Monday, 21 November 2011

Christmas Pudding Sunday

I am making my Christmas puddings slightly later than usual this year, mainly because we have been so busy I haven't had a day to devote to steaming Christmas puds. I have been religiously feeding my christmas cakes whilst thinking "must get the puddings done!".Christmas pudding is so easy to make, yes it does have a long list of ingredients and a ridiculously long steaming time but the actual mixture is easy peasy.

I use Delia Smiths Christmas pudding recipe in her christmas cookery book, which as I mentioned when I made my Christmas cake, is my bible when it comes to christmas cookery. I make a variety of sizes of Christmas puddings mostly for friends and family. I particularly like making individual puddings, which I wrap in muslin squares and tie with christmas ribbon and give as gifts to the Christmas pudding lovers amongst my friends.

I also love the tradition of getting everyone in the family to have a stir and make a wish. Whilst making the pudding mixture on Saturday we had friends over so my puddings had 9 lucky wish stirs. Lets hope all those wishes come true!

This year I am making less than usual because my parents are taking all of the family out for Christmas lunch so we don't need a pudding for the big day. It is quite a revelation only making one quantity of mixture and only one steaming . Usually I find myself steaming puddings from the minute I get up to the moment I go to bed on Christmas pudding day!

Below is Delia's recipe. The only tweaks I make are that I have never been able to get barley wine, so I always use extra stout instead and I don't like nuts in my pudding, so I omit the nuts and add extra dried fruit. If you want to make individual puddings this recipe makes 8 small ones using 8cm pudding basins.
My other tip is that you can steam christmas puds in a slow cooker, just fill the slow cooker with boiling water until the pudding is three quaters submerged. It takes 5hrs on high to slow cook the small individual puddings and 10 hours to steam a 2pt pudding.

Traditional Christmas Pudding
This recipe makes one large pudding in a 2 pint (1.2 litre) basin. If you have any left over it will re-heat beautifully, wrapped in foil, in the oven next day. If you want two smaller puddings, use two 1 pint (570 ml) basins, but give them the same steaming time. If you can't get barley wine (pubs usually have it), use extra stout instead.

 4 oz (110 g) shredded suet
 2 oz (50 g) self-raising flour, sifted
 4 oz (110 g) white breadcrumbs
 1 level teaspoon ground mixed spice
 ¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
 good pinch ground cinnamon
 8 oz (225 g) soft dark brown sugar
 4 oz (110 g) sultanas
 4 oz (110 g) raisins
 10 oz (275 g) currants
 1 oz (25 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped (buy whole peel if possible, then chop it yourself)
 1 oz (25 g) almonds, skinned and chopped
 1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
 grated zest ½ large orange
 grated zest ½ large lemon
 2 tablespoons rum
 2½ fl oz (75 ml) barley wine
 2½ fl oz (75 ml) stout

Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding. Take your largest, roomiest mixing bowl and start by putting in the suet, sifted flour and breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Mix these ingredients very thoroughly together, then gradually mix in all the dried fruit, mixed peel and nuts followed by the apple and the grated orange and lemon zests. Don't forget to tick everything off so as not to leave anything out.
Now in a smaller basin measure out the rum, barley wine and stout, then add the eggs and beat these thoroughly together. Next pour this over all the other ingredients, and begin to mix very 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 pack the mixture into the lightly greased basin, cover it with a double sheet of silicone paper (baking parchment) and a sheet of foil and tie it securely around the lip with string (you really need to borrow someone's finger for this!). 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 of 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 from the kettle from time to time.

When the pudding is steamed let it get quite cold, then remove the steam papers and foil and replace them with some fresh ones, again making a string handle for easier manoeuvring. Now your Christmas pudding is all ready for Christmas Day. Keep it in a cool place away from the light.

As a Christmas pudding fan, I usually can't wait until christmas for my first taste of the pudding. I can confidently say that even without the maturing period these puddings taste divine!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Baking for Pudsey Bear

This week the call went out from my son's school for cakes for the Children in need cake sale being held this afternoon. As I was working all week I didn't really have time to create anything amazing or time consuming, so the old faithful cupcake recipe came out. This is the Victoria sponge recipe that lives in my head having been taught to me by my mum and various school home Ec teachers. See I did learn something at school! I did have to do a bit of substitution as I had run out of caster sugar, so used normal granulated sugar instead.

 The making of these was not all plain sailing as I had agreed to let my son help and we ended up with half an egg shell added to the mixture. Unfortunately for me, I was using the Kenwood chef so the beater was going round when the egg shell was added. Some 20 minutes later all the shell was removed. (I hope) All a little bit more time consuming than I had hoped!

Classic Victoria sponge cupcakes
makes 12
4oz Butter
4oz caster sugar
2 eggs
4oz self raising flour

Pre heat the oven to 180c

 line a bun tin with cupcake cases

Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. this should take at least 5 minutes with an electric whisk.

Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg is added. I usually add a tablespoon of the flour with the last egg, it stops the mixture curdling.

Sieve the flour into the mixture and fold in until fully combined.

Divide between the 12 cake cases and bake in the oven for 15minutes or until well risen and springy to touch. Remove immediately from the tin and cool on a cooling rack.

I decorated mine with a simple Glace icing which is  approximately 5oz icing sugar mixed with a tablespoon of water. Mix this until a thick icing is formed, the consistency  should coat the back of a spoon. Pour over your cupcakes and finish with whatever decorations take you fancy. Mine are spotty to go with the Children in need spotty theme!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

One for Mary Berry

We were recently invited to Sunday lunch at the home of one of my son's friends. I had heard that the lady of the house makes a mean roast, so felt I needed to make a deluxe pudding to follow the scrumptious lunch.
I trawled through my cookery books until I came across a recipe that I hadn't made in years, Chocolate roulade. It just jumped out at me because in the last series of  'The Great British Bake-Off', Mary Berry chose it as one of the technical challenges. I remember thinking, whilst watching the bakers battling to get a good "roll" on their roulades, that I had made it many years ago, during my dinner party phase in the 90's and never thought of it as that difficult to make. Perhaps my memory was playing tricks on me! Time to dust down the recipe and give it another whirl.
This recipe has the added challenge of making a chocolate ganache for the filling. Chocolate and cream boiled together does slightly unnerve me as both ingredients can be a little temperamental if not handled correctly. Thankfully the cream and chocolate behaved beautifully and I ended up with a fab looking and tasting dessert that got polished off by us all after the amazing pork roast served by our hosts.

Chocolate Roulade
groundnut oil for greasing
150g caster sugar
6 eggs (separated)
200g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
50ml milk
icing sugar for dusting

100g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
300ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 200c. Oil and line a swiss roll tin measuring 23x30cm. Brush the paper with oil.
Gently melt the chocolate and milk in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, (do not let the bowl touch the water in the pan) and once the chocolate has melted stir until a smooth consistency is achieved.

Whisk the sugar and egg yolks until pale and fluffy.

Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.

Using a metal spoon, stir a little of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to slacken the mix. Fold in the remaining egg white.

Spoon the mixture into the tin, move the tin around until the mixture reaches all corners of the tin. Bake for 12 minutes.

Remove from the oven, leave in the tin until cold with a damp tea towel over the cake.

For the filling, melt the chocolate and cream together over a very low heat stirring gently until the chocolate is melted. Bring the mixture to the boil and then remove from the heat.

Stir the mixture occasionally until the mixture starts to thicken then whisk with an electric whisk until a thick mousse consistency is achieved. If the mixture does not thicken, place in the fridge for 5 minutes and then whisk again.

When the cake is cold turn it out onto a sheet of grease proof paper sprinkled with the icing sugar. Carefully remove the backing paper and spread the ganache over the cake.

To roll up the cake, make a small incision along the edge you are going to roll from to help form a roll and use the grease proof paper encourage the cake to roll up. This cake will crack as it is rolled. This is part of the charm of it. Dust with more icing sugar if required.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Bonfire Baking

The bonfire!
 Yesterday was the village farm bonfire party. For the children of the village it is a chance to get up close and personal with a big bonfire whilst eating all manner of yummy foods and watching some pretty impressive fireworks (thanks to the generosity of the farmer!).  For us grownups it is a chance to relive our childhoods with the smell of woodsmoke, the whizz bang of the fireworks and the taste of bonfire classics; hotdogs, gingerbread and  home made toffee. The food is a pretty adhoc affair with eveyone pitching in with a flask of homemade soup, a basket of baked potatoes or some baked goodies.

I decided to make a couple of different things. The first, gingerbread, I made a few days ago to give it chance to get really sticky. This recipe I found on the good food channel website and was so easy to make and became really moist and sticky after a few days wrapped in foil in a sealed container. It really is the ideal cold weather cake. The ginger is so warm and aromatic. Just perfect for bonfire night.

Sticky Gingerbread
280g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
170g unsalted butter, softened
90g lightlight muscovado sugar
220g golden syrup
1 egg
200ml milk
4 pieces preserved stem ginger, chopped

Set the oven to 180°/gas 4. Line the base of a 20cm square cake tin with non-stick baking parchment, and butter the sides.

Sift the flour with the bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Now beat in the golden syrup, then a heaped tablespoonful of the flour mixture followed by the egg.

Beat in the remaining flour, followed by the milk, until the mixture forms a smooth batter. Stir in the stem ginger.

 Scrape into the prepared tin. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until firm to the touch. Test by inserting a skewer deep into the centre. If it comes out clean then it is done. Let the gingerbread cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

Once cold wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and store in an airtight tin for a couple of days before serving.

The second recipe I Googled and tried was for cinder toffee. My mum always used to make this for bonfire night and I have such happy memories of munching on this honeycomb toffee whilst watching fireworks lighting up the sky. The recipe I found was again on the Goodfood channel website. It looked similar to that I remember my mum making so attempted it with confidence. Unfortunately my confidence was short lived because when I got to adding bicarbonate of soda to the toffee mix my toffee did not bubble up very much at all and the toffee would not set.

This experience reminded me that you cannot always trust what you see on the internet! I have spoken to my mum since and she has promised me her recipe for cinder toffee next time I head back home. I would like to say at this point that every recipe on this blog has been tried and tested by me, an amateur baker with no formal qualifications, so you can trust that these recipes will work for you.

Thankfully the lovely lady who provides our eggs had made some fabulous toffee. So mine was not missed. I  am planning to get the recipe for the Lavender Cottage toffee and will have a go, with what I am told is a failsafe recipe.

Because my toffee didn't work out I decided to make some toffee apple cup cakes instead. This was another internet find from another blog  This recipe worked a treat and I was very pleased with the results. A definite keeper for me. If eaten warm (before icing!) the toffee is still runny and if left to cool the toffee becomes chewy but still very soft.

Toffee Apple Cupcakes
Makes 12

55g  unsalted butter, softened
125g  soft light brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
210g plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
200g apple sauce, from a jar
1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche
12 toffees

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Line a bun tin with cake cases.

Cream the butter and sugar together for about 3 minutes until smooth. Add the egg, beating until well combined. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.  Add the apple sauce and creme fraiche and mix until totally combined.

Spoon half the mixture into the paper cases, Place a toffee in the centre of each and then spoon the remaining mixture on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, until well risen and firm to the touch.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Caramel Buttercream
1 stick butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar
3 tbsp caramel syrup
2 tbsp milk

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, half the icing sugar, milk, and caramel syrup. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating for about 2 minutes after each addition, until icing reaches desired consistency; you may not need to add all the sugar. Spread or pipe the buttercream onto your cakes as required.