Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

The cake and bake show: chocolate & banana tarte tatin

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Last weekend I went to the cake and bake show with a good friend of mine. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but had so much fun, and bought loads of edible goodies.

I also watched a demonstration by Eric Lanlard, Patissier living in London. He’d just brought out a new book all about chocolate and I was really impressed by how simple his recipes were despite looking like something much more complex. So I bought his new book and to my delight, he had tarte tatin in his book.

You know how much I love tarte tatin, plus I had old bananas that Mr J had brought home from work (I am the banana dustbin for his work it seems), so it seemed like the perfect inspiration.

The book isn’t available to buy yet, although it will be in a week or two. Called Chocolat by Eric Lanlard – pic below.

Here is my version of his tarte tatin from the book, and very yummy it was too. If you’re craving chocolate, need a hangover cure, need some comforting or even a fantastic dinner party dessert – this is the one for you. It’s not for diets though! But you can’t diet forever.

Chocolate & Banana Tarte Tatin

Serves 4-6

  • 100g light brown sugar (you can use other sugar, it’ll just taste a bit different – this is quite treacle-fudgy)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 75g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (or use 1 tsp ground cinnamon but it’s less decorative)
  • 4-5 bananas, sliced on the diagonal
  • 350g ready made puff pastry (I used ready rolled too to make it even easier)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  2. Roll out and cut the pastry to about 1 inch larger than a heavy flat bottomed frying pan
  3. Put the sugar in the frying pan with about 4 tbsp of water and gently heat, stirring constantly, until you have a dark orangey colour. Remove from the heat and keep stirring until it stops changing colour.
  4. Add the butter and chocolate and stir until melted. Then drop in the cinnamon.
  5. Arrange the bananas in the caramel sauce in circular patterns (this will be the top of your dessert)
  6. Cover with the pastry so that the pastry hangs over the sides of the pan and then tuck in all the edges.
  7. Pierce the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape and place in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.
  8. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes. Then place a plate on top of the pastry and invert the pudding onto it.
  9. Serve immediately with custard, whipped cream or icecream.
  10. Enjoy 🙂

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92 calorie individual apple pies

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Since getting back from Ibiza I’ve really been trying to be good and get back into being healthy. The problem is, I’ve been depressed and craving sugar, and so I’ve ended up in front of the vending machine far too many times. In an attempt to rectify that, whilst not going totally cold turkey I found these fantastic pies.

They fill the craving hole whilst not ruining your good intentions and they are delicious, and super simple to make. You literally need an oven and that’s about it.

Our neighbour has an apple tree and many of his apples have ended up in our garden, some a bit worse for wear but still edible. So I thought it better to cook them down with a bit of sugar (I actually used sweetener, you can’t taste the difference). Then I added some strawberries that were very cheap in the supermarket but also a bit worse for wear and needed cooking. Both the apples and strawberries were very sweet so didn’t need much sweetener, just a bit to bring out the juices. I added a squeeze of lemon too.

And filo pastry is the best for pastry if you’re watching your weight, it’s a lot lighter than other pastries. I used olive oil spray instead of melted butter between the sheets. I honestly couldn’t tell any difference.

I made about 15 triangles. They’ll easily keep in a box for a few days and are great for taking to work for lunch or a snack.

Apple and strawberry pies

Makes about 15

  • 5-6 eating apples or 2 baking apples, cored and chopped
  • 125g strawberries, hulled and halved (or use strawberry jam)
  • 2 tbsp splenda or other sweetener
  • 4 sheets filo pastry
  • oil spray
  • 1 egg beaten
  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  2. Place the apple and strawberries with the sweetener in a saucepan on a medium heat, stiring occassionally until they break down and release their juices. Add a bit of water if its too dry. This takes about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Carefully remove the filo pastry sheets from the package onto a clean, dry surface, one at a time. Spray the top of each one with 3-4 sprays of oil spray before placing the next sheet on top of it. Spray the top of the 4th sheet.
  4. Cut into thirds, lengthwise.
  5. Place a tablespoon of the apple and strawberry mix in the middle of the top third of pastry, towards the left end. Fold the corner of the pastry diagonally across to make a triangle and cover the mix. Cut along the edge which meets the pastry and press along the edges to seal. Place on a baking tray sprayed with oil spray. Brush with the beaten egg, pressing down the edges as you go. Repeat until all the pastry and mixture is used up.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes until cooked through and golden on top.
  7. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and then eat with a nice cup of tea, feeling your cravings subside.
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Easy peasy banana cake

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Hubby brought home a load of over ripe bananas from work last week, and so I made banana cake. I have such a simple and quick recipe that I use and the end result is always delicious. It’s moist and sticky and very bananary!

The main thing to this recipe is a food processor or blender or smoothie maker – basic an electric thing that wizzes. Even a hand blender would work. This is what makes it simple. Otherwise you’re back to the old fashioned way of creaming butter and adding eggs and hoping they don’t curdle. Basically, weigh everything out (I did this in one bowl, putting everything on top of each other), bung it in a blender or processor, wizz til smooth. Then put in a cake tin and cook til risen, golden and fluffy. And ta da- you are a wonderful cake god(dess)! The prep stage takes about 10 minutes tops. And then you can set the timer on your oven and leave it until it beeps.

With this recipe, the more overripe the bananas are, the better, and the less sugar you need to add.

I’ve no idea where the recipe came from – I’ve had it written in the back of a recipe book for years! And had previously been on a post-it note. It might have even come from my mum or a friend’s mum.

Banana cake

makes 2 loaf cakes (about 10 – 12 slices)

  • 250g self-raising flour (or use plain flour with 1.5 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt)
  • 340g caster sugar
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 340g butter or margerine, softened
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbsp vanilla essence
  • To ice:
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 tbsp granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease 2 loaf tins.
  2. Place ingredients in a food processes or and blend til smooth.
  3. Pour half the mixture into each tin and bake for 45-50 minutes in the middle of the oven, or until a knife comes out the middle of it clean.
  4. Allow to cool slightly in the tins for about 10 minutes, then turn onto wire racks to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, making the sugar glaze icing by dissolving the sugar in the lemon juice. Prick the top of the cake all over with little holes (I use bbq skewers) and pour the glaze over it. It will run everywhere (make sure you do on a plate or cover the surface) but don’t worry, it’ll set and look quite pretty.
  6. Cool and serve with a nice cup of tea. And enjoy 🙂
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Something for the weekend: cherry sours gin fizz

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This is a bit random to be honest. But we were given some cherries in brandy for Christmas and I thought I’d make a cocktail out of them. And it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. It’s a sort of version of a martini or a margarita, except with gin. And cherries of course. But very tasty, not too sweet, and very morish.

I’ve no idea about the calories, but really, if you’re going to make cocktails, neither should you. The good thing about this is it doesn’t involve any extra sugar.

You will need some alcohol infused cherries – of your own making or bought. Doesn’t really matter. You could even use fresh and just add extra gin. And a cocktail shaker – or in my case – as thermos flask! A small one – not a large one that you’d keep hot water in! And some martini glasses – or again, in my case, champagne glasses! Or anything really. Smallish glass in any case.

Cherry sours gin fizz

Serves 3-4

  • 2 shots gin (Not sure how big my shot glass was – I’d go with 35 mls)
  • 1 shot cointreau
  • 1 shot lime juice
  • 10 cherries plus juice from the cherries (about 1 shot of juice)
  • ice (about 5 cubes)
  • tonic water to top up
  1. Put the gin, cointreau, lime juice, cherries and cherry juice in a cocktail shaker with some ice. Shake well.
  2. Strain into glasses (this is where the thermos flask really comes into its own!) and top up with chilled tonic water.
  3. Add a couple of cherries to each glass (or a fresh one on a stalk on the top) and serve!
  4. Enjoy the fruity morishness!
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Diet friendly indulgences: banana and blueberry muffins

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I had some over-ripe bananas that needed using up and was surprised to find a recipe for muffins that was only 202 calories! These are really delicious, great for breakfast (or any time really), feel like a treat but don’t stick to your hips like others do. A definite preference to starbucks muffins or a chocolate bar and they don’t have the nasty taste of diet bars because there’s real sugar in them, not sweetener.

My version of the recipe actually has 244 calories – I put in whole eggs, not just whites (I hate having leftover egg yolks), but that’s still not many more. I also used slightly less sugar as my bananas were over-ripe so they were very sweet and milk instead of buttermilk because I didn’t have any. And they turned out wonderful. Apparently only 85 calories are from fat, there’s 2.6g saturated fat in these, and they’re high in vitamin A, C, calcium and iron – so great for keeping colds away.

The recipe is also ridiculously easy – no fancy equipment required. Just a bowl and a large spoon. It literally takes minutes to put them together, and 20 or so to bake them. And voilà – delicious healthy muffins in 30 minutes. Eat your heart out Jamie Oliver!

The original recipe is here http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1572/banana-and-blueberry-muffins-

And here’s mine – enjoy without the guilt!

Banana and blueberry muffins

Makes 12 muffins

  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 80g light muscovado sugar + 1tbsp for topping
  • 50g porridge oats, plus 1 tbsp for topping
  • 2 medium ripe bananas, mashed to a smooth pulp
  • 250ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g blueberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and oats in a bowl. Make a well in the middle.
  3. Combine the milk, eggs, bananas and oil. Then tip this into the well and mix quickly and sparingly with the dried ingredients. Don’t worry about it not being well mixed or there being patches of flour, or it being lumpy.
  4. Tip in the blueberries and give it one more stir.
  5. Put cases in a muffin tin. Then spoon the mixture to very full into each muffin case (I did about 4 tbsp of mixture for each – so that they were just over flowing over the cases but not over the tin edges).
  6. Mix together the remaining tbsps of sugar and oats and sprinkle over the top of the muffins.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until risen and golden.
  8. Leave to cool in the tin (or eat whilst warm)
  9. Enjoy with a nice cup of tea 🙂

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Over ripe banana use-up: chocolate and banana cake

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I was doing a proper clean of the kitchen and found some blackened bananas behind the microwave! I was about to throw them away when I thought I’d just look inside the skin – and the bananas were fine. A little mushy and over ripe, but fine. So I made chocolate and banana cake! And it was delicious. It was best on the day they were made and the day after. After that, they went a bit dry and boring.

The recipe makes two loaf cakes so I took one into work and it seemed to go down well. Although to be honest, if you leave anything lying around in our office, it’ll vanish in 5 minutes.

This one, true to form, is off the bbc good food site http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3735/chocolate-and-banana-cake

I didn’t have pecans so I used almonds instead for the topping and they tasted just as delicious.

Chocolate and banana cake

Makes 2 loaf cakes

  • 100g 70% cocoa solid dark chocolate
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 25g baking cocoa powder
  • 2 large (or 3 medium) bananas, mashed (the riper they are, the better)

For the topping:

  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 2 tbsp chopped almonds or pecans
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Butter and line the bottoms of 2 loaf tins.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water
  3. Make the topping by combining all the ingredients and rubbing together as though you’re making crumble topping. Set aside until needed.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  5. Gradually add the egg a spoonful at a time, whisking to incorporate before adding any more.
  6. If it looks like it’ll curdle, add a spoonful of the flour.
  7. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  8. Add the flour mix to the egg mix and carefully combine using a metal spoon.
  9. Add the banana and chocolate and mix again carefully.
  10. Pour half the mixture (it’ll be quite thick, not like normal cake consistency – don’t let this worry you) into the first tin and the rest into the remaining one. Top each with half the topping and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  11. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  12. Serve with a lovely cup of tea and enjoy!
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Autumn pudding perfection: Tarte tatin

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For some reason, I’ve always thought tarte tatin was hard to make. Maybe it’s because it involves pastry, or maybe it’s because it’s French….I don’t know. But this is quite possibly one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever done for a tarte, and because it’s cooked upside down, the pastry is lovely and crisp instead of soggy like I seem to end up with for most of my pies!

It is a stunning pudding, so simple to make, and tastes like toffee apples for grown ups. Beautiful. And great with either creme fraiche, custard or ice cream.

I was inspired by this blog on the Guardian online http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/oct/20/how-to-cook-perfect-tarte-tatin?newsfeed=true

And so I tried it, more or less to the recipe, although what I changed wasn’t worth it and the tarte suffered slightly for it. But regardless was still delicious. So instead of reproducing what I did, I will reproduce this recipe with my own notes on it.

First of all, I used a medium sized non-stick frying pan – it’s about 26cm diameter. This is perfect for a 4 person tarte and for the quantities in this recipe.

The apples shrink as they dry out in the fridge. I made the mistake of doing the number of apples that fit in the pan before they’d dried out and didn’t have enough when it came to baking and so ended up putting in some that hadn’t dried out, making the sauce too runny when it came out the oven.

I didn’t dry them out overnight – I think they had about 5 hours. I think this is ok – if you forget (like I did) to do it the night before, so long as you give them several hours on the day you’re probably ok. And at the very worst, just let the tarte cool somewhat before serving if it’s runny.

If you have a corer, this is invaluable, I would imagine. Coring the apples whilst keeping the halves whole was the hardest part to do and at times I wasn’t successful. This is fine – the bits go in the gaps, but a corer would make it a lot easier.

I found it very easy to caramelise the sauce, and found it went very quickly from fudgy to almost burnt. It did taste slightly burnt in taste (an aftertaste) but I quite liked this – it counteracted the sweetness of the apples nicely. So I wouldn’t worry too much about this – I go with more caramelised than less caramelised.

If you use a vegetable spread instead of butter it won’t be as pleasingly rich, but it is a fantastic vegan dessert.

Lastly, I used ready rolled pastry and this helped to make the recipe both quick and very easy to do.

I used ready rolled pastry – this made it a very simple and quick dessert to make. By all means make your own pastry but you’ll need to allow the time. Personally, when it’s so good from the supermarket, I can’t be bothered!

Tarte Tatin

Serves 4

  • 7 apples (I didn’t do the mix as the recipe stated and I think my apples were fine – they were cox’s but any apples I think will do), peeled, cored and halved.
  • 200g white sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • About 175g ready rolled shortcrust pastry
  1. Prepare the apples and leave uncovered in the fridge for several hours or preferably overnight to dry out.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  3. Roll out the pastry and cut a crust from it, just larger than the frying pan you’re using. Set aside (I rolled it back up in the greaseproof paper and stuck it back in the fridge)
  4. Put the sugar with the water in the frying pan and allow it to soak for a couple of minutes.
  5. Put on a medium heat and stirring occasionally, caramelise the sugar to a fudgy golden brown colour. Remove from the heat and add the butter.
  6. When the butter has melted, place the apples in the pan, curved side down (so the cored side is showing – remember the pie is upside down for cooking).
  7. Carefully place the pastry over the top of the pan (remember it’s very hot!) and tuck in the sides.
  8. Shove the whole thing in the oven for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden.
  9. When it’s cooked, remove from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
  10. Then carefully place a plate on top and invert the whole thing onto the plate
  11. Serve immediately with creme fraiche, custard or ice cream
  12. Enjoy the beautiful simple autumnal-ness of it!

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Hangover cures: peanut butter cup brownies

This is the problem with idly browsing recipes when you’re hungry and hungover.  You end up making things like this.  They are delicious though…and definitely helped the hangover!  It didn’t take too long either, and was quite simple.   I made my brownies from scratch, and didn’t use a packet of brownie mix like the recipe said because a) I don’t buy things like that and b) brownies are easy.  I used Ravinder Bhogal’s double chocolate brownie recipe – and it worked a treat.

The only thing is now I have a storage box full of cupcakes that I know that if I eat, I’ll put on a stone!  They’re probably better made for a party or bbq or something where you can fob them off on other people to avoid eating the lot.

The original recipe suggested using peanut butter drops – but as I had no idea what they were, let alone had any in the cupboard, I toasted and chopped up some peanuts.  I added half to the brownie mix and the other half I sprinkled on top with the chocolate drops.  If you don’t have chocolate drops, use sprinkles or chocolate shavings instead.  I thought this worked quite well.

The original recipe is here http://www.bakedperfection.com/2009/07/peanut-butter-cup-brownies.html

And Ravinder’s brownie recipe comes from her Cook in Boots book which I’m constantly raving about, which you can get here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cook-Boots-Ravinder-Bhogal/dp/0007291175/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317648971&sr=8-1

Peanut butter cup brownies

Makes 20 cupcakes

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g dark chocolate (use at leat 70% cocoa solids)
  • 4 eggs
  • 300g sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tbsp orange juice (about half the orange depending on how juicy it is)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g white chocolate chips (or shavings)
  • 100g toasted, chopped peanuts (unsalted)
  • 4 heaped tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 50g milk chocolate drops
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Line a 2 cupcake tins with papers (or the same one twice).
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over boiling water.  Set aside.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.  Then add the sugar, zest and juice of the orange, and vanilla extract and beat well.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl and then add this to the egg & sugar mix.  Fold in carefully.
  5. Then add the melted chocolate, mixing again, before chucking in the white chocolate drops and half the peanuts.  Give one last stir.
  6. Using tablespoons, drop some of the mixture into the cupcake papers until it’s just under the top of the paper – I found that 2 tablespoons did it.
  7. Cook for about 13-15 minutes (I found 14 minutes was perfect actually) until it’s cooked on top but a skewer still comes out gooey from the middle.
  8. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes or until the middles sink – if you’ve cooked them right they should do this or tap them with the back of a teaspoon if they’re reluctant.  I accidentally overcooked some of mine, so I scooped out a tiny bit of cake from the middle with a teaspoon.
  9. Heat the peanut butter in the microwave for 45 seconds and then stir.  Place 1 tsp of the peanut butter in the top of  each cupcake.  It should spread easily to look like icing.  Top with a few nuts and milk chocolate drops.
  10. Leave to completely cool in the tin or on wire racks.
  11. Scoff with a glass of milk and feel the hangover receed.
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Experimentalism: chocolate and red wine cupcakes

I wasn’t going to blog about these. I really wasn’t sure about them myself. I was unconvinced they worked as a concept. But I made them for work, and having been inundated with comments on their deliciousness by colleagues, I changed my mind and thought I would after all!

I understand the appeal – two excellent ingredients in a cupcake – what more could you ask for?! But if you think about it logically, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. For starters the alcohol in the cake is evaporated by cooking and you can’t really taste it because the chocolate overpowers it. So you think, that the taste in the icing would make up for it. Except, its buttercream – which means the wine caused the butter to curdle! But I was tired and had made the icing, so I just stuck it on the cakes, left them to dry out a bit overnight, and took them to work the next morning! Thankfully the sheer quantities of icing sugar in the icing meant that the icing still tastes good – albeit very sweet. But then I’m not really a fan of buttercream icing. So I’m not sure why I made it, other than it was in the recipe and I was too tired to be creative.

I do wonder though, whether or not a red wine glazed icing would work better (or work at all – would the alchohol prevent it from setting?), or perhaps, forget the wine and just do a melted chocolate glaze. But then – if you can’t taste the red wine in the actual cake – it may as well be a chocolate cupcake, so then why bother with the wine at all? Why not just drink it?

So you see – it’s a baffling experimental cupcake, that apparently, went down well! The cake was delicious, I must agree – light and fluffy and moist. But I didn’t like the icing. But others seem to think it’s lovely. So each to their own. If you do this, please tell me if you make the buttercream icing and if you manage to prevent it from curdling? Possibly my downfall was that I’d run out of cocoa powder and so used drinking chocolate powder instead. Maybe this is one of those things I have to make a few times to perfect!

The original recipe is here http://leaandjay.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/chocolate-merlot-cupcakes/

I did half quantities as 24 cupcakes (and large ones at that!) seemed excessive. Unless you’re going to do professional icing – I’d recommend quarter quantities of icing – I did half the recipe amount and have more than half of it left over after icing them all. But I just used a spoon and a knife. I’ve put quarter quantities in the recipe below.

Chocolate and red wine cupcakes

Makes 12 muffin tin sized cupcakes

  • 85g unsalted butter – at room temperature (if possible).
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 65ml red wine (like Merlot – or whichever one you have a random bottle of that you don’t like the look of!)
  • 160g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8tsp (or a very small pinch) ground nutmeg
  • 90g dark cooking chocolate, melted (try to use at least 70% cocoa solids for a better taste)

For the icing:

  • 30g butter
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 2 heaped tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2.5 tbsp red wine
  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius. Line a muffin tin with papers
  2. Cream the butter until pale and smooth (an electric whisk is definitely handy here). Then add the sugar and cream until pale and fluffy.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. Add an egg at a time to the butter and sugar mix and beat well until combined.
  5. Then tip in the dry ingredients and carefully fold in.
  6. Finally add the melted chocolate and carefully fold into the mixture.
  7. Using two spoons, carefully spoon the mixture into each of the cases until 3/4 full.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until risen and a skewer comes out clean from the middle of them.
  9. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  10. Meanwhile make the icing. Cream the butter (again an electric whisk is very handy).
  11. Then slowly add the icing sugar a bit at a time.
  12. Next alternate by adding a half spoonful of cocoa powder followed by a half spoonful of wine – until all combined.
  13. When the cakes are completely cooled either pipe the icing onto the cakes using a piping bag or just spread on with a knife.
  14. Eat and enjoy with a nice cup of tea!
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Preparing for Christmas – a fruity Christmas pudding

Can you believe it – its that time of year again, when thoughts turn to Christmas preparations.  Admittedly, the ones that you have to do in advance – it’s not like I’m ordering a turkey from the butchers yet or anything!  But my first post on this blog, nearly a year ago, was for Christmas cake.  I made it a bit later last year – getting it all done well ahead of time this year!

I’m thinking, after the success of last year’s Christmas, that I would cook Christmas dinner in my home today – and will have whoever wants to come, over.  That way we avoid the ‘which parents are we seeing this year’ issue.  They can both come to us.  Or not.  I don’t mind!  So, I thought, I’d be brave and make my own pudding this year.

And that’s where the trouble started.  My first stop for a recipe was Delia – you can’t really go wrong with her, and Christmas is not a time for experimentation!  You could end up ruining people’s Christmasses that way – mine especially, and Christmas is stressful enough without a pudding disaster!   And then I thought I’d just see what BBC good food had to offer.  And they had a very highly reader recommended fruity pudding that was less rich and dense than trad puds – which given the amount you eat at Christmas, I thought might not be a bad thing.

And then I remembered I had the Hairy Biker’s Christmas book.  Theirs looked good too.  So which one?  I nearly went for Delias – to be safe.  But then I read I had to soak the fruit overnight and I didn’t have time for that.  The Hairy Bikers recipe didn’t require soaking but looked a little light on the booze.   And the fruity one seemed the most interesting – although did require overnight soaking too.  After consultation with my mum, who’s been making her own puds for years (she does them a year in advance), I decided not to soak the fruit, but basically go with the fruity one.  But – and here is where I am worried I may have gone wrong – I adapted the recipe slightly along the lines of the Hairy Bikers.  Partly because I liked the idea of putting Guinness in a pudding, and partly because I wanted to reduce the quantities to fit in my pudding basin and the Hairy Biker quantities were nearer that.

I madea mini one I made with the small amount of leftover mix, which I tasted – just to make sure I’m not poisoning people, mind! – and it was delicious and will improve with age, so I’m quite happy with my muddled recipe!

As I write this now, the smell of the Christmas cakes baking in the oven is filling the house.  They’re nearly done.  That was a Delia recipe.  I’ve used it every year for 3 years , and I can’t fault it.  To find that, click here, for my first ever post.  I spent 3 hours earlier today mixing them all (there’s 3) and they’ve now done nearly 4 hours in the oven, probably just another 30-45 minutes to go.  And then they get put away and fed brandy every few weeks.

But back to puddings.  I bought myself a pudding basin, having never made a steamed pudding before.  It all seemed very complicated.  But actually, its simpler than you think.  I got a 1.2 litre ceramic pudding basin from John Lewis for £6.  Which I didn’t think was bad.  This size is a good medium sized pudding – will serve about 8-10 I think, depending on the size of slice you serve.  When the pudding’s not in it (and it will be now, until Christmas) it’s a good size for a mixing bowl.  Because I didn’t have a very large saucepan for steaming, I steamed it in the oven, which couldn’t have been simpler.

You just fill a baking pan (I used a deep sided one) with water.  Sit the pudding bowl in the middle of it.  Ten the pan with tin foil, and steam in the lower part of the oven for the same amount of time you’d do it on the hob. I found I didn’t even need to top up with water – although I did check on it, just in case.  It also leaves your hob free so you can cook dinner (or whatever).

Here’s the original recipe that I mostly followed

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/8370/christmas-pudding-with-citrus-and-spice

Here is the hairy biker version that I used bits from

http://www.hairybikers.com/index.php?action=recipes&id=118&back=20

And here’s my version:

Fruity Christmas pudding

Serves 8 (ish)

  • 125g each sultanas, raisins, and currants – find the biggest juiciest ones possible.  My mum swears by Australian or Chilean ones (I just went with Asda ones, to be honest!).
  • 100g whole glace cherries
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 50g chopped dried figs (ready to eat ones, not ones you have to soak).
  • 50g whole blanched almonds
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 medium carrot, finely grated
  • 150ml brandy
  • 50ml orange liquer (or more brandy if you don’t have it (or in my case -thought it too expensive for cooking with))
  • 125g white breadcrumbs (made with cheapest rubbishest oldest white bread you can find.  Chop off crusts and stick in blender or crumb with fingers)
  • 120ml Guinness or other stout.
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 125g butter, frozen and grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • butter for greasing
  1. Put all the fruit, peels, zests, carrot, nuts, in a very large mixing bowl (the largest you have – I use a large salad bowl) and pour over the brandy and liquer (if using).  Stir well and then cover and leave for as long as possible.  I left it for about 90 minutes, whilst I made lunch and other things.
  2. Mix the breadcrumbs with the Guinness and leave to one side, whilst you weigh out everything else.
  3. Combine the flour, sugar, spices together with the breadcrumbs and then add these to the fruit.  Mix well.
  4. Then grate in the butter and add the eggs.
  5. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Grease the pudding basin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.
  7. Really pack the mixture into the pudding basin, getting rid of any air (I did this by tapping it on the surface and frequent intervals).
  8. Top it with some greaseproof paper.  Followed by a double round of greaseproof paper and then some tin foil.  Secure all of this with string under the bowl lip.
  9. Either steam in a large saucepan on an upturned saucer with water covering 1/3 of the basin (and cover the saucepan) or in the oven with the method above for 6 hours.
  10. When the time is up, remove the puddings.  Take off the foil and grease proof papers (leaving the bottom one) and allow to cool.  Then replace with fresh greaseproof papers and string and store in a cool, dark, dry place until christmas, feeding it with brandy at regular intervals (I think, I’m going to do about 2-3 week intervals).
  11. At Christmas, steam in the same way for 2 hours.  Remove, put a serving plate on top of the pudding, and tip it onto it.  Pour over brandy and set alight.  Serve with brandy cream, brandy sauce or orange custard cream as the BBC good food one suggests (or whatever you want!).
  12. Have a very happy Christmas!
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