Smartie Cookies

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I have had such a chaotic week! Monday my son had a hospital appointment; Tuesday I was teaching a workshop at the local high school; Wednesday my whippet, Felix, was taken into the vet hospital to have some more metalwork removed from his leg and I had a birthday cake to make, Thursday I had a Christening cake to make and I was teaching night school and Friday I had a birthday cake to make and my son had Hydrotherapy! So today I am having a pyjama day! I think I deserve one!

I am pottering around the house sorting out the washing, doing a bit of baking for us and singing along to the Carpenters on the radio, all whilst wearing my snow leopard print fleecy pyjama bottoms and my huge “I love my whippets” sweatshirt with my hair tied up in a very scruffy bun! It might not be cutting edge fashion but boy is it comfortable!

I thought I would have a go at this Smartie cookie recipe from Good Food Magazine today because it just looked fun! It was stupidly simple to make and I have to say the cookies are bloody gorgeous! Crispy on the outside and soft and gooey inside. And if you happen across an orange smartie, they are pure heaven!

Ingredients:

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan
  2. Place all the ingredients except the smarties into a mixing bowl.
  3. Mix to a soft smooth dough
  4. Add the smarties
  5. This dough made 14-16 cookies when rolled into balls or formed with a mini-icecream scoop. DO NOT flatten the balls, just leave plenty of room between each cookie to allow spreading.
  6. Bake for 10-12 mins
  7. Leave on the tray for 5 mins then transfer to a cooling rack.
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Amaretti biscuits

Amaretti biscuits
Amaretti biscuits

I’m sure I have mentioned on more than one occasion that my big weakness is biscuits. I can take of leave cake and don’t go overboard about chocolate but biscuits! Oh, my goodness! I have no self-control at all.

As a child I only ever got “posh” biscuits at Christmas and that was because Mum was a nurse. As you might expect her ward would be inundated with tins of biscuits for the nurses at Christmas. The ward sister would do a “lucky dip” so the nurses all had a fair chance of getting the expensive biscuits as well as the less expensive. So Mum might come home with a box of chocolate fingers or a really posh box of Marks and Spencer’s Continental biscuits! You can imagine my excitement!

One year, however, she came home with a box of individually wrapped amaretti biscuits. I had never seen them before and was intrigued by them. Unfortunately, one bite and I’ve been hooked on them ever since!

This particular recipe is from The Hairy Bikers’ Big Book of Baking. It is so easy to make but I found that I couldn’t pipe the biscuits as Si and Dave suggest because the dough was simply too stiff so I rolled them into ball instead.  They are crisp on the outside with a slightly soft centre and taste absolutely gorgeous.

Ingredients:

2 large egg whites

200g caster sugar

0.5 tsp almond extract

300g ground almonds

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C/ 150C fan (the bikers suggest 190 c/ 170C fan but I found they browned too quickly)
  2. Beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer
  3. Slowly add the sugar, whisking constantly
  4. Add the almond extract
  5. Fold in the almonds. It will form a stiff dough
  6. Pipe or roll into small balls.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

 

 

 

Carrot cake with a Praline topping

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I have come to the conclusion that I must have been Genghis Khan in a previous life! I’m a good girl! I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs (I don’t think HRT can be considered hardcore!). I have been single for 13 years and to be honest I haven’t got time or the inclination for man hunting! Now that I’ve said all that, all I seem to get at the moment is stress!

My son, as I have mentioned before, as Chronic Pain Syndrome so for the past 3 weeks we have struggled to keep his legs moving. This resulted in him collapsing in the bathroom the other night. Ben is about 8 inches taller than me and a big strapping 15-year-old! Needless to say trying to rescue him was interesting to say the least! Thank goodness we have very large bath towels!

Then to top it all, my poor little whippet, Felix, who broke his leg in August, was rushed back into the veterinary hospital to have some of the metalwork removed from his leg as it was causing him problems. In fact his femur had not healed properly because one of the wires was rubbing the newly forming bone away.

I will add at this point that after a few days rest and strong pain killers Felix is back to his usual self, terrorising the household.

I’m sharing this carrot cake recipe because it is one of those cakes that instantly hits the spot! You know the ones, where the room goes quiet except for the odd “mmm”. And let’s face it, I could so with a bit of peace and quiet at the moment!

Ingredients:

  • 150g butter
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 175g grated carrots
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g SR flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g chopped walnuts (optional –or  add 100g extra flour)
  • rind of 1 orange (optional)

 

Method: 

  1. Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin
  2. Preheat oven at 180C / 160C fan
  3. Melt the butter .
  4. Beat in the sugar, carrots, salt, spice and eggs
  5. Fold in the dry ingredients
  6. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 hour

 

Topping ingredients:

Method:

  1. Mix together the cream cheese, orange juice and icing sugar. DO NOT BEAT as it will become runny.
  2. Spread over the cool cake.
  3. Melt the sugar and nuts gently over a low heat until the sugar is caramel brown in colour. Do not stir , simply swirl as the sugar will crystallise.
  4. Pour the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper and allow to cool completely.
  5. Chop the praline and scatter over the cake.

 

Chocolate and Hazelnut biscotti and Hector the Whippet

Have you ever had one of those day when you would quite like the world to stop so that you can get off, please? Well that is how I have felt today!  One of my whippets, Hector, has been violently sick all night long. Hector has an auto-immune disease called glomerulo nephritis. It is a chronic condition which varies from day-to-day. He has good days and bad days but generally he is a happy chappy. I was about to say happy little chappy but in fairness, Hector is a bit of a chunky whippet due to the steroids and other meds that he has to take to keep his condition under control.

I know that Hector is not going to be with me for a long but as long as he is pain-free, happy and has a good quality of life then I’m happy. So having been up with him all night and seeing that he still wasn’t right this morning and still had a raging temperature, you can imagine my dismay when my marvelous vet, Rachel, said she wanted to keep him in,do some bloods and get him on a drip. Needless to say I was imagining the worst. Not helped by my Mother telling me that it is cruel to let him suffer! Yes, I know Mum! Why do you think I’m in such a state?

I truly believe in quality of life rather than quantity so I really was prepared for the worse. Imagine my delight when I got the call to say that I could go and pick him up! Hector is presenting as having a mild case of pancreatitis probably caused by eating pigs ears as a treat. Apparently the fatty treat puts too much strain on the pancreas if your dog already has a chronic underlying ailment. So no more pigs ears for Hector and lots more medication instead!

I wish you could have seen the big goofy smile and the waggy tail when Hector was brought into the consulting room and that was just from me! I know that when the time comes I will make the right decision to let Hector go painlessly and with dignity but not just yet! Thank goodness!

In the meanwhile I will make the most of my oversized whippet and while away the hours baking. Here, as promised in my Christmas morning biscotti post, is my version of chocolate and hazelnut biscotti. They taste just like nutella!

Ingredients:

10 oz plain flour

2 oz cocoa

2tsp baking powder

9 oz caster sugar

3-4 free range eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

6oz hazelnuts

4 oz dark chocolate

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C / 160C fan.
  2. Line 2 large baking sheets with baking parchment
  3. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder in a mixing bowl then a stir in the eggs until a soft dough forms.
  4. Add the nuts and chocolate
  5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and split the dough into 4 equal pieces.
  6. Lightly flour your hands then roll each piece of dough into a sausage shape approximately 12 inch long.
  7. Place the dough onto the prepared trays, making sure they are well spaced.
  8. Bake for 15-25 mins until the dough is well risen, firm to the touch but not too brown.
  9. Allow to cool for a few minutes on a cooling rack.
  10. Reduce the oven temperature to 140C / 120C fan
  11. Cut the dough diagonally, using a bread knife, into 1cm thick slices.
  12. Place the slices back onto the baking sheets, cut side down, and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  13. Turn the slices over and bake for a further 10-15 minutes.
  14. Allow to cool completely.

Luscious Lemon Damp Cake

Well, it has been another one of those weeks when I don’t seem to have stopped but also don’t seem to have achieved anything! My poor whippet, Felix, who broke his leg recently is still having problems as one of the internal fixator screws has started to rub and has caused his stitches to burst. Needless to say we have not been able to venture very fair because poor Felix is so lame.

My son, Ben, has been really trying hard this academic year to improve his attendance and to keep up with all his work. As you know Ben has chronic pain syndrome and is an idiopathic toe-walker but having spent a month in plaster over the summer holidays he is now walking much better. To maintain his mobility and to help with the pain, Ben has hydrotherapy twice a week at the local additional needs school. To ensure that it doesn’t impact too much on his school timetable and more importantly his GCSE classes Ben has his hydrotherapy during his lunch hour. This means a crazy dash from his mainstream high school to therapy and then back again in time for afternoon lessons!

I must mention at this stage that Ben has two hydrotherapist, Emma and Mo, without whom I don’t think I would survive. They literally keep Ben moving! Emma is lovely,  sweet and so gentle with the kids whilst Mo is loud and boisterous and naughty! Mo is the yin to Emma’s yang! The kids absolutely adore them and I, personally, would do anything for them. They are stars!

It is my “job” according to Mo to provide cake on a Friday for them. It started off as nice way to thank them for their hard work then they became my recipe guinea pigs and now Mo panics if I arrive empty-handed! Today they had my luscious lemon loaf cake and a bit of  Rocky Road. I would be lost without these marvellous ladies and I think the thought of their Friday afternoon treat is what gets them through the week! Enjoy, you wonderful ladies!

Ingredients:

250g butter

350g caster sugar

4 eggs, beaten

2 tsp lemon oil or the zest of 2 lemons

350g self-raising flour

a splash of milk

juice of 3-4 lemons

200g icing sugar.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan / 180°C.  Grease and line two 1 lb loaf tins.
  2. Beat the sugar and butter together until it is light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs and lemon oil.
  4. Fold in the flour, add a splash of milk and fold until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Turn into the tins. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Meanwhile gently heat the lemon juice and the icing sugar until all the sugar dissolves and makes a thick syrup.
  7. Remove the cakes from the oven but leave in the tins and stab them all over with a clean skewer.
  8. Paint the syrup all over the cakes using a pastry brush. If you pour the syrup it tends to pool around the edges. By painting it you achieve a much better finish.
  9. Allow the cakes to cook completely.

Of course, you can easily half these amounts but I always make two because they freeze so well. You never know when Johnny Depp will drop round for a cuppa and a slice of cake! It is better to be prepared!

Chocolate chip cookies and a poorly whippet

Well, Hello there! I must apologise for my absence of late. It has all been a bit chaotic here at the Cake Doctor’s Surgery. Firstly as I have mentioned before, my son had both legs in plaster in an attempt to stretch him. Then just as I get Ben back on his feet (literally!) one of my whippets broke his back leg! Well, I say broke but really he shattered it!

 

It was a complete accident. We were walking through the woods in our local park, all the dogs were off lead playing and racing each other. When I called them back to me my smaller whippet, Felix, was in front of my muscular, speedier whippet, Ash. If you are unfamiliar with male whippets, they are very boisterous with each other and tend to body barge one another when they are running. This is exactly what happened but unfortunately Ash caught Felix with his shoulder at just the wrong angle and with enough force to break it.

I have to say a huge “Thank You” to a couple of  joggers without whose help I wouldn’t have managed. We were at the top of a hill when this happened and about a 20 minute walk from the car park. The joggers, bless them, took a dog each and let me carry Felix, who had gone into shock and was completely silent and floppy, back to the car. I think I must have been in shock myself because I completely forgot my manners and although I thanked them profusely at then time, I didn’t get their names so that I could thank them formally.

After an hour-long trip from our local vet in North Wales to Nantwich Veterinary Hospital, the marvelous vet, Tom, literally pieced poor Felix’s leg back together. He was in theatre for over 3 hours but was up and walking on his leg the following day! I somehow don’t think he will be going through any airports any time soon!

Needless to say I have spent the past 3 weeks nursing a poorly whippet. He has been a little trooper all be it a little clingy. I literally can’t even go to the bathroom without him howling to come with me. I must explain that Felix is a rescue whippet who came to me just over a year ago in a real state. He was ridiculously underweight, had been living in a cold, dark outhouse and was used for breeding. He had big bald patches all over him and no hair at all on his tail. He has come such a long way since he came to live with us that to see him so poorly was heart breaking.

He has become a bit of a local celebrity, however, and I am constantly stopped in the street, texted or Facebook messaged by people asking how he is. He has even got his own Facebook page now! www.facebook.com/FelixTheBionicDog

It has to be said, at this point, that my son has been an absolute star. He has really stepped up to the mark and pulled his weight in terms of helping out. Not only did he babysit Felix whilst I walked the other two whippets but he got up with me in the night to help me take Felix out for a wee or to give him his medication. Our plans for the summer went completely out the window but Ben did not moan once! As payback Ben had all his favourite meals cooked for him including this recipe for chocolate chip cookies which Ben assures me MUST be eaten warm and MUST be dunked in an ice-cold glass of milk. This recipe is a bastardised version of a Nigella Lawson recipe but it works well and tastes lovely.

Ingredients:

150 g butter, melted

125g soft brown sugar

100g caster sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

300g self-raising flour

0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

325g chocolate chips

Method:

  1. preheat the oven to 170 C/150 C fan oven.
  2. Beat the cooled, melted butter into the sugars
  3. Beat in the vanilla and eggs until the mixture is light and creamy
  4. Mix in the flour and bicarbonate then stir in the chocolate.
  5. Use an ice-cream scoop and drop the mixture onto a parchment paper lined tray. Allow a good 10 cm between each blob to allow for spreading.
  6. Bake for 15-17 min. They will inflate in the oven but will collapse in on themselves on cooling.

These cookies are lovely and crispy on the outside but gorgeous and gooey inside! Yum Yum!

Whippet madness and a bit of Rocky Road!

I have had a lovely day to today! It is Bank Holiday Monday over here in the UK which usually means that it will be chucking it down all day and that traffic will be murder! Not generally a good day to step over your doorstep but today I have been pleasantly surprised. The weather hasn’t been too bad and when I did venture out, the traffic was moving and didn’t appear to have the usually amount of crazies in it.

The reason for my bravery was that I needed to take my whippets to have their photos taken professionally. As all whippet owners will tell you, getting a decent picture of your pooch is nigh on impossible. I have plenty of photographs of tails. I have some lovely close-ups of noses too. I even have a sky shot due to being knocked flat on my back by an over enthusiastic greeting! Most of my “good” pictures were taken when they were crashed out following a walk.

Having bumped into Susan Buckley in my local pet store, I knew that this was the woman to help me get that “all facing the same way: in focus: 3 dogs in a row” shot. Well in truth, we didn’t quiet manage it!  Hector was an absolute star, bless him, and posed perfectly on cue! Ash, my blonde bombshell insisted on being in every shot even when he wasn’t meant to be and Felix, my little blue boy, became a testosterone fuelled demon whose only interest was finding a way to open the back door so that he could go and “introduce” himself to Sue’s female dogs outside.

What is it they say? Never work with animals and children! Well, Sue does both and she is brilliant at it. The following image is one that she took today. She has kindly allowed me to use it here in this blog but I must stress this image is the property of Photography By Buckley* so please do not reuse it.

by Photography by Buckley

I cannot tell you how over the moon I am with the photographs Sue has produced. Ok, so we didn’t get them all together in the same shot and, yes, I am probably going to have to remortgage my house to pay for all the photos (Sue is NOT expensive; I am just spoilt for choice!) but to be honest, I simply don’t care! I love my whippets and I’m not afraid to say it!

The “cherry on the cake” of my lovely day was (brace yourself, here is the tenuous link) coming home to find that my Rocky Road had set whilst we were out. Ok, I’ll come clean, I’m only including the recipe because I felt guilty about waxing lyrical about my whippets on what is supposed to be a food blog! It is good Rocky Road though!

Ingredients:

125g butter

300g chocolate ( I use 150g milk and 150g dark chocolate because my son doesn’t like it too dark)

3 tbs golden syrup

200g broken, plain biscuits  – digestive, rich tea, amaretti

100g mini marshmallows

Method:

  1. Melt the butter, chocolate and syrup together in a heavy bottomed saucepan and stir together.
  2. Bash the biscuits into small pieces in a plastic bag. This is brilliant if you are a tad stressed!
  3. Mix the biscuit into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Stir in the mini marshmallows
  5. Tip into a lined 8 inch square cake tin and refrigerate until set.
  6. Cut into pieces and enjoy!

Rocky Road is so versatile that I often throw in cherries and raisins or I alter the biscuit I use.

Enjoy!

Love

Ali xx

* Photography By Buckley can be contacted via Facebook or ask me for contact details.