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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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.

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!

How to craft a “Minecraft” Birthday cake

Minecraft birthday cake

For those of you unfamiliar with “Minecraft” and by that read well past their teenage years, Minecraft is a computer game in which you design your own houses and land whilst being attacked by “creepers”. Yes, I know, it sounds riveting doesn’t it? As I said I think you have to be under the legal drinking age to appreciate it.

Maybe it is all to do with how the immature brain perceives things. Let me explain what I mean. I am of the generation that saw the rise of computer age from the cassette driven Atari games through Sonic and the early PlayStation resulting in todays amazing graphics on the X-box and Playstation 3 and the instant accessibility of the internet. So forgive me for being unable to fathom the appeal of a game with graphics that look like boxes.

Imagine my joy then when I discovered that I wasn’t the only mother who failed to understand her son’s Minecraft obsession. That joy turned to despair, however, when Rachel asked me to make her son a Minecraft Birthday cake. I might add at this point that Rachel is my vet and since she had a thermometer inserted into my poorly whippet’s bottom when she asked I thought it would be a tad unfair to Hector to say “No”.

My son, bless him, got all excited and designed a scene for me to copy (shown in the photograph above).  I have used elements of his design in the cake I made. It was his suggestion that I photographed it and included a “how to” guide in my blog. So here goes:

Equipment:

8 inch cake with jam and buttercream

12 inch cake drum

3lb sugarpaste

edible food colouring gels and dusting powders

cake smoother

rolling-pin

ruler

paint brushes

dipping solution or vodka

gum tragacanth or CMC

Edible glue

Pizza cutter

 

Method:

  1. Roll out approximately 10oz white sugarpaste and use this to cover the cake drum. Trim the edges with a sharp knife. Then smooth the board.
  2. Use the edge of a ruler to mark a grid into the soft sugarpaste. Allow the board to dry out,  ideally overnight.
  3. Cover the cake with a layer of buttercream ensuring you cover the sides completely. Put the cake  in the fridge to 5-10 minutes to allow the buttercream to firm up a bit.
  4. Knead 2lb of sugarpaste until soft, smooth and pliable. Roll the paste out and use to cover the cake. Trim any excess sugarpaste using a pizza cutter as this gives a clean straight edge, tight to the cake and will not tear the icing.
  5. Place the cake onto the prepared board then using the grid on the board as a guide, continue to mark the cake using the edge of a ruler.
  6. Dissolve a little citrus green dusting powder in dipping solution or vodka. (Never be tempted to use water as this will make the sugarpaste become very sticky and difficult to work with) Sponge a base coat of the citrus green all over the cake.
  7. Repeat this process with darker shades of green. I used apple green then a light to coat of forest green. If some of the grid lines are lost, simply use the edge of the ruler to redefine them. Set aside and allow to dry.
  8. Whilst the cake is drying you can make the figures and decorations. Firstly knead into some sugarpaste a little CMC or gum tragacanth to create a modelling paste.
  9. I coloured some of the paste pink and used this to create a pig. This is simply four cubes for the feet, a larger block for the body and a medium-sized block for the head. It was held together using dried spaghetti and edible glue. You may need to prop something under the head until the glue sets. I added character to the pig by painting on toe nails, a tail and a very simplistic face.
  10. The creeper was made from two blocks of paste for the feet, a long flattened block for the body and a large block for the head. I found it necessary to insert a dowel into the body of the creeper to prevent it from leaning or collapsing. To colour the creeper I coloured the sugarpaste pale grey before modelling it then sponged the whole model with a spring green colour and then a light beige. Painting the face and feet completed it.
  11. Red sugarpaste was used to make the TNT block. I marked 9 sticks using a ruler, added small grey square to represent the top of each stick then wrapped a strip of white paste around the block. Painting TNT in black completed it.
  12. The railcar carrying the birthday cake was simply a small block of grey paste with black circles added for wheels. The cake was a block a brown paste with a thin layer of white paste on top with a shaped edge. I then finished it off with hand painted pink squares on the top.
  13. I added a simple track to the edge of the board and the Happy Birthday, Josh to the top of the cake. Adding a red ribbon to the edge of the cake drum completed the cake.

 

My son assures me that any fan of Minecraft will “get it”. This game has so  many items in it that I was spoilt for choice as to what to include on the cake. This is my first attempt at a Minecraft cake and I’m sure if I do another one that I might alter how I do it and what I include but for a first attempt it is not too bad.

Let me know how you get on if you have a go at making it.

Ali xx