Christmas Cakes in Jars- Eaten with a spoon!

Flicking through one of the Christmas issues of Good Food Magazine I found a recipe for Christmas cakes in jars, complete with marzipan and icing!

I thought this sounded like an awesome idea, but was a little dissuaded when I mentioned the concept to the boyfriend and a few friends who all immediately asked “How would you eat it?”. Hmmmm, I started to think that maybe my baking lust was taking over my common-sense as my first thoughts had been “how cute!” and “How soon can I try this out?”

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I have scaled down the recipe to make 5 portions and made a few amendments, including warming the dried fruit and brandy on the hob rather than leaving soaking overnight, using flavoured brandy and a mixed bag of dried fruit (I used Sainsburys basics for economy). Original recipe by Kerry Hemms in BBC GoodFood mag Dec 2012, mine is below:

  • 370g dried fruit mix (mine was sultanas, peel, currants, raisins and candied peel)
  • Zest and the juice of 1 orange
  • 5 tbsp Orange & Honey Brandy (from M&S)
  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 70g dark brown muscavado sugar
  • 40g light brown muscavado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 150g marzipan
  • 150g white fondant icing.

1. Pick out the candied peel from the mixed dried fruit and then chopped it finely for a better consistency.

2. Then put the dried fruit, orange zest, orange juice and brandy in a saucepan and over a very low flame, heat gently stirring regularly for around 10-15 mins.

3.Preheat the oven to 150°C Cream the sugar and butter together in a bowl adding the eggs one at a time, slowly add in the flour and spices stirring constantly.

3.Divide the mix between 5 jars (that have been sterilized first- how to here). Please remove any rubber seals if using Kilner jars or similar. Pop into a deep roasting dish, half fill the dish with water and place in the oven.

4. Bake for 1 hour. Remove and leave on a rack to cool.

5. Once completely cooled, smear a little of the apricot jam over the top of each cake and place a cut out circle of marzipan on top followed by a smidge of bottled water and then topped with a circle of the fondant icing.

6. Either decorate the cake with a fondant icing cut out shape e.g. snowflake, holly, star etc… Seal the jar and decorate however you fancy!

The recipe states that the cake keeps for 6 months once sealed!

When ready to eat, grab a spoon and get digging!

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Biscotti- Perfect Italian Biscuits

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As part of my Christmas jar project for my team (blog post here) I decided to make biscotti biscuits.

I have always adored biscotti biscuits when I have had them in coffee shops, lovingly dunked into my latte, however I had no idea just how easy they are to make!

After the first bake!

After the first bake!

These elegant, grown-up biscuits are suprisingly easy to make, however when first researching recipes many refer to double baking and that this takes time. I thought I would give them a go anyway and in honesty the double baking is so easy to do- give it a go and let me know how you get on!

Bakers privilege- sample the first one!

Bakers privilege- sample the first one!

All wrapped up and ready to gift!

All wrapped up and ready to gift!

The recipe I used in full was from the Betty Crocker website: Orange & Cranberry biscotti .

I am going to make these again as both the boyfriend and I really enjoyed them but I will tinker with the flavour combinations, maybe a nice hazlenut chocolate and raisin biscotti would be rather nice!

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Foodie gifts in Jars! The perfect Christmas presents?

Christmas is the time of giving, and what better thing to give than something that has been lovingly created just for you?

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For our departments Christmas incentives the team leaders (of which I am one) decided to give 3 gifts a week to our team based on targets (it is still work!). We were given a budget which we could use to get gifts, however I thought this provided the perfect outlet for my baking desires. I mean, this meant I could play in the kitchen for hours at a time with a valid excuse and also not be tempted to eat all of my creations.

Chocolate covered Honeycomb

Chocolate covered Honeycomb

I started looking through my cookery books, magazines and the internet trying to think of something interesting that I could create that people would want to receive. A trip to the Good Food Show at the Birmingham NEC provided the perfect inspiration in the way of cake mixes in jars. This started me thinking about food in jars, wrapped up in pretty fabric and ribbons!

So I set to planning. Now, if you have ever had the misfortune to talk to me about bills/ savings/ my old allotment, you would run away at this point as I.Love.To.Plan!!

So far I have created….

  • Biscotti- pistachio & cranberry- Blog post here.
  • Christmas cake in jars- Blog post here (link to blog to be added shortly)
  • Christmas cookies in jar (link to blog to be added shortly)
  • Chocolate covered honeycomb/cinder toffee- (link to blog to be added shortly)
  • Raspberry marshmallows- (link to blog to be added shortly)
  • Chocolate Buttons- (link to blog to be added shortly)
Biscotti

Biscotti

All apart from the raspberry marshmallows have worked very well. The marshmallows were delicious, however a few days after popping them into the jars I noticed they had gone pretty gooey. On closer inspection they had started sticking together, so such a shame but I will have to use them spooned onto hot chocolate on cold wintery nights! When life hands you lemons…right!?

Christmas cookies in jar!

Christmas cookies in jar!

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It’s the taking part that counts- but winning is pretty awesome!

I know winning isn’t everything and gloating is a social no-no, however I’m pretty chuffed to have won a bake-off.

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Now this isn’t the famous BBC show, it was my offices mince pie bake-off. I had a few ideas on what I’d like to make which involved making my own mincemeat & shortcrust dessert pastry (something which I’d not yet attempted).

One lesson that I learned during this process, that I’d like to share with you dear reader is to always, always read a recipe thoroughly before baking day. I quickly scan-read the mincemeat recipe and then got so carried away with altering it that I didn’t notice it should be left to macerate overnight, or that after this it should be baked in the oven for 3 hours. Yes, that’s right; 3 whole hours.

So 6pm on a Sunday evening and I am stuffed from beautiful roast chicken dinner (made by the lovely Zoë) and need to start the mince pie baking. I set about chopping the bramley apples and adding the dried fruit, sugar and spice and then popped it straight in the oven. Now, I’m pretty sure leaving the flavours to mingle overnight would make this amazing, but I was short on time. Plus cooking the mix on a very low heat the flavours have quite a while to combine. As we had some gorgeous brandy liquer with honey and orange in, I added a liberal splash of this to the mix before cooking

Mingling mincemeat!

Mingling mincemeat!

Once this was prepped it was into the oven on a low heat for 3 hours. Plenty of time to start playing with the pastry!

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

As I was going to the effort of making the mincemeat from scratch I thought it best to add some additional flavour to the pastry. Oranges always make me feel Christmassy and the warmth of nutmeg was too tempting to resist so orange and nutmeg shortcrust dessert pastry was the order of the day.

First I sifted the flour, followed by the icing sugar onto the breakfast bar…

All ready to mix!

All ready to mix!

I then chopped the cold butter into cubes, grated the orange peel and the fresh nutmeg and then got stuck in! With fingertips only. I had seen a tip on a cookery program (I forget which one as it was a while ago) which suggested running your hands under the cold tap before drying and then rubbing the butter in. In for a penny, in for a pound I thought I may as well.

The golden result looked like breadcrumbs:IMG_8701

The next part was to stir in the egg, followed by the splash of milk. As I didn’t want the butter to overmix (and prevent the shortcrust being all flaky and, well, not “short”) I used a fork to mix it in. Eventually using my hands to make it into a nice ball of orange dough.

Into the fridge for the remainder of the time it took to cook the mincemeat. (The recipe recommends half an hour)

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Once the mincemeat had finished in the oven, I let it cool whilst rolling the dough. I halved the dough and rolled out half at a time for ease. I greased the baking tins with butter before using pastry cutters to cut several discs of pastry and eased them into the tins.

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I then put around 1 1/2 teaspoons of mincemeat into each case, and prepared my secret weapon; 250g tub of mascarpone well mixed with 25g golden caster sugar. I then popped 1 1/2 teaspoons of this onto the mincemeat (as an aside, I would suggest popping the mascarpone in before the mincemeat and only using teaspoon of each filling).

I then cut out 24 stars using a cookie cutter and popped it onto each pie, before glazing with a small amount of milk before popping in the oven for 25 minutes.

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After all that, this is what emerged from the oven, smelling like Christmas in an orange grove!

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Pastry recipe adapted from original here with the replacement of orange peel for lemon peel and some freshly grated nutmeg for good measure. Mincemeat recipe adapted from Delia’s legendary recipe here. See below for my adapted recipe & instructions!

Kirstys’ Orange, nutmeg & mascarpone mince pies!

    • 225g bramley apples- peeled & chopped small
    • 110g vegetarian suet
    • 500g dried mixed fruit (I used mostly Sainsburys mixed fruit topped up with dried blackcurrants, but picked out the peel, and chopped it into much smaller pieces)
    • 175g brown sugar
    • Grated zest and juice of a lemon & orange
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 2 teaspoons of mixed spice
    • Large amont of grated nutmeg
    • a good soaking of brandy (I used M&S Orange and honey brandy liquer)
    • 250g tub mascarpone
    • 35g golden caster sugar
    • 500g plain flour, with plenty more for dusting
    • 100g icing sugar
    • 250g cubed cold butter, cut into small cubes
    • Zest of 1 orange
    • Half a fresh nutmeg seed
    • 2 eggs, gently beated
    • Dash of milk & more for glazing the pies<;;/address<;;

Start by making the mincemeat- preheat the oven to 120°C peel and chop the bramley apples, add the dried fruit, the sugar and then then a good few glugs of brandy. Add the suet and mix together

Transfer to an oven dish, cover with tinfoil and cook for 3 hours at 120°C

Whilst that is cooking, Sift the flour, followed by the icing sugar onto your work-surface, add the cubed butter, and then the zest and grated nutmeg.
Using fingertips, mix the butter by squishing between your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs

Once combined, add the beaten egg to the mix. using a fork mix together until well combined. Add the dash of milk and use your hands to mix into a dough ball.

Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate.

Once the mincemeat has finished, leave to cool, stirring occasionally. Mix the mascarpone and sugar in a bowl. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Using butter grease two 12 hole cake tins, and then on a floured surface roll out the pastry and cut out 24 large circles. Ease these into the tins.

Top the pastry with a spoon of the mascarpone mix, followed by a spoon of the cooled mincemeat. Add either a circle of pastry and crimp the edges, or use a festive biscuit cutter to cut a star/tree/holly and pop on top of the pie.

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Glaze the top with milk, and pop in the oven for 10 minutes. After the ten minutes swap the trays oven and turn round so that they brown evenly. Leave for another 10-15 minutes keeping an eye to ensure that they don’t over-brown.

Once ready, leave to cool for a few minutes before gently easing out the tin and popping on a wire rack to cool. When either cool (or just warm if you can’t resist) sift over a little icing sugar mixed with edible glitter if you have any!

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