Jamie Oliver New Year Nuts

Festive nuts

Nuts! It’s the first day back to work. Well what better way to keep hold of that festive mood than to make some festive nuts. I gave these away as pressies for Christmas but they’re equally lovely as New Year treats or to chomp through during Dry January. This is a Jamie Oliver Honey-Roasted Nuts recipe which went well. I bought most of the nuts from Asda and a few from Sainsburys and I bought Kilner Jars from Robert Dyas (350ml ones). I doubled the recipe to make four jars. The nuts I used were pecans (they burn more easily than the others so keep stirring the nuts at regular points), unsalted cashews, peanuts, walnuts, brazil nuts (cut up in to halves), and almonds etc. 20mins was plenty of time in the oven. I used twice as much smoked paprika and it turned out really tasty. Jamie says use sweet smoked paprika but I couldn’t find anything saying ‘sweet’ on the label. Other tips? Personalise with this NotontheHighStreet ‘baked with love’ label maker and some festive ribbon. Nom nom nom.

How to make Vanilla Extract

How to make vanilla extract on the Cake takes the biscuit blog

For Christmas pressies, I decided to make homemade vanilla extract. I can now write about them since I have given the pressies away 🙂 I was given a jar by my sister-in-law as a present last year and I thought it would be a great gift idea for me to replicate as I use the jar all the time! It’s super easy and is a nice pressie that is practical and will last for ages. I bought my little jars from a shop called Tiger. The only ingredients you need is vodka – I used Smirnoff – you don’t need anything too fancy plus high quality vanilla pods – 1 per jar. I had good customer service from Vanilla Mart and you can buy the pods in all sorts of different types and quantities.

  • Cut lengthways down the vanilla pod, leaving 1 inch connected at one end.
  •  Put the vanilla pod in a preserving jar – it needs to have a tight fitting lid.
  • Cover with the vodka to the top of the jar and give it a shake.
  • Store in a cupboard for 2 months and hey presto you have your own vanilla extract for baking with!
  • The vanilla extract lasts for years – you just keep topping it off with the vodka.

I got some good tips from this recipe on Simply Recipes. I was intrigued to learn that each vanilla pod comes from an orchid that has been pollinated by hand. Once the vanilla seed pod has developed, it must be hand picked as well. Who knew!

Nigella’s New Year Chocolate Cookies

Nigella Christmas chocolate cookies with chocolate glaze and sprinkles made by Naomi LongworthAfter Christmas I caught up on lots of Christmas cookery programmes like Nigella and Nigel Slater. I thought Nigella’s Christmas chocolate cookies looked yummy so I wanted to try them out. It turned out the programme was a repeat from 2008 and took me a while to find the recipe online – thanks to Living in the Kitchen with Puppies for this link. It was only in American units so I had to convert it. I’ve shared the recipe below which I also had to tweak a little bit (for the chocolate glaze). If you ever need to convert weights from US to UK for different ingredients then this is a useful site – Recipes4Us. The cookies should be baked at 160 degrees for a fan oven, 180 degrees for a normal oven.  Nigella can show you how to make the cookies far better than I can – here’s the YouTube clip.

The cookies turned out well if a bit crumbly so if you make bigger cookies I’d cook them for a bit longer than 15mins. And don’t bother cutting out nice Christmas shapes like I did originally – the cookies just expand and pretty much develop into circles whatever you do! I had fun choosing mini Christmas tree sprinkles and edible gold stars (part of my Christmas pressie!) to decorate the cookies over the chocolate glaze. For the first time, I took these photographs outside and I do think the light looks really good on them (thanks to Jonathan Pollock). More to come on food photography outside! BTW, the boyfriend loved the cookies and kept stealing them when I wasn’t looking (note the lesser number of cookies in the second picture) and they went down well with work colleagues although I ruined their healthy eating regimes on day 1. Whoops!

New Year cookies by Naomi Longworth

Cookie dough

260g butter (2 1/4 sticks)

170g caster sugar (3/4 cup)

33g cocoa powder (1/3 cup)

250 g flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Chocolate glaze

170g icing sugar (1 1/2 cup)

2 fl. oz of boiling water (1/4 cup)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Christmas sprinkles

Christmas Cake Decorations and Cupcake Cases

On Saturday I will be baking cupcakes for a colleague as she won a charity auction and bid for a set of my cupcakes. It was all in aid of ByteNight – the IT industry’s sleep out night in aid of Action for Children. I want to make some cupcakes with a festive theme and  have been doing lots of research on fun Christmas cake and cupcake decorations and cupcake cases so I thought I would share these with you. Look out for my post on Christmas cupcakes at the weekend!

  1. Mini snowflakes
  2. Red and green Christmas tree sprinkles
  3. Cute snowmen
  4. Holly and berry sprinkles
  5. Edible green Christmas tree glitter
  6. Stockings, Candy Canes and Mittens Cupcake Toppers
  7. Let it snow cupcake cases
  8. Snowmen cupcake cases
  9. Reindeer and Santa cupcake cases
  10. Christmas Cupcake kit

Christmas Cake Moulds & Cookie Cutters

Christmas cookie cutterTo get in to the Christmas spirit, I thought I’d do a quick run down of festive cake moulds and cookie cutters. Marks and Spencer have a good range including this Christmas Tree mould which I featured last year, star cupcake cases and Christmas cookie cutters.

If you fancy a Christmas tree made out of cookies, this 3D cookie set could be the thing for you. I know these aren’t cutters or moulds but I also love these snowflake decorations. I’m putting these on my baking list right away! Lakeland also have a fun snowflake cookie cutter set featured below.

Snowflake cookie cutter setCakes, Cookies and Crafts have a full range of Christmas cookie cutters and they also have a  Santa cake tin.

If you want to try your hand at chocolate making, then these chocolate Christmas wreath moulds are a bit different. And OK, these aren’t moulds, but I do love these Santa mini muffin cases from the Funky Muffin shop.

BBC Good Food Christmas pudding ice cream

BBC Good Food

This is a cracking little recipe for Christmas, New Year, or anyone wanting that little reminder of Christmas in January. This is a picture of my sister-in-law’s Christmas pudding ice cream which she made for our family on New Year’s Eve. It looks very impressive, a great alternative to the traditional Christmas pudding and can be made in advance. The recipe is from the BBC Good Food website and dare I say that this photo does the recipe a lot more justice than the BBC’s photo! I can’t say this is the healthiest dessert at a whopping 675 calories per serving but it tastes darned good. The boozy fruit in the ice cream is complemented nicely by the cranberry compote which is drizzled on top. It makes a fabulous and dramatic contrast too. Enjoy!

How to make a Frosty the Snowman cake

Hummingbird bakery red velvet cupcake

This weekend I made a Frosty the Snowman cake and surprised my boyfriend with it as part of his Christmas present. The cake is made with the Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cake recipe (same as the cupcakes) and their cream cheese frosting. I used a six inch cake tin for the head and a 10 inch cake tin for the body. I found TK Maxx and department stores like House of Fraser are good for finding cake tins of varying sizes.

The Hummingbird Bakery recipe says to use Dr. Oetker red food colouring as this gives a deep red colour for the sponge. I used Dr. Oetker’s artificial cochineal food colouring as I couldn’t find the recommended one in my local supermarkets. I would be interested to know if it made a difference to the taste. It did give a great colour to the sponge as you can see from the photo but personally, I think this could taste a bit more chocolatey and less bland. I suggest adding 1-2 extra tablespoons of sifted cocoa powder to taste. The cream cheese frosting tasted sweet and complemented the sponge well. I did get a few lumps in the icing so I would suggest that, however difficult, try mixing the butter and icing sugar as much as possible before you add in the soft cream cheese.

For the decorations I used smarties for the eyes, nose and buttons and mini smarties for the snowman’s scarf. For the lips I used fizzy strawberry laces from Sainsburys. The cake turned out well but personally I think this would taste better with a chocolate sponge. You could also increase the recipe size slightly to give the sponges a little more depth. The cake certainly went down well with my boyfriend and he ate atleast half the snowman in two days with a little help from me!

Mince pie recipe reviews: Delia vs BBC Good Food

shortcrust pastry recipe Now this isn’t the strictest of tests because my boyfriend made the first batch of mince pies last week and I made the second batch last night. We put to the test this BBC Good Food recipe and the tried and tested Delia Smith recipe from her famous cookery book. Both of us were unarmed with a rolling pin but last night I had a wine bottle spare so wrapped it in cling film to roll out the pastry nice and thin.

The main difference between these mince pies is the pastry – the Good Food one uses a sweet pastry but it did lack structure and actually rose and bubbled a bit (looking back this could be because the beaten egg was missing from the pastry). Delia’s recipe uses shortcrust pastry and this was much flakier but with a decent structure. Although the Good Food ones were crumbly, they tasted delicious but perhaps too sweet with the mincemeat. The Delia pastry didn’t have any sugar in it so I’d say the balance was a little better.

The only comment my boyfriend made about the mince pies I baked was that they were very small! He just ate a larger quantity to make up for the mini mince pies though and they seemed to go down well with my temporary housemate too! The Delia recipe says to use 3 and 2.5 inch cutters but I’d actually suggest making these with 4 and 3 inch cutters instead. Do you have a tried and tested recipe which you bring out each year? If so, let me know!

Alternative Christmas cake ideas – Part II – Christmas tree cake

M&S Christmas tree cake mouldAs I mentioned in my post last week, there are lots of fun things you can do which are an alternative to the traditional Christmas cake and here is one of them. On Sunday night, I tried out the Marks and Spencer Christmas tree baking mould and it worked out very well! It doesn’t give any instructions on what volume of cake mixture to make so I experimented and here are my tips! The mould isn’t as big as it looks so I used Delia’s classic Victoria sponge recipe with cocoa powder for two 7 inch cake tins. This was the right amount of mixture. It’s a classic 4oz recipe – self raising flour, marg, caster sugar, tsp of baking powder, 2 large free range eggs. To change it from a Victoria sponge cake recipe I added 1 tbsp of cocoa powder and don’t add any vanilla essence. For the icing I used 15g of butter, 2 tbsp of water, 125g of icing sugar and 50g of melted dark Bournville chocolate. This was enough icing for the whole cake. And the verdict? Personally, I thought the sponge needed to be more chocolatey so I would recommend making the sponge with dark melted chocolate rather than cocoa powder (this is the method my Gran uses). The icing was sweet and chocolatey so that seemed to hit the spot. I then added mini smarties for the baubles or you could use ‘dragees’ which are little silver baubles. You can them here from the Cakes, Cookies & Crafts website. And if you want tinsel you could use edible glitter! Oh and if you want to bake mini Christmas tree cakes, M&S have a mould for that too! This is a great one to make with and for the kids and you can personalise it any way you want!

Alternative Christmas cake ideas

Marks and SpencerWhilst browsing in Marks and Spencer yesterday morning, I came across this great cake mould in the shape of a Christmas tree! Each year I like to do something a little different from the traditional Christmas cake. Last year I made chocolate cupcakes in Christmas cupcake cases and then decorated them with miniature puds, Father Christmas and snowmen. You’ll be glad to know they’re selling them again this year at Sainbury’s – just search for Fiddes Payne Festive Fun Royal Icing, Cake Decorations on the Sainbury’s website. Back to the Christmas tree mould – I am going to make a chocolate cake and decorate it with Smarties for the baubles! I will keep you posted on the adapted cake recipe for the Christmas tree mould so you can try it for yourself. If you’ve got any alternative ideas which you like to do at Christmas, please feel free to comment on the blog!

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