Tiny Tasty People

Apart from ginger flavoured baked products, my other favourite thing about Christmas is that it is socially acceptable to eat tiny baked people.

I feel that eating such people head first is the kindest way, because it ensures a clean and quick end to their misery, and is also the weakest point of the biscuit.

Squishy sogginess It was too squishy to make into a single ball

Given how I feel about this, you’d think I would be the first to blog about the spiciest gingerbread (people) biscuits, but the fact is that I haven’t yet found a homemade gingerbread biscuit that I liked. I enjoy eating gingerbread biscuits that other people have made, but if I’m going to make them myself, I want something really dark and spicy. And crisp, not cakey or chewy. So, in lieu of gingerbread people, I get my eating-tiny-people fix from other other baked goods.

But. As with all baked goods requiring the use of cutters, mince pies are a pain in the behind.

Yes that's a koala. My bookmark. Yes, that's the hobbit. I'm going to watch the movie this weekend (in 3d!)

First you mix up the crust dough, then you chill it. Then you take it out and roll it a bit. It refuses to cooperate and sticks to the table because you used too little flour on the surface and it’s warm outside. You put it back in the fridge. Repeat this about 6 to 8 times, and you will feel how I feel about making biscuit cutter snacks.

I think it’s something about Christmas, I magically forget every year what complete bullocks these types of foods are to make and how they take 3 hours or more and how I get so sweaty and angry that I very seriously consider feeding the remainder of the raw dough to my dog (try not to do that, it might not be good for dogs depending on what you’ve made).

These are the standard (larger) pies

I suspect it’s because I usually freeze my mince pies after baking them earlier in December, so by the time I get to eat them on Christmas day, I have forgotten how much the process of making them irritated me.

Pretending to be an angry cannibal, ginger spice, and Christmas. Some things in life just go together.

And these are the mini pies. Meet the Fat Man and Spooky Lady

Christmas Mince Pies

Crust adapted from the Patchwork Apple Pie recipe (doubled).

2 jars of mince pie filling – I used Robertsons, vegetarian and alcohol free
1 small red apple – the addition of apples is my way of bulking up the mince pie filling
1 small green apple

500g flour – I used gluten free
100g sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Pinch of salt
250g butter – cold and cubed
2 large eggs

Extra flour for rolling
Egg wash – an egg beaten with a little milk
Copious amounts of patience
A cup of tea – to prolong aforementioned patience

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C, for half an hour
Yield: 36 mince pies – I had 24 large and 12 slightly smaller pies, as well as a little family of shortcrust people

  1. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the lemon zest.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the butter cubes and flour mixture until the texture of the mixture looks like sand.
  3. Turn out into a bowl. Directly crack in the 2 eggs, and use your hands to get everything to stick together. You have to keep going for a quite a bit, I realise last time I probably stopped a bit early which is why my dough never came together.
  4. Cover dough and put it in the fridge to firm up.
  5. Peel and core your apples. Cut them into 8ths, then slice those 8ths into thin strips. Mix into the mince pie filling in a big bowl.
  6. Flour a surface and roll out your dough. You need quite a lot of flour because it’s a bit sticky, watch out!
  7. Use a round biscuit cutter / your mother’s fancy dinner party wine glass to cut out rounds. Put each into a hole in a greased cupcake tray and press in.
  8. Spoon in a little mince pie filling / apple mixture.
  9. Use a fun cutter to cut out the pie cover, and carefully place it on top of the filling. It doesn’t need to touch the sides of the pie, or be crimped or anything complicated. I used stars, hearts, trees, fat men, and spooky ladies. I have squirrel and snail cutters somewhere too but I couldn’t find them.
  10. Dab with egg wash, and stick it in the oven for half an hour.
  11. Cool in the cupcake tray.

Notes: freezes well in an airtight box layered with baking paper.

Happy unsuspecting pastry family

A Little Pudd, Luv?

I like Christmas pudding. But my mum is wheat intolerant, and I generally don’t like the taste of anything with brandy / alcohol in it. So suffice to say the dramatic flaming of the pudding is not my favourite part, I prefer the part in which I steal a slice of hot pudding prior to the flaming, then drown it in clotted cream and stuff my face until I feel sick. Then I repeat this 2 hours later (with the second slice I preemptively pinched). And then again, after dinner.

Lumpy plumpy

I haven’t had Christmas pudding for a good many years, because it’s rather difficult to find a pudding that is both brandy-less and wheat free. Even if it was an either-or situation, it would be a pushing it a little.

I was also under the mistaken impression that Christmas pudding was an extremely involved process. I was happy to be proven wrong on that score.

The only part I was (very) apprehensive of was the steaming. Then the pudding looked scary, so I gave up and zapped the thing in the microwave for 5 minutes to finish it.

At this point I got scared and started microwavin'

In line with *cough my own new* tradition, I added a pudding star. What is a pudding star? Well, I made it up. Out of necessity. I grew up listening to stories about how the little boy found a 6-pence in his slice of pudding, and how that was supposed to be lucky. I was not amused to find out that it isn’t a good idea to put coins in puddings anymore, because of all the weird alloys in them that might leach chemicals into the pudd. Hence, the pudding star – a beautiful shining star made of tinfoil. Origami, no less. Perhaps one year I shall make a little tinfoil crane.

The Pudding Star!!

I hope I don’t choke anyone with it.

Anyway, now Mr Pudd has been wrapped up and stuffed in the freezer until Christmas day. Upon which, I shall microwave him briefly, and serve him hot. With cream.

Mr Pudd

Rich Christmas Pudding 

Adapted from Be-Ro  Flour, 37th Edition

100g self raising flour – I used gluten free
100g raisins
100g sultanas
100g currents
50g mixed peel
100g brown sugar
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 teasp nutmeg powder
1 teasp mixed spice powder
75g grated frozen butter – originally suet..which sounded a little too hard to get hold of

2 eggs
2 tablesp milk

Pudding star, or some other similarly cute inert metallic object

  1. Mix everything on the ingredients list from the flour down to the butter in a bowl.
  2. Drop in the milk and eggs, and mix well until everything is combined into a gloopy mess.
  3. Grease a bowl, and put a little square of baking paper in the bottom to prevent stickage.
  4. Pour everything into the bowl. Hide the pudding star in the batter somewhere.
  5. Cover with a square of baking paper, then seal with tinfoil.
  6. Steam for 2 and a half hours. You probably need more like 3 hours, and the original recipe says 10 hours. I got fed up after 2 and a half, so I removed the tinfoil and zapped the baking-paper-covered-pudding bowl in the microwave for 5 minutes or so.
  7. Let it cool a bit, then flip it upside down to get the pudding out. Wrap in cling film and freeze, or eat if you are the clever type that makes such a time consuming monstrosity on Christmas day itself.

Reheating instructions: you can either put it back in the bowl, cover again with baking paper + tinfoil and steam for half an hour to an hour, OR, you can stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes.

A note on raisins and other dried fruity bits – I couldn’t get all of these separately (and also it would have cost a bomb!). So I used a bag of mixed raisins and peel. The proportions were roughly similar to those in the recipe.  Perhaps not the most traditional, but it turned out alright.

Cake Addiction Centre: Patient “Gingerbread”

Welcome to the Cake Addiction Centre (CAC). My name is Lea and my weakness is gingerbread.

As you roam these halls you will see many victims of Cake Addiction. CAC takes care of them all – chocolate fudge, orange, berry, banana choc chip, double chocolate, peanut butter, red velvet, coconut cream, apple, custard, dark chocolate, coffee, pineapple upside down, even carrot cake addicts.

Chocolate cake takes a good many of our people. Good people. Our biggest threats are dark chocolate ganache, and cream cheese icing.

Gingerbread? No, gingerbread isn’t one of our most common addictions here at CAC. I may well be the only gingerbread inmate here at the moment. They usually allow us to conduct the guided tours because we are the most peaceful addicts. Some of them like to fight, especially those addicted to peanut butter or pineapple upside down cake.

What am I doing here, you might ask?

I ate a quarter of a sheet cake in one afternoon. Another sixth after dinner. And another quarter at breakfast the next day. After less than 24 hours, this is what was left of the cake. Suffice to say this cake did not see a second sunrise.

Oops..

I don’t have a picture of the whole cake. I could not control myself. I feel so ashamed.

Gingerbread

Adapted from the Be-Ro Flour Cookbook, 37th edition. Spicy spicy gingerbread and gingerbread people are some of my favourite things about Christmas (apart from mince pies, and crab. Yes, crab). You know how I feel about chilli. Don’t say you haven’t been warned about the possible level of spiciness. I might try adding fresh ginger, if so I’ll update the recipe.

300g flour
6 teasp ginger powder
3 teasp mixed spice powder
1 teasp cinnamon
1 1/2 teasp bicarb of soda
75g brown sugar
150g margarine – softened
225g black treacle
75g golden syrup
190ml milk
3 eggs
75g raisins / sultanas / currents

Oven temperature: 150 degrees C, for 1 1/4 hours. This is 1.5x the original recipe because I like my gingerbread thick and moist, so you might even need a little longer in the oven.

  1. Sift flour, ginger, spice, cinnamon, bicarb of soda, and sugar together. Throw the raisins in here too.
  2. Whisk together the margarine, treacle, and golden syrup.
  3. Add the milk and whisk again.
  4. Beat the eggs into the liquids.
  5. Mix the liquids into the flour.
  6. Pour it into a square cake tin, and bake for around 1 1/4 hours.

Possible pairings: orange honey cream cheese icing (if you insist on icing – I’ll post this recipe in a bit). Totally not necessary, I’m a purist and would be very unlikely to ice my gingerbread.

To try next time:

  • Add a couple of tablespoons of fresh grated ginger
  • Perhaps a teaspoon of black pepper?

Sugar in Strange Places

My brother doesn’t have sugar in his house. Say it with me “????!??!”

Marinade is marinating

That’s because I had nothing to say, my mind was too boggled. He doesn’t cook, that much we’ve established, but even people who don’t cook generally have a sachet of sugar floating around somewhere that they’ve pinched from a restaurant or something. Anyway, good for him, he is being healthy and sugar-free.

Taste of childhood

This meant that I Had A Problem, because I wanted to use sugar in my sauce.

Use white colour, crush well!

Solution: find the food in the house with the highest sugar content, and crumble that into the sauce. This happened to be the the icing of some gem biscuits. I used the white ones. I felt that pink or yellow spots in my sauce might not go down too well at dinnertime.

Well, at least I can add ‘resourceful’ to my CV now.

See what I mean about the microwave?

Steamed Tofu with Spring Onion

Inspired by Two Spoons, method taken from Rasa Malaysia (ish)

1 block of tofu – smooth silken type
3 tablesp light soya sauce
2 tablesp sesame oil
3 stalks of spring onion, chopped – I just took the green part of about 8, I used the base for something else
1/2 teasp sugar – or the tops of 4 gem biscuits….your choice
A dash of pepper
A dash of 5 spice powder

  1. Make the sauce – mix together the following: 
    • Soya sauce
    • Sesame oil
    • Spring onion
    • Sugar
    • Pepper
    • 5 spice powder
  2. Microwave on high for 20 seconds. Set aside in the fridge and let it sit there until you need to use it (probably not necessary, I was doing things ahead of time).
  3. Steam the tofu on a plate. Don’t microwave it, I did that, and the structure somehow disintegrated just a little bit.
  4. Pour sauce over hot tofu.

Patchwork Apple Pie

Egg wash covers a multitude of sins, and when you’re down to your last egg and making your mum’s birthday pie, forgo tomorrow’s breakfast and just use it on the pie.

Naked apples

Especially if said pie was set to be named disaster-pie rather than patchwork-pie, because for some reason, you didn’t figure out how to roll out the pastry properly. And it wouldn’t go hard, even in the freezer. Tasted good raw though.

You can't see how I wrestled with the crust - I won!

Despite my fiddling, the pie filling turned out really very well – just a little tart. I like it best that way, though other sweet teeth (sweet tooths? No, I think sweet teeth is better) were slightly less than impressed. Too bad, if you want more it sweeter, make your own pie *blows raspberries*

Patchwork pie!

We ate it with cream, and custard (those were the options, not both at the same time).

See what I mean about covering up imperfections?

Patchwork Apple Pie 

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s apple pie, I changed the filling a bit. On a side note, I don’t usually make a lot of Jamie Oliver’s recipes as I’ve always found them rather complicated, but this one is great – he provides step by step instructions, with pictures. I’d totally recommend heading over to his website for that (I recorded it here to capture my minor changes to the filling).

Pastry

250g flour – gluten free works fine here
50g sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
125g cold butter, cubed
1 large egg
A little milk, if needed

  1. Pulse flour, sugar, zest, and butter together in a food processor. Keep going until it looks like sand.
  2. Add the egg, and a little milk if the dough doesn’t come together when you mix further. You may or may not need the milk, depending on the size of the egg.
  3. Put the dough in the fridge for a bit while you make the filling.

Filling

3 green apples – I used granny smith, they were quite small
4 red apples – I used pink lady/braeburn (I think?), again quite small
3 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablesp black treacle – molasses would work too
1/2 teasp ground ginger
1/2 teasp cinnamon
Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
A handful of raisins – I used close to half a cup

  1. Peel, core, and slice the apples. I cut mine into 1/8th segments.
  2. Put the apples and all other ingredients in a pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the apples just start to soften.
  3. Set aside to cool while you sort out the pastry.

Assembly

1 egg, beaten
Butter for greasing
Flour for rolling

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C

  1. Flour a work surface. Take half the dough out the fridge, and roll it out. Carefully lift the dough into the bottom of a (buttered) pie plate. If you’re useless like me, and use slightly soft butter, you may need to dump it directly into the pie plate and press it out until the dough covers the bottom and sides of the plate.
  2. In go the apples – don’t just drop them in though, you will get holes in your crust. Be gentle!
  3. Take the other half of the dough out the fridge, and roll it out on the floured surface. Try to get it large enough to cover the pie. Lift it on top of the pie. Try not to break it. I didn’t manage this…so I made little coin shaped flat bits with my fingers and tried to get them all to stick together over the apples, like a jigsaw puzzle. As you can see, it works relatively decently. “Rustic”, I believe it is called.
  4. Brush on the beaten egg. If you managed to place your pastry on top of the pie in a single piece, cut a couple of holes in the centre of it so the steam can escape. I did not need to do this.
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the pastry is brown and firm.