Friday, 4 November 2011

Christmas is coming....

I have always loved the run up the Christmas, probably more so than the actually day if I'm honest!

For years my mum and I have made the mincemeat, pudding and cake in plenty of time for Christmas and even though I haven't lived at home for years I still like to carry on the tradition.

Traditionally we have always relied on Delia Smith for these recipes. However, a few years ago I stepped away from tradition and started making a tropical fruit and nut cake instead of the normal fruit cake. It is far lighter and doesn't need to be made until nearer the time and I personally much prefer it. This year I decided I also wanted to try a different Christmas pudding and found a lovely recipe in Peyton and Byrne Bitish Baking that I decided to give a go.

We started by making the mincemeat. It is so easy to make and so much tastier than shop bought. It is literally a case of mixing all of the ingredients togther (apart from the brandy) and soaking it overnight and then baking it in the oven. The hardest part is juicing so many oranges and lemons!

Once it's cooled the brandy can be stirred in and then the mincemeat can be transferred to steralised jars.

I did tweak the Christmas pudding recipe slightly. It didn't say to soak the fruit, but I decided to do so over night seeing as I was soaking the mincemeat fruit anyway. It didn't say to put the zest of the orange in (only the lemon) but I thought the extra flavour would be good. I also subsituted the citrus peel for dried apricots as I really don't like citrus peel and the glace cherries for dates as I'm not convinced by glace cherries, they are just so far removed from the fresh fruit.

First we mixed all of the fruit with the liquid and let is soak over night. we then added the suet, flour, sugar, eggs and breadcrumbs and continued with the recipe as stated. The mixture was supposed to make one 1 litre pudding, but we made one large pudding and 4 small.

Here is the mixture ready to bake, but before we pushed it down and smoothed off the top

Here is the large pudding with the top smoothed and a disc of baking paper put on the top

Here is the pudding wrapped in two layers of foil, ready for steaming

Here is one of the small puddings once it was cooked. I ended up cooking the small puddings for about 3 hours and the large for about 4.5hours. I obviously haven't eaten one yet, but I was evry impressed with the recipe. Yet again Peyton and Byrne prove that British Baking is a classic, must have recipe book and as it is so beautiful is perfect for presents!

Mincemeat Recipe, from Delia Smith

1lb cooking apples, peeled cored and finely chopped
8oz shredded suet
12oz raisins
8oz sultanas
8oz currants
8oz mixed peel (I subsitute this with a mixture of the other dried fruits)
12oz soft dark brown sugar
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
2oz flaked almonds
4tsps mixed spice
1tsp ground cinnnamon
Half a nutmeg grated
6 tablespoons of brandy

Mix all of the ingredients together in an oven proof bowl and soak overnight. Bake in the oven at 120C for 3 hours. Once cool stir in the brandy and transfer into steralised jars.

Christmas Pudding, adapted from Peytin and Byrne, British Baking

200g raisins
150g currants
100g flaked almonds
75g dried chopped apricots
75g dates chopped
1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 medium carrot grated
1400g suet
140g plain flour
140g demerara sugar
75g fresh breadcrumbs
2 beaten eggs
4tbsps stout
Juice and zest of one orange
Juice and zest of one lemon
2tbsp brandy
1tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Place the dried fruit and all of the liquid (apart from the eggs) in a bowl and soak overnight. Add the remainder of the ingredients and place in well greased pudding bowls. Cover ythe top of the mixture with a small circle of baking paper and then cover the whole of the top of the bowl with two layers of foil, securing with string. Place the basin in a saucepan on a trivet or a srunched up piece of foil and fill the pan approx half full with boiling water. Place on the heat, bring to the boil and then turn down to a gentle simmer and put the lid on. Once you think it is cooked check by carefully unwrapping the pudding and inserting a skewer. If it comes out clean it is cooked. For me the small puddings took about 3 hours and the large 4.5 hours.

Once cooked put clean baking paper and foil on the pudding and leave to cool. Once a month carefully peel back the cover and 'feed' with a splash of brandy. Store in the fridge or a cool dark place until Christmas.

To reheat repeat the steaming process but for 2 hours this time (I'd suggest about 1.5 hours for the small puddings). Turn out the pudding onto a serving dish, sprinkle with sugar and top with a sprig of holly. Pour over some brandy and set alight. Serve with brandy butter.

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