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A long time ago in Bethlehem…

A long time ago in Bethlehem...

….There was a ginger bread stable.

Sans ginger. Because we went to bake the gingerbread and realised we had no brown sugar. Or baking soda . Or indeed ginger.

So just a…. stable. With turkish delight roof tiles.

Mummy Bear x

Getting our bake on

So I have rather neglected my kitchen as of late, (Daddy Bear even cooked the whole Christmas Dinner!) but yesterday Baby Bear decided to have a sudden unexpected mid day nap, and Big Bear asked to do some cooking.

However Daddy Bear heard my attempts to persuade Big Bear to bake some candy cane bear-y cakes (we have a candy cane surplus as no one likes mint in the Bear house!) and interjected saying that perhaps we should make something which was at least edible. Hmph. But Daddy Bear is always right.

Which is how we came about making Amaretti biscuits. Mainly because they are very quick and easy, so Big Bear wouldn’t lose interest half way through, but also because ages ago Daddy bear thought he was baking them, but ended up with Biscotti instead. True story.

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We didn’t have any Amaretto liquor in the Bear house however, because Daddy Bear is now on the wagon, so Big Bear and I had to create an alcohol free version.

Ingredients:

125g ground almonds

1 cup caster sugar

2 large egg whites

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp almond flavouring

1.Pre heat the oven to 180C. Measure all ingredient into one bowl, then beat with an electric mixer for five minutes until it is a smooth paste. Let the mixture sit for another five minutes on the side.

2.Sprinkle plain flour over two baking trays. Put a small round nozzle into a piping bag, and fill the bag with the mixture. Pipe small circles, about the size of a ten pence piece, 2 cm apart onto the baking trays.

3.Put the trays into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, turning if needed. Take them out and leave to cool before transferring into an air tight container.

4.Go to bedroom and play Lego Lord of the Rings for the duration of Baby Bear’s nap time.

(Last stage is optional)

Mummy Bear x

Pooping rainbows

Daddy Bear is very anti facebook and deems it’s only purpose is as an institution for procrastination and self indulgence. Well fair enough you may think, but this is coming from the guy who has had, at one point, 9gag as his default home page. 9gag, which was invented solely for the purpose of procrastination.

So when he saw that I was making rainbow cookies, his response was a little like this:

And then proceeded to tell me that actually, they weren’t rainbow cookies, but Unicorn Poop. Apparently, according to 9gag Unicorns poop rainbows. Who knew? He then proceeded to show me some completely pointless Nyan Cat. No, I didn’t get it. But then, he doesn’t understand why I was secretly praying that JK Rowling’s new book was actually ‘Harry Potter: The Epilogue’ in disguise. I digress, back to pooping unicorns:

I made the cookies following some super assembly instructions for Jen’s Just Desserts, (check out her page for really cute and fresh ideas for baking, but beware, you’ll blink and it will be midnight!)  and used my own recipe for the sugar cookie dough.

Ingredients:

225g unsalted butter

225 g caster sugar

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

480g plain flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Food colouring in Wilton Sky Blue, Sugarflair Mint Green, Home2Bke Yellow, Home2Bake Red

Multi coloured sprinkles

Cream butter sugar and salt for 2 minutes using an electric beater, then add in the egg, egg yolk and extract and beat again until combined. Add in the flour and baking powder and mix again, using your hands to prevent a flour cloud, until an evenly mixed dough forms.

Split the dough into 4 equal parts, and then colour each part using a different gel colour. You can use any colours you like, I just used the ones listed above because they are what I had to hand, with the highest contrast.

Wrap each ball of coloured dough in cling film, and then refrigerate for at least and hour. Once chilled and firm, remove from the fridge, and unwrap the cling film. Pull off a marble sized lump of each colour and roll them into small balls, then push the 4 balls into each other so they resemble a hacky sack.

Use the palm of your hand against the board to roll the ball into a sausage shape, and then wind the sausage shape into my current favourite spiral pattern. Gently roll the edge of the spiral in sugar sprinkles or non pareils, and then pop onto a baking tray. My Cookies didn’t stick to the tray, so there’s no need to worry about lining your baking tray (woohoo!).

Pop in the oven for 10 minutes at 180 C of until they are firm to touch on top. Remove from oven, leave for a minute and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Daddy Bear and Big Bear both think that these are awesome, clearly for different reasons. Or maybe Daddy Bear just never grew up. Baby Bear is also a fan, although I haven’t met a biscuit yet that he won’t eat, so that’s not really a fair assessment on the taste!

Mummy Bear x

Ever decreasing circles

I have been a bad blogger recently. Or rather, I have been a good mother, student, employee and wife. It’s been one of those months where everything comes at once and you end up going round and round in ever decreasing circles. But the end is in sight and I have made friends with my beloved oven again. And I have a new obsession in baking  –  swirls. Because plaiting is very last month.

And so we have swirl-whirly  biscuits, (named by Big Bear) which are vanilla and chocolate swirled biscuits, filled with chocolate and hazelnut swirl spread. I found the recipe (and beautiful photographs) at Iced Cupcakes, and the only thing I changed was the filling, because I found a swirly spread. To be honest, once spread on the biscuits, you couldn’t tell that the filling also started as a two tone swirl, but I do LOVE it when everything fits in a theme.

EDIT: Iced cupcakes has removed her blog. *sob* But fear not, you can find the recipe on our facebook page.

If you’re wondering what these are like, I can explain. Sort of. They are too spongy to be biscuits, but aren’t quite cake. I guess the closest thing to it is a whoopie pie. But they are definitely not pie like. Confused? Me too. Delicious? Very!

Mummy Bear x

Confessions of a dumb brunette

Confessions of a dumb brunette

These Peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich cookies came about only due to me being a complete airhead. A month or so ago, I bought a jar of peanut butter (the bears are not peanut butter sandwich fans) and a packet of jelly, because I wanted to make peanut butter and jelly bear-y cakes. But then Daddy Bear pointed out (whilst in mild hysterics) that when people refer to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, they actually mean jam. I was disappointed to say the least and suddenly didn’t fancy it at all.

So out of this came a combination I did want to try – peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. I made a simple peanut butter cookie dough (8oz peanut butter, 8oz castor sugar, 1 egg, splash of vanilla essence – I know, no actual butter or flour, how cool!!) and baked it in the oven for 12 minutes at 180C. Once cooled I spread marshmallow fluff onto the underside of a cookie, and then sandwiched it together with a second cookie.

(With thanks to Heartsong cakes and crafts for the original peanut butter cookie recipe)

Mummy Bear x

There’s a Starman waiting in the sky….

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Hmmm, not sure why I’m trying to merge David Bowie with Super Mario Bros, but this is another party post! When I asked Big bear what food he wanted at his party he replied ‘Can’t we just have cake?’. My sentiments exactly dear boy. But no, we couldn’t have just cake, so I had to think of various Mario themed treats for the kiddies to munch on. Thank goodness for Google image search!

To do these ‘properly’ I’m sure I’m meant to make sugar cookies and decorate them with royal icing. However, these were just going to be scoffed by a lot of hyper six year olds, and so I was determined to make them as simple as possible. This meant that I used a shortbread recipe instead for the biscuit base, and then decorate them with rolled sugarpaste. (Also I love shortbread. Preferably with lavender, but I’m not too fussy!)

Shortbread Mario Starmen

2 oz golden caster sugar

4 oz unsalted butter at room temperature

6 oz plain flour

250g yellow sugarpaste

1 tube black ‘writing icing’

Put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers until it first begins to resemble breadcrumbs, and then comes together to form a ball of dough.

Sprinkle a baking tray with plain flour. Take a third of the dough and roll onto the tray to approximately 0.5 cm thick. Use a star cutter to cut out as many shapes from that section of dough as possible (leaving a 1 cm gap between each cookie). Remove the excess dough, take some more from the bowl and repeat again, rolling to 0.5 cm thick and cutting out. Continue doing this until all the dough has been used – with this dough I created 19 star biscuits, but it all depends on the size of your cutter.

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Pre heat your oven to 150C and the pop the baking trays with the stars on into the fridge to chill. After 20 minutes, take them out of the fridge and place in the oven for approximately 8 minutes or until they begin to go golden on top. Remove form the oven and leave to cool before taking them off the baking tray.

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To decorate, roll yellow sugarpaste thinly, and then use the same size star cutter to cut out stars from it. Wet the back of the sugarpaste lightly, using a brush and water, and then stick to the top of a star biscuit. Draw the eyes on with the black ‘writing icing’, or alternatively use royal icing or black buttercream if you are unable to find any writing icing tubes. (They’re normally in kids decorating sets in the supermarkets.)

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And this is them at the party – slightly battered from the high speed drive to the hall (thanks Daddy Bear!) and having been prodded at already by several children, but still vaguely resembling Mario Star Power!

Mummy Bear x

Easy like a Sunday morning…

As Daddy Bear was drinking his coffee yesterday, he began moaning (as all men do) about the apparent lack of biscuit to accompany said coffee. I offered him some chocolate courgette cakes and he laughed in my face (Baby Bear gets his distaste for vegetables from his father) I offered to bake him some lavender shortbread, and he asked me if he looked like a bumble bee. I gave up and went back to explaining to Baby Bear why throwing remote controls out of the bedroom window was a little bit naughty.

A few minutes later I heard banging and rummaging coming from the kitchen, and my heart leapt into my mouth. On closer inspection I could see Daddy Bear was about to open the avalanche cupboard. (You know the one I mean, the one where you open it to get the baking powder out and every single ingredient jumps out into your half mixed batter secretly willing you to use it!) I stepped in and rescued the situation by volunteering to find everything he needed, and discovered that he had taken it upon himself to bake biscotti. Somewhat generously I offered to help, but was brushed aside with sweeping statements of ‘it’s just following a recipe. I can read.’ and ‘How hard can it be?!’ to which I beat my hasty retreat. I did however manage to grab the recipe he was loosely using (from BBC Good Food).

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Almond Biscotti

145g blanched whole almonds (Daddy Bear used 100g of sliced almonds, because this is what I found in the avalanche cupboard)

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt (Daddy Bear just turned the salt mill twice)

260g all-purpose flour (Daddy Bear used regular plain flour, and added an extra 80g whilst trying to ‘roll’ it)

150g granulated white sugar

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 180C and toast the almonds on a baking tray for 8 minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C.

In a measuring jug, lightly beat together the eggs vanilla and almond extracts. Daddy Bear used a mixing bowl, and then realised a few steps later that her had run out of mixing bowls for the next steps, hence me suggesting to use a measuring jug!

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder and mix until evenly blended. Gradually add the egg mixture and beat until a dough forms. At this point Daddy Bear was losing his enthusiasm for the task and dumped the whole egg mix into the flour in one go. I can say it made no real difference! As the dough begins to come together, add the toasted almonds and then continue to combine the mixture. It will get to the point where it is too thick for a spoon, and at this point Daddy Bear finished off combining it with his hands.

It then started to go a little wrong for Daddy Bear. I could tell this was happening because the decibel levels from inside the kitchen were increasing at an alarming rate and becoming frequently punctuated with  profanity. I went to see what was causing the outburst, and was met by the greeting: ‘Roll???!!! How on earth to they expect me to roll this stuff??’ accompanied by the frantic waving of very sticky dough covered fingers. I suggested he pop a little more flour into the dough and then just shape it onto the greaseproof paper as well as he could. Much muttering under the breath ensued, followed by a cloud of flour. The dough was shaped and in the oven.

The dough should be shaped into a log about 35 cm long, and 10 cm wide. Daddy Bear’s was a bit shorter and fatter, but to be honest, he’s not that great with measuring. More on that later. Bake the dough in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes, and then remove and leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

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The next step in the recipe advises to cut the baked log into slices 1/2 inch thick diagonally and arrange on a baking tray. Well, after the sticky fingers fiasco and near miss avalanche, I was subtly making excuses to sneak into the kitchen and steal a glance and came across this:

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After quietly pointing out that the slices might be a little on the thin side, Daddy Bear insisted I get a ruler to measure them. Turns out I was right, and Daddy Bear has been vastly under estimating the size of an inch. [Insert your own jokes here]

Once arranged on the baking tray, return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes on each side (until they are very firm) and then remove from the oven and cool.

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Enjoy on a Lazy Sunday Morning with a good coffee and an even better book. Who am I kidding? I wolfed these down this morning in between retrieving the tv remote from various window ledges and trying to explain to Big Bear where heaven is EXACTLY. 

They were good. But Daddy Bear moaned. Turns out he’s ‘not a squirrel’ either.

Mummy Bear x

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