Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Things To Do With... Christmas Leftovers

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas! All that build up, months of planning, crafting, shopping, wrapping and baking... and it's finally over for another year. What does that call for? More baking! So here is a collection of recipes I have tried to help you use up all those Christmas leftovers...

Pasnip & Maple Syrup Cake (Uses 250g parsnips)
A delicious cake with a fresh mascapone filling. It also contains apple and pecans and feels like a healthier alternative to all that Christmas indulgence.

Brie & Cranberry Tartlets (Uses 250g cranberry sauce and approx 200g brie)
The perfect canape for a New Year's Eve party that also clears out some of that leftover Christmas cheese. They are also vegetarian and incredibly moreish!

Sweet Potato Brownies (Uses 250g sweet potato)
A healthy no-sugar brownie recipe with a honey cream cheese topping.

Carrot & Orange Cake (Uses 200g carrot)
You can't beat a carrot cake and this one has a delicious marmalade infused buttercream on top.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Uses 1 medium size cauliflower)
A low carb alternative to regular pizza, perfect for that January diet!

Leek, Cheese & Potato Pie (Uses 4 leeks and 3 large potatoes - or use half for a smaller pie)
Give hot water crust pastry a try and make this tasty pie. This recipe is for a very large pie, so if you have less people to feed, halve the ingredients.

Other ideas from around the web...

One for the Brussel Sprouts:
Bubble and Squeak Patties
I saw this recipe on TV the other day, and thought it sounded so simple and delicious. You could use a different cheese for the filling if you like a stronger flavour.

One for the Turkey:
Turkey & Chorizo Empanadas
I love chorizo and this recipe will instantly change the flavour of turkey, giving it that Spanish feel. You could also make these with leftover chicken and other meats.

One for the Christmas Pudding:
Christmas Pudding Trifle
I don't like Christmas pudding, but I reckon if you surrounded it with custard, cream and delicious orange and brandy, I would eat the whole thing! You could also use Christmas cake in this recipe.

One for the Panettone:
Panettone Pudding
I haven't had bread and butter pudding in ages and this version using panettone looks so indulgent, you could even splash in a little brandy!

One for the Cranberry Sauce:
Cranberry Sauce Muffins
This super simple recipe creates delicious muffins, great for breakfasts or snacks.

One for the Stilton:
Asparagus & Stilton Tarts
This is always the cheese on the cheeseboard that gets leftover. These tarts are so versatile too, try adding some ham or bacon, or mix in other cheeses like cheddar and brie. Try making your own pastry too!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)

After watching the Great British Bake Off Christmas Special with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood showing us some of their favourite Christmas bakes, I just had to make Mary Berry's Bûche de Noël! They also made Christmas cake and pudding - unfortunately I stand in the camp of not liking Christmas pudding - so the Bûche de Noël was a great alternative idea.

I made the ganache topping first because it has to cool down and set in the fridge for a few hours. I heated 300ml of double cream on the hob until it was quite warm. Mary says for it to be just hot enough that you can still hold your finger it in.

I mixed in 300g dark chocolate until it was smooth and glossy. I left it on the window sill to cool to room temperature, then popped it in the fridge for a few hours while I made the rest of the Bûche de Noël.

I missed the boat on taking photos during this point, apologies! I used my food mixer to whisk up 4 eggs with 100g caster sugar until it was frothy. Then sifted in 65g self-raising flour and 40g cocoa powder and folded it into the egg mixture gently so as not to lose the frothiness.

I put it into a lined baking tray (I don't have a swiss roll tin, but this works just as well) and baked on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 8-10 minutes. It sprang back up when I pressed it with a fingertip.

I prepared a sheet of baking paper dusted generously with icing sugar, I tipped the sponge out onto this while it was still hot, peeled off the baking paper it was baked in, and used a knife to make a grove along one end about 2cm from the end. Then I rolled the sponge up as tight as I could, taking the paper with it. I left it to cool fully still wrapped in the paper.

Once it was cold, I whipped up 300ml of cream, I'd say to use less as I had a lot left over. Unless you want extra cream to serve with the Bûche de Noël!

I unrolled the sponge and spread out the cream onto it using a palette knife.

Then I rolled it up again, I was pretty happy with the neatness of my roll!

I cut the roll diagonally at one end and positioned on a serving board to look like a branch.

The ganache was nice and thick by now. You want it to be as thick as a butter cream. I used a star nozzle and piping bag to pipe the ganache in lines along the roll, and swirls at each of the three ends.

A dusting of icing sugar and it was ready to eat! Sadly I didn't have a faux holly sprig to decorate with, but I still think it looks pretty good! This is the first time I've followed a Mary Berry recipe exactly, and it worked perfectly with all her instructions and tips, she really is a genius!

I have also entered this into Blue Kitchen Bakes Classic French Challenge!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas Cupcakes

I'm really feeling the Christmas spirit at the moment! Especially as it's my last day in work this year (I've got 12 days off over Christmas!) and we are having a huge, delicious, food-filled buffet on my team. My contribution was these Christmas cupcakes. The Snowman Cupcake you see above, and an attempt at Santa Hat Cupcakes further down this post. I also got baking goodies in my Secret Santa gift, which I am very pleased with!

First I must introduce you to the new love of my food mixer!! It's by Andrew James and is a slightly early Christmas present. It cut the time it took me to make these cupcakes down by about 90 minutes! Mixing by hand takes so long, I love this machine! It has four attachments, 6 speeds and is just generally fabulous.

The sponge for these cupcakes is Red Velvet, so I started by mixing 165g butter and 300g caster sugar until softened and fluffy.

I then added 2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 eggs, and mixed some more.

I weighed out my dry ingredients, which were 70g self raising flour, 200g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, and 20g cocoa powder. I added these to the bowl along with 225ml milk.

I mixed it all well and added an absolute ton of red food colouring! It still didn't go as red as I wanted, but I had to save some of the red food colouring for the red icing I was doing for the Santa Hat Cupcakes. I used gel colour as I heard it was stronger, but I wasn't pleased with it at all. I think I will stock up on Sugarflair colours as they seem to be the strongest pigments and you need much less of them and get a brighter colour.

I got 12 large and 12 small cupcakes out of this batter. I baked them on 175C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20mins. They definitely weren't as red as I wanted.

I wanted my icing to by pure white, so I got this icing whitener. However a whole bottle of it later and my icing was slight showing a hint of yellow. I didn't realise how much of this needed to be used either! 

My 'white' buttercream was made by mixing 300g icing sugar, 2 heaped tsp cream cheese and 150g butter.

My red icing was made with a whole heap of red food colouring (and some pink when I ran out of red!), 200g icing sugar, 100g butter, and one 1 heaped tsp cream cheese. I also added a bit more icing sugar at the end as the amount of food colouring I used made it go quite wet.

I started with decorating the Snowmen Cupcakes first. I swirled white icing on the tops, keeping it quite flat.

I decorated marshmallows with writing icing for the snowmen's heads.

I pressed the marshmallow head onto the buttercream.

I wrapped three strawberry laces, cut to length, around the snowman's neck for the scarf.

I snapped an orange chocolate stick in half for his arms, and used three liquorice cakes for his hat. And Mr. Snowman was ready! I thought he looked super cute, but a cocktail stick would've been handy to keep his head and hat on his body. as the hat was heavier than the head I did have some decapitation issues!

I decorated the Santa Hat Cupcakes with a swirl of white icing using a star nozzle, then a big swirl of not quite red enough icing with a circle nozzle, and finally a little blob of white on top for the hat's bobble. I thought these looked cute too, but a few people had trouble recognising what they were! Taste for both cupcakes was rated highly, so I can't complain!

This might be my last post before Christmas day, so I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas! And thank you for reading! Hope Santa brings you all the baking goodies you want! :)

Monday, 17 December 2012

The December Lust List

The festive season is finally here! My Christmas tree is up, cards have been written (and sent to both local streets and foreign lands), and most importantly of all, I have made a decent start on my present shopping - finally! I've already been enjoying festive treats such as mulled wine, mince pies, Baileys hot chocolate, and a gingerbread house. Here are some baking goodies I would love to find under my Christmas tree...

KitchenAid Artisan Grape Food Mixer
Harts of Stur £409.00
My absolute dream gift! And in purple my favourite colour. I am not ashamed to admit I actually stroked one of these on display in Selfridges. I will have one of these beauties one day, it would make my baking life a lot easier. Especially mixing batters and buttercream.

Star Swirly Cupcake Stand
Lakeland £3.99
Lakeland have got some great products for baking. This cupcake stand would be perfect for displaying your festive bakes, and could be used again at other occasions like birthdays. Plus, it's a bargain!

Giant Snowy Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter
Cakes, Cookies & Crafts £4.99
I recently discovered this website and purchased this cookie cutter (along with several other items!) It's 8 inches tall so great for giant Christmas tree cookies!

Chocolate In The Post
The Grown Up Chocolate Company from £25.95
This company sends you a selection of quality award-winning chocolate in the post for as many months as you desire! Yes please Santa!

Spherical Cake Tin / Christmas Pudding Mould
Richmond Cookshop £15.50
I've never seen anything like this before, they look like they're from space! These moulds will help you achieve a perfect spherical shape to cakes and puddings. What a stunning effect this would give, everyone will be wondering how you did it!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Mince Pie Variations

Cranberry & Orange Mincemeat Squares

I had planned a couple of months ago to make my own mincemeat, but life got in the way and I didn't quite get round to it. So instead I decided to add flavour to basic mincemeat, the first I came up with was cranberry and orange - very Christmasey flavours. I did this by adding dried cranberries, 2 tsp orange essence and the zest of one large orange to a jar of brandy infused mincemeat and mixing well. You can add more or less orange depending our your taste, or more alcohol if you fancy!

These mincemeat squares are made using puff pastry. I decided against making my own puff pastry, because frankly, it looks very time consuming and difficult! This time of year can be hard work, so why not make things a bit easier for yourself I say.

I found this Jus Rol Light Puff Pastry in Tesco. Christmas is such a time of indulgence, so it's nice to save some calories where you can! And it still tasted just as good!

This pastry is so easy to use. I just defrosted it and rolled it out on a floured surface to the recommend size on the pack.

I trimmed the edges, then cut it into squares. I wasn't overly concerned about neatness here.

Score a smaller square in the centre of the pastry square with a sharp knife. This will stop it from puffing up in the middle where your filling is. Add about a teaspoon and a half of mincemeat - depending on the size of square you cut out - and brush the edge with beaten egg. Leave a 1 cm gap at least for the edges.

Bake on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15-18 minutes. Or until the pastry has gone golden brown and puffed up.

Leave to cool (the mincemeat gets very hot in the oven so be careful if you want to eat these warm!) Enjoy alone, or with ice cream, cream, or custard. I think these are a fab and easy alternative to standard mince pies! So simple to make and they look great.

Blueberry & Lemon Mincemeat Cups

The second mincemeat flavour I created was blueberry and lemon. I did this by adding dried blueberries, a good glug of lemon juice, and the zest of one lemon to a jar of basic mince meat. This was so yummy and lemoney! Definitely my personal favourite of the two.

I've made shortcrust pastry several times and never had problems with it, so I made my own for the cups.

In a large mixing bowl I put 175g plain flour, and 85g grated butter. TIP: Grating the butter makes this process so much easier and saves you a lot of time. I then rubbed the flour and butter together until it formed breadcrumbs, then stirred in 45g caster sugar.

I added one egg and used my hands to bind the mixture together into a dough. I kneaded it briefly (1-2 minutes) on a floured surface until the dough was smooth. Then I wrapped it in cling film and chilled it in the fridge for 1 hour.

I rolled the dough out onto a floured surface and used a round cutter to cut out circles. I greased a cupcake tray with butter and places the circles of dough into the tray, and pricked the bottom of the dough with a fork twice.

I filled them up with the mincemeat and baked on 175C/325F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. The pastry should be golden and crispy all over - especially the bottom!

A dusting of icing sugar and they were done. I took these into work and both mince pie variations got gobbled up quickly. Really pleased with how this turned out as the idea of flavouring mincemeat was just a random thought I came up with. What other mince pie variations have you eaten or made?