Archives for posts with tag: Christmas

Fruit mince slice 1

Back in November I made a batch of fruit mince after attending my first Christmas baking class with Sarah Brigden (babyCakes). This weekend I am finally using it, after letting it develop its flavours for over a month. As well as the usual fruit mince pies, I decided I wanted to try something a little bit different.

One of my favourite (and quite easy) recipes is raspberry crumble slice. It is incredibly moreish and also easily adapted. I’ve used the base recipe to experiment with other combinations including an apple crumble slice. This weekend, I decided to use it as the base for a fruit mince crumble slice to take into work tomorrow.

I also made fruit mince pies, using the cinnamon pastry recipe and baked them in patty pans, topped with pastry stars (cooks for 20 minutes in a 160C fan forced oven). I’m not a huge fan of fruit mince, but I really like this recipe. I find the addition of apple cider gives it an extra flavour that I really like and the spices are just the flavours of Christmas.

fruit mince pies

  Click here for the recipe

 Gingerbread house

Last year at Christmas I went a bit overboard with my Christmas baking for my work colleagues (for a Christmas morning tea and food gifts), baking over two (very long) nights:

The late night baking sessions were a bit much, as was the burn that was the result of my tired clumsiness (I still have the scar), so I promised myself I would do less this year.

That lasted right up until we were asked to do a morning tea display challenge for our Christmas morning tea at work. As part of my team’s display, and given I had just learnt how to make them in my baking classes, I offered to make gingerbread houses. Not one house though, oh no, I said I’d make multiple houses (I made 6 in total). I also made gingerbread biscuits as well (about 50 individual biscuit houses, cars and trains).

cars and trains

sorry for the angle of the photo!

sorry for the angle of the photos!

This gingerbread recipe from Sarah Brigden (babyCakes) is great and I would certainly recommend it. It can be made up to a week in advance before baking (just wrap it well in cling wrap and store in the fridge) or it can be frozen (very well wrapped in cling film and them placed inside a glad bag). Once cooked, it should last for a month. It has quite a lot of spice in it, however if you prefer you gingerbread lighter on the spice, you can easily reduce the amount. The gingerbread house is stuck together using melted chocolate. This is fine on a cool day/night. However the weekend I was assembling these, the temperature hit above 40C, which was not ideal for chocolate work. Add to that a migraine when I was trying to decorate, and it wasn’t a very enjoyable weekend of baking.

The end result was worth it though, even with my migraine impaired/minimal decorating. These were WA Christmas houses, so no snow covered gingerbread houses in sight! Everyone who tried the gingerbread loved the taste. Once the morning tea was over, I wrapped up the houses and some biscuits in cellophane and gave them to my team to take home. They make a great Christmas gift idea.

Christmas gift idea

Christmas gift idea

In class, we made an A frame house, as this is easier to assemble for a first time attempt. To make it, you will need to make a template rectangle of 150mm x 105mm (you will need to cut three pieces for each house – two sides and a base) and a triangle of 115mm x 115mm x 115mm (you will need two pieces for each house – front and back).

Basic A-Frame House

Basic A-Frame House

For the smaller (and more detailed) houses, I used a template I found online here. For some I made the roof template slightly longer so I could assemble them differently so that the join didn’t show at the front. To do this I baked the roof pieces separately after I had assembled the base of the houses and determined how long I needed to make the roof. However, if you assemble them so you can see the joins at the front, you don’t need to do this. 

Click here for the recipe

choc gingerbread brownies

With ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice filling the air, it’s really starting to smell like Christmas in my house as a result of this weekend’s baking. Aside from starting the gingerbread for some mini gingerbread houses (a future post), I also came across this recipe for gingerbread brownies that I had to try.

Not being a huge chocolate fan, brownies are usually too rich for me (although my fudgy chocolate and raspberry brownies are very popular with all the chocoholics I know). But I liked the idea of the added “Christmassy” spices and just had to try them. With the amount of chocolate in this recipe (both dark chocolate and cocoa), they were too much chocolate for me and I could only eat a small piece. But that is my issue, not the recipe’s. Besides, heading into Christmas time when most of us over indulge, only having a small piece of something is a good thing! They were very popular at work so, if you love chocolate brownies, why not give these a try instead of your usual brownie recipe at Christmas time? This would be great as a dessert warm with ice-cream too.

Click here for the recipe

Frangipane and raspberry tarts

I have previously posted about the  5 week Christmas baking course I am taking with Sarah Brigden (babyCakes) through Tuart College, where in the first class we made fruit mince (see post here). We then used the fruit mince to make fruit mince tarts with a frangipane (almond cream) filling/topping.

My fruit mince is still developing its flavour in the fridge, so I decided to make these tarts but with raspberries instead, as I always have some  in my freezer. The results were delicious and very popular both at home and at work. Mum has already asked for these for our family Christmas lunch.

The cinnamon pastry brings a nice added flavour to the tart, however you could leave it out or replace it with citrus zest, ground ginger, mixed spices –  it is up to you.

This pastry will keep in the fridge for 5 days before cooking or up to 3 months in the freezer (wrapped in cling wrap and placed in a sealed container or bag), while the frangipane will keep for a week in the fridge. To make these tarts with fruit mince, you can add it either before the frangipane or on top. Don’t overfill the tart cases, as the frangipane does rise a bit when it bakes.

Click here for the recipe

Fruit minceI don’t know where this year has gone, but Christmas is almost upon us once again. It seems that the older I get, the quicker each year seems to go! This year I’m actually a bit more prepared than usual. I’ve already got quite a bit of Christmas shopping done, which is great. I’ve been buying things when I’ve seen them, which should hopefully mean I will avoid the last minute rush just before Christmas, making things less stressful and much more enjoyable. I will be working over the Chritmas/New Year period (except for public holidays/weekends) so anything that I can do now rather than later will make the holiday time more relaxing. That is the plan at least anyway.

Of course, there is  all that wonderful Christmas baking to be done. Last year I was up to midnight a few nights in a row madly baking for work and Christmas gifts (and I still have the scar from a bad burn that resulted). I’m going to try and avoid the mad rush and late nights this year by doing what I can ahead of time. So on that note, last week I started another cooking class with Sarah Brigden (babyCakes) on Christmas baking. In our first class we made Fruit Mince and Frangipane tarts, with a cinnamon pastry. Fruit mince is best made at least a week before you want to use it (although it will keep for months), and so that is what I did today. I have to say that by the end of the day my kitchen was smelling very Christmassy! You can make the fruit mince to suit your own tastes, I used dried cranberries and blueberries in my dried fruit, but you can use whichever you prefer (just don’t use anything too wet like prunes etc). If you don’t like glace cherries, use something else. Like candied fruit peel? Add it in (I don’t, hence there isn’t any here). So now I’m even more prepared, with jars of fruit mince in my fridge ready for Christmas baking in December.

I also made the frangipane tarts today (but with raspberries rather than fruit mince) and I will put those up during the week (pastry is great to make ahead and freeze until you need it as well, I think I’ll have to do that next weekend). But for now, here is the recipe for fruit mince. Make it now and by Christmas the flavours will have developed and it will be ready for whatever you want to use it in.

Click here for the recipe

Time for the last of my trio of Christmas gifts from my kitchen. This year is actually the first time I have made gingerbread at home as an adult, and I have to say I am very happy with the results. Not only does it taste nice, the gingerbread Christmas tree worked wonderfully, and the stars, snow flakes, angels and other shapes looked lovely decorated with royal icing.

The recipe below can be used to make whatever shapes you want out of gingerbread. You are only limited by either your imagination, or whatever cookie cutters you may have on hand.

My team's gingerbread Christmas tree

My team’s gingerbread Christmas tree

To make a tree out of gingerbread, you will need several star cutters in different sizes. For my larger tree I used 9 cutters ranging from 2.5cm (top stars) to 18cm in size. For the smaller one I used 5 cutters from 2.5cm to 9cm. You cut two stars out in each size. After they are baked and decorated (edges only), you stick them together with royal icing, alternating the positioning of the star so the points are in the gaps of the previous star. From two batches of this dough I got a small and a large tree, and lots of other shapes. I decorated my trees with bought decorating icings and gels, as they were decorated by my team at work. However at home, I decorated the gingerbread with white royal icing, which I prefer as it sets firm.

Mini tree

Click here for the recipe

Onto the next of my Christmas gifts from the kitchen. I have to say, that when I was rolling these in the coconut, it started to feel and smell like Christmas in my kitchen. This recipe uses bought fruit cake, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Of course, if you have leftover home-made fruit cake at home, you can use that. But I’ve always made these with bought light fruit cake (just the basic home brand version) and have been happy with the result every time.

For a non-alcoholic version, just replace the rum with orange juice. The recipe below is a double batch of the original recipe.

rum balls

Click here for the recipe

In my quest to share the holiday spirit through food, I may have overdone it a bit this week. It started off innocently enough in the planning stage about a month ago. I like to give food gifts at Christmas. This began years ago when I was still in high school. I would make a hamper of goodies for my friend’s families. Now I tend to do food gifts for people at work. Last year I went a bit overboard making fudge, rum balls and truffles, which took several nights to complete, and this year I promised myself I was just going to make one thing. Small gingerbread trees (out of stars). I did a test run a month ago, it all worked so I was (I thought) set.

Then, a work morning tea was organised, and I offered to bake. So far, still okay. It was then decided that there would be a “best representation of a Christmas tree” competition at the morning tea. My team settled on my suggestion, a gingerbread Christmas tree decorated by the team. And there went my Christmas gift plan.

My team's gingerbread Christmas tree

My team’s gingerbread Christmas tree

The end result was over the last week I have:

  • Cooked a dinner party for friends (home made dips, slow cooked roast lamb with a few sides and two desserts);
  • Baked and decorated numerous gingerbread stars, men and ornaments, and assembled a tree made out of decorated stars;
  • Baked cupcakes and a yule log for the work morning tea; and
  • Made and packaged up fudge and rum balls to give out at work.
Death by chocolate cupckaes

Death by chocolate cupcakes

Not to mention I still had to work everyday, finishing up the Christmas shopping, etc. Let’s just say I spent a lot of yesterday sleeping to recover. But it was worth it. I had a lovely night with my friends over for dinner last weekend, the gingerbread tree turned out amazingly well (even if we didn’t win – we still got to eat it) and everyone loved the morning tea and the gifts. So I was happy, if a bit tired.

Now however I am very behind with posting, so today I will share my three holiday baked gift ideas, starting with the easiest fudge recipe ever. I don’t even know where the recipe came from originally, that is how long I’ve been making it. I think it was one of those Nestlé Christmas recipes that you find in magazines at this time of year.Choc almond fudge

Click here for the recipe

Continuing my very busy month of classes, I recently went to a class with Sarah at Baby Cakes to learn how to make a White Chocolate Yule Log (or Bȗche de Noël ). These are in all the patisseries in France at Christmas, so seeing as we are having Christmas at home with my family this year, I thought it would be nice to learn.

I always enjoy Sarah’s classes and her recipes have always worked perfectly at home. Her berry soufflé rose so high the first time I tried it at home, I had to scrub the top of my oven and top shelf (not that I minded, as I was so worried they wouldn’t rise – I’ve since learnt not to doubt Sarah’s recipes). I’ve made her cupcakes so many times, and they have always resulted in beautifully moist cupcakes. Sarah has been generous enough to allow me to share her recipes on my blog, so cupcakes will be coming soon (I am baking a massive batch tomorrow for birthday morning tea for work, so I’ll put them up early next week) and I’ll try and get the soufflé recipe up as well.

But back to the Yule Log. I’ve always thought they would be extremely difficult and fiddly, but it was actually a lot of fun to make and achievable at home, and it rolled up a lot easier than I expected. Plus the frosting hides any mistakes. The recipe may look like a lot of steps, but it is only a few ingredients and processes. I believe that these are traditionally decorated with marzipan or other decorations, meringue mushrooms and some of the ones I saw in France a few years ago were very elaborately decorated. Having just learnt how to use fondant, I tried making an elf and reindeer at home and took them along with me, and was quite happy with how they turned out for a first attempt. We also made chocolate decorations (melted chocolate, piped onto baking paper) and some fondant holly (roll out green fondant, cut with a holly cutter and then roll balls with red fondant for the berries). You can decorate it anyway you want. You could also replace the white chocolate ganache with dark chocolate for a dark log. That is the joy of cooking, you can make it the way you want using the basic recipe as the base.

Thank you to Sarah at Baby Cakes for allowing me to share this recipe.Bȗche de Noël

Click here for the recipe.

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