A Taste of Christmas

14.pngFood!  Who doesn’t love it?

As I’ve probably made you all aware by now, Christmas is the best time of the year to chow down on all your favourites, because there’s always so much choice (and we all know that we’ll put on a few pounds whatever happens).  Whether its the roast dinner, the chocolate, or anything in between, we all have something that we love to eat at Christmas.  For me, it’s all about the home-baked goods.

I do love to get in the kitchen every now and again to whip up some tasty desserts, and now is the best time to do that because there’s always so much choice for what to make.  In the spirit of the season, I’ve decided to compile some of my favourite Christmas recipes to share with you guys in the hope that maybe you’ll see something that you wanna give a try.  After all, the chocolates are nice, but nothing beats sitting down and snacking on something that you made yourself.

Mince Pies

017e3e46d91c05c35c81980bfc954f06a1c30efbeeFor me, nothing says Christmas food to me more than a good homemade Mince Pie.  I discovered whilst I was at university that I am not an expert at making these, but thankfully my mother is.  In our house we always make them from the middle of November to about a week before Christmas (because after the big day they always end up being forgotten and left in the tin for months!).  They’re not too difficult to make, but you just have to make sure that the dough doesn’t become too dry or moist, otherwise you’ll find it difficult to roll out.  That’s a problem I’m far too familiar with…

Ingredients

  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 60g Lard
  • 40g Margarine
  • 8 teaspoons Water
  • Jar of Mincemeat

Recipe

  • Sieve the self raising flour into a mixing bowl.
  • Cut up the margarine and lard into small pieces and add to the flour, rubbing them between your fingertips like breadcrumbs.
  • Stir the mixture together whilst adding a teaspoon of water every so often.
  • Once the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together, mold it into a ball and remove from the mixing bowl.  Place the dough onto a worktop surface and knead it a little.
  • Put the dough into a small bag and leave it in the fridge for half an hour.
  • Turn the oven on at 180ºC / Gas mark 4.
  • Once the time is up, take the dough out of the fridge and cut it in half.  Sprinkle flour on a worktop surface and use a rolling pin on one half of the dough until it’s around 3mm flat.
  • Using one big and one small round pastry cutter, cut out the mince pie bases and tops until there is no space left on the rolled out dough.  Repeat the previous step until you have used up all the available dough.
  • Lightly push the larger cuts of pastry into the holes of a muffin tray and then using a teaspoon, scoop a small amount of mincemeat onto each base.  You can make the mincemeat at home, but I always use store-bought.
  • When you add the tops for the mince pies, make sure to dip a finger in water and brush it around the edge to help them stick to the dough.
  • Once you’ve filled up a tray, place it in the oven for 25 minutes and then leave to cool.

Gingerbread

The gingerbread house is a familiar trope of the Christmas season, but I have to say that I’ve never ventured as far as making one from scratch.  It was only last year that I actually constructed a decorated one for the first time, so I feel that baking the parts for it is a little bit out of my league at the moment.  However, something that I do now how to do is to make gingerbread men, or, as was the case last year, gingerbread Pacmen.  I was a little apprehensive the first time that I made them, but I had no need to be, because the recipe is easy to follow and very quick to carry out.  After a couple of batches I was making gingerbread like clockwork and they were coming out beautifully (if I do say so myself).

Ingredients

  • 350g Plain Flour
  • 175g Light Brown Soft Sugar
  • 100g Butter
  • 5 1/2 teaspoons Ground Ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinammon
  • 1 teaspoon Bicarbonate Soda
  • 4 tablespoons Golden Syrup
  • 1 medium Egg

Recipe

  • Before doing anything else, preheat the oven to 180º / Gas mark 4.
  • Weigh out and pour the plain flour, butter, ground ginger, ground cinammon and bicarbonnate of soda into a mixing bowl.  Using your fingers, mix all the ingredients together until it becomes crumbly.
  • Add in the sugar, syrup and egg into the mixture and stir until it forms a firm dough.
  • Sprinkle flour onto a worktop surface and roll the sticky mixture out until it’s around 6mm thick.  Using any cutters of your choosing, cut out as many shapes as you can until you run out of dough.  Repeat the step until all of the mixture has been used.
  • Place the gingerbread shapes onto a non-stick baking tray and put in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden.  Make sure that you check after the 10 minute mark as the gingerbread may be finished sooner than you think.
  • Take the tray(s) out of the oven and leave to cool.

Christmas Cake

It wasn’t until about 6 or so years ago that I started eating Christmas Cake, because apparently my sister and I had told our mother that we didn’t like it when we were younger.  This joins the list of things I have no recollection of ever saying, but I suppose that doesn’t matter now that its become a yearly tradition in my household.  This side of the baking is completely done by my mother, although I will hopefully give it a try sometime in the near future because it’s probably one of my favourite desserts ever!  Everything about Christmas Cake is wonderfully delicious, and you’d be amazed at how long it lasts for a family of four.

Ingredients

  • 300g Currants
  • 300g Sultanas
  • 150g Raisins
  • 75g  Glace Cherries (chopped)
  • 75g Mixed Peel
  • 75g  Chopped Almonds
  • 200g  Margarine (softened – Stork in a tub rather than the block)
  • 225g Self Raising Flour
  • 6 Eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Black Treacle
  • 175g  Moist Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Mixed Spice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2- 3 tablespoons of “cooking” Brandy (ie the cheapest!)

Recipe

Baking:

  • The night before making this cake, weigh out all the dried fruit and place in a bowl.  Pour over 2 to 3 tablespoons of brandy and stir so that all the fruit is covered.  Cover the bowl with cling film and leave overnight for the brandy to soak into the fruit.  This step is optional the cake tastes just as good without it.
  • Line the bottom and sides of an 8”/20cm cake tin.
  • Place the softened margarine and sugar in a bowl and cream together until they make a smooth mixture.
  • Put all the fruit (if you haven’t soaked it overnight) in a separate bowl together with the mixed peel, cherries and chopped almonds.
  • In another bowl put the flour and mixed spice and pinch of salt.
  • Once the margarine and sugar are creamed together, add the eggs and beat the mixture thoroughly.  Do this by putting in one egg at a time, sprinkling a tablespoon of the flour mixture and then beating thoroughly.  Do this until all the eggs have been added to the mixture.
  • Mix the remaining flour with the fruit, making sure all the fruit is coated and then add to the cake mixture.
  • Add in the black treacle and then stir thoroughly making sure all the fruit is mixed with the cake mixture.
  • Spoon into the prepared cake tin and put into a pre-heated oven.  140ºC (Fan) 160º Gas Mark 2 and cook for 4 to 4½ hours.  I usually check at 3½ hours as sometimes it cooks quicker than others.  If the top of the cake looks like it is browning too much, cover with some grease-proof paper.  To check the cake is cooked, pierce with a cocktail stick/skewer and if it comes out clean then the cake is cooked.

Post-baking:

  • Once the cake has cooled, store it in an airtight tin.
  • I usually make the Christmas cake on “stir up” Sunday weekend, which is the Sunday before Advent Sunday. Once the cake is made, “feed” it once a week with a tablespoon of brandy – put holes in it with a cocktail stick and then drizzle the brandy over it.
  • About a week before Christmas, marzipan the cake. You can buy this in the supermarket. Before covering the cake with marzipan, spread some apricot jam over the cake to help he marzipan to stick.
  • Knead the marzipan and sprinkle with a little icing sugar to make it less sticky. Roll out a large circle for the top and a long piece to go round the sides, cutting off any excess.  Leave the the cake out to allow the marzipan to dry out.  A few days later ice the cake.

Making the Icing:

You will need:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 2.5ml lemon juice
  • 2-3 drops glycerine
  • Whisk egg whites until foamy, gradually beat in icing sugar, lemon juice and glycerine (glycerine stops the icing becoming too hard to cut).
  • Continue beating for 5 to 7 minutes or until icing is snowy white and firm enough to stand in straight points when the spoon is lifted out of the bowl.
  • Put the cake onto a cake board.
  • Spread over the top and sides of the cake, then use a fork to “rough up” the icing to make it look like snow. Decorate with edible silver baubles that you can buy in the shop, plus any other festive decoartions that you want.
  • Leave the cake out to overnight to let the icing dry out and then cover with foil until you want to eat it.

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