Sunday, 24 July 2016

Gypsy Sue Creams

A recipe inspired by Gypsy Sue, the fortune teller in Bree McCready and the Realm of the Lost

Junior has returned home from his holiday!

I think it's safe to say he is glad to be 'home sweet home'. Baby the cat was beyond ecstatic to see his boy. It was like a love-fest when Junior walked through the door. Very cute indeed.

I've missed you, crazy boy!
I think Junior missed my home cooking as he texted me all through the week to put in orders for what he wanted to eat when he came home! 

He put in a special request in for Mrs Oxter's Oaty Crumbles as these are his very favourite. But I like to try new things and I was well overdue posting something on the Bake With Bree blog so I made some Gypsy Creams instead. They are similar enough to the Oaty Crumbles to put a smile on my boy's face - more of a biscuit than a flapjack. 

I had also been feeding a friend's cats over the weekend so I made a few extra to leave for their return.

The inspiration for my Gypsy Creams came from a character in the third novel in the Bree McCready series. 

Bree, Sandy and Honey visit a fortune teller called Gypsy Sue at the funfair and get a little more than they bargained for! 

Here is an abridged extract from chapter 1 of Bree McCready and the Realm of the Lost.

'The top half of the wagon door swung open with a creak. A plump lady appeared, her black hair peppered with grey and mostly concealed under a shimmering headscarf.
"I am Gypsy Sue," she smiled, her hoop earrings swinging from side to side.
"Hello," Bree said awkwardly. "Can you tell me my future please?"
Candles and fairy lights lit the inside of the caravan. It was a tiny space, so small that Bree could touch either side without stretching. Bree admired the walls, which were decorated with gold scrollwork and carvings of birds. 
Gypsy Sue gestured to a pack of cards lying face down at the centre of a table.
"Pick them up and shuffle them," she said to Bree with an encouraging nod.
Bree picked up the pack of cards, shuffled them clumsily and put them back, face down. Gypsy Sue fanned them across the table with a graceful sweep of her hand. 
"Now choose one."
Bree pulled a card from the middle of the deck. A skeleton, carrying a black flag emblazoned with a white flower, was riding a horse. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the bold lettering along the bottom.
She dropped it quickly, as if it had burned her fingers."

Here are the ingredients you'll need to make about 10 medium Gypsy Sue Creams.

For the biscuits:

100g of butter
50g of caster sugar
150g of self-raising flour
1 tablespoon of chocolate powder
100g of rolled oats
2 tablespoons of Golden Syrup melted in 1 tablespoon of hot water

For the butter icing:

50g of butter
100g of icing sugar
A few drops of vanilla essence
1 tablespoon of chocolate powder

I used my electric mixer but this recipe can easily be prepared the old fashioned way.


Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees.

 Mix together until light and creamy.

Thank you, big sis for my terrific new mixer!

Sieve the flour and chocolate powder together to get rid of any lumps...

Weigh out the oats...

And melt the syrup in the hot water.

Add the flour, chocolate powder, oats and syrup to the creamed sugar and butter. Mix again for a short while. I did this on 'pulse' as the mixer seemed to struggle a little with the thick mixture. 

It looked like this at the end... 

I did a little stirring with a spatula to make sure all the ingredients were properly combined and then I rolled dollops of the sticky dough into little balls using the palms of my hands.

I then flattened the balls onto a well greased baking tray with the back of a fork. I have to confess to thinking they resembled little hamburgers at this point!

Space them well apart on the tray as they do swell and spread during cooking. 
Bake for a total of 20 minutes. I did 10 minutes - flipped - then another 10 to get a nice even bake. The biscuits will still be soft when they come out of the oven but they will crisp up on the cooling rack.

Don't worry about the cracks as the buttercream will fill these.
While the Gypsy Creams are cooling you can prepare the butter icing. Again, I did this in my mixer but you can just as easily whip this up by hand.

I chilled the butter icing for about half an hour as I find it easier to work with when it's a little more solid.

Wait for the biscuits to cool completely before icing them or the buttercream will slide right off! Spread some of the butter icing over half the biscuits...

 ...then sandwich them together.

Using a fork to press down the dough gives a nice finish
Chill the Gypsy Sue Creams for about an hour (if you can wait that long!) to set the butter icing.

Put the kettle on and enjoy!

I left a few 'open-topped' ones and added some sprinkles

We'll enjoy these a little later when Junior has finished Pokemon hunting with his best mate and my washing machine isn't in overdrive!

Holidays are fun but there's no place like home.

Until next time...


Saturday, 13 February 2016

Valentine's Day Heart Tarts

A recipe inspired by Bree's epic crush on Adam Eastbough...

...and by Valentine's Day 2016
I've been struggling with a bad back for the last few days so I needed some cheering up. I wasn't sure whether I'd manage an ambitious baking project as I'm still in quite a lot of pain so I chose something simple but delicious - something I would be able to make whilst sitting down! Seeing as it's Valentine's Day tomorrow I chose an old favourite, Jam Tarts.
Bree meets Adam Eastbough for the first time in Book 2, "Bree McCready and the Flame of Irenus" and it's safe to say it is love at first sight for her. She keeps her feelings under wraps because she can't imagine someone as gorgeous as Adam ever falling for a girl like her - especially with stunning Alice Renshaw fluttering her eyelashes and flicking her long blonde hair every time he walks past! Adam does show an interest in Bree but she has more pressing issues to think about for a while - not least saving the world!

The following extract was one of my favourite to write and it's perfect for Valentine's Day - love is in the air in this book for more than one character but you'll have to read it to find out who...

It's summer in the second book and Bree and the gang have a party on the rooftop garden to celebrate Annie Hooten's birthday. Bree has no idea that Honey has secretly invited Adam along so when he turns up unexpectedly Bree's heart gives an 'odd little flutter'.

"Bree straightened her clothes when he wasn't looking, combed her thatch of unruly hair with her fingers and took a deep breath. She  felt her mouth dry up as she saw him making his way over to her. Every muscle, every cell in her body seemed suddenly to vibrate, to come alive. She swallowed hard and took a slow, blundering step forward.

"So, how was Alice's party then?" she said.
"Oh, I dunno. It's not really my scene to be honest," Adam replied.
"Great," said Bree with more delight in her voice than she had intended. "Well, I know what you mean. That's not really my scene either."
"Cool. And besides," Adam shrugged, "the view is much better up here."
His eyes seemed to bore through Bree's skin and she felt herself blush. She was suddenly filled with the feeling that she might be standing at the edge of something wonderful.
"Would you like to dance?" asked Adam.
Somehow, in those five words, there was a promise of something, the chance for an entire life to be lived if only she took the chance.
His eyebrows lifted in silent enquiry, his neat white teeth hesitantly nibbled on his lip. Bree could feel the hot beginnings of another blush so she took a moment to compose herself. She looked up at the faint bloom of the moon and the trace of clouds that shifted to reveal an indescribable density of stars. Who knew what those stars had in store for her?"

I like to imagine that nestled amongst the 'banquet of delicious things to eat and drink' at the rooftop party there are some warm and sweet heart tarts.

Here's how to make them:

 200g of plain flour
130g of cold butter
1 heaped tablespoon of icing sugar
1 tablespoon of milk
1 egg yolk
A pinch of patience
A dash of kindness
A spoonful of laughter and
A heap of love 


Weigh out the flour... 

Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl

No lumps.

Weigh out the butter. Do this straight from the fridge as the colder the butter the nicer the result. 

Sieve in a rounded tablespoon of icing sugar and mix. This pastry does not require a lot of sugar since the jam provides the sweetness later on. 

Carefully separate the egg yolk from the white and add the yolk to the flour mixture. Add the milk and stir until everything comes together. Then use your hands to knead into a ball.

Pastry ball

Wrap the ball in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

While you are waiting you can have a quick clear up and prepare for the next step. Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees.

After the dough has chilled for a while roll it out on a lightly floured work surface. 

I always find this dough a pleasure to work with. It rolls beautifully and never cracks or breaks. Roll it out fairly thin as there is a short cooking time and you want the finished tarts to be crispy and golden. Choose a circular cutter a little larger in diameter than the holes in your baking tin.

This recipe provided enough for 12 medium sized round tarts and 24 little love hearts. 

Lightly grease a baking tin with butter

Pop these in the hot oven for approximately 20 minutes. Be careful when you take them out as the jam is like molten lava!

Your kitchen should now smell of love :)

Put the cooked tarts on a cooling rack and leave them to cool completely. Resist the temptation to test one!

When they have cooled you may like to sprinkle a light dusting of icing sugar over the top. I did this with some and left the others plain.

The glass hearts are something I take with me on my author visits. There is a heart theme in my novels after all. I have around a hundred of them and I've never met a child who doesn't get excited whenever I pull the drawstring pouch out of my case. 

There is something about the sound of the glass clicking together, the heaviness of the bag and the thrill of finding out what is inside that sends them wild! I like to have a question and answer session at the end of every presentation and I'll use the hearts as little rewards for anyone who has a question to ask me. I'll get the child to put their hand into the bag without peeking and take a heart out. If they are lucky enough to find a rare red heart then they win a Bree book!

Hearts of Glass

Time for a cuppa

For the love of my life X

I would like to finish this blog post with another excerpt involving Bree and Adam, this time taken from the third book in the series, "Bree McCready and the Realm of the Lost"

Bree is reflecting on her first kiss with Adam. This was fun for me to write as I had to remember my own first kiss. It was a long time ago but some things are hard to forget.

 "The first flush of spring meant it had been warm enough to wear T-shirts with  no coats. They had browsed some gift stalls then stopped for a picnic in the city gardens. The thunder had been unexpected and they had had just enough time to pack away the food before the rain came, great drops that made everything look fresh and green. Adam had grabbed her hand and they had run together, splashing through puddles and laughing. They sheltered under the lowest branches of a spreading oak tree where the air had taken on a different quality - solid, warm and real. Adam's fingertips had grazed her hand lightly. When he smiled, something somersaulted in Bree's stomach before dancing up and down her spine..."

And with that I will leave you with jam on your chins and love in your hearts. May tomorrow be the happiest Valentine's Day imaginable for you all.

P.S Here is a wee extra, seeing as it's about to be the most romantic day of the year. 

My Mum & Dad
Very much in love 

"Love you both