Yesterday was full on at work and I came home with a thumping headache. I couldn’t face cooking anything for dinner, so we ended up at the chippy. The sooner I could sit down and switch off last night, the better.
Today was a different story. I was home earlier from work but wanted to try out a new cookie cutter I bought in Lakeland a few weeks back. It was a button shape with four mini holes in the middle. I thought it would be perfect to try out the vanilla and chocolate button cookie recipe in The Great British Bake Off Christmas book. The recipe looked simple enough and as I enjoy baking cookies I thought there wouldn’t be any problems.
How wrong I was! My go to recipe for vanilla or chocolate roll out cookies uses four or five ingredients. This recipe used icing sugar in place of caster which isn’t unusual but just used egg yolks and asked for baking powder. Now, especially when I’m baking roll out cookies I never use baking powder as it makes the cookies expand and depending on the design can make them lose some of their shape. I was tempted to leave it out but then if the recipe said so, it must have been put in there for a reason!
Then I divided the dough into two equal parts. One half had vanilla added to it and the other cocoa powder to turn it chocolatey. This did not work out too well as I felt as if I should have made the two doughs separately. The cocoa powder did not work into the dough as well as it should and the result was more of a marbled effect. Well I suppose you do get buttons that looked like that but that wasn’t the effect I wanted on these button cookies!
Then, after chilling the dough in the fridge for half an hour, it was time to get the button cookie cutter out and cut out the biscuits. I was very disappointed with the cutter and despite the dough being chilled for the right time, the dough just wouldn’t come free from the cutter. The dough stuck to the rim of the cookie cutter and so I gave up. I don’t know whether it was the cutter or the dough so I went to my cookie cutter stash and found two round cutters. I cut out rounds of dough easily and then used a slightly smaller cutter to make the pattern for the rim. This just made an indentation and didn’t go all the way through the biscuit. Then, to finish, I used a skewer to make four holes in the centre of each biscuit like a button. Unfortunately due to the horrible nature of the dough used the skewers didn’t do a very good job of making the holes.
As expected the cookies expanded in the oven, not a lot admittedly but enough to swell and look slightly out of shape. I wasn’t impressed with the look of them. But as I love the recipe idea, I’ve decided to try and make them again with my own tried and tested recipe for roll-out cookies. Then I might actually be able to use my button cookie cutter without the dough sticking to it!
Today being a Monday I really struggled to get out of bed this morning. I’d had a good night’s sleep until something woke me up at 4.30am. That was it, I was wide awake for an hour. The alarm was due to go off at 6am but of course I drifted back off to sleep just as I’d got back into the land of Nod! Then, could I get myself moving? Course I couldn’t. I’m not a morning person at the best of times. There’s only one type of work that would get me out of bed early and that’s when I’m baking! It doesn’t seem like work to me when you’re in the kitchen with music playing in the background.
But needs must. I love being a teacher though some mornings I wish I could be beamed direct from my house to the school I’m at, especially with the horrendous traffic congestion I have round near where I live. This morning was no exception. My journey to school should have taken me 35 minutes. It took me nearer 50.
Back home this afternoon I got out the mixing bowl and scales to test out another recipe from The Great British Bake Off Christmas. I love the spicy aroma of gingerbread at any time of the year but Christmas definitely lends itself to these flavours. I was really keen to try out the Jamaican Gingerbread loaf which was a perfect way of using up some treacle left over in a tin after baking some Parkin and also putting it in my Christmas cake. The loaf is an ideal bake to have as a standby, say if you have people popping over for a cuppa and it was really easy to make.
To begin with you melt butter in a saucepan with some dark brown muscovado sugar, some treacle and some golden syrup. When this has melted you take it off the heat and leave it to cool. In another bowl you weigh out some plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and some mixed spice. Add the melted mixture to it, along with a beaten egg and then fold in the flour mixture. Finally add in some chopped stem ginger pieces.
I always use pre made loaf tin liners which save me a lot of faffing about. The mixture was poured into the prepared loaf tin and put in the oven at about 160oC for about 45-50 minutes. Unfortunately I set the oven timer to 45 minutes but promptly forgot to switch it on. I suddenly remembered about the loaf when I could smell gingerbread coming from the kitchen. Luckily it came out of the oven just in time and although had sunk slightly in the middle, it looked wonderful.
After about an hour of cooling I cut the loaf up into 8 generous slices. It took all my willpower not to scoff a slice there and then. I boxed up the loaf and decided to take it with me to work tomorrow to leave in the staff room.
A couple of weeks back I was on holiday in France and spotted these scrumptious sounding bars of chocolate in the local supermarket. I love anything with pistachios in them and slipped two of these 100g bars in my trolley. Once back at the villa I had to put them in a cool place as it was so hot. Then when I was packing my case to go home I was wondering if the chocolate would last the flight home! Thankfully it did. Both bars were intact and nothing had melted!
I was wondering what to do with the bars and then last week I chose to bake Blondies with them. I bake brownies a lot but have only ever tried peanut butter and white chocolate ones before. They were delicious and didn’t last long in our house. I adapted My Favourite Brownie Recipe by substituting the two bars of white chocolate for the dark chocolate and the nuts/ chocolate chips. Instead of cocoa powder I made up another 15g of plain flour instead.
I have to tell you but these Blondies were heavenly. As soon as they came out of the oven I was tempted to get chomping on one. Thank heavens I had to wait until they had cooled down. They were devilishly gooey inside, just as Brownies and Blondies should be. With treats like this they get snaffled up in no time and I was worried they would go before they were meant to be eaten at Sunday lunch when we had family round. Luckily we had enough!
These Blondies are perfect as a pudding with ice cream or on their own with a cup of tea or coffee. I’ll definitely be making them again if I can find white chocolate with pistachios like this in the UK.
A couple of weeks ago I was in one of those I want to bake moods. This happens quite a lot as baking takes my mind off everyday worries and is pure escapism from my busy job. When I have times like these I love to bake cookies. They are quick and simple to make and taste fab too. Not that I’m allowed at the moment. I’m doing Slimming World and I can’t even begin to think about how many Syns are in some of my baking creations.
I was in one of those moods where I wanted to try out something new so I went online and came across these stunners. Hilton Doubletree Cookies. Now, if you have ever stayed in a Hilton Doubletree Hotel they give you a fresh and warm cookie when you check in. I stayed at one in London near Tower Bridge about five years ago with my family and my son for one thought this was amazing to get a cookie. We had set off early down to London from Yorkshire and were just checking in late in the morning so the cookie staved off the hunger pangs until we could stop for lunch later.
From what I remember of my Hilton Doubletree Cookie, it was soft and chewy inside, just how I like a cookie. So when I saw the recipe online, I wrote it down and attempted to have a go at making some. The recipe was in American measurements so I got out my set of baking cups. I’m always nervous of adapting American recipes as I’m worried they won’t be as accurate because I’m not used to them. Especially as this recipe called for a cup of butter. I had to scoop up the butter and put it into the cup which was quite messy. Usually when I bake cookies you just weigh out the butter!
The cookies also asked for chopped walnuts in the mixture. I added pecans to mine as I didn’t have any walnuts in at home. Of course due to nut allergies, etc. you can omit the nuts. I used chopped chocolate chunks as well.
It was torture not being able to eat a cookie. Why do I do this to myself? I don’t like cooking Slimming World friendly cookies. The one time I did this I was not impressed at having to use artificial sweetener and low fat spread in my baking. All those chemicals and the bake felt wrong. So it’s better to abstain and give the baking to someone else who can indulge. And this is exactly what happened here…. until the following day when I’d been so busy I’d not had time for lunch and got home from work. Who wanted a banana or an apple then? Oh no, not me! I ate one and very gorgeous it was too. Now a few months back I would have eaten another and another but guilt stopped me. So I stuck at one!
Now if you want to try baking the DoubleTree Hilton Cookies yourself, then this is where I found the recipe. Head over to fabulous The Little Kitchen blog and you will find it there:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
When you’re on a diet you find all the yummy goodies on special offer in the supermarket. Either that or you see tempting treats you haven’t seen in the U.K before. During October half term week a couple of weeks back, I was in Morrisons with my son. I was meant to be buying some dishwasher tablets but on the spur of the moment we decided to get a DVD for a movie afternoon. My son wanted some Pringles and some Oreo cookies to eat. This was torture to me as once I eat one Pringle, that’s it! It’s fatal with me. The same goesn for Oreos. Anyway, polish my Halo! I bought some mini packets of Sunbites popcorn and also a packet of Maltesers. I counted my Slimming World syns and stuck to it. But, I’m not all that perfect and saintly. A packet of Mint Flavoured Oreos found their way into my basket. I told my son they were not to trough, they were for my baking stash.
Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon of half term week. I’m at home feeling like I want to bake something. But I know I can’t eat it. I want to try something out. I’ve done my jobs, well as much as I can because my Hoover’s broken and I’ve got to wait in until my new one arrives. I try to keep my hands busy doing cross stitch but I want to bake. My son gets up late, eats his breakfast just before I’m about to eat my lunch and half way through the afternoon says he’s hungry. He looks in the cupboard and spots a giant tub of Haribos which I’ve bought in for Trick or Treaters. He nags and pleads me to open the tub so he can have one. I know that if he has one there will be none left for Hallowe’en. He tries to run off with the tub but I grab it off him. He then spots my Mint Oreo cookies. In my present mood, I cave in and let him have a couple to test out. I now have to bake something with it, or he will eat the rest of the packet when I’m not looking.
Brownies are a massive favourite of mine and it would take iron willpower not to eat one. I knew it would be hard not to resist them, especially as I was bored and fed up. But I kept telling myself I’ve lost nearly a stone since I came back from my holiday in Canada last July and half a stone on Slimming World. I just have to keep focussing on fitting into clothes that haven’t fitted me for years. This has been my goal as my favourite red dress fits me again, although it is a bit tight.
MINT OREO COOKIE BROWNIES
275g softened butter
375g light brown soft sugar
4 large, free range eggs
75g cocoa powder
100g self raising flour
1 tsp natural peppermint extract
100g coarsly crushed Mint Oreo Cookies
Grease and line a 30 x 23cm traybake tin with butter and with baking parchment. Preheat your oven to 1800C/ 160oC fan or Gas Mark 4.
Measure all the ingredients except for the cookies out into a large bowl and beat together until the mixture is evenly blended. Fold in half the crushed cookies.
Spoon the mixture into the tin, making sure it is evenly spread and level. Sprinkle the remaining crushed cookies on top of the brownies.
Bake in the centre of the oven for about 40-45 minutes or until your brownies begin to get a crusty top.
Leave the brownies to cool down in the tin then cut into pieces. I usually cut brownies into 12 pieces if they are for a dessert or 24 for a cakey treat.
When the brownies had baked my kitchen smelled heavenly. I didn’t try one but Mr SmartCookieSam and my son said they tasted gorgeous. Another one to try in the future.
Last week my Dad and step mum gave me a bag of beautiful looking apples from the tree in their garden. I was delighted with them as the apples on my own tree in my front garden aren’t quire ready yet. The apples are a bit small and hard at the moment. To top all that, Mr SmartCookieSam had to prune the tree a couple of weeks back as our greedy and nosy Labrador worked out a way that he could shake the tree to make apples fall down. He had a great time doing this until he ended up hurting his tail after jumping up at the tree! I’ll have to see if they are worth using in a couple of weeks time.
Every year I think about what I could bake with the apples and I get fed up of the same things. Of course crumbles and pies work well and I did make a few different apple cakes. But sometimes you just want to try something different. I gor out my recipe books and looked for all the apple recipes I could find.
One simple but delicious recipe is one I’ve baked before but never actually made it at home. In my previous post about Cheesy Feet I mentioned about working in a school and running a Cookery Club. This was a big success and wherever possible we tried to use fruit and veg that was grown in the school garden. We did have an apple tree which on one year only produced two apples. So we made a big thing of using the two apples in a yummy apple scone round.
The original apple scone round recipe comes from the very first Great British Bake Off recipe book published back in 2010 to accompany the first series: The Great British Book Of Baking.
It’s a great recipe and I found it perfect for baking with children.
I love the beautiful rosy colour of the apples my Dad and step mum gave me from their tree.
Two apples chopped up and ready.
First, you need to peel, chop and core some apple. I used two medium sized ones. I put the chopped apple to one side in a bowl but worked quickly so that the apple didn’t start to turn brown. Then in another bowl I rubbed in butter, self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon to create a breadcrumb texture. Then some demarera sugar was added to sweeten the mixture. When this was done I added a little bit of whole milk bit by bit until it formed a manageable ball of dough.
On a large baking sheet covered in baking parchment, I put the dough but flattened it out gently until it was about 20cm in diameter. I then got a knife and divided the scone into 8 by scoring the lines on the top of the dough. Into the oven it went for about 20 minutes.
To get the best out of the flavour and taste, as with all scones it is best to eat them warm and fresh. As I’d baked the scone round on a late Saturday afternoon and was going out for dinner, we didn’t eat any til the following day. It was ok but probably should have been eaten straightaway. A great serving suggestion popular round my way is to serve it with a slice of cheese: something like Cheddar or Wensleydale would work well. Failing that, it would also be delicious with a good dollop of clotted cream on the side.