A Tale of Two Biscuits: Spiced Christmas Cookies

I tried to make gingerbread, and this is what happened the first time I made it today:

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So, just like the Boy was when I told him I made gingerbread, you’ll be wondering what the hell that is.

I don’t really make biscuits. And I was going half on remembering how I made gingerbread when I went to visit my sister and her kids, and half on a recipe in Sam Stern’s Student Cookbook for fiery ginger biscuits.

I also ran out of baking parchment and decided that the cookies would all be fine on the same baking tray.

Instead they all melded into a big gingery blob, and since they had no semblance of the original Christmas Cookie Cutter shapes I had carefully cut them into, well I just started tearing them into little pieces until they resembled kindling.

They were delicious, but I knew I needed to go back to the recipe and tweak it. The dough was far too sticky and couldn’t be saved. So I had a second go at them.

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They turned out better.

This is not a recipe for Gingerbread, because gingerbread typically involves an egg, and these didn’t. These are very spicy ‘ginger influenced’ biscuits that can be cut into the shape of gingerbread men, if you wish.

These are very spicy, so if you have a cold then chow down as these will definitely clear your sinuses. You may want to adjust the measurements to something that is more reasonable, but I say it’s Christmas, go bold.

INGREDIENTS

3 tsp Ground Ginger

1 tsp Cinnamon

0.5 tsp Mixed Spice

1.5 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

150g Self Raising Flour

75g Butter, diced

3.5 balls of Stem Ginger, cut into tiny diced pieces

60g Soft Light Brown Sugar

2 Tbl sp Molasses*

1 Tbl sp Golden Syrup

*You can use either all Golden Syrup, or honey, or anything really, I just wanted to use up my molasses.

METHOD

Sieve the ginger, cinnamon, mixed spice, bicarbonate soda and flour into a mixing bowl. Add the butter pieces and mix with hands until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the molasses, sugar and the diced stem ginger, and combine with a fork. It may be at this stage you will have to add the golden syrup, but go carefully. You want a dough that is combined and mixed well and soft, but not sticky, otherwise it will be a nightmare and you will end up with this:

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Either cut into whimsical festive shapes, or roll into little balls and flatten. Place across two lined baking trays and bake at Gas Mark 5 for 10-15 minutes.

 

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Rustic* Festive** Fruity Parcels

  • *Rustic = A euphemism for ‘looks like they were assembled by a toddler’.
  • **Festive = I wanted to use the seasonal ‘C’ word but felt I might get beaten up by scrooges if I did.

Hi everybody.

I haven’t been feeling 100% all week. Each day brings on a new symptom and today at work was tough.

The boy was going to a gig. I wanted to go to the gig but couldn’t afford it. Normally I would use a night in without the boy as a good excuse to get my bake on, but I felt so shattered after work that all I could muster the energy to do was to put anchovies on my pizza.

Then I saw in the fridge was a packet of frozen puff pastry I had taken out to defrost on Sunday with the intention of using it on Monday.

And the packet recommended using within 24 hours of defrosting. Aye Aye Aye.

So after a quick energy boost (double shot of fake Baileys) I got to it.

INGREDIENTS

1 x 500g Block of puff pastry

4 Apples

1 x 400g Jar of mincemeat

Caster Sugar

RENEGADE SUGGESTIONS

My cooking often involves a random ingredient that caught my eye. So at step 2 I also threw in 4 apple & rosehip tea bags and a bit of orange juice. You don’t necessarily have to copy me.

  1. Defrost your puff pastry the night before according to packet instructions and then roll out into a large square/rectangle shape and cut into 4 equal shapes.
  2. Cut your apples into small pieces and place in a large pot with the sugar (I didn’t give a measurement because, well, I just threw it in. If you like to be exact I would say 75g is enough). Cover with boiling water and bring back to the boil.
  3. Cook until tender.
  4. Once cooked, drain, and mix in the jar of mincemeat (true story, mincemeat used to contain meat, but generally doesn’t now, but I thought it did and didn’t eat a mince pie until I was something like 17 because I thought it would compromise my at the time vegetarian beliefs).
  5. Divide the mix across the four puff pastry squares and then pull up the edges until you have little parcels (or you could be really neat and bring out a protractor or something and have something a bit more professional looking).
  6. BONUS STEP! I meant to do this, but then forgot. Lightly brush the parcels with a milk and/or egg wash.
  7. Bake in the oven on gas mark 4 for a very long time because you are watching the new episode of your favourite show ‘Eat Well For Less’ and don’t want to miss any of it (The episode was an hour long)
  8. BONUS STEP! Turn off the oven but leave the parcels in to stay warm and then go to the shops to get ice cream because the boy refused to do this for you earlier. What a d***.
  9. Watch today’s episode of Neighbours whilst eating the parcel. And then watch Eat Well For Less again.

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5 Ingredient Banana and Peanut Butter Flapjacks: From Bowl of Delicious

Once again lack of time has prevented me from eating my bananas before they went ripe.

At this stage you are probably thinking ‘How the f*** do you lack time to eat a banana? They are the natural convenience food?’

Trust me, when you lack the time during the week to keep up with basic hygiene levels (TMI?) then you also lack the time to eat a banana.

I felt like using up my peanut butter too, for sh**s and giggles, and you can never go wrong throwing in a few seeds, nuts and dried fruit.

So I found this recipe and got my bake on (by the way, one of my catchphrases is ‘Get Your Bake On’ and I sing it to the tune of ‘Get Ur Freak On’ by Missy Elliot).

I am now very happy as I have something tasty for my on the go breakfasts this week. And I now have to buy more seeds, nuts and dried fruit which always makes me happy.

The boy was very unhappy that I made Banana, Peanut Butter, Seeds, Nuts and Dried Fruit flapjacks when Banana, Peanut Butter, Seeds, Nuts and Dried Fruit are some of his most hated foodstuffs. So I am now making him Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate Cupcakes and is he grateful? No, he is now complaining that we have had to delay dinner.

Grrrr.

Inspired by Nigella ‘Chop Chop Earl Grey Muffins’ (Batch Cooking my Work Breakfasts)

I decided to watch Saturday Kitchen Live today on BBC 1, a show I surprisingly don’t normally watch, and my watching it today has absolutely nothing to do with my crush on a certain TV chef.

One of the segments of the show featured the widely known Nigella Lawson who was making Chai Breakfast Muffins. This got me really excited as I was sure I had a packet of chai tea in the tea cupboard (I have a Tea cupboard, well, a hot drinks cupboard, how British am I?).

I didn’t.

BUT I did have an unopened packet of Earl Grey tea which is (wait for it) at least 18 months old, so it was probably time to use that up.

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Before this year I was so lacking in confidence with cooking that if I saw a chef making something on TV, no matter how thorough the demonstration I would not be able to copy the recipe and would probably fork out for the cook book.

Now I am brave.

My recipe is very similar to Nigella’s, I will show you mine, but bear in mind Nigella’s is probably far superior. Mine is cheaper.

INGREDIENTS

300ml Soya Milk (Or any milk, I don’t mind)

3 Earl Grey Tea Bags

1.5 Tsp Cinnamon

115ml Vegetable Oil plus extra for greasing

2 large eggs, as a personal choice my eggs are always free range

400g Plain Flour

2.5 Tsp Baking Powder

50g Mixed Dried Fruit

50g Almonds

100g Sugar

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METHOD

First thing first. Put your milk in a saucepan, open up the three tea bags and pour them into the milk and add the cinnamon. Cook over a very, very low heat and do not boil, just bring to bubbling stage.

Leave to cool/thicken.

Now the ‘chop chop’ bit. On a chopping board place your dried fruit and almonds. Using a nice long sharp knife (or if you have a fancy pants blade thing like Nigella did then use that) go up and down and along the nuts and fruit in a ‘see saw’ motion until everything is nicely chopped.

Weigh out the flour, sugar and baking powder and lightly mix together. Add the dried fruit and nuts.

Add 2 beaten eggs and the oil to the cooled milk mixture and mix.

Add the wet mixture to the dried ingredients and mix but don’t over mix. Remember, lumpy batter = light muffins.

Grease your muffin tray with oil and spoon in your mixture.

Cook for 20 minutes on Gas mark 5, or until a skewer comes out clean.

If you want to overload on sugar then have a muffin with a little maple syrup.

Banana, Date and Rum Bake

I am a Banana fiend. They are definitely my favourite fruit. They are versatile. They give you the get up and go in a breakfast smoothie, and they can also lull you off to sleep in a nice pudding.

As a Banana fiend, and you will know from my weekly financial reviews how often I buy bananas, I sometimes end up with too many that are going from yellow to brown very quickly and with worse spotted skin then me!

So as it was Zero Waste Week this week I was determined to use up the three way past their best bananas in my fruit bowl. I wasn’t allowed to buy new bananas until I did, and I have three whole freezer bags full of my previous abundance of bananas.

(I had so much planned for Zero Waste Week but not getting our new and shiny fibre optic broadband until this week meant I couldn’t blog what I wanted to in time. Boooo!)

I wouldn’t say I understand the rules of baking, and still often look up a general recipe beforehand for inspiration or to make sure I’m not going to do something crazy like the guy in the first week of GBBO, but I am confident now that as long as you don’t go too ‘renegade’ you’ll be fine.

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INGREDIENTS

Three very ripe Bananas, the sort a wasteful person would throw away.

50ml of Rum (Yum!)

50g of Dates

50g of Mixed Dried Fruit (but if you feel like 100g of dates or something else go for it)

120g of Butter/Margarine

100g Demerara Sugar

120g Self Raising Flour

1.5 Cups of Porridge Oats

As much Cinnamon as you like. 2 tspoons is reasonable. I am not reasonable. I like cinnamon (plus it’s good for you if you have PCOS, or ‘sort of’ do like me)

2 Eggs

Approx 2 Tablespoons of boiling water

METHOD

At least 30 minutes before you get your bake on chop the dates into small pieces and add the mixed dried fruit and cover with the rum (I will warn you, this is a generous portion size) and then add a little bit of boiling water to just cover the fruit and then leave to soften.

Do the washing up whilst you wait. Or, you know, don’t. I’m not the boss of you.

Melt the 120g butter/margarine in a bowl and mash in two of the three bananas. Add the flour, sugar, eggs, 1 cup of the porridge oats and cinnamon. Add the rum soaked dried dates and fruit-liquid as well.

Mix until you have a big sticky brown mess. Oooops. I just realised what that sounds like. Sorry.

Grease a square baking tray and add the bake mix, then cover with 1/2 cup of oats (this might be too much, so play it by ear) and chop the third banana into little pieces and add on top.

The great thing about cooking bananas is sometimes they go purple because of the reaction of the potassium in them.

Cook for 40-50 minutes on Gas Mark 4. I don’t know what this is on an electric oven.

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This will go really well with custard, toffee sauce or vanilla ice cream, or all three, though I have never done that, honest! Maybe 2 out of 3, and that ain’t bad.

 

The AAA Therapy Cake

Hi guys,

Today was a beautiful sunny day in the South West of England and South Wales, and I spent my morning at a Job Interview.

Naturally for someone who finds talking to their friend’s difficult enough at times, I find Job Interviews a wee bit scary and traumatic.

There was only one thing to do and that was bake my stress away.

This is probably why I am overweight.

Oh well.

The cake today was baked in order to use up two jars of apple sauce that were preventing my cupboard door from closing and had been for about 7 months ever since I first bought them.

I bought them to make a recipe called ‘Triple Apple Cake’ from a recipe book I have on my Kindle called ‘Insulin Resistance Diet Plan & Cookbook: 101 Vegan recipes’ by Patricia Karnowski which I bought in a panic one day when I was convinced I had PCOS. Turns out I only sort-of have it.

My recipe was ‘adapted’ from their recipe. In that it closely follows it and then I throw a whole bunch of things into the mix.

My recipe is crucially not Vegan, so if you want the vegan recipe I’ll explain where I deviated from the original recipe.

Also the recipe book uses Cups as measurements, so I have done similar. If you are adapting then make sure you check the measurements against liquid/dry.

THE AAA THERAPY CAKE

INGREDIENTS

(These ingredients all feature in the original recipe, but I used different amounts)

1 apple, sliced very thinly (you could use more, the original recipe uses three but my bowl was looking crowded)

1 Cup of dried apple rings cut into very small pieces.

1 1/2 Cups of apple sauce-here I used my two 185g jars of apple sauce which are from the Morrison’s Savers range as one jar equalled roughly 3/4 of a cup.

2 teaspoons of baking powder

2 1/2 cups of oats – my oats were premixed with skimmed milk powder, which I do to make instant porridge ala Jack Monroe, this may or may not have had some factor on my end cake. I think you should be fine with just oats.

Vanilla – I used a very generous ‘splodge’ of vanilla bean paste

lots of cinnamon and a little bit of nutmeg. I personally think things can’t have enough cinnamon or vanilla and nutmeg, but use your own tastebuds.

THIS IS WHERE THE RECIPE DEVIATES

2 tablespoons of greek yoghurt

1 egg

1 cup of self raising flour

METHOD

Chop the apples (both dried and fresh)

Put all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Add the applesauce and the beaten egg and yoghurt. Mix until it all looks lumpy and sticky (this shouldn’t take too long)

Squish into a greased cake tin, I used a loose bottom big bad boy.

Put in the oven at gas mark 5 for about 40 minutes until you do the skewer test and it comes out clean.

Please don’t ask me what Gas Mark 5 is on a proper oven, I do not know 🙂

When it is ready try to contain your hunger and leave it to cool for 5 or so minutes on a wire rack. When it is still fairly warm cut yourself a piece, have a cup of tea, and add a squirt of that weird toffee sauce in your cupboard that you can’t even remember where it came from.

Take said cake into the living room where the Artist Boy is painting and say ‘Look! Whilst you were ‘creating’ so was I!’