National Peanut Butter Day: No bake peanut butter and chocolate squares

No Bake Peanut Butter Squares are just like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Today is National Peanut Butter Day! As I was getting all the ingredients out to make something peanut butter related to share with you, Mr S said I was making it up! I told him to go and look on the MyLegoman Mostly Foodie Days Of… Calendar and it was there for January 24th. So I was right!

I must admit I love peanut butter, but don’t like the cheap versions full of sugar you can get. I prefer the sugar free varieties and even better if it’s crunchy! I know it can be a love or hate thing and I know that the texture of it can put people off.

When thinking what I could make to celebrate Peanut Butter Day, I thought of the cakes and cookies I have made before. One of my favourites has to be the Nigella Lawson’s Peanut Butter Square recipe which is in her How To Be A Domestic Goddess recipe book. The Domestic Goddess book was the book which got me into baking big time back in 2004 when my youngest child started school.

Nigella says “I don’t know if you have ever eaten Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups but these are a homespun version of them,” They definitely capture the same flavours but as a double layered square, rather than a cup. I personally find Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups far too sweet and sickly but I love the flavour combination of peanuts and chocolate.

I can’t find the recipe link online but I have found a very similar version on Nigella’s website:

https://www.nigella.com/recipes/chocolate-peanut-butter-cups

What’s more, it doesn’t require any baking! You just line a 23cm/9″ square tin with baking parchment and press the peanut butter base into the bottom of the tin. This consists of brown sugar, icing sugar, butter and the peanut butter. Finally, you top with melted chocolate mixed with a little bit more butter. After letting it set, you cut into small squares!. What made me laugh was Nigella says it makes 48 squares! I cut it into 16 and they were quite small. So 48 squares would have been miniscule!

Before I had even cut the Peanut Butter Squares up, my kids were asking to try some. My daughter took some with her in a plastic box as she was going over to her mates’ house for the night. I sneaked a small piece and it was oh so sweet but tasted heavenly as well. I’m hiding the rest of them or I might find myself sleepwalking down to the kitchen and eating them in the middle of the night!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Apricot And Cranberry Granola Bars

I love Granola Bars even though they aren’t as healthy as they seem. All in moderation is my motto!

Friday 21st January was National Granola Bar Day according to MyLegoMan #MostlyFoodieDaysOf calendar. I love Granola Bars, even though they can be deceptively calorific. I try my hardest not to make or eat them too much, but occasionally the temptation is too much.

On Thursday afternoon I was asked to make some Granola Bars so I found a recipe I use in an old Good Food recipe book: Traybakes. It’s a handy book which I’ve had for a few years on my shelf. I must admit I think I’ve only made one or two recipes out of it, including the Granola Bars.

I adapt the recipe to personal preferences or whatever I have in the cupboard. Sometimes I include nuts and other times I don’t, depending on the recipient. In this version I used some dried apricots and some cranberries which needed using up. I left out the nuts and sesame seeds from the original recipe. The addition of cinnamon to the recipe gives it a little bit of extra flavour.

The original recipe can be found here: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/cinnamon-berry-granola-bars

I used extra dried fruit in place of the nuts and the sesame seeds. I guess you can play around with the ingredients and use whatever you have in your cupboard but keep to the same quantities.

As with many granola and flapjack type recipes, quite often you are fooled into thinking they are healthy because of the oat content. But you find they contain brown sugar, butter, or honey, golden syrup or maple syrup. All in moderation is my motto. I find if I deny myself any treats, then I see other people eating them and want them all the more!

When making granola bars, I often find the method is similar to that of making flapjacks. You melt the butter, sugar and syrup/ honey together in a pan and then combine with the other ingredients. When combined you press into a greased and lined tin and bake.

Pressed into the greased and lined tin, the granola bars are ready to be popped in the oven!

As with flapjacks I bake on a lower heat and bring it out of the oven before it sets. Or else, your granola bars will be like bricks and you end up worrying about breaking your teeth on them!

As with flapjacks, I let the granola bars cool in the tin for a little bit. After about 10 minutes, I cut them up and then let them cool completely before removing them from the tin. If not, I find they’ll fall apart. Or if I leave it until they’re cool before cutting, then I find they’re difficult to cut.
Looks like there’s a lot of pumpkin seeds in these Granola bars!
Ideal for breakfast, a lunchbox or for a treat with a mid morning or afternoon cuppa.

Do you like Granola or Granola Bars? If you do, what dried fruit and nuts do you like in yours? I definitely love cranberries but I would love pecans if I was making them just for myself.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

MINT TOFFEE CHOC CRISPIE SQUARES #nationalenglishtoffeeday

My Mint Toffee Choc Crispies are so easy to make.

According to My Legoman’s Mostly Foodie Days Of 2022 calendar, yesterday (January 8th) was National English Toffee Day. It’s a day late as yesterday I was holed up in bed full of the shivers, fever, aches and pains after having my Covid Booster on Friday afternoon. Thankfully I feel a lot better now, although my FitBit decided to send me an alarm telling me my heart rate was too high for someone resting. At the time I felt a bit feverish but it did put the frighteners on me.

I love toffees and whenever we get a pack of mixed mints for long car journeys on holiday in the UK, I always grab the mint toffees first! I couldn’t think what to bake with toffee, apart from a recipe I have for Mint Toffee Choc Crispie Squares. And what’s more, it’s a no-bake recipe and so quick to make!

Mint! Do you love or hate it? I think opinions can be divided very much like Marmite!

If you don’t like mint, you could always substitute for plain toffees and use plain chocolate instead of mint chocolate. I know lots of people love mint (it’s my favourite flavour) but I know it’s not to everyone’s taste. My late Dad loved mint chocolates and I’m sure he would have loved one of these to try. The only thing is with the mint chocolate is you have to look out for the bars which contain little mint pieces and not fondant centres. Alternatively, you could always use dark chocolate and up the mint flavouring with some peppermint extract if you have that.

MINT TOFFEE CHOC CRISPIE SQUARES
Serves 16

Line a 23cm/9″ tin with baking parchment.

INGREDIENTS:

First, put the butter and the toffees into a pan on a gentle heat until melted.

Meanwhile, melt your chocolate. I melt my chocolate in the microwave as I find this much easier for me.

When the chocolate is melted, combine with the rice crispies until all the crispies have been covered with chocolate.

Spoon into the prepared tin and flatten with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.

If you would like a topping for your crispie squares, then melt the other 200g of mint chocolate. Spread this carefully onto the top of your crispie mixture,

Put it into the fridge to set. After about half an hour, cut the crispies up into pieces. I have chosen to make 16 squares but you can have them bigger if you want.

Leave to set completely, then remove from the tin.

Let me know if you do have a try at this recipe or if you have adapted it in any way. I love orange chocolate as well, maybe I might test out a chocolate orange one in the future.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread #100bakeschallenge/ National Shortbread day

My latest try out flavour for shortbread- Cranberry and White Chocolate!

January 6th 2022

Did you know that January 6th is #NationalShortbreadDay? I didn’t until I got a My Legoman Mostly Foodie Days of Calendar for my kitchen wall. Or rather, its framed but still on the floor in my office until I can move pictures around in my kitchen and have the space to put it up!

My Mostly Foodie Days of Calendar which is still propped up against the bookshelf in my office. Excuse the Instagram link all over the photo.

I also noticed that Shortbread was one of the bakes on the #100bakeschallenge so this was bake number two scratched off the poster. If you’re wondering what I am on about, I got a Christmas present from my friend which is a fabulous poster made by Crumbs by Collette linked to a baking challenge. You post your results on social media using the hashtag #100bakeschallenge. I have seen that some people are giving themselves a year to do it in. I think that is achievable but quite a lot of my bakes are repetitive depending on my customer’s needs, my own time and my family’s personal preferences.

My #100bakeschallenge poster. It’s pinned up on the door of my office as there’s nowhere else to put it.

Shortbread has always been one of my favourite bakes to make as well as to eat! I love how you can turn four basic ingredients into something just utterly sublime. Then if you don’t like it plain, you can add extras to make it even more delicious. I bake lots of shortbread to send to customers and also for friends. It’s a shame that this day falls in January in a way, as shortbread does get made a lot in my kitchen for Christmas. It’s ideal for presents and for bringing out when you have visitors if they don’t like mince pies.

I also had a couple of batches of chocolate chip shortbread to bake earlier in the week. For that, I use the same basic shortbread recipe then substitute 75g of plain chocolate chips and 75g of dark chocolate chips. I always use Callebaut chocolate chips.

I absolutely love the cranberry and white chocolate combination and you name it, I have used it in other bakes where I can. It’s my brother’s favourite cookie flavour and he gets a vegan version every time I see him. I had to test it out in shortbread and oh my it looked lovely. I made extra to take to work as well.

The shortbread picture was scratched off my #100bakeschallenge poster. Two challenges completed, ninety eight to go!

CRANBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD

Serves 12-16 depending on how big you like your pieces.

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 125g caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g cornflour
  • 50g white chocolate chips (I use Callebaut)
  • 100g dried cranberries

Grease and line a 23cm/ 9″ square baking tin while you make the shortbread dough.

I make my shortbread dough in my KitchenAid as it stops me from handling the dough so much.

Cream the butter and sugar together in the mixer until it becomes light and fluffy.

Add the plain flour and cornflour to the mixture and bring it all together to form a ball of dough. Then fold through the white chocolate chips and cranberries.

Press the shortbread dough into the prepared tin ensuring that it is evenly spread and into all four corners of the tin. Prick the dough with a fork.

Bake in the oven for around 40 minutes. The shortbread should be lightly golden. After about 10 minutes, cut the shortbread up into however many pieces you would like and let it cool down on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove from the tin and sprinkle with extra caster sugar. Although I forgot to do this on this occasion as I was trying to do about ten things at once, this is what I usually do!

If you bake this recipe, do let me know how you get on with it. Do you use other ingredients in your shortbread or add extra flavours?

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Jane’s Patisserie- Book Review.

Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered Jane’s Patisserie website with her delicious, foolproof recipes. Her cheesecake recipes are my absolute go-to, especially as cheesecakes always used to be a disaster when I made them before. Not any more. No more need for gelatine or for baking cheesecakes. I don’t need that with Jane’s recipes.

Jane’s Patisserie recipe book, published in August 2021.

Back in August, Jane brought out her recipe book with the same title as her website/ blog – Jane’s Patisserie and at first I was sceptical about buying it. After all why buy a book when the recipes are bound to be on the website. But thankfully, although there are several recipes from the website, the rest are actually specifically written for the book. A few recipes were actually created from Jane’s follower requests. I always find something I like on her website and I was pleased to say this book is no exception!

The book is split into nine main chapters: Cheesecakes, Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins, Cookies, Breads and Doughnuts, Traybakes, Desserts, Tea Time and last but not least, Sweets. As well as the main chapters, there is a detailed introduction which is useful for novice bakers including ingredient guides and useful equipment and ingredients. At the beginning of every chapter, there is also an introduction. For example, in the Cheesecake chapter, Jane explains the ingredients she uses as a base for all her cheesecakes as well as the top tips for making the perfect one. The same goes for the other chapters in the book.

I used Jane’s online recipe to bake these Double Decker brownies to send to my son at uni. He regularly gets brownie and cookie parcels from me and shares them with his housemates.

What is in my Top Ten Recipes to bake?

  • No Bake Speculoos Cheesecake
  • Cookies and Cream Drip Cake
  • Vanilla Traybake
  • Honeycomb Cupcakes
  • S’mores Cookies
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Triple Chocolate Brownies
  • White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
  • Malt Chocolate Fudge.
I love Jane’s cheesecake recipes and this one was for my daughter’s birthday last week. She wanted a birthday cheesecake instead of a cake. It contains Arran Gold which is a liqueur like Baileys but made with whisky from the Isle of Arran.
Last Christmas we used one of Jane’s cheesecake recipes as our Christmas pudding alternative. My kids don’t like Christmas pudding so we had a Lotus Biscoff cheesecake drizzled with chocolate sauce.

What recipes will I pass on?

  • Rhubarb Crumble Cheesecake (not that keen on rhubarb myself)
  • Brown Butter, Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies (sounds delicious but I can’t be bothered with browning butter!)
  • Doughnut Bites (you have to use a deep fat fryer and I don’t have one of those. I also don’t like deep frying things)
  • Rhubarb and Custard Blondies (for the same reason as above!)
Another favourite of Jane’s cheesecakes: this is a Mint cheesecake with Mint Lindt D’Or balls on top. Another Christmas favourite.

Jane’s Patisserie is one of those books where I know that I will get to use it to bake everything (apart from the four recipes above!) Jane has created a wealth of recipes using popular flavours and ingredients which are easy to obtain. No weird and strange flavour combos here and the bakes aren’t too over the top. As an experienced baker I find that her recipes are easily achievable and taste wonderful.

From the book I tested out Jane’s S’mores Cookies. They were absolutely delicious and I took them to work to share out. They contain marshmallows, chocolate chips and pieces of digestive biscuit.

I hope that there will be a follow up book in the future because judging by the huge success of Jane’s blog and her book sales so far, there will be a massive demand for it. I’m off to bake some brownies and blondies to take into work tomorrow using a couple of Jane’s recipes.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Finch Bakery- Book Review

Back in the summer holidays (seems so long ago now!) I was shopping in my local Waterstones. I love going into bookshops and could spend hours looking through all the shelves. Especially at the cookery ones. I’ve not seen so many new baking books I’ve wanted to buy recently but the Finch Bakery one caught my eye.

The Finch Bakery Cookbook.

I must admit I had never heard of the Finch Bakery before but the front cover of the book caught my eye. Mouthwatering cupcakes, cookies, traybakes and layer cakes all adorning a counter. I was immediately interested as I bake cookies and traybakes for SmartCookieSam as well as the odd layer cake. I just had to look inside and was treated to a delicious sounding list of recipes.

The Finch bakery brownie recipe was delicious and fudgy. It was better served straight from the fridge!

As a background, if you don’t already know (and I didn’t, either!), the Finch Bakery was started by twin sisters Lauren and Rachel Finch. They started their business in their parent’s kitchen just before their 21st birthday and then as the business grew, they started a shop on Queen Street in Great Harwood, Lancashire back in 2016. This has now turned into an online business and a bigger store. I need to go over to Lancashire to try one of their bakes as they are very popular.

The Finch Bakery book starts with a useful chapter on Basics: the equipment you will need, ingredients, how to line a cake tin and details of sprinkles and other touches. There are also handy recipes for buttercream and other frostings which are used in the Finch recipes.

For the main body of the book, there are five chapters: Celebration Cakes, Cupcakes and Cake Jars, Cookies and Cookie Cups, Traybakes, No Bakes and Small Bakes.

Celebration Cakes: Wow, what an incredible array of cakes to choose from! Covering many different flavours of cake which you could possibly choose from. I don’t make many big celebration cakes now as I concentrate on the small bakes for my business but I am going to use one of these recipes next year as I am going to be celebrating my 50th birthday. What is a great idea is how each large celebration cake recipe can be adapted into corresponding cupcakes or cupcake jars. I must admit I’ve never eaten, let alone made a cupcake jar as they look incredibly sweet. And that comes from someone who has a sweet tooth! I also love the idea of the Vanilla and Chocolate Half And Half Cake, which are two layers of each of chocolate and vanilla sponge baked separately, then cut in half and reassembled. Great for those who love a bit of both flavour or don’t like chocolate!

As cookies are my favourite thing to bake, I went straight to the Cookies and Cookie Cups chapter in the book. I already have lots of recipes I use for my cookies but I was interested to see if there were any different flavours to try. I must admit I want to try the Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies as I’ve never baked them before. I love the idea of these cookie pies which seem to be everywhere at the moment and intend to try the Peanut Butter Cookie Pie recipe at some stage.

Brownies and Traybakes are another favourite of mine to bake and I always love comparing brownie recipes. I just have to try those Slutty Brownies! I went to meet one of my best friends for coffee and cake at a local farm shop a month or so ago and the farm shop sold Slutty Brownies. They were absolutely delicious with both a brownie and a cookie layer. Like a Brookie but up a whole notch! But I did actually test out one of the recipes and went with the original Brownies recipe as that was what I needed to bake at the time. There are lots of other brownie and blondie recipes in the chapter as well. I need to work my way through them!

A slice of Brownie was perfect with a cup of coffee.

The fourth chapter is called No Bakes and I always love a No Bake recipe or two. So useful if you are running out of oven space and time to bake. There are delicious cheesecakes as well as mouthwatering Rocky Road recipes including one based on one of my favourite flavour combos Lotus Biscoff! Not a cheap bake as you need a lot of Biscoff Biscuits, spread and white chocolate but you do get a huge tray from it! There are also many more recipes to choose from.

Finally, in the Small Bakes Chapter, there are cake pops and various flavours of macaroons. I love making macaroons but haven’t had chance to bake them recently. I might have a go before Christmas for foodie presents.

My Top Ten Recipes I’m going to try out:

  • Creme Egg Cake (next Easter will be fun!)
  • Vanilla and Chocolate Half and Half Cake (my 50th, maybe?)
  • Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Pie
  • Jammie Dodger Blondies
  • Slutty Brownies
  • Lotus Biscoff Rocky Road
  • Triple Layered Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bar
  • Lemon and Blueberry Scones
  • Caramel Mocha Macaroons

What I’ll pass on:

  • Hard Candy Lollipops
  • Geo Heart Cake Shapes (they look really fiddly to make to me)
  • Cake pops and cakesicles (as above, they look really fiddly to make!)
    • The cake jar recipes: they just don’t appeal to me. Sorry!

As I mentioned before, I tested out the Basic Chocolate Brownie recipe. It’s very similar to the recipe I use for my own brownies and I always add in extra chocolate chips as well as the melted chocolate and the cocoa powder for the chocolatey fix. I found they came out very fudgy, which is just how I like them and the tip to put them in the fridge after cooling completely in the tin really works with me. My only concern is that the recipe is suitable for a 30 x 23 cm traybake tin whereas I use a 23cm square one so that it fits in the boxes. I took the brownies along to work with me and they went down a treat.

I bakes these brownies in my traybake tin.

I would recommend this book to others, although I would not class the bakes as suitable for every day bakes, the recipes are just perfect when you want to bake for special celebrations and occasional treats.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #6: Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Brownies

There are a couple of Brownie recipes in The Great British Bake Off Amazing Cakes which I’ve been really keen to try out. I have my own favourite regular Brownie recipe but I must admit I’ve never made a gluten free brownie before. The Amazing Cakes book has a whole chapter dedicated to Free From Cakes and one of the Gluten Free recipes is for some Chocolate Berry Brownies. I like fruit inside cakes but I didn’t want to use up my raspberries I usually have on my cereal at breakfast time. Instead, as I wanted a chocolatey hit, I put in the equivalent amount of milk chocolate chips.

The brownies are made gluten free by using ground almonds in place of the flour and baking powder. The original recipe also shows the Brownies topped with some flaked almonds. I didn’t have any left as they’d all gone in the Florentines I’d made!

The chocolate chips were part of a lovely, belated birthday present from my friend Amy. I have tried the Guittard plain chocolate chips before but never the milk ones. I used about two thirds of the packet. Hopefully there will be some left to make choc chip cookies with another time.

To make the brownies I had to melt dark chocolate and butter first. When this was melted, I added in some light brown muscovado sugar as well as some vanilla extract.

After that, I stirred in beaten eggs, followed by cocoa powder and ground almonds. Finally the chocolate chips were folded in.

I baked the brownies at 180oC in a 22cm square loose bottomed pan for 30 minutes or so.

The brownies came out with a slightly different look to them on the top but they honestly tasted fudgy and squidgy inside, just how I enjoy eating a brownie. I needed to wait until the brownies had cooled down before I could cut them up into squares. The chocolate chips gave it an extra edge of deliciousness and I was really impressed with them. No one could tell they were gluten free.

I definitely will be baking these brownies again and again as they were so simple to bake without having to buy special gluten free flour and baking powder in. I saved two brownies for Mr S and my daughter while the rest went off to work to share around with my workmates.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

White Chocolate Pretzel Blondies

The other day I was in Leeds with my two children. Whenever we go into Trinity shopping centre I like to go into Gobstoppers, the American sweet shop as I look for things I can add to my baking. Usually I buy M&M flavours that aren’t widely available in the UK, such as the mint ones. Or I might try out something else that would look good on the top of a cupcake. This time, though I couldn’t find any different M&M flavours to ones I had already seen but I came out of the shop with a packet of Flipz. I’ve seen chocolate covered pretzels before but I found some white chocolate “birthday cake” one. I’ve found out that if sweets or cakes are labelled “birthday cake” it means they usually have sprinkles over them.

Last Sunday I wanted to bake something and to try the Flipz in a recipe. I have baked brownies with plain pretzels in before and that has worked. But this time I wanted to see what happened if I put the white Flipz in a blondie recipe. I love blondies, especially ones with peanut butter and big chunks of white chocolate in. I didn’t have any peanut butter so I had to look through my recipe books to find a blondie recipe without peanut butter in. As I had my copy of Annie Bell’s Baking Bible still out on the kitchen work top from baking muffins the other day, I looked through the book to see if there was a blondie recipe in the book. There was. Annie Bell’s version does not use peanut butter but the blondies’ sugar content comes from using a mixture of set honey and golden syrup. To the mixture I swirled in some whole and some broken Flipz as well as the remaining half a packet of white chocolate chips I had left over from some cookies in my baking stash.

The blondies were very sticky, no doubt due to the honey and syrup content but they tasted absolutely wonderful. We had one with a cup of tea on Sunday afternoon and then I put them in the rest of the freezer to keep me away from temptation.

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