Biscuit, Sweet

Half an hour to make Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

I have finally caught one of the million Spring/Summer colds going around and although I feel a tiny bit sorry for myself, I have done pretty well in being able to avoid having one for a while.
So today after getting the little-ist Baker down for her afternoon nap I wanted to do a bit of baking but nothing that took any brain power, or arm power as neither really felt up for the challenge.

A lot of people like peanut butter, including the little-ist baker so I have very recently bought it for the first time.

As it is an ingredient I don’t usually own or eat I have never really thought about using it to bake with but I wanted to make some biscuits and thought that peanut butter cookies might be an easy recipe to make. I have never even looked at a recipe for them before but I have heard about them on American shows mainly and thought that if that many people talk about them then they cant be that difficult to make; and luckily I was right.

This recipe from the brilliant chef Paul Rankin is both easy, quick and hardly uses any ingredients at all. Luckily it doesn’t make too many either as these are one cookie I won’t be touching.


Paul Rankin’s Peanut Butter Cookies

I used smooth peanut butter as I don’t have crunchy in and the batter for the mix seemed to come out very well. I am thinking about trying these again but substituting one spoon of flour for cocoa powder and the peanut butter for Nutella.

Quiche/Flan, Sweet

Home made Anise (aniseed) extract

A few months ago I was reading through my Italian cookie cookbook and found there were quite a few recipes which use aniseed extract.

Great, my husband loves aniseed and liquorice flavoured things so I thought it would be a lovely treat for him to make him something with these flavours and I began to look about in shops for aniseed or anise extract to use.  Unfortunately, it seemed to be a very elusive product to buy in a store, so much so that the only way I was going to get it was to buy online or make my own.  Usually I’m a big fan of online shopping as you can always get what you need at a cheap price, but this time I found I was having difficulty. There were two problems: there weren’t many shops selling and the shops that did sell it only sold in bulk orders.  I was left with only one viable option and that was to make it myself.  Luckily I had bought some star anise a while ago from Stratford upon Avon which I always thought would come in handy (but I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it).  Making it was very simple just add star anise and vodka and ta-dah, you’re own extract after waiting just 3 months.  What?! 3 MONTHS! I’m not exactly the most patient person but I had no choice so in July I bottled it up and waited…until October.  If you’ve been following my life you’ll realise that October was a pretty eventful month as my baby decided it was time to make her appearance into the world.  Unsurprisingly, I never got round to using my extract until now, 6 months after I started it.

I decided to make some Italian anise cookies with it for my husband and I’m really pleased with it. I’m glad after all that time it was worth the wait.


Anise/Aniseed extract Half fill a small air tight jar with Star Anise then pour enough good quality vodka to cover them completely.  Put the lid on and leave for at least 3 months.  Every week (ish) give the jar a gentle shake but do not open till its ready. Its useful to write the date on you started it so you don’t forget.


Anise and Almond CookiesItalian Anise and Almond cookies I used this fab recipe to make the cookies –   Anise and Almond Cookies  They are very authentic Italian in their taste and look very home made when finished, but I think that’s what gives them charm.  I made the cookies without the flavour, then split the batch into two and added the aniseed extract to half and flavoured the other half with Almond. The pink ones are Anise and the purple ones with glitter are Almond.

Biscuit, Sweet

A gingerbread house alternative – 3 generations bake

Last year my parents bought me a gingerbread house mould as a present but unfortunately it was too near to Christmas for me to have the time to make one so this year my dad phoned me up and asked if I wanted to come round with the littlest happy baker and we’d bake the gingerbread house together.

My dad said he doesn’t like gingerbread, and i’m not particularly keen so we decided to make a gingerbread house out of non-gingerbread!  As my husband calls it a …house.

My dad suggested we try using shortbread but I thought this might be brittle so I decided we would just use a gingerbread recipe and instead of the ginger we would substitute it for cinnamon and I would make the roof out of shortbread to see if it is ok to use.  I am glad that in the end we went for a majority gingerbread mix because the shortbread was very heavy and brittle, like I thought.

My dad did get a little bored at one point and took the littlest baker out for a drive whilst I finished off baking the roof.

I left the decorating and building of the house to my dad, who was armed with white chocolate buttons and a bag of Harribo.  I think in my dads head he was going to make a really cool looking house with puffing smoke and windows – just like he had seen on the fabulous baker brothers christmas special program – what he actually made was this:

Alternative Gingerbread House

Well, the decorating is a little wonky but we had a good laugh making it and the good news is that today when we eat it, it should taste lovely.

We will definitely have to try again next year as it was lots of fun to do and not too difficult to make and the littlest baker likes the look of it (she’s wearing her Italy football shirt)

Alice admiring house


Alternative Gingerbread House

I used Rachel Allens’ recipe which can be found here for the walls – Gingerbread House and substituted the ground ginger for two tsp cinnamon and 1tsp Nutmeg

I used my 3,2,1 shortbread recipe for the roof

Pastry, Sweet

Crumbly sweet shortcrust pastry – my mom’s recipe.

I think I have said before but my mom is the person who makes the best pastry in the world so when I helped my dad out with some Christmas baking, I was pleased to see my mom had left the recipe for sweet shortcrust pastry.

I looked online this morning for a good recipe but I couldn’t settle on one that I felt was right.  Pastry is one of them things that either works really well and is lovely and crumbly, or it tastes of rubber.

My mom’s recipe isn’t suitable for everyone as it contains lard, but I think this is what makes it taste so good.  I remember my mom being really worried a couple of years ago that there was going to be a lard shortage near Christmas so she panicked and we ended up having loads in the fridge.  I think it took her ages to get through it all and the great lard shortage didn’t seem to happen on such a grand scale as my mom worried about, probably because she is one of only a few people who actually buys it!

Anyway, with the pastry I made both mince pies and apple pies.  The apple pies are for my little sister (little being 25 years old) who doesn’t like mincemeat.  I used a mincemeat jar I have been saving for a while, it has dark chocolate in.  My dad, being “the official mince pie straight out of the oven tester”, said he couldn’t taste any different to normal – maybe it wasn’t really worth saving.


My mom’s crumbly sweet shortcrust pastry

8oz plain flourMince and Apple Pies
8oz Self raising flour
6oz Margarine
2oz Lard
3tbsp Sugar
1 medium egg beaten
1tbsp Milk
1-2tbsp Water (if needed)

In a bowl put the flour, margarine, sugar and lard and mix until looks like bread crumbs.
Beat the egg and milk together in a separate bowl and combine to the other mix. It should start to hold together as a dough, if a little dry add a couple of tbsp of water.

To use, try not to ‘play’ with it too much, by rolling it out over and over again, as this adds extra flour and can make it a little tough but it is a pretty durable pastry so great for kids to use.

*I use mom instead of mum as I am from a place near to the Black Country which tends to have a little bit of the accent in there without having a complete ‘Yam Yam’ accent.

**Not sure what a Yam Yam is… Understanding Yam Yam

Cupcake, Sweet

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

I was in the kitchen the other morning with the littlest baker and as she fell asleep in her bouncy chair, I thought I’d make some cupcakes.

I decided to do chocolate as I hadn’t made chocolate ones in a really long time and I’ve been a bit of a chocoholic these last few weeks (years!).  I also had a couple of bars of dark chocolate stashed in my baking cupboard so half a bar would make my chocolate chips.

When it came to icing them I thought I’d use a splash of my Moka Varnelli as its just lovely.  It goes well with any kind of cake and dark chocolate cupcakes are no exception.

I made these cupcakes in muffin cases so they are extra large and I only got 9 out of the mix but if you used normal cupcake size then you’d get at least 12 out.


Dark chocolate cupcakes

4oz SugarDark chocolate cupcakes
4oz Margarine
5oz Self Raising Flour
1 large tbsp Cocoa Powder
2 Large Eggs
75g Dark Chocolate

Buttercream
Tbsp Margarine
5tbsp icing sugar
1tbsp cocoa powder
Dash of Moka Varnelli (or any other flavour you fancy)

Preheat the oven to Gas 4 160c

Cream together the sugar and Margarine till it has changed to a pale white colour.

Add an egg and a tablespoon of flour, mix together then do the same with the other egg and flour. This helps the mix not to look like its splitting.

Separate into the cake cases and bake in the oven for at least 20 minutes or until the cake springs back when you gently press on it.

Once cooled whip up the buttercream ingredients together till the mixture is light and fluffy then use to top the cakes.