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
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
Before I get chastised for writing a C*&^%$£~s post in October the organised amongst you will be beginning to prep for festive baking time. While Stir-up Sunday, when you traditionally make Christmas Pudding, isn’t until 20thNovember, now is the time to start on the cake to give it sufficient feeding time. A Christmas Cake that hasn’t been stuffed to the gills with alcohol is deemed as substandard in this house. This is the recipe I’ve used for years, and after many request to stop keeping the recipe close to my chest here it is. It’s from a 2005 edition of Prima magazine and produces a lovely moist fruit cake. Read the rest of this entry
On Monday I was left with the quandary of what to do with left over cake trimmings, though to be honest left over cake in this house is a rare sight. As a child I had a fondness for Rum Truffles. The best ones being from a local bakery called Mellors. These rum truffles were huge, but that could also be due to nostalgic hindsight, just like Wagon Wheels and Monster Munch used to be bigger back then. We also used to make them at home. All I could remember was that is was cake crumbs, rum essence and not much else.
At 6am Monday morning when I was trying to remember the recipe, Google was no help. No help what so ever. A thousand and one recipes for cake pops and the like and fancy truffles with all sorts of ingredients added, but nothing like the simple recipe I could barely remember. Read the rest of this entry
By the time Christmas has been and gone I’ve worked out I will have made over 450 mince pies in some form or another. Thankfully not for my own consumption but made during the classes I was teaching and for friends and family. I usually make my own mincemeat, but this year due to some of my pupils being unable to come to classes due to illness I was left with nearly a kilogram of mincemeat to use up. To make shop bought mincemeat taste more like homemade mincemeat simply stir in a generous glug of sherry into the mincemeat. No one has to know.
I like using this pastry recipe for mince pies as the addition of orange juice helps shorten the pastry and give it a subtle taste. I don’t sweeten the pastry with sugar because I think the mincemeat is sweet enough. If you wanted the pastry a bit sweeter you could add a small amount of icing sugar to the pastry.
You can top your mince pies with the traditional full covering of pastry, but I prefer to cover with stars. 1) because I think they look nicer 2) you get more mince pies out of your pastry.
Makes around 12 mince pies
200g plain flour
1 egg, beaten
Demerara sugar (granulated sugar will also work fine)
1) rub the butter into the flour until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs.
2) Add the orange juice 1 tbsp at a time until it forms a soft dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 min.
3) Roll out the dough until 5mm thick. Using a 9cm diameter cutter, cut out rounds and press gently into a bun tin.
4) Place a heaped tsp of the mincemeat on top of the dough
5) Top the mincemeat with a pastry star. Brush the star with beaten egg then sprinkle with Demerara sugar.
6) Bake at 180° for 15 minutes.
Due to the size of The Cottage it does make entertaining more than 6 people quite difficult, so in the week run up to Christmas it is tradition for us to throw drinks & nibbles party as there is no room to host a sit-down meal. With the Christmas tree decked, mistletoe hanging from the beams and a roaring fire ready for chestnut roasting it officialy kicks of the Christmas week for us. We live in what could possibly be the only place in the whole of the UK that hasn’t been hit by snow this week so thankfully guests didn’t have any problems getting to us.
When it comes to the food I’m usually am incharge of the veggie and sweet nibbles whereas Hubs concentrates on the meat and fish and I have to say he’s far better at it than I am with meat and fish. He came up with the Black Christmas Pudding idea as we usually serve it up in one one form another at the party. Last night’s menu included:
Mini Toad in the Hole
Halve the recipe for normal toad in the hole and use chipolatas. Place one chipolata in each section on a bun tin, pour over batter and bake at 220°c for 15 min.
Sticky Squash with Sesame Seeds
Mini Ham & Mushroom Frittatas
Either make one large frittata and slice into bitesized pieces or bake in silicone cake cases for around 15 min
Tempura Prawns with Sweet Chilli Sauce
Onion Bhajis with Riata
Cold meat platter
Vegetable Sticks with Hummus
Black Christmas Pudding topped with Parsnip Puree
Roll black puddings in to golf ball sized balls. Fry off the balls until crispy. Peel and dice a couple of parsnips and fry off with some butter. Blitz the parsnips with a small amount of cream to give a piping consistancy. Pipe a swirl on top of the black pudding. Decorate with a tiny piece of chilli and herb leaf.
The tradition to begin Christmas food preparation, inparticular the Christmas Pudding, begins on Stir up Sunday which is the last Sunday before advent. This year falls it falls on 21st November. The term Stir-up Sunday comes from the first verse of the collect for the day and has been adopted by the Anglican church.
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Usually I follow this tradition, but this year due to a hectic diary I made my Christmas Pudding a week early. Of all the traditional festive foods the Christmas Pudding is my favourite, it easily wins over Christmas Cake. Even after being full of a traditional Christmas dinner I can always make way for pudding. I can still remember as child my dad walking in to the dining room with the pudding all alight.
Many people have traditions when making their puddings from stirring from east to west to represent the 3 kings, having a wish when stirring it and placing a silver coin in the pudding mix. In my case the traditions seem to be how much alcohol I can get in the pudding along with praying it will come out of the mould.
One of the main reasons I make my own pudding (and mincemeat for that matter) is that I’m quite a fussy being when it comes to festive fayre. I’m not a big fan of suet being used it in sweet dishes but use grated butter which works just as well. If it says there is alcohol in it I want to be able to taste it and it must be jam packed with fruit. I also like to experiment with flavours and making these foods heralds the beginning of the festive season for me.
Thanks to my lack of Whisky knowledge, sorry Hubs, this may be one of the most expensive Christmas puddings I’ve ever made. Previous years the fruit has been soaked in Guinness. This year I wanted to use whisky as I though Hubs had quite a collection and we could do with using some of it. I picked up the closest bottle to hand, sloshed a generous amount over the fruit then decided to read the bottle. I had only gone and picked up some of Hubs’ expensive whisky and used £15 of it in the pudding. I then had a sip of it and had used a peaty whisky. I will admit this does dominate the flavour of the pudding, but by the time it is served in December the intensity of the whisky should hopefully mellow a bit and the spices become more dominant. If you didn’t want to be so extravagant with the alcohol replace some or all with orange juice.
Since making my own Christmas pudding I’ve always wanted to try a spherical mould for curoisity and nostalgic reasons. Bizarrely it looks a bit like a cyberman. I now know from experience why these moulds have gone out of fashion. Eventhough I had buttered the mould I had a few tense moments getting the pudding out of the mould and did wonder if we were going to get two crumbled hemispheres. Due to the pudding being a sphere we also had a few hairy moments when the newly released pudding started to roll on the worktop, cue flashbacks of On Top of Spaghetti. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t use the mould again. It would work really well for other steamed pudding along with desserts like icecream bombe. The coking instruction below are for making it in a pudding basin rather than a mould.
“Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up and bring it in… Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered — flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.” Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol
Whisky Christmas Pudding
makes 1x 2lb pudding
500g luxury mixed fruit
100g dates, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 medium bramley apple, peeled and grated
100g cold butter, grated, plus extra for the basin
100g dark muscovado sugar, plus 2 tbsp
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
50g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs , beaten
1) In a large bowl soak the mixed fruit, dates, orange & lemon zest and apple in the whisky for 24-48 hours.
2) Butter a 2lb pudding bowl then lightly coat the butter in 2tbsp of muscovado sugar by slowly tipping and turning the bowl.
3) Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit that has been soaking. Stir until well combined. Spoon into the basin and level.
4) Take a sheet or foil and greaseproof and make a pleat in the middle (this allows for the expanding pudding). Place over the top of the pudding bowl, greasproof paper side down, and fix in place with string.
5) Sit the pudding bowl on top of an upturned heatproof saucer inside a saucepan. Pour boiling water half the way up the pudding. Cover and steam for 6 hours. Top water up as required.
6. Once the pudding is cooked cover with fresh greasproof paper and foil. Store in a cool dry place. To reheat either cook in the microwave (minus the foil), on medium, for 10 or steam for a further hour.
Ok, maybe I should be PC and call then Gingerbread People, but I only have men cutters anyway. I’ve just finished planning a whole term of Cookery Club (CC) which scarily takes us up to Christmas, seriously I’ve never been so organised in my life. These Gingerbread Men will be baked in the final CC before Christmas. I’ve been trying different gingerbread biscuit recipes for a while; none were quite right either they had a long list on ingredients, a huge amount of golden syrup/treacle or just didn’t bake properly. I remember the gingerbread men we used to buy from Mellors or Sayers and wanted these to be similar.
When researching recipes for CC I look for a few things:
- Ingredients work out no more than £1 per child. In this case I’m halving the recipe for each child.
- Recipe can easily be scaled up or down.
- Doesn’t require expensive/unusual equipment & only uses oven or microwave.
- Baking will fit on the baking trays. We use supermarket value baking trays in CC. While they are smaller than the majority of baking trays you can fit 8 perfectly in a professional oven.
- Can be made, baked and washed up in 90 min. Never underestimate how long it can take a child to make something! This also means maybe taking some steps out of the recipe. In this case I found that the dough didn’t need to be chilled to make biscuits that didn’t spread too much which is also an advantage of using butter in this recipe rather than marg.
Making these brought up some questions. Hubs insists that Gingerbread men should have icing eyes and buttons where I love them to be decorated with smarties and raisins that caramalise as they cook. The only thing that seemed to spread on these biscuits was the Gingerbread Mens’ bellies. Trust me, they weren’t as rotund when they went in the oven.
Makes around 12 large gingerbread men
Adapted from Cookie & Biscuit Bible
350g Plain Flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1-2 tsp of ground ginger
115g unsalted butter, cubed
170g soft dark brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp (40g) of golden syrup
raisins and smarties for decoration
1) Preheat the oven to 180°c and cover 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
2) Rub together the flour, butter, ginger and bicarbonate of soda until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs.
3) Add the sugar egg and golden syrup. To start with, mix the dough with a wooden spoon them once it is well combined use your hands to knead the dough. At first the mixture can seem quite dry but keep kneading. It will become soft and pliable.
4) Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut out the shapes and place on baking sheet. Decorate if you want with smarties and raisins.
5) Bake for 15min until slightly risen and beginning to colour. Leave for 5 min then continue to cool on a wire rack. Store in a tin to stop them going soggy.