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Category Archives: Family and Historical Recipes

Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Plum Pudding

 



Now I know posting a recipe for Christmas pudding on the day after Christmas is a bit.. well.. late! I made this pudding a few weeks ago and just got too busy with Christmas preparations and baking to post. But I wanted to show this excellent pudding so I am posting while we are still in that Christmas food and festivities zone.

And I’ll blog again next year in time to make the pudding for the big day!

Earlier in December I was lucky enough to attend an online event hosted by the wonderful Sydney Living Museums.

This organisation looks after significant buildings integral to Sydney’s colonial history. Visiting historic houses and public buildings is always a fascinating trip into Sydney’s past.

The demonstration was presented by Jacqui Newling, Assistant Curator and Sydney Living Museums resident expert in food heritage and colonial gastronomy.

I loved watching as Jacqui made the Christmas  pudding and really appreciated her step by step tips and tricks to making the pudding. She has a wealth of knowledge and importantly a really practical common sense approach to cooking.

I had to make the pudding! I made it the next day, and in order to be able to try it before Christmas Day, I made a baby one which I could eat on the same day.

What is amazing about this pudding is that it has no flour and no sugar! Bread replaces flour and the sweetness comes from the dried fruit. I have to admit I was a little dubious about the absence of flour and sugar, but I must say the resulting pudding was sensational! Deep, rich flavours with a strong caramel taste.

We ate the delicious pudding on Christmas Day. I served it with brandy butter, custard and cream – I think it deserved all three accompaniments.

Here is the recipe as presented by Jacqui Newling with her notations and this is the link to the original.

Classic Christmas Pudding

Adapted from Mrs Beeton’s Book of household management, 1861

Note

‘On Christmas-day a sprig of holly is usually placed in the middle of the pudding, and about a wine-glassful of brandy poured round it, which, at the moment of serving, is lighted, and the pudding thus brought to table encircled in flame.’

So says Isabella Beeton in 1861, in her best-selling Beeton’s book of household management (1861). I’ve adapted her ‘Christmas plum pudding (very good)’ for modern measurements, replaced suet with butter, and added some extra spice now synonymous with Christmas.

Serves 12

Ingredients 

750g mixed dried fruit

1 tbsp mixed spice

1 tsp nutmeg or cinnamon

1⁄2 cup fragrant tea or sherry

200g butter, placed in freezer for 1-2 hours

250g freshly made white breadcrumbs (made from a day-old 375g loaf, crusts removed)

6 eggs, well beaten

1⁄2 cup brandy

Equipment

1.5L pudding basin or equivalent smaller bowls
Baking paper cut to diameter of the pudding basin/bowls
Good quality aluminum foil Kitchen string
Grater, chilled in fridge Trivet

Method

1. If the fruit looks a bit dry, soak it with the spices in the tea or sherry overnight or for at least a few hours.
2. Grate the butter into the breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl and mix through with a knife.
3. Add the soaked fruit and spices.
4. Add the beaten eggs and brandy, and encourage everyone in the family to stir the mixture (an old tradition).
5. Grease the pudding bowl with butter and spoon in the mixture, just short of the rim, as the mixture may swell during cooking.
6. Cover the pudding surface with baking paper cut to size, then cover the bowl with two pieces of foil pleated together in the centre – the foil should reach halfway down the bowl – and tie securely with string. The pleat is to allow for any expansion during cooking.
7. Place the pudding bowl on a trivet in a deep saucepan and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides to create a water bath.
8. Cover and simmer for several hours, topping up with boiling water as needed (19th-century recipes invariably state
6 hours simmering to ensure a rich colour).
9. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until required.
Serve with Mrs Beeton’s Plum pudding sauce. You can find the recipe for the sauce here.

 

Christmas Cake 2019

I know it’s a little late, well let’s face it, it’s very late, to be posting about Christmas cake on Christmas Eve! But I really wanted to show some lovely photos of the cake I made for John, and his charming decorations with a definite Australian touch!

Readers of this blog will have seen a few posts in the past of the recipe for the Christmas cake. It’s a family recipe, handed down through the generations. It’s a dark fruit cake, full of dried fruit and glacé fruit and spices. The full recipe is big: 12 eggs, half a kilo of butter and of sugar, one and half kilos of dried fruit and a kilo of glacé fruit! As well as flour, spices, essences and alcohol etc.

This year I made the big mixture. I was able to bake 2 large cakes from this, and even managed a baby one with some leftover mixture.

One of the big cakes went to John, long time friend and a connoisseur of good food. I ice my cakes with a covering of home made marzipan, then top with royal icing. The cakes are a blank canvas on which you can create whatever decoration you fancy. John had a few ideas, but the lead photos are my favourites, as they feature a beautiful banksia cone as decoration. Banksias are an interesting Australian species, and the startling looking cones were the inspiration for Mae Gibbs’ Big Bad Banksia Men from her wonderful “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie”.

So here is the link to the Christmas cake recipe. This post has the recipes for the big cake, and what I call the medium cake, that is, a cake that is made with half of the ingredients of the mother cake.

And the photos are of John’s cake – well done, your decorations look great!

Christmas Cake 2015

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I make the same Christmas cake each year. I make it really late in the year and it never stays round for long. It’s a recipe that’s been in my family for ages.

I blogged the recipe this time last year – so why blog it again? Nothing’s changed, except this time I made it round, not square! I love making the cake, so I’ve written about it again and with photos of the process to show how easy the cake is to make. I even make this cake in the food processor, to simplify it further. It’s rich with glace, crystallized and dried fruit and it’s iced with an almond (marzipan) icing topped with royal icing.

While watching a Great British Bakeoff Christmas special, I noticed the similarities between Mary Berry‘s recipe and my cake. The recipe below is our family one but I decided to use Mary’s royal icing recipe with a good result.

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Ingredients

250 gms butter
250 gms brown sugar
315 gms plain flour
375 gms raisins
375 gms sultanas
125 gms  glacé cherries
65 gms glacé peaches
65 gms glacé pears
125 gms glacé apricots
65 gms glacé pineapple
65 gms crystallised ginger
65 gms mixed peel (optional)
6 large free range eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond essence
1/2 tsp glycerine
Juice of half an orange
Finely grated peel of half an orange
1/4 cup of good brandy/whisky – extra 1/4 cup of brandy/whisky to pour over the hot cake when it comes out of the oven.

Method
Grease a cake tin and line with baking paper or aluminum foil. I use an 18cm or 7″ square tin  or a 18cm or 7″ diameter round tin. You may end up with left over mixture with this size, so you could go up a size. I like a high cake and this cake doesn’t rise so you can fill the smaller tins fairly full.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C then turn back to 135 degrees C.  The principle of cooking a rich fruitcake is to put the cake into a preheated oven and cook very slowly. This size cake does take a long time!
The original recipe says to mix by hand in a large basin. This was lots of fun when we were growing up making the family Christmas cake but now I suggest using an electric mixer.
Cream butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time.

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Mix in the sifted flour lightly. Stir in spices, essences, glycerine, fruit juice and brandy/whisky, and finally stir in the fruit the larger varieties of which have previously been cut roughly. There is no need to wash the fruit. If the fruit is wet it tends to sink to the bottom of the cake.

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Bake about 1- 2 hours or until the top is pale brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.  It’s a little hard to be more precise than this as the weather, the quality of the flour and individual ovens have a lot to do with cooking time. You can put a piece of foil over the top of the cake during the last hour of cooking if the cake browns too quickly.
When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and pierce all over with a skewer. Pour 1/2 a cup of brandy/whisky over the hot cake and wrap in a towel till cool.
Turn out of the tin onto a board or large flat plate.

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Almond Icing
250 gms ground almonds
375 gms icing sugar
1 egg white
Juice of  1/2  lemon

Mix all the ingredients to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into sections – one large ball for the top of the cake, the rest for the sides of the cake.
Brush the cake with apricot jam which will help the almond paste to stick. Let the cake rest for a day.

Royal Icing – Mary Berry recipe

Ingredients

675 g icing sugar
3 free range egg whits
3 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp glycerine

Method

Sieve the icing sugar. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they become frothy. Add the icing sugar to the egg whites, a spoonful at a time, and fold in. Add the lemon juice and glycerine and stir. Beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks. Spread over the top and sides of the cake and rough up the icing with a spatula so that it forms peaks.

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Historical Brownies

IMG_8822Fannie Farmer’s Brownies

I always read with interest and great enjoyment the posts of My Revolutionary Pie a fascinating look at American culinary history. I was particularly taken with a “Brownies” post, which detailed the origins and evolution of this now ubiquitous sweet treat.

Below are My Revolutionary Pie’s adaptations of one of the first brownie recipes from 1906 created by Fannie Farmer, in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and a recipe of a former student of Farmer, Maria Willett Howard, published in 1907 in Lowney’s Cook Book.

Both brownies are different from the dense, heavy versions of today. They both contain quite a small amount of chocolate – 2 ounces (about 57 grams). They are sweeter and less chocolatey. I liked the Lowney’s Cook Book version better  – it has more butter and produced a less crunchy texture. The walnuts really stand out in both versions.

However, the photos look very similar – I can really only tell the difference because I photographed them on different plates!

For the full and fascinating early history of the brownie, see the post:
http://revolutionarypie.com/2015/04/10/brownies/

Fannie Farmer’s Brownies
Adapted from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1906 edition)

¼ cup butter, melted, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
2 ounces (2 squares) (57g) unsweetened chocolate, melted
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163 degrees C) Butter an eight-inch (20cm) square baking pan, then cut out an eight-inch (20cm) square of parchment paper, place it in the bottom of the pan, and butter the parchment.

2. Blend melted butter with sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Mix in slightly cooled chocolate and vanilla extract and stir well. Blend in flour, followed by walnuts.

3. Spread mixture evenly in baking pan, using an offset spatula if possible.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until firm. Let rest a few minutes, then invert brownies from pan onto cutting board, peel off parchment, and slice into squares.IMG_8834

Lowney’s Brownies
Adapted from Lowney’s Cook Book by Maria Willett Howard (1912 edition)

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 ounces (2 squares) (57g) unsweetened chocolate, melted
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163 degrees C). Butter an eight-inch (20cm) square baking pan, then cut out an eight-inch (20cm) square of parchment paper, place it in the bottom of the pan, and butter the parchment.

2. Cream the butter briefly, then gradually add the sugar, and cream well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the slightly cooled chocolate.

3. Whisk together the flour and salt, then add to the batter and mix well. Stir in the nuts.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until slightly firm on top. Cut into squares in pan, then let cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan.IMG_7251

Christmas Cake

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This is the recipe for my family’s Christmas cake. I’ve been making it for a number of years and my mother made it for many years before I started making it – it’s been in the family a very long time.

It’s a traditional English Christmas cake, with marzipan or almond icing covered with royal icing. Our version is full of glacé fruit as well as dried fruit. We don’t make the cake very far ahead and we don’t soak the fruit in the alcohol – but doing either of these things is fine if that’s what you’re used to.  The cake has always been sensational without that forward planning.

It sometimes seems incongruous to be making this most traditional of northern hemisphere cakes in the hot summer days of Christmas week in Sydney. The weather is always lovely and the sun shines as I decorate the cake with its “snowy” icing. Making the cake in summer means that the almond paste icing dries quickly and sometimes if pushed for time I can do both icings in one day. However letting the cake rest for a day before you apply the royal icing is recommended.

Over the years of making I have tweaked the basic recipe, adding in things I love. I tend to put more glacé fruit in the mix; I love ginger so it appears in both crystallized form and as a spice in my cake.  I don’t stick to whisky and brandy for alcohol – I often add Grand Marnier and I have sometimes put a couple of tablespoons of Pedro Ximinez sherry as well as whisky into the cake.

This the “mother” of the baby Christmas cakes already featured on this blog – I give the muffin sized cakes to work colleagues every year as little  Christmas gifts.

It’s a VERY big cake. I actually halve the recipe and still end up with a decent sized cake, but if you have a cast of thousands to feed, the big size is the one for you.

Helpfully to save you the calculations I am including the quantities for the halved version!

The photos are of the halved version plus I got enough out of the mixture to make a little one too.

The recipe is SO versatile  – you can make so many different sizes.

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Big Cake Ingredients

500 gms butter
500 gms brown sugar
625 gms plain flour
750 gms raisins
750 gms sultanas
250 gms glace cherries
125 gms glace peaches
125 gms glace pears
250 gms glace apricots
125 gms glace pineapple
125 gms crystallized ginger
125 gms mixed peel (optional)
12 large eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons almond essence
1 teaspoon glycerine
Juice of an orange
Finely grated peel of the orange
1/2 cup of good brandy/whisky – extra 1/2 cup of brandy/whisky to pour over the hot cake when it comes out of the oven.

Medium Cake Ingredients

250 gms butter
250 gms brown sugar
315 gms plain flour
375 gms raisins
375 gms sultanas
125 gms  glacé cherries
65 gms glacé peaches
65 gms glacé pears
125 gms glacé apricots
65 gms glacé pineapple
65 gms crystallised ginger
65 gms mixed peel (optional)
6 large free range eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond essence
1/2 tsp glycerine
Juice of half an orange
Finely grated peel of half an orange
1/4 cup of good brandy/whisky – extra 1/4 cup of brandy/whisky to pour over the hot cake when it comes out of the oven.

Method for both sizes
Grease a cake tin and line with baking paper or aluminum foil. I use a 28cm or 11″ square tin  or a 28cm or 11″ diameter round tin for the big cake. For the medium cake I use a 18cm or 7″ square tin  or a 18cm or 7″ diameter round tin. You may end up with left over mixture with this size, so you could go up a size. I like a high cake and this cake doesn’t rise so you can fill the smaller tins fairly full.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C then turn back to 135 degrees C.  The principle of cooking a rich fruitcake is to put the cake into a preheated oven and cook very slowly. This size cake does take a long time!
The original recipe says to mix by hand in a large basin. This was lots of fun when we were growing up making the family Christmas cake but now I suggest using an electric mixer.
Cream butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the sifted flour lightly. Stir in spices, essences, glycerine, fruit juice and brandy/whisky, and finally stir in the fruit the larger varieties of which have previously been cut roughly. There is no need to wash the fruit. If the fruit is wet it tends to sink to the bottom of the cake.
Bake about 3 – 4 hours (big cake) 1- 2 hours (medium cake) or until the top is pale brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.  It’s a little hard to be more precise than this as the weather, the quality of the flour and individual ovens have a lot to do with cooking time. You can put a piece of foil over the top of the cake during the last hour of cooking if the cake browns too quickly.
When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and pierce all over with a skewer. Pour 1/2 a cup of brandy/whisky over the hot cake and wrap in a towel till cool.
Turn out of the tin onto a board or large flat plate.

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Almond Icing

Big Cake
500 gms ground almonds
750 gms icing sugar
2 egg whites
Juice of a lemon

Medium Cake
250 gms ground almonds
375 gms icing sugar
1 egg white
Juice of  1/2  lemon

Mix all the ingredients to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into sections – one large ball for the top of the cake, the rest for the sides of the cake.
Brush the cake with apricot jam which will help the almond paste to stick. Let the cake rest for a day.

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Royal Icing
for both cakes

The original recipe says :”2 eggs whites and the juice of a lemon to every pound of icing sugar”. This doesn’t tell you how much of these ingredients you will need.

Having just made the medium cake, it took all of the above quantities, so the big cake would need more. Make up the base recipe and if it isn’t enough – make some more – use your judgement!

2 egg whites
500 gms icing sugar
Juice of a lemon

Beat eggs lightly, add icing sugar and lemon juice.
Apply to cake with a palette knife. Be generous with this icing, to create a “snowy” effect.
Leave to set for at least a couple of hours.
The cake keeps well –  up to a year – although it is at its best when eaten within 3 months.

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German Biscuits

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This biscuit was made by one of Quirky’s sisters. It is a fondly remembered recipe from the childhood of Quirky’s sisters. We have discovered almost identical recipes in the handwritten recipe books belonging to our mother and to our grandmother.

The origin of the recipe is uncertain – Quirky sister remembers the recipe as having been given to our grandmother by a Mrs Newman, a German neighbour. The recipe in our mother’s book attributes it to a Mrs Ward (a name unfamiliar to all the sisters!)

The biscuit, whatever its origin, is delicious, with its apricot jam filing and delicate meringue topping.

Ingredients

2 tbls butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs (yolks and whites separated)
Enough SR flour to make a stiff dough
Apricot jam
Blanched almonds

Method

Cream butter and 1/4 cup sugar in a food  processor. Add beaten egg yolks and a little water. Mix in sifted flour. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness and place in a greased square cake tin. Bake for about 15 minutes at 160 degrees C  or until biscuit is cooked. Remove from oven.

Spread the biscuit with apricot jam to cover. Beat egg whites until stiff, then add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating mixture until of meringue consistency.

Spoon the meringue over the apricot jam, creating rough peaks. Sprinkle with chopped blanched almonds. Bake in a slow oven (130 degrees C) to dry the meringue.

Remove from oven and when cool cut in finger lengths in tin.

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SAMSUNG

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