Okay. I admit that was a bit of a bust, the whole holiday cooking for twelve days thing. As usual, I overestimated my ability to make time bend to my will. So this is what's going to happen - a full report on all the bits and bobs of cooking over Christmas. And this will have to do until the end of January, because I am taking a short dissertation-related hiatus from any activity other than writing the damn thing UGH.

First up:

Walnut Gingerbread Cake
adapted from World Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay

5 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons rum or brandy - or orange juice if you don't want booze
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
50g caster sugar
50g soft dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
20g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
35g breadcrumbs
175g walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Butter and line the base and sides of a 23cm springform cake tin.

In a food processor, blitz both sugars, spices, flour, baking powder, breadcrumbs and half the walnuts to fine crumbs. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Beat the egg yolks, rum or brandy, orange zest and orange juice until creamy. Fold into the crumb mixture. Tip the remaining walnuts in and mix through.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until they form firm peaks. Carefully and gently fold into the batter.

Pour cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes.

When the cake is nearly done, make up the spice syrup:
125g caster sugar
150ml water
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, roughly sliced
Juice and 1 slice of zest from 1 orange

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved.

Simmer for 5 minutes, until it has a syrupy texture. Let it cool and then strain.

When the cake is out of the oven, prick it all over with a skewer, and drizzle the syrup over it evenly, making sure it reaches all parts of the cake. Let it cool completely in the tin before serving.


Mulled Cider Jellies

1 litres of medium-dry cider - about 4 bottles
7 leaves of gelatin
2 sticks of cinnamon
3 cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
50g caster sugar - or to taste

In a saucepan over a medium-high heat, combine all the ingredients except the gelatin and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside for half to one hour and let it infuse.

In a medium bowl, cover the gelatin leaves with cold water and let soften for 10 minutes.

Strain the cider, and heat it up again, until it's hot but not boiling. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin leaves and add them to the hot cider. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved. 

Ladle the cider mixture into your preferred vessel and leave to set in the fridge, covered with clingfilm, overnight.


Clementine Cakes
Adaped from How To Eat by Nigella Lawson
4-5 clementines (about 375g total weight)
2-3 extra clementines, sliced thinly horizontally (this is optional, it just looks quite pretty)
6 eggs
225g caster sugar
250g ground almonds
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

Put the clementines in a pan with cold water, and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer for 2 hours. Drain and let the clementines cool. When they are cool to touch, cut them in half and make sure there are no seeds left in them.

Place the clementines in a food processor and blitz. 

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Generously butter a 12-hole muffin tin. [Or butter and line the base and sides of a 20cm springform cake tin - this is the easier option, as I admit the small cakes were a little hard to retrieve from their tin]

Add the ground almonds, sugar and baking powder to the food processor and blitz until well combined.

Place the thin slices of clementine, if using, in the bottoms of the muffin tin. Spoon an equal amount of cake batter into the tin, filling each cup up three-quarters.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer poked into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.


Fruitcake Cookies
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

500g dried figs
250g raisins
50g candied cherries, coarsely chopped
50g dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
250g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
110g caster sugar
60g light brown sugar
1 large egg
410g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch extra

Cut the hard stems off of the dried figs, and coarsely chop them. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Cover with cling film and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, cloves, caster sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth. This takes about 3 minutes.

Turn the mixer to low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. Next, add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt and mix until just combined. Add the fruits and any liquid that might be left in the bowl, and mix until just incorporated.

Divide the dough in half. Place each half on the long edge of a 12 x 18" piece of baking parchment. Roll each piece into a log about one and a half inches thick. Refrigerate the logs for several hours, until they are firm.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. With a sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2" thick slices. Place each round on lined baking trays and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp on the outside. 


Eggnog Crème Caramel
(Basically the same recipe as this one)

For the caramel:
175g caster sugar
2 tablespoons hot water

For the custard:
150ml whole milk
275ml single cream
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

First, get to making the caramel. In a heavy-based saucepan, heat the sugar until it's a golden brown caramel. This takes about 15 minutes. Off the heat, add the 2 tablespoons of hot water and swirl around. Be careful - it might splutter. You may need to heat it up again to make sure the water is incorporated.

Pour two-thirds of the caramel into the bottom of a soufflé dish about 13 cm wide and 8 cm deep.

Next, prepare the custard. Heat up the milk and cream with the spices in a saucepan over a medium heat, making sure it doesn't boil. Let it simmer for 5 minutes, and then take off the heat. Let it sit for half an hour so the spices can infuse with the milk.

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees C.

Pour the milk in with the remaining caramel in the saucepan and heat gently, letting the caramel dissolve into the milk.

Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the eggs, whisking to make sure the eggs don't scramble. When they are fully mixed, pour into the soufflé dish.

Place the soufflé dish in a roasting tray and pour hot water into the roasting tray until it comes halfway up the soufflé dish. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. It will still be wobbly in the centre, but should be set. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

To serve, cut around the edges with a flat knife and bravely turn over onto a plate.

Okay that's it for me. A little late for this Christmas, but, oh well. Wish me luck with this dissertation. I'll be back in time for Chinese New Year on the 23rd of January!

SarahCakes, ChristmasComment