Hi! Welcome to my blog. I am a major foodie, with a haphazard cooking philosophy, currently making that transition from cooking and baking for friends and family to 'wonder if I could make this my career'. Follow me for recipes, the outcomes of a few experiments, and general lovely foodiness. Opinions, reviews and recommendations are all my own.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas Everyone!

OK... It's Christmas Eve Eve (according to my Twitter feed) and I am at last sitting down to write a Christmas blog. You should probably know that I have four open drafts here, and a heart full of good intentions, however I realise now that I haven't actually uploaded a single word in December. This is not because of writer's block, it's not even because I have nothing to say, but more that so much has been happening that I simply did not know where to start!

Over the next few days I intend to share some baking experiments, a few tried and tested recipes, and the end results of a few long planned projects for some very special friends. Today however, before Christmas has been and gone completely, I wanted to share a few Christmas staples, and hope that a few of you may still yet benefit from the tips and links!

A few weeks ago, my Grandma took me Lakeland to buy Christmas presents (I was like a child in a sweet shop, seriously) and one of the treasures I brought home in my loot was a cookie cutter set for a gingerbread house. This little gem was just £4.99, and I have used the cutters over and over this Christmas, from shapes for icing cakes, to making a more festive shaped batch of cheese scones! This is the link, and comes thoroughly recommended by yours truly ... http://www.lakeland.co.uk/16675/Gingerbread-House-Cutter-Set

The box the set came in has a recipe on the back for gingerbread, and having never made it before, I used this and followed it to the letter to make my first batch of gingerbread. I made a batch of Christmas shapes, which have formed part of my Christmas hampers for friends and family, and decorated them with coloured royal icing. A lot of the blogs I have read over the last few weeks have all made a similar complaint, trying to find a red food colouring that does not come out pink when mixed with buttercream or royal icing. I have to say that the best by far is Sugarflair. You can find this in any good cake decorating shop, and is in small pots of gel. A small amount of this on the end of a cocktail stick is enough to produce a strong colour, and because it is a gel it doesn't affect the consistency of the substance you are adding it to.

These were my finished gingerbread shapes...

Next up were my Christmas essential, Mince Pies. I always have to have these in the house, nothing gets me more in the Christmas spirit than a hot cup of tea and a mince pie, and I honestly cannot face the task of wrapping presents without the promise of this at the end. Up until now, honestly I always use shop-bought mincemeat, however I have made a promise to myself to try and make it homemade next year. I do try and make my mince pies stand out from Mr Kipling's (other makes are available...) and I always add ground almonds to my shortcrust pastry to give a special mince pie taste. This year, I found some cute Christmas stencils as well, and used these to decorate the tops of my mince pies with icing sugar.

Mince Pies
The almond shortcrust pastry recipe is as follows... Sift 200g plain flour into a large bowl, add 40g golden caster sugar, and 75g ground almonds. Stir the dry ingredients through until fully combined. Add 125g butter and rub into the mixture to create a breadcrumb like texture. Beat one free range egg and slowly add to the mixture, stirring well to bring the crumbs together to form a dough. Knead briefly and form into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least an hour. This dough will make approximately 12 pies. Be warned, it make a very crumbly dough from the almonds, do not over handle and use flour sparingly to roll out so as not to dry it our further.

My third and final share for the day is my first attempt at a Yule Log, or Buche de Noel to give it it's Sunday name! I have had a couple of requests for Yule Log this year, and spent a little time researching various recipes to give myself a starting point. I settled on the Mary Berry recipe from the BBC Food website - http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/yule_log_15656

My only deviation from the recipe was I decided to swap the listed whipped cream centre for a chocolate mousse, which I made from melted chocolate and whisked egg whites. This was the end result, and it went down very well with my testers it has to be said - I now have to make another for the family for Christmas Day!

Buche de Noel : Yule Log
More recipes and photos to follow over the next few days, in the meantime, Merry Christmas all, I hope Santa brings you everything you wish for...

V xx

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