Traditional British Teatime Favourite Biscuits.

Not only do I have a Nordicware Bundt pan addiction, I also love collecting cookie cutters.  I’ve hundreds of them in themed plastic boxes on shelves in my garage. I’ve kept them from when I ran my small cake and cookie business and hope to put them to good use again in the near future.  A couple of weeks back we were down in Southampton visiting my daughter who is now at uni there. We went out shopping while we were in the city centre and my daughter showed me The Steamer Trading Company cookware shop. We have a couple of branches near where I live in Harrogate and also in Northallerton but it was the first chance I’ve had to look inside.  I was so pleased to see a set of cookie cutters which I could use to bake traditional British favourite teatime biscuits. Not only would I get the right shape, as they were plunger cutters they would also imprint the pattern which gives the biscuits an authentic look. The set of four cookie cutters are for Bourbon Biscuits, Custard Creams, Party Rings and Jammy Dodgers.  I’ve baked Jammy Dodgers and Custard Creams before but was looking forward to trying out the other two recipes.

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For recipe inspiration I used Miranda Gore Browne’s book Biscuit to help me recreate the perfect Bourbon Biscuit, Custard Cream and Jammy Dodger.  I used my own Shortbread recipe and adapted it to make the Party Rings and the Empire Biscuits.

On Friday I ended up getting an unexpected day off.  I hadn’t baked for ages and I really miss it.  I wanted to immerse myself in a bit of baking therapy so on went my Ipod and I lost myself in making up batches of biscuit dough and cutting out the shapes. I tried out Miranda Gore Browne’s recipe for Bourbon Biscuits first.  This dough came out quite sticky as it used golden syrup to bind the dough together instead of an egg.  I had to heavily flour my rolling pin and the worktop.  Miranda’s recipe doesn’t use a cutter as such but you cut out neat rectangles.  The chocolate dough smelled wonderful and my will power caved in when I got a bit of dough stuck to my hands!

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Miranda Gore Browne’s recipe from Biscuit was perfect for these traditional home made Bourbon Biscuits. 

 

Some of the biscuits did swell up in the oven, maybe because there was bicarbonate of soda in the dough?
The Bourbon biscuit cutter produced a perfect dainty rectangle shape for the both halves of the biscuit. Then by simply using the plunger you make the indent of the classic Bourbon name and dots on the tops of the biscuits.

 

Using the Jammy Dodger cutter.  It produces a scalloped edge which didn’t come out neatly to be honest. The plunger part made the classic “Splat” design to adorn the top of the biscuit. Sitting atop the plunger is a separate mini heart cutter which you use to take the centre out of the biscuit so you’re left with the jam heart shape poking through.

My second bake of the day was the Jammy Dodgers.  I’ve baked different versions of these over the years.  Miranda’s recipe is similar to one I’ve used before and she says you can substitute 50g of the flour in the recipe for the same quantity of ground almonds. I went with this although I felt that the cutter didn’t make a clean edge as it came out.  The picture shows the edge of the cookie was a bit jagged and there were tiny bits of dough caught in the ridges between the scallops.

I could be tempted to wolf down these little beauties but I resisted.

The messy effect of the Jammy Dodgers didn’t detract from its taste though. I must admit I succumbed.  Third recipe on the list was the final one from Miranda’s Biscuit Book.  Custard Creams: another favourite in my house. My teenage son loves custard creams and he must have inherited that from me. I haven’t bought any for ages as I know that once I open the packet, that’s it! If you taste this recipe though, you will never want to buy a shop bought one ever again. Not only do you get a lovely custard flavour, by using Birds’ custard powder in the biscuits and the filling but it gives the biscuit a golden yellow colour.

My custard cream shaped cutter made the mini rectangle shape and then indented the classic diamond “Custard Cream” logo/ motif on the top of the cookie.

For the fourth batch of biscuits I created my own version of Party Rings.  I used to love Party Rings when I was a child and I bet there isn’t one single person who hasn’t enjoyed these at a party and some stage in their lives.  I always used to love the pink ones and loved all the different pastel colours of the rings but as it was time consuming to colour all the icing I decided to stick with one colourway. A couple of weeks back I was over the moon to win a Twitter competition from Sugar and Crumbs where the prize was a £25 voucher to spend on their website. I was going to put in an order to test out the company’s new limited edition Winter flavours, anyway. As well as the new flavours I reordered a couple of favourites, including their Lemon Drizzle natural icing sugar.  The Lemon Drizzle icing sugar ended up flavouring my Party Rings. I coloured a quarter of the icing in a bright yellow colour but left the rest in white.  Decorating the cookies was quite messy and I left the cookies to drip dry with a couple of plastic mats underneath my wire rack.

My take on a traditional childhood classic family favourite: Lemon Party Rings.

My fifth and final bake of the day was to bake Empire Biscuits. These are a huge favourite of mine and every time I go up to Scotland on holiday I can’t get enough of them.  I wasn’t intending to bake them with the other cookies to be honest but the cookie dough for the Party Rings made up a massive quantity. I decided to use half the dough to make party rings, the other would make Empire biscuits.  I used the Party Ring cutter to make the circles for the Empire biscuits but to make them into Party Rings involved cutting a centre out with a tiny hexagonal cutter.

Mini Strawberry Milkshake Empire Biscuits. 
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I can never resist an Empire Biscuit!

To sandwich the Empire Biscuits together I used the remains of the jam I’d used to stick the Jammy Dodgers together.  Instead of plain glace icing, I chose to use another favourite Sugar and Crumbs flavour of their natural icing sugars. This time I used the child friendly Strawberry Milkshake icing sugar which is quite a sweet icing but very popular.  To finish off I sprinkled lots of hundreds and thousands on top of them and left them to dry.

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I made up a special selection box for my friends to try.

I then divided all the finished biscuits into four and put them into a cupcake box (without the cupcake inserts in the bottom) to share with my friends who I’d be seeing that weekend.  There were a few biscuits left over which I put in a tub for Mr SmartCookieSam and my son to eat.

The next few weeks are going to be very busy in SmartCookieSam land so I doubt I’ll have much time for baking as I’m going to be working full time up until Christmas.  I might have a go at my Christmas pudding or cake next Sunday if I have time, though.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Apple Amber Cake

I cannot believe how lazy I’ve been about my blogging recently.  Life has just been so hectic and every time I try to sit down and write something, there’s always something else to do.  I’ve also started on a diet, so I have been trying my hardest not to bake as much. This is torture to me as I really miss it.  So I made a deal with myself. I  said I would bake only for Cake Club or for special occasions. Famous last words: I lasted 4 days after joining Slimming World!  It got to Sunday lunch time and I was working my way through a massive bag of beautiful rosy apples my Dad and step mum had given me.  I just had to bake something and found the perfect recipe in Miranda Gore Browne’s book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can.

Apple Amber is a traditional Irish pudding which is a bit like an Apple Meringue Pie.  Miranda’s recipe is a cake version where the base is a whisked lemon sponge.  The apples are spooned on top as a filling and then the meringue goes on top and is baked in the oven.  It sounded too mouthwatering for words.

First, I had to make the apple filling.  This I tried to do on the Sunday morning when really I should have been finishing off my pile of ironing.  The ironing basket was getting as tall as the Empire State Building but that didn’t stop me from baking!  I used 3 apples as they were quite small and finely chopped them.  Miranda had said to grate them but I find grating things hard work. So I peeled the apples, cored and sliced them into little cubes. They were then put into a pan to stew with some sugar.  As my apples were eaters and quite sweet, I drastically reduced the sugar but added in lemon juice.  Once the apples were pureed down a bit, I took them off the heat and stirred in two egg yolks.

Miranda suggests using a springform cake tin but I couldn’t find the right size one in my cupboard. I just used a normal circular tin but a deep one I use for Christmas cakes.  This gave me enough depth for the lemon sponge cake base, the filling and the meringue part.  As the filling was cooling, I started on the cake part. I whisked butter and sugar together in my KitchenAid, then added in some vanilla extract and two more egg yolks.  While this was whisking away I weighed out the dry ingredients for the cake. I used self raising flour, baking powder and some lemon zest. Finally I added in some milk.

The cake baked very quickly in my fan oven and only took about 20 minutes. I felt the time passed by in a flash as I was doing the meringue part while the sponge was cooking.  Apart from smashing an egg on the work top and then making a mess of separating another egg, I finally managed to make some meringue.  I’m getting better at meringues but sometimes I worry about burning them.

At last it was time to assemble the whole cake together and finish it off in the oven.  I spooned the apple mixture on top of the sponge still in its cake tin and then finally on went the meringue.  I wanted it to look like a big snowy mountain but it just looked like a big mess.  I just hoped it would taste nice.  Back into the oven it went for 15 minutes.

When the cake was ready to come out it smelled wonderful in my kitchen.  I gave it time to cool down before attempting to get the cake out of the tin.  It slid out easily apart from one tiny bit of sponge which got stuck to the side of the tin.  I had greased it, too.

Later on I served the Apple Amber Cake up for pudding.  I had a tiny mouthful and found it quite sugary, even with my sweet tooth. Funnily enough Mr SmartCookieSam, who doesn’t have a sweet tooth liked it and over the next couple of days had more slices of it.  My son ate the cake and meringue bit and left the fruit! I will definitely have a go at baking it again but was wondering if there was a way of reducing the sugar content in the meringue and the apple puree so that it didn’t taste so sweet.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Salted Caramel and Pretzel Brownies

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Not a very good picture- taken in poor light but it doesn’t do justice to these gorgeously calorific treats.

I love baking brownies.  They are so easy to make yet are so naughty but nice at the same time.  I used to make loads of them when I had cake stalls as they were always popular with customers.  One man was so taken by my brownies that he came back and bought some more and proposed to me!  No, it wasn’t my husband! It was a joke though it was nice that he liked my brownies!

Last week I had some ingredients I wanted to use up and I had a free afternoon at home.  I had a packet of Cadbury’s Chocolate Pretzels and some caramel sauce which originally was going to be for my daughter’s birthday cake.  In the end she had cupcakes for her birthday but I didn’t get round to using up the other stuff.  If I left the caramel sauce in the fridge, well it wouldn’t be there as I could imagine my kids fishing out spoonfuls of it!

I’ve always wanted to try Salted Caramel Brownies and looked through my recipe books for ideas.  I would take the brownies into school to share with my work colleagues.  I found exactly what I was looking for in Miranda Gore Browne’s latest book “Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can”.  Her recipe is the Salty Dog Brownies.

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Miranda Gore Browne’s recipe for her Salty Dog Brownies in her latest book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can was a great source of inspiration for these brownies.

  I used my own  standard brownie recipe for the bottom layer using some Lindt dark chocolate and Green and Blacks cocoa in the mix.  I then swirled in the caramel sauce which was some Bonne Maman Confiture de Caramel.  I expect you could make it with Dulce de Leche or make your own using condensed milk.  I used the same quantities of the sauce as Miranda did, which was about 6 tablespoonfuls.

Then to the mixture I added the topping which was flavoured with sea salt and like the same texture as the brownie minus the chocolate.  I could see the calorie count going through the roof here!

The brownies came out of the oven after about 30 minutes and I couldn’t wait to cut them up and see if they were squidgy and gooey.  They were exactly what I wanted them to be like.  As soon as they were nearly cool I cut them up into 16 large pieces and topped them with the chocolate pretzels.  These complemented the brownies beautifully.

When my  kids got home they wanted to eat some and I told them that they weren’t allowed, they were heading off into work.  I knew if I left them at home I wouldn’t see them for dust and if there were any around I would polish the lot off!

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The recipe produced enough brownie mixture to make 16 large pieces. They had a big depth to them and I baked them in my large Alan Silverwood traybake tin.
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The Cadbury’s Chocolate Covered pretzels went perfectly with these salted caramel brownies.

The verdict? Well I took them into school and they went down very well with the staff.  I took a small piece to eat at playtime and wished I could have eaten more.. too addictive!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx