The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Vanilla and Chocolate Button Cookies.

Wednesday 6th December 2017.

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!

Ingredients needed to bake Vanilla and Chocolate Button cookies.
Softened butter, icing sugar, plain flour and baking powder added to the mixing bowl to be rubbed in and turned into a breadcrumb like texture.
Working the dough together. Unfortunately, although my recipe proportions were right, the dough turned out very sticky.

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.

Vanilla button cookies on the cooling rack.
Chocolate Button Cookies on the rack.

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!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

Spiced Dorset Apple Traybake.

Another tried and tested favourite from Mary Berry’s “Cooks The Perfect..Step By Step” recipe book,  Mary says in the introduction: ” As well as being a good coffee or tea time cake, this makes a comforting pudding, served warm with clotted cream or creme fraiche. I often make it in Autumn when I have a glut of apples,”

This was the very reason I bake this traybake often.  I get lots of beautiful apples given to me and although we like crumbles and pies in our house, sometimes you always want to make something different.  Traybakes are great as you can use them like a pudding or a slice of cake but a little goes a long way.  I also find them so easy to make, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to bake.

My dad and step mum gave me two huge bags of apples from their tree in their garden. I’m sure they said they were Pink Lady apples.  Not only did they look really pretty on the outside, but the inside had a lovely pink hue to them too.  They always tasted delicious so I knew they would taste incredible in this bake.

I have a well used and loved Alan Silverwood traybake tin which came out of the cupboard again on this wet and cold Sunday afternoon.  It doesn’t need a lot of greasing but I used a small amount of Wilton Cake Release to stop any stubborn bits sticking to the tin.

Once all the apples were peeled, cored and cut into thin slices, I put them into a shallow dish and sprinkled them with some lemon juice to stop them going brown.

Next, I mixed together butter, light brown muscovado sugar, self raising flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, eggs and milk into a large bowl.  So easy being an all in one method and I made sure everything was well mixed.

Now this is where I lost concentration.  I got distracted and put all the apples in a layer on the bottom of the tin and then topped them with all of the sponge mix.  In the recipe you are meant  to put half the apples on the bottom, then half the cake mixture, then to repeat it. Rather like making a lasagne!  In the end my cake turned up a bit like an upside down cake and didn’t have the defined layers that Mary Berry mentions in her “Keys To Perfection” part of the recipe.  My motto is well if it tastes fine, then who cares what it looks like?

We had Toad In The Hole for Sunday lunch followed by a slice of the traybake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I love the smell of apples and cinnamon as they’re cooking. Definitely an aroma of Autumn there! As the traybake was so big, the rest of it got cut up into slices and put in the freezer for my family to eat in weeks to come.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiger Cake from The Nordic Bakery.

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 A couple of weeks back I dug out my copy of the Nordic Bakery Cookbook.  It’s been sitting on the shelf in my spare room for about a year.  I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I last tried something out from it.  Anyway, what the hell. It was the summer holidays and I had the chance to bake something. 

In the book’s Cakes chapter is a recipe for Tiger Cake.  It “gets its name from the tiger stripes formed by the two colours of the cake mixture- vanilla and chocolate.”  This is explained in the recipe introduction, that it’s really a marble cake but the staff at the Nordic Bakery like to call it a tiger cake instead.  Either way, it still looks very impressive and even more so if you bake it in a bundt pan.  As I collect Nordic Ware bundt pans, it was a great excuse to use one.  The photo in the recipe shows a traditional ring shape but I chose to bake my version in my Star bundt pan bought earlier this year and was yet to get used.  I also adapted the recipe slightly to suit ingredients I had in and to make the cake look more special.  Here is my adaptation:

Tiger Cake

300g unsalted butter at room temperature

250g golden caster sugar

3 tsp vanilla extract

5 large, free range eggs

3 tsp baking powder

300g plain flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp full fat Greek Yoghurt

200g plain chocolate

Various chocolate sprinkles to decorate

You will also need a 23cm/ 9″ bundt pan  or a 19cm/ 7″ diameter springform tin for this recipe.

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180oC/ 350oF or Gas Mark 4. I have a fan oven so I put it on at roughly about 160oC.#
  • Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until it becomes pale and fluffy.  Add in the vanilla extract.  Then add the eggs in one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
  • In another bowl, sift the baking powder and plain flour together. Then fold this in to the egg mixture.
  • Separate one third of the mixture into a separate bowl and fold in the cocoa powder and the Greek Yoghurt.
  • At this stage I then grease my bundt tin with some Wilton Cake Release.  The tin is then ready for you to put the mixture inside it.
  • Take it in turns to spoon vanilla mixture then chocolate mixture into the bundt pan. Make sure the cake mixture is evenly spread out.
  • Bake in the oven for about 50-60 minutes until the top is firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean after you have inserted it into the cake.

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Leave your cake to cool down in the bundt pan for about 15 minutes and then take it our of the tin carefully.  Leave it to cool down completely before serving.

The original Tiger Cake recipe was left plain but I thought mine looked a bit bland and boring without some decoration on the top.  I had 200g plain chocolate in my baking cupboard so I chose to melt that and to drizzle it onto the top of the cake.  To finish off I found a tub of various milk, plain and white chocolate sprinkles I’d bought a few weeks ago in the supermarket and not used up.

I’m sorry to say I broke my diet here and scoffed a slice.  Well who can blame you when you’re faced with chocolate cake?  The cake had a delicious aroma of vanilla and chocolate and the icing tasted wonderfully fudgy. Didn’t last long in the SmartCookieSam house, I can tell you.

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Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

My Favourite Brownie Recipe

I just love baking brownies and they’re one of the first things to go when I have a stall.  Not that I’ve done many stalls recently.  My family love my brownies and they’re always popular when I’ve taken them into schools where I teach in the past.  I still laugh my head off from the marriage proposal I got once from a man who bought a pack of my brownies from my stall.  He came back about half an hour later having eaten the brownies, bought another pack and asked if he could marry me!  Sorry, but I’m already taken!

Anyway, it’s always fun baking brownies and I bake loads of different versions.  My most popular varieties are the plain ones, my Maya Gold ones and the Oreo cookie ones.  I experimented with using Green and Blacks Maya Gold chocolate in them a couple of years back and loved the taste.  I now have a baby niece called Maya so one day maybe I can teach Maya to bake them!  The Oreo cookie ones are so naughty but nice as well, though.

SmartCookieSam’s Favourite Brownies

100g  good quality chocolate of your choice

150g unsalted butter

125g plain flour

15g cocoa powder

300g soft light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large, free range eggs

100g chopped nuts/ chocolate chips/ dried fruit, Oreo cookie pieces/ Smarties or similar.

This recipe is so adaptable.  For instance if you want to have mint brownies, use a good quality bar of mint chocolate.  I recommend Lindt Intense or one similar where the mint flavour comes from crispy bits, not fondant like an After Eight Mint.  Instead of vanilla extract, use a good quality peppermint extract. Just remember to keep the quantities the same.  Let your imagination run wild!

Preheat the oven to 180oC/ 350oF/ Gas 4.  Grease and line the base of a loose bottom square baking tin (mine is about 8″ square). I swear by Wilton Cake Release available from Lakeland to help here!

Break up the chocolate into squares and add the butter in cubes. Melt the butter and chocolate over a saucepan of barely simmering water or if you prefer use the microwave.  I must admit I use the microwave. I put the chocolate to melt for 1 minute, then take it out, stir it and put it back in for 10 second intervals. Works for me.

Allow the chocolate to cool slightly and then sieve the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder and salt into another mixing bowl.

In yet another mixing bowl, beat the eggs and add the brown sugar in, along with the vanilla extract.  Stir the ingredients together but until they are just combined. Make sure there isn’t any flour visible.

Finally, fold in the melted chocolate along with any additional ingredients, such as Oreo cookies.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes.  Brownies should be chewy and gooey inside, so don’t overbake them.

Let the brownies cool in the tin before you cut them into squares.  I usually get 16 squares from a batch.  Now try to keep them from being scoffed all at once!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Hummingbird Cake- Mary Berry Everyday.

As soon as I saw Mary Berry’s new book Everyday I had to bake the Hummingbird Cake recipe from the book. A while back I’d made some Hummingbird Cupcakes which had been very popular with everyone who tasted one.  So I was keen to test out a big cake version of this “Southern US classic which takes banana cake up a notch,” according to Mary’s recipe introduction.  Mary also states that “It makes for a moist, substantial cake, beautifully offset by the tangy cream cheese icing,”

Baking the Hummingbird cake would also be a great way of testing out some Sugar and Crumbs Banana Split icing sugar I had got in my baking cupboard. I had bought it before Christmas and wanted to use it in something but not had the chance. As banana is one of the key flavours in a Hummingbird Cake, along with pineapple, this banana flavour would be a perfect additional dimension to the cream cheese icing.

Into a large mixing bowl went all the dry ingredients. Self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon, caster sugar all went in as well as some chopped walnuts.  I mixed them all up together and then put them to one side to prepare the rest of the cake.

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In another bowl I mashed up two large, ripe bananas. These were then added to another mixing bowl along with some drained and chopped pineapple chunks, two beaten eggs, a spoonful of vanilla extract and some sunflower oil.

Both bowls were combined together and dry mixture was folded in carefully.  The mixture reminded me of a muffin batter.  This was then divided between 2 greased 20cm/ or 8″ diameter circular tins.  The cake baked for about 25 minutes in my fan oven. When it came out it had risen beautifully and smelled fabulous. I went off to put some laundry away and to do some hoovering.  By the time I’d finished that job it was time to take the cakes out of the tin and put them on a wire rack to cool down.

The Hummingbird cake does not need much decoration.  It’s all in the taste of the cake.  In the illustraion Mary uses a cream cheese frosting for the filling and the top of the cake. I wanted to add a little bit more yet I didn’t want to overdo things.  In the end I chopped up some more walnuts and sprinkled them on top to finish off.

The cream cheese frosting is made with softened butter, full fat cream cheese, vanilla extract and icing sugar. As mentioned before I substituted the plain icing sugar for the Sugar and Crumbs’ Banana Split icing sugar. I left out the vanilla extract.  This gave the cream cheese mixture a delicate banana flavouring. It was wonderfully creamy and so easy to spread on the cake.

As the icing contained cream cheese I chose to put the cake in the fridge to keep and this helped enormously.

A huge hit with everyone but the worst thing was that I kept craving more. I longed to have another slice and having the cake in the house tested my weakening willpower to breaking point.Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Icelandic Marriage Cake.

Whenever I go on holiday I like to find out if there are any traditional local cakes either to try  or to recreate at home.  Last month we went to Iceland for four days as a stopover on our way to Canada.  I didn’t eat any cake or sample any Icelandic baking but was curious to know if Iceland has any traditional cake recipes.

On our flight back from Edmonton to Keflavik flying with IcelandAir I was looking through the menu card for the inflight meals and snacks.  They were offering what looked like a flapjack bar with jam in the middle called a Marriage Cake.  Although I didn’t eat one, I thought I’d Google it when I got home and see if I could make one myself.

Looking up about the marriage cake was interesting, there were lots of recipes around but nothing mentioned the origins of it and why it was called marriage cake. Maybe in years gone by it might have been one of the first things a newly married wife would bake for her husband to please him. It seemed quite an easy recipe so, maybe if the new wife wasn’t used to cooking.  I don’t know.  Maybe it contains aphrodisiacs?!!  Anyway, most recipes I came across had a few things in common. They tended to be baked in a circular cake tin with a crumble type base. There would be a layer of mixed raspberry jam with rhubarb, then the remains of the crumble mixture would be sprinkled on top.

Eventually I came across this recipe on the Delicious Magazine website:

http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/happy-marriage-cake/

The recipe uses a mixture of rhubarb and strawberry jam in the filling. I didn’t have any of that jam in my cupboard, although Mr SmartCookieSam sometimes loves MacKays Rhubarb and Ginger Jam on his toast for breakfast. I used some Bonne Maman Blueberry Jam instead. It wouldn’t have been that authentic but I didn’t want to go out buying more jam when I had plenty in the cupboard.

I chose to bake the Marriage Cake in a square tin instead of in the circular loose bottom tin like other recipes suggested. I wanted it to be cut in bars instead of slices so I used a tin I use a lot for when I bake brownies and shortbread. To prepare the tin, I greased it with some Wilton Cake Release, which I swear by.

In a large mixing bowl I creamed together some softened butter and light brown muscovado sugar. I thought that if this was meant to be a crumble type mixture then you would need to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Instead this sounded more like baking biscuits! I followed the recipe anyway and then added a beaten egg to the creamed mixture. Once this was added in, then I put in some plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and some porridge oats. This did look more like a cookie dough at the end of it.

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Two thirds of the crumble mixture was pressed into the tin to form the marriage cake’s base.

The middle of the cake was made up of blueberry jam, although this was a bit runny!
The final layer was the topping which was the last third of the crumble mixture. Very rustic looking but it was all in the taste.
The Marriage Cake cooling on the rack before being cut into bars,
Cut into 12 bars, the Marriage cake was a little too sweet for me.

 On the day that I baked the Marriage Cake I was in a funny mood.  The weather was lousy and every time I tried to start something I would get interrupted.  Not by my kids, though, they were both out at the time but by cold callers phoning!  Then as soon as I got the cold caller off the phone,  the phone went again.  The warmth of my kitchen is my sanctuary, where I go to relax and unwind.  It was having the opposite effect today.  Soon though, the delicious smell wafted through the house from my oven.  I was meant to be dieting but with the rubbish weather I felt like I needed something full of carbs. I could hardly wait for them to cool down.

To be honest I was a little bit disappointed.  The blueberry jam made the Marriage Bars far too sweet. Maybe if I had used the rhubarb jam, which is more tart then it wouldn’t have been so sickly.  I took a bite out of one of the bars and that was all I had.  This is unheard of for me, I began to wonder if I was ill! Me finding something too sweet?  I left the bars out on the worktop and when my kids came back in they had one each.  Funny how they would usually turn their noses up at most things but they enjoyed these.

What was so funny was that I posted a photo of the bars on Facebook later and then put the bars into a plastic tub in the fridge.  Mr SmartCookieSam who only goes on Facebook to spy on me and the kids saw the post about the Marriage Cakes  a couple of days later and commented “I haven’t seen these!” Funny how the man I’m married to was the only one  who hadn’t seen the cakes. I told him to look in the fridge but found a completely empty box!  My kids never wash out empty boxes, they just leave them there for me to clean! Such is life!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Welsh Cakes/ Pices Ar Y Maen- The Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Baking.

Who else is excited by the return of The Great British Bake Off?  Me, me, me!  Though I’m the only one in our house who watches it.  My husband nicknames it “The Great British XXXX Off” but who cares?  I love it and enjoy baking recipes from the accompanying book.  Series 5 this year is no exception and I was pleased to get my hands on a copy of The Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Baking!

There are lots of interesting and innovative recipes in the book but sadly some recipes are repeated from the very first book The Great British Book Of Baking.  To those who have just got into the series this is fine but for me who has followed GBBO from the very beginning you do feel a little bit cheated.

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So excited to get back from my holiday to find this book waiting for me when I got home!

One such recipe was the one for Welsh Cakes.  I have previously blogged about Welsh Cakes as I adore them in a post about Welsh Baking on our holiday in Ceredigion last year.  To me, they are utterly addictive and the rest of my family feel the same.  I first tried them when I was a student in Bangor back in the early 1990s and have loved Welsh Cakes ever since.

So as it was my daughter’s GCSE results day I wanted to make Welsh Cakes for breakfast as a special treat.  They were simple to make: cubes of butter rubbed into sugar and plain flour with a hint of mixed spice added for flavour.  Currants or raisins are then added along with an egg yolk and milk to turn them into a dough.

After the dough is made you roll out the dough on a floured work surface and cut out circles with a fluted cutter.  Then, when you are ready you cook them on a griddle or flat frying pan. You usually cook them for about 2 minutes or so each side so they are golden brown.  The Welsh cakes puff up a little when they are cooked.

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Here are four of the Welsh cakes in my flat griddle frying pan. You don’t need to grease the pan.

As soon as my kids realised I was making Welsh Cakes they flew downstairs.  I couldn’t cook them fast enough, it’s like Pancake Day in our house.  They definitely are addictive! I got about 18 cakes out of the dough and when I got ready with the camera I found they had disappeared!

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That’s all that was left for me,slightly burnt too as hubby was asking me something at the time I was cooking them!

Happy Baking!  Or should I say Pobi Hapus?

Love Sam xx