Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Baking

Hello folks.

I have been busy in the run up to Christmas. Very busy indeed. On Friday the 21st, which I believe was the winter solstice, and was also the day on which the world conspicuously failed to end, I held a dinner party.

I made griddled polenta with blue cheese on a bed of rocket, a butternut squash and courgette pie with mint and lemon dressed carrots and greek yoghurt, chocolate bread and butter pudding with vanilla semifreddo and caramel decorations and mincemeat filo parcels. 5 people eschewed the blue cheese, I was so stressed I had two bellinis before I served the polenta and somehow contrived to trip over the heel of my shoe (which was on my foot) with my other foot, I forgot to dress the carrots with lemon and burnt the poo (this is a family-friendly blog) out of the filo parcels. But as everyone ate nearly everything (except the cremated filo parcels), I didn't cry from stress and no one vomited up their food I declared the evening a success.

I had also had enough red wine to be very contented, as Elena filled my glass every time I looked away.

Whilst preparing on Friday, although I was already trying to do several things at once, I decided the need for canap├ęs provided me with the perfect opportunity to learn how to make rough puff pastry. I made palmiers, which are those little curly French pastries. They can be sweet or savoury, and the recipe below makes more than 20. Oh yeah and I didn't measure the amount of filling I used. Cos I'm badass.

Pesto and Parmesan Palmiers

You will need:

150g plain flour
150g butter
90ml water
½ tsp salt
pesto
Parmesan or other grated hard cheese

1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and add the butter in chunks. Rub the butter in loosely, not into fine crumbs like a crumble mixture but so lumps of butter are still visible.


2. Add the water bit by bit, stirring until the mixture forms a dough. Add more water if needed (but you shouldn't need to). Once the mixture comes together roll it into a ball and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
3. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to a rectangle about 20x50cm. The butter should be visible in streaks in the dough.

4. Fold the top third of the dough down and the bottom third up as pictured below. 
5. Roll out again, fold again and return to the fridge for 20 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 180C. Repeat step 5, then the dough is ready to be rolled out and used. Roll out the dough and spread generously with pesto and sprinkle with cheese.

7. Roll up the bottom half of the pastry tightly towards the middle. When you reach the middle repeat with the other half. Your pastry should look like this:
8. Slice off each end of the pastry and then slice into 1cm thick slices. Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes or until flaky and golden.
9. If you are blogging about them, do not, as I did, forget to take a picture of your palmiers before they get scoffed.

I would like to show you the mincemeat filo parcels recipe but as I mentioned I burnt the poop out of them, and I also did not make the filo myself (bite me, Paul).

So instead I shall show you what I made for Christmas Day pudding. As you may remember from my last post my family Christmas features only a token Christmas pudding, which we set fire to, duly applaud and then fling in the bin. And then proceed to beat out the ensuing flames. So I am in charge of the alternative pudding. And this year we have this delightful tart, which I made for a friend's birthday earlier in the year. I discovered this recipe, by a fellow online chef, whilst looking for a recipe to use up orange curd, but I have altered it slightly. And here is my version:

Dark Chocolate and Orange Curd Tart

You will need:

2 large oranges
500ml water
170g caster sugar
95g ground almonds
175g flour
115g butter
65g dark chocolate
165ml double cream
200g orange curd (you can make your own but I only make orange or lemon curd to use up spare egg yolks)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Slice the oranges into ½ cm slices, slicing them across so you get a cross-section of the inside of the orange, not the other way, as I managed to do with one of them. Put the water and sugar in a large shallow pan and bring to the boil. Add the orange slices and continue to boil for 10 minutes, turning the slices after 5 minutes. Then lower the heat and simmer for about another 30 minutes.
2. Lower the heat and simmer for about another 30 minutes. You want to continue simmering until the liquid in the pan is nearly gone and the slices are translucent and sticky. They should look like this:
3. Put the almonds and flour into a bowl. Melt the butter and pour it over the dry ingredients.

4. Stir the mixture until it starts to come together. Then pour the crumbly mixture into a tart tin and press firmly down to form the base of the tart. Put the base in the oven for about 20 minutes until it starts to colour and smells delicious.

5. While the base is baking, put the cream and chocolate in a bowl over a barely simmering pan of water, stirring occasionally until fully combined. 
6. When the tart base has cooled enough to not melt the orange curd, spread it on the base.
7. When the chocolate ganache has cooled, pour that onto the orange curd. Be careful not to mix up the orange curd and chocolate layer and spread evenly to the very edges of the tart. Then add the orange slices to the tart.
8. Chill the tart until set.

The person who posted the original recipe recommended you served it with thyme-infused cream. To make this you will need:

150ml double cream
5 sprigs thyme

1. Put the thyme and cream in a pan on a low to medium heat.
2. Bring to the boil then strain through a sieve and chill until ready to serve tart.

So there you are, my Christmas bakes. Enjoy!

Until later, Elflings.
xxx 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas Cupcakes

So this week, I decided to make Christmas-themed cupcakes as a parting gift to my coursemates. I like to think they will miss me and my baking over the holidays, although as it is nearly Christmas, they probably don't need my help to put on weight.

Here are my beautiful creations, although unfortunately the photos are not beautiful as I forgot to charge my camera and had to use my phone:




Here we have double chocolate Christmas pudding cupcakes, peppermint and chocolate Christmas tree cupcakes and vanilla and white chocolate candy cane cupcakes. These cupcakes are pretty stunning looking, and so easy to do. They'd make great party food. The decoration, I am proud to say, was all of my own invention. I was particularly proud of using icing sugar on the Christmas trees to represent snow.

I made these cupcakes in ridiculously small batches, but it's much easier to make them in bigger batches. You can freeze cupcakes as long as you freeze the cupcakes and buttercream separately. Do NOT refrigerate either. They will not like it.

To find my buttercream recipe, go here. This recipe makes about enough buttercream icing to cover 24 cupcakes. I promise I will do one on this blog soon. Maybe. You will see that the icing I used here was pretty brightly coloured. This means you will need to use a fair amount of colouring. Use paste NOT liquid colouring. Seriously, this is important. If you find that the colouring makes the icing lose its consistency, add more icing sugar gradually and continue beating, it should regain the consistency you want.  

By the way, the Christmas pudding cupcakes are not actually Christmas pudding flavoured. This is because I hate Christmas pudding. In my house we set fire to the pudding, all clap, and then throw it in the bin. Although we generally wait for the flames to go out first.

Christmas Pudding and Christmas Tree Cupcakes - makes 12 of each

You will need:

To decorate:
half a batch of buttercream made as above (but without vanilla flavouring)
100g dark chocolate
50g white chocolate
300ml double cream

For the cakes:
25g cocoa
225g butter
200g flour
225g caster sugar
4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. 
2. Beat the eggs in one at a time. The mixture will look like sick. Don't worry. It's supposed to.
3. Sift the flour and cocoa into the mixture and fold in gently. 

 4. Distribute the mixture between 24 cupcake cases.
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until cupcakes are risen and tops spring back when lightly pressed. 

6. While the cupcakes are baking, put a ceramic/glass bowl on top of a saucepan of barely simmering water. Break the dark chocolate into pieces and add 200ml of cream, then melt the two together until completely combined. Take off the heat and put aside. Repeat the process with the white chocolate and remaining cream. 
8. When both the cupcakes and the ganache have cooled, cover half the cupcakes in the dark chocolate ganache, spreading the ganache with a knife. 
9. Drop a teaspoon of the white chocolate ganache on top of each chocolate covered cupcake and tease it the desired shape. Which is basically a splodge.
10. To decorate the remaining cupcakes, colour the buttercream green and flavour it with peppermint. Spread the cupcakes with buttercream, spreading upwards to create a vaguely conical shape. Then take a cocktail stick and create a shaggy texture by drawing little grooves in the buttercream all over. Dust with icing sugar just before serving. 

Candy Cane Cupcakes - makes 12

You will need:

To decorate:
half a batch of buttercream made as above
50g white chocolate
100ml double cream

For the cakes:
115g butter
115g flour
115g caster sugar
2 eggs
½ tbsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. 
2. Beat the eggs in one at a time. 
3. Sift the flour and cocoa into the mixture and fold in gently. 
4. Distribute the mixture between 24 cupcake cases.
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until cupcakes are risen and tops spring back when lightly pressed. 

6. While the cakes are baking, put a ceramic/glass bowl on top of a saucepan of barely simmering water. Break the chocolate into pieces and add the cream, then melt the two together until completely combined. Take off the heat and put aside.
7. Split the buttercream into two equal parts and colour half of it red. Put each colour in an icing bag with a star shaped nozzle.
8. When both the cakes and the ganache have cooled, cut the tops off the cakes so that they are flat. Spread  each cake with ganache. Pipe 6 evenly spaced splodges of one of the icing colours around each cake. Then repeat with the other colour. 
9. Scoff.

If, unlike me, your kind parents have not bought you cupcake toppers, you could make your own candy canes by rolling red and white sugarpaste into lines and then twisting them together. If you are good at cutting precise shapes you could probably cut out tiny holly leaves out of green sugarpaste and roll little berries out of red to top the Christmas pudding cakes. And you could decorate the trees with stars or edible silver balls.

I also make gingerbread decorations from my friend Charlie's recipe this week. If you're making decorations rather than gingerbread for eating, roll the dough thin and make a hole in each gingerbread before baking, allowing for shrinkage whilst baking. Make small shapes as heavy gingerbreads will break and once cooled, thread a length of red ribbon through the hole of each gingerbread to hang it by. 
  

Merry Christmas everyone! More to follow before then.

Ellie 
xxx