It’s Saturday

Whilst many people are enjoying the festivities and celebrations of the season, this time of year is not a happy one for everyone, and it can be fraught with stress and tension.  We all need a little time out, to get some peace, to feed our souls. Remember to take time for yourself.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a happy and peaceful weekend 🙂

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The “C” Word (Part 4)

What do you do when you’ve had a long stressful week at work and only two hours sleep? You think it’s a good idea to unwrap and ice your Christmas cake! Yes, with barely a brain cell, and absolutely no artistic ability, it seemed like a very good idea.

Over the years I have tried various toppings / icing / decoration for my cake. Now I am an icing girl. Through and through.  Without icing there is usually very little point to anything.  I am a “would you like a piece of cake with your icing?” type of girl. Less is most definitely not more, when it comes to icing!

I do think a classic royal icing is the best, but we all remember the tooth-shattering hardness of this, and so the soft royal icing took over. I love this, you  need no talent, just put it on the cake, rough it up, and it looks like lovely peaks of snow. Royal icing however is made with egg, and I hate egg. Did I mention how much I hate egg? Bleurgh. And somehow I manage to smell the egg, when I have made the royal icing, with every mouthful of cake I detect that egg.  And guess what, fondant icing is made with egg too…..so this put me right off making my own fondant icing.

I don’t like to buy ready made icing, I need to feel I have actually made the effort, and succeeded. But, in this instance, reader, I caved. I gave in and bought ready made fondant icing.

And so, to the cake, which has been wrapped up tightly for weeks, just waiting for this day. A layer of apricot jam, and then a layer of marzipan:

and then topped with a layer of white fondant icing:

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This, you understand is just too plain. I must decorate it. Being completely devoid of talent doesn’t prevent me from having a wild imagination.  Past experience however has taught me to scale down my ambition, and I am determined, one day, to master a basic form of cake decoration so that it doesn’t look like a three-year old has done it. I have to admit, I am not doing very well on this front.  This year I set myself the task of making a fondant icing bow. I have watched countless YouTube videos of how to do this. I have even had a few trial runs (no photographic evidence!). Today it was now or never. I am not happy with my bow, it’s a bit rough around the edges, it’s just not quite right, but I have done worse.  I wanted to dust some edible lustre on the fondant ribbon, but it had a pinkish tinge to it, and didn’t look right. The blue one didn’t sparkle and shine, but somehow ended up making the ribbon look as if it was made from suede! Oh well. There’s always a next time! As for the snowflakes, no talent required, I have one of those marvellous stamp things that you punch into the fondant icing 🙂

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And so here is my Christmas cake, with fondant icing decoration. I just need to wait for it to dry a little bit before I cut myself a slice!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, stay safe. Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

The “C” Word (part 3) aka Bûche de Noël

Once again we go back to chocolate, and somehow it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Bûche de Noël – also known as Chocolate Log. I have made this a number of times, and always use the recipe in Nigella Lawson’s “Christmas”. It works, it is delicious. And, it contains no flour!  The sponge consists entirely of eggs, cocoa powder, caster sugar and vanilla essence.

Whisk the egg whites with some of the caster sugar; whisk the egg yolks with the remainder of the caster sugar until creamy and mousse-like; add the cocoa powder and vanilla, combine with egg whites and pour into baking tin.

Once baked, remove from the oven, cool slightly before turning out onto a sheet of baking paper and carefully roll up.  Leave to cool before icing.

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Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, have a peaceful and happy weekend 🙂

 

The “C” word (part 2) aka Christmas Cake

Some Christmas food preparation needs to be done long in advance of the day. And today, I am talking Christmas Cake!

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I am not usually a big fan of fruit cake, but after years of persevering, I found a Christmas cake recipe that I really do like.

This recipe is a two-day process – first the dried fruit needs to be soaked overnight in a mixture of port and mulled wine spices.

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I have only done minor tweaking on this recipe – I loathe glace cherries, and so instead I add dried blueberries and cranberries to the raisins, sultanas, candied citrus peel, prunes and fresh ginger. And I add walnuts. I mean, why, oh why, would you have a fruit cake that didn’t have nuts in it!!

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This recipe makes a huge cake, and one of the joys of it is that it doesn’t need “feeding” like a traditional Christmas cake does. Once it has cooled, it gets tightly wrapped up in baking parchment and tin foil, and put away to mature, whilst I decide how to decorate it. I usually bake the cake in September or October, and it will last – well wrapped – for months.

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It is a bit cracked, like me, but whilst cooking has filled the house with the lovely, spicy, warm delicious fragrance of Christmas.

 

The “C” Word (Part 1)

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Yes, it’s that time of year when the dreaded (or maybe not) “C” word crops up. Christmas. It’s really not long to go and so the preparation begins.

I am not religious and therefore Christmas holds no special relevance for me. However I do like to have certain days in the year which are unlike all the others. Whether new traditions are created, celebrated, new foods made, or it is a day for spontaneity. Life can drag us all down, and to have a few days here and there where your routine is different, you eat different food, and have something to look forward to is a good thing in my book.

So, back to Christmas. I enjoy the tinsel, the glitter, the lights and I love the food. Christmas cake (which will be my part 2 of “The “C” Word” and Christmas mincemeat are the two food items which need to be prepared in advance. Long in advance. And, before you ask, no, I don’t do Christmas pudding. Not in the traditional sense anyway. But watch this space for part 3…….!!

Mince pies are lovely, home-made mince pies are even lovelier, and so, too, I have discovered is home-made mince.

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I found a recipe I liked and have only done minor tweaking here. This one is a VERY boozy Christmas mince.

With raisins, currants, cranberries, sultanas, almonds, lemon, Bramley apple, dried candied citrus peel, cinnamon, mixed spice, Demerara and dark muscovado sugars, rum, brandy and Amaretto………..sigh.

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Now I just need the willpower to leave it for a few months.