Christmas at Quirky Towers

Here at Quirky Cookies & Cakes  the last few days before Christmas are a really busy time.  We’ve been busy baking Christmas goodies, and now there’s just a couple of days left to get your last minute orders in.  We’ve had a lot of fun designing the cookies and developing some new recipes to tempt you all during the holiday season.  Here’s just a selection of some of the things on offer.

Large Cookie Christmas Tree Table Centrepiece

 

Christmas Design Cookies
Copyright Wendy Staples

 

Christmas Design Cookies
Copyright Wendy Staples

Some more Christmas Designs

Placename Cookies
Copyright Wendy Staples

Biscotti

If you’re tempted, you can get an electronic order form by e-mailing us.   We can post UK wide, but hurry as our last order date is 12 noon on the 20th December.

If you can’t see what you’re looking for here, then why not get in touch, we’d love to help!

Quirky Cookies on the TV!

So….did you see it!? 

 

Leslie Jordan, (Will & Grace) with one of my cookies.

Photo Courtesy of Claire Sutton of Things We Make

We were thrilled be asked to appear on Good Food’s Market Kitchen: Big Adventures” which aired last night, and is repeated again today at 3pm and on Sunday at 8am (Sky 249, Sky  HD 283 and Virgin 260).  The programme has spent all this week featuring the very best of Derbyshire Food and Drink, and I was to be seen at home here at Quirky Towers, baking my now famous cookies and telling the story of how I set up the business, Quirky Cookies & Cakes, 18 months ago.

I had such fun doing the filming.  It was really interesting to see the care and attention that goes into such a short piece of film.  After the VT insert was filmed I had to send some cookies down to the studio for a “taste test”.  This was the most nerve-wracking part of the show for me.  Even though I know my cookies have always got a fabulous reception, I was still nervous of how my baking (which is all self-taught) would stand up to tasting by professional chefs and food critics. 

Well, I needn’t have worried as they all LOVED them! 

It felt like a bit of a Duffield special episode, as I was pleased to see Steve Croot from Croots Farm Shop also appearing on the same episode.  You can see more of Steve, and my friend Claire who writes the simply marvellous “Things We Make” blog in tonight’s programme, which airs at 7pm.

And the best bit?  Well, two really. Firstly, the approval of fabulous food critic Tim Haywood , and secondly, Mr Quirky, watching with me last night, and telling me I reminded him of Delia!!!!!

The Geek Calendar

Here at Quirky Towers we are pretty geeky.  Mr Quirky is an analytical chemist, and in my former life as a wannabe academic researcher (although I started my PhD, the accident meant I didn’t finish it) my chief interest was in exploring how a teacher’s own knowledge of science impacted on their ability to communicate scientific ideas and knowledge to their pupils. I read physics books for fun, even though I didn’t even take physics ‘O’ Level, and have a not-quite-secret ambition of one day doing the physics degree I probably should have done all along.  Pretty geeky so far.

As a family, our main geeky obsessions are Harry Potter and Lego.  In fact, our very favourite even combines the two.  We’re currently wading though rebuilding all our Harry Potter Lego (and since we’ve got almost all the sets ever issued, you can guess what a tall order that is!)  And of course now we’re into advent, I’ve added my santa minifig keyring to my keys and put out the Lego Christmas decorations.  If you follow me on twitter, you’ll also have been hearing recently about my Lego baking obsession, but more of that another time……

Yes, we’re geeky and proud!

So when I heard recently about the Geek Calendar, I knew that it had to be the perfect addition to my study / office for the new year and ordered one straight away.

above photo courtesy of Ben Thompson and Geek Calendar 

And that was the beginning of one of the more surreal experiences of my life so far which ended with Mr Quirky and I attending the launch party in London recently, bringing with us my collection of geeky and quirky cookies.

Geek Calendar Cookies
Copyright Wendy Staples

The Geek Calendar has been produced to raise money for the Libel Reform campaign.  It features lots of my geeky heroes and heroines, including Imran Khan of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, Simon Singh, Dr Petra Boynton, Jonathan Ross, Ben Goldacre and Professor Brian Cox with fellow science tv presenter (& his wife), Gia Milinovitch.  You can still order one here until 15th December for UK orders (10th December for international).

We had the time of our lives, met some really interesting people (I learned lots about the ‘flu virus) and I drank what can only be described as probably far too much gin and tonic! You can just spot Mr Quirky on the right hand side here, in the appropriately geeky grey cardigan!

above photo courtesy of Ben Thompson and Geek Calendar 

And the highlights of the night?  Well, this photo is pretty special….

above photo courtesy of Ben Thompson and Geek Calendar 

It’s really hard to pick just one highlight, but I think what I shall always remember is being inspired to go back to my academic work.  Giving up my PhD was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  Over the years I had reconciled myself to the idea that my life had taken a different direction, but I’ve vowed to myself that I’m going to at least start reading again, and the one lesson I have learned is that you never know where life might take you.  Now don’t all panic at once…..I’m not giving up the baking…..but maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to combine the two over the next few years.

 Science, libel reform and baking, all in one event. It doesn’t get much better than this!

How It All Began

It all started nearly 40 years ago, with two books. 

Before I go any further I must add that I hadn’t actually realised this until, listening to Aleena Naylor discussing old cookery books on BBC Radio Derby a few months back, I suddenly realised that my cookie obsession had started as a toddler, with those two books. So thanks Aleena, for making me understand where Quirky Cookies really began!

I had always loved baking as a little girl, and was usually to be found in the kitchen with my Nan when we visited.  Mum was always baking too, and whereas my Nan taught me to bake scones and cakes I can trace my obsession with unusually shaped biscuits back to rainy days in the kitchen with my Mum, and those books.

Many years later my love of baking had remained and I made my first wedding cake for my own wedding in 1991.  I was all set for a career in education policy when in 1997, aged just 27 and with an 8 month old baby, our world came crashing down when I was seriously injured in a car crash.  For many years I was unable to do very much at all, and at one stage I was told I would never work again, but with the support of my friends & family I never gave up.  Eventually, following a change of treatment when we moved to Derbyshire in 2007, I started to get better, and that’s when the idea of Quirky Cookies and Cakes started to form in my mind.

Although I’d always done well in any cake competition I had entered, (winning my first prize as a child in 1979) the turning point came in June 2008.  I was quite nervous about my first entry in a WI Home Economics competition since in the weeks running up to Derbyshire County Show I had received dire warnings about the super-high judging standards from my WI friends! 

First prizes for both my cupcakes and iced biscuits (which were part of our co-operative display, above) gave me a huge boost in my confidence and I decided then and there that I would try to make a living from baking.

It took another year of researching suppliers and testing out my recipes before I felt ready to launch the business at the end of June 2009.  Here’s me at our first event – Duffield Carnival – our village fête and still one of my favourite events.

Our cookies and cakes are still homemade with a huge amount of care and attention to detail, and the whole family are now involved in the business.  My chemist husband Jason is fabulous at precision mixing royal icing colours.  Hannah is great at making cupcakes & rocky road and is an expert packer, and young Emily helps with sticking labels onto bags and boxes. Even my parents and my Aunt & Uncle have been known to help out when we are attending the larger and busier events such as the recent fabulousplaces Christmas Market.

We’ve come a long way already, and are looking forward to another exciting year in 2011.  First though, is a rather exciting snippet of news……we can’t say too much, but why not watch Market Kitchen’s Big Adventure on the Good Food Channel (Sky 249, Sky HD 283 Virgin 260)  – 7pm every day this week….you never know who might pop onto your screens!