I finally got around to “Decking the Halls” over the weekend although – I’m not going to lie – I could have happily gone another couple of weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas; I love buying presents, I love wrapping presents and I’ll scream along to Mariah’s “All I Want for Christmas” when it comes on the radio just like everyone else (although, when it comes to Christmas tunes, I’m all about Mele Kalikimaka)… But the decorations? Ugh, they bust my baubles. I get excited to dig the boxes out of the garage, sure, and I love putting the tree up and seeing all the new tree decorations Sunny and I have collected over the past year from our adventures away (this year we added a Puffin and a Manatee)… but then I get annoyed that there’s suddenly more clutter to contend with and to clean (needles, grrrrr), and I’m definitely one of those people who can’t wait to sweep it all away and box it up come January. I just can’t wait to reclaim my space, y’know?
God, what a Grinch!
But, Christmas Food? Oh, that is one tradition I’m happy to clutter my kitchen with, my friend. And if there’s one thing I do like about Christmas Decorations is that they do get me in the Christmas Food Mood. It took us a good couple of hours to get the decorations up on Saturday (which was two hours too long, in my opinion) – but on Sunday, I spent at least double that time happily baking away in the kitchen and whipping up these Saffron and Cinnamon Knots. They’re kind of a mix between traditional Swedish Kanelbullar and the St Lucia Saffron Buns that are traditionally eaten on the 13th of December (this Friday!). An enriched, sweet dough in a lovely shade of gold, with a sweet cinnamon filling twisted through the middle. So delicious, so moreish and perfect for scoffing in front of the tree. 🙂
Saffron and Cinnamon Knots
For the dough:
420g strong white flour
25g dried active yeast
0.25g saffron (half a tube)
pinch of salt
50g caster sugar
75g soft butter
For the filling:
1 tbsp cinnamon
90g soft butter
50g caster sugar
1 beaten egg
25g caster sugar
1 tbsp hot water
First things first, wake up your yeast. Gently heat the milk until it’s lukewarm, then stir in the yeast until it dissolves. The milk should turn a slightly off shade of beige and you might see some bubbles form.Next stir in the threads of saffron, watching the milk change from beige to gold.
In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, and then pour in your yeast mix. Gradually sift in the flour, until you’re left with a slightly wet dough.
Lightly grease your hands, then turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. I don’t like to add flour (it can change the consistency of the dough) so it’ll be a sticky couple of minutes of kneading, but stick with it (ha ha) and soon the dough will come together. After about 10 minutes of tough kneading your should have a soft, elastic dough.
Pop the dough in a lightly greased bowl, then leave it somewhere warm for about 45 minutes. While you’re waiting, mix together the filling.
After 45 minutes, the dough should have doubled in size. Knock it back and then roll it out into a rectangle roughly 1cm thick. Spread the filling, and then fold both long sides into the middle – one on top of the other. Gently roll the dough back into a rectangle shape, and then – using a pizza cutter – slice it in half, and then into long strips.
To make the knot shape, twist each strip into a spiral, wrap it once around your fingers and then pull one end through. Place each knot onto a lined baking tray and leave to rise a little for 20 minutes. Wash each one with the beaten egg.
Crank your oven up to 250°C and bake the knots for 8 minutes. Once they’re cooked, transfer them onto a wire rack, glaze them with the sugar gaze (caster sugar and hot water) and sprinkle with flaked almonds. 🙂
Bye bye November! Hello December – which means Christmas isn’t just around the corner anymore; it’s literally on the block. Maybe you’re ready for it, or maybe you’d prefer to just shut the curtains and pretend you’re not at home. I might not be anywhere near ready (I say I’m going to be more organised every year and every year I fail), but I’m definitely ready for the food. Am I ever not ready for food? 😉
I haven’t baked a cake in a while and seeing as it’s the first of December tomorrow I fancied making something a little bit festive. So, I decided to make a giant Jaffa Cake. It’s a plain sponge threaded with orange jelly (which makes the cake really moist) and decorated with candied oranges and chocolate. Yum!
Jaffa Cake Cake
3 Large Eggs
100g Caster Sugar
100g Self Raising Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Pack of Orange-flavoured jelly
For the candied Oranges:
2 Oranges cut into slices
200g caster sugar
Grease a 20cm cake tin and set your oven to 180°.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and caster sugar. Stir in the eggs, then fold in the flour and baking powder.
Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes (or until an inserted skewer comes out clean). Put to the side and allow to cool.
While the cake’s cooling, get started on making your candied orange slices. First, cut your oranges into slices that are about half a centimetre thick. Bring a deep saucepan of water to the boil and soak the orange slices for 3 minutes until the peel is soft. Have a bowl of cold water ready, and drop the slices in there to cool. Heat up a saucepan with the sugar and water – don’t be tempted to stir, leave it until the sugar all dissolves and then add the blood orange slices. Let them simmer in the sugar water for 30 minutes, making sure you soak both sides, then put them on a sheet of baking paper and leave to cool.
Next, use a skewer to poke holes in the cake (make sure you leave a gap in the centre and try not to poke all the way through to the base otherwise you’ll get a soggy bottom!). Mix up your orange jelly as per the instructions on the pack and then slowly pour the mixture over the cake, concentrating on the holes you made. Pop the cake in the fridge for a couple of hours for the jelly to set.
Decorate the surface of the cake with the candied oranges, melted chocolate and hazelnuts (add a little orange zest if you want a little more zing!). 🙂
I’ve made (and scoffed) Madeleines more than a few times. They’re so easy to make and are the perfect kind of tea cake to stick out on a plate whenever you’ve got someone coming over for elevenses (they’re made to be dunked!). Traditionally they’re flavoured with lemon, but since it’s Christmas I thought I’d do something a little more fancy pants. These ones are dunked in melted chocolate and then sprinkled with praline and a little bit of edible glitter (if you can’t use glitter at Christmas, then when can you?). I’d never made praline before and to be honest it took two attempts; I made the mistake of stirring the sugar as it was heating and it crystallized in the saucepan and looked like snow. Oops! How many times have I rolled my eyes as Bake Off contestants make exactly the same mistake?! Typical! I got it the second time round though and had more than enough left over. It’ll be jazzing up my porridge over Christmas I think! 😉
100g butter melted (and a little extra to grease the tin)
100g chocolate (I used milk, but I bet dark chocolate would be even better!)
100g chopped hazelnuts
50g brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 200° and grease the madeleine tin with a little butter.
Whisk together the eggs and the caster sugar in a bowl until combined and frothy.
Pour in the melted butter (be careful if it’s still hot – if you pour it in too quickly you’ll get scrambled eggs!), and then stir in the flour.
Pour the mixture into the tray – about a desert spoonful for each madeleine mould should do the trick. Leave them to rest for about 10 minutes before you whack them in the oven.
Bake for around 10 minutes until the madeleines have risen and cooked through. Leave the madeleines to cool while you work on the toppings.
To make the praline, scatter the chopped hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes until golden. In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water together on a low heat until it caramelizes (don’t stir!). Pour the caramel over the roasted hazelnuts and leave to cool. Once it’s cooled, smash it with a rolling pin.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave, then dunk the tips of the madeleines. Once they’re all coated in melted chocolate, dunk them into the praline to coat the melted chocolate tip. Leave to set, then scoff! 🙂
Have a great week everyone! Hope the final run up to Christmas hasn’t got you too stressed! X
Now that we’re officially a week into December (coupled with the fact that it actually snowed this morning! Not for long… but still!) I declare it officially safe to bring on the Christmas baking. I’m easing you in gently though with these Chocolate Orange flavoured Welsh Cakes. I LOVE Welsh Cakes, not only because I’m Welsh and it’s practically criminal not to love them, but also because they’re so easy to play around with! If you’re not a fan of the traditional mixed fruit filling, then just swap it out with something you fancy – like chocolate! 🙂
Chocolate Orange Welsh Cakes
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
50g caster sugar (+20g for dusting)
pinch of salt
100g chopped pieces of orange-flavoured chocolate
110g butter/margarine (+ a little extra to grease the pan/skillet)
1 large egg
a splash of milk if the dough is too dry
1. Sift together the dry ingredients into a bowl, then rub in the butter/margarine (get in there with your fingers and rub until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs). 2. Stir in the chocolate. 3. Mix in the egg until the dough comes together (if it’s too dry, add a splash of milk). 4. Roll out and cut into rounds. 5. If you haven’t got a skillet, a greased, level frying pan will do; cook the cakes for 3 minutes on each side (low heat), or until golden brown. 6. While still warm, sprinkle with a little caster sugar and then scoff!
If you’ve never tried Chilli Jam then you’re missing out, seriously. I made it a couple of years ago as a DIY Christmas gift for my mother in-law and was surprised how well it went down. Sweet and spicy, it’s not exactly made for your morning toast (although she eats it like that sometimes!), but it goes great with meat and cheese and I’ve even spread it over potato wedges before cooking them. It’s easy to make and makes a great foodie gift for anyone who likes things on the spicy side 😉
Chilli and Red Pepper Jam (from Nigella)
75g of chilli peppers (up to you which variety you use – I’ve used green chilli peppers in the past which worked out quite well)
75g of chopped red peppers (You can use bell peppers, but I like using the sweet Romano variety)
350 ml Apple Cider Vinegar
500g Jam Sugar
Fill your empty jam jars with boiling hot water to sterilise them.
In a large pan dissolve the jam sugar with the Apple Cider Vinegar on a low heat – don’t be tempted to stir it!
Roughly chop all the peppers and then blitz them in a food processor. If you haven’t got one, then just chop them until they’re in as small pieces as possible, but for the love of God wear gloves! Don’t do what I did the first time I tried this recipe and chopped all the chilli peppers with bare hands – they will burn for hours. Trust me.
Place a small plate in the freezer (this will make sense in a sec!)
Once the sugar has dissolved add the chopped/blitzed peppers to the pan and turn up the heat and allow the jam to boil for ten minutes. Watch the pan doesn’t boil over though as things can get sticky and messy very quickly!
Grab the plate from the freezer – you’ll know the jam’s ready if a small blob of it sets quickly on the plate.
Allow to cool in the pan and then ladle into your jars!
If you’re giving them as gifts don’t forget to label and jazz them up! I found the holly garland in Tiger for £1.