Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas Baking : A Round-Up

I’ve left it far too late to go into any real detail about my baking activity over Christmas, but I photographed everything so it seems a shame not to share at least a few with you.

The Christmas Cake

I stuck with what I knew and made Nigel Slater’s Christmas cake again this year, but this time the Christmas cake was fed for four weeks on Whyte and Mackay whisky, and smelt even more incredible this time for being fed a decent alcohol! Last year I didn’t ice my cake, but this year I decided I was going to, the only problem was I hate marzipan. Hate. But then I stumbled upon this Christmas cake recipe from Dan Lepard, where he ices it with pecan marzipan. Problem solved. The pecan marzipan was delicious, I could have eaten it totally on it’s own in quite large quantities (and did, if I’m totally honest). After the marzipan came the icing and I cut stars out of the leftover icing to decorate the top, a simple but I think beautiful finish to a classic cake.

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The Christmas Pudding

I had stored this in my cupboard since I made it back in November, and then boiled it again for 3 hours on Christmas day. We flamed it with brandy because it would be rude not to, and then tucked in. I don’t normally eat Christmas pudding, but I had to try this one and I wasn’t disappointed. Light and soft and slightly sweet. Perfect with a dollop of extra thick double cream. It got the thumbs up from both my mother and grandmother (I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mum eat so much pudding!) and my grandmother’s only criticism was that she prefers a darker, heavier pudding, but that’s just a matter of preference – I know I wouldn’t have liked it like that! I’ve still got the second pudding in the cupboard, so that’s one thing off the baking list for next Christmas!

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The Gifts

I baked a selection of biscuits and sweets for my family & friends again for their Christmas presents. On the menu this year were Florentines, Chocolate & Hazelnut Macaroons, Pecan Marzipan Balls dipped in chocolate & Honeycomb. I was staying with my mother over Christmas and her kitchen became a bakery on the Sunday before Christmas, with biscuits and sweets on every surface. I managed to rope The Boy into helping and he became chief chocolate dipper for the Florentines, which helped speed things up rather! Once completed and cooled, I boxed the biscuits & sweets up in cardboard boxes and made them look suitably festive so they could be given away at the numerous family gatherings over the following few days!

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I can’t believe that I haven’t posted for nearly a month! This month has just disappeared and I still don’t quite believe that Christmas has been and gone already. Work has been ridiculous this month, but around that I managed to find time for baking and baked plenty of Christmas presents last Sunday. I also finally got to try my Christmas Pudding & Christmas Cake on the day itself so I have lots to tell you and lots of photos to share.

For now though I though I’d give you a taster of what’s to come in 2013 as my friends an family spoilt me with a fantastic selection of cookbooks this Christmas. The only problem is going to be deciding what to make first!

My family & friends know me very well... #spoilt

A post shared by Lauren (@lgarland1) on

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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.

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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.

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Next is plain flour, baking powder & breadcrumbs.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.