Friday, September 30, 2011

Aunty Pegs Christmas Cake

Is there such a thing as a Christmas Cake Virgin?  If there is, its me!!  I've been too scared to make one, as they look so hard, but felt confident this year I could do it.  I thought I had my husbands Great Nanas recipe, but it turns out I was sent Aunty Pegs instead ... but apparantly its still just as good and I will do Great Nana's next year.

Firstly I invested in a high quality cake tin.  I think I may of mentioned in a previous post this broke my bank.  But I am so excited that its something I will be able to hand down to my children!  I also ventured into the bottle store to purchase Brandy.  Its the first time in YEARS I have been into a bottle store - I actually felt nervous, which yes, is very silly.  Thats not to say I haven't brought alcohol in this time, but not being a heavy drinker, I only buy the occasional bottle of red through the supermarket.  I have broken lots of boundries with this cake haha.

The recipe was given to me in pounds and ounces, which I used, but in brackets I have put the conversions to kgs and grams.

2 1/2lb mixed fruit (1.13 kgs)
1/2lb butter (225 grams)
1lb flour (500 grams)
1/2lb brown sugar (225 grams)
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/2 pint milk, boiling (1 cup)
1 tsp almond essence
1 tsp lemon essence
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp baking soda disolved in a tablespoon of cold milk

Soak your mixed fruit in brandy, for anywhere up to two weeks.  I just poured small amounts in till it was soaked right through (maybe around a cup in total), then every few days I stirred the mixture and added a bit more Brandy if it looked dry, until the fruit had expanded nicely.  I left this on the bench for around 10 days.

Prepare your tin before you start.  As its going to be cooking for a long time its a good idea to wrap your tin with brown paper or newspaper and tie tightly with string.  Make sure you have no bits hanging off that can catch on fire.  This will stop the cake from browning too much.  I also lined the bottom of the tin with a thick layer of newspaper, then greased the sides and cut baking paper down to size to get a nice finish.

Preheat oven to 140 degrees.

Rub your butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Then using your hands again, rub through the brown sugar until there are no lumps.  The recipe didn't state to use any spices, but I choose to which I have listed above in italics.  You don't have to add these.  Add spices if you choose, along with the curry powder and baking powder.  Mix well.

In a small saucepan bring your milk to the boil.  Remove from the heat and add your essences.  Beat your eggs and add these to the hot milk mixture. 

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milk mixure and the mixed fruit and mix well.  Add the cold milk and baking soda last, and mix well.

Pour into prepared tin, and bake for approximately 3 hours or until cooked.  My oven is a bit fast, so I only cooked mine for 2 and a half hours.  It had come away from the sides by now and a skewer came out clean, so I didn't want to dry it out by cooking any longer.

Leave in the tin until its cold.  My cake sunk in the middle.  I did open the oven half way through cooking, so not sure if this caused the sinking!!  This below is the bottom on my cake and you can see its sagging a bit in the middle.  This is optional, but when cold you can poke holes through the cake (using a knitting needle or something similar) and pour brandy over it.  My cake also looks a bit soggy on the bottom, which I am hoping is from the brandy and not from undercooking.

I then wrapped my cake tightly in a few layers of tinfoil, then gladwrap, snuggly fitted it into an airtight container and have hidden it in a nice dark spot in the back of the pantry where, fingers crossed, it will live happily for the next few months, ripening or doing whatever these cakes are meant to do, to be ready for decorating at Christmas.  Lets hope!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ice Cream Cone Strawberry Cupcakes

These were SWEET and messy!  I made them to take to my friends daughters 4th birthday, and the children ate the icing and chocolate off the top but left the cupcakes.  They looked great and the cupcake itself was nice and moist and cooked perfectly inside the cone.

I used the Vanilla Cupcake Recipe I have previously posted, adding some Strawberry Essence and a few drops of red food colouring to make the mixture strawberry flavoured.

I placed the cones into my baking tray, and put around a tablespoon of mixture into each cone, banging them on the bench softly to remove any bubbles.  I filled these around three quarters full as didn't want them to overflow and melt the cones.

I then baked as per the above recipe.

To make the frosting I used a Meringue Frosting.

5 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring a few inches of water to a gentle simmer in a saucepan large enough to hold another one on top above the water.  In the pan on top, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt.  Continue to whisk together until the sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is hot.  A good way to test this is to rub the mixture between your fingers - if it is still grainy it needs a bit longer.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and beat at a medium to high speed until the meringue is cool and forming soft peaks (around 5 minutes).  Add the vanilla, and then beat again on medium until mixture is nice and glossy and holding a stiff peak (around another 3 minutes).

To decorate the cold cupcakes pipe the mixture on like a soft serve ice cream, pop in a flake and add some sprinkles.

I had to transport these for a 35 minute car journey.  In hindsight they were not the best option to make for transporting.  In the future I will not put the flake into them until I reach my destination - but I did find a way of getting them there without them falling over!  Time to find a new filing box for the business PAYE and timesheets from last year!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flower Power

Never thought I would get inpsired to create something while mowing my lawns!!  But there I was, mowing across all the dead Camillias on the lawn and they looked so pretty (before I mulched them) that it gave me inspiration to finally give creating a satin flower a go. 

It was so easy!!  I didn't follow a tutorial as reading through one months ago I realised just how simple they are.  All I did was cut out 6 circles out of satin in decreasing sizes.  Using a candle, I curled the edges of each circle.  This was easier than I thought it would be - I imagined catching lots of these on fire but it didn't happen.  Phew.

Then popped them all on top of each other and sewed them together using a bead.  Easy.  I am definately going to make more of these, they are stunning and REALLY easy.

We are going out for dinner tonight so I made a simple headband for The Girl.  I must progress past a simple piece of elastic and find myself something a bit nicer to use, but for now this will do!  Cute.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chair Upcycle

One day, when I am even more grown up, I am going to have a beautiful sewing room.  And in it is going to be lots of pretty girl things - including the sewing chair I just rehashed!  This was a bit of a nightmare from the beginning and I am sure this chair was determined to stay just as it was!  Here she is before.

I brought it for $15 off Trade Me.  I had a $5 bid on it right up until pretty much the last 4 minutes, when someone came in and put a one off $14 bid on it.  I was suspicious this could be a price hiker but what do you do?  I wanted it, I paid more for it than I wanted, but I liked it!

So getting it home I gave it a sand back.  I wasn't sure how far back I was to go, and being a bit over it after half an hour figured I had done enough haha.  I started with quite a rough sandpaper, and then finished over it with a very fine one.  Technical huh.  Hubby then came along and being the perfectionist he is he attacked it and smoothed out the grooves I hadn't.  Too lazy?  Or just giving the chair character?  You decide.

So after giving it a good brush over, it was time to paint.  I had specially gone to see a Dulux Paint Specialist to ensure I got the right paint, as wanted it to be as near perfect as possible.  After having a major discussion with the guy about how it has to be an oil based paint and why, and choosing my shade from 40 different shades of cream, I had my perfect paint.

I gave it its first coat, and had my suspicions something was up with the paint.  It was soaking into the wood.   He had assured me I didn't need to primer it if I was using an oil based paint.  Hubby came home and asked me why I was painting my chair with a water based paint.  Water based!!!  He sold me water based!  After all that ... oh well, mistakes happen I guess.  I wasn't to know, paint is paint to me!

I left it to dry, sanded it back again and gave it another coat.

It still looked shocking, so again I gave it a light sand and gave it its third paint.  This time it looked OK!  I left it to dry, and while doing this Mr 4 year old decided it needed some dirty finger marks on the top.  I was well over the painting etc by now, so decided this was yet another character mark.  Haha lazy or giving the chair character?  Again, you decide!

While this was drying I attacked the cushion, ripping off the nasty brown vinyl.  I wanted to give it a bit of extra padding so cut some quilt batting out as extra bum wadding.  I figure as my sewing chair its going to have alot of bum time so deserves to be extra comfy!!

I then cut out my fabric, using the brown vinyl as my guideline, but cutting extra to take into account the extra wadding I had added.

So then it was time to use my trusty staple gun and secure down the material.  First the staple gun jammed after the first use.  I unjammed it, went to use it again and it jammed.  On trying to unjam it I broke it.  It was well and truely stuck now.  Hubby came to my rescue and fixed it.  And on the first go I jammed it again.  By now I was in a wee huff and again hubby came to my rescue by giving me his industrial gun to use.  I had to promise him not to to shoot anything with it in fustration though.  So great, I was in action again, but found out I didn't have the strength to get the huge staples in.  So had to go around afterwards and bang them in properly with a hammer.  But they were in and the chair was complete.

I am not sure I am 100% happy with it.  Am still considering giving it that shabby chic, distressed look and attacking it with some sandpaper.  Maybe.  I am going to stare at it for a few days and see how I feel.  But all in all, for a first attempt, I think it passes.  Now to work on getting a sewing room so the chair has somewhere to live ....

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Creamy Custard Tart

Confession time.  I am a total diehard custard freak.  Love it.  But apart from the odd custard cake (which I must share with you soon) I hardly ever make anything lovely and custardy.  So on a last minute whim tonight after a hard day sanding and painting (my next project - watch this space) I decided to 'whip' up a Custard Tart for dessert.

This was impressive.  Not too sweet, great texture and creamy - I had a pretty big chunk and was very satisfied afterwards but didn't feel like I had overindulged.  Even better was it was so easy to make! 

400g Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (I made mine from the Edmonds book)
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups full cream milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.  Line your pie dish with pastry and trim the edges.  Prick the bottom of the pastry, line with baking paper and fill with rice, dried beans or pastry beads.  Bake for 10 minutes.

While pastry is cooking, beat together the eggs.  Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir together until well mixed. 

When pastry is cooked, pour the filling into the crust and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.  You might want to cover your pastry edges if there is alot exposed with tinfoil to stop it from browning too much.

Let the pie cool completely before serving and store in the fridge.

Christmas Mincemeat - Alison Holst

Ahhhh, thats more like it!!  This is what it is supposed to look like!  I whipped up the Alison Holst Christmas Mincemeat recipe this morning while the kids were eating breakfast (haha was wearing my SuperMum Cape this morning - I also cleaned all my windows before 9am but thats another story).  All whipped up in the food processor - looks great.  I think I might give the Edmonds one another try in a week or so and pop it through the processor and see if I get a different result.  At this rate I will be supplying my neighbours with Mincemeat!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Christmas Mincemeat - Edmonds

I brought all my ingredients this week to make my Christmas Cake and Christmas Mincemeat.  I have never made either before, and decided now that I am a grownup, its about time I started another new christmas tradition.

So currently I have just over 1kg of mixed fruit soaking in a huge amount of brandy, getting ready to become a cake.  I am using the receipe of Nanna - my husbands great gran I think - and it has curry in it.  Curry in a Christmas Cake?  It is an extremely well used recipe though, so am not doubting it. 

I thought it time I invest in a proper square tin - so after I paid a small fortune for my new cake tin the lady in the shop reassured me I would be passing this tin onto my daughter when I was 'beautiful and wrinkled', so here is hoping.  I am glad she didn't say grey, because that is already happening...

My first attempt at mincemeat and I used the Edmonds recipe.  It looked somewhat different from every other mincemeat I have ever seen.  I did find this link though of another lady who has used the same recipe and it seems that she had the same outcome - definately the recipe then.  I may of misread the recipe, as I only grated down the apple, and just chucked the rest of the fruit in in chunks.  I possibly was supposed to grate everything down ... oh well.  Also when I put the mincemeat into the jars, I topped them up with extra brandy ... these may be adult only Christmas Mince Tarts!

Tomorrow I am going to try the Alison Holst recipe and see how different the two are.  This will mean I will have a huge amount of mincemeat, but lucky I love Christmas Mince Tarts.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Neapolitan Cupcakes

Awesome cupcakes for the children!  I used the Vanilla Cupcake Recipe I have previously posted here

I split the mixture into three and left one untouched, added a tablespoon of cocoa mixed in a little hot water to the second and added red food colouring and strawberry essence to the third.  I then spooned a tablespoon of each into cupcake papers and baked.

For the frosting I used a plain buttercream.  I halved the mixture and to one half added vanilla and to the second half added red food colouring and strawberry essence.  I then placed alternate spoonfuls of the two mixtures into my piping bag and piped on the cakes, adding ice cream wafers and chocolate hail as decorations.  Kids loved them .... as did the husband!

Old Fashioned Golden Syrup Steamed Pudding

After a LONG week of being away, sick kiddies and then getting sick myself, I felt like a bit of good old fashioned comfort food after our Sunday roast last night. 

I love steamed puddings, but my very old steamer is just a wee little thing, so I find it quite hard to find recipes that will fit into it.  I constantly keep an eye out in the second hand stores for a larger size and know I will come across one eventually.  In the meantime though, its recipes for small steamers!

I have an amazing recipe for Golden Syrup Steamed Pudding, but it serves 8 and is way too big for my steamer.  I did a bit of searching around and tweaking and the below recipe was perfect for my 1 litre basin.  I am relying totally on the words of my hubby here that it was yummy (he did go back for seconds so that says something - and it was amazing and light) as with this nasty cold of mine I have no tastebuds!  I know, kind of defeats the purpose for comfort food really when you can't taste it!!

110g sugar
2 eggs
110g butter, melted
110g flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
40 ml milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
140g golden syrup

Beat together the sugar and eggs until fluffy and light.  Add the melted butter and beat again, then add the milk.  Fold through the sifted dry ingredients and the vanilla.

Put the golden syrup into the bottom of a well greased pudding basin and then pour the batter on top.  Place the lid on and screw shut.  Alternatively you could use a glass or aluminium bowl, and cover with baking paper and foil and tie down tightly with string.

Place a small cooling rack, or upside down saucer in the bottom of a large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring water to the boil and place pudding basin on top of rack.  Cover and steam for 1 1/2 hours.  Check the water levels throughout the cooking time to ensure it doesn't boil dry. 

Turn out and serve with custard.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Black Forest Cupcakes

These are devine and extremely rich - definately something to be savoured for a special dessert.  I adapted a chocolate cake recipe I found.

375g plain flour
1 and a half teaspoons of baking powder
30g cocoa
400g sugar
250g butter
200g dark chocolate
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
hot water
1 tin of cherries

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and prepare and line two muffin trays (mixture makes 24).  Drain the cherries, keeping the drained liquid.

In a bowl sift and then whisk together all the dry ingredients.

Melt together the butter and chocolate in a double boiler and stir until smooth.

Cool slightly and gradually beat in the dry ingredients.  The mixture will look almost crumbly.  Beat the eggs and vanilla in well.

Pour the reserved cherry juice into a cup and make it up to 375mls with hot water.  Heat in the microwave for another 30 seconds and then mix well into the cake mixture.

Pour two tablespoons of mixture into each cupcake paper.  Add 2 - 3 cherries onto mixture, then cover up with remaining cake mixture. 

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until cooked.  Remove cupcakes from trays after 5 minutes and allow to cool completely before icing with chocolate ganache.  When fresh cherries are in season you can garnish with a fresh cherry.  Or for an even nicer treat garnish with cream and then a cherry on top of the ganche.  Hmmmm yum!

I iced half of mine with ganache, for the adults, and the other half with butter icing for the kids.