Pistachio Sablés 


As I type it’s now a very wet and rainy September morning.  Most of the country’s children have gone back to school. I’m a supply teacher in my day job, which I love but as there’s no work around at the beginning of term I’m finally managing to catch up on my very neglected blog.

It seems ages ago now we’re back into school mode. Well in our house I have my older one back off to uni today.  She’s driving down in her car for the first time and my younger one doesn’t start back at college until next week. Time flies and before we know it we’ll be mentioning the dreaded “C” word!!  But for now I’ll still think about summer and our holiday.

When we were on holiday in the south of France a couple of weeks back we did a lot of our food shopping in the local Carrefour.  I always feel stressed and wound up in supermarkets at home.  I reckon it’s because I’m always in a hurry, they move things around and you end up forgetting half the things you came in for in the first place.  But in this Carrefour, even though it was a massive “grandes surfaces” it felt like a pleasure to shop there.

Of course wherever I go on holiday I have to search out their baking aisle.  I don’t always buy things from the baking aisle but I couldn’t help myself here.  The selection of nuts, dried fruits, flavoured baking powders, extracts and the usual cake decorations were amazing.  Seeing different flavoured baking powders was a new one on me.  I love pistachios so I bought a packet of ground pistachio nuts hoping to use them in a recipe somewhere.  Of course when I buy goodies to take home, my family make snide comments about how I’m going to make us go over the baggage allowance.  I think we had about 500g spare this time, thank God!

Two days after we got back from France I had invited my lovely Clandestine Cake Club friends over to my house for afternoon tea.  It was a great excuse to bake for them so I thought about how I could use my pistachio nuts in a recipe.  In the end I plumped for a biscuit recipe which I adapted from a recipe in The Great British Bake Off Everyday”  The original recipe was for Coconut Sables.

Pistachio Sables

Makes 20-24 biscuits

160g plain flour

a pinch of salt

75g icing sugar

160g unsalted, cold and diced butter

2 medium free range egg yolks

100g ground or crushed Pistachio nuts (I used Vahine Eclats de Pistaches Torrifiees)

First, put the pistachios, flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and combine them evenly.

Then add in the cubes of butter, rubbing them in until you get fine bread crumbs.

Next you add the egg yolks to the bowl until the mixture becomes like a ball of dough.  I then take the ball of dough out of the bowl and roll it into a disc that’s about 2.5cm thick.

 Wrap your dough in some cling film and leave it to chill in the fridge for about half an hour  until you are ready to use it.  Or if you are like me, you run out of time, leave it longer and then you find it is too hard to manipulate!

When you have the dough out of the fridge, sprinkle a little flour onto your work top and then roll out your dough to the thickness of a pound coin.  Cut out circles with a cutter (either plain or fluted) which is 7.5cm in diameter.

Put the biscuits onto greased baking trays and pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.  Oven temperature: 180oC/ 350oF/ Gas Mark 4. In the original recipe the biscuits should have been pricked with a fork before being baked but I forgot!

I found that once you ate one of these cookies, you didn’t want to stop.  So I had to hide them away until my friends came over. I could just imagine eating a massive bowl of pistachio ice cream with one of these little treats.

Afternoon tea at SmartCookieSam’s. It’s also the perfect excuse to use my late mother in law’s china.
Afternoon Tea at SmartCookieSam’s. Don’t look at the creased tablecloth!!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pistachio, White Chocolate, Cranberry and Lemon Biscotti inspired by the Great British Bake Off.

This is a blogpost I’ve been meaning to write for ages now. Before I went away on holiday for a week I enjoyed watching the second week of The Great British Bake Off, which was biscuit week.  For the contestants’ Signature Bake they were asked to bake biscotti.  This is not easy, to get delicious flavours, the right amount of crunch and to make sure that each biscotti was exactly the same size.. well all I can say is I’m glad I wasn’t trying it out in the Bake Off tent.

My take on biscotti adapted from the Hazelnut and Orange Biscotti recipe adapted from the latest Great British Bake Off book.

I do love having a go at baking biscotti though.  I hadn’t baked any for ages although it tends to be something I make for foodie presents at Christmas.  I had to use ingredients in my baking cupboard rather than relying on one of the recipes for biscotti in the latest Great British Bake Off book “The Great British Bake Off Celebrations”.  There is a delicious sounding recipe for Orange and Hazelnut Biscotti in the book. Now as I didn’t have any oranges or hazelnuts in, that was going to die a death.  Instead I went for pistachio and cranberries and because I always think white chocolate goes well with cranberries, I used some white chocolate chunks as well.

This was the first thing I’d baked in a couple of weeks, what with our holiday and getting back into the swing of things.  Hubby had gone away overnight and I was at home doing jobs with the kids.  I knew that biscotti wouldn’t take me that long to bake but then realised that I should have waited to start baking. We were meant to be staying in catching up on jobs but I ended up having to nip out.  So, as usual my baking session ended up being rushed.

Plain flour, caster sugar and baking powder was first put together into a big mixing bowl and combined. After this was done I added beaten eggs and finally the dried fruit, chcoolate, pistachios and grated lemon zest were mixed in.  All formed into a huge ball of dough which was then split into two and rolled into two long logs.  These logs were then baked on a greased baking sheet.  They really expanded in the oven and thankfully didn’t stick together in one huge lump! Unfortunately I started to cut the biscotti up a bit too early, still a bit too soft  and warm and this made them a bit difficult to cut up.  Eventually I managed to get the separate biscotti pieces, I lost count of how many I cut up but they they did end up more or less the right size.  Back into the oven they went to bake separately and to crisp up.

These biscotti didn’t last very long in our house.

It took all of my willpower not to scoff one but when my husband got in from work, I caved in.  My husband said he would have one with a cup of tea as it was going to be a while before our tea was ready.  That was it, he was eating one so I had to join in. In fact he had two!  They were delicious and I loved the flavour combination.

I enjoyed baking biscotti again and hope it won’t be too long before I can bake some more.  I put all the leftover ones into a tin but because they were so moreish they didn’t last very long!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Chocolate and Pistachio Cupcakes using Whynut Pistachio Nuts.

Last week I blogged about my fantastic goodies which Whynut sent me and how excited I was to receive them.  After trying out the early harvested peeled pistachio kernels I wanted to try out the other products as soon as I could.  My mum, like me adores pistachio nuts and I thought I could incorporate the packet of lightly salted pistachio nuts  I was sent into a cake or cupcakes to celebrate her birthday last weekend.

 Inspiration came in the end from a cupcake book I have and love:   Making Cupcakes With Lola.  There is a recipe in the book for chocolate and pistachio cupcakes.  The cupcake itself has chocolate chips inside it and is topped with a chocolate swirl icing and finished with chopped pistachios.  I didn’t have enough spare chocolate to make the icing as well so the icing became an experiment.  I took a large spoonful of the pistachio paste that was also part of the goodie box and swirled it into some buttercream icing instead.  This tinted the icing the gorgeous pastel green hue that pistachios are.  The cupcakes were then topped with whole pistachio nuts.  I thought these looked pretty as well, the nuts had a beautiful rose pink tint to them which contrasted well with the green.

The packet of Lightly Salted Pistachio nuts included in my goodie box. These nuts earned a Gold Star Great Taste Award in 2012. I’m not surprised as they were the nicest pistachio nuts I had tasted!

Here’s how I made the cupcakes:

Pure Non-Dairy Spread and caster sugar creamed together.
I used plain brown cupcake cases as they contrasted well against the green of the pistachios. I reckon silver foil ones would look pretty as well.
Two eggs were added carefully, one by one to the creamed mixture.
Finally, some sifted self raising flour was added into the mixture.
A large bag of dark chocolate chips was folded in before being spooned into the cake cases.
The cupcakes all ready to be popped into the oven!
The cupcakes came out of the oven about 20 minutes later smelling delicious!
The tub of Pistachio Paste that Whynut sent me.

I must admit I had a giggle when I first opened the tub of pistachio paste.  I was expecting the paste to be a delicate green colour but to my surprise it was a funny dark green colour.  Do you know what it reminded me of?  It reminded me of the colour of meconium stained pooey nappies that newborn babies produce!

Here is the buttercream all whipped up with the delicate green colour showing.

Straightaway I got my piping bag and large star nozzle set up, piping a giant swirl on the top of each cupcake.  Before they had a chance to set, I opened the pack of pistachios and sprinkled an equal amount onto each cupcake.

The finished chocolate and pistachio cupcakes.
The colours of the pistachio nuts were pretty.

Off we went down to Nottingham to stay with my Mum for a couple of days and I took the cupcakes with us.  We ate one on the Monday afternoon with a cup of tea and we both loved them. Mum kept some back when we had gone home and they were still fresh for her to serve when she had some friends around for afternoon tea. My kids weren’t keen as they don’t like pistachios but Mum and I were tucking in.  To be honest I usually find buttercream on cupcakes a bit sickly but this was fine with the added paste.  I still have some paste left to use so I’m wondering what I can make with it next. Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pistachio, Ginger and Lemon Cookies.

A few weeks ago I was asked by Whynut if I would like to try out some of their gorgeous nut products. I was sent a beautiful package of four different products to try out in my baking.  This I was really excited about as I love pistachio nuts and anything that they contain! My Mum loves pistachio ice cream as much as I do, so I thought all my Christmases had come at once when the parcel arrived.  

Whynut provides their customers with the finest quality nuts at great prices and these can be ordered via their website: www.whynut.co.uk.  They sell two different varieties of pistachio nuts; the early harvested peeled green kernels and a lightly salted version.  These are roasted and won a Great Taste Gold Award in 2012.  They also have a shelf life of 6 months.  The nuts can be ordered in sizes ranging from 100g up to 2.5kg.

Also apart from the packets of pistachio nuts, Whynut also make nut pastes which are 100% pure.  I had never come across pastes such as these before so I was thrilled to be able to test them out!  There are three varieties, their pistachio paste,  hazelnut paste and an almond paste. Both pastes are natural with no additives, E numbers or preservatives.

As well as selling their products online, Whynut also sell to other food manufacturers such as Simply Ice Cream. Another fan is Brendan Lynch who you will know as one of the finalists in The Great British Bake Off 2012. He also uses their nuts for his baking and says “There is no comparison to Whynut products on the High Street,”  I totally agree with that.

Here is the beautiful selection of Whynut products- a packet of early harvested peeled pistachios, a packet of roasted pistachios, a tub of pistachio paste and a tub of hazelnut paste.

So, what could I bake with this array of goodies?  It was difficult to choose but I wanted to make something that would go down well with everyone I knew.  I looked through my recipe books for inspiration and came across a cookie recipe in Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious Baking Book.  This was a book I had treated myself to a few weeks back but not got round to trying anything from it.  Then I found it, a recipe for some Lemon and Ginger cookies.  I always think Lemon and ginger works well with pistachios so thought that the packet of peeled early harvest pistachios would be a great addition to these cookies.

Here’s how they were made:

Here is the packet of early harvest peeled green pistachios that I used in the cookies. They were a pretty dark green colour which was a lovely contrast to the light colour of the cookies.
These cookies were made via a creaming method where the butter and sugar were creamed together first.
An egg was added to the mixture and beat in.
Then, flour, baking soda, vanilla extract, chopped stem ginger and the peeled zest of a lemon were folded in to the creamed mixture. Finally, the pistachios were added to the dough.

This cookie dough appeared a lot wetter than the cookie dough I usually make.  I wondered if it was because I usually use a rubbing in method.  Thankfully the dough did harden up a lot when it was in the fridge chilling for about half an hour.  I ended up making the cookies far too big, completely forgetting that they do expand a lot in the oven.  The recipe should have made about 20-30, I got about 16 out of the mixture!  Serves me right!

Here are the finished Pistachio, Ginger and Lemon Cookies. They tasted more cakey than cookie like to me and to be fair I didn’t like them. I think I would like to try this recipe combination again but to bake it as a rubbing in method to see if the texture changes. 

So, the verdict?  I tasted a couple of pistachio kernels before I tipped the rest in the dough and they were delicious.  I just wish I had baked them in a different recipe.  In the end, sadly the cookies did not get eaten.  My children don’t like pistachios (though that’s a good thing or I would NEVER get to try anything in our house!) My hubby just didn’t touch them and they went all soggy.  I had to throw them out which was a shame. I couldn’t eat them as I am on a diet (again!)

I am looking forward to baking with the other Whynut products I received, so watch this space for further blog posts!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx