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

Clandestine Cake Club “A Year Of Cake” December Bakealong- Nordic Spice Cake.

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I love being a member of the internationally renowned Clandestine Cake Club.  I’ve made lots of lovely friends through chatting over cake. I can honestly say that cake club has changed my life in lots of ways and I wouldn’t be without it.  I haven’t been able to get along to any events for a couple of months due to work commitments but I’m excited to be getting back to it in January!

For those who can’t always make the events and meet up with friends there are a couple of other options.  Members can join in a virtual cake event or a bakealong.  I have joined in with several of these in the past, including the CCCBook Club “A Year Of Cake” bakealong.  These events are monthly and by the end of that month those who want to take part choose to bake a cake which features in that particular chapter of the Year Of Cake book. You take photos and email this with a short description of the cake and why you baked it, etc for Lynn Hill founder of the Clandestine Cake Club to put into a write up or blog post of the event. Though sometimes I’ve forgotten to post the photos by the deadline and missed it a couple of times!

Anyway, being December it was the last of the Year Of Cake bakealongs.  There were twelve scrumptious recipes to choose from all of which I would love to have baked.  I had to go with something I know everyone would eat at home.  I decided on the Nordic Spice Cake.  It is a cake typical of the flavours in Scandinavian cooking which is shared at the time of St. Lucia’s Day (the Swedish festival of lights) Baked in a circular bundt pan it could be resplendent of an Advent wreath or a St Lucia crown.

I chose to bake my version in the Gingerbread House Bundt pan instead of a wreath shape.  This is because I’m absolutely rubbish at making gingerbread houses, they always collapse on me no matter how much icing I throw on them. So I could have a cakey version instead.  It was 8.30am on December 23rd and I had so much to do. The gingerbread house was only one of a few things I was going to bake.

First things first- to grease the gingerbread house pan.  This was a complex job as it had lots of nooks and crannies.  Lots of Cake Release needed here! Then I made sure the oven was on and preheating with the top shelf removed so I could get the tin in without knocking it.

Then for the cake itself. I creamed together butter and brown sugar until it became light and fluffy.  Next I beat eggs, natural yoghurt and the zest of a large orange together in another bowl.  Finally in another bowl I measured out sifted self raising flour and three teaspoonfuls of my friend Heidi’s special Christmas Spice.  Lynn Hill’s recipe also uses 35ml of mulled wine in the mix.  I didn’t have mulled wine so instead I added in the juice of the orange I had taken the zest off first. The aroma coming out of the kitchen smelled wonderful and I couldn’t wait to try it.  Nothing smells as nice to me as the smell of baking gingerbread.

With the gingerbread house bundt pan being an uneven shape I usually put it on a flat baking tray in the oven so it can bake flat. Nothing worse than the gingerbread house’s chimney sticking through the gap in the oven tray and the mixture all falling out on the bottom of the oven. Believe me, I’ve been there.

As luck would have it the cake baked perfectly and came out of the pan in one piece. I couldn’t decorate it straight away as I had other things to do. So the gingerbread house went into a corner of the kitchen for a few hours while I started on some fudge.

Decorated with piped glace icing and some Wilton Gingerbread house sugar shapes as well as some M&Ms the cake looked really festive.  It made a beautiful centrepiece on Christmas Eve and also tasted fantastic.  Not everyone likes fruit cake or marzipan and this was a perfect alternative.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sticky Gingerbread Traybake.

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Sticky Gingerbread Traybake- an absolutely delicious recipe from the latest Great British Bake Off Book –The Great British Bake Off Celebrations.

Happy New Year to anyone who might be reading this. I’m determined to get back into my neglected blog this year.  It’s been so long but you know what it’s like leading up to Christmas, things just go crazy. Here’s another recipe I had a go at a few weeks ago.  I just love anything with ginger in it and was keen to have a go at baking the Sticky Ginger Traybake from the latest Great British Bake Off cookbook. The recipe introduction made it sound even more mouthwatering: “..this dark, almost black, sticky toffee gingerbread with a crunchy topping.  Dark muscovado sugar and black treacle give it a rich bitter sweetness while stem ginger adds fire and heat,”

The traybake is a sticky gingerbread base with a crunchy topping and just speaks of Autumn and Bonfire Night to me. The base is baked separately from the topping.

First of all I put butter, treacle and dark muscovado sugar into a pan and heated it gently.  Then I chopped some stem ginger into large chunks and added it to the pan with some reserved syrup from the stem ginger jar.

As this was melting, I sifted plain flour, ground ginger, mixed spice and some bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl.  Once this was done I then mixed in two medium eggs. The melted ginger mixture was also added to the bowl to make the gingerbread. This was then poured into my prepared traybake tin and baked in the oven for about 15 minutes.

While the gingerbread base was in the oven I made the topping which was made up of plain flour, ground ginger, light brown muscovado sugar, unsalted butter and stem ginger.  It was a rubbed in mixture.  When the gingerbread base came out of the oven I sprinkled the topping onto it and then put it back into the oven for another 25 minutes.  The aroma of spicy gingerbread was just gorgeous and I couldn’t wait to try a piece.

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The Sticky Gingerbread Traybake was cut up into sixteen generous sizes.
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One spare for me to taste, the rest went into work to share out!

I was really pleased with how the gingerbread traybake turned out and it will be something I’d love to bake more of in the future.  The flavour of the gingerbread was very spicy and intense so it might not appeal to those who love strong flavours.  It did to me though, in fact if I’d not stopped myself I would have eaten more slices.  I put them in a box and took them to the school I was teaching in the following day to share out in the staff room.  I’m not sure whether they went down well or not, I forgot to ask!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

 

Update! September and October’s Cooking The Books Challenge.

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I’m doing a Cooking The Books Challenge.  This started off well back at the start of the year but then as life got in the way! I logged on to update SmartCookieSam and realised it’s been well over a month since my last post. I haven’t been quiet on the baking front though.  It’s mainly been trying out recipes from The Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Baking  cookbook that came out to accompany the latest series.

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The front cover of the latest Great British Bake Off Book- Big Book Of Baking. I intended to blog a review of it but never got round to it.

So the idea of this post is to share with you some of the bakes I’ve made from the book.  Here goes!

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Golden Carrot Traybake.

I love baking traybakes as a little goes a long way, especially at coffee mornings or fairs.  The Golden Carrot traybake was a big success at my school’s MacMillan Coffee morning.  I had to put pieces aside for the staff before they all got sold!

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Irish Brack.

I also baked the Irish Brack recipe from the Bread Chapter of the book. It was very similar to the Yorkshire Tea Loaf recipe I regularly make.  This went along to the MacMillan Coffee morning and about half of it sold, not as popular as carrot cake!

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Somerset Apple Tart.

For one of the Sunday lunch puddings over the past few weeks I’ve been trying out various recipes from the Bake Off book.  When on holiday in Normandy several years ago I loved the melt in the mouth apple tarts you could buy in the local patisseries.  The tart is called Somerset Apple Tart in this recipe because it calls for Somerset Apple Brandy if you have it. Mine was Normandy Apple Tart as it had genuine Calvados in it. I love Calvados in cream to go with mince pies at Christmas but would struggle to drink any, too strong for me! Of course I would not get a job as a patisserie chef with my offering.  When blind baking the pastry case I left it in the oven a bit too long and the sides burned.  At least Mary Berry would be impressed that the tart didn’t have a soggy bottom though!  My two kids, especially my son weren’t impressed by the tart.  They said “Yuck, cooked apples!”  Everyone else enjoyed it though and all the better with a splodge of whipped cream on the side.

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Cheddar and Mustard Loaf.

Being a sweet toothed monster I thought it was about time I tried out some savoury recipes and I wanted to try out the cheese and mustard loaf.  I thought it would be perfect on an Autumn Saturday along with a bowl of warming soup.  So last Saturday I baked the loaf to have with some homemade vegetable soup.  Again, my son wasn’t complimentary about my baking saying “Why do you have to put cheese in it? Why can’t you just cook some “normal” white bread?”  Been there, done that, wanted to try something else!  Both my hubby and I enjoyed a big slice with our soup though.

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Norman’s Farthing Biscuits.

My hubby is a cheese lover and would prefer cheese and biscuits instead of a pudding if we go out anywhere.  He reminds me of Wallace when he says “Got any cheese?” so the other day I bought some Harrogate Blue Shepherd’s Purse Cheese and had a go at Norman’s Farthing Biscuits from the Bake Off book. I thought Norman was a lovely guy, one of my favourite contestants from this year’s series.  His quote about Tiramisu “I can’t even spell it” or words to that effect makes me smile.  So I was keen to try out his recipe for Farthing Biscuits although mine seemed to puff up a bit in the oven.  They tasted great though and even my fussy son liked them.  Thankyou Norman, will be baking these again!

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Hot White Chocolate Puddings with chocolate sauce.

Another Sunday dinner or lunch dessert.  These individual puddings were made in my Alan Silverwood Pudding Moulds which I think I bought from Lakeland.  They are massive though and I should have shared one with my hubby.  Anyway both of us were feeling greedy and had one to ourselves.  No wonder I am struggling with my weight and was up half the night afterwards with heartburn.  It did taste like heaven though; white chocolate sponge topped with a chocolate sauce.  The chocolate sauce is plain chocolate, cream and butter heated together.

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Sticky Apple Sponge Pudding.

I was given some apples to use up from a neighbour so I incorporated some of them into this Sticky Apple Sponge Pudding.  Very like the flavours of a Sticky Toffee Pudding but with sliced apples added to the bottom of the dish.  A hit with all of the family despite the kids pulling the sliced apples off the cake. Apart from that it was scrumptious.

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Grassmere Gingerbread

I love anything with ginger in it so I just had to bake the Grasmere Gingerbread recipe in the Bake Off book.  I can’t get enough of Grasmere Gingerbread but the original recipe is a closely guarded secret.  I bet this is as near to it as you get though.  The gingerbread was going to be taken with me into work to put in the staff room but it never got there.  All my family kept nibbling!

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Morello Cherry Bakewell Tart.

I also love anything with almonds in, so I was keen to have a go at the Morello Cherry Bakewell Tart.  I’ve had a go at Bakewell tart a few times before but always used raspberry jam in it.  I bought some Morello Cherry Jam in the supermarket and baked this version for another of our Sunday lunch desserts. I was surprised when my son said he liked it!  I nearly passed out cold on the floor!  HE ACTUALLY LIKED SOMETHING I BAKED! Well, I know it’s a winner then.  Again I managed to overbake the pastry.  Why is it that there’s always something else going on?

In the true spirit of the challenge I haven’t baked everything I set out to bake.  I really wanted to have a go at some of the more complicated bakes such as the Princesstarta, the Kouign Amann’s and a couple of the savoury pies.  But it has been so busy recently and I have really struggled to fit these bakes in around my day job and what I’d actually need them for.

Watch this space for November’s challenge:  I’m going to be changing things a bit so I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve worked it all out!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam