Spiced Chocolate Shortbread

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Spiced Chocolate Shortbread. For days when it is not as warm as it should be and you need something warming and comforting….

So it is now June. The time of year when we should be swanning around in summer dresses, contemplating pedicure nail colours and longing for fresh, light flavours. [Read more…]

Spiced Spritz Cookies

spicedspritz-1It is that time of year to dust down the Cookie Press and get baking these cutesy cookies. Spiced with ginger, all spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, these crunchy, shaped morsels shout C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. [Read more…]

Cranberry, White Chocolate and Orange Biscotti

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So, the 1st of December is upon us. The start of the season for giving is here. What better way to start the festivities than embarking on a super easy, but no less satisfying bake than biscotti. These Cranberry, White Chocolate and Orange Biscotti make a wonderful homemade gift for friends, family or a host.  [Read more…]

Chocolate and Lime Thumbprint Cookies

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Everyone likes a thumbprint cookie, right? So let’s talk about this Chocolate and Lime version… [Read more…]

Pumpkin Crinkle Cookies

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These Pumpkin Crinkle Cookies are a seasonal version of the ever popular Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. You know how good they are and how easy they are to make. [Read more…]

Chocolate ‘Mini Egg’ Cookies

minieggs-1I have been thinking about making these Chocolate Mini Egg Cookies for a while.

Basically, they are a double chocolate chip cookie but with sugar coated, chocolate mini eggs, as a substitute for regular chocolate chips. What is not to like?…minieggcookies-2

[Read more…]

Jammy Cream Biscuits

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Eek! Another heart-shaped post! Sorry but there is a small window of opportunity to use the heart-shaped cutters and ’tis the season. That said, these beauties don’t need to be heart shaped – rounds, or squares would work equally well.

The important thing about these biscuits is the taste.

Most of you will be familiar with ‘Jammy Dodgers’, a traditional British biscuit of a sandwiched, round, shortbread biscuit with a raspberry jam filling. Not surprisingly these are a family favourite and you can rarely get away eating just one.

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These Jammy Creams are a ‘nod’ to the Jammy Dodger but they do vary. These have a vanilla biscuit instead of the shortbread and in addition to your favourite jam filling, these have a creamy buttercream (yes, with a touch of double cream). Dusted with icing sugar prior to serving, these biscuits are delightfully pretty and if the truth be told, a little messy to eat but boy, do they taste good.

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Although these may look intricate, don’t be fooled. They are relatively quick to prepare; only require 30 minutes chilling (although they can be chilled overnight); chilling makes for quick and easy cutting; bake for just 10-14 minutes and only straightforward icing and filling is required.

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These are a perfect tea time treat to be enjoyed by young, or old. Serve with hot tea or a glass of milk. You have to agree they look inviting (sorry, I got carried away with my photos today!).

Baked with love for my kids – Happy Valentine’s Day x

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Jammy Cream Biscuits

Makes 15 sandwiched biscuits

Ingredients

  • 350g plain flour
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 125g granulated sugar
  • 125g salted butter, diced (I used a French butter with added course sea salt)
  • 125g golden syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar, for dusting (optional)
  • For the Filling
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste, or extract
  • 2 tbsp. double cream or whole milk
  • Jam of your choice

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, sift together both the flours and mix in the sugar.
  2. Add the cubed butter and rub in, or with a paddle attachment of a freestanding mixer, mix until you have a 'sandy' consistency.
  3. Make a well in the flour/sugar/ butter mix and add the golden syrup. In a jug, beat together the egg and vanilla. Add the egg and mix until the dough comes together. Divide the dough into two large balls.
  4. Lay some parchment paper on to the work surface. Place one of the dough balls onto the paper and flatten slightly. Top with a layer of food wrap and roll the dough between the two until the dough is an even 5mm throughout. Place the parchment and rolled dough onto a baking tray. Repeat with the second dough ball and add to the tray also (on top of the first rolled dough). Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C, or Gas mark 4.
  6. Take the chilled dough and your cutters of choice and cut the dough. Place the cut outs on a parchment lined baking tray, equally spaced and allowing for expansion during baking.
  7. Bake for 10-14 minutes until the biscuits become light golden in colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  8. To make the filling, whisk together the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and double cream and mix further. Add the icing to a piping bag and pipe stars all along the edge of the base biscuit. Add approximately a teaspoon of jam to the centre and top with the biscuit with the cut out (in this case the heart shaped cut out). Gently push down. Repeat with all the remaining biscuits.
  9. Dust with icing prior to serving (optional).
  10. Store in an airtight container.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/jammy-cream-biscuits/

Source: Adapted from Harriet Hastings and Sarah Moore’s ‘Biscuiteers Book  of Iced Biscuits’.

Fortune Cookies

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When I saw these in one of my mother’s recipe books some six months ago, I was desperate to try them out and broaden my baking experiences.

Although not specifically eaten at Chinese New Year, if there was ever a ‘season’, or excuse for me to make them, it is now, in preparation for the forthcoming celebrations. Besides, I have never made a tuile-style biscuit before and was eager to try them out. Okay, if we want to be technical about this, it is not a tuile but it does have similar characteristics.

These fortune cookies are fundamentally a thin, crisp, sweet wafer which are shaped while hot. The batter consists of icing sugar, flour, melted butter and in this case, egg whites. I have adapted this recipe from ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks – Biscuits and Slices’. Their recipe is coconut flavoured but I have used orange extract here.

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In most of my posts, I sound like a broken record, constantly reminding you that this ‘is really quick and easy to make’. Be under no illusion, these are not quick, they take a bit of concentration, you need to act with speed and heat proof fingers would be a bonus. That said, if like me, you like to experiment in the kitchen, these are a fun little challenge. Like anything, practise makes perfect and even just making these 20 or so cookies, they ‘improved’ the more I made.

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 Other than the batter which is very straightforward, here are my tips for making these: –

  • Place a heaped teaspoon of batter in each marked circle on the parchment.
  • Spread the batter with a knife right to the circle line. Spread the batter thinner than you think it should be. If the batter is too thick, it will not bake, or it will break when folding and bending.
  • Have a glass on hand, ready for bending as soon as the cookies come out of the oven.
  • Act as quickly as you can as soon as the cookies come out of the oven. Fold quickly, bend quickly over the glass rim. Repeat quickly for the second cookie.
  • Bake only two at a time. You can get a little system going whereby you have two in the oven and you are spreading the next two, ready to bake.
  • Be prepared for sore fingers (albeit temporarily). The dough is hot, hot, hot to the touch for folding and bending!

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I would say these turned out okay for a first attempt. Even if they are not visually perfect, they are sweet, crispy, orange-fragrant crackers. They have a definite ‘snap’ when broken. Rather nice actually…

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On this occasion I haven’t included little ‘fortunes’ or messages in the cookies. There are many websites with a host of sayings that you could use, if you need inspiration. Just write, or print, the message on small pieces of paper and roll, or fold up, small enough to push into the cookie once it is cool.

Although these take a little effort, there is a lot to be learnt from this bake. I am already thinking about variations.

They are great for sharing at a party, or they make a special gift. How about boxing them up and personalising the messages? A unique Valentine gift, maybe?

Burnt fingers aside, Happy Chinese New Year!

Fortune Cookies

Makes about 20

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 60g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted
  • 60g plain flour

Instructions

  1. Line two baking trays with parchment. Turn over the parchment and mark two circles, approximately 8cm in diameter, on the underside of the parchment and then turn back over.
  2. Preheat the over to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4.
  3. Whisk the egg whites briefly until they become foamy. Add the icing sugar, orange essence and the melted butter. Beat until combined, then add the flour. Mix further until completely smooth. Place a heaped teaspoon (approximate) of mixture into one of the marked circles on the parchment. Spread it evenly with a knife to cover the completely circle. Repeat for the remaining three circles. (Spread it as thin as you can).
  4. Have a large glass on hand (for bending the cookies). Bake one tray at a time for approximately 5 minutes, or until the edges of the rounds become slightly browned.
  5. Once removed from the oven, work very quickly. Lift the cookies, one at a time, from the tray, fold in half and then bend over a glass. Repeat quickly with the second cookie. Allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack completely.
  6. Repeat with the remaining cookie mixture.
  7. Store in an airtight container once completely cooled.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/fortune-cookies/

Source: Adapted from ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks – Biscuits and Slices’

Lavender Shortbread Biscuits

lavendershortbread-1-6This post is long overdue.

To be honest, I have had a succession of baking disasters in the kitchen this week. I suppose I am learning that this blog is a complete journey and often I don’t know which direction it is going to take me in.

I started off using some peaches, which I had originally intented to use for a peach cake, to make ice cream. I have made ice cream before, without an ice cream machine, quite successfully. However, I purchased the ice cream attachment/bowl to my KitchenAid and have been eager to try it out. I have been waiting for the weather to warm up but that looks unlikely so I thought I would go ahead anyway. Things didn’t work out. The ‘chilled’ peach batter was too cold, so the creaming mechanism on the mixer froze up giving a ‘half frozen, unable to prize off’ ice mixture (as opposed to ‘cream’).

Next up, my punnet of fresh cherries. I planned to use these to make a homemade cherryade – something to put in my ‘Drinks’ section. Fortunately some friends flagged up that ‘Waitrose Weekend’ had a similar recipe this week so I felt I couldn’t try that one out. Not to be defeated by the ice cream maker, I thought I would use the cherries for an indulgent ice cream. Slightly more success this time but something still wasn’t right. It was not the light, creamy ice cream that I wanted to share with you. The particles of cream had frozen ahead of everything else. Maybe I had too much cream in it? I consider myself a reasonably intelligent woman, how hard can it be?

Anyway, after all this ice cream making activity and subsequent failure, I had a large surplus of egg whites. So, not to let them go to waste, I used them in an Angel Cake. Oh the potential for this light, fatless sponge was enormous. I was excited by the puffed up, golden cake that I took from the oven, only for the whole thing to collapse (probably as I added fruit and it was too ‘heavy’).

So a number of culinary failures this week. However, I am determined to get them right over the summer months and share them with you in due course.

Enter the Lavender Shortbread Biscuits.

I needed to come up with something for you that was worth the wait and I think these aromatic beauties fulfil that.

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I had planned on baking these sometime ago. Indeed, some lavender sugar has been infusing for a number of weeks now in my kitchen. See my ‘Flavoured Sugars’ post for details on how to do this.

With this shortbread, I wanted to achieve a delicate biscuit that snaps when broken and melts in the mouth, so it does involve some rolling and cutting. This thinness enhances the light, fragrant flavour. I have used lavender infused sugar but you can use regular caster sugar and add culinary lavender which is readily available at local farm shops, and even the high street. You will take pleasure in making them. Once baked, on opening the oven door, the fragrance from these biscuits will engulf your kitchen in the most wonderful, healing lavender aroma.

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These biscuits are special. Have them with a cup of tea, or package them up in a jar, or tin, and give as a gift. Whatever way you choose, enjoy…

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Lavender Shortbread Biscuits

Makes 24 biscuits

Ingredients

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 80g lavender infused caster sugar (or 80g caster sugar, plus 1.5 teaspoons culinary lavender)
  • 375g plain flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
  • Sugar for sprinkling, prior to baking

Instructions

  1. Cream together the butter, vanilla extract, salt and sugar in the bowl of a free standing mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the flour in small amounts and continue to beat until all incorporated.
  3. If using the separate culinary lavender, add now and mix until evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
  4. Tip the mixture onto a layer of food wrap. Mould into a ball shape, flatten and wrap in the food wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. This allows lavender in infuse further and the dough to harden for rolling.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 4.
  6. Line two baking trays with parchment.
  7. Take the chilled dough and unwrap. Place another layer of food wrap and place over the top. Dust the work surface with some flour around the edges of the food wrap (in case in over runs). Roll the dough between the layers of food wrap until it is about 5mm thick. Use a 2.5 inch cutter to cut the biscuits and place on the prepared baking trays. Repeat until all the dough has been used. Sprinkle shortbread with sugar prior to baking.
  8. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are a pale golden colour.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to harden on the baking tray initially and then transfer to a wire rack for cooling.
  10. Store in an airtight container.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/lavender-shortbread-biscuits/

Source: Adapted from Cheryl and Griffith Day’s ‘The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook’ and The Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Biscuits and Slices’