Archive for November 2013 | Monthly archive page

The fabulous scent of fresh baked Christmas mince pies and fruity Christmas cakes fill our homes during Christmas. This lovely inviting aroma comes from the spiced minced dried fruit, which is all too easy to make, and once you make your own, you will never go back to “store bought”. Fruit mince is customarily made using dried fruit, apple, warm spices and almonds, all soaked in alcohol (ideally brandy). These delightful ingredients are then mixed and placed in a jar which is stored for at least a week to allow the flavours to infuse.

But we like to use fruit mince when we need it, and we need it now. By cooking the fruit mince, it allows the flavours to “melt” together to create one rich, delicious, gooey ready-to-eat Christmas mince. Use this addictive mince when creating fruit mince muffins, mix it in with ice-cream, spread on scones, or even use is as a filling for your home made Christmas mince pies.

When adding dried fruit to the recipe, feel free to add the fruit in variable proportions – starting with what you like best, or make creative additions like pineapple, dried mango and or cranberries.

Ingredients:

70ml balsamic vinegar ½ tsp. ground nutmeg ½ tsp. ground cinnamon ½ tsp. ground mixed spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, coriander) 2 apples. peeled and diced 70g raisins 70g sultanas 70g currants 70g dates 35g candied, mixed citrus peel 100g treacle sugar 250ml white wine 250ml water 70ml brandy 1 heaped Tbs. slivered almonds 1 tsp. lemon zest 1 tsp. orange zest

In a pot, heat the balsamic vinegar and spices till boiling, add in all the ingredients (keep back 30ml of brandy for the end). Simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on, and mix often to avoid the fruit mince sticking to the bottom of your pot. Uncover for the last 10 minutes and let some of the juices reduce, if the mince is too dry, add more water. The mince is done when the dried fruit is plump and juicy, and the apples have gone dark. Take your fruit mince off the stove and stir in the remaining brandy.

Sterilise a glass jar and lid by filling it with boiling water and allowing it to stand for a few minutes. Fill the jar with the hot mince and tightly seal the lid.

This recipe will be enough to fill a 750ml large jar, or 2 medium size jars – which make great Christmas gifts! The mince in a sealed jar may last up to one year in the fridge, but I doubt that any will be left over after this Christmas season…

Whether you are a lover of ginger or not, you have to admit that gingerbread men are just adorable, not to mention a quintessential favourite of Father Christmas and his reindeer. Gingerbread cookies store well, and can be made in advance for Christmas. We made mini men (perhaps called “Gingerbread Boys”), to nibble on with our tea. We decorated them by dusting them with Nicoletta gold shimmer. We also added soft pearl balls for those fabled buttons.

Ingredients:

½ cup softened butter ½ cup brown sugar ½ cup molasses (treacle) 2 ½ cups cake flour 1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda 3 tsp. ground ginger (add grated fresh ginger if you love the “ginger-heat”) 2 tsp. ground mixed spice 1 tsp. ground cinnamon Pinch of ground cloves ¼ cup strong cold tea 1 tsp. vanilla essence

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the molasses to the butter mixture and beat well. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the tea and mix well. Add the vanilla and mix to form a dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 24 hours to allow the dough to rest and stiffen for rolling. Roll the dough to the desired thickness and cut into gingerbread men. Arrange the shapes on greased cookie sheet or a Nicoletta non-stick baking sheet and bake at 180°C for 8 – 10 minutes.

The ginger and spices in this recipe give the cookies a warm and spicy yet mildly sweet taste and aroma. Store in tins, and dust with Nicoletta gold shimmer to decorate. Use Nicoletta soft cream pearls as buttons by sticking them to the “The Boys” using Nicoletta silver writing icing.

For those of us who have forgotten the fairy-tale: Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man..

 

Christmas cakes have earned a bad reputation for being “rock hard”, chewy, boozy, and dry. The truth is a good Christmas Cake should be delicious, dense, light and rich… all at the same time. This recipe is one that we have tweaked (and perfected) over several years, and is a combination of a few recipes (plus a sprinkling of trial and error!).

Don’t be intimidated by making your own Christmas cake, it is super easy and well worth the effort! November is the prefect time of year to prepare your Christmas Cake. Traditionally you can prepare you Christmas Cake up to 3 months in advance, so as to allow it time to rest and develop the rich complex flavours of a masterful fruit cake. Take note… Christmas cake that hasn’t been allowed to mature isn’t that great, it really does need time for the ingredients and flavours to infuse.

To store a fresh Christmas cake – wrap it tightly in a layer of baking paper, and then wrap it in foil and store it in an airtight container or tin.  Most people “feed” the cake occasionally by brushing the cake with a few tablespoons of brandy, whiskey or bourbon; but our secret is to soak the fruit overnight in a “lot” of brandy, this means that you very rarely have to feed the cake before Christmas, as it remains moist and yummy – this safe-guards against a strong alcohol taste in the cake – as the raw alcohol dissipates during baking. The soaking also plumps up the dried fruit so that it remains moist in the cake, and not dry and chewy!

Ingredients:

400g currants 220g sultanas 220g raisins 70g glace cherries (rinsed, some chopped and some left whole) 55g candied, mixed citrus peel 1 – 2 cups brandy 225g cake flour ½ tsp. salt ½ tsp. grated/ ground nutmeg ½ tsp. ground cinnamon 1 tsp. ground allspice 225g unsalted butter 225g dark brown sugar 4 eggs 1 Tbs. molasses/treacle

Step 1: Get the cherries, fruit and citrus peel drunk – allow the fruit to soak overnight in the brandy so that they plump up.

Step 2: Line a 20 – 25cm deep round tin with baking a double layer of baking paper. It is important that you line the tin, as the cake will cook for a long time, and the lining will prevent the sides of the cake from burning. One could also use a good quality silicone cake mould instead.

Step 3: Cream together the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. Beat the eggs and add a little at a time to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition. In separate bowl, sieve the flour, salt and spices; fold into the butter mixture. Add the drunken fruit and treacle to the mixture; stir the ingredients until they are well combined. Spoon the mixture into the lined cake tin.

Step 4: Bake the cake on the low shelf in the oven, at 140°C for approximately  4 – 4 ½ hours. Let the cake cool in the tin for at least an hour.

Step 5: Wrap the cooled cake in baking paper and foil and place in an airtight tin. Feed the cake with additional brandy if you prefer a boozy cake, or if your cake dries out during storage.

When the cake is ready to be revealed and eaten during the Christmas season, it is traditionally decorated using almond marzipan and fondant icing. We rolled out Nicoletta Ready-to-Roll White Fondant and Nicoletta Almond Marzipan and cut out stars in order to simply, yet elegantly, decorate our magnificent Christmas cake.