Month: December 2011

Why I don’t love shortbread (Part two)

Shortbread is a sticky subject!

So, yesterday I made shortbread biscuits. The reason I made them was to test that they would work as individual biscuits. I have had some shortbread nightmares recently when trying to do one big tray/mould bake.

My friend Astrid emailed me :
“ I’ve been trying to perfect my shortbread technique and it’s not going too badly (I find the rubbing technique works much better than creaming for me) but I wanted to use a mould I bought in a cook shop in Scotland and it’s not working: the dough sticks to the mould (it’s ceramic) and twice now I’ve had to scrape it off with a spatula, which defeats the object of having a patterned mould in the first place! Is there a different recipe I can use or a way of doing it so this doesn’t happen?”

So I set about finding a recipe that I thought would work best in a ceramic mould (I also treated myself to a cute Scottish Shortbread mould from Lakeland- thistles and all!) And used the shortbread recipe from yesterday which is here.

Round one

Grease the mould well

I used ‘Cake release’ which is a great non stick product (that I use with a lot of success with cakes) and applied it to the ceramic mould with a pastry brush so I could get into all the nooks and crannies.

Press the shortbread dough into the mould

To make the dough I used the rubbing method that Astrid used, popped it in the fridge for an hour then pressed it into mould.

The full mould

and baked it in the oven until it was a light golden brown colour.

Baked to perfection

But it didn’t work!  It got well and truly stuck. Even scraping won't get it out!

Round two

So, I tried again!
This time I blended the ingredients in the food mixer, creaming the butter and the sugar together before I added the dry ingredients. I chilled the dough overnight, greased the mould with butter and dusted it with plain flour, removing any excess.Butter and flour the mould
Then I rolled out the dough and pressed it into the mould lightly and baked it. Guess what? It got stuck again. It did taste good though – I tried to remove the shortbread  with a spatula and little pieces popped out. Don’t worry, none went to waste. It still won't come out!

Round three

Okay, so by now I was getting pretty annoyed. Why is it sticking? What am I doing wrong? I searched on Google and I messaged every Twitter foodie I could find. No one came up with any better ideas than the ones I had already tried. So I thought I’d go straight to the experts in baking equipment. I spoke to Lakeland direct!  Their advice was….

“Use a slightly lower heat and cook a little longer, to prevent sticking. The dough needs to be firmly pressed into the mould. It should be a toasty light brown when cooked. Be sure to let the shortbread cool in the pan before trying to remove.”

Well I decided I would give it one final shot using all their advice. And here’s the result!

I buttered the mould (or should I say caked it in butter?)

Rolled out the shortbread, placed it in the mould and pressed it into place. Baked it, left it to cool, placed it back in the fridge for an hour or so and….


it STILL got stuck!!!!

So, I’m stumped! Do you have a clever trick for getting shortbread out of a ceramic mould? What’s the knack! If you can shed any light/ experience/ help,  we (Astrid and I) would love to hear your tips! Please post a comment below.

Many thanks,





I love this Shortbread recipe (Part 1)

Shortbread biscuits make my mouth water!

Shortbread biscuits

I do love short bread, but I have also come to dislike it quite a lot too! (more on that in Part 2 tomorrow!)

Last week Beau, Darcey and I made a load of vanilla cookies to give as Christmas gifts. One was for our brilliant postie. He’s great and since going freelance in March I now have a lot of  heavy post including four magazine subscriptions Tim also has two, tons of press releases, books to review and products to test, so we keep him really busy and fit.

When he delivers he normally opens the porch door to drop the pile of post inside, so we left his tip and the cookies in that spot for him to find on his early morning rounds. The problem was that the post that day was just small letters and was put through the letterbox. The gift was still there waiting in the evening. And the same thing happened the next day! Then it was Christmas and there was no post for days and the vanilla cookies were not going to taste their best! So we have made him these shortbread biscuits instead.

Beau and Darcey are currently sitting by the living room window looking out for him as I type, so that we don’t miss him again!


225g Plain flour

100g Semolina

225g butter (at room temperature)

100g Caster Sugar

30g granulated sugar

To make the shortbread biscuits

Line baking tins with baking paper and set aside in the fridge. Heat the oven to 160°C, Fan 140°C, Gas Mark 3.

The ingredients

Measure out the butter and sugar into your mixing bowl and sift the flour and semolina into another bowl.

 Mix the butter and sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together until light in colour.

Add the flour and semolina

Add the dry ingredients and blend again.

Mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl

Continue to mix until the dough is formed and comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Wrap in cling film

Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for an hour in the fridge.

Roll out the dough

Knead the dough as little as possible then roll it out. Use some plain flour to stop it sticking. Cut out your biscuits and give them a little space on the baking tin the shortbread will spread a little bit.
Use a fork to make holes in the biscuits

Use a fork to make holes to ensure that the biscuits cook right through. This method is usually for when you bake one large biscuit to be cut up later in a cake tin and the shortbread is much thicker, but I liked the pattern it made with the cookie cutter.

sprinkle sugar on top

Sprinkle sugar over the cookies.This will almost disappear on the shortbread but adds to the look and taste! I used granulated but you can use brown, cinnamon or Demerara sugar too.

Leave to cool

Pop the shortbread cookies in the oven for 20 minutes or until they are a pale golden brown colour. Then remove from the oven and leave for a few minutes before transferring them onto a rack to cool completely. Try to resist eating them whilst still hot. I can’t! I love them straight out of the oven!

Shortbread cookies gift bag

We placed the cooled shortbread into a zip-lock bag so that they were air tight (they need to be kept in an air tight container and also should be eaten within 2 days – this shouldn’t be a problem!) and then placed them into a paper gift bag tied with ribbon and mini baubles. I know Christmas is over but better late than never!  I hope he likes them!

More shortbread fun tomorrow!


Boobalars with Grandma Joan

Channuka treats at the family get together

Grandma Joan

What’s a Boobalar?

I know what you’re thinking. Boobalar is what Jewish Grandmother’s call their grand kids as they hug them and squeeze their chubby cheeks. Well it is, but it’s also the name of these delicious treats. I have searched high and low and scoured Google to find out what the real/ Jewish name is for these yummy Boobalars but I couldn’t find them anywhere. If you know what they are called please pop a comment below and end my curiosity! Thanks


Yesterday was the last day of Channuka.  Each year we take it in turns to host our family gathering and this year we met up at my brother’s house. The grown-ups do the Channuka Armadillo (our version of Secret Santa meets Ross from Friends!) and the kids get presents from everyone and of course we light our Menorahs (candle holders).

It’s traditional to eat fried food during Channuka to remind us of the oil that kept the everlasting light burning in the temple in days of old. The traditional cake for Channuka is donuts.  I tried to make donuts a few years ago when we were hosting at my house – lets just say I’ve never lived it down and I am still trying to remove the concrete like batter from my hob to this day! So, yesterday my mum made bubbalars (pronounced boo-bah-lars) for us all. They are seriously yummy, or as my four-year old nephew Asher kept saying when he was eating them “Yummy in my tummy!”

They are a kind of dounut but a bit softer and squidgier and taste amazing when you eat them hot out of the pan. We tear them up and dip the pieces in cinnamon flavoured sugar. I decided to take snap shots as Mum made them so I could share them with you. The only problem was that mum can make them without measuring anything out (She’s a proper Jewish mum!!) So, I had to make some more this morning so I could  measure the ingredients out and I could share them with you. Well really I wanted some more but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!


(Makes 12 Boobalars)

2 eggs

225ml water

110g matzo meal (this is fine crumbs made from Matzo crackers. It’s available in Waitrose or from Ocado)

300ml sunflower oil (or enough that the Boobalars will float in your pan)

30g granulated sugar

1 tea spoon cinnamon

How to make Boobalars

Add some water

Crack open the eggs into a bowl and add the water. My mum watches to see how it looks to get the right consistency.I measure everything!

Mix up the water and eggs till they are well blended.

Add the matah meal

Add the matzo meal and mix until it forms a fluid batter.

heat the oil

Heat the oil in a pan. This is where my brother was very proud of his Alessi saucepan. I used a deep frying pan today which cooked them much quicker. Either will do the job just make sure you use plenty of oil so the Boobalars don’t touch the bottom.

drop the batter into the oil

When the oil is hot carefully place a spoonful of batter into the oil.

let them bubble awayUse two spoons – one heaped with the batter and the other to encourage it off the spoon.

leave to go golden brown

Leave them to bubble away. They only take a few minutes on each side. Mum’s one’s popped over by themselves when they were ready but mine didn’t (probably due to the differences in the amount of oil they were in) Turn them over when they look slightly cooked at the edges. Take care not to over cook them or they become very heavy. They should be golden brown.

place in an egg box

Mum swears by placing deep-fried food (including her amazing fish balls) to drain  in an old egg carton. They suck up the excess oil much better than kitchen paper. She has a stack of them in her kitchen cupboard at the ready. You can always use kitchen paper on a plate though.

cinnamon sugar

To make the dipping sugar simply place the cinnamon in a bowl with the sugar and mix it with a spoon. We always add tons of cinnamon as we love it!

Now all that’s left to do is tear them up, dip them in the cinnamon sugar and enjoy.

We set the kids up on Sara’s little table and they all gobbled their Boobalars right up. It was actually difficult to get them to stop eating in order to take this picture.

Happy cousins
Beau and Darcey with their cousins Sara and Asher. Note there are no Boobalars left on the serving plate!
The Whole family
The Whole family

I couldn’t resist sharing with you the family picture we took at the end of the day. I love celebrating with my family. We do it often and there is always food and fun involved!


My one stop shop for Christmas recipes is…..

Woman and Home’s

‘Feel Good Food magazine’

Now, you might think that I am biased about this particular magazine as not only did I work for Woman and Home for nine years, and I know the food team at Feel Good Food (or FGF as we call it!) and I also write the table setting pages for each issue, but I’m not biased at all!

As you may know I am Jewish and as Tim is Christian so I get to celebrate all the religions festivals for both sides of our families. It’s the fact that I eat a practically vegetarian diet ( as I keep Kosher) and am always on the lookout for new cakes and cookies to bake makes this quarterly mag like food porn.

The Food Team

The Food team at Woman & Home are Jane Curran and Rebecca Smith and they are my food guru’s. I used to sit opposite Jane in the Woman & Home offices and I would throw all sorts of baking queries at her and she could fire back the most complicated response in an instant. I was always impressed. Their recipes are seriously impressive, yet easy to follow and very impressive for a dinner party.

Bex is the foodie behind the food blog I love reading this as it’s like she’s still sitting next to me in the office and we are chatting about food like we always used to. Bex’s brownies are the best I have ever tasted. I’m taking them to the New Year’s eve party we are going to this year. She taught me about adding a little salt in chocolate recipes. “Salt!” I thought. But try it. Just add a pinch.You’ll never look back!

Her most recent post is about getting the timing right for your Christmas dinner – turkey and all. I’m so glad I am the baker in my house and not the cook, but check out her advice here.

Feel Good Food Magazine

Feel Good Food Magazine

Whenever a new issue of FGF came out I would read it on the train home. Just to warn you, this is not the magazine to read on a train when you are hungry! It will make your mouth water.  I always want to make the veggie options as they are always proper meals. None of that tasteless nut loaf rubbish here.

From this issue I’m making  the Vegetable potato pie which is packed full of sweet potatoes (which I love) my fav veggies and all sorts of great flavours  (a must for any veggie meal)

Feel Good Food Magazine

I love how these ‘Home made gifts’ are packaged up. These truffles look melt in the mouth! (actually I know that they are as I’ve eaten Jane’s truffles before!)

Feel Good Food Magazine

I asked Tim what I should take to his parents for Christmas day this year. I wanted to make the roulade ( as I’ve never made one before and I love them) but he reminded me that his dad likes to make one (from a FGF recipe from a few years ago) so I should make this layered chocolate cake instead. He loves Chocolate cake. The recipe states that it will keep in the fridge for 3 days. Yeah right! This will be scoffed in one sitting at the MT household if me and Tim have anything to do with it!

So, if you are stuck for the perfect recipe and still need some inspiration this is the only mag you’ll need. I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s inside. There’s over 101 recipes in here! It’s available in supermarkets, news agents , but I always pick mine up in M&S.


Extra Chocolatey Christmas Pudding Cookies

The perfect Christmas cookie gift

My good friend Kathryn is popping over today with gifts for the girls. She is one of my oldest friends and always buys them a gift for Christmas. She’s so generous. We always buy her a birthday present (her birthday is in January – it’s one of those funny set ups) but I thought it would be lovely to give her some home made Christmas cookies as a little treat when she comes for lunch today. I know she loves chocolate. I mean who doesn’t? I decided to make extra chocolatey cookies and give them a Christmas touch. These cookies are pretty quick and easy to make, but they do need to be left over night to harden.  


Makes around 30 biscuits (enough to give and to ‘test’)

  • 200g unsalted butter- at room temperature
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 egg – at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • Green and red sugar paste for the holly

To make the biscuits

  • Heat your oven to 160° and line a baking sheet with baking paper.Put all the ingredients into the bowl
  • Place all the ingredients into a bowl in one go and mix until just blended, then use your hands to form a soft dough.
  • This mixture is quite sticky so it needs to chill in the fridge for at least an hour or you’ll end up with a sticky mess! Wrap the dough in cling film first so it doesn’t dry out.Wrap and chill the dough
  • When you are ready to roll out the dough, take a little out of the fridge at a time so it doesn’t get too warm and handle it as little as possible. Also, try not to use too much flour when rolling out as it will remain on the baked biscuits. I used a 2 ½ inch circle cutter to create the round cookies and used spacers to ensure each cookie was the same size. Pop them in the oven for 12 minutes or when the edges start to go darker.Cut out the circle cookies
  • Leave to cool completely on a wire rack once baked.Leave the cookies to cool off

To decorate the chocolate cookies

  • Roll out a small amount of green icing and use a holly leaf cutter (available at Cake craft or hobbycraft shops) to cut out 1, 2 or 3 leaves for each cookie. Set aside to dry a little, then roll out tiny balls of red sugarpaste. When you have enough press the bottom of the leaves together to secure. Add the berries to the base. If they don’t stick use a tiny amount of water or edible glue to position them.Cut out holly and roll the berries
  • Set aside to dry for 10 minutes or so, so you‘ll be able to handle them when you want to put them on the cookies. It’s a good idea to place some baking paper on the plate so the sugarpaste doesn’t get stuck.The holly
  • For the top of the Christmas pudding melt the white chocolate in the microwave in a non metallic bowl. I blast it for 30 seconds at a time so it doesn’t burn. Stir between each session till there are no lumps. I have a new toy (more on that next week) it’s a Lekue decopen which is a silicon icing tool. It’s perfect for holding hot melted chocolate without burning your hands and allows me to control where I ‘ice’. You can easily use a plastic icing bag with a nozzle though. If you don’t have either you could use a small spoon but it might take a bit of patience to do it that way!  Create an outline of the dribbling icing at the top of each pudding  then fill in the space with the chocolate.Melt the chocolateAdd the white chocolate topping
  • You can simply add the holly at this stage as the cookies look really cute. But for a ‘death by chocolate cookie’ melt the dark chocolate and create the bottom half of the pudding in the same way as the top. Then add the holly and leave to dry overnightReady to serve

Top tip: When adding the melted chocolate remember that it has a tendency to run so don’t ‘ice’ too close to the edge of the cookie or it will dribble off the side of the cookie and you won’t want to give it as a gift – you’ll have to eat it yourself!!! Wrapped up cookies



Christmas tree cookies- The quick and easy way

Christmas Tree cookiesThe cookie gift of giving

This weekend the girls are going to a Christmas party for the whole of Year One. I offered to make some cookies for the big event- this is our first Chrimbo party of the season so my first baking session (there are lots more planned!) I decided that as I need to make 40 cookies I needed to have a plan that would be really easy. In all they took in about 2 hours to make. Not bad for so many!

To make the Christmas tree cookies

You will need

1 x Vanilla cookie dough (see here for recipe to make around 30 cookies)

Rolling pin

Spacing sticks

icing sugar to dust

sugarpaste in green

cookie cutter

new damp sponge / damp kitchen roll will do

Spatula / cookie lift

To make the cookies
Cut out the Christmas tree cookie

Roll out the dough between two spacing sticks to ensure that each cookie is exactly the same. Cut out as many trees as you can. Avoid over kneading the dough as it makes the texture tough.

The more cool the dough is, the less the cookie will spread when being baked. Load up the baking trays and pop them in the fridge for a while if the dough has become too soft.

Vanilla cookies straight out of the oven

Then bake the cookies until the edges start to brown and your whole kitchen smells like vanilla. Around 12-15 minutes. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

To ice the cookies, roll out a thin layer of green sugarpaste(about 3-5mm thick) Use the same tree cookie cutter to cut out each piece of sugarpaste. If the dough was cold going into the oven the cookies shouldn’t have spread too much and the green tree shaped icing will fit on top perfectly. To make sure that the icing stays put place it on a new damp sponge or dampen a piece of kitchen paper. Don’t let the sugarpaste get soggy.

Lay the sugarpaste on a Christmas tree cookie

Position the sugarpaste over the cookie. It may need a bit of tweaking to make it fit but it’s malleable at this stage and can be made to fit quite easily. Smooth down any icing that goes over the edge of the cookie as once it has dried it will be brittle and will break off.

 Smooth the icing with the palm of your hand

Once in position smooth the sugarpaste with the palm of your hand then set aside to harden up a little. I leave them overnight.

Decorating the Christmas tree cookies

There are so many options when it comes to what you can then do to decorate these Christmas tree cookies. I did a load of different ideas but the world is your oyster.

What you'll need

I made up a small amount of royal icing to make the balls and sprinkles stick. I used my new toy, the Leuke Decomax icing kit (more to come on that later) silver and pearl balls, red edible glitter and multicoloured sprinkles.

ice lines for the decorations

I iced lines of royal icing across the tree.

silver or multi colour decs!

Diagonal lines worked much better than straight ones!

Add the Sprinkles to the Christmas tree cookies

Then I added the sprinkles. These ones were from the supermarket and looked so much better than I expected.

The glitter worked well too but made a lot of mess! Once dry I had to dust off in between the lines of glitter with a paint brush.

Add the balls

Individual dots of icing were great for holding the silver balls in place. On some I made the dots of royal icing bigger, added a ball and then added sprinkles on top. These were my favorite ones!

I had to do these when my daughters weren’t around or I wouldn’t have got a look in! It is so much fun to do.

Once you have finished decorating the cookies leave them overnight to dry, then bag them up in cellophane bags with festive ribbons. They make the perfect personal Christmas gift.

I can’t wait to take these to the party on Saturday!

What are you baking for gifts this Christmas? I’d love to know.

Christmas tree cookies

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