March 2014

March 2014

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bake ahead Christmas 2013 - Part II - Edible gifts

Christmas hamper
This year, I made jars of apricots which had been simmered slowly in vanilla syrup – perfect for eating with a scoop of ice cream, or used as a topping on porridge or cereal. I also included cellophane cones of white chocolate, dried cherry and pistachio ‘Snow Bites’ – the basic recipe was courtesy of Ruth Clemens (The Pink Whisk) but with one or two touches of my own. 

Mincemeat cakes
Then, rather than biscuits which I made last year, I opted to bake several Mincemeat Cakes, which is a Mary Berry recipe that I have had for some time. It is such a simple mix but it produces a fabulous, quickly produced but moist cake, which could easily be eaten as a Christmas Cake or perhaps made using left-over mincemeat, baked and then frozen to be eaten in the New Year. 

Christmas patchwork bauble
Finally, I opted to include one home-made crafted decoration – a patchwork bauble.

I do hope my little foodie treats are well received – there’s something rather nice about sending out a little bit of homespun goodness in the spirit of goodwill.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CCC 'Christmas Sparkle'

Cakes on parade
Our latest Clandestine Cake Club meeting last week certainly lived up to the theme of the evening in that we had the most glittering, twinkling shimmering, shining and sparkling array of cakes brought by 18 fabulous and enthusiastic member bakers. Our lovely hostess, Carmela, welcomed us to her home and we all nibbled the beautiful and tasty Italian savouries that she had prepared, before we actively demolished our festive cake display.
It was such a relaxing evening for me and so heart-warming to welcome members, old and new, to such a happy occasion.

Our bakes contained all the numerous styles and flavours of Christmas, including warm spices, tangy oranges, delicious chocolate, cool peppermint, as well as an abundance of classic dried fruit and nuts which are synonymous with this time of year. It was so hard to know where to start and, more importantly perhaps, when to finish!

Thank you, Carmela, for your warm hospitality, and thank you members for your continued support this year. Rest assured, I have many more fabulous venues ‘up my sleeve’ for us to visit in 2014 but, meanwhile, I do wish all Northamptonshire cake clubbers a truly happy and healthy Christmas.

Happy baking! Gillian x

PS A few photos taken at the event can be found here:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bake ahead Christmas 2013 - Festive Welsh Cakes

Festive Welsh Cakes ingredients
OK, it’s 1st December, so it’s time for me to plan a little Christmas ‘bake-ahead’ baking. However, as I am still attempting to lose a few pounds before the big day and, not having a great iron will, I am not too keen on having too many sweet treats in my cupboards ahead of time. So, one of my fail-safe recipes is my version of Festive Welsh Cakes. It’s an ideal tea-time favourite when unexpected visitors call, as they take less than 30 minutes or so to prepare and cook. They are best eaten straight away when warm but they will happily also store in an air-tight tin for several days. Even better would be to freeze a batch, as they can be defrosted and warmed briefly in a microwave. 

Festive Welsh Cakes

250g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
125g butter (I didn’t have any today, so I used marg.)
75g light soft brown sugar (or caster if you prefer) plus a little extra for topping
Zest of 1 orange
1 beaten egg
1 tablespoon mincemeat
½ tsp cinnamon or mixed spice
Milk if needed

Sift the flour, salt and spice into a large bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar, zest, and mincemeat, along with the beaten egg. Mix to form a soft dough. If necessary, add a drop or two of milk. 

Ready for rolling
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll to about 1cm thickness. Using a scone cutter, cut into rounds, re-rolling any trimmings.

Cook for 2/3 mins each side
Heat a heavy-based frying pan or griddle on a low/medium heat - NO NEED TO GREASE. Cook the cakes in small batches for two to three minutes each side, or until golden brown.
Dust with caster sugar whilst still warm.

Ready to enjoy!