Tag Archives: Christmas

Mincemeat Swirls

Mincemeat swirl

I am running a Christmas Breads course in November at Acton Scott Farm and Museum so I have been planning which breads we will be cooking during the day.  I wanted to do a range of sweet and savoury so that there will be a bread to cover every occasion over the busy Christmas period.  I was thinking about sweet buns and which one we should make. At a Christmas breads course last year we made St Lucia buns, they were quite tasty and appealed because of the story about them being handed out whilst the girls in Scandinavian towns and villages dress in white with a candle crown and walk through the streets. But they are not buns that I would write home about.  I love a Chelsea bun and all of its fruity stickiness so I began to think about replacing the fruit, butter and sugar mixture with mincemeat and it works beautifully.  Whilst I was making them Mr OC commented on the Christmassy smells emanating from the kitchen – so they were deemed perfect for the Christmas breads course, along with a date and walnut loaf and a blue cheese focaccia. All suitably Christmassy and with the advantage of using up the bit of mincemeat left in the jar, the bowl of walnuts and the inevitable bit of cheese that escaped the crackers.

Mincemeat Swirls
For the enriched dough:
300g strong white flour
250g plain white flour
1 sachet of easy bake yeast or 10-15g of fresh yeast
10g fine sea salt
50g caster sugar
150ml whole milk
150ml water
50g unsalted butter
1 egg
For the filling:
5-6 tablespoons (about half a jar) of mincemeat
For the glaze:
50g caster sugar
50ml water
For the icing:
50g icing sugar
squeeze of orange juice 0r use water

Method
To make the dough:
Heat the milk  and butter in a small pan until the butter has melted, add in the tepid water and check with a clean finger that the liquid isn’t too hot. If it’s too hot it will kill the yeast, so leave it to cool for a while.

Measure the flours, salt, sugar and yeast (keeping the salt and yeast separate as the salt will kill the yeast too) into a large bowl, pour in the liquids and add the egg.

Using a clawed hand mix the ingredients together until they come together in a shaggy mass.  If the mixture has any dry bits of flour add a splash more water. You want it to feel on the wet side rather than the dry side. Cover with clingfilm, a large plastic bag or a shower cap and leave to stand for ten minutes.  Uncover and using one hand stretch half of the dough furthest away from you and fold it over the other half. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat this stretching and folding. Repeat the action for a further 8-10 times. The dough should start to resist you as you do these stretch and folds. This is the gluten developing.  Cover the bowl again. Leave to rest for at least ten minutes and repeat the stretch and folds. Stop stretching and folding when the dough becomes difficult to pull. You will have done enough. Rest for at least another ten minutes and repeat the stretch and fold.  Cover and leave until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour in a warm kitchen).

Preheat your oven to 200°c, gas mark 6, or use the roasting oven of the Aga. Place a solid shelf or tray in the centre of the oven or use the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga. All bread benefits from being cooked on a solid tray rather than a wire shelf.

Lightly flour the work surface and tip the dough onto the flour.  Roll into an oblong roughly 60cm x 40cm. Spread spoonfuls of the mincemeat evenly over the surface. Mincemeat swirls

Roll up from the long end, like a Swiss roll.

Rolling up mincemeat swirls

Once fully rolled up cut into 8-9 pieces, depending on how big or small you want your buns to be. Place the buns, swirl facing up, in a square or round cake tin, that measures about 20cm. You want the buns to be touching slightly so that they batch bake (that way you get the lovely soft side when ripped apart).

Mincemeat swirls in tin

Flatten each bun slightly with the palm of your hand.  Cover with clingfilm, a large inflated plastic bag or a shower cap and leave to rise until they look nicely risen and slightly puffy (about half in a warm kitchen).

Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and burnished.  If you poke the middle with your finger you should feel very little resistance.

Just before the buns are due to be ready place the sugar and water for the glaze in a small pan and bring to a simmer over a gentle heat. Simmer for about two minutes.

When cooked place the tin on a wire rack and brush the sugar glaze over the buns.  Leave them in the tin for about ten minutes and then remove and place on the wire rack to cool completely.

Mix the icing sugar and enough orange juice or water to make a pourable icing and decorate the top of your buns to your heart’s content.

Baked mincemeat swirls

Hotel Chocolat treats for Christmas

I have been holding off from using the word until at least November. I am the sort that starts to think about Christmas about mid November-ish. But I think about chocolate most of the time. Hotel Chocolat kindly sent me a selection of the gorgeous treats that they have available this Christmas. To be honest when I was asked which chocolate I would like to try I couldn’t make up my mind. My youngest had no such problem. Straight away she asked if we could try the marzipan and the mint selections. She is very different from me in many ways, as all children should be, but we have the exact same taste in chocolate. Here is what arrived in a beautifully presented gift bag.

Hotel Chocolat

The youngest dived straight in and she and I both agree that it would be hard to choose between the marzipan or the mint if we had to. The little solid Santas would also be lovely to find tucked under the tree come Christmas morning.

Hotel Chocolat

Which would you choose?

Disclosure: I was sent these items free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own and honest. 

 

Christmas Tidings

Our tree, decorated as we like it

Our tree, decorated as we like it

Wishing all of my readers a very happy Christmas and a safe, happy and healthy 2014. I look forward to sharing more recipes with you here and catching up with your news through your blogs and comments.

Thank you all for your kind words and support throughout 2013.

Best wishes

Kath x

Candied peel

Candied peel

I have been slicing oranges into segments into a pretty bowl, sprinkling them with sugar and the juice of another orange or a clementine and leaving them to marinate for a few hours in the fridge. My eldest then tucks into them for breakfast or after school. I have been throwing the peel into the bin; neither the chickens or the compost likes it. It occurred to me that I should candy it. After all, it is nearly Christmas and there is something very Christmassy about candied peel.

This recipe is very easy to do on the Aga as you can leave the syrup and peel to simmer away in the simmering oven and then dry out the peel in the warming oven or on the top of the warming plate. You don’t need an Aga to give it a go though. A warm airing cupboard or shelf near a fire or radiator will have the same effect.

There is something very satisfying about candying your own peel. It does take a while, and it is a bit of faff, especially when you can buy it. But still, I think it’s worth giving it a go just for the smug glow you get when you look at your jar of candied peel and think to yourself ‘I did that’.  I am going to dip some of the glistening strands into molten dark chocolate for a treat for Mr OC and me, and maybe the children (if I tell them about it). But that’s another day in the not too distant future. Today I am just going to enjoy looking at the jar and enjoy my smug glow.

I used Debora’s recipe as a guide, I didn’t slice it as beautifully though and used only orange peel rather than a mixture of citrus. Four orange rinds needed about half the sugar and half the water Debora gives in her recipe, so 450g of sugar and 600ml water.  At the point when the peel was soft in the syrup I let it cool in the pan and then placed the pieces into a tin, lined with baking paper. I didn’t dredge it with extra sugar.  I put the tin into the warming oven of the Aga and left it there for about four hours, took it out and left it overnight on the warming plate of the Aga. It was beautifully dry in the morning and ready for the jar.

I plan to use the remaining few tablespoons of orange flavoured sugar syrup to glaze an orange flavoured cake.

Thanks must be given to Debora for all the inspiration she has given me over the past couple of years in both her blog and her book.

Chocolate Chestnut Cake

This is a good chocolate cake!  I have been meaning to make it since Rachel made it and that was a whole year ago. It had been on my to make list before that as I had looked at it longingly in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Year, which believe it or not I have had in my possession for seven years.  How time flies, and what a long to make list I must have.

It’s a great cake for this time of year, when chestnuts feature heavily on market shelves and in Christmas cooking.  But to be honest it’s a great cake for any time of the year.

It’s easy to make too and can be enjoyed warm for dessert or cold with a cup of tea (or coffee, or a mulled wine).

250g good quality dark chocolate
250g butter
250g peeled and cooked chestnuts (I use vacuum packed as life is too short)
250ml milk
4 eggs, separated
125g caster sugar

Method
Grease and  line a 25cm round cake tin.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a pan over a gentle heat. In another pan heat the chestnuts and milk together until it just comes to the boil.  Remove from the heat and mash the chestnuts into the milk until smooth.

Whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar together until combined.  Pour in the chocolate mixture and the chestnut mixture and whisk together well. I used a balloon whisk to do this.

In a very clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks  and then carefully fold into the chocolate and chestnut mixture.  Pour the mixture into the tin and place in a preheated oven at 170°c, gas mark 3, or the baking oven of the Aga for 25-30 minutes, until it is set, but it will still have a little wobble in the centre.

Leave in the tin to cool a little if you are serving warm or leave to cool completely.  Sift cocoa powder over the top.

Stollen

Well, this is the scene outside:

Poor little birds.  The last two days we have had a lot of snow (well, to clarify I am talking about the Midlands region of the UK and we don’t get that much snow normally. So when it snows all day non-stop we like to talk about it.  It’s weather and we are English!).  This has meant that the roads are a no-go area so it was deemed a baking day.  I have had a lump of marzipan (or almond paste) in the fridge since I made the youngest’s birthday cake at the beginning of December and have been meaning to make stollen ever since.

I followed Rachel Allen’s recipe for Dodo’s Stollen in her Bake book (ISBN 13 978 0 00 725972 0) pretty much word for word. That must be a first! The recipe makes two loaves, so one was donated to Mum and Dad.  Rachel Allen suggests you try keeping it for a week to mature.  We have failed in this respect so far.

It takes a while to make, and you probably do need to be having a baking day to make this, as there is a fair amount of leaving to rise.

100g sultanas
100g raisins
100g currants
100g candied peel, chopped finely
100g ground almonds
50ml rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 x 7g sachets of fast acting yeast
225ml warm milk
500g  strong white bread flour
pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground finely
6 cardamom pods, husks removed and the seeds ground finely to make ½ tsp
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
150g butter cubed
100g caster sugar
225g marzipan
icing sugar to dust

Method

Place the fruit and the almonds in a bowl and pour over the rum and the vanilla extract.  Mix well and then cover the bowl with clingfilm and put to one side whilst you make the dough.

Place the flour, salt, pepper, spices, lemon zest and yeast in a bowl  and pour over the warm milk. Mix to form a dough.  I found that it made a stiff dough with some of the flour not mixed in but figured that this was ok as you will be adding butter to the dough. Leave the dough to rest for ten minutes.  If you have a mixer with a dough hook use this to beat in the butter and the sugar.  Then knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Make it into a ball shape, place back in the bowl and cover with a large plastic bag for about 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.  It was a cold day when I was making mine so it took a bit longer than this to rise to double its size.

Using your fingertips, gently prod the air out of the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and prod gently into a square.  Then roll with a rolling pin until it is about 2.5cm thick.  Pour the fruit and almond mixture over the top and then knead the dough until all the fruit is evenly distributed.

Cut the dough in half. Cut the marzipan in half.

Prod one piece of the dough into a square and then use the rolling pin until it measures about 15cm x 20cm.  Roll one piece of the marzipan into a sausage that is slightly shorter than the dough and place this in the middle.  Roll the dough around the marzipan and press it well to seal the seam.  Shape into a log shape and place onto a greased baking sheet.  Repeat the same with the other dough and marzipan.  Make sure you leave plenty of room between the two loaves on the baking sheet so that they can rise without growing into one another.

Cover the baking tray with the large plastic bag, making a tent shape so that the loaves won’t stick to the plastic as they rise and leave to rise again until they have almost doubled in size.

Remove from their plastic tent and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c or gas mark 6, or the bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga for about 40-45 minutes.  If you are cooking in the Aga, check at 25 minutes and if brown, transfer to the baking oven for the rest of the cooking time.

Dust well with icing sugar. Rachel Allen recommends doing this when cool, but I did it as soon as they came out of the oven so some of it glazed a little.

Allow to cool before enjoying and if you can manage it leave it to mature, and then tell me how it tasted.