Half Term Baking

It feels like an eternity since I last updated my blog. I was working in a long term and full time post last half term. Baking, let alone any blogging was the last thing on my mind.

The last few weeks have been extremely stressful. Even though baking helps me to relax and unwind, I didn’t have the time and the energy to lift a wooden spoon. As soon as my work was finished for the night, it was bedtime and the cycle would start again at 6.00am the next morning.

Although half term week was last week up here in Yorkshire, it’s taken me that long to get my head back to writing up my latest post. But I was so happy, esctatic even to be back in my favourite place doing what I love. So I am sharing with you what I have baked this last week.

At Christmas I was given a copy of Jamie Oliver’s latest book “5 Ingredients” which I really love. As there are only 5 ingredients in each recipe, a lot of the recipes are simple to make and quick to throw together after a busy day. Although poor Mr SmartCookieSam ended up cooking our dinner most nights last half term! As usual, whenever I get a new recipe book I’m always looking at the sweet stuff at the back of the book.

On the Monday of half term week I went over to Leeds to meet up with my cake club friends at one of our friends’ houses. Linda cooked us a delicious Spanish Chicken Traybake (from the Hairy Dieters first book) and we had some sweet treats afterwards. This was a real tonic to catch up with my friends as I hadn’t seen anyone for a couple of months. My contribution was a Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake (more of that to follow) and some St Clements Polenta Biscuits from Jamie’s 5 Ingredients.

The St Clements Polenta Biscuits could have been used with lemons or oranges but I used just lemons in my recipe. The five ingredients were: butter, fine polenta, self raising flour, caster sugar and lemons or oranges. The biscuit dough could be made up in my food processor, so it was really quick to put together. When the dough had formed into a large ball, I split the dough into 24 equal pieces and laid them onto a lined baking tray. The biscuits spread a lot during the baking so I needed to space them well apart on the tray. I usually put 6 biscuits per tray. These were baked for about 10 minutes in the oven, but my oven temperature is a bit out at the moment so I was watching them like a hawk.

I was very pleased with the biscuits and they went down well. My only problem was not to eat them before I met my friends! It’s the first time I’ve used polenta in a biscuit recipe. I’ve baked polenta in savoury recipes and also in a cake. The latter was a complete disaster and the cake fell apart. Cake balls, anyone?!

The other bake I took along to my friend’s house was a Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake. Anyone who knows me well will know that I collect Nordicware Bundt pans. Much to the annoyance of Mr SmartCookieSam who complains about them taking up space in the garage! I chose to use my Elegant Heart pan to make my cake in, being as it was two days before Valentine’s Day. I had a packet of mini Chocolate Orange Lindt D’Or balls in my baking cupboard which I could use to decorate the top. I’m still confused. How were they still there in the cupboard? I’m surprised they hadn’t been scoffed.

I adapted the Tunnel of Fudge Bundt recipe from one of my Nordicware cookbooks and used one of my favourite products in the mix. I’m a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Flavoured Icing Sugars and Cocoa powders. I used the chocolate orange cocoa powder in the cake itself and in the glaze on top.

The third bake of the week was on the Thursday of half term week. I was at home on my own that day just catching up on jobs around the house and by the afternoon I was fed up of doing boring chores. The kitchen beckoned again so I had a go at making another recipe from Jamie’s “5 Ingredients” This time I baked “Buddy’s Flapjack Biscuits” Jamie must have made the recipe for his son, Buddy. The five ingredients in this recipe were: butter, mixed dried fruit and nuts, porridge oats, self raising flour and golden syrup. Basically a flapjack style recipe without sugar in it, only syrup and more sweetness derived from dried fruit. I chose to substitute the dried fruit for a packet of Vahine choco-caramel chips which I had in the baking cupboard. They had been brought back from France last August and I hadn’t got round to using them. They melted into the mixture, though and turned it darker. I was hoping they might stay solid, rather like chocolate chips do in a cookie. Once again, this recipe was simplicity itself pulsed together in my food processor.

I also treated myself to Mary Berry’s latest book “Classic” and used her recipe for flapjacks which definitely are a classic to me. If I could only ever eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would easily be a flapjack. Though it has to be said, both my son and Mr SmartCookieSam ate these.

Finally, I had a very special cake to bake at the end of half term week. My friend was celebrating her 60th birthday so her husband asked me if I could bake her a cake. Marion and I met a couple of years ago before our favourite band of all time Wet Wet Wet were playing in Scarborough at the Open Air Theatre. Her husband was bringing her away for the weekend at Nidd Hall near Knaresborough in North Yorkshire and they asked Mr SmartCookieSam and I to come over to Nidd Hall for drinks and afternoon tea. I baked Marion’s special cake the day before and had great fun decorating it with a fanastic cake topper from mycupcaketoppers.co.uk. I used the image from Wet Wet Wet’s very first album cover Popped In Souled Out and added stars, hearts and sugar coated crispy balls around the edge. The cake itself was a Madeira sponge which I cut in half horizontally (not straight as you can tell from the photos), and layered with strawberry jam and buttercream. I then crumb coated the cake with buttercream, left it to dry and then added the sugarpaste layer. I hate covering cakes with sugarpaste and even though I’ve been decorating cakes for years, I still get anxious and nervous about the sugarpaste breaking and falling off the rolling pin. But thankfully today, it all worked out fine.

As I type, it’s now the following Thursday morning and I’m not at work today. I’m wondering what I can bake. I daren’t bake anything as I know I’ll eat it though. Maybe I’ll have to keep out of the kitchen and do my knitting instead once I’ve done all my chores.

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

Saturday Suppers- The Hairy Dieters’ Beachside Paella

 

 

 

 

The Seafood Paella all ready to serve.
Paella.

On Saturday night I TRY to cook something a little bit more special if we have time.  We have been back from our holiday in Spain for two weeks now and the time has gone so fast.  The weather has been up or down and on Friday and Saturday I began to wonder what had happened to our summer.  I began to think back to the hot, sunny climate of Spain and how every meal was sat outside.  The rest of the time being spent in the pool trying to cool down. Last Saturday I looked out of the window, seeing the rain lash down and felt a sudden need for something Spanish and holidaylike!

Moraira Harbour on the Costa Blanca in Spain
Moraira Harbour on the Costa Blanca in Spain

So what better than Paella?  My hubby and kids never seemed to want to try the paella when we were away so I couldn’t have it unless we were somewhere that did individual portions!  Last year on holiday in Ibiza I saw two blokes tucking in to a huge paella dish which was the side of a Sky Satellite dish!

At Alicante airport I went mad buying things in the Duty Free shop. Usually if I try to buy it in the supermarket with hubby watching I get the “What do you want that for?” but I wanted to buy some Turron to keep for Christmas. I spotted some paella rice and some pimenton so that was sneaked into the basket quickly.

A 500g bag of authentic Arroz for paella and a jar of pimenton.
A 500g bag of authentic Arroz for paella and a jar of pimenton.
I chopped two chicken breasts up into bite sized chunks.
I chopped two chicken breasts up into bite sized chunks.
The chicken breasts were fried gently in a pan with a spoonful of olive oil.
The chicken breasts were fried gently in a pan with a spoonful of olive oil.
I chopped two onions, a red pepper, a yellow pepper and 4 cloves garlic to go in the paella.
I chopped two onions, a red pepper, a yellow pepper and 4 cloves garlic to go in the paella.
The onions and garlic were gently fried in the pan.  The chicken had been removed once it had been browned.
The onions and garlic were gently fried in the pan. The chicken had been removed once it had been browned.
Then the peppers and a tin of green beans (drained) in water were added to the onions and garlic. These were cooked for a few more minutes.
Then the peppers and a tin of green beans (drained) in water were added to the onions and garlic. These were cooked for a few more minutes.
I made up a litre of hot chicken stock. It was made with a Knorr Stock cube.
I made up a litre of hot chicken stock. It was made with a Knorr Stock cube.
A couple of pinches of saffron and some pimenton were added to the pan to cook in the veg.
A couple of pinches of saffron and some pimenton were added to the pan to cook in the veg.
Then the rice was added until it was coated well in the oil and started to shine.
Then the rice was added until it was coated well in the oil and started to shine.
Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan.
Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan.
Both my frying pans are small ones so I had to make two paellas!
Both my frying pans are small ones so I had to make two paellas!

Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan.
Chicken and Chorizo was added to one pan. This would also have some prawns added towards the end of the cooking time.
The paella begins to thicken up as the rice grains swell. Every now and again I ladelled in some more chicken stock.
The paella begins to thicken up as the rice grains swell. Every now and again I ladelled in some more chicken stock.
To the other paella I added seafood from a pack bought in Morrisons. This was for my hubby as he loves squid and mussels. I can't stand them!
To the other paella I added seafood from a pack bought in Morrisons. This was for my hubby as he loves squid and mussels. I can’t stand them!
A crafty Mojito to drink while I was cooking- cooks' perks!  I felt like Keith Floyd glugging down the wine!
A crafty Mojito to drink while I was cooking- cooks’ perks! I felt like Keith Floyd glugging down the wine!
The Seafood Paella all ready to serve.
The Seafood Paella all ready to serve.

 

I used the recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ Diet Book, (the first one with a white front cover) which is a huge favourite in our house.I cook a lot of meals out of it although I had not attempted their paella recipe. Their recipe is called Beachside Paella and serves 6. There was only 4 of us so we had far too much left over.  My children picked out bits they did not like. For me and my hubby we had two large Mojitos and shared a bottle of red wine.  I was rather sloshed after it so it defeated the object of being a “diet” meal! Get a grip, Sam!  I will definitely make this again but will save it for when we have visitors or friends over, it’s quite time consuming when you’re cooking it but it’s worth it!

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx