I didn’t put any marshmallows on the cake as there wasn’t room for them.
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Percy and Penny Pigs. Funny how these favourite sweets have family names. My grandad was called Percy and my mum is called Penny!
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I used to love Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers but not now. I hate to say it but the white chocolate ones tasted rank.

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We had our own special room reserved for us at Cake Club.
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My friend Amy’s beautiful Sweet Shop Neapolitan cake. It tasted and looked beautiful.

Here are just a few of the photos of my cake and also of some of the other cakes at the event.  It was a wonderful evening and I enjoyed far too much cake! I still had a sugar high the day after!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

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