Orange Chocolate Chip Shortbread.

Excuse the dire photography in this post.  Taking photos isn’t my strong point.  The photos didn’t do these tasty morsels justice.

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I baked these shortbread pieces for my family to eat at home while I was away staying away in Canada visiting my brother and his family.  I don’t think they remembered they were there as they were still in the plastic box I’d put them in over a week later when I got back home!

They’re adapted from a recipe in Mary Berry’s “Cooks The Perfect…Step By Step” which I’m really enjoying cooking from at the moment. The original recipe is for individual shortbread round biscuits but I chose to put all the dough together in a square loose bottomed tin and cut it into pieces instead.  I had some Sugar and Crumbs Natural Flavour Chocolate Orange Cocoa powder which I love using so instead of using plain cocoa powder, I used that instead.  Absolutely delicious and the smell of chocolate and orange was heavenly.

The recipe introduction says: ” Buttery and very moreish, few can resist these delicious cookies.”  Mary’s original recipe also contains semolina of which she states “brings a lovely crunch,”  I didn’t have any semolina so I added cornflour instead which I use in my normal shortbread recipe.

Here’s my adaptation of the recipe.  The original recipe can be found in Mary Berry’s book.

Makes 12-16 pieces depending on how big or small you like your pieces of shortbread.  Use an 8″ square loose bottomed tin and pre-grease it with either butter or Cake Release.

Ingredients:

75g cornflour

140g plain flour

75g caster sugar

25g Sugar and Crumbs Natural Flavoured Chocolate Orange Cocoa Powder

175g butter

100g plain, dark chocolate chips/ dark chocolate chunks or alternatively chop up your own bar of chocolate.

First, pre-heat your oven to 1600C/fan 140oC/235oF/Gas 3.

Put all the cornflour, flour, sugar and cocoa powder together in a bowl.  Mix well so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

When this is done, add the butter in and rub it in with your fingers.  I find it easier to cut the butter up into small cubes first so it takes less rubbing in and handling. It needs to be at room temperature too, so take it out of the fridge in good time!

Make your mixture up into a ball of dough.  Press into the square baking tin and make sure it is evenly covering the bottom of the tin. It helps to press down with the back of a spoon.  Prick the surface of the shortbread with a fork.

Bake in the oven for approximately 40-45 minutes until firm to the touch.  Transfer the shortbread to a wire cooling rack and cut into squares or pieces as soon as you can.

 

Cranberry, White Chocolate and Coconut Magic Bars. 

I’d had a manic few days at work so to come into the kitchen and bake was a great tonic for me.  I feel guilty every time I bake at the moment though.  I shouldn’t be doing it as eating the sugary stuff is not good for my health. But at the same time I love the process of making it. Why does baking always feel so much more exciting to me than cooking a casserole or a roast dinner?

It was a cold, damp and foggy Thursday morning last week and I was very tired.  I’d taken my son to the bus stop three miles away and gone out and walked the dog.  My warm, cosy and inviting kitchen beckoned. As I was walking across the muddy field with my dog, all I could think about was getting back home and into my kitchen.  I was thinking about some ingredients I had in the cupboard left over from Christmas. These included two bars of white chocolate and some dried cranberries.  It was a miracle that the chocolate hadn’t been nicked by the kids but then one of them is away at uni! My son has been trying to eat sensibly too.

Looking through one of my favourite cookbooks The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days, I found the perfect recipe on page 49 for Cranberry Magic Bars.  There wasn’t a picture to accompany the recipe so I had to guess what they might look like. From looking at the ingredient list it said what I needed for the base and for the topping. So that meant it was baked in two parts. Nothing explaining it in the recipe introduction either.  I had to go on my own instincts here and worked out that the bars were made up of a shortbread type base and topped with a condensed milk, chocolate, dessicated coconut and dried  fruit concoction. Sounded scrumptious to me.

Luckily I had a tin of condensed milk in my baking stash from Christmas. Bought with the intent of using it to make fudge with, it never got used.  I also needed white chocolate, cranberries and pecans.  I didn’t have any pecans. The only nuts I had left was some flaked almonds so I put those in the recipe instead of the pecans.

I lined and greased my well loved Alan Silverwood Traybake pan and then put the made up base into the bottom of it.  This was quite a challenge.  The base had to be extremely thin and I ended up pressing it down with the back of a spoon to make it even.  It only just covered the bottom of the tin.  Into the oven it went at 150oC (fan oven) for about 15-20 minutes. I wanted the base to be a gentle golden brown.

While the base was being baked I made the topping.  This was simple enough. The condensed milk, white chocolate, cranberries, desiccated coconut and the nuts were mixed together.  I used a whole 100g bar of white chocolate chopped up instead of a bag of  white chocolate chips. I had two bars but I thought I’d save the other one for another time. The mixture was spread onto the base and back into the oven it went for about 20 minutes.

Being as I wasn’t sure what the bars were meant to look like, it was confusing. When they came out of the oven they looked a bit boring. So, to make them more enticing to eat I melted my other bar of white chocolate and piped on a lattice pattern onto the cooled bars. They smelled absolutely gorgeous and I was tempted to grab at one and eat it there and then.

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I will definitely be making these again.  I usually have a stall at my village’s Open Gardens event every May selling my cookies and cupcakes so these might end up on the stall. You never know!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Stem Ginger Shortbread #GBBOtwitterbakealong

When August comes around, it’s always exciting in lots of ways.  For me being a teacher the summer is my one chance to catch up.  It’s also usually when my family go on our summer holiday.  This year we went away in July instead but there has still been loads of things to enjoy.  Not only that but August means Great British Bake Off time!  This year it’s starting later (think it’s Wednesday August 24th) due to the Olympics but the excitement and the build up for GBBO fans has started already.

On Twitter I love to get involved with anything GBBO related and a few of my Twitter followers and friends are doing a bake along.  It’s called #GBBOTwitterBakealong and there’s a different theme each week. When the Bake Off is actually on, we’ll be baking something from the show like the technical bake for that week or something connected with that week’s theme.  This week on the Twitter Bake Along has been biscuits so we had to bake some biscuits and post them on Twitter.  I love any excuse to bake biscuits so I had a look at what was left in my baking cupboard and also looked at recipes I wanted to have a go at.

I looked in Mary Berry’s Foolproof Cooking and found the perfect recipe for busy weekend baking around all the other jobs I had to do.  It was her recipe for Stem Ginger Shortbread.  My whole family love it when I bake shortbread for them but aren’t so keen on the ginger.  The recipe called for five balls of stem ginger and that’s exactly what I had to use up.  It’s funny how my kids say they don’t like my ginger cookies, yet when I bake them they miraculously disappear.

Out came my well used and loved Alan Silverwood traybake tin.  It’s been bought thinking of Mary Berry and traybakes though this time, it was to make shortbread fingers.  I greased it carefully with Wilton Cake Release then started on the shortbread itself.  The stem ginger needed to be rinsed and patted dry so that the sticky syrup came off it.  This was easy enough and then I chopped the ginger into little chunks to go into the shortbread.  When I’d finished this, I then started on the shortbread itself.  I put tiny cubes of butter into a large mixing bowl and then added plain flour, rice flour and caster sugar to the mixture.  Mary’s recipe used semolina but I didn’t have any so I used some rice flour from the last time I baked shortbread. It gives the shortbread a nutty taste but works wonderfully well in the recipe.  All the ingredients were rubbed in together and then formed to make up a dry dough. At this stage, I tossed in the chopped stem ginger and then mixed it into the dough evenly.

The dough was carefully pressed into the tin with a back of a teaspoon so that it was level. To give it a crunchy topping Mary Berry suggested sprinkling on two tablespoonfuls of  Demerara sugar to the top of the shortbread.  I didn’t have any demerara sugar so I used light brown muscovado sugar instead. This was a bit clumpy though.

The shortbread baked for about 40 minutes and by this time it had turned a pale golden brown.  The smell was just heavenly and I was so tempted to scoff one there and then.  But I had to let them cool down so they could be cut up into fingers!

The shortbread fingers were divine and they went down very well.  As I type the day after, there are only 4 left! I need my jaw wiring with shortbread around! I didn’t eat them all though, please believe me!

The shortbread was cut into 12 fingers. Though one finger is never enough!
The Stem Ginger shortbread fingers were sprinkled with two types of sugar.
Stem Ginger Shortbread- from Mary Berry’s latest recipe book Foolproof Cooking.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Double Chocolate Fudge Shortbread

Last week was a very busy one and I found myself going forwards meeting myself going backwards. I’d been away in London for the weekend with my friends watching Wet Wet Wet play at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea and then it was a busy week at work.

 On Wednesday though, I had been in a school an hour away from me and when I got home I just wanted to switch off. Baking is one way I do switch off and forget about the stresses of everyday life. Once I’m in baking mode I’m in my own little world where I feel comfortable. When I feel like baking it’s difficult to decide what to make but I love baking biscuits. They’re quick to prepare and don’t take long to bake.

Though there are some times when you think great. I can do this. Then there are other times when life gets busy and you think why did I bother? This last Wednesday was one of those occasions. I’d decided on something chocolatey and started to get the ingredients together only to find my husband and daughter had eaten scrambled eggs at breakfast and used the last of the eggs up. So it had to be a cookie dough without eggs in it as there was no way I was getting in the car and going out to buy eggs especially. I knew my usual shortbread recipe didn’t have eggs in it so I thought that was the way to go. Then I realised it was a crumbly dough so would need chilling. After a bit of experimentation I came up with a double chocolate cookie shortbread dough with chocolate chips in the mixture.

I softened butter and rubbed it together with plain flour and some Cocoa powder. When this was turned into breadcrumbs I then added some caster sugar. The mixture was then worked together into a ball and then I mixed in a bag of plain chocolate chips. The ball of dough was then wrapped in cling film and was meant to be left in the fridge for an hour or so. 

Only it didn’t happen! I put the dough in the fridge and soon forgot about it as I ended up taking my son and his friend to York and didn’t get back home until much later. By that time it was too late to bake the cookies and for the next two days I would be teaching. Baking would be the last thing I would have time for.  

It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that I had the time to do something with the chilled dough.  My son saw it in the fridge and wondered what it was. I rolled it into a long sausage shape which unfortunately looked like a gigantic poo and sliced about 20 equal pieces off it to form identical cookies. 

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Dough, don’t laugh about its appearance!
The cookies were then put on three baking trays which I lined with baking parchment. They went into the oven for about 10-15 minutes. 

The unbaked cookies on the baking sheet ready to be put in the oven.
When the cookies came out of the oven I had to leave them to harden slightly before I tried to move them onto a cooling rack. If I’d done it straightaway the cookies would have broken. While they were cooling down I found a bar of plain chocolate in my baking cupboard and I melted this in the microwave. The cooled cookies were dipped in melted chocolate and left to set. As they were setting the melted chocolate dripped down the sides and through the gaps in the rack. I found a plastic mat to stick underneath to catch the drips.  

The cookies were topped with a melted chocolate icing and some chocolate covered fudge pieces.
As a finishing touch I sprinkled on some chocolate fudge covered pieces I’d found in Marks and Spencer’s the other week. They were in a little tub in the food hall baking section and I thought they might be nice on some cupcakes. I found out that the little piggies in my house had opened the tub and a few were missing. I thought I’d better get them used up before the rest ended up being troughed. Though I tasted one and they were so yummy I was tempted to have another.. And another! 

Some edible glitter to add the finishing touches.
With the chocolate covered fudge pieces on top of my cookies there was just one more finishing touch- some edible glitter! 

I’m ashamed to say I had a real diet fail of epic proportions with these cookies. I took one look at them and grabbed one to eat there and then! I was lucky some managed to come off the wire rack and into the biscuit tin!

Though they went down well with my family, I think the cookies would be great plain or with the dipped melted chocolate on top. Decorating is entirely up to you!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Lemon Empire Biscuits- Mercers Of York Lemon Cheese.

 

I had a fantastic time baking while using my favourite Mercers of York cherry jam, lemon cheese and caramel sauce.
 

A couple of weeks ago when I was at the BBC Good Food Show in Harrogate I went up to the Mercers of Yorkshire stand and stocked up.  I’ve been a massive fan of their sauces, jams, marmalades and chutneys over the past couple of years or so.  Their Lemon Cheese (a bit like Lemon Curd) is absolutely divine and is easily the best out there.  To me though, I wouldn’t just put it on toast, it makes a fantastic baking ingredient.  I got my baking thinking cap on and decided to see how I could use the Lemon Cheese in a recipe.  These Lemon Empire biscuits are gorgeous and are perfect for a Springtime treat.

  

To bake the biscuits I used a simple roll out cookie recipe and added the grated zest of a lemon to it.

Makes 16 cookies (32 cookies sandwiched together)

200g unsalted butter

200g caster sugar

400g plain flour

1 large free range egg, beaten

Grated zest of one lemon.

  • First, preheat your oven to 160Oc (my oven is electric and fan assisted), then weigh out all your ingredients. Cut the butter up into small cubes and add the sugar and flour to the bowl. Gently rub the mixture together until you get fine breadcrumbs. Add the grated lemon zest.
  • Make a well in the centre of the bowl and add the beaten egg to it.  Mix this together to form a ball of dough, first with a round bladed knife and then with your hands. When you have the ball of dough, wrap it up in cling film and chill for about half an hour in the fridge.
  • Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out to the thickness of a pound coin. Cut rounds of dough with a 6cm diameter circular cutter.  Gather up the scraps and reroll out the dough until it is used up.
  • Put the biscuit rounds on flat baking trays which have been lined with baking parchment. Make sure they are well spaced apart. I usually put 6 biscuits on a tray at a time.  They might need to be baked in batches.  This usually takes around ten minutes.
  • Once the biscuits have been out of the oven for about 5 minutes, I remove them from the trays and put them on a wire rack to finish cooling off.

To decorate the biscuits I sandwiched them together with the Mercers Lemon Cheese.  Once this was done then I made up a simple lemon glace icing.  This was done with 250g sifted icing sugar and about 3 tbsp water to achieve the right spreading consistency. To continue with the lemon theme I added a couple of drops of yellow food colouring to give it a delicate yellow flavour. Over the years I’ve made many mistakes when colouring icing getting a bit heavy handed with the colouring and ending up with something you would be blinded by! Thankfully by using  SugarFlair pastes and a cocktail stick dabbing the paste in bit by bit, things end up looking a lot better.  Finally, I spread the icing carefully on the top of the biscuits and finished them off with a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands.

 

I love sprinkles and hundreds and thousands but despite cleaning and hoovering up, I’m. still finding them all over the floor!
  

A zesty lemon shortbread recipe sandwiched together with Mercers Lemon Cheese and topped with a lemon glace icing and hundreds and thousands.

I love Empire Biscuits, especially the ones with cherries on top and couldn’t get enough of them on holiday in Scotland a couple of years ago.  They tasted fantastic and I came home wanting to bake some myself.  This lemon version went down very well at home and I must admit I caved in and ate one with a cup of tea after I went out running. Well, I did need the energy I suppose.  I only used half the jar of the Lemon Cheese so the rest went in the cupboard for my family to have on toast.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Baking With French Glace Cherries.

About three weeks ago I went along to Pudsey Clandestine Cake Club‘s last event which was very exciting.  It was sponsored by French Glace Cherries. Sharon the group organiser had been given lots of fantastic freebies for us all to take away and enjoy.  The event’s theme was A Kind Of Magic which to me conjured up images of the Queen song!  Though we all got our baking thinking caps on and there ended up being a little bit of cherry magic in there too!

You can find out more about the fun we had at the event here: http://clandestinecakeclub.co.uk/2015/06/18/clandestine-cake-club-kind-magic-sponsored-french-glace-cherries/

 I ended up baking a Cherry Bundt cake in the shape of a tree as I thought of  a childhood favourite storybook, The Magic Faraway Tree. Watch this space for a post about this cake coming up as soon as I have time to type it!

I was really intrigued to hear about French Glace Cherries.  They are a company I have not come across before.  The cherries themselves are grown down in the South of France (Provence, to be precise) and are completely natural in colour. Not at all like the bright red glace cherries my Nana used to buy to stick on top of her Angel Delight or trifles back in the 1970s!  I am a huge cherry fan and love glace cherries and love adding them to my baking when I can.  So I couldn’t wait to try and bake with them.  We were given a set of recipe cards but there are also loads of suggestions on the French Glace Cherries website.  I loved a lot of the ideas but I did fancy having a go at something myself.

The cherry freebies included two pots of natural coloured cherries. There was a pot of purple cherries and another one full of red ones.  I was very impressed with the quality of the cherries, round and plump and of a substantial size. I thought the purple cherries would work really well with chocolate, both with the colour and with flavour.  As I also love Empire Biscuits, I had a go at baking a chocolate and cherry version!

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A batch of chocolate shortbread cooling down on the rack in my kitchen.
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The Chocolate Empires were filled with a good quality brand of Morello cherry jam. I love Tiptree jam and their cherry jam has always been a favourite.
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The chocolate shortbreads were sandwiched together with the jam and then topped with a cream and dark chocolate ganache.
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I didn’t have enough purple cherries to top all the biscuits so had to add two more cherries to finish decorating off the batch from my own stash!
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Although I’m doing Weightwatchers I did allow myself one of these little beauties as a treat with a cup of tea!

I was thinking what I could do with my red cherries and came up with a few different ideas.  In the end I settled for some chunky all butter shortbread.  I haven’t baked any shortbread for a long time and I love it, it was always hugely popular when I ran my Sam’s Smart Cookies and Cupcakes stalls.  Trouble is shortbread doesn’t love my figure though!  The temptation was too much to bear though and I made up a batch of shortbread and added the cherries to it.  I washed the cherries thoroughly and patted them dry as well as chopping them up into quarters.  They then got pressed into the mixture hoping that they would stay intact.

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I used my regular shortbread recipe which is simply butter, caster sugar, plain flour and cornflour and then added the natural red cherries into the mixture.
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The shortbread was cut into 12 large pieces and thankfully the cherry pieces stayed intact. All it needed was a dusting of caster sugar!
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Mouthwateringly moreish shortbread. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to touch any- I’m doing Weightwatchers!

The cherry shortbread has been a huge hit with my family over the past few days.  I put the pieces into a box but when I got back in from work yesterday the box was completely empty.  My son and daughter have been eating it after school and my husband who doesn’t have a sweet tooth has been nibbling at it too!

A huge thankyou to French Glace Cherries for sponsoring various Clandestine Cake Club events over the past month.  We were all really happy with our goodies and I look forward to trying out my new kitchen timer and wearing my new apron when I’m next in the kitchen baking!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pecan Shorties From The Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Baking.

Back in August I was excited when the brand new Great British Bake Off book to accompany series 5 came out: The Great British Book Of Baking.  Being at home for the summer holidays off work from my teaching assisting and teaching I have more time to bake and enjoy my obsession.  Biscuits and cookies are my absolute favourites to bake but unfortunately they don’t do much good for my figure though.  I couldn’t resist creating these little lovelies though.

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My copy of the latest Great British Bake Off book. Well worth buying, I love it!
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Pecan Shorties. Recipe is on page 14 of the book.

In the Biscuits and Traybakes chapter of the book there is a wonderful recipe for Pecan Shorties.  As I love shortbread biscuits, pecans and plain chocolate, this combination sounded wonderful.  I just HAD to try these out!

The weather was cold and rainy, the kids were up in their rooms doing what teenagers do so I set to in my kitchen to try and create something magic.  First things first was to chop and lightly toast the pecan nuts.

Once this was done I creamed butter and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl.  The icing sugar instead of caster sugar gives it a lovely crumbly but short texture.  After that I added in some vanilla extract then some plain flour until it was mixed into a dough.  The pecans were folded into the dough last of all.

The dough was then carefully divided into twenty pieces.  Each piece was then rolled into a ball and placed well apart on a lined baking sheet.  The cookies were flattened slightly and then baked in the oven for roughly between 12-15 minutes.  I kept a close eye on the oven- nothing worse than burnt cookies!

Once the finished cookies were out of the oven I let them cool on my wire rack and then melted some chocolate to dip the shortbreads into.  I used a bar of dark chocolate which was about 70% cocoa solids (Green and Blacks). I then let the chocolate set on the cookies before telling my kids there were cookies around!

I’m ashamed to say I pigged out on these beauties.  I couldn’t stop at one and they were delicious.  I’d love to try them again but this time using chopped stem ginger instead of pecan nuts.  Or white chocolate would be a great variation!

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The finished Pecan Shorties setting on a wire rack in my kitchen.
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A mid afternoon treat for myself and my two kids.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx