Everyone seems to love crisp, buttery shortbread. The combination of citrus zest (I used ClemenGold but you can also use orange or Lemon) and Bay leaf (bay laurel, Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae) is a particularly good flavor combination. I have made two batches of this easy biscuit already in the past week and the family have made short work of them! I shall have to bake another batch for Christmas gifts tomorrow!
BAY AND CITRUS SHORTBREAD
125g Lightly Salted Butter – at room temperature
60g Castor Sugar
160g Cake Flour (or all purpose flour)
25g Maizena (Corn Flour)
20g Custard Powder (the old fashioned kind not instant custard powder)
5ml Orange Zest
1 fresh Bay Leaf
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Line some cookie sheets with baking paper or parchment and set aside.
Grind the bay leaf together with a little bit of the sugar in a pestle and mortar then add to the rest of the sugar.
Using a mixer or wooden spoon cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add the ClemenGold zest and beat in.
Sift together the flour, corn flour, custard powder and salt then sprinkle onto the butter mixture and mix well just until the dry ingredients are incorporated and come away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto the counter.
Roll out the dough with a flour dusted rolling pin about ½ – 1cm thick.
Cut out the dough into shapes with cookie cutters.
Place the shapes onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for between 10 – 15minutes or until very pale brown and crispy.
Sprinkle hot shortbread with extra castor sugar and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.
Package and tie with ribbon to make wonderful home baked Christmas gifts!
TIP: You can use all flour if you prefer but the secret to light crispy shortbread is to use a fine product like corn flour and custard powder.
Enjoy… and to all of my readers finishing off work today and travelling on holiday, I wish you safe travels and a wonderfully blessed and happy Christmas season from my home to yours!
Christmas is almost upon us, we are counting down the days! This time of year would not be the same without some fruity mince pies to enjoy with those early morning cups of coffee. It is easy to make your own fruit mince pies. All you need is 500g of that delicious Fruit Mincemeat and a batch of shortcrust pastry.
CHRISTMAS FRUIT MINCE PIES
Makes 12 – 18 (depending on size of your pan)
500g Fruit Mince
½ ClemenGold – zest and juice
For the shortcrust pastry
200g Cake Flour
100g very cold butter, cut up into small blocks
65ml castor sugar
30+ml ice cold water (I float a few ice blocks in it to ensure that it is very cold)
1 Egg – beaten for egg wash
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, add the sugar.
Rub in the butter cubes, using only the tips of your fingers until you have a breadcrumb consistency. (I like to use my Kenwood chef with the dough hook on medium speed for this).
Mix in 15ml water with a knife (or the dough hook on your machine) and start bringing the pastry together (of course use your finger tips again if you don’t have a machine).
Try not to handle the pastry too much, you want it to remain as cold as possible.
Add a bit more water as needed until you have the right consistency to mould the pastry into a ball without it being sticky. If it is too dry it wont roll out nicely.
Wrap the dough in some cling film and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Mix the finely grated zest and juice (or you can go for 15ml brandy or rum if preferred) into the prepared fruit mince and set aside.
Cut rounds to fit into a muffin pan. The tops of my muffin pan moulds are 70mm wide so I use an 85mm cookie cutter but any round shape from 85-100mm diameter with a sharpish cutting edge will work. Just remember the deeper your pie the more filling you may need to add!
Cut out an equal amount of stars to fit the top of each pie.
Place pastry rounds into the lined or greased muffin pans, fill with a heaped teaspoon of the mincemeat.
Brush the edges with beaten egg and place the stars on top.
Brush the tops with the egg wash then bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from pans onto a wire rack to cool down a bit.
Dust warm pies with sifted icing sugar and serve with a dollop of brandy butter, mascarpone or crème fraiche.
Also blogged here
Summertime…..and the living is easy! School is out, the sun is shining out of a blue cloudless sky, it is HOT and the kids are splashing in the pool and shrieking with delight. Every now and again a wet, sunkissed little body comes to the door and says “Nan, we’re so hungry!” I bet moms and grandmothers all over the world know that one well. Well, it’s the perfect time to fill the cookie jars and tins with sweet treats for active, hungry kids!
These holiday fruit mince bars make a great treat for kids and grown ups. They take me back to my childhood when my mom used to make these and fill the metal tins that stood high on a shelf in the pantry! You can, of course buy ready-made fruit mince from the store and jazz it up a bit by adding some orange zest, a grated Granny Smith apple and a bit of orange juice. But I prefer to make my own. See my recipe here
HOLIDAY FRUIT MINCE BARS
Makes about 15 bars or 25 squares
100g (½ Cup) Sugar
120g (½ Cup) Butter
1 ClemenGold – Finely grated zest of half – reserve the other half zest and all the juice for the mince
280g (2 Cups) Cake Flour
5ml (1tsp) Baking Powder (level)
2.5ml (½ tsp) Freshly grated Nutmeg
2.5ml (½ tsp) Cinnamon
2.5ml (½ tsp) Vanilla Extract
500g (1 ½ Cups) Fruit Mince – warmed with the ClemenGold juice & half the zest
Preheat oven to 200C.
Grease or spray a 33x23cm baking sheet with shallow sides (or a swiss roll pan).
Cream butter and sugar well.
Add egg and beat in well.
Add vanilla essence and zest and beat in.
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and spices together over the butter mixture and mix in well with the dough hook or K blade of your mixer until all the flour is incorporated.
Cut dough in half, wrap one half in cling wrap and place in the freezer then press the other half evenly and thinly into the bottom of the prepared baking sheet.
Cover the entire surface evenly with the warmed (not hot) fruit mince.
Remove the other half of the dough from the fridge then using the large side of a grater grate it evenly over the top of the filling (you don’t have to freeze it but it grates much easier!).
Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown on top.
Remove from oven and cut, while still hot, into bars or squares with a sharp knife.
Cut around the 4 sides to release the biscuits from the pan while still hot then leave to cool in the pan before lifting out with a spatula.
Store in an airtight container.
Dust with icing sugar before placing on a serving plate…or eat as is, directly from the tin like I do
It’s been a hectic couple of weeks for me and I do apologize for my absence from my blog. I have been wrapping up my work for the year and catching up with Christmas cake orders and also trying to fill my own jars and tins with holiday treats. Stir two busy little boys into the mix as schools in South Africa are closed for the summer holidays and gran has to do her bit! The boys and I are looking forward to the culmination of my Christmas baking frenzy tomorrow…..gingerbread men!! We have so much fun doing those. And now that the last of the cake orders have been collected we have time for some fun!
A tradition in our home is to start Christmas Day with a steaming mug of coffee and a mince pie. Then we head off to church with the family and afterwards we all return home where Mommy Christmas (that would be me!) hands out all the Christmas gifts piled up under the tree. Of course more coffee and mince pies are on hand to enjoy amidst all the laughter and fun of ripping off colourful Christmas wrapping to expose the gifts hidden inside!
Of course you CAN buy fruit mince in jars…..and you CAN buy ready-made pre-packaged mince pies. But there are none to beat home baked mince pies or fruit bars.
A bottle of this delicious fruit mince, with a recipe card for pastry tied around its neck with some festive ribbon, makes a wonderful homemade gift for a loved one!
I will be giving the recipes for mince pies and fruit bars tomorrow hopefully! Or maybe even later today. Time is running out and there are just a couple more days to Christmas!
FESTIVE FRUIT MINCEMEAT
Makes about 2kgs
500g Apples (peeled cored cubed and cooked till soft)
100g Dried Apples – cut up finely
100g Dried Currants
100g Dried Sultanas
200g Dried Raisins
100g Candied Peel
100g Dried Dates Chopped
50g Dried Cranberries or Goji Berries
3 ClemenGold – Zest and Juice
1 Lemon – Zest and Juice
30g Almonds (Blanched and chopped)
30g Hazelnuts (Blanched and chopped)
30g Pistachios – peeled and chopped
One Cinnamon stick
2,5ml Mixed Spice
2,5ml Dried Ginger
1ml Grated Nutmeg
170g Soft Brown sugar
60g Unsalted Butter
60ml Brandy & Rum mixed
Mix all the Ingredients together except the Sugar and Brandy, soak overnight.
Remove the cinnamon stick. Preheat oven to 120deg Celcius.
Add the Sugar, butter and alcohol & pour all into a baking dish and bake in oven for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
Wash 4 to 6 x 500ml glass jars with lids in warm soapy water, rinse well then place on a baking tray and pop it into the oven with the fruit for the last ½ hour of baking.
Once the fruit is baked give it one last stir then spoon immediately into the hot sterilized jars.
Seal tightly with the lids.
Ever experience the simple joy of finding a piece of treasure in your Christmas pudding? I can remember the excitement around the table when we kids sat waiting for our slice of just steamed pudding to hit the spot on the placemat before us. That triumphant yell when either the spoon or your teeth found a hidden tickey or sixpence in your plate of pud. I can remember the excitement building up when I watched my mom boil the coins prior to mixing them into the pudding mixture. What fun! Those blissful days of childhood when simple pleasures were so thrilling. I do miss those days.
Today is the last Sunday before the Advent period on the Christian Christmas Calendar and traditionally in the old days the Christmas pudding was mixed on this day. It was (still is in many homes) known as “Stir-Up Sunday” and all the members of the family would have a chance to stir the pudding mixture and make a wish! You can read more about this event here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stir-up_Sunday Traditional Christmas puddings contain 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his 12 disciples and are always stirred from East to West to represent the Magi who visited the baby Jesus.
I have been commissioned to write some blog posts for ClemenGold, including a series of Christmas recipes and posts so I thought I would share these with you here as well.
I would like to encourage you to try and make your own Christmas Pudding this year if you have never made one before. Start a new tradition in your own family! It is really simple to make, just time consuming so make sure you have enough time to be around to allow it to steam when you make it. I like to make mine at least a week before Christmas and then just reheat it on the day! There are many recipes out there, some fancier than others and containing suet, breadcrumbs, eggs and glace fruit. This eggless recipe, the one that I grew up with and which my mum grew up with, is a simple, easy recipe that does not contain too many ingredients. In fact I have pimped the original recipe a bit over the years (something I always do) and have made it my own with the addition of some stunning spices and, of course, citrus! It is a beautiful sight when dressed up with some holly leaves and berries and silver dragees. You can also light your pudding at the table or bring it through flaming from the kitchen…just warm a ladle of brandy or rum, pour it over the pudding and set it alight for the alcohol to burn off!
COLLEENS STEAMED CHRISTMAS PUDDING AND SAUCE
(requires standing overnight before steaming)
Serves 6 – 8
300g (2 cups) Dried Fruit Cake Mix
280g (2 cups) Cake Flour
200g (1 cup) Granulated White Sugar
200ml ( ¾ cup)Glace Cherries – use the red and the green if you can!
brandy (optional) about 50ml
15ml (1 tbs) Butter
10ml (2 tsp) Bicarbonate of Soda
2,5ml ( ½ tsp) Allspice
5ml (1 tsp) Mixed Spice
1ml ( ¼ tsp) Finely grated Nutmeg (I only use the whole Nutmeg, it’s fresher!)
1 ClemenGold – finely grated zest and the juice (or use ½ an orange)
1ml (¼ tsp)pinch salt
50 g Walnuts – chopped (nuts are optional)
Squeeze the ClemenGold juice into a measuring jug, add the brandy if using and fill up to 250ml (1 cup) mark with the boiling water
Dissolve the butter in the hot water mixture
Dissolve the Bicarbonate of Soda in 250ml (1 Cup) cold water
Sift flour, salt and spices together in a large mixing bowl
Stir in the rest of the dry ingredients (excepting for the nuts)
Add the melted butter liquid
Add the bicarbonate of soda liquid
Stir all together well with a wooden spoon then covered with a lid or cloth (tin foil will also do) and stand it overnight. It looks very insipid at this stage!
Next morning butter well and dust with flour the bottom and sides of 1 large or 2 smaller heat proof pudding dishes.
If you have a traditional pudding steamer by all means use it as instructed! I have a beautiful steamer with quite a story attached. I inherited the original from my mom when she gave up her home and she inherited it from her mom who inherited it from my great grandma. This Quick Cooker bowl, I was told, came across to our shores on board ship with the 1820 settlers. I could never verify the story but it was certainly a very old bowl that I treasured and used once a year only to steam our Christmas pudding as my mom and grandmother had done when I was growing up. Some years ago it was broken irreparably, by someone who shall remain nameless, and I was heartbroken. I cried for about a week! I searched and searched the internet and managed to find one that looked the same on the Lakeland website. A couple of months later my kids, who were living in the UK at the time, bought the bowl and presented it to me for Mother’s Day when I went over to visit them. I was thrilled and I treasure it, although I do use it more often in the winter these days to make steamed puds. It is a bit different, the ceramic is definitely thinner and the bowl is about half the size of my moms one and there are some little differences that I really miss, like the little middle cylinder that protruded right through the lid by about an inch and which you could wrap the string around when you tied it. The instructions are still printed on the lid as to how to tie it but there is nothing to loop it around anymore. I sadly don’t have a photo of the original but here is the one that I have treasured and made new memories with for the past 10 years….
Add the chopped walnuts to the pudding mixture and stir well
Pour the pudding mixture into the prepared pudding dishes – do not fill more than 2/3 full
Take a double layer of tin foil and make a fold down the centre then grease the one side with butter and place over top of pudding bowls (butter side underneath) and tie very tightly with string. Make an extra loop of string over the tops of the bowls to act as handles
Place pudding bowls onto inverted saucers in large saucepans and fill with boiling water to go a third of the way up the sides of the pudding bowls. No more water than this as you do not want a soggy pudding!
Steam, covered, for about 3 hours (Replenish water as needed with boiling water from kettle)
Remove from saucepan and allow to cool for about 20 minutes then remove foil, turn over onto a plate and serve with sauce and cream, custard or ice cream.
If making in advance then allow to cool completely before wrapping in foil until Christmas day. Heat it up, wrapped in the foil, in a preheated oven at 180oC until heated through
Remove from foil and cut into slices. Serve with the sauce and a dollop of clotted cream
The brandy must be used to replace some of the hot water if you make this long beforehand!
1 cup White Granulated Sugar
1 ½ c Hot Water
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 ClemenGold (or orange)
6 Whole Cloves
5ml (1 tsp) Butter
¼ cup Brandy (optional)
2 tsp Custard Powder (not the instant custard powder, the old fashioned type)
A little Milk
2,5ml Vanilla Extract
Boil water, juice, sugar and cloves together for 5 minutes in a small saucepan
Stir in butter and brandy
Mix custard with just enough milk to mix to a thin paste
Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the custard
Return pan to heat and bring back to boil while stirring to just thicken
Remove from heat, add the vanilla extract and allow to cool a bit before using
Remove cloves just before you serve
Can be stored, covered, in the fridge for a couple of days before using!
Happy stirring it up!
Where is my head at? I must have been looking at last years calendar or something…Stir-Up Sunday was LAST week Sunday as yesterday was actually Advent Sunday! My apologies if that confused everyone…. Heck what am I saying, I confused myself! Next year I shall see that I get it all right! But don’t let that stop you from trying out my delicious steamed Christmas pud. It is a winner! Thank you Michael for straightening that out for me. What are friends for? xx