Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year 2009!

Above is my Christmas Cake!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Chocolate Puddini Bonbons

This is yet another successful Nigella recipe from her Christmas book. I made these Chocolate Puddini Bonbons to serve alongside my Star-Topped Mince Pies with coffee on Sunday, when I had my in-laws over for the day. They may look like baby Christmas puddings but these babies taste like meltingly rich, spiced chocolate truffles! Everyone loved them and my mother in law was pleased to see I had added a box of them in their Christmas Hamper.

Chocolate Puddini Bonbons

125g best-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
350g leftover, or freshly cooked and cooled, Christmas pudding
60ml sherry
2 x 15ml tablespoons golden syrup

For the decorations:
100g white chocolate, finely chopped
6 red glacé cherries
6 green glacé cherries or 6 short lengths angelica

Line a baking sheet (that will fit in the fridge) with clingfilm, baking parchment, foil or Bake-O-Glide, and set it to one side while you make the bonbons.

Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended above a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave according to the manufacturer's guidelines. Crumble the cold Christmas pudding into a bowl, add the sherry and golden syrup and stir briskly till all is incorporated.

Pour in the melted dark chocolate and stir again: this will make the mixture much more cohesive.

To make this step easier, put on a pair of those disposable vinyl gloves sold in hardware stores and supermarkets, pinch out small lumps of mixture and roll so that you have little rounds about the size of a chocolate truffle. You should get about 30 out of this mixture; fight the impatient urge to make these balls larger as you go.

Cover with clingfilm and slot into the fridge to firm up.

To decorate, melt the white chocolate either in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave according to the manufacturer's guidelines, then let it cool for about 5 minutes, to make it easier to work with, while you chop the red cherries into small pieces (to evoke berries), and snip the green cherries (or angelica) into miniature lengths, to represent leaves.

Using a teaspoon, drip a little of the melted but slightly cooled white chocolate on each bonbon, then arrange the infuriatingly sticky pieces of cherry on top.

Place in boxes to give away -- if you use small boxes that will fit 6 bonbons each, you will get 5 adorable presents out of this -- or on a plate to hand round with coffee, instead of dessert, after a post-Christmas dinner.

Makes about 30

Make ahead tip:
Make the bonbons up to 2 weeks before eating or giving. Pack in boxes and store in a very cool place. If made 2 weeks ahead, add a label to say "keep cool and eat within 1 or 2 days".

Friday, 19 December 2008

Star-Topped Mince Pies

I’ve been glued to the TV every evening this week watching Nigella Lawson’s 5-part Christmas Show. The show has been really Christmassy and inspiring and I couldn’t wait to get in my kitchen and bake up these gorgeous Star-Topped Mince Pies! I used my Cranberry-Studded Mincemeat, that I made a few weeks back (a recipe from Nigella’s Christmas book), in half the batch and I used my Traditional Mincemeat, which I make every year by Delia Smith, in the other half. You either love mince pies or hate them, in our home we LOVE them and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without them! I will be serving my Star-Topped Mince Pies with coffee after dinner on Sunday when my in laws are coming over for the day.

Star-Topped Mince Pies

240g/8oz plain flour
60g/2oz vegetable shortening
60g/2oz cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 orange, juice only
pinch salt
350g/12oz mincemeat
icing sugar, for dusting

You will need a miniature tart tray, each indent 4.5cm/1¾in diameter, a 5.5cm/2¼in round fluted biscuit cutter and a 4cm/1½in star-shaped pastry cutter.

Sift the flour into a shallow freezer-proof bowl, then add small mounds of vegetable shortening. Add the butter, shake to cover it, then place into the freezer to chill for 20 minutes. (This will make the pastry tender and flaky.)

Mix the orange juice and salt in a separate bowl. Cover and leave in the fridge to chill.

After the 20 minutes, empty the chilled flour and shortening mixture into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to make porridge-like crumbs. Gradually add the chilled salted orange juice, pulsing until the mixture is just coming together as a dough. Stop just before it comes together (even if some orange juice is left). If all the juice is used up before the dough has begun to come together, add some iced water.

Turn the mixture out onto a clean, floured work surface and, using your hands, knead the mixture to form a dough. Divide and shape into three equal-sized discs (you’ll need to make the mince pies in three separate batches of 12, unless you’ve got enough tart tins to make all 36 pies at once).Wrap each disc in cling film and place into the fridge to rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

Remove a pastry disc from the fridge and roll out on a floured work surface thinly, but so that it will be sturdy enough to support the dense mincemeat filling. Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut out 12 circles a little wider than the moulds in the tart tins. Press the circles gently into the moulds. Place a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pastry case. Reroll any remaining dough to a similar thickness, then using a star-shaped cutter, cut out 12 stars and place each lightly onto the mincemeat filling.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown. Keep an eye on them as they don’t take very long to cook.

Remove from the oven, prising out the little pies straight away and placing onto a wire rack to cool. Allow the empty tray to cool down before repeating the steps. Repeat until you have made 36 mince pies.

Dust the mince pies with icing sugar and serve.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Cranberry, Almond and Honey Granola ~ Edible Gifts Part 3

Cranberry, Almond and Honey Granola is my 3rd instalment of Christmas Edible Gifts and also comes courtesy of Nigella Lawson’s Christmas Cookbook (I love this book). This seasonal granola cereal is a combination of big crunchy clusters of toasted oats and almonds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, touched with cinnamon and honey and then tossed with plump dried cranberries! It would make a luscious breakfast on Christmas Day, served with a dollop of yogurt or milk!
Cranberry, Almond and Honey Granola

Makes enough to fill a 1.2 litre tin or jar

225g rolled oats (not instant)
60g sunflower seeds
60g white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
150g (125ml) runny honey
50g soft light brown sugar
60g whole natural almonds
60g blanched almonds
½ teaspoon Maldon salt or pinch of table salt
1 tablespoon rapeseed or sunflower oil
150g dried cranberries

Put everything except the dried cranberries into a large mixing bowl and mix well. Two spatulas are probably the best tools for the job here – or use your own two hands, wearing CSI (vinyl disposable) gloves.

Spread this mixture on a lined baking sheet and bake in a 170oC/gas mark 3 oven, turning over the mixture with a spatula about halfway through baking and redistributing the granola evenly during the baking process. The object is to get the granola evenly golden without toasting too much in any one place. If you have a convection or fan oven, you may need to turn it to a lower heat as well as keeping a sharp eye on it.

This should be ready – golden enough and dried out like a crunchy breakfast cereal rather than the sticky mess that went into the oven – in anything from 40-50 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool, taking it off the hot baking sheet, before mixing with the dried cranberries. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

I love Cranberries and I take full advantage of their abundance this time of year, packing them into everything. This Cranberry Upside-Down cake is another perfect example of how to make the most of these gorgeous ruby-red fruits during the festive season. I came across this recipe in one of my Christmas baking magazines and had to continue the cranberry madness that takes over our home during the holidays. A tender, moist cake topped with the caramelized cranberries that can also be served as a dessert.

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

2 tbsp Demerara sugar
150g fresh cranberries
125g soft butter
125g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
2 free-range eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp orange juice
125g self-raising flour, sifted
1 level tsp baking powder
1 level tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180oC/160oC fan/Gas 4. Grease a 20cm cake tin and sprinkle over 2tbsp Demerara sugar, then 150g cranberries. Put the 125g each soft butter and caster sugar, 50g ground almonds, 2 free range eggs, the grated zest of an orange and 1tbsp of the juice in a mixing bowl. Sift in 125g self-raising flour, 1 level tsp each baking powder and ground cinnamon. Beat until evenly mixed. Spread over the cranberries. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pressed. Serve warm or cold.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Gold-Dust Cookies

These gold-dust cookies come courtesy of Nigella Lawson's Christmas Cookbook . I made them over the weekend to take down to my sister’s house and they went down a treat. I used vanilla extract instead of ginger, only because it is a more suited flavour for kids and one I also prefer. I am a sucker for glitter and stars and when I came across this recipe in the book I was sold. These would be beautiful as a gift or offered up after dinner with coffee. I’m definitely going to be making them again over this festive season and any excuse to use my edible glitters is my idea of fun.

Gold-Dust Cookies

Makes about 30, depending on size

90g soft butter
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon ground ginger (or vanilla extract)
200g plain flour, plus more for sprinkling
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine salt
Edible gold dust or glitter flakes

Preheat the oven to 180oC/gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet or two with baking parchment or Bake-O-Glide.

Cream the butter and sugar together until whipped soft and pale, then beat in the egg, followed by the ginger (or vanilla), flour, baking powder and salt and continue mixing until it all comes together to make a soft dough.

Form into 2 discs, wrap each one in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Sprinkle a suitable surface with flour, place a disc of dough on it and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Then roll out to a thickness of about 5mm.

Cut into shapes, dipping the cutter into flour as you go, and place the biscuits a little apart on the lined baking sheet/s. Keep the scraps of the first disc, to mix with the scraps of the second and roll and cut, re-roll and cut, until you’ve used up the mixture. This is wonderfully pliable dough, which makes it an unstressful joy to work with.

Bake in the oven for 18-12 minutes: this depends on their shape, how many sheets are in the oven at the same time, and whether on the upper or lower shelf, though you can swap them around after 5 minutes. When they’re ready, expect them to be tinged a pronounced pale gold around the edges; they’ll be softish still in the middle, but will harden on cooling.

Take the sheets out of the oven, remove the cookies, with a flat, preferably flexible, spatula to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Using a small (unused) paintbrush or eyeshadow brush, dip in the edible gold dust or glitter flakes, and give each cookies its gilded coating.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Festive No-Bake Peanut Butter Squares

These festive peanut butter squares are from Betty Crocker’s Christmas Cookbook, which is packed with wonderful recipes to cook and bake over the holiday period. I made these bars last year and they were a big hit in our home with friends and family, so I couldn’t wait to make them again this year. They are the perfect recipe if you’re looking for something quick and easy to make after a long day of other Christmas preparations, and they look very Christmassy with festive candy decorations.

Festive No-Bake Peanut Butter Squares

1 ½ cups powdered sugar (icing sugar)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (digestive biscuits)
½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup white vanilla baking chips or semisweet chocolate chips (6oz)
Festive candy decorations, if desired

In a medium bowl, mix powdered sugar and graham cracker crumbs. In a saucepan, heat butter and peanut butter over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted. Stir into crumb mixture. Press in ungreased 8-inch square pan.

In another saucepan, melt chocolate chips over low heat, stirring frequently. Spread over crumb mixture. Immediately sprinkle with candy decorations. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until firm.

Cut into squares. Store loosely covered in refrigerator.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Cranberry Jam ~Edible Gifts Part 2

If It's Christmas It Must be Cranberries...

This Cranberry Jam is a festive favourite in our home every Christmas. I eagerly wait for fresh cranberries to hit the supermarket at the beginning of December so I can make my jam. This recipe comes from Feast by Nigella Lawson and has to be the easiest jam to make. Most jams have to be boiled carefully with pectin along with the sugar to make the fruit set and turn from being a purée to a preserve. In this jam recipe the cranberry fruit does it all for you, due to its pectin-intensity, that it sets to jam once the berries have burst. I love this jam on toast or warm, buttery croissants or you could use it as a filling for Cranberry muffins/cupcakes.

Cranberry Jam

350gms/12oz cranberries
350gms/12oz caster sugar

Put a film of water in the bottom of a large saucepan and add the cranberries and sugar. Stir patiently over a low heat to dissolve the sugar; this will take a little while. Turn up the heat and boil the pan rapidly until setting point is reached, about 7 minutes. (Alternatively it will have reached a jam-like consistency.)
Pour the jam into a sterilized jar (s) and seal immediately.
Makes approx 350 mls.

I am also entering my Cranberry Jam for the Home Made Christmas Gifts event being held by Happy Cook over at My Kitchen Treasures. If you are you interested in joining, the event is running until the 20th December. Please visit her blog for further details.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Little Mince Pie Cupcakes

Yippee, December has finally arrived and with that all the wonderful baking, cooking and entertaining. I love Christmas, it’s my favourite holiday! Today I am presenting you with Little Mince Pie Cupcakes (cupcakes with a mincemeat centre); it is a treasure of a recipe and one I have been baking every Christmas. My hubby always puts a request in, he just adores them and they fly out of the cake tin at record speed. They are light and very morish and they make a lovely alternative to traditional mince pies. You could serve them warm with brandy cream.

I made my mincemeat back in October, so it has been maturing since then and tastes and smells so Christmassy. I used my home-made mincemeat in my cupcakes but you could also use a jar of good quality shop bought mincemeat.

Little Mince Pie Cupcakes

175g / 6oz self raising Flour
100g / 4os light muscovado sugar or light brown sugar
1tsp mixed Spice
175g / 6oz softened butter
3 eggs
2tbsp milk
140g /5oz mincemeat
Icing sugar to dust

Heat over to 190oC /fan 170C / Gas 5 . line 12 bun cake tin with cake cases. Put flour sugar butter spice eggs and milk in a bowl and mix with electric mixer or wooden spoon for 2-3 mins until light and fluffy. Put a spoonful of cake mix in each cake case then a rounded tsp of mincemeat. Cover the mincemeat with a spoonful of cake mix and smooth. Bake for 15-18 mins until golden brown and firm. Dust with Icing sugar and serve.