Saturday, 7 December 2013

Christmas Cheer

It's that time of year!  I love Christmas and all the glorious food that goes with it!  Today I'm going to share some recipes for the season - White choc fudge, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake.  I had intentions of doing Christmas mince pies also, but ran out of time this week, so I will do those next time!

Anywho, I know that it can be so easy to just go down to the supermarket and buy all the Christmas goodies, but there is something so satisfying about making them yourself.  The smell in the kitchen is divine, and it really doesn't take a lot of effort - just a little time.  Not to mention, the flavour is so much better than what you buy.  You can adjust the recipes to your liking and experiment with new flavours each year :)

I'll start off with Christmas cake.

250g currants
300g raisins
50g dried cranberries
200g sultanas
2tsp mixed peel
350ml sangria
70g chopped pecans (optional)
300g butter
180g brown sugar
lemon zest
4 large eggs
2Tbsp golden syrup
1tsp vanilla
300g plain flour
70g ground almond
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
* you can add ground cloves too but as I'm using sangria, it already has a clovey taste.

Now I know that looks like a lot of ingredients but this does make a large cake.  I used a 23cm square tin but you could use a smaller one and make it higher, or a round tin about the same size.
Also, the fruit is up to you - these are the ones I chose to use this year, though you can adjust it to your liking - prunes/glace cherries can be added, you can omit the cranberries etc.  Your cake, your choice :)
So to start with, you put all your fruit in a large bowl (any bigger fruits - prunes etc, need to be chopped) and cover these with your choice of alcohol - I used Sangria, though you can use bourbon, brandy, sherry, any schnapps ... the choice is endless!
Cover with clingfilm and leave to absorb the alcohol overnight. (If you don't want to use alcohol you can use orange juice or ginger ale)

Next day, prepare your tin - I spray it with some oil first and then do a couple of layers of baking paper that overlap each other - this makes it easier to remove cake from dish.

Preheat oven to 150C
Cream butter and sugar together and then add the lemon zest - about one lemon worth.
Add eggs one at a time, beating in between.  Then add in the golden syrup and vanilla (you can use almond essence here, but I prefer vanilla)
Sift dry ingredients together and fold into the creamed mixture alternatively with the fruit mix (ensuring to scrape in all the liquid!)  Once all combined, fold in the chopped pecans (optional)

*side note - you don't have to include the ground almonds, and can just replace it with flour, but it does help to keep your cake lovely and moist.

Now you want to put cake mix into prepared tin and bake - depending on oven - for 2 - 3 hours.  Mine only took 1 3/4 hours but I used a larger tin, so if you are making a deeper one, you want to allow some extra time.  Just keep an eye on it after the first hour and you should be able to get a feel for when it will be ready  Use a skewer to insert in the middle and make sure it's coming out clean.

When you take it out of the oven, you can brush a little more booze on top to moisten it some more :) then you want to wrap it up in tinfoil (including the tin) to keep the heat and steam in. Leave like this until it has cooled completely.  This will take quite some time.  When cooled you remove from tin, and wrap again in foil and put in airtight container.  You can leave this for up to 3 weeks to improve the flavour or if you are like us, you will get into it that same week!  This is my second Christmas cake this year!

You can leave cake as is or you can ice, or use nuts and a glaze.  I have iced mine to show you how.

You want to get a couple of Tablespoons of marmalade or apricot jam - I used Ginger and Mandarin marmalade, and heat it in microwave until runny. Brush this over cake.

Roll out white icing - you can get this at your supermarket - can use almond or just white. (use icing sugar on board and rolling pin to stop it sticking)  Roll it onto rolling pin and then transfer to your cake.  Spread it out evenly and smooth it down.  If any of it breaks, you can repair by brushing a tiny bit of water on it and adding extra icing or smoothing it with your hands.  You can also cut out extra shapes and stick these on in the same way.  I added some little silver pearls (edible) as well :)

White Chocolate Fudge

This recipe I got off Facebook and it is super gooooood!  Hubby can't stop eating it!  Everyone who has tried it has been amazed at how tasty and creamy it is :)

350g white chocolate buttons
250g butter
3C icing sugar
1/3 C cream
1tsp vanilla paste

Place choc, butter and cream in saucepan on low heat and stir until it has almost melted.  Add sugar in and keep stirring until it is smooth. 
Take off heat and beat with mixer for 3mins - this helps make it nice and light
Pour into 20cm square lined tin and smooth surface.  Sprinkle decorations over top - choc hail, 100s and 1000s, etc
Refrigerate until set - this doesn't take long.  Keep in fridge.  Great as a gift!

Christmas pudding

Again, this is a little time consuming, but it's not the kind of thing you have to hover over, you can just leave it to do its thing.

100g raisins
150g sultanas
20g currants
70g dried cranberries
10 prunes - scissored
170ml mulled wine
100g flour
115g breadcrumbs
150g suet - this is found in baking aisle of supermarket
150g dark muscovado sugar
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp baking powder
grated zest of lemon
3 eggs
1 cooking apple, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp runny honey

Again, you are going to put fruit into a bowl and cover with alcohol - I used mulled wine this time, but again you can use sherry, or any other flavour you like.  I also didn't add cloves to this one because mulled wine has a strong clove flavour.
Cover with clingfilm and leave to absorb overnight or for up to 1 week - the longer you leave it the better.

When the fruits have had their soaking time, put a large pot of water on the stove - with enough water for your pudding basin to sit in and not be covered.  You want it to come part way up the bowl.  Butter your pudding basin, including the lid.

In a large bowl mix the rest of the ingredients together - traditionally each member of the family should have a turn at stirring, but obviously you don't have to do this.
Add the fruits and all the alcohol - scraping every last bit in :)
Mix thoroughly.
Tip into your basin, pushing it down.  Put on lid and place in pot of water - again making sure that it doesn't cover bowl.  You can wrap in foil before this to ensure no leakage, but I have never had a problem with that.  Put lid on saucepan and leave to boil and steam for 4-5 hours.  Keep checking that it doesn't boil dry.

When it's time is up, remove it carefully so you don't burn yourself.  If you have wrapped it, unwrap when you are able to, and keeping the lid on, store it away in a cupboard or under the bed, or somewhere out of the way until Christmas day. 

On the day, you reheat it the same way you cooked it - steaming it in a pot of water for 3hours this time.  When you serve, remove it from the pan by putting plate overtop of basin and flipping it over.  You can also heat a little vodka or other such alcohol and before it boils take off heat, strike a match to it and pour the flaming vodka over the pudding.

Serve it with some whipped cream, or even a brandied cream - basically whipped cream with brandy in it :)

So there you have it.  A few recipes to help out for the big day, or as gifts, or just to share with friends and family leading up to it :)