christmas baking

Tahini Crumble Mince Pies with Cardamom, Pomegranate and Orange

In the old school spirit of stir up Sunday I thought now might be a good time to share my favourite mincemeat recipe (it’s not compulsory to make this on 25th November though, it will work just as well after a few days of maturing!). This is pretty classic in it’s foundations and I’ve been making it for a few years, but this year I’ve jazzed it up with some of my favourite Middle Eastern flavours (think pomegranate molasses, orange blossom, cardamom and pistachios). You could make traditional pastry-topped mince pies with this mincemeat, but I think it works really well with a tahini crumble topping- try it out!

Ingredients

For the mincemeat (makes about 1kg)

  • 275g sultanas
  • 100g dried apricots, diced
  • 100g dates, diced
  • 75g dried figs, diced
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 2 oranges, juice and zest
  • 1tbsp orange blossom extract
  • 2tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1-2tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 Bramley apples, peeled and diced
  • 200g vegetarian suet
  • 50g roughly chopped almonds
  • 50g roughly chopped walnuts
  • 75g roughly chopped pistachios
  • 150g Demerara sugar
  • 50g muscovado sugar
  • 200ml spiced rum

For the pastry (enough for 8 large, deep fill mince pies or 12 smaller mince pies)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2tbsp milk

For the crumble topping

  • 50g tahini
  • 30g demerara sugar
  • 50g butter, cubed
  • 150g plain flour

Optional

  • 1tbsp icing sugar, for dusting

Method

  1. Ideally a week ahead of making the mince pies, make the mincemeat. To do this stir together all the ingredients except for the rum in a large bowl. Cover and leave the flavours to develop overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 120c. Tip the contents of the bowl into a deep roasting tray or oven-proof baking dish and cover with foil. Cook for 2 hours, turning gently every 45 minutes or so with a wooden spoon. Add in the rum and stir, then return to the oven, covered, for a further half an hour.
  3. Set the mincemeat aside and allow it to cool to room temperature, stirring a couple of times to keep everything well coated.
  4. Once the mincemeat has cooled down, store in well-sealed, sterilised jars. You can use the mincemeat at this stage, but if you can, leave it for a week or so for the flavours to intensify even more.
  5. When your mincemeat is ready to be used, make the pastry. Place the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. At this stage add the egg yolks and milk and pulse again until the mix comes together in large lumps (alternatively, rub the butter into the flour, salt and sugar using your fingertips then stir in the yolks and milk using a cutlery knife). Tip the dough out and shape into a disc using your hands. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes.
  6. For the tahini crumble rub the butter and flour together until they resemble rough breadcrumbs, then stir through the sugar, tahini and sesame seeds.
  7. Grease your cupcake tray generously with butter. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick and cut out circles to fit the cupcake holes (make sure your circles are big enough to create a deep mince pie- you want a generous amount of filling!). Push the pastry into the holes then fill with the mincemeat (in my large deep fill tray I put about 2 heaped tbsp of filling in each, but judge according to your tin).
  8. Top with a heaped tbsp of the crumble and bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the crumble crisp. Enjoy hot from the oven with a dusting of icing sugar and dollop of cream or brandy butter.

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Date and Ginger Pudding with Maple Sauce

This indulgent ginger and date pudding is made for those miserable winter evenings where you just want to curl up and watch a film with a bowl of something warm, comforting and nostalgic…

Ingredients:

  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft dark brown sugar
  • 70g black treacle
  • 165g golden syrup
  • 200g pitted dates
  • 200ml boiling water
  • 100ml milk
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tbsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 2 eggs
  • For the sauce: 100g dark brown sugar, 75g butter, 50ml maple syrup, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, pinch sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a pudding dish (or chosen vessel) with butter.
  2. Roughly chop the dates and place in a small bowl, then pour over the boiling water. While the dates are soaking, melt the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a large saucepan. Once melted, add the soaked dates and water. Stir together.
  3. Now gradually pour in the milk. Stir together until well combined. Set aside.
  4. Sift the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Briefly mix the eggs to break up then gradually add the melted ingredients from the saucepan. Stir together with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and bake for 40-50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached when inserted).
  6. While the pudding is cooking, make the butterscotch sauce. To do this simply place the sugar, butter and syrups in a small saucepan and melt together until gently bubbling, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream and salt.
  7. Serve the pudding warm with a generous helping of sauce and vanilla ice cream.

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Mince Pie Bars

These Bakewell inspired bars are made up of a crisp pastry base, zesty mince meat centre, cinnamon frangipane top, toasted almond sprinkling and a dollop of obligatory brandy cream; delicious and oh-so festive!

Ingredients:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3tbsp water
  • 1 jar good quality mince meat (optional: add the zest of 1 orange and a handful chopped walnuts to it)
  • 150g butter
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • handful flaked almonds
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1tbsp brandy
  • 2tbsp icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)

 

Method:

  1. First, make the pastry (or skip steps 1 and 2 if you’re using shop bought shortcrust!). Place the butter, sugar and flour in a food processor and blitz until they form breadcrumbs. Pour into a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the water and egg. Add 4tbsp of this mix to the crumbs and stir with a cutlery knife. If there are still dry patches add a little more liquid until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Press into a thin disc shape and wrap in cling film. Chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190c. Lightly grease a rectangular tart tin. Take your chilled pastry and roll out to about 3mm thick. Line into the tart tin, pushing it into the corners as you go. Chill again for 10 minutes.
  3. Now it’s time to blind bake. Screw up a piece of greaseproof paper and unfold, then press down into the case. Fill with baking beans and spread out to completely cover the base. Bake for 15 minutes until the sides are set then remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the base is dry and sandy. Don’t let it colour as it will be returning to the oven when filled.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 170c.
  5. Now make the frangipane. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a little of the flour to prevent curdling if you like). Once well combined, beat in the ground almonds and fold in the remaining flour and cinnamon.
  6. Now it’s time to assemble. Take your tart case and spread a generous layer of mince meat across the base. Top this with the frangipane and level out as best you can. Sprinkle with flaked almonds.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the frangipane is cooked through. If the pastry or almonds are browning too much just cover loosely with foil.
  8. Once baked, cool on a wire rack while you make the brandy cream. To do this simply whisk together the brandy, cream and icing sugar until thick. Spoon onto each bar, dust with icing sugar and serve.

 

Mandarin, Chocolate and Ginger Wreath

I was recently sent some delicious Mandarin Edition chocolate from Amelia Rope. I am a big advocate of her single origin chocolate bars and am really pleased with this festive recipe I’ve developed using her product. The dark zesty chocolate goes really well with the crisp meringue, ginger cream and torched mandarin slices- it’s the perfect winter pavlova, ideal for Christmas day!

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 400ml double cream
  • 1tbsp icing sugar
  • 4tbsp ginger syrup
  • 4 pieces stem ginger, chopped
  • 3 mandarins, sliced
  • 2tbsp granulated sugar
  • 150g Amelia Rope Mandarin Edition chocolate (2 bars)

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Spread the caster sugar across 2 baking trays and place in the oven to heat up (don’t let it melt or crystallise).
  2. While the sugar is heating up, put your egg whites into a large clean bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Whisk on low to build up air bubbles then increase the speed and whisk until you have medium peaks. Take your hot sugar and gradually add to the egg whites whilst whisking constantly. Once all the sugar has been added you will have a thick glossy meringue. Now add the cocoa powder and lightly swirl through the mixture to create a ripple effect.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 110c.
  4. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roughly pile the meringue on in a wreath shape. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meringue peels off the paper easily. The middle should be mallowy and the outside crisp. Once the meringue is cooked, switch the oven off and allow it to cool with the door ajar (this prevents cracks).
  5. While the meringue is cooling, make the toppings. For the ginger cream, just place the ginger syrup, icing sugar and double cream in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.
  6. For the torched mandarins, slice into pieces and line onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with the granulated sugar and place under a hot grill until caramelised (or use a blow torch).
  7. Melt the chocolate and cool a little.
  8. To assemble the meringue, layer on the ginger cream, followed by a sprinkling of chopped ginger, the mandarin slices and finally a generous drizzling of mandarin chocolate. Slice up and serve with any leftover ginger cream.

Enjoy!

 

Cranberry and White Chocolate Brownies

These brownies are rich, dense and studded with cranberries and white chocolate chunks- a great (and easy) festive treat to whip up for visiting family and friends over the coming weeks…

Ingredients:

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 210g butter
  • 310g caster sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk
  • 3tsp vanilla extract
  • 120g plain flour
  • 150g white chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • 100g dried cranberries

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square baking tin/ brownie tray.
  2. Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of gently simmering water. Do not allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl or it could cause the chocolate to seize.
  3. Stir the butter and chocolate occasionally until melted then set aside to cool for a few minutes. Once the chocolate has cooled a little, add the sugar and salt then whisk (with electric beaters or in the bowl of a stand mixer) until well combined.
  4. Now add the eggs and whisk on high until the mix has lightened in colour and is glossy (about 5 minutes- whisking well at this stage is what gives you that classic flaky top!).
  5. Sift in the flour and fold then finally stir in the white chocolate and cranberries. Tip into the lined baking tin and spread out. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set but still very moist in the middle.

 

Enjoy!

Cardamom, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cake

This cake is super easy to bake and is great if you’re looking to experiment with different flavours; the cardamom adds a distinct hum of spice to the light sponge which pairs really well with the earthy pistachios and super sweet white chocolate topping.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 350g soft butter
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 375g self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed to a fine powder
  • 150ml milk
  • 100g chopped pistachios

For the topping:

  • 150g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • a few crushed pistachios and some dried rose petals (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 (fan). Generously grease a bundt in with butter then sprinkle over some flour. Shake to coat the edges completely then tip out any excess (this should ensure that the cake doesn’t stick).
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk  (or a stand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition (add a little bit of the flour each time if you’re worried about curdling!).
  3. Once the eggs are fully incorporated and you have a smooth mixture, add the (remaining) flour, baking powder, salt milk, and cardamom. Whisk until light and well combined.
  4. Now fold in the pistachios and scrape the batter into the prepared bundt tin. Even out and bake for 30-40 minutes.
  5. When your cake is ready a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Once cooked, rest for 5 minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  6. While your cake is cooling, melt the white chocolate gently in a heatproof bowl above a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool.
  7. Once your cake and topping have cooled you’re ready to decorate. To do this drizzle the white chocolate over the bundt and let it drip down the sides. Sprinkle with pistachios and rose petals for a simple but elegant finish.

A Christmas Hit of Vitamin C

Everyone loves a chocolate orange in their stocking at Christmas, so I’ve concocted these rich chocolate orange cupcakes as a baked alternative. Orange spiked chocolate sponge topped with a smooth cream cheese frosting- what’s not to like!?

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To make these Christmas treats you’ll need: 80g butter, 200g caster sugar, 100g soft brown sugar, 2 eggs, a couple of drops of vanilla extract, 240 ml milk, the zest of one orange, 250g plain flour, 50g cocoa powder, pinch salt and 1tbsp baking powder (Makes 12)

First of all, line a muffin tray with cupcake cases and preheat the oven to 190c (fan).

Cream your butter and sugars together until fluffy, then sift in your plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

In a jug, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, milk and orange zest then add to the bowl in three additions, carefully mixing between each.

Separate the mix between your cases and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

For the topping you will need: 600g icing sugar, 50g butter, 250g cream cheese, 60g cocoa powder and 2tbsp orange zest.

Mix together your icing sugar, cocoa powder and butter until a crumb-like mix has formed, then add your cream cheese in three additions, mixing vigorously between each. Stir in the zest and use a piping bag to neatly top your cooled sponges (or just spread over with a palette knife, if you like).

Decorate as you wish, I’ve used a little reserved orange zest, some chocolate swirls I set in the fridge, and a Christmassy flourish of glitter!

Enjoy!

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