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a blog about making bread at home

Archive for the month “November, 2013”

Christmas cake and a word about marzipan

I realised that I hadn’t blogged the making of a Christmas Cake. This year’s trendy thing to do apparently as sales of dried fruit and other cake ingredients have risen by over 30% compared to last year, according to The Times (but you’ll need a subscription to read the rest). Now this could mean several things – we’re not just making Christmas cakes and puddings, we’re making all sorts of lovely things packed with sultanas, raisins and currants, cherries, peel and nuts. It may also mean that the stores have over-ordered their own Christmas offerings and there will be lots of cut-price goodies on Boxing Day, so if you’re not making your own, hang on for a post-Christmas blitz, but don’t blame me if I’m wrong.

I must say there are few things I like more than good fruit cake. However, at this time of year it is all to easy to end up with everything tasting of dried fruit and spices so sometimes it is good to go outside the box. So I will be making Panettone and probably stollen just to keep us going until the big day. There’s a great Dan Lepard recipe for stollen which I also don’t seem to have blogged about yet, so maybe next week for that one.

You can find all sorts of recipes on the web from all the celebrity bakers, and they’ll all be just slightly different, also they’ll be telling you “you should have made your cake a month ago”. Does it really make a difference whose recipe you follow and how long you leave it to sit? Personally I don’t think so. I’m not that keen on treacle in cake recipes or filling them up with alcohol so I’m here now with my split-at-the-spine copy of the National Trust Christmas and Festive Day Recipes, another copy of which I may have to put in my trolley next time I’m on Amazon, as it has suffered. For a good read about historic Christmas cakes you could do worse than read Ivan Day’s blog and course where he talks about yeast-leavened plum cakes.

I reduce a 6 egg recipe down to 4 eggs and proportion all the ingredients likewise, as while we like the cake, if it hangs around the house much past Twelfth Night I find it’s gone a bit dry. Absolutely nothing tricky in here: sultanas, currants, raisins, cherries, peel, some orange juice, butter, soft brown sugar, eggs, plain flower, salt, baking powder, mixed spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, almonds, lemon juice, brandy/rum or sherry and vanilla/almond or ratafia essence. Some pictures below as I went along and one of the finished article.

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It won’t be getting decorated until much nearer the date, but I do also like to try and remember to make my own marzipan, as along with how shops treat dates at Christmas, I can’t be doing with the added stickiness of the syrup that shop-bought brands contain. The above-mentioned book also includes a recipe for almond paste which features ground almonds, caster sugar, icing sugar, egg, lemon juice, brandy or sherry, vanilla essence, almond essence and orange-flower or rose water. The finished mix my be a little more gritty than shop bought, and the cake does benefit from leaving for a week wrapped in paper before icing, so is not a last-minute thing, but most importantly, does not stick to the teeth!

And here’s the finished article. Maybe a bit on the blue side, but my son said it was awesome, so who am I to argue?


Chocolate orange cake

I asked my son what kind of cake he’d like and he replied “chocolate and orange” so using Dan Lepard’s brown sugar chocolate cake recipe from Short and Sweet, which is mostly like this one from the Guardian, plus the zest of an orange in the mixture, and a quick topping using the juice of half the orange plus some icing sugar and butter and a quick waft of cocoa powder, here’s a giant cupcake. Using a 20cm cake tin liner in a tin which is a bit bigger means the liner gets nice and full, the recipe gets room to spread and the result is lighter than making it in a loaf tin.

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Stamped cookies

Making biscuits with patterns on top is an ancient art. There’s a lovely blog about it from Ivan Day, who owns some beautiful historic biscuit stamps. Me, I bought one in M&S last week. I’m stuck at home with a sprained ankle this morning so I thought I’d try it out with the Hairy Bikers Cardamom and Lemon cookies. I only made half a batch as I didn’t have enough almonds, and I had to plump up the portions to 30g pieces to make the stamp work. I weighed the pieces, rolled them into balls and pressed them flat with my hand before using the stamp. The stamp is probably a bit too ornate and I had to use plain flour to coat it before stamping out the cookies.

Now I have something to eat with my morning coffee. Before and after pictures below.

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