Thursday, 24 December 2009

Cherry and Marzipan Cookies

About 5 or 6 years ago I picked up a recipe card from my local Waitrose for Hazlenut and Marzipan cookies, which were divine.  They've been a favourite ever since, so when I was looking for something baked to put in our Christmas Hampers this year (along with lots of jams and chutneys including the bramble and apple jam I wrote about a few months ago) they were the natural choice. recipe file has gone missing!  Somewhere in the move from downstairs to up our filing cabinet has lost that one, oft used drop file full of my favourite recipes.  Oh no!  I tried searching on Waitrose's website but the recipe isn't up any more.  So the search was on for another cookie, which had to have Marzipan in it and after a few searches I came across Gastronomy Domine's Cherry and Marzipan Christmas Cookies.  Perfect!  Not only was it marzipan but I'd bought a pack of sour cherries having seen them in a few interesting recipes lately and could use those too.

One of the best things about cookie baking, for me, is that they can usually be made with gluten free flour without too many problems, so I altered the recipe only so far as to use Dove's Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour Blend in the place of regular flour.  I didn't have any trouble getting the dough to come together as the recipe suggests, in fact it was rather buttery, but I put this down to the difference in flours and put it in the fridge to cool. It had a good texture when it came out of the fridge, so I rolled it into balls and popped them on baking sheets.  Having read the comments on the original recipe post I kept a close eye in case they cooked quicker in my oven, and the first batch definitely did!  In about 10 minutes they were slightly overdone and very spread out.  Hmmmm.  The next batch went in on a lower shelf - better.  I turned the oven down and that improved things too.  Unfortunately I was a little distracted during the baking, so some batches got a bit overdone and were very difficult to get off the baking sheet.  The last batch however came out perfectly!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Gingerbread House

This weekend we worked on our Yule gingerbread house, I wanted it to be ready for the Yule Feast we're hosting on the 18th.  Looking forward to sharing the delights of that night with you all!  I still had gingerbread dough in the freezer from the Haunted Gingerbread House I made at Halloween, so got that out of the freezer to defrost in plenty of time.

My SO decided that this was the day to give me an early Christmas present, and handed over a silicone baking mat for rolling out pastry etc. on.  It was perfect timing.  I was able to roll the dough out on the mat, cut out the shapes and then just flip the mat upside down to get the pieces onto the tray without any distortion from trying to lift them.

With the pieces baked, I took a chance on a new technique and used some meringue powder to make the royal icing which I coloured with paste colours in Christmas red and green.  The icing was a completely different texture to regular royal icing but it certainly did the job!

Our big innovation this year was the addition of boiled sugar windows, and a light inside.  You can make windows by putting boiled sweets in when you bake the gingerbread, but as I'm a fan of playing with sugar at high temperature I made my own.  I dissolved a cup of sugar in 1/2 a cup of water over a low heat, added a pinch of cream of tartar and then boiled it to 300 fahrenheit, added a little yellow food colour and poured the mixture into the good gingerbread pieces which I had laid down on a greased granite slab.  20 minutes later we had glazing!

The assembly went smoothly, it takes time but that's really just waiting time to let the icing dry between stages.  I do wish I'd had a smaller nozzle for my piping bag though, it was just a bit too big.  Ah well, it'll soon be Christmas and I have just such a thing on my list!

We added a few pre-bought decorations, and boiled up a bit more sugar to make a pond, stuck them all on and tada.  Very pleased with the result!  Full photos are here.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Snowmen cookies!

Another bake for the Tree Festival, this one for the kids.  Snowmen cookies!  Basic sugar cookies (I use this recipe, its a good one and makes a good quantity, cut out with a combination of my usual cutters and my fabulous Ikea Drommar set.  One larger circle, one smaller and a square put together to bake.  They're frosted with a royal icing type frosting and some basic black fondant for the hats, with chocolate chips for eyes.

Christmas Pudding Cupcakes

Wow, where did November go?  I may have to go and retro-blog some of Novembers cooking, although a few weeks were spent so full of cold I didn't have the desire to eat, let alone cook!  But here we are in December which of course means festive baking.  Each year at Haxby Memorial Hall, the fundraising team put on a Christmas Tree Festival.  Local businesses and organisations sponsor and decorate trees with prizes being awarded to the best, there is a Christmas Fayre and Father Christmas is in his grotto for the kids to visit.  Last year our business ( sponsored a tree as usual, and I decorated it entirely in edibles; candy cane cookies, popcorn garlands, gingerbread (of course!) and topped it with a boiled sugar topper.  I had some leftover mix from the cookies and made little Santa's hat cookies which went down a storm with the kids.  This year the tree is being decorated by my SO, leaving me to bake things for sale at the festival and I knew I wanted to make some cute bakes, as last years cookies went down so well.  I also knew I wanted to make cupcakes, because I had some nice Christmas muffin cases to use.  So the search began...but was rather disappointing.  Other than one recipe that suggested stirring some mincemeat into regular cupcake mix, most of the recipes were just for cupcakes decorated to be Christmassy.  Not what I was after.  But then I came across a recipe at BBC Good Food - Christmas Pudding Cupcakes.  Looked great and had that christmassy flavour I was looking for.  BUT, I didn't have all the ingredients needed in the cupboard, and no time to get to the shops to buy them so I made a few substitutions; soft cheese for sour cream and sweetened cranberries for sour cherries.  I had no custard powder, so added vanilla and yellow food colouring to the icing.

The cakes rose really well when baked, I could have made 18 with the mixture and still had good sized cakes; as it was I had to trim a bit off the top of each cake so it would stand straight when I turned them upside down.  The icing poured nicely over them, and I topped them with a rice paper holly leaf (painted with food colouring to get the green) and a piece of glace cherry for that holly sprig effect.