Yearly Archives: 2011

Merry Christmas one and all. Have a fabulous 2012.

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Stollen

I’ve made various stollens over the years but always come back to this recipe as it’s the stollen I recognise. I spent some of my childhood growing up in Berlin and remember the Christmases there with fond memories. Nothing compares to their Weihnachtsmarkts of which there is over 50 spread all over the city. The smell of the glühwein, gingerbread, bratwurts and kartoffelpuffer intermingled with the crisp, cold winter air and, if you were lucky, the odd fleck of snow.

There are two ways of making stollen; with yeast or without yeast. This version doesn’t contain yeast and is the type I prefer. Read the rest of this entry

Christmas Food Gifts & Essentials

As you can imagine food is quite important to us over the festive season. Some of these foods have traditional or nostalgic connections and some are just because they taste so good. Many of these suggestions below will be great on your festive dinner table or will make equally good gifts. To see what I recommended last year see this blog post.

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Christmas Cookbook Countdown

With only *whispers* 2 weeks left until Christmas. It’s fair to say Christmas is a hectic time of year for me and the business. Today is my first day off in two weeks and from tomorrow will not be stopping until Christmas Eve. Hubs’ & parent’s presents are sorted, as for everyone elses? Thank for the lord for the internet and Derby Westfield opening late in the run up to Christmas.

I will admit I’m a cookbookaholic, but it takes a lot to impress me with a cookbook. If you’re looking for a great Christmas gift this year here are my top cookbooks of the year. Go here to see last year’s selection.

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The Baked Bean Tin Christmas Cake Project

This project started a couple of months ago when I promised one of my evening classes I would teach them how to decorate Christmas cakes. Today I finally finished decorating them. I really enjoyed this project and plan to given them away as presents, but right now don’t know which one I’m going to keep for us as I love them all for different reasons.

I have so many other decorating ideas, but only made 6 cakes so the other techniques will have to wait. They may be small cakes, but they still take a while to decorate. The four cakes covered in sugarpaste all use the covering method you can find on The Pink Whisk’s blog. I also brush the cake lightly with freshly boiled water to help the icing adhere. Usually I cover the board then cover the cake, this is personal preference. You don’t have to cover the boards at all, but I find it looks neater and I have a particular aversion to the Christmas themed foil boards. To stick the sugarpaste/sugar florist paste decorations to the cake I use either gin or vodka as it’s quick drying, less likely to stain and sticks well. You can also use water, but I find gin/vodka works better. All of these designs are simple and can be easily replicated. No special equipment needed apart from maybe the odd length of ribbon and a piping bag. The cakes were made using one of my favourite recipes, steeped in Sloe Gin, then covered in marzipan over a week ago.

Christmas Present Cake

This is probably my favourite cake. It is simply covered in red sugarpaste then decorated with a bow made from sugar florist paste. This is a type of modelling icing that has a finer, stretchier texture and allows you to roll it a great deal thinner than sugarpaste. It also sets very hard. Icing flowers you see for sale are made from this and while yes it is edible it’s used more for decoration. I love working with sugar florist paste. Unless you are going to be using a lot just buy white florist paste and colour your own.

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Creatures & Flowers Cupcake Class with Holly Bell

For those of you who watched the second series of Great British Bake Off will be familiar with finalist Holly Bell. I was a fan of hers from the first episode because she’s local to me, has a similar obsession with Bakewells and (according to insistent family & friends) we are very similar look wise and mannerisms. Yes, I’ve also been known to get the tape measure out while baking, don’t judge me. I’m a perfectionist.

Holly has recently started cupcake and bread making courses at the lovely Bridge 67 Cookery School in Smeeton Westerby near Market Harborough. She invited me along to try the course. The cookery school is based in cute little house on the farm with the kitchen downstairs and the dining room upstairs. It almost felt like we were in someone’s house. I liked that the ovens were (rather nice) domestic ovens proving if you could cook it there we would be able to cook it at home.

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How to marzipan baked bean tin Christmas cakes

Your baked bean tin cakes should be nicely fed now so it’s time to get covering them in marzipan. You need to leave at least 24 hours between covering the cake marzipan and icing to allow the marzipan tp dry and stop the oils from the marzipan leaching and spoiling the white icing. One of the reasons for covering a fruit cake in marzipan is to act as a foundation for the icing. It’ll help to hide the major lumps and bumps of the cake beneath. Read the rest of this entry

Speculoos

I’ve always loved these biscuits be it when they are called speculoos, speculaas or spekulatius. They are dark, highly spiced biscuits with a caramalised sugar taste. Traditionally they are baked in some parts of the continent for St Nicholas Eve (5th December). St Nicholas Eve is the night where, as a child, you leave your shoes by the fireplace. If you’ve been good all year you’ll wake in the morning to find a shoefull sweet treats. If you’ve been less than angelic you’ll find some sticks.

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Brussel Sprout Wreath

The halls are beginning to get decked, the high streets are adorned with lights that are switched on by minor celebrities and tomorrow is the first Sunday in advent. Every household has its own traditions over the festive season, we have many. One being that I make a wreath to hang on the door during Christmas. Over the years they have evolved from a quite traditional wreath to last year’s alternative, yet still festive, creation. Read the rest of this entry

Cold Smoking with Seasoned

Seasoned is a Midlands based cookery school run by Clare Tetley. Not only does she run a business providing  fabulous day courses throughout Derbyshire & Shropshire she has a brownie recipe to die for. I met Clare back in September 2010 when I started my business and we have worked on various projects over the last year. As Hubs has dabbled with smoking food in the past, he helped Clare road test a food smoking course that is now available through Seasoned. Both Hubs & I believe smoking has the amazing ability to transform a food. I certainly believe a bacon sarnie tastes even better if the bacon is smoked.

Essentially there are two ways of smoking food. Smoking food at home doesn’t require lots of expensive equipment. Read the rest of this entry

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