Monthly Archives: November 2012

Christmas Pudding 09

Christmas Baking : Christmas Pudding

I’ve never made a Christmas pudding before. I don’t even eat Christmas pudding, but it feels like a baking challenge that I should tackle. As always the initial challenge is choosing which recipe to follow. The two in contention were Dan Lepard‘s Simple Christmas Pudding & Nigel Slater‘s Christmas Pudding. I made Nigel’s Christmas cake last year and it was delicious, but Dan’s pudding did seem like an easier option, so I’m afraid that’s why I went for it.

So I started with a mix of raisins, cranberries, prunes & dates. When I made my Christmas cake last year I ended up with loads of dates in it, by accident really as the fruit mix I bought just had a lot of dates in. Having thought about it since I think that’s why it was so light compared to just using prunes/currants etc, so I decided to follow that idea here & use dates for 1/4 of the fruit.

Christmas Pudding 01

Then I added suet. I’ve never used suet before & to be honest I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with it, so I just mixed it in. Then I added light brown sugar, you can use dark brown for a richer pudding if you so wish.

Christmas Pudding 02

Next is plain flour, baking powder & breadcrumbs.

Christmas Pudding 03

Then I added mixed spice & nutmeg. Then almonds.

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A grated carrot followed by the zest & juice of an orange.

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Some golden syrup, but again, you can use treacle for a richer pud. Followed by 2 beaten eggs.

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Last ingredient is some dark ale, I used a little from a bottle of London Porter which The Boy was only too happy to finish off. And just mix them all together.

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I prepped a pudding basin by greasing with butter & lining the base with a small circle of greaseproof. I realised as I filled it that I had too much mixture/had bought too small pudding basins so I quickly prepped another one so I could make two puddings instead!

Christmas Pudding 08

Christmas Pudding 09

After covering them with greaseproof paper & foil and fixing in place with an elastic band, I placed one in a large pan with water, with one of the basin lids at the bottom to lift it off the bottom of the pan a little. The pan was then filled with water to about half way up the basin & I left it to boil for 3 hours. I then lifted it out & left it to cool and put the other pudding in for 3 hours!

Christmas Pudding 10

Of course, I would love to show you the finished result (I’d like to see it myself) but we’ll have to wait until Christmas Day! Fingers crossed they’ve worked!

Sunday Dinner

Sunday Roast Beef

Thought I’d share a snapshot of yesterday’s roast dinner with you. We had a lovely joint of roast beef, with super crispy roast potatoes, roasted jerusalem artichokes with garlic, parsnip puree with mustard, a few carrots & peas and a little beef gravy. Not a bad dinner I can tell you.

Sunday Dinner

Mine’s the bowl on the left. Much to The Boy’s despair I eat everything out of bowls. Even roast dinners.

Florentines V01 05

Christmas Baking : Florentines : Version 1

Last year was the first year I really baked for Christmas. As gifts for my extended family I baked around a hundred coconut macaroons, ginger snaps, linzer biscuits and caramel-hazelnut & seasalt chocolate bark & packaged them all up into little jars. To say they went down well is an understatement, most of them got eaten within about 10 minutes of being received and I was told in no uncertain terms that the same again next year would be great.

But I don’t want to make the exact same biscuits obviously, so I’ve been trying to think about some alternatives. First up, Florentines. I gave some bought ones as gifts a few years ago and they are a delicious, delicate biscuit. My first problem was choosing who’s recipe to follow, I’ve got one from Mary Berry, one from Nigella, there’s one in my Good Housekeeping cookbook & then I found Nigel Slater‘s on The Guardian‘s website. A lot of them made them sound quite difficult, which put me off immediately, so I went with Nigel’s, he always keeps everything simple.

Florentines V01 01

The biscuits are mainly comprised of flaked almonds, dried cranberries (as suggested in Nigel’s recipe), mixed peel (pre-chopped in a tub, I couldn’t find any full pieces), glace cherries, crystallised ginger & dark chocolate. The ginger was a bit of an experiment, everything should have ginger in at Christmas. They’re really easy to make, you melt butter & sugar and bring them to the boil. Add the cream & the fruit & the nuts and mix well. Then take them off the heat & leave for 5 mins.

Florentines V01 02

Florentines V01 03

Once a little cooler spoon them out onto a piece of greaseproof paper (I don’t trust butter & flour for preventing them sticking even though it’s what Nigel recommends) and bake for about 8 minutes at about 160C fan. When they come out of the oven they have spread a lot but are very soft so you can use this time to scoop the spread mixture back into the body of the biscuit. I then left them for a minute or two before carefully lifting them off the tray to cool on a rack.

Florentines V01 04

Once they’re cool then I melted some dark chocolate & spread it across the bottom of each biscuit & left it to solidify. As well as adding another flavour I think this really helps with the look of the biscuits, it gives them some depth somehow.

Florentines V01 05

Florentines V01 06

And the result is these beautiful biscuits! I made a lot more than Nigel’s recipe (18 to his suggested 12) & I think I’d like them to be smaller still, so I’m thinking 24 will be perfect. I love the ginger, but it doesn’t quite work with the mixed peel in the current quantities. I think I’m going to drop the cherries, up the ginger & cranberries & reduce the mixed peel in the next batch & see how that goes. I also love Nigella’s idea of dipping half in dark chocolate & half in white.

Looks like I’m going to need to make another batch this week.

Sourdough Loaf 01 02

Sourdough Loaf : Attempt 1

I decided on a bit of a whim this Monday to make my first sourdough loaf, I was too excited to wait for the weekend. It wasn’t a great decision as I run with Goodgym on a Monday night so I’m not actually home for most of the evening. I roughly followed Dan Lepard‘s recipe for a White Leaven Loaf in The Handmade Loaf, but as I was out of the house I missed one of the kneading sessions, but it still seemed to be doing alright.

Sourdough Loaf 01 01

Then I put it in the fridge over night, got it out in the morning to shape it & left it on the side in my (cold) kitchen for the day. I was quite disappointed with the rise when I got home, the dough was still very sticky & I wrecked the two tea-towels I’d risen them on, note to self if using tea towels you need a lot of flour, but I decided to bake them any way.

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Sourdough Loaf 01 03

The end results weren’t awful, which surprised me! It was slightly under-baked, so the lovely crisp crust softened quite quickly and it was quite dense because of it not rising properly, but it tasted quite good. There were some good bubbles in the dough and when the loaf first came out the crust was beautiful. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but they weren’t the disaster I thought they were initially. I’ve been doing a lot of reading so I’m looking forward to attempt two…

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Sourdough Starter Day 8 01

Sourdough Starter Day 8

I was very naughty on Friday. I went out after work for some dinner and drinks and though I didn’t get home late, I just couldn’t be bothered to refresh my sourdough. Oh well, it doesn’t seem to have done it too much harm, good to know it isn’t going to die on me if I forget about it for a day.

Sourdough Starter Day 8 01

Not only did it not die but when I checked it yesterday (day 8) it was thriving! It had grown a lot, was super bubbly and smelt nice and acidic. I went through my ritual of discarding 3/4 of it and topping it up with fresh water & flour and returning it to the cupboard. I was hoping that I’d get to bake with it this weekend, but I’ve not had a chance. Next weekend I’ll have some time, so check back then to see if all the effort has been worth it!

Sourdough Starter Day 8 02

Oh, and if you don’t want to keep checking back, you can now follow my blog with Bloglovin…

Sourdough Starter Day 6 01

Sourdough Starter Day 6

We have bubbles! I think I can actually say that my starter is alive! I am ridiculously excited about this fact. As you can see from the pictures there are a decent amount of bubbles on the surface. The texture is light & frothy and there is a definite acidic smell when you open the jar.

Sourdough Starter Day 6 01

Sourdough Starter Day 6 02

As specified by Dan I discarded 3/4 of the mixture and replaced with water, stirring until fully combined before adding the flour. The quantities in Dan’s recipe create quite a thick, doughy mixture as it ‘slows the fermentation and stops the leaven rising & falling too quickly’. I don’t know enough about sourdough yet to understand the benefit of that, so I’ll just take Dan’s word for it for now…

Sourdough Starter Day 6 03

This stage, where you need to weigh and discard a portion of the mixture every day, can be a bit of a faff. One good tip I read was in Leon Book 3: Baking & Puddings where Tom Herbert describes how to start a sourdough. He recommends weighing your jar while empty and making a note of the weight on a label, then when you need to discard a portion of the mixture you don’t need to decant it into a bowl to weigh it, you can just weigh it in the jar and do a little simple maths to work out what you need to remove. My jar weighs 680g. I forgot to write a label, but luckily I have a good memory for numbers.

Pear Chocolate Crumble 01

Apple, Pear & Chocolate Crumble

I didn’t just stop at apple cake this weekend to use up the contents of my neglected fruitbowl. I also had some extremely ripe pears lurking in the fridge. I browsed through my Sweet Treats Pinterest board and found this Nigel Slater crumble from The Guardian.

As always with Nigel’s recipes it was very easy, I softened the pears (and an apple for good luck) in a pan for 5 minutes with sugar and lemon juice I then put these aside and left them to cool. Then later while I was waiting for dinner to cook, I blitzed flour & butter in my mini-chopper-type-device and then mixed in the sugar. At this stage I debated making more crumble mix as it didn’t look like it would cover the fruit in the dish I’d put them in, but I’m glad I didn’t. It was actually quite a lot of chocolate once I’d chopped it up and once baked it filled all the gaps in the crumble, mixing with the coarse sugar & crisp crumble.

Pear Chocolate Crumble 01

The result was a hot, sweet crumble, with a slight sharpness from the lemon juice. The bitterness of the dark chocolate contrasted against the sweetness of the fruit perfectly. We didn’t have any cream in the house, a must as far as I’m concerned for crumble, yet I would say this is probably the nicest crumble I’ve ever had. Would it be bad if I made one every day?

Pear Chocolate Crumble 02

Pear Chocolate Crumble 03