Friday, 2 September 2011

Holidays are (almost) coming...

So this is my first blog and it is very apt that it is also Christmas related; as those of you who know me will understand my love for all things festive!

Today I have spent hours in the kitchen (literally!) making Christmas cake and mincemeat well in advance for Christmas.
I spent a while deciding which recipe to follow and in the ended settled with good old Delia's Classic Christmas Cake - with a few Dani modifications!

Don't be put off by the amount of time and preparation required - as I've discovered today, it really is worth the effort and I now have enough mincemeat to make mince pies in abundance throughout December and probably months after!

I'll post up the recipes for both in case anyone would also like to be super organised and impress their families with their homemade wares;

Traditional Christmas Cake

450g Currants
175g Sultanas
175g Raisins
50g Glacé Cherries (rinsed, dried and finely chopped)
50g Mixed Candied Peel (finely chopped)
3 Tablespoons of Brandy
225g Plain Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Mixed Spice
225g Unsalted Butter
225g Soft Brown Sugar
4 Large Eggs
50g Chopped Mixed Nuts
25g Ground Almonds
1 Dessertspoon Black Treacle
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange

Firstly, you will need to do some preparation the night before you wish to make the cake - place all of the dried fruit and peel into a large bowl, mix the brandy evenly through and cover with a clean tea-cloth and leave the fruit to absorb the brandy for about 12 hours.

The next day, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 140 (Celsius).

Measure out all of the ingredients (and tick them off to make sure you don't forget any!).

Sift the flour, salt and spices into a large bowl and lift the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing.

In a separate mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until it's light, pale and fluffy.

Crack the eggs in to a small bowl and beat them together - then add them to the creamed mixture a tablespoonful at a time and keep the whisk going until all of the egg is incorporated - this should prevent the mixture from curdling, but don't worry if it does!!

When all of the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices using folding movements to keep all of the air in. Next, fold in the fruit, peel, chopped nuts and treacle - and finally add the grated lemon and orange zests.

Add the mixture to a prepared tin (lined with greaseproof paper) and cover the top of the cake with a double layer of greaseproof paper with a hole about the size of a 50p coin in the middle.

Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for about 4 and a half hours - it can take a little longer.

Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then put it on a wire rack to cool fully. When it is cold 'feed' it with some more brandy by poking some holes in it and pouring over a few more tablespoons. Wrap it in clingfilm and foil and place it in an airtight container - you can feed it every couple of weeks in the run up to Christmas so it will be rich and moist by the time it's ready to be devoured!

I'll post up some decorating ideas in the run up to Christmas, as it won't need decorating until about a week or two before you're going to eat it.

When it's finished it should look something like this;

Homemade Mincemeat

If you are making a Christmas cake then you will have most of the things required to make mincemeat, so I would have a whole day of Christmas prep - and the gorgeous smell filling the house will be an extra bonus!

To make the mincemeat, you will need;

450g Bramley Apples (or normal apples if you can't find Bramley in the supermarkets) cored and chopped small, no need to peel.
225g Shredded Suet
350g Raisins
225g Sultanas
225g Currants
225g Whole Mixed Candied Peel, finely chopped
350g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
Grated Zest and Juice of 2 Oranges
Grated Zest and Juice of 2 Lemons
50g Chopped Mixed Nuts
4 Teaspoons Mixed Ground Spice
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Grated Nutmeg
6 Tablespoons Brandy.

This is dead simple to make! Combine all of the above ingredients, except for the brandy, in a large mixing bowl, stirring them thoroughly. Cover it with a clean cloth and leave the mixture in a cool place overnight, so the flavours really mingle and develop.

Pre-heat the oven to 120 (Celsius), cover the bowl loosely with foil and pop it in the over for 3 hours.

The suet will have melted and the mincemeat will be swimming in fat - but don't worry! As the mixture cools, stir it from time to time and the fat will coagulate and cover all of the ingredients. When the mincemeat is quite cold, stir in the brandy.

To store you can either sterilise some jars and store them, or I've just popped my mincemeat in to some lock and lock containers that are airtight. Keep them in a cool, dark cupboard.

For a veggy alternative, you can use vegetarian suet.

Once again, in the run up to Christmas I'm going to experiment using the mincemeat in different ways so I will post up the recipes and pictures then.

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