Saturday, 20 December 2014

Day Twenty :: A Cake

Can't stop... Mild panic starting to set in as I attempt to make a Christmas Cake, write a blog post and compile lists whilst at the same time clearing and cleaning bedrooms ready for visiting family next week... In particular the bedroom of son number two who left home two years ago. Probably should have cleared it two years ago but it didn't seem so urgent then.

Back to that cake... Mary Berry says to soak the fruit for three days... She's having a laugh... Mine will get three hours and go in the oven this evening. Marzipan tomorrow, icing on Monday... Sorted! Who says I'm not organised.

Probably should try to concentrate on one thing at a time though... I was in the middle of doing something else when I sat down to write this and now I've forgotten what it was. Ah yes... that bedroom...

Friday, 19 December 2014

Day Nineteen :: Socks

Today I had to take my Mum to hospital for an out patient procedure that meant she couldn't drive herself. Which meant I had time to do very little else other than sit with my knitting watching people come and go...

So much time in fact I finished this Christmas present while I was waiting...

So that means there will be two pairs of socks in someone's stocking this year instead of the more usual one finished sock and another on the needles.

Or if you look at it another way...

Four pairs of socks for the price of two!

Mum is back home and absolutely fine. And I'm back home thinking perhaps it would be a good idea to start wrapping some of these presents... Or possibly starting a Christmas cake. On the other hand... It is almost wine o'clock. Have a lovely weekend and I'll be back tomorrow.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Day Eighteen :: A Party

For the past couple of years we have hosted the reading group's Christmas Party. Instead of our usual December gathering to discuss a book, we get together for a lovely evening where everyone contributes to the food and drink and we play "wordy" games, the most popular of which is always Literary Consequences... "Jane Eyre met The Hobbit on a windswept moor etc..." It always has us in fits of laughter.

For me it is also a chance to play with my food... if you get my meaning! Two years ago I attempted some cocktail cupcakes. Strawberry daquaries and pina coladas in cake form. Last year I was inspired by the Christmas bake-off which aired the night before the party and I ended up making a gingerbread house
I made the mistake of watching the bake off again this week and although I would have loved to have made the very impressive Kransekake, I don't possess any of the cake moulds so instead I made Paul Hollywood's Christmas Couronne... which proved to be very popular!
Which was just as well because the dessert I originally planned to make were these chocolate profiteroles which didn't look all that appealing (I won't tell you what the choux pastry looked like when I piped it out!) As a result, they were nearly all left over at the end of the evening. However they taste much better than they look and my boys polished most of them off whilst we did the clearing up!

Today I braved Cambridge for a bit of Christmas shopping and have now come home for a much needed cup of tea... which is funny because reading back over last years post-reading group party blog post, I was in exactly the same situation... presents still to buy, cards to write, christmas cake to bake... I could go on! Luckily there were still a couple of slices of couronne left over...

I would definitely make this again if only for the layers of wonderful orange flavoured marzipan. In fact I don't think I will ever make marzipan any other way...

Orange Marzipan
Mix together 90g caster sugar, 140g icing sugar and 220g ground almonds. Add the finely grated zest of one orange and mix it all together with a beaten egg.
This will be going on my Christmas cake... if I ever get around to making one that is!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Day Seventeen :: A Day Out

I had a day away from all the Christmassy stuff yesterday when I went with my Mum and Sister-in- law for a trip to London. My boys bought my Mum a visit to the top of The Shard for her 80th birthday which was back in September. Anne and I were lucky enough that Mum chose us to share the day with her.

We were so lucky with the weather and couldn't have picked a more beautiful day with brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies... far better than when Stewart and I went in August.

The view was amazing and like before it was the river that seemed most impressive. The way it snakes through the city and looks just like it does on a map, meandering through is just wonderful.

We had wonderful time, followed by lunch before heading home. And the birthday celebrations are not over yet because we still have afternoon tea at The Ritz to look forward to next year... I like this birthday lark!
Today you'll find me back in my kitchen, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out about that!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Day Sixteen :: Mince Pies

What ever other cake baking might go on around here you can guarantee there will always be a fully stocked tin of homemade mince pies during December.

I've experimented with various recipes, using different pastries or different toppings but the recipe I always come back to is this almond paste version with its sweet crumbly pastry and generous amount of fruity filling

I first made them about twenty years ago when I attended a "Cooking for Christmas" day class at the local village college. We made several things most of which I've long forgotten but the recipe that stuck with me was this mince pie recipe. I have shared it on the blog before but as it is one of the most requested recipes I make I hope you don't mind if I share it again.

If you make them, I promise you'll  love them. But warning... They do contain traces of nuts! (The warning on the packet of flaked almonds)
Almond Paste Mince Pies
For the pastry, whizz together in a food processor* 4 oz soft unsalted butter, 8 oz plain flour, 2 oz of caster sugar, 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water until the mixture holds together. Wrap in cling film and chill while you make the topping.
For the topping, again whizz together in the food processor 6 oz soft unsalted butter, 6 oz plain flour, 2 oz caster sugar, 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon almond essence.
Roll out the chilled pastry and cut out circles to line 24 tart tins. Fill each one with a rounded teaspoon mincemeat and then pipe the topping mixture in swirls onto each tart. Top with a few flaked almonds.
Bake for 20 minutes at 190 deg C
* I'm sure this could be done without a food processor but it would be a lot more hard work and despite the faff of piping the topping these are really quick and easy.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Day Fifteen :: Hello Dolly

You may remember this bevy of young ladies that I made for Prism Exhibition at the Knitting and Stitching shows?
Well after spending a week in North London they had quite an adventure... first of all they sailed over the Irish sea to Dublin, then back to England for a few days in Harrogate, after which three of them went their separate ways  to live elsewhere and three returned home to me.

This young lady seems to be delighted to be in her new home and in particular with her strange looking companion, who is in fact Mr. Sock... the original sock monster and a prototype for many who followed.

But these girls are the ones back home with me unless someone out there feels they could give them a home?

I'm not sure if she's sad or just plain grumpy... but she certainly has a touch of the "Bah Humbug" about her.

This one looks as if she's just seen the ghost of Christmas past... no wonder her hair looks like that!

And last but not least - my favourite of all these girls who was meant to look surprised but in fact looks as though she has been up to mischief and is faking innocence. I can just hear that whistle.  I bet she's been feeling the presents under the tree!
If you fancy giving any of these girls a home then they are £45 (to include p & p). Just drop me an email.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Day Fourteen :: A Tree

I slept ten hours last night... What was that all about? Feeling refreshed we had a walk, and then had a bit of a blitz on the housework and tidying before putting up decorations. And now I feel shattered all over again!

But at least the tree is up...

And my angel with her broken wing has taken up position. Now I'm about to write some Christmas cards. At least I can sit down to do that. See you tomorrow!