Welcome to the first post of 2015. Yes, I know I’m a bit slow out of the gate and that January is almost half over, but I’ve got several plates spinning just now *she says, enigmatically* so it’s all going to be a bit ad lib for the next few months, I’m afraid. Bear with.
As a reward for your patience, I have a delicious treat for you to try this week – drowned doughnuts!
Not drowned in gooey stuff, for as you can see from the picture, the most they can boast is a light dusting of caster sugar. The ‘drowned’ relates to the method of making the dough – unusual and bizarre and so ‘out there’ it’s practically left the solar system. But it works. And it’s delicious. And so incredibly light and delicate you won’t believe.
“I can’t believe it!” you’ll cry, as you jam yet another vanilla-scented pillow into your mouth (little finger crooked, of course – we’re not ANIMALS here).
For once this dough is mixed, you cover it lightly with a cloth – or plastic, your choice – and drop it into a bucket of cold water.
Yes. Drop it into water. For real.
It’ll sit at the bottom until the yeast has worked its magic sufficiently, whereupon it will rise like a……*stares blankly into the middle distance for a while* ………. well, a very risey thing, and float on the surface. That’s when you know it’s ready.
None of this tip-toeing around, nervously chewing your lip and wondering
“Is it done yet?”
“Why isn’t it done yet?”
“Is it in a draft?”
“Shall I poke it now? “
“Maybe it’s too hot!”
“Did I kill the yeast?”
“I think I killed the yeast!”
“What about poking it now?”
“Did I poke it too much?”
“Why isn’t it done yet??”
No, none of that palaver here – just weigh, mix, wrap and *splash!*
There’s lots you can do with this dough – and we’ll be coming back to it in a few weeks (although do remind me, because you know what I’m like for getting distracted!), but as an introduction I’d like you to enjoy it elegant simplicity.
If you need any further convincing of the high esteem in which I hold this recipe, let me just say I thought it worthy of using a vanilla pod. In a dough! *lets that sink in*
1 sachet easy-blend fast action yeast
200 g unsalted butter
400 g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 heaped tbs caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
200 ml milk
1 large egg
Milk for brushing
- Put the yeast, butter, flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Tip the mixture into a bowl.
- Put the sugar into a mortar or small bowl.
- Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla seeds to the sugar.
- Using the pestle, or the back of a spoon, stir/grind the sugar and seeds together. This will break apart the sticky mass of vanilla seeds and help distribute them evenly throughout the dough.
- Tip the now vanilla sugar into the flour mix.
- Gently warm the milk to blood temperature, then whisk in the egg.
- Gradually add the liquid to the rest of the ingredients, stirring thoroughly. It will make a soft dough. It won’t matter if you just tip all the liquid in at once and it becomes too soft to mould – just use a ziplock bag for the next stage. Form the dough into a smooth ball.
- Wet a clean tea-towel, squeeze out the excess moisture and lay it on your worktop. Place your ball of dough into the middle. Loosely tie opposite corners of the cloth over the dough, leaving room for it to swell. If your dough is very soft, spoon it into a lightly oiled ziplock bag, squeeze out all the air and seal it shut.
- Place (yes, I know I said ‘drop’ earlier – but I was being melodramatic! I also said bucket, but unless you’ve got clean, food-grade plastic ones, use an alternative.) the dough into a deep bowl or pan of cold water. It will sink to the bottom. Make sure there enough liquid to cover it. You can now safely leave it until it floats to the surface (about an hour).
- Remove the dough from the water and unwrap. You might want to let it drain a little before placing it onto your floured worktop. You can use paper towels to mop up any excess water.
- Gently pat the air out of the dough with the palm of your hand until the dough is 3cm thick.
- Cover lightly with oiled plastic and let it rest for 15 minutes,
- Using a 5cm plain cutter, cut out your doughnuts and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Press the cutter straight down and up again – no twisting, or your doughnuts will rise lop-sided.
- Press any scraps of dough together and pat out again to re-use.
- Cover the doughnuts lightly with cling film and set aside to rise for about 20 minutes while the oven heats up.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160ºC Fan.
- Once the doughnuts have puffed up, bake for 8-10 minutes until well risen and starting to brown on the tops.
- Remove from the oven and quickly brush with milk to keep the crust soft.
- Cover with a cloth and allow to cool till just warm.
- Dust with caster sugar and enjoy.
Here is your 2014 Festive Food Ready Reference page for all your holiday menus!
Click on the text to go to the recipe page.
I hope you all have a fab time and let’s meet up again in 2015 to do it all over again!
Nibbles & Starters
Breads & Side Dishes
Boxing Day Buffet
Final Festive Food recipe this week, and it’s fantastic!
Fruity, spiced, zesty with candied peel, suet-free and thus vegetarian, less than 2 hours in the making/baking – and over 300 years old!
I found this recipe in the manuscript recipe book of Elizabeth Philipps (circa 1694), when I was hunting for Christmas recipes. The recipe’s full title is “An excellent Plum Pudding Hot or Cake Cold”, which is just the kind of two-for-one recipe that our modern Christmas needs – especially if you’re running late and missed stir-up Sunday. Excellent example of Deja Food too!
The recipe is marked with the annotation “daughter Green”. I think this must mean the recipe was passed on by her daughter, whose married name was Green – although there were unusual naming conventions back then; perhaps Mistress Philipps had a rainbow of daughters? We can but guess. As if the title wasn’t endorsement enough, a later hand has also awarded a tick and the comment ‘good’. This made this recipe a culinary ‘dead cert’ in my opinion: something that was so delicious when tasted, the recipe was requested and recorded by hand in the family recipe book, and this approval was then endorsed by a third party coming across the recipe at a later date.
You can bake this in a regular cake tin, but a ceramic pudding bowl works just as well, and makes the resemblance to a Christmas Pudding much clearer. The hour-long baking time creates a wonderfully dark and crunchy crust, which contrasts dramatically with the light, pale insides. You can also bake it in individual pudding bowls (the recipe makes 10 small puddings), which looks very sweet too, although the shorter cooking time makes for a paler outside. This would be too much traditional Christmas Pudding for one person, but this pudding is a yeast-raised, light, fruited, cake texture, and much more refreshing to the palate as well as being easier on the stomach.
I’ll be putting up a Festive Food Index at the weekend – suggestions from the blog over the years, including this year – on a single handy page, but apart from that, this is the final blog post this year.
Happy Holidays to all and I’ll see you in 2015!
375g plain flour
1/3 nutmeg, grated
1 tsp ground mace
½ tsp ground cloves
1 sachet fast-action yeast
40g granulated sugar
150g unsalted butter
50ml cream sherry or mead
2 large eggs
60g mixed candied peel 
40g flaked almonds
- Mix the flour, yeast and spices.
- Put the sugar, butter and milk/cream in a pan and warm gently until the butter is melted.
- Add the sherry or mead.
- If the mixture is still hot, let it cool a little first, then whisk in the eggs.
- Add the liquids to the flour and mix thoroughly. It should form a soft dough. Add up to 150ml more milk if you think it is required.
- Set somewhere warm to rise for 30 minutes.
- Stir in the fruit and almonds until thoroughly combined.
- If you are making small, individual puddings, each mould or aluminium foil cup will take about 125g of dough. Otherwise, generously butter a 1.6 litre pudding bowl and add the dough.
- Set aside for 15 minutes while the oven warms up.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- a single, large pudding for about an hour. Turn the basin round after 30 minutes and check for done-ness at 50 minutes.
- the small, individual puddings for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
- Run a spatula around the sides of the basin to loosen the pudding, and carefully turn out onto your serving plate.
- Serve warm, with double cream.
- For later: Even though this pudding is nice cold, it really is at its best just warm, so for serving later, zap slices/individual puddings in the microwave for 30 seconds before serving.
 I used 20g each of orange, lemon and pink grapefruit, rinsed of excess syrup, which I made using the recipe on the blog. Do try it!
Week 5 of Festive Food and it’s a full-on chocolate fiesta, because what is Christmas without some chocolate? A dang-poor Christmas, that’s what it is!
For years, I have resisted making Brownies, because the last time I’d tasted them, they didn’t strike me as anything special. Of course, this was 1987 and I seem to recall that vegetable oil featured rather heavily, so all in all, no wonder.
So I decided to turn my rehabilitation eye on the humble brownie and force it to raise its game by using top quality ingredients and adding a bit of elegance to its appearance.
What I’ve got for you here is the culinary opposite of those shabby specimens of almost 3 decades ago: it is a multi-layered extravaganza of dark 70% chocolate, real cocoa, fresh butter, rich praline, and creamy milk chocolate. Like Cinderella, humble beginnings have been primped and tweaked and slathered in more bells and whistles than a whole troupe of Morris Men (wack-fol-a-diddle-di-do-sing-too-rah-li-ay!).
I’ve made many versions over the past few weeks, but like some glorious cocoa-based Pokemon, THIS is it’s final form.
FIVE layers – yes, FIVE! Go on, count them! – of indulgence, the textures getting lighter and more luscious as they get higher and higher: from crisp chocolate crunch shortbread, though rich brownie, creamy praline ganache, ethereally light milk-chocolate Chantilly cream and finally, to be topped with shower of real chocolate sprinkles! If you wanted to go all-out, I guess you COULD add a dusting of pure cocoa powder, but that seems a little over-the-top if you arsks me….
If you’re starting to panic about how complicated this all is, stop. It’s not. Yes, there are five layers, but you don’t HAVE to make all of them. The brownie by itself is pretty amazing. Add one or two of the other layers, and it’s a real winner. Pick and choose what you want to make – your kitchen, your rules.
This is a 2-day recipe, so don’t think everything has to be done in one go. The bottom two layers are baked in the same tin, one on top of the other, and the ganache is then poured on top – the first three layers all neatly contained in a single tin – no mess, no fuss. The only other thing to do on the first day is to melt some chocolate in cream. So you end up with just 2 items in the fridge. Simples!
It’s a what-I-call Lego™ recipe, with bits taken from here and there and stuck together to make something new. Bonus: each layer is delicious just on its own:
- Chocolate crunch base – makes fabulously crisp biscuits.
- Brownie – bakes in 15 minutes for a speedy dessert – serve with cream!
- Praline Ganache – once cooled, can be rolled into decadent truffles and tossed in cocoa.
- Milk chocolate chantilly – with just 2 ingredients and a little planning ahead, the easiest dessert of all.
- Real chocolate sprinkles – delicious on bread and butter for breakfast.
You need to start it the day before it is required, because the ganache and the Chantilly must chill overnight in the fridge. Apart from that, it’s very straightforward.
WARNING: This makes a SLAB of brownie, and due to its richness, serves up to 20. If you’re not wanting such a huge quantity, even though it will last for several days over the festive season, consider scaling the recipe down. Also, if you’re thinking this could be regarded as a serving for 1 (which, technically, I suppose it could be), for the sake of your arteries, consider scaling the recipe down!
I make this a pan of dimensions 24cm x 32cm x 4cm. If you haven’t got a tin exactly the same, then just go with what you have – smaller and deeper – or even two small tins – is better, to keep the ganache from overflowing.
Chocolate Biscuit Base
This is a crumbly, buttery shortbread, but with added feuilletine and ground almonds for two different yet complimentary crunch textures. If you don’t have any feuilletine, use a few crushed crepes dentelles or cornflakes.
135g butter – softened
45g icing sugar
25g ground almonds
25g feuilletine 
- Line your tin with baking parchment. Leave the edges quite long, so that they stick up well above the sides of the tin.
- Mix the softened butter, sugar, salt, flour, cocoa and ground almonds in a bowl until well combined.
- Lightly stir in the feuilletine. Try to keep the pieces a reasonable size, so that they can still be discerned in the cooked biscuit.
- Turn out the mixture onto parchment and lay some clingfilm over the top.
- Roll the mixture out to fit your tin. The overall thickness should be between 5-8mm thick. You might find it easier to roll this out onto the baking parchment from the tin, then you’ll know exactly where to trim/patch.
- Prick all over with a fork (to keep it from blistering) and place in the freezer to harden for between 15 and 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes and then set aside to cool. The biscuit will be mostly cooked, and will finish off as the brownie mixture bakes.
Rich Chocolate Brownie
100 g egg yolks (5 large)
125 g caster sugar (to mix with the yolks)
120 g of egg white (3 large)
120 g caster sugar (to mix with the white)
15 g of cocoa powder
60g chopped walnuts (or pecans).
220 g of dark chocolate (I used 70% )
120 g unsalted butter
- Increase the oven heat to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Mix the egg yolks and sugar until very light and fluffy (10 mins-ish).
- Meanwhile melt butter and chocolate. Set aside to cool a little.
- Beat the egg whites until frothy, then gradually whisk in the sugar and beat until stiff peaks.
- Gently fold in the whipped egg whites with the whisked yolks. NB Use a balloon whisk for this – it’s more effective and doesn’t knock out as much air as a spoon or spatula.
- Fold in the butter/chocolate mixture.
- Fold in the walnuts.
- Fold in the flour and cocoa powder.
- When thoroughly combined, pour onto the biscuit base in the baking tin.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on how baked you like your brownie to be – I went for 20 minutes, because I like a cakey cake rather than a gooey cake).
- Set aside to cool in the tin.
100g unblanched almonds )
100g caster sugar ) for the praline paste.
You CAN buy praline paste ready made, but it’s generally made with hazelnuts and is therefore not as delicate a flavour as a purely almond praline paste.
115g praline paste
345ml double cream
285g dark 60-70% chocolate
2tsp vanilla extract (optional).
- Make the praline paste, or see footnote  below:
- Put the almonds on a baking sheet and put in the oven.
- Turn the heat to 160°C, 140°C Fan and let the nuts toast for 15-20 minutes.
- Put the sugar into a pan over medium heat. Allow the sugar to melt and become golden brown. NB Do not stir, as this will cause the sugar to crystallise. Swirl the sugar around the pan.
- Put the toasted nuts onto some baking parchment or a silicone mat, and pour the caramel over them.
- Leave to cool.
- Cut the praline into pieces and blitz it in a food processor to ‘breadcrumbs’.
- Keep the machine running and eventually (5 minutes or so) it will turn into a paste, as the oil in the nuts is released.
- Weigh out the quantity you need. Any remainder will keep very well in a sealed box.
- Chop the chocolate and add to the praline paste in a bowl.
- Heat the cream to just below boiling point and pour onto the chocolate.
- Leave for 5 minutes. This waiting time allows the heat of the cream to act on the chocolate and allows it to melt gradually. Vigorous stirring immediately after adding the cream will just create and trap air bubbles and spoil the finish of the ganache.
- Slowly stir in one direction only to ensure fully melted and combined.
- Stir in the vanilla, if using.
- Pour onto the cooled brownie in the tin. It will have sunk a little in the middle as it cooled, but I like also to press the edges down a little, so that the ganache sets as an even layer across the whole brownie. Just press the raised edges gently with the flat of your hand until the surface seems level., then pour over the liquid ganache.
- If you’re having the ganache as the final topping – and it does set to a beautifully glossy finish, you’ll want to try and get rid of as many of the air bubbles as possible, so that the surface is smooth and shiny. To do this, lift the tin about 10cm off the kitchen counter and drop it onto the worktop. Repeat 3 or 4 times. You will see the bubbles rise and burst through the ganache. This dropping will also help level out the ganache. You can also jiggle the tin from side to side to ensure the ganache has got into all the nooks and crannies.
- Allow to cool on the side, before covering lightly with foil and putting it in the fridge to set. If it’s still warm when you cover it, you run the risk of droplets of condensation falling onto the ganache. Clingfilm is an acceptable alternative to foil, if you can ensure it doesn’t touch the ganache, as this would spoil the mirror finish.
Milk Chocolate Chantilly
This is a fabulous concoction to have up your sleeve. Once prepared, it has the texture of mousse, but without the fuss of either gelatine or whipped (raw) egg-whites. Great for vegetarians!
400ml whipping cream
200g Milka milk chocolate
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces and put into a bowl.
- Heat the cream until just below boiling point and pour onto the chocolate.
- Leave for 5 minutes.
- Slowly stir in one direction only to ensure fully melted and combined.
- To ensure that the cream and chocolate are fully combined, you can, while the mixture is still hot, BRIEFLY whisk it with an immersion blender – no more than 4 or 5 quick pulses.
- Allow to cool.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and chill in the fridge overnight.
You can, of course, serve this as a traybake, with or without the chantilly cream, but it is so rich, and looks so pretty when you can see all the layers, I really recommend portioning it out neatly in either squares or fingers.
- Remove the tin of brownie from the fridge. The Ganache will have set to a lovely smooth and shiny finish.
- Take hold of the parchment and lift the whole thing out of the tin and set it on the work surface.
- Slowly peel the parchment away from the sides.
- Cut up the brownie. This might seem a little over the top, to have a section devoted to cutting up a tray bake, but having gone to so much effort, a little care to ensure beautifully smooth slices like the one in the picture is time well spent.
- Have a large, sharp, smooth knife to hand. A serrated knife won’t give you the sleek, smooth edge required.
- Also have a jug of very hot water and a clean tea towel.
- Have a board/serving dish for the slices of brownie, and a side plate for the offcuts and trimmings.
- Hold the blade of the knife in the hot water for a few seconds, to heat up. This will allow it to cut through the ganache cleanly.
- Dry the blade thoroughly with the tea towel.
- In one smooth movement, trim one of the short sides of the slab, to reveal the layers.
- Put the trimmings on the side plate.
- Wash the knife blade clean. This removes all crumbs and traces of ganache, which would spoil the clean cut surface the next time you made a cut.
- Repeat – heating/drying/cutting/washing the blade clean – until all four sides have been trimmed.
- Divide the trimmed brownie slab into fingers. My suggestion is for fingers no larger than 10cm x 3cm.
- Carefully place each cut slice onto the board/serving dish.
- Remember to clean your blade after each cut, and every serving will be perfect.
- Prepare the milk chocolate Chantilly cream by whipping it with either a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk, or a hand mixer. The setting power of the milk chocolate means that the cream will hold its shape like whipped double cream, but be altogether lighter. NB Be careful not to over-whip the cream – it will take only 1-2 minutes of whisking to thicken up.
- Pipe the cream onto your brownie slices. For the pattern in the picture, I used a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle to form ‘kisses’ in rows. Feel free to choose both a different piping tip and pattern.
- Sprinkle real chocolate sprinkles over the top to finish.
 http://www.souschef.co.uk is a great online resource for praline paste, feuilletine etc.
The Festive Food recipe this week isn’t really a recipe, (What? No! Boo! Wot a swizz! We wuz robbed! etc.etc) it’s more of a ‘how to give a new twist to an old favourite’. After all, the Festive Season can be stressful enough without having to learn entirely new culinary creations. Its much easier on the cook to jazz up a firm family favourite with a little nifty pastry work and then be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the day itself. It’s an idea that everyone can adapt to their own festive requirements – pastry origami!
Behind the glamorous exterior, it’s basically a pie, or a tart, but a little pastry magic turns it into a thing of beauty. You can use any pastry you wish – the pictures here show the effects created by three different kinds of pastry. The top photograph shows mince pies made from filo pastry, the photograph below shows beetroot, walnut and goats cheese pies made with puff pastry, and most strikingly, the picture at the bottom shows the showstopping effects of combining shortcrust pastry coloured with freeze-dried beetroot and spinach powders (add 10-15g of powder to the flour in your favourite pastry recipe).
All three have been created using the same, simple method to wrap the pastry around the filling, with the photograph below perhaps showing most clearly the shaping of the pastries.
Nevertheless, I shall be breaking out my trademark diagrams to reveal the simple method behind this eye-catching design.
But before I do, here are some suggestions for each pastry type
- Filo Pastry – the finished pastries stay compact during cooking and neither shrink nor swell up as the other pastries do. The fact that it comes in ready-prepared sheets is an added stress reliever. Can be used for sweet or savoury recipes. For sweet recipes, add a sprinkle of sugar over the butter when laminating the sheets together. If you want to have one, decadent, luxurious mince pie, then this would be ideal. For savoury recipes, such as the beetroot and goats cheese pies above, make sure the filling is on the firm side, ideally one that can be shaped into a ball, that will just sit there quietly while you wrap the pastry around it. Ideal for a vegetarian starter or, if made larger, a main course – make the vegetarian in your life feel a bit special for their Christmas meal. You could even make the filling sausage meat for a new take on a sausage roll.
- Puff Pastry – also comes in ready-made sheets, which is a big bonus. You can make 4 pastries from just a single sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry, by gently rolling it a little thinner (3-4mm) and thus making it go a little further. Since this pastry does puff up quite a bit during cooking, it is more suited to make pies of main-course size.
- Shortcrust pastry – can also be bought ready made, but when it’s so easy to make yourself, why would you? You don’t HAVE to colour it with vegetable powders – the design will make it special enough, and the design is much clearer and crisper with this type of pastry. In many ways, the easiest pastry to work with, so if you’ve got neither the time nor the inclination to Faff About™ with the other two types, then go with this. Great for both sweet and savoury, starter and main dishes.
- Prepare your pastry – roll out the puff /shortcrust pastries and laminate 3 sheets of filo together with melted butter.
- Cut your pastry into squares. For a starter/dessert sized pie, 10cm is ideal. 12cm of puff pastry will rise to make a great main course pie.
- You will need 2 squares of pastry for each pie.
- For each individual pie, proceed as follows:
- By the time the last petal is formed, the filling has been completely enclosed and your pie will hold its shape beautifully.
- To enjoy later, open-freeze now and then store in the freezer in zip-lock bags.
- To cook, thaw, brush with beaten egg and bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on size) at 200°C, 180°C Fan.
Week 3 of Festive Food and it’s a forest of sweet treats! The previous two recipes have, if I’m honest, been more ‘suggestions for tweaking regular recipes’ than anything overtly Christmassy. That’s all gone out the window this week, however, with these edible, snow-covered Christmas Tree Cakes!
A lot of the traditional sweet treats over the holiday period are rich with dried fruit and spices, and whilst I love them, I can also appreciate that not everyone is a dried fruit fan, especially children. These cakes are a fabulous way for your table to sing Christmas in a non-fruity way.
But first you have to make a decision. I opted for a cake mixture that I knew I liked and which produced a moist and flavoursome cake, the Gateau Nantais – deliciously almond-y and with the slight hint of rum to get into the festive mood. Unfortunately, the Gateau Nantais texture is a little less robust than I had hoped, so great care is needed in removing the cakes from their cone wrapping. I must confess I broke more than one tree ‘tip’ off- however, it’s not the end of the world – the decoration and icing will hold everything together/disguise any mishaps, and the flavour of the cake really is worth all the Faff™.
Then again, you could dispense altogether with my recipe and go with a personal favourite. My suggestions would be for the sturdier kind of plain cake – a Madeira cake or Lemon Drizzle – in order to minimise Cone Breakage™.
To be honest, deciding on the cake mixture was probably the least of my worries, because the Tricksiest part was getting the cone shape to work and stay upright during baking. The method I opted for in the end was a real work-around, based on the equipment I had. If you’re imaginative, and can work out an easier way to do it, I’m all ears!
Christmas Tree Cakes
First, the preparation for baking the cones:
- If you have cream horn cones:
- Awesome. Although this method is about this >< much easier than the other method. The cakes will be baked using the INSIDE of the cream horn tins for support/shaping. The hard part is getting the cones to stay upright during baking.
- Remove oven shelf and place over your sink.
- Tear pieces of foil large enough to wrap around your cone tins AND leave ehough to create a wide foil ‘fuff’ around the top (see pic)
- Wedge the cones between the bars of the oven shelf. I have two different sets of cream horn tins and both are too slim to stay between the bars without the use of the tin foil.
- Crumple the foil collars over the bars as added security.
- If you don’t:
- Wrap the cardboard insides from rolls of toilet paper in foil, then add the foil collar as above.
- Fix securely to the bars as above
- Cut circles of parchment paper of diameter 20cm to line your support shapes. Make one cut from the edge of the circle to the centre and then wrap the parchment around itself to create a cone.
- You can just drop the parchment cones into the supporting shapes and they won’t unravel (much), but if you want to keep them secure, use a couple of paperclips on opposite sides, just to keep the paper from slipping.
For the cake:
200g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter – softened
60g plain flour
200g ground almonds
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
20ml dark rum
100-150g icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line with parchment a round 24cm spring-form tin, or a square 20cm loose-bottom tin.
- Whisk the softened butter and sugar together till light and fluffy – this will probably take about 10 minutes.
- Add the flour and ground almonds and stir to combine.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is fully whisked in before adding the next.
- Add the rum and the vanilla.
- Spoon the cake mix into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain tip (or no tip – the piping bag is just to make filling the cones simpler.
- Pipe the mixture into the paper cones. The mixture doesn’t rise hugely, but still,leave about 2cm of paper cone free of cake at the top.
- Carefully lift your baking shelf from the sink and slide into your oven. Remember, the cones/cylinders extend below the shelf as well as above, so make sure the rail height you choose leaves enough space both above and below.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the centre is firm to the touch.
- Slide the whole shelf out of the oven and place over the sink once more for the cakes to cool.
If you are making these ahead, this is an ideal place to stop and freeze. It also put me in mind of how to overcome the fragility problems of the cooked cones.
- Let the cakes cool completely in the cones – warm cake is notoriously delicate and mucking about with them whilst still warm runs the unnecessary risk of them breaking apart.
- When cold, slide the paper cones out of the support and freeze. Don’t unwrap the parchment, just freeze them as is.
- Once frozen, you can put them in a zip-lock bag and keep them until required, OR you can decorate for (almost) immediate consumption. It struck me that freezing the cakes makes them more sturdy, and so they can be removed from their wrappers and decorated, then left to gently thaw out and the Cone Breakage™ will be significantly reduced.
Exact quantities will depend on the size of your cakes, but the following will be sufficient for even the largest of batches.
200-300g white chocolate – melted
100g Pistachio nuts – finely chopped
Icing sugar and rum/lemon juice/water to mix
Icing sugar for dusting
Silver and gold balls for decoration
seedless raspberry jam for decoration
piping bag and tiny plain piping tip (if using jam for decoration). Alternately, a syringe medicine dropper is ideal
- Scatter the chopped pistachios onto a plate.
- Unwrap a frozen cone cake from its parchment and paint it with melted white chocolate.
- Roll in the chopped pistachios to coat. Set aside.
- Mix together some icing sugar with the liquid of your choice and use to ‘glue’ silver and gold balls onto your trees as decoration.
- If you’re using jam, warm it and maybe add a little water to thin it slightly, in order to make the piping easier. The dots of jam should be tiny.
- Once decorated to your satisfaction, top each tree with a cap of icing ‘snow’ and dust with icing sugar to finish.
Week Two on the Festive Food, and it was inspired one of my followers on Twitter (@BakesALotSue). In response to my call for Festive Food requests, she asked for something for a Boxing Day buffet that could be made ahead and then baked on the day.
So here we have my Sausage Wreath – with the bonus that if it all goes pear-shaped, you can nail it to the front door as a symbol of your seasonal Joyful Mood. H0. H0. H0.
Its basically a riff on sausage rolls, which always seem festive to me, especially when they are in one-or-two-bite sizes. A central sausage pie ‘dome’ is surrounded by a ring of help-yourself, tear-off-and-scoff mini sausage rolls. If you are Cunning, then you can mix and match fillings so that the dome has a separate filling, possibly even vegetarian, which would make this a great two-for-one special. It tastes great hot or cold, so it can stay on the table or sideboard for the rest of the day, for nibbling on. Not directly, of course – get a plate. We’re not animals here!
I’ve made mine circular, but you could make it any shape you like – a square or rectangle would probably be the most space-efficient. Your only limit is the size of the baking sheet your oven can cope with (and also freezer, if you intend to make ahead).
A word of caution: if you make the dome pure sausage-meat, it will take quite a bit longer than the rolls round the edges to bake. This means that, once cooked, the edges will need to be covered with foil to prevent them burning, until the central dome is cooked through, which you can check by using a digital thermometer. An alternative would be to make the middle filling something less dense, such as a mixture of (for example) salmon/cooked rice/spinach/hard-boiled eggs, similar to the Russian Coulibiac. Alternatively, you could use something along the lines of the Picnic Pie filling. Be creative. Go wild!
The additional flavourings are purely optional, but have the added benefit of making the filling much more interesting and allowing the ingredients to stretch even further. These instructions will cover the use of sausage-meat for the whole pie since, as already mentioned, it requires a little extra care in the baking.
800g good quality sausages
2 sharp apples – Braeburn, Jazz or Granny Smith
Onion to taste
Chopped fresh sage and parsley to taste
Salt and pepper
2 x 500g blocks of puff pastry 
1 large egg for glazing
- Remove the skins from the sausages and put the meat into a bowl.
- Peel, core and chop/grate the apple and add to the sausage meat.
- Chop the onions finely and add to the bowl with the herbs.
- Season well.
- Mix all together.
- Check seasoning/flavourings by cooking a little of the mixture in a pan and tasting. Adjust accordingly.
- To assemble the pie:
- Remove the bowl and cut slits in the sides of the dome to let out the steam.
- Decorate with any leftover pastry.
- If you’re making this ahead of time, stop now. Freeze on a baking sheet, and when frozen, wrap in foil and plastic to prevent freezer-burn. Thaw thoroughly.
- To cook:
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Whisk the egg with a little water and brush over the pastry to glaze.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the rolls on the rim are cooked through and the pastry golden. NB The filling and the pastry are both rich with butter/fat,so you might want to bake this on a wire rack to let the excess drain off.
- Remove from the oven and wrap the edge in foil to prevent the pastry from burning. Return to the oven until the dome is cooked. The internal temperature should be at least 71°C when measured by a Thermapen or equivalent. Depending on how firmly you packed the filling, this could be an additional 20-30 minutes or even longer.
- To serve:
- Run a knife around the edge of the dome, cutting a circle in the pastry, allowing both the rolls to be pulled away easily and slices of the pie dome to be cut neatly.
- Garnish with some sprigs of curly parsley.
- Step back briskly two paces as the stampede begins. :D
 Depending on how onion-y you like things, you could use chives, spring onions, shallots, brown onions, white onions or Spanish onions.
 2-3tbs each of fresh, chopped – or half this quantity if using dried.
 Or you can make 2 batches of the quick puff pastry recipe method here. Replace the cocoa with plain flour obvs. and use 250g butter for each batch.
 It is possible to cook from frozen, but I haven’t, and considering the trickiness of getting this evenly baked, with the different cooking required of pie and rim, I think it might be unnecessary hassle – NOT required at this time of the year. If you feel confident, though, go for it.