Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas to everyone!! Hope you are all having a wonderful festive season. Below are some of the goodies I have baked this Christmas for my family and friends to enjoy.

My Christmas Cake.

Yule Log.

My delicious Christmas Pudding.

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Cups.

Chocolate Christmas Biscuits.

Glittery Christmas Tree Cookies.

Ollie my gorgeous grandson :)

Friday, 23 December 2011

Sweet Snowballs

These Sweet Snowballs are seriously delish and are the perfect edible festive gift. An alternative to truffles, these chocolatey bitesize treats contain white Maltesers, coconut, marshmallow, cranberries, cake crumbs and rich tea biscuits! I made these to give to family and friends and they were very much appreciated.

Sweet Snowballs

400g white chocolate
100g rich tea biscuits
50g white Maltesers
50g mini marshmallows
50g dried cranberries
50g cake crumbs (shop-bought Madeira Cake)
3 tbsp golden syrup
100g dessicated coconut
edible glitter

Melt the white chocolate, broken into pieces, in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Meanwhile, crush the rich tea biscuits and white maltesers in a large bowl with a rolling pin.

Add the mini marshmallows, dried cranberries and cake crumbs, then the chocolate and golden syrup. Mix well. Tip the desiccated coconut onto a plate. Drop large spoonfuls of mixture onto the plate, then roll them around, coating in coconut and shaping into balls. Place on a baking tray and chill for 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with edible glitter if you like.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Star-Topped Mince Pies

You can't beat home-made mince pies, especially mince pies made with your own home-made mincemeat! I tend to shy away from pastry but this recipe is seriously easy and I make these year after year. I made these gorgeous mince pies especially for Sunday when we had family and friends over to celebrate the festive season. As always they went down a treat and everyone loved them. This is definitely another recipe that will feature again in my house this month.

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.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Gold-Dust Star Cookies

Who doesn't love a bit of glitter and sparkle at Christmas? It would not be Christmas in my home without it and you can never have enough glitter! I bake these cookies every Christmas and they never fail to impress with family, friends and work colleagues alike. Apart from them being seriously yummy and moreish, they leave a lasting impression....you will find evidence in glitter form over the faces of those who have indulged, hahaha. These cookies never last long and will feature a few times over the festive season.

Gold-Dust Star Cookies

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.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Little Mince Pie Cakes

These Little Mince Pie Cakes are a regular bake over the festive period. It's a great variation to the traditional mince pie and made with your home-made mincemeat will taste even better. These always go down a treat with everyone, especially my hubby!

Little Mince Pie Cakes

175g self-raising flour
100g light muscovado sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
175g softened butter
3 eggs
2 tbsp milk
about 140g mincemeat (I used my home-made mincemeat)
icing sugar , for dusting

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Line 12 bun tins with paper cases. Put the flour, sugar, spice, butter, eggs and milk into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk or wooden spoon for 2-3 mins, until the mix is light and fluffy.

Put a spoonful of cake mix in each 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 warm or cold.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Cranberry Jam

This Cranberry Jam is another seasonal favourite that I make every year. This has to be one of the easiest jams to make and only has 2 ingredients, cranberries and caster sugar. In our home we love this jam spread over hot buttered toast, a perfect way to start the day!

Cranberry Jam

350g/12oz cranberries
350g/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 350mls.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Traditional Christmas Pudding

You really can't beat a home-made Christmas Pudding and I have kept the tradition of making one every year for the past 8 years. Factory made puddings sold in shops don't come anywhere near a home-made pud, with it's luscious combination of vine fruits, nuts and citrus peels, laced with stout and rum then slowly steamed into a dark fragrant combination of intense flavours. If you find the thought of making your own Christmas Pudding a daunting task and you are put off by the 8 hours of steaming, I can only encourage you to give it a go. The steaming only requires your attention periodically to top up the water level and the end result is the best ever pud you and your family will have tasted, then like myself you will never go back to a shop bought Christmas pudding.

Traditional Christmas Pudding

110g shredded suet
110g white breadcrumbs
1 level tsp ground mixed spice
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
a good pinch of ground cinnamon
225g soft dark brown sugar
110g sultanas
110g raisins
275g currants
25g mix candied peel
25g whole almonds, chopped
1 small cooking apple, cored and finely chopped (no need to peel)
the grated zest of 1/2 large navel orange
the grated zest of 1/2 large lemon
2 tbsp rum
150ml stout
2 eggs
50g self-raising flour, sifted

A 1.2 litre pudding basin, lightly greased, baking parchment, foil and string.

Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding. Take your largest, roomiest mixing bowl and start by putting in the suet and breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Mix these ingredients very thoroughly together, then gradually mix in all the dried fruit, peel and nuts followed by the apple and the grated orange and lemon zests. Don't forget to tick everything off as you go to make sure nothing gets left out. Next in a smaller basin, measure out the rum and stout, then add the eggs and beat these thoroughly together. Next pour this over all the other ingredients and begin to mix thoroughly. It's now traditional to gather all the family round, especially the children, and invite everyone to have a really good stir and make a wish! The mixture should have a fairly sloppy consistency - that is, it should fall instantly from the spoon when this is tapped on the side of the bowl. If you think it needs a bit more liquid add a spot more stout. Cover the bowl and leave overnight.

Next day stir in the sifted flour quite thoroughly, then pack the mixture into the lightly greased basin, cover it with a double layer of baking parchment and a sheet of foil and tie it securely with string. It's also a good idea to tie a piece of string across the top to make a handle. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan filled with simmering water and steam the pudding for 8 hours. Do make sure you keep a regular eye on the water underneath and top it up with boiling water straight from the kettleabout halfway through the time. When the pudding is steamed, let it get quite cold, then remove the baking parchment and foil and replace them with some fresh ones, again making a string handle for easy manoeuvring. Now your Christmas pudding is ready for Christmas Day. Keep it in a cool place away from light. Under the bed in an unheated bedroom is an ideal place.

On Christmas Day steam your Christmas Pudding for 2 1/4 hours, checking on the water from time to time and maybe top it up a bit.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

The Christmas build-up has begun and it's my favourite time of the year. I just love everything about Christmas and the first glimmer begins in October with the baking of my Christmas cake, pudding and mincemeat. From here in all my bakes will be Christmas themed, and I have a list of those goodies in mind and can't wait. I decided to start off with these Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins, and for me cranberries scream Christmas! These fluffy and tender muffins studded with chocolate chips and tart cranberries are a match made in heaven! They taste fabulous and will definitely feature again during the month of Christmas.

Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

300g self raising flour, sifted
170g caster sugar (white or golden)
170g butter, melted and cooled a little
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
200ml milk
100g chocolate chips, dark or milk
100g dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Place 12 paper liners in a muffin tin.

Sift flour and mix dry ingredients (flour and sugar) in a bowl.

Beat eggs and milk and vanilla in a jug.

Pour the eggs and milk into the dry ingredients, mix a little and then add the butter and mix briefly.

Add the cranberries and chocolate chips and mix again.

Divide between the cases.

Bake for around 25-30 minutes until golden brown and a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack.

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes

All of us, adults and kids alike can never resist a cupcake; the baking and eating of a cupcake is a blissful experience. For me they evoke fond memories of birthday parties and family celebrations while growing up. Nothing brings me more joy than sharing my passion for baking with my close family members, especially the young ones who may have this as a fond memory of their own in years to come.
Last week we had our nephew come to stay, whenever he visits he loves to bake some goodies with me, his favourite bakes are cookies and cupcakes. After choosing some sprinkles and decorations while at the supermarket we decided on these cupcakes which I have baked many times before. We both had an enjoyable afternoon in the kitchen and even more enjoyable time eating them!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 12

175g (6 oz) self-raising flour
1½ level tsp baking powder
175g (6 oz) butter, softened
175g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
3 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Buttercream Icing
150g (5oz) butter, softened
300g (11 oz) icing (confectioners) sugar, sifted
1 tbsp milk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Sprinkle(s) for decoration of choice

You will also require 12 holed muffin tin lined with 12 paper muffin cases

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Sift the self-raising flour and baking powder into a large bowl, and then add the butter, caster sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Beat together until well mixes, trying not to over mix the mixture. Spoon the mixture equally into the prepared paper cases and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out to completely cool on a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter until soft. Add the icing sugar and stir until it’s just mixed in, then add the milk and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Divide into as many bowls as you want different colour(s) and add edible food colouring (you only require a few drops). Spread the icing on thickly with a palette knife on top of each cupcake or put the icing into a piping back and make a large swirl on top of each cupcake. Decorate each cupcake with your chosen sprinkle(s).

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Creamy Pancetta Pasta with Mushrooms & Parmesan

As most of you know I love cookbooks and own an extensive collection but I haven't had a good splurge in months. Receiving a package with shiny new cookbooks and reading through all those delicious recipes is the best feeling for a cookbook aficionado. I came across this delicious pasta recipe in Lorraine Pascale's new book and made it for a quick-fix weekday dinner. It was everything I expected, easy, comforting and a dish that I will make time and time again!

Creamy Pancetta Pasta with Mushrooms & Parmesan
Serves 4

400g papardelle or tagliatelle
100-200g cubed pancetta
175g chestnut mushrooms, wiped and finely sliced
225ml double cream ( I use half fat creme friache)
75g grated parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, put the pancetta in a medium pan over a medium to high heat. When it starts to go brown, add the mushrooms and cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add the double cream. Once the cream is hot, add the parmesan and stir together well.

Once the pasta is ready, drain and then return it to the pan. Add the creamy mixture and stir through well. Seaon with some pepper and sprinkle over more grated parmesan.

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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Fruit Tea Loaf

My hubby has been under the weather this week with a cold and what better way to cheer him up than with one of his favourite cakes. I've baked this fruit tea loaf many times and it is so easy to make and keeps well. It is moist and full of flavour and hubby loves it with a thick layer of butter and a cup of tea.

Fruit Tea Loaf

Makes approx. 10 slices

1 x 250ml cup tea
375g mixed dried fruit
125g dark brown sugar
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of ground cloves
1 egg

Make the cup of black tea (just using a tea bag), and pour it into a bowl with the dried fruits and sugar; stir well, then leave to macerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 170oC/fan oven 150oC/ gas 3. Line a 900g loaf tin with a paper liner or butter the tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.

Beat the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cloves into the tea-soaked fruit, and then beat in the egg. Spoon and scrape into the lined loaf tin, and bake for 1 hour - or until cooked - before letting the cake cool it its tin on a rack.

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Monday, 17 October 2011

Dutch Apple Cake

It has been a long time since I last blogged and I’m sorry for being away for so long. It was a busy summer with family over from Spain and along the way I lost my blogging mojo. I haven’t done as much baking over the past couple of months but I did bake our favourite cookies a few times, which I’ve blogged about so many times before. A couple of weeks ago we picked our fill of cooking apples from the apple trees during a lovely weekend stay at “The Lodge”. I have enough apples to see me through many bakes. I chose this revisited Dutch Apple Cake to kick-start my blogging and start to make a dent in the mountain of apples.

This flavoursome cake has a very light and fluffy sponge, with a lovely juicy bite from the apple slices and topped with a sugary crust. Great served warm with hot custard or as an afternoon treat with a cuppa.

I now have a Facebook page that I have created for this blog! Hope you will join and say hello :)

Dutch Apple Cake

Makes 12-16 squares

2 eggs
175g caster sugar, plus 15g extra for sprinkling
½ tsp vanilla extract
85g butter
75ml milk
125g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
2 small (or 1 large) cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
double cream or custard, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200oC/180oC Fan/Gas Mark 6. Line the sides and base of a 20 x 20cm (8 x 8in) square cake tin with parchment paper.

Using an electric whisk, whisk the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until the mixture is thick and mousse-like and the whisk leaves a figure of eight pattern (this will take about 5 minutes).

Melt the butter in a saucepan with the milk, then pour onto the eggs, whisking all the time. Sift in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps of flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.

Arrange the apple slices over the batter. (They will sink to the bottom.) Sprinkle over a tablespoon of sugar and bake in the oven for ten minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180oC/160oC Fan/Gas Mark 4 and bake for a further 20–25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin. Cut into squares and serve warm with cream or custard.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Cherry Bakewell Cake

Today we are celebrating Father's Day in the UK and what better way to express our love than bake hubby his favourite cake! It's a small token to show how much we love and appreciate how lucky we are to have such a wonderful, caring and hard working father/hubby. We celebrated Father's Day yesterday when our son Jake and his family came over. We had a lovely day and of course spending time with our precious little grandson Ollie is always special.

Bakewell has always been one of hubby's favourites, infact when I first met him his diet consisted of Mr Kipling Bakewell tarts along with packets of jaffa cakes. His diet was terrible but then again he was a teenager living on his own and no one to feed him regular good meals! My hubby is my number one fan and enjoys all my bakes but this cake wins hands down for him.

Looking beyond the way the sponges came out slightly lopsided this cake turned out tasting absolutely perfect. This classic combination has this cake bursting with almond flavour, sandwiched together with the luxurious dark morello cherry conserve and topped with a blanket of silky white icing adorned with toasted flaked almonds and glace cherry halves.

Cherry Bakewell Cake

Serves 8

For The Cake
200g (8oz butter), well softened, + extra for greasing
200g (8oz) caster sugar
100g (4 oz) ground almonds
100g (4 oz) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon almond extract or essence
4 large eggs
Pinch of salt

For The Filling & Top
½ a 340g (approx 12 oz) jar of morello cherry conserve/jam
175g (6 oz) icing sugar
5-6 teaspoons water or lemon juice
1 tablespoon flaked almonds, lightly toasted

2 x 20cm (8 in) round sandwich tins, greased with butter and base lined with baking paper.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Using electric beaters, beat together all the cake ingredients until smooth. Divide the batter equally between tins and level the tops with a spatula. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and springy to the touch or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. *Do not open the oven door until 25 minutes of baking to check the cake*.

Place the tins onto a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before turning out to fully cool. Make sure the top of one of the cakes is facing up as you’ll want a smooth surface for the icing later on.

When cool, put one sponge on a serving plate, then spread with conserve/jam. Sandwich the second sponge on top.

Sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl. Add the water or lemon juice, then stir until smooth and thick. Spread evenly over the top and let it dribble over the sides. Scatter with toasted flaked almonds on the icing and leave to set for a few minutes before cutting.


This is an easy all in one method for making a sponge cake -please make sure your butter is fully softened before you start.

If you find morello cherry conserve/jam difficult to source, substitute with raspberry conserve/jam, it will be just as delicious!

To toast flaked almonds ~ place a single layer in a dry frying pan for toasting. With the frying pan over medium-high heat, stir or shake the nuts continually for 3 to 5 minutes or until they start to turn golden. Remove them from the cooking pan as soon as they're done.

A few glacé cherries placed on top of the icing additionally with the flaked toasted almonds would also be a lovely.

Hubby with Ollie ♥