Jam drops (Thumb-print biscuits)

Jam drops

Jam drops are an old-fashioned biscuit that remind me of my childhood any time I see them. They were a standard addition to my lunch boxes throughout our primary school years, and I’m pretty sure they still are for a number of lucky kids today.

I remember that, when I was little, I used to have a ritual of nibbling very slowly around the edge of these biscuits until only the jam-filled centre was left –  leaving the best till last.

These are some of the easiest biscuits you will ever make. They aren’t a cookie. They should be crisp – not soft and cakey like a cookie is. This relative hardness is what makes them such a good lunch box treat as they won’t turn to crumbs during the journey to school.

You can fill them with whatever jam you have and like; strawberry jam is traditional. However, you could also use your own home-made lemon butter and I have used dulce de leche quite successfully. It’s up to you.

You can also make these quite easily with children as your apprentices. If you are in the grips of an ‘OMG it’s the school holidays and they are looking bored, help me!’ panic attack, then here you go. I’ve even included instructions for cleaning up along the way.

You’re welcome.

The first thing to do is to decide which jam you are going to use.

Home made jams

Home made jams

This recipe is ideal for using up the last few teaspoons of a jar that has been lurking unloved in the refrigerator for a while – because no one ever  wants to use that last little bit, do they?

I didn’t have anything that was opened and so I decided to use one of the jars I had put up earlier this year.

The Boy prefers things that aren’t marmalade, so that narrowed it down to the crabapple jam. Easy.

Begin by creaming together the room-temperature butter and the sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Then add a pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla extract and two eggs. Beat again.

Add eggs and flavourings.

Add eggs and flavourings.

In a medium size bowl, sift together some plain flour and baking powder.

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Add the flour to the butter mixture and stir well to combine.

To help keep your kitchen under control, fill the bowl you sifted the flour into with warm water and washing-up liquid/dish soap. Now is the time to put any electric mixer away. Wipe it down (if necessary) and place the beaters in the bowl of water along with any measuring cups and spoons you have used.

Turn your oven on to 180°C/350°F and line a baking tray with paper.

Take small spoonfuls of batter and roll into small balls the size of walnuts…or use a 1″ ice cream scoop, like I do.  Don’t overcrowd the tray as the batter contains butter and will spread as the butter melts…

Using a (well-washed) thumb of a nearby child or the end of a wooden spoon handle, make an indentation in the top of each ball. Don’t go all the way through to the tray.

Make little cups for your jam.

Make little cups for your jam.

Now, carefully spoon a little bit of jam into each dent.  If you are the adult, you may wish to do this or risk having most of the jam licked off fingertips instead of going into your biscuit!

Fill your cups.

Fill your cups.

Bake for 15 to 20 mins until golden brown – check after 10 minutes.

While your first tray is in the oven, prepare your second batch of biscuits and then do the washing up that has been soaking in the bowl of warm sudsy water. You’ll have plenty of time.

Baked jam drops.

Baked jam drops.

Allow to cool on a rack. Remember hot jam can BURN. Do not eat the biscuits until they are properly cool.

If you are the responsible adult, the best answer to the question, “When can we try them can I have one?” is after the last batch is baked. You’ll get at least three trays of eight from this mixture.

The jam when I started...

The jam when I started…

As you put the last batch into the oven, add the bowl and jam spoon to the sink and wash them up. All the washing up is now done. Wipe down the benches while the last tray of biscuits is in the oven.

You probably won’t need to wash the trays if you have been using baking paper. Just let them cool and put them away later. Unless, of course, you are an Outstandingly Conscientious Domestic engineer – in which case, go ahead. Ahem.

Serve with milk or a nice cuppa. Store in an airtight container for as long as you have any left.

This is my mother’s recipe.

Jam Drop Biscuits

  • Servings: makes 24
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

125 g butter, room temperature

¾ cup (165 g) sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

1 cups (300 g) plain flour

2 tsps baking powder

1/3 cup (100 g) jam or jelly of your choice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two baking trays with paper.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Add the salt, vanilla extract and eggs and beat well.

Into a medium-sized bowl sift together the flour and baking powder.

Add the sifted flour to the butter mixture and stir until well combined.

Roll tablespoons of the mixture between your palms to make small balls about the size of a walnut.

Place balls onto prepared baking trays, leaving room for them to spread as they bake.

Use your thumb, or the end of a wooden spoon handle, to make small indentations in the top of each ball.

With a teaspoon, spoon a little jam into each dent – Don’t overfill.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, checking after the first 10 mins. They are done when golden brown.

Allow to cool thoroughly before eating.

Store in an airtight container.

...and the jam left when I was finished.

…and the jam left when I was finished.

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Double Chocolate Cookies.

The Boy's favourite cookies.

These are the cookies that are the way to The Boy’s heart. Every time that I make them for him he gets this far away look in his eyes and lights up like he’s just spotted a litter of kittens.

That’s good, by the way.

This recipe is basically a riff on the Condensed milk chocolate chip cookie recipe I have posted previously. I substitute a few tablespoons of the flour for dutch process cocoa, use chunks instead of chips of chocolate and add a sprinkling of sea salt. It all works.

I shall repeat the recipe with the tweaks in its entirety right here for you though. It will save lots of jumping about – although that may help you to deal with the calories…

It begins with creaming softened butter and caster sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Then you whip in the condensed milk until combined.

Condensed milk joins the mix.

Condensed milk joins the mix.

Measure out your plain flour, add the cocoa ( I use Dutch process, but you don’t have to) and sift together with the baking powder.

Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder.

Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder.

Add the lot to your butter mixture and stir well.

That just looks sinful, doesn't it?

That just looks decadent, doesn’t it?

Now, you may choose to use choc chips for this part of the recipe. I use a ‘family-sized’ block of dark cooking chocolate that I have placed in a paper bag and smashed to smithereens with a meat mallet. If you wish to smash things too then you can use whatever heavy implement you have to hand. Enjoy this bit.

Add to the mixing bowl.

Add your chips or chunks of chocolate.

Add your chips or chunks of chocolate.

For a really special touch, add a good pinch of sea salt flakes. The touch of salt serves to intensify the chocolate flavour beautifully. I haven’t tried this with milk chocolate, but with dark chocolate it’s pure heaven.

Use a pinch of sea salt flakes.

Use a pinch of sea salt flakes.

Stir to combine.

Use a metal ice cream scoop with a 1 inch diameter to measure out the cookies onto a paper lined baking sheet.

Use a 1" scoop to measure out your cookies.

Use a 1″ scoop to measure out your cookies.

Press down gently on the top to flatten slightly and pop into a moderately hot oven for around 15 minutes. If you forget to flatten them, then bake for 20 minutes.

Not that I have ever forgotten this step, you understand. Ahem.

Leave them to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before removing to a cake rack to cool completely. They will still be soft when you take them out of the oven.

Also, DO NOT eat a hot cookie. Melted chocolate will burn. You have been warned.

Let your cookies cool completely.

Let your cookies cool completely.

Prepare to look for kittens.

Double Chocolate Cookies

  • Servings: makes 28
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

200 g (7 oz) butter, softened

75 g (2¾ oz) caster sugar

125 ml (4 fl oz) sweetened condensed milk

250 g (9 oz) plain or all purpose flour, minus 2 Tablespoons

2 Tbsps Cocoa

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp sea salt flakes

300 g (10 ½ oz) chocolate chips or chunks (or less, if you prefer)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Line one or two baking sheets with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and creamy.

Pour in the condensed milk and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa and baking powder.

Add to the butter mixture and mix to combine.

Add the chocolate pieces and salt flakes and stir well.

Roll into tablespoon sized balls (or use an ice cream scoop) and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving room to spread. Press down gently with your fingertips or a fork to flatten slightly,

Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden.

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before transferring to a cake rake to cool completely.

Cookies will harden on standing.

A full cookie barrel is a happy barrel...

A full cookie barrel is a happy barrel…

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Freshly cooked freekeh.

Today I was a martyr to MS fatigue and achieved very little.

Although I did manage to locate my tea!

A few weeks ago, when we hit our savings target, I decided to treat myself to a haircut and a shipment of my favourite tea from Adore Tea back in Canberra. It was supposed to arrive last Tuesday. I received an email from Australia Post on Monday evening saying it had been delivered – which had me literally racing for the front door…

I was running toward disappointment – it wasn’t there. I called Auspost the following morning and they started an investigation. The tea had been delivered, but to the wrong address, someone was trying to get it back, I’d be kept informed…

But I wasn’t. In the meantime, Adore Tea sent me a complimentary 50g pack of my fave to tide me over. I called Auspost again today and was told it was at the local delivery centre – drove over there to find they had no idea where it was. Having used all my energy, I got back in the car and left the Fort Knox-like facility to get a call saying they’d found it!

So I went back. The package had been opened (SMH) but everything was there. Yay!  Got home, slept for 4 hours. Then I drank tea.

Tonight we shopped the fridge for dinner (because, see above). Basically we finished the leftovers from Saturday’s pasta bake.

Bits and bobs pasta bake

Bits and bobs pasta bake

I also mustered enough energy to cook some rice to stock up our refrigerator for quick meals. I used chicken stock instead of plain water this time, just to add a bit more flavour to future meals.

Rice steamed in chicken stock

Rice steamed in chicken stock

While that was cooking, I put some freekeh on to cook and took a few pictures so I can write all of you lovely people out there an informative and interesting post about it at some stage in the future.

Freshly cooked freekeh.

Freshly cooked freekeh.

It will also go to stock the fridge and add some wonderful wholefood, high fibre, slow carb goodness to meals during the days to come.

Now I am sitting down with a pot of Golden Mao Feng (OMG!) and a bowl of vanilla ice cream drizzled with pomegranate molasses to watch the Australian leadership spill on TV.

You simply must try this sometime.

You simply must try this sometime.

The world will be different tomorrow – come what may.

Until then, sweet dreams all.

S.

My treasure from the market.

Hello,

today I feel every bit the lesser mortal that I am.

We finished weeding and mulching the poisonous, barren soil of the garden beds that form our backyard and then went out to our plot at the community garden. Once there, we discovered that the broccolini that had been just starting to put up buds on Wednesday is now in full flower.

Four days, people.

Four days between a possible crop and a lost one. Sigh. Well, we harvested anyway and I resolved to peel the stalks and cook those.

Dinner was to be freekeh, corn, broccolini and coconut chicken fillets.

I thought I’d try steaming the freekeh in the rice cooker and put the vegies in to steam with it.

Steaming corn and broccolini stalks.

Steaming corn and broccolini stalks.

Unfortunately the freekeh seemed to be taking much longer to cook than I had anticipated and I ended up serving the chicken – breaded with panko and coconut  – with the vegies, while I waited for the light on the rice cooker to switch from cooking to warm…

Chicken and veg.

Chicken and veg.

I had come to the conclusion that, in future, I should freeze the chicken uncooked as it was a tad dry reheated. I was also complaining that it was taking longer to cook the freekeh in the rice cooker than it would have on the stove … when The Boy investigated and found it had boiled dry.

Ahem.

But, Your Honour, the lights! The lights was all wrong!

There was enough uncremated for The Boy to have some slow carbs with his meal. I’d quite gone off the whole idea by then.

We all have days in the kitchen when things don’t quite go to plan and this was one of mine.

Tomorrow I shall cook freekeh on the stove top, take photos and wax lyrical about it to you all. Until then, I’m making a cup of tea and going to bed with a cat and a book.

Night,

S.

P.S. Oh and I seem to have missed the first birthday of this site. So, to celebrate that and getting over the 100 mark on Facebook likes, I’m thinking of holding a small competition.

Details to come.

Bits and Bobs Pasta Bake

Hello everyone, especially all my new followers!

Today was quite a productive one in spite of myself. I slept in until lunchtime and so did The Boy. I don’t think we’d realised just how stressed-out we were about the whole house financing business and, now that it’s all pretty much settled, we fell in a messy heap.

Thankfully, last night’s 15 minute tidy up in the kitchen and dining area achieved results in 10 minutes – so I had a clean kitchen to drag myself into for my morning cuppa. The herd of cats got to have a tumble outside and then it was off to the car wash to vacuum up the snail bait in the boot (trunk).

Because everyone has snail bait loose in their car, don’t they? Ahem.

My new canisters for tea and cat deterrence.

My new canisters for tea and cat deterrence.

I decided to treat myself to some canisters I had been wanting for our kitchen counter-top and have a little splurge before we head back into Saving For The House Mode. Because the mortgage is only the first step and nowhere near the last.

Anyway, our counter has been cluttered with tins of different sizes filled with tea bags, cookies and other sundry items for as long as we’ve been here. It’s not because we need these things to be on the counter for our convenience, but more to discourage the cats from getting up there. It’s mostly successful, but it looked horrendous. I saw these little guys at Big W a few weeks ago and thought they’d be just the ticket. Add to that the fact that they are the colours we are wanting to be using in the new house and they were only $10 each, and they were an easy sell.

I played with those for a bit when I got home and then spent a good hour weeding and mulching what laughingly passes for a garden here. I then engaged in the therapeutic activity of baking cookies.

The Boy's favourite cookies.

The Boy’s favourite cookies.

These look uninspiring, but contain chunks of dark chocolate and a sprinkling of sea salt. The Boy loves them and the look on his face as he bites into one makes just about everything seem worthwhile. Even weeding.

They are a riff on the cookie recipe I posted here, but I shall do a post just on them in the next few days.

Then it was time to make dinner. We had a small amount of corned beef left in the refrigerator, so I used it for a pasta bake with some macaroni, a red capsicum, a tin of chickpeas (for texture and fibre), some frozen peas and corn and a cheese sauce.

Bits and bobs pasta bake

Bits and bobs pasta bake

While we ate ,The Boy totted up the cost and declared that I had spent $5 to make enough to feed 6.  Not too shabby, just quietly.

Looks like the savings drive is back on track.

Later, S.

 

When life gives you lemons…

Future cleaning products.

I would naturally suggest that you make lemon butter or lemon curd if you were handed large amounts of lemons.

Lemon Butter.

Lemon Butter.

Although, there’s any number of other things you could make with them, like Caraway and Lemon Biscotti or some of the other recipes I have planned to post for you.

But, what can you do with all the leftover lemon shells? They look like sunshine and smell heavenly and it always feels like such a waste to simply toss them into the compost…

Make a cleaning spray with them.

I kiddest thou not.

All you need is your lemon ‘husks’, some plain old household vinegar and a largish jar with a lid.

If you are an instant coffee drinker with a fairly decent habit, you probably find yourself with largish glass jars all the time. Use one of those.

The vinegar you need is not the high-brow, ultra-gourmet, aged in oak barrels, caressed lovingly by mountain maidens type vinegar. No. You want this stuff.

This is vinegar.

This is vinegar.

Plain old household vinegar. You can get a 2 litre bottle at Aldi for around $1.20. You can now buy ‘household cleaning vinegar’ in the detergents section of many supermarkets, but you don’t need that. This stuff will do.

You’ll find it on the bottom shelf in the pickles and condiments sections of your supermarket aisles. I tend to buy 6 litres at a time.

Vinegar is acetic acid. Acid cleans stuff. Better yet, vinegar doesn’t contain nasty fragrances that will set off hayfever sufferers until the perfume finally disappears. It doesn’t need you to suit up in coveralls and goggles to use it and doesn’t come with a Poisons warning.

Zest and juice your lemons

It cuts through grease, it’s antibacterial, and it’s biodegradable, it’s also highly unlikely to trigger eczema and other skin reactions like harsher (more expensive) chemical cleaners. It also kills moulds and mildew, unlike bleach which simply “bleaches” them and makes things smell clean.

It can be used in all sorts of things. But sometimes you don’t want stuff to smell like vinegar for even a short time. (However, the scent does dissipate really quite quickly.)

So try doing this:

lemons in white vinegar

lemons in white vinegar

  1. Thoroughly clean your jar.
  2. Pack it with your used lemons.
  3. Fill with vinegar until the lemons are covered.
  4. Tightly cap the jar.
  5. Place in a dark cupboard for a minimum of 3-4 weeks.
  6. Strain the liquid from the lemons and reserve.
  7. Discard lemons.

The vinegar will draw the essential oils out of the lemons and take on their colour and fragrance.

It can then be diluted 50:50 with water and used to clean floors, glass, shower recesses and counter tops. Use  a microfibre cloth and it will be even more effective.

It may require a little more elbow grease than a stronger store-bought chemical, but you also won’t require breathing apparatus to be in the same room immediately after you’ve used it.

Sturdy, inexpensive spray bottles are available in most supermarkets or hardware stores. I use this kind.

Spray bottle filled with lemony vinegar.

Spray bottle filled with lemony vinegar.

This is filled with undiluted vinegar. I had a greasy grill I wanted to get clean, so I didn’t add any water this time. As you can see, the liquid has taken on the colour of the lemons.

The house I am currently living in has hardwood floors throughout. It was costing me a fortune to clean them with commercially available liquids – then I discovered this. It cleans beautifully with a microfibre cloth on a swiffer-type mop, with no streaking at all and a fresh scent.

My subscribers may have noticed that I make large amounts of lemon curd when the fruit is in season as The Boy seems to inhale it. This leaves me with 6 half lemon shells for each batch. Into a jar they go, and I will keep topping up that jar until it is full. I have about 6 jars steeping in the back of my pantry at any given time.

It doesn’t go off.

Future cleaning products.

Future cleaning products.

You can also use orange peels in exactly the same way. So, if you are a maven for freshly squeezed OJ, here’s a way to generate less waste.

A word of warning though: do not use this spray on a marble surface, or you will get etching. That would be bad.

Laminates are fine, as is solid granite and other stones.

However, check with the manufacturer as I accept no responsibility for any damage that might be caused…

 

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Hiya!

I wasn’t on last night – there was stuff happening and I went out. Before I went I made myself a baked potato with our home-made cider baked beans.

Yes, I will put up the recipe for the baked beans soon. Well, when I get to sit down for more than a few minutes straight, that is.

I’m pleased to report that the lemon sponge was a bit of a hit, and I have been instructed to post the recipe – and soon.

Luscious Lemon Sponge.

Luscious Lemon Sponge.

Yes’m!

I went to a linen party last night where, in my head, I furnished a yet to be built house several times over with soft stuff. Then I decided I’d better get the thing built before I filled it, or moving again would just shatter me to smithereens. I did come home with these though.

Naw!

Naw!

Thanks, Rachel. 🙂

The Accidental cat hasn’t attempted to eat them yet, but it’s only a matter of time…

Today, I visited a friend in hospital and took them a few small jars of Lemon Butter, because hospital food. And this evening The Boy and I checked out a new burger joint for Fry Day to celebrate something kind of momentous.

We have a mortgage.

Yes, my dears, the Linguistic Nerd within me felt the need to point out that this word means  – literally – Death Pledge. In fact, my heart has been racing so much over the last few days as we neared closer to this point, that I almost expired before it transpired.

Okay. I’ll stop now.

Little jars of sunshine to start the spring

Little jars of sunshine to start the spring.

Anyway, all this means that I’ve not cooked anything all day. This will change tomorrow. I’m rather tempted to go to the Lakeside Market and buy beans, but we really don’t need any. It’s just that the weather is gorgeous for a change and should be savoured.

Instead, I think I will probably be here. Cleaning. My home looks like a midden but slightly less organised. This has to change and I’m feeling well enough to tackle it, well, some of it.

I’m going to do a 15 mins clean in the kitchen and dining area before I go to bed so it looks a little less chaotic at breakfast tomorrow.

Hopefully I’ll also get a post or two written before the photographs in my folders overflow and engulf the computer…

Night all!