Adventures in Small Scale Farming in an English Cottage Garden with Seasonal Tips and Recipes
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Sweet Treats for Christmas
Apologies for the lack of postings this week, I've been occupied, like almost everyone else, with Christmassy things entailing much baking of these,
and some of these
and also some of these
I realize these last ones are indistinguishable from a heap of rubbish from my terrible photograph, but they are in fact Christmas Wreaths, adapted from a recipe of Nigella's. If you want to see a picture of what they really look like, have a look at Nigella's Christmas, where you will find a sensible photo. I was making treats to eat at our village Christmas tree lights switching on ceremony last night, and although I made a good stack of mince pies, I know from past experience that small children often don't care for dried fruit generally and mince pies in particular, so I made these treats as an alternative. And very succesful they were too, allowing adults to consume generous amounts of Mulled Wine and mince pies, while they, the children got stuck into the Christmas Cupcakes, Gingerbread Christmas biscuits, and the aforementioned Christmas Wreaths, extracting extravagant sugar fuelled promises along the way from Santa who made his welcome appearance to switch on the lights. Fortunately for the health of the residents, other more sensible people brought some lovely savoury items to counteract the sugary overload of my offerings.
I used an 8:8:4 recipe for all in one sponge for these. By which I mean 8 oz SR flour,butter and sugar and 4 eggs ( you see how simple this old imperial measurement is - far easier to remember than metric where the number of eggs, ie 4 bears no relation to the amount of other ingredients ie 250 grams, stop me before I start ranting again....).
Anyway, this amount made around fifty odd cupcakes, so you may like to halve the amounts unless you are considering entertaining the whole neghbourhood's offspring, or you could make larger ones using American style muffin cases instead of little bun cases. You can do the maths. You will need a spot of milk to make the mixture soft enough,and a teaspoon of vanilla essence and be sure to make them small enough to allow for the topping to cover them completely after they have risen.
The topping is royal icing, very easy to make if you have an electric mixer. Just beat 3 egg whites with a 500g packet of icing sugar for about five minutes until the mixture holds soft peaks. I use fresh egg whites because I have an abundance of eggs available to me, but I have used a packet of instant royal icing in the past and it works just as well. I always add a teaspoon of glycerin to the icing to stop it going rock hard, although you should not attempt to keep these little cakes more than a day anyway as they dry out too much. I'm amazed that Christmas Sprinkles for cakes are not available everywhere, at least not in the seasonal red and green colours I like - Tesco's missing an opportunity here - so you have to send off for them, either from Wilton, the US baking supplies people, or sometimes on Ebay. I've also made a lovely discovery that you can buy edible glitter for sprinkling on your cakes to give them that special magical touch - I got mine from the cake decorating department at Hobbycraft. It comes in a tiny pot that will probably last me forever, it looks just like ordinary glitter, but you can eat it without poisoning yourself. Lovely!
As for the little Christmas Wreaths, they are again based again on Nigella's idea
( strikes me this picture is almost as bad as mine!)
but I've messed about with the recipe a bit while still keeping to her lovely idea.
6 oz 150g butter
1 200g bag of marshmallows
1 200g bag of caramel toffees
half a teaspoon almond essence
half a teaspoon vanilla essence
Melt the first three ingredients gently together, then bring to a full boil for a minute, then remove from the heat and stir in the essences and the cornflakes crunching them up quite a bit as you go with your wooden spoon. Leave until cool enough to handle and then form into balls, squash down and make a hole in the middle to form a wreath shape decorate with christmas sprinkles and leave to cool. Add little ribbon bows when cool if you like.
Make sure Santa gets some Mulled Wine, recipe tomorrow.