Monthly Archives: September 2009

Christmas Marzipan Cake

Ok, ok I know it’s September and usually I wouldn’t be thinking of Christmas let alone beginning to bake for it for a while but I have some excuses. 1) October, when I usually bake Christmas Cake is booking up fast, 2) I want to feed and feed the cake, 3) the generous Wm Morrisons contacted me and ask if I would like to submit a Christmas Cake recipe for their customers to try and as a thank you they would send me a big box of ingredients.

I played around with a few ideas including Guinness and fruit beer (for any regular readers of my blog this won’t surprise them one bit!) and settled on the idea of a marzipan laden cake…minus icing. This is based on the fact I’m not a big icing fan as I find the majority far too sweet. At Christmas time will gladly pick off all the icing on a Christmas Cake to be just left with the delicious marzipan and fruit cake. Now I understand that marzipan is a bit of a marmite ingredient; People either love it or hate it. I love it. The reason for soaking the fruit in orange juice rather than the traditional alcohol is that this really does enhance the taste of the fruit of the cake. The alcohol will come later!

I decided to essentially combine the succulent fruits of my Simnel Cake with the marzipan filling of a stollen and together they made a delicious cake that looks a bit like a Dundee Cake, but smells of sweet, sweet marzipan. The aroma in the kitchen as I was baking this cake was amazing. Due to the amount of ingredients crammed into such a small cake along with the juicy fruit it did take longer than a usual fruit cake to bake. For a change we are planning to start eating this in early December and not leave it until Christmas Day when by then you begin to become thoroughly sick of anything too heavy & fruit laden.

Ideally a Christmas cake should be made no later than 1 week before it is needed. The longer the cake is left the more it matures and the flavours develop. If stored correctly Rich fruit cakes can last for up to a year.

Maybe I should start a trend – Christmas Cakes aren’t just for Christmas…

Christmas Marzipan Cake

Makes a 18cm round / 15cm square cake

100ml orange juice
150g sultanas
100g raisins
100g currants
50g dried cranberries
50g dried apricots, quartered
50g dates, stoned & quartered
50g glace cherries, halved
50g mixed peel
110g butter, softened
90g muscovado sugar (or soft dark brown sugar)
2 eggs
250g plain flour
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
50g flaked almonds
1 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp marmalade
1 tbsp black treacle (this gives the cake both taste & colour)
200g marzipan cubed & frozen (you can find my recipe for it here)
whole almonds for decoration
Rum, brandy or whisky for glazing

1) Before making a start on the cake soak all of the fruit in the orange juice overnight and make sure the cubed marzipan is in the freezer.

2) Line grease and line your tin with both baking parchment and greaseproof paper. For good instructions on how to do this pop over to dear Delia. Preheat oven to 150oc.

3) Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time to stop the mixture curdling. If it does begin to curdle stir in a handful of the flour. Once eggs have been added stir in the almond extract, marmalade & treacle.

4) Next, stir in the remaining ingredients alternating between the marzipan, fruit and flour. Mix until well combined. If the mixture becomes too stiff to mix add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture.

5) Pour into the lined tin, level the top of the cake then decorate with the almonds. Bake for 3 – 3 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean of cake mix.

6) Remove from the oven brush the cake with your chosen article then allow to cool completely in the tin. Remove from the tin and wrap in fresh greaseproof paper. Store in a preferably airtight tin or container until ready to eat.

7) Every 3-4 week make holes in the top of the cake using a skewer and feed with your chosen alcohol. I use around 50ml of alcohol per feed. Try not to over feed the cake as this can make the cake soggy, dense and a texture more akin to a Christmas Pudding.

Fresh from the oven – Stuffed Buns

This months Fresh from the oven challenge has been hosted by Ria where she proposed Stuffed Buns. I’ve never made stuffed buns before let alone eaten them, but I’m always up for a challenge!

The dough turned out very different to the type of dough I’m used to working with. The best way I can describe it would be of the texture (and weirdly the smell) of playdoh. I had to add more flour to get it to a kneading consistency. This extra flour may be down to me converting the recipe into grams incorrectly. I also mucked up the oil. Thinking Sunflower oil would the best as it is the lightest flavoured oil I had in the house, I had completely forgotten until I poured the oil in that I had used this oil for frying fish a while back and filtered the unused oil back into the bottle giving the dough a slight eau d’fish-and-chip-shop. Thankfully once the buns were cooked you couldn’t smell or taste the oil. I chose to make the buns with a curried paneer filling which was very tasty.

Given all the stumbling blocks I had with this dough the buns worked well. Hubby and his workmates raved about them. They have requested some more soon.

Stuffed Buns
makes 12 buns

For the dough:

3g fast action yeast
125ml milk
Salt to taste
125ml oil
250g plain flour
60g sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 egg white, for egg wash
Nigella seeds (Kalonji) for sprinkling

1) Boil the milk and allow to cool down till it is warm to touch. Add sugar, oil and salt. Mix well with a wooden spoon till the sugar dissolves and add 1 cup flour and mix to a smooth paste.

2) Add the beaten egg, yeast and mix. Add the remaining flour and mix well till it forms a smooth dough. Knead well for 10 mins. Let it rest till it doubles in volume.

3) Punch down the dough lightly using your palm and divide them equally. Flatten them into small discs and fill them with 1 tbsp of the filling. Re-shape them into a ball. Sprinkle the top with Nigella seeds. Let it prove for another 20 mins.

4) Bake them in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for 10 mins. When it starts to brown, give them an egg wash using 1 slightly beaten egg white.

Spicy paneer filling

200g paneer
4 Onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
3 tbsp oil

1) Heat oil, add the garlic paste and saute till it gives out a nice aroma. Add the onions. Saute them till soft and transparent. Reduce the heat and add the groud spices and mix well for 2 mins.

2) Add the paneer and mix well. Take it off the heat and allow to cool before filling the buns.

Queen of Tarts

There is something simple, comforting and nostalgic about the humble Jam Tart. For many people it was probably the first thing they cooked with their Mum or Grandma. Making Jam Tarts always reminds me of Home Ec in Secondary School and many of those said tarts didn’t make it home as I would have scoffed them before home time. Back then though I was frankly rubbish at pastry, it would just crumble and fall apart. It put me off pastry for long time and it’s only recently have I got over my Fear of Pastry. I’ve just put Fear of Pastry into good old google and it sent me to a World of Warcraft page?!?…ok I digressed.

The reason behind these tarts is that I’m planning to cook them with my pupils during British Food Fortnight as you can’t get more British Afternoon Teaish than a dainty Jam Tart, plus I have have a set of fantastic 10 year old budding pastry making boys in my class. The kids are aware that they are making Jam Tarts in a few weeks and bless them, they are already excited and talking about it. After baking a Bakewell Tart last year I’ll be baking another traditional Derbyshire dish with pastry for British Food Fortnight this year. If I pull it off I’ll blog about it during the fortnight.

I did experiment with using marmalade in a few of the tarts, but they just don’t work as well and have an amazing ability, akin to superglue, to weld themselves to the bun tin. Given the fact I’ve now mastered pastry I can’t for the life of me make a Jam Tart look refined, I think the best way to describe them would be “rustic”. Anyway since when has a humble Jam Tart been anything but charmingly simple?

Jam Tarts
Makes 12 small tarts

225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
110g butter
cold water
around 12 tsp jam

1) First get started on the pastry. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2) Add the chilled water a small amount at a time and mix with a knife until you have a good dough. Roll into a ball, cover in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 min.

3) Roll out the pastry until around 5mm thick. Using a 3 inch cutter, cut rounds and press gently into a bun tin. Place a generous teaspoonful of jam in the center of each round.

4) Bake at 200oc for 10 min, or until well risen and golden. Allow to cool for 5 min before transferring to a wire rack.

Black Sheep Bread

This bread is in honour of the Yorkshire 3-Peaks Challenge Hubby & I completed last weekend. Thanks to everyone who sponsored us. We stayed at Pinecroft and it was somewhere I would highly recommend. We’re thinking of returning with friends later on in the year.

It was a great experience and provided great memories from the bog jumping, being knee deep in mud, weird tasting watermelon jelly sweets, a sneaky pub stop and sunset at the top of Ingleborough. During the walk I gained the nicknames of Speedy Gonzales. Once I got going, there was no stopping me. This may have been due to a heady mix of ibuprofen, Lucozade, Jelly Babies & adrenaline. I’m really proud of myself & Hubby for completing it minus any injury, blister ache or pain (ooh get me!) and the training I did over the summer really paid off. Although it took us far longer than expected to complete due to an incident involving the Mountain Rescue Team 1 mile from the end (let’s just say thank goodness for the training I did as part of my DofE Gold Expedition), some of us are planning to return next year to do it in around 10 hours. Others however have been put up hill walking for life! In a slightly crazy way I got a serious kick from the challenge and found it easier than I was expecting. Even after 25miles I could have continued, as someone has pointed out there is room for a female Eddie Izzard!

The reason for this bread being a tribute to our walk is that one member of the team (not me I hasten to add)sneaked in a cheeky half-pint at the Old Hill Inn – a fab pub between Whernside & Ingleborough belonging to the famous Black Sheep Brewery. Apparently this cheeky half-pint was one of the best drinks he has ever had and it provided some comedy moments for the rest of the team as it went straight to his head, he started to talk about how pretty all the trees were and I swear at one point he began to skip up Ingleborough. I’ve never baked bread with beer in it before, but have declared this bread to be a resounding success. It produces a beautiful fluffy bread with a slightly golden crumb. You can certainly taste a hint of ale in the bread. It’s given me some ideas for some other bread that I’ve going to keep under wraps for now. This is also the first time I’ve used my new brotform and grignette and am really pleased how well they have worked.

Now, the after effect of endurance exercise is that it does 2 things to your appetite. Either you can’t eat enough or your appetite is zapped. Now you would think when burning 9000 calories in 16 hours we would both have raging hunger…nope. Our appetite was completely killed and a week on it’s only just getting back on track, hence why it has been so long since I’ve blogged. Normal service will now resume on my blog with both Hubby & I having lots of great foodie projects up our sleeves. So here’s to carbs, the great outdoors and friends. Cheers!

Black Sheep Bread
Makes 1 large loaf

500g strong white bread flour
10g salt
5g fast action yeast.
300ml Black Sheep Riggwelter Ale (yes I know it’s sacrilegious, but it needs to be warm)

1) Mix together all the ingredients until you have a rough dough. Knead either by hand or with a mixer for 10 min until you have a beautiful, silky dough. Shape into a round and leave to rise in a covered bowl for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

2) Knock back the dough, shape into chosen shape and place in/on tin or brotform and leave again covered in a plastic bag until it has doubled in size. If cooking on a baking sheet cover in polenta/course semolina before placing the bread on as this stops the bread sticking to the sheet.

3) Preheat the oven as hot as it will go. At the bottom of the oven place a baking tin of boiling water (this helps to develop the crust). If using a brotform turn bread out onto tray. If not using a brotform place the dough in/on chosen tin. Slash the top of the loaf (optional) then bake for 10 min.

4) Turn down the oven to 200oc and bake for a further 20-30 minutes. When the bread is ready the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Climb every mountain…

This post is a slight departure from my usual food blogging. Things have been a bit mad here with me returning to work to begin a new term plus Hubby & I have been been in training for the Yorkshire 3 Peak Challenge which we will attempt in a week time. We’re walking it with a bunch of friends to raise money for a school close to my heart along with the NSPCC. It’s essentially a marathon distance walk with three big, steep hills (Pen-y-ghent, Whernside & Ingleborough) in the way, plus some scrambling thrown in for good measure.

We’ve spent most of the summer preparing for the walk and last weekend completed an 18 mile (29km) walk in just under 7 hours. I did mildly Hit the Wall around the 16 mile walk but with a 5 min break and a cereal bar I was ready to get going again. I know on the day I’ve got to keep my energy levels high as I don’t want to have a crash between Whernside & Ingleborough. The night before we will be carb-loading (something I excel in!) then starting the day with the biggest bowl of porridge we can muster then feasting on lots of malt loaf, Jelly Babies & other energy laden foods en route.

I’ve always wanted to do a marathon, and although I’m walking this and not running it’s still a marathon in my mind! If you would like to help my friends & I to raise money for the NSPCC & the school I work for please drop me an email at julesatdit AT googlemail DOT com

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