Snickerdoodles – the taste and smell of Christmas

Christmas eve is a strange day, and kids especially are over excited and bored. A bit of Christmas baking keeps them occupied. Even if you don’t have kids, it’s a nice way to get into the Christmas spirit, and your house will smell fabulous.

Snickerdoodles, the crack cocaine of cookies.

Many years ago I lived in Germany, where I was introduced to the crack cocaine of all Christmas baking, the snickerdoodle.

These are soft, chewy, buttery little cookies that are rolled in sugar and cinnamon before going to the oven. While in the oven the sugar and cinnamon melts and crisp up around the already delicious cookie.

I sincerely apologise in advance for any weight gained as a result of these cookies. I know there is a lot of butter and sugar, but it is Christmas after all ( these are delicious at any time of year though, and work really well as a base for a scoop of vanilla ice cream too)

Little balls of cookie dough are rolled in cinnamon and sugar before baking.

Please do try them though, they smell absolutely heavenly, and you can always off load the extras (as if), on friends and family. These live very happily in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Ingredients

For the cookies

370 Grams Plain flour

2 Tsp Baking powder

230 Grams Butter

1/2 Tsp Salt

300 Grams Caster Sugar

2 Eggs

For the coating

50 Grams Caster sugar

1 Tbsp Ground cinnamon

Method

  • Add the flour, salt and baking powder to a bowl
  • In a separate bowl beat the softened butter, and sugar for 2 minutes or until light and sluff
  • Add the eggs one at a time, and the vanilla, then add the flour mix gradually.
  • When all the ingredients have been thoroughly combined, chill in the fridge for an hour to allow the dough to firm up
  • After an hour take mix out of the fridge, and mix the sugar and cinnamon for the coating together in a small bowl
  • Make small balls of cookie dough about the size of a walnut. Roll in the sugar mix
Ball of cookie dough about to be rolled sugar and cinnamon.
  • Place the balls if cookie dough on baking parchment on a cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes in an oven preheated to 200 degrees. Make sure to give them plenty of room to spread od else they stick together
  • Remove from the oven and allow to sit on the baking sheet for another 10 minutes

Super Simple Shortbread

Sweet, buttery and delicious.

I love shortbread, but I had horrendous flashbacks of trying make it in Home Economics class in school. It was a nightmare to roll out, stuck to the counter top, and was impossible to cut out and transfer to the tin neatly.

All this changed, when I discovered this recipe from the amazing women who run the The Edible Flower, in Ballyinahinch. This recipe is incredibly easy, doesn’t need to be rolled out, and is easy to cut into neat fingers for serving. These also make lovely little gifts if you fancy them up in a nice bag, or tin.

Who doesn’t love someone who turns up with a sweet treat.

Ingredients

315 Grams Butter

350 Grams Self raising flour

120 Grams Caster sugar (plus a little extra to dust the finished shortbread with)

120 Grams Corn flour

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 1/2 Tsps Cinnamon (optional)

If you’re a complete neat freak you can use a ruler to make sure all your shortbread is cut to the same size. As you can see, mine aren’t quite perfect.

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 140 degrees
  2. Melt the butter in a pam over a low heat, or in a microwave in short bursts
  3. Weigh out all your other ingredients in a bowl and add the melted butter
  4. Mix until it is a soft dough, making sure there are no floury bits
  5. Press the dough into a 20cm x 30cm Swiss roll tin. You can smooth the top with a palette knife if you want it completely smooth, but don’t worry if you don’t
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes. Once cooked, cut into fingers, while still warm. Sprinkle lightly with a little caster sugar
  7. Makes 28 large or 56 small fingers of shortbread. This shortbread freezes really well, and also makes really nice gifts for people

Macarons with Chocolate Ganache Filling

Yummy and dangerously addictive.

Anyone one who follows this blog will probably have guessed that I usually don’t do dainty.

But trapped in the house on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I decided to rustle up something different . Macarons are cute little almond meringue cookies, and can have a variety of fillings including butter cream or jam. I have used chocolate ganache, which sounds fancy but is basically just cream and chocolate.

If you’ve seen macarons for sale they can come in a variety of rainbow colours, and can be eye wateringly expensive. This is a bit of a rip off considering that while they might be a bit fiddly they’re not especially difficult to make. They also make great gifts.

Always handy for gifts.

Ingredients

For the mcarons

210 Grams Icing sugar

95 Grams Ground almonds

3 Egg whites (at room temperature)

50 Grams Caster sugar

1/2 Tsp Vanilla paste

Food colouring (this is optional, but it does help them look nice. I would recommend using gel or powdered food colouring)

For the ganache

100 Grams Dark chocolate

150 Grams Double cream

Method

  1. Add the icing sugar and ground almonds to a food processor and whizz for a couple of minutes
  2. Sieve the sugar and almonds into a bowl, and discard any bits of almond that don’t go through the sieve
  3. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until they form soft peaks Gradually add the caster sugar, vanilla and food colouring until you have stiff peaks (you’ve probably saw on cooking shows when the cook holds the bowl over their head and nothing moves)
  4. Start to fold in the sugar and almond mix with a spatula or large metal spoon in small batches
  5. When fully combined, transfer the batter into a piping bag
  6. On a sheet of baking paper, mark out circles about 3cm each. Put a dot of the batter on the four corners of a baking sheet and lay the baking paper on top (this will help it stay in place)
  7. Pipe a blob of the batter on the pre drawn circles until you have used up all the mix. I ended up using 2 baking trays
  8. Once you have piped all the mcarons, lift the trays a couple of inches and tap it down on the counter to get out any air bubbles. If you have any little tails of batter sticking up after piping, wet you finger and flatten them (it will stop them burning)
  9. Allow the macarons to sit out for 30 minutes, this helps them set and forms a skin
  10. Bake in an oven preheated to 150 degrees for 17 minutes, cool before filling
  11. To make the ganache, break the chocolate into small bits and put in a microwave bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave (blast for 30 seconds at a time, be sure not to burn)
  12. When the chocolate is melted, add the cream and stir until properly combined, allow to cool
  13. When the ganache is cool, take a palette knife and spread the filling on the underside of a macaron the sandwich with another. Continue until all the macaron halves have been sandwiched together

Easy Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Easy Apple and Cinnamon Cake

This is a great easy to make cake that will make your kitchen smell great. More importantly it tastes really good. I mean apple and cinnamon, of course it going to taste fantastic.

One of the ingredients is yoghurt, which helps keep the cake moist and light. The crunchy sugar and cinnamon topping makes it extra delicious.

Dry ingredients and apple chunks

Ingredients

1 Large eating apple (peeled, cored, and cut into 1.5 cm chunks

2 eggs

2 Tsp Baking powder

1/2 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

200 Gram Caster sugar

210 Gram Plain flour

120ml Vegetable oil

120ml Natural yoghurt

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1 Tbsp Melted butter

Cake batter sprinkled with the sugar and cinnamon mix.

Method

  1. Set you oven to heat to 180 degrees, and line a 9in baking tin with grease proof paper
  2. In one bowl, add all your dry ingredients (except the cinnamon), and the chopped apple. Hold back 2 tablespoons of sugar in a separate bowl
  3. In a separate bowl add the yoghurt, oil, and eggs. Mix the ingredients, this will look like it’s split but don’t panic it’s fine
  4. Pour the cake batter into the baking tin
  5. You should still have 2 tablespoons of sugar in a bowl. Add the melted butter, and cinnamon to this and mix
  6. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mix over the top of the cake batter, and bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean from the cake

Pear and Ginger Upside Down Cake

Sticky delicious caramel, soft juicy pear, and a light sponge with a gentle hum of ginger.

It’s that time of year, frosty mornings, long dark nights and cravings for comfort food.

This cake is perfect with custard as a dessert, or just enjoy a slice along with a cup of tea or coffee.

Use pears that are not too soft and mushy, so they will stay in tact during baking.

Yummy as a tea time treat.

Ingredients

For the caramel

1 Orange (juice, keep the zest for the sponge)

60 Grams Butter

330 Grams Brown sugar

For the cake

4 Pears

1 Tsp Ground ginger

3 Eggs

375 Grams Plain flour

2 1/2 Tsp Baking powder

220 Grams Sugar

250 ml Vegetable oil

125 ml Milk

Method

  1. Add the sugar, butter, and orange juice to a pan. Bring to boil, ans simmer for 2-3 minutes until caramel begins to thicken. Allow to cool slightly
  2. Add the sugar, oil, orange zest, eggs to a bowl and with an electric whisk until throughly combined
  3. Then add the flour, baking powder, and groung ginger gradually. Half way through adding the other ingredients add the milk.
  4. Whisk until the batter is thoroughly combined
  5. Peel and core the pears, cut into thick slices or quarters . Arrange in the bottom of a well greased 9 inch spring form cake tin
  6. Cover the pears with the caramel, then add the cake batter on top.
  7. Bake in an oven preheated to 220 degrees for 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 180 degree and bake for a further 55 minutes, or until a skewer comes cleanly out of cake.
  8. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin

Barm Brack

Plump juicy fruit loaf with a hint of orange and spice. Yummy with butter, and is also amazing toasted.

Halloween is a big thing in Ireland. Before all the commercialised plastic jack o laterns, fake cobwebs and Americanised trick or treating, Holloween was an ancient Celtic festival. According to legend Halloween was the night your ancestors souls returned to earth. Mischief and mishaps could occur, and there is also sorts of folklore that changes depending on where you go in the country.

Barm back (bairin breac in Irish, and apologies to all Irish speakers if I’ve misspelled this) was traditionally eaten at this time. This roughly translates as speckled loaf. The loaf is speckled with raisins and sultanas plump from being soaked in tea. There are stories that people would include different items and if you got it in your slice of the bread that would be your fortune for the year. These included things like if you got a ring you would get married, a dried pea meant you would stay single, and piece of cloth foretold poverty. There are various recipes, some use yeast, this one doesn’t and is much more straightforward. I used ordinary tea in this recipe, but you can also use teas like Earl Grey, or fruit teas. Some people include treacle, but I don’t like it so I left it out. The grated orange zest isn’t traditional but it’s what I like.

Ingredients

275 Grams Raisins

100 Grams Sultana

50 Grams Mixed peel (some supermarkets sell mixed fruit, so you can just total up to 425 Grams and use this instead)

300ml Black tea

200 Grams Brown sugar

225 Grams Self raising flour

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp Nutmeg

1 egg

Grated zest of 1 orange

Line your baking tin with parchment paper, or else grease the tin well

Method

  1. The night before you make the barm brack, make 300ml of black tea. I just added a tea bag to hot water for a couple of minutes, don’t let it stew for too long or it will get bitter. You don’t need to leave this overnight, but try to leave it at least 3-4 hours
  2. In a bowl, add the sugar, flour, spices and orange zest and combine. Add an egg and then add the tea and soaked fruit and mix well.
  3. Transfer to a round 8 inch baking tin and bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 90 mins. Because there is quite a lot sugar in this loaf, it goes quite dark. This is how it’s meant to be, but about half way through I cover the top with some tin foil to stop it taking on too much colour before it’s fully cooked.

Date and Walnut Wheaten Bread

Tell me whats not to like about bread still warm from the oven, and smeared with butter.

One of my favourite places to visit in Northern Ireland is Newcastle Co. Down. There are lots of things to love, breathtaking scenery, amusement arcades, seaweed baths, a lovely promenade, and the world class Tollymore forest Park. I visited recently and tried to find a little bakery that used to sell the most amazing date and walnut wheaten bread. Sadly the shop is gone but the visit inspired me to come up with a version of it which isn’t half bad.

The perfect mix of sweet and savoury.

This bread is great just sliced and slavered in butter/jam. It’s also savoury enough to taste great when topped with cheese, or along side soup. You can also devide the bread mix into eight to make little wheaten rolls.

Ingredients

275 Grams Plain flour

200 Grams Wholemeal flour

175 Grams Dates (chopped)

75 Grams Walnuts (chopped)

50 Grams Butter (melted)

1 Egg

1 Tsp Baking soda

1/4 Tsp Salt

250ml Buttermilk (I didn’t have buttermilk, so you can improvise as I did. I used normal milk and added 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and left it to sit for 10 minutes)

Simple round loaf with a cross cut across the centre

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
  2. Add the flours, walnuts, dates, salt and baking soda to a bowl and combine
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add the egg, and melted butter. Add the milk a little at a time until you have quiet a moist dough.I like to use my hands to mix the ingredients, but you can also use a wooden spoon.
  4. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, and shape into a circle, around 14-16cm in diameter
  5. Put the loaf onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut a cross across the loaf, about a third of the depth of the loaf
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, check the loaf is ready by tapping the bottom to makes it sounds hollow