Tag: Christmas

Christmas cake but not as you know it.

mini-jack-daniels-christmas-cake-1

Mini Jack Daniels Christmas cakes

Oooooh don’t you just love a mini Christmas cake? I made some last year as gifts and they went down really well. This time I decided to give them a touch of Jack Daniels and I have to say they are gooooood!

I made these ones for a local food bank on behalf of the charity I bake for Free Cakes For Kids. Lots of bakers have made lots of mini cakes so lots of families would have a special cake and it always feels great to be giving and baking for others at this time of year- don’t you think? If you want to join in the fun check out the FCFK website to find your local group. I’m yet to find a group of bakers who aren’t really friendly!

I made these cakes really last minute (meaning I didn’t start in October so I could ply the cake with alcohol) so I had few cheats. I soaked the fruit in the JD for a week before baking the cakes and once they were out of the oven I gave them another really good brush/soak with the good stuff. If you add the alcohol while the cake is still warm the liquid soaks right in. I think a Christmas cake still tastes great even if it hasn’t been drowned in alcohol for weeks or months before.

Once baked I decorated half the cakes with marzipan and white sugarpaste and the other half with just the sugarpaste so there were some nut free options – also so I could eat the marzipan that was left over.

How to decorate Christmas cakes the non traditional way.

www.CakesBakesAndCookies.com

I didn’t want to go for red or green decorations this year. My original plan was to have a little forrest of sugarpaste Christmas trees standing on top of the cakes but once I had decorated one I realised that they would be really difficult to transport to the food bank and for the families to take home too so I opted for a 2d version.

The Christmas tree decorations were made up a day ahead in pale blues, pink and white so that they could be layered up without drooping. The gingerbread men were also made up ahead of time. After 24 hours the faces were drawn on with a clever food dye pen in ‘liquorice’ black. The trees and gingerbread man were then stuck in place with a little royal icing.

To give the cakes a really professional finish I placed ribbon around the cake and wrapped them in cellophane. I was really happy with the end result. I hope the families will be too when they pick them up later this week.

Mini Jack Daniels Christmas cake

Makes 6 x 4" cakes or 8 x 3" cakes

Mini Jack Daniels Christmas cake

  • 1000g mixed fruit (sultanas, raisins, candied mixed peel)
  • 200g dates cut into small pieces
  • 225ml Jack Daniels + extra for brushing
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 260g muscovado sugar
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    Prepare the fruit
  1. Place all the fruit into an airtight container and cover with the Jack Daniels.
  2. Leave the fruit to infuse for as long as possible. 48 hours is best. Give the container a shake every now and again.
    To make the cake
  1. Line your cake tin with silicon paper. I have one that has dividers but some bakers have used cleaned out tuna and sweetcorn tins to bake in.
  2. Preheat the oven to 140C (120 fan)
  3. Mix the sugar and butter together. Add the eggs slowly then the vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl sieve all the dry ingredients. Add this to the butter and sugar mix until combined.
  5. Finally add the fruit and combine till covered.
  6. Spoon evenly into each cake tin and smooth down with the back of a spoon.
  7. Bake for 2-21/2 hours.
  8. Once out of the oven brush liberally with Jack Daniels and leave to cool for 20 minutes before removing the cakes from the tin and allow to cool completely ready to decorate.
http://cakesbakesandcookies.com/2016/12/08/have-you-ever-made-christmas-cake-with-jack-daniels-once-you-try-it-you-wont-go-back/

Something you can do to help….

I wrote this post before I delivered the cakes to the food bank. I feel now looking back that I brushed over the food bank part. For me this was supposed to be about sharing my recipe for a Jack Daniels Christmas cake. It is in fact about a lot more than that. There are so many people in need in our country and right on our door steps. You may not even be aware that there is a food bank on your high street, in your church or by your community centre. These places are amazing. They’re run mostly by volunteers and the people who need them are often in dire situations.

When I delivered these cakes I met with a band of very jovial volunteers who are loving and caring and so, so knowledgable. There was a young mum who was there as I dropped off. She was collecting a couple of blankets from the centre. She had been housed in the hostel around the corner. The week before she had left a violent relationship with nothing but the clothes on her back and her teenage daughter. She had nothing. She was housed in a hostel so they were safe. The hostel is an amazing resource with a bedroom and some furniture and a kitchen along one wall but that’s it. It’s very, very basic. No bedding, no plates, no comforts. I’m sure she was grateful for a safe and warm roof over her head but having just spent a few hundred quid on presents for my two daughters to then see this young woman with so little but still with a grateful smile on her face was incredible humbling.

So I’m asking you to do something and not just now – for the foreseeable future. When you’re doing your food shopping pop an extra tin of something or a bottle of shampoo in your basket and leave it in the food bank bins which are always situated just behind the checkout. All the big supermarkets have collection bins and the extra pound or two probably won’t make much of a difference to you but it will make a massive difference if we all do it for others.

Thanks

EmmaMT x

www.CakesBakesAndCookies.com

Christmas Jam recipe: The perfect gift

Christmas Jam recipeChristmas jam recipe

I love to make Christmas gifts, especially for the girls teachers. We put into the group collections but it’s always nice to add a personal something. I’m sure the teaches get inundated with home made stuff so this year I thought we’d go for something a bit different from our usual gingerbread biscuits. We made Christmas Jam. Christmas jam

The jam is really easy to make and you can substitute any fruit you don’t like for something you do. We love apricots and dates but not everyone does. As long as you keep the weight of the fruit the same you’ll get a great result.

My first attempt at jam making was back at the end of the summer with my rhubarb jam. It was so delicious and simple to make that I couldn’t wait to make some more – any excuse eh! This time I thought I’d do it the official way and with the help of Lakeland and their jam thermometer, seriously cute jam jars and some waxed circles I was ready to go.

jam making equipment Tim bought some mini jam jars for his grape jam in the summer so I only needed a few more jars to top up the numbers. I love these ‘Ball’ ones. Such a cute size and shape. The discs come in bags of 200 – so they should keep me going for a while! and the thermometer is fantastic! Not only does it have a temperature gauge in Celsius and farenheight but it also has markings for the correct temperature for other baking – jam making, sterilising temperature, frying fish or chips it even has hard crack, soft crack and firm ball temperatures marked- and before you think I’ve become a crack addict that refers to sweet making. I think fudge and caramel may be next on the list. I also like that it has a clip on the back so you can secure the thermometer onto your pan to stop it getting in the way when you’re stirring.

Christmas Jam recipe:

Christmas Jam recipe:

This recipe will make 10 mini jam jars of 135ml or 3 regular jam jars of 450ml

  • 800g mixed fruit
  • 150ml Brandy/Whisky
  • 100g dried dates
  • 100g glace cherries
  • 100g dried apricots
  • Juice and skin of 3 small oranges
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 570g Jam sugar (which contains pectin) ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 200ml orange juice
  1. Place all the dried fruit into an air tight container and cover with the alcohol. Give it a good shake so all the fruit is coated. Leave for 48 hours to infuse or longer if you have the time.
  2. Place all the fruit in a deep pan over a medium heat and cover with sugar. Add the juice from the oranges and lemon and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Cut the skins from the oranges into small slithers and chop up a bit more then add them to the pot. Place a jam thermometer in the pan to allow it to heat up with the jam. Leave it in the pan the whole time.
  4. Continue to cook for 20-30 minutes so the fruit really softens up and infuses in all the spices and juices. Stir occasionally to prevent the jam sticking to the bottom.
  5. If using a thermometer bring the jam up to 105ºC /220ºF. Once this temperature is reached the jam will set. If not using a thermometer you can test if the jam is done by placing some jam on the back of a chilled saucers you have placed in the freezer. Leave it for 30 seconds then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles up it’s ready. If it doesn’t keep boiling for another five minutes and try again on a fresh plate.
  6. To sterilise the jam jars place them in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and keep at that temperature for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs.
  7. While still warm spoon the jam into the jars till it reaches the top. Place a disc of waxed paper over the top and seal with the lid. Leave to cool completely.
  8. Where to store your jam: If you press the centre of the lid down and it moves store in the fridge and eat within 1-2 months. If the top of the jam jar doesn’t move when pressed you have a good air tight seal and you can store your jam in a dark place for up to 12 months.
http://cakesbakesandcookies.com/2015/12/20/christmas-jam-recipe-the-perfect-little-gift/

So what are you making and baking for Christmas gifts this year. I’d love to know?

EmmaMT x

Disclaimer: Thank you to Lakeland for providing me with the jam jars, waxed circles and jam thermometer for this post. All thoughts, opinions and ramblings are entirely my own.

nom nom Christmas jam

 

Meet the expert: Jane Curran, Editor of Feel Good Food

Jane curran FEELGOODPICJane Curran is the Editor of Feel Good Food Magazine and the Food Editor on Woman and Home. I’ve known Jane for about 10 years now. I can’t believe it’s that long but it’s true. She came to work at Woman and Home while I was on maternity leave with Beau. I was lucky enough to sit opposite her at the magazine’s offices and let me tell you as a baker sitting opposite the food editor is a GOOD thing! Apart from the fact that she would need dishes to be ‘taste tested’, she is a font of all knowledge and I used to grill her all the time! I was lucky enough to be able to interview Jane at this busy time of year.

 

How did you get into cooking and baking? 

Because my Mum could burn water and was an atrocious cook! Then I went to France when I was ten and fell in love with great food.

Who inspires you most in the cooking arena and why?

Probably Simon Hopkinson whose accuracy, attention to detail and sheer brilliance as a (former) chef and writer makes me think I can achieve anything. He also rekindles my love of classic French food. But I also admire Yotam Ottolenghi for his fabulous flavour combinations.

What’s your favorite cook/ baking book?

There are many but I love Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries  I and II. Great cook books are as much for me about the writing as they are about the food.

How did you come to be at Woman & Home / Feel Good Food ?

I had worked for the Editorial Director years before as her food editor, so when the vacancy came up she gave me a ring! We launched FGF together 6 years ago.

How long have you worked at FGF?

We launched it as a one-off magazine for Christmas 2006 and it did so well we just kept going! Now we produce six a year.

What does your job entail?

The whole package from recipe development, design concepts, photography, content and commissioning extra features such as table inspiration or gadgets. And being my own PR and marketing machine!

What’s the best part of your job?

Working as a small team to bring out the best and most beautiful magazine we can.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Anything which involves admin!

What recipe should we be making from the latest issue of FGF?

Make the cover recipe – it’s super simple, delicious and looks great – how food should be. (EmmaMT here- this recipe is will be in the very next post! Check it out)

Have you had any big baking disasters?

I did “lose” a rich and sticky chocolate cake which slid off its base to the floor on the way to the table. And failed 3 times to make a simple Victoria sponge in the test kitchen until I finally realised that a freelancer had put plain flour in the self-raising flour container…Oh and I tried to make macaroons on a boiling hot day – the humidity just made them collapse when they came out of the oven!

Will you be cooking this Christmas?

We are 12 this year and are round at my sister’s house – she has a huge table. I am doing the starter (gravadlax with home made rye soda bread), the cheese (actually that’s Harry, my husband’s job as he is the expert) and pudding (traditional Christmas pud plus a frozen chocolate and mocha parfait with salted praline). I am leaving the turkey to her!

Where’s your favorite place to go out to eat?

This does change on a regular basis but as a treat, it’s currently Trullo in Highbury which is the most fantastic Italian restaurant. We have never had a bad meal there, the staff and service are faultless – their food is what Italian food should be; the simplest but the best ingredients put together with care and love.

What kitchen gadget could you not live without and why?

I would have to say my Santoku knife – without a great knife I just can’t chop!

What’s your favorite dinner party meal and dessert?

Hard question for such a greedy person, but possibly spaghetti alla vongole for a starter or main and a classic lemon tart with raspberries and passion fruit cream.

What’s your guilty food pleasure? 

Heinz tomato soup with loads of grated Cheddar in it – my poorly comfort food!

Are you a Tea or coffee drinker? 

Both. I am a Nespresso addict in the morning then my addiction moves on to Twining’s Earl Grey tea after 11am.

Check out Jane’s White Chocolate cheesecake recipe in the next blog post. It’s perfect for Christmas as she says!

Mince Pie Recipe

Mince pie recipeWell, it had to be done really didn’t it? I mean how long can you have baking blog before you make a batch of mincepies? Well for me nearly three years.

I absolutely love mince pies but it wasn’t until Darcey asked for “those cakes with all the stuff inside”  (and it took quite a while to work out what she was talking about) that I even decided to give it a go. I did the usual, looked through a ton of baking books, blogs and websites and they all had various amounts of fruit/ butter/ sugar / BRANDY!!! Some sounded too sweet and some too boozy – they are for Darcey after all. So, rather than follow one recipe I decided to just go with the flow and grab whatever I had in my store cupboard. I bought a bag of mixed fruit but everything else was from my cupboard.

So whether you are making mince pies or adding some boozy juicy raisins to a cake as I am planning to do, here is a really moist and tasty mince meat recipe.

 

Mincemeat recipeMince pie recipe

  • 500g mixed fruit (raisins, sultanas, mixed peel- you can make up any combination as long as it’s the same weight)
  • 60g dried apricots
  • 50g dried dates
  • 125g butter
  • 160g dark brown sugar
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • juice and rind of an orange and lemon
  • 1 tbsp brandy

To make the mincemeat…

  1. Measure all the ingredients except the brandy into a large saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir continuously until the butter has melted.
  2. Keep stirring for a further 5 minutes to slowly cook the fruits.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat then add the brandy and mix it in well. Leave to cool in the saucepan.
  4. Once completely cold store in an air tight container and allow the alcohol to really sink into the fruit for at least 24 hours before using in a pie.

Shortcrust pastry recipe

Mince pie recipe

  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g cold butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp cold water
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 egg white – for brushing the pies before baking

How to make shortcrust pastry

  1. Sieve the flour into a bowl
  2. Cut up the butter into small cubes then rub into the flour to form a breadcrumb consistency.
  3. Mix the water and egg yolks together then pour into a well in the bowl and mix into the flour/egg mix with a knife.
  4. Keep mixing until well blended but don’t over mix or the dough will become tough and you’ll loose that light, light texture.
  5. Bring all the crumbs together with your hands then wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

To make the mince pies

Mince pie recipe

  1. Lightly dust the wells in a fairy cake baking tray with flour. Heat your oven to 180ºC (160 fan)
  2. Roll out the chilled dough and cut out thin circles that are just a little bit bigger than the fairy cake wells in the tin. Place each disk of dough into a well and press down to make the pie base.
  3. Fill the case with mincemeat.
  4. Cut out a shape to go on the top of each mince pie. I made snowflakes but anything goes, just remember that if you are completely covering the top of the pie put a few holes in the top for the steam from the fruit to escape from.
  5. Brush the top of each mince pie with a little egg white to give it a nice sheen when it’s baked.
  6. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
  7. Leave the pies to cool for 10 minutes in the tray before removing them and eating while still warm or place on a cooling rack to cool completely. You can dust them with icing sugar too.
  8. Either way devour!

So, what are you making for Christmas this year? I’d love to know.

EmmaMT

Christmas bread and butter pudding.

IMG_7274

Hands up who still has some Christmas cake leftover?

Hands up who’s had enough of it now? Well I’ve got a neat little way to use it up and make it even more delicious second time round!

This bread and butter pudding is really custardy and I have been eating it for my second breakfast everyday since Christmas day!  It’s really comforting and moist. I can’t get enough of it which is a good thing as Tim and the girls aren’t keen which means I’ve nearly eaten the whole thing!! I think there will need to be some serious running going on in January.

Christmas bread and butter pudding

Ingredients

Christmas bread and butter pudding

  • Some Christmas cake (even if it’s a bit stale) sliced up
  • 10-12 pieces of buttered bread (any bread will do. I even used pittas in this one)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 175g caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml double cream

How to make Christmas bread and butter pudding

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Start by buttering each slice of bread and cutting it into triangles. It’s okay if the Christmas cake crumbles a bit. You can still use every bit.

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Layer the bread in your dish so the points stick upwards then place the thin slices of christmas cake in between. The depth of your pudding will depend on the size of your dish. Mine is pretty big (22x30cm) but a smaller dish will work just as well.

IMG_7266

Always end with a layer of just bread. By keeping the christmas pudding buried you avoid burnt bits and it gets really moist. The flavours of the cake also seep into the rest of the pudding when it is completely covered.  Set the dish aside.

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Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a deep bowl.

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Place the milk, cream and vanilla essence in a pan and heat until it is simmering – not boiling.  Add this to the egg and sugar mix and stir well. Now you have your custard.

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Pour the custard over the bread and cake till it’s completely soaked.

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I like to squash it down with my hands to make sure it’s all saturated. The pudding will taste best if you leave it to soak for 20 minutes but you can pop it into a heated oven straight away.IMG_7271

The oven should be heated to 170ºC and it should take around 40-50 minutes to bake.  Oil a sheet of silver foil and place it over the dish to prevent the top layer burning before it’s baked. Then place the dish in a roasting tin filled  ¾ with water. Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the silver foil and bake for a further 10 minutes. It’s done when the custard is set.

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Heat your grill so it’s very hot and give the pudding a liberal sprinkle of caster sugar and grill till the sugar melts. Watch this like a hawk. It will burn very quickly.

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It tastes best warm from the oven with cream, ice cream or custard on the side. I would have liked to show you what this looks like when it was cut into but I managed to throw my camera across the room on Christmas day and now have no working lenses!  But it looks and tastes great. The Christmas cake takes on a whole different texture. It’s soft and raisiny without being too fruitcakey and the best bit is when you come across a hint of nut or alcohol.

enjoy!

Happy Christmas cake bakers

Happy Christmas 2012

Hello,

I wish you all a very merry Christmas. I hope you all have a fantastic time today with your families and get to eat lots of delicious cake.

Love

EmmaMT

XX

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