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2022 ANZAC Biscuits

Yesterday, Saturday, I made my annual batch of ANZAC biscuits, that delicious treat associated with Australian and New Zealand soldiers of the First World War, in preparation for ANZAC Day 2022 on 25 April.

The wonderful blog “The Cook and the Curator”, from the team at Sydney Living Museums, has done some research into the origin of ANZAC biscuits.

“There has been much debate as to the origins of the iconic Anzac biscuit, and whether they were sent in care packages to soldiers at war, or if they were made by soldiers at ‘the front’. They were certainly enjoyed by Australians long before the First World War, but under different names.”

Here is the link the the article:https://blogs.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/cook/anzac-cookery/ if you would like to know more.

The Cook and the Curator also note that coconut is an optional ingredient and it wasn’t added till the 1930s. By all means add some to to your biscuits, but personally I’m not a fan.

My recipe is based on this authentic recipe, with a small tweak or two.

I add golden syrup, as I love the toffee flavour it imparts. Most recipes do include golden syrup.

Somewhere I read in a recipe that browning the butter after melting it gives a greater depth of flavour. It really does! To compensate for the fact that you lose a little bit of the butter by browning it, I have added another 15g of butter to the recipe.

It really is a straightforward ANZAC biscuit recipe – very easy to put together and quick to bake.

Eat the biscuits on the day they are baked but they will keep well too, if there are any left!

Ingredients

165g salted butter

180g rolled oats

120g plain flour

125g brown sugar

2 tablespoons golden syrup

bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons boiling water

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper. 

Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat until melted. Once the butter is melted, cook for about 3-4 minutes, swirling the pan often. The butter will foam and turn a golden brown. Remove from the heat and put into a bowl to cool slightly.

Mix the rolled oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl.

Combine the melted butter and golden syrup in the same saucepan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and boiling water and whisk to combine. Remove from heat.

Add the butter/golden syrup mixture and stir until well combined.

Take tablespoons of mixture and make into balls. Place the balls onto the baking trays, allowing space for spreading. Don’t flatten the balls!

Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are dark golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on the trays. The biscuits will firm up as they cool. Now remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin. They keep well for a few days.

Molasses Soda Bread

Want bread in a hurry? Can’t be bothered making sourdough or even a standard yeast loaf?

Then soda bread, specifically Irish soda bread, is for you! I make a lot of sourdough, and I love it – both the bread to eat and the whole lengthy process of making that delicious crusty loaf.

But we all need a quick fix and soda bread is just the thing when you want to make a loaf from start to finish in under an hour.

Delicious fresh from the oven, slathered in melting butter, or eaten with cheese and quince paste, and finally, toasted the next day with luscious jam.

My version of soda bread includes a tablespoon of molasses. While I include the molasses to give the bread a slightly caramel flavour, it also produces a nice brown colour.

Here’s the recipe, it’s super easy.

Ingredients
340g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ -1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
290mls buttermilk
1 tablespoon molasses

Method
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Place flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture, and pour in the buttermilk and molasses, mixing quickly to form a soft dough.

Once the buttermilk and molasses have been incorporated, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.

Form into a round then place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm, fresh or toasted!

Shetland Buns

I visited Shetland pre-pandemic when we could travel from home in Australia to the UK. I was so taken with the islands – the breathtaking scenery, the wildlife, the history and culture and of course the food!

This recipe is based on a recipe called Yeast Buns from Margaret B Stout’s “Cookery for Northern Wives” published in 1925. This book documents many Shetland recipes and was an insight into traditional cooking.

I made and blogged the buns a while back, see here. I’ve made a few more tweaks this time. The original recipe makes a lot of buns! So this time I divided the recipe in two, making a batch of 12 buns and I also made a lovely large fruit bun, with lemon icing.

I converted the imperial measurements to metric. doing a little bit of rounding up or down, but as I wanted to keep the integrity of the original measurements, I didn’t change anything too drastically.

I’ve also adapted the recipe to make in a KitchenAid or similar.

I’ve tweaked the ingredients in these ways. I substituted instant yeast for fresh yeast. I added a lot more more dried fruit than in the original, adding extra fruit again for the large fruit bun. I also added some more flavour in the form of vanilla extract and almond essence, as well as cinnamon and allspice.

I made the large fruit bun in a paper panettone case, but you could make it in a large high sided cake tin. You would end up with a slightly wider bun, but with less height.

Ingredients

For the sponge

227g strong flour

9g instant yeast

1 teaspoon caster sugar

426 mls milk

Mixture

567g strong flour

113g caster sugar

113g butter

2 free range eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

113g sultanas

113g raisins

100g candied orange

100g sour cherries (for the large bun)

Glaze

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon milk

Icing

200g icing sugar

Juice of half a lemon

The ingredients (except for the cherries) are for both the little buns and the big one. Divide the mixture in half after proving and before shaping.

Method

Here is the method, adapted from the rather scant instructions given by Margaret Stout.

For the sponge, sieve the flour into a large bowl, then add the yeast and sugar. Gradually add the lukewarm milk, stirring to make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel or a disposable plastic shower cap. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.

Prepare the rest of the mixture. Put the flour, caster sugar and butter into the bowl of a KitchenAid fitted with a dough hook and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the sponge mixture, beaten eggs, vanilla extract, almond essence, cinnamon and allspice. Mix well, for for at least 5 minutes until the dough is elastic and passes the window pane test.

Cover the mixture in the bowl with plastic wrap/tea towel/plastic shower cap and leave to rise again for 1 ½ hours.

Remove the risen dough and stretch into a large rectangle. Scatter the sultanas, raisins and candied orange, a small amount at a time, over the dough, folding the dough over after each addition. You want to incorporate the fruit as evenly as you can into the dough.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced.

Now divide the dough into two.

Take one half of the dough and divide into 12 pieces. Shape each into a ball and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover the tray loosely with a tea towel or large plastic bag and prove for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Take the other half of the dough, and stretch into a large rectangle. Scatter the sour cherries a small amount at a time, over the dough, folding the dough over after each addition.

Shape the dough into a large ball and place in a panettone case or large cake tin. Cover with a tea towel or plastic bag and prove for an hour in a warm place.

When the small buns have proved, put them into the preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the buns are a deep brown colour.

Remove the buns from the oven, and while warm, brush the tops of the buns with a tablespoon of sugar mixed with a tablespoon of milk.

When the large bun has finished proving, put it in the oven and bake for 20 -25 minutes or until a deep brown colour.

Remove the large bun from the oven and leave to cool.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice to make a thick lemon paste. You may need to adjust either ingredient to get the right consistency.

If you think the buns need zhushing, you could drizzle a little of the icing for the big bun over the tops. I made this icing a little more “drippy” by adding in more lemon juice. However I iced some and also left some plain.

Both the small buns and the large bun keep well as they are enriched with milk, butter and eggs. They are quite soft, and they remain soft even after a couple of days.

You could eat either bun as is or butter liberally – I even toasted the small buns the next day and ate with lashings of butter!

Orange Zest Shortbread

I made this shortbread for New Year’s Day yesterday. I think shortbread is one of the best things to come out of Scotland, not forgetting whisky!

It’s based on a Jamie Oliver recipe for chocolate orange shortbread, original recipe here. I left out the chocolate for simplicity’s sake, but by all means add this in. I think the orange is the star of this recipe!

It’s super simple. I made it in the food processor. After baking just leave in the tin before cutting into fingers.

Great for New Year – but don’t wait till then – a very nice tea time or coffee time treat any time of the year!

Ingredients

150g butter at room temperature

200g plain flour

50g golden caster sugar or raw sugar, plus extra to sprinkle

Zest of an orange

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Grease a 20cm square baking tin and line with baking paper.

Put the butter, flour, sugar and the finely grated zest of half the orange into the bowl of a food processor.

Gently pulse the ingredients until they just come together- don’t overmix.

Tip the mixture into the lined baking tin. With your hands pat the dough into the tin, being careful not to knead it. You will end up with a layer about 1cm thick. Don’t worry if it’s looks a bit messy, it will look fine after baking.

Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

Take out of the oven, and leaving in the tin, mark fingers using a sharp knife. There’s no need to cut through – it’s just to help cut the fingers once the shortbread is cold.

Sprinkle over a little more sugar, and grate over the zest of the other half of the orange.

Leave to cool completely, and then cut the shortbread into fingers along the marked lines.

Remove the fingers from the tin.

The shortbread will keep well in an airtight tin for a few days!

Speculaas Biscuits

St Ncholas Day was 6 December – so I’m a little late in posting this recipe for these delicious spicy biscuits, traditionally made for that day. But they are also eaten anytime during the Christmas season.

They are so fragrant with Christmas spice, and they make perfect edible gifts. Making them really puts you in the Christmas mood too!

This recipe is based on one I found from the brilliant people at SBS television here in Australia. You really need to stamp designs on them, and I have a couple of heavy duty Nordic ware stamps. I also have a fabulous maamoul mold, a traditional Middle Eastern pastry and biscuit mold. You put biscuit dough inside the maamoul, then turn the dough out with a lovely imprint.

But you could just as easily use any biscuit cutters.

The recipe called for a mixture of Christmas spices but I used a St Nicholas Spekulaas spice mix from Gewürzhaus Spice House in Sydney. I have included the ingredients for the individual spices as well as the pre-prepared mix.

Ingredients

250g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

150g firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, ginger and cardamom

(Or 1 tablespoon St Nicholas Spekulaas spice mix)

1/4 teaspoon salt

150g cold butter

Method

Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, spices, salt and butter in a food processor and whiz until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs.

Add a tablespoon of iced water and pulse until mixture just comes together. Do this carefully – don’t overmix!

The dough will be quite loose. Turn it out onto a board or bench top and bring together into a large ball. Wrap the ball in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the dough and make it easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll the dough out – don’t go too thin or it will be hard to cut – and use any kind of biscuit cutter to stamp out shapes. Or if you have biscuit stamps or a maamoul mold use those!

Place the biscuits on the baking trays. Roll out any scraps of dough again and stamp out more shapes. Refrigerate the trays for 20 minutes to help the biscuits keep their shape.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. These biscuits are quite soft in the middle so they won’t bake hard.

Once cool enough to handle, remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store biscuits in an airtight container for a week, or you can freeze the biscuits too!

Halloween Soul Cakes

This year I baked my Soul Cakes early to be ready for Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. They were traditionally made to be handed out on these special days.

“The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, are given out to soulers who go from door to door, singing and saying prayers for the souls of the givers and their friends.”

The musician Sting has a version of the traditional song “Soul Cake” on his album “If on a Winter’s Night”. Here are some lyrics.

“A soul cake, a soul cake, 

Please, good missus, a soul cake.

An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry, 

Any good thing to make us all merry,

A soul cake, a soul cake, 

Please, good missus, a soul cake.

One for Peter, two for Paul, 

And three for Him that made us all.”

The little cakes are actually more like biscuits, and are delicious as they are full of spice and sultanas. They have a cross marked on the top too.

This batch of Soul Cakes are a little rough and ready! But taste great because of the spices.

Ingredients

100 g butter, softened 

100g caster sugar 

2 free-range egg yolks 

250g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 -1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon saffron (or more if necessary)

Zest of an orange

2 tbs milk 

100g sultanas

Method

Put the softened butter, caster sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until everything is combined and the mixture is creamy.

Sift the flour and spices, including the saffron. Put the mixture with the orange zest into the processor, blitzing for a couple of seconds only, then blitz in the milk a little at a time until the dough just comes together. Don’t over-mix! If the dough isn’t yellow enough, add a pinch more of saffron.

Stir in the sultanas by hand.

Form the dough into a rough ball, them roll into a sausage shape, with a rough diameter of about 50cm or 2 inches, or whatever size you want your soul cakes to be.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced or 180 degrees C non fan forced.

Wrap in grease proof paper and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or until you want to bake the cakes.

Bake for 15 minutes or until firm and just brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Take the sausage from the fridge and cut into thick wedges. Place each wedge on the baking tray. At this stage you should cut a cross on the top of each soul cake.

Great eaten warm straight from the oven. The soul cakes can be frozen too, but eat on the traditional days if possible!

ANZAC Biscuits 2021

I love seasonal baking, and 25 April is ANZAC Day. ANZAC biscuits are traditionally baked and eaten around this date.

This day commemorates the contribution of Australian and New Zealand soldiers to World War One.

I’m quite pleased with this year’s biscuits. I have tweaked my normal recipe, which is based on the “original” ANZAC recipe from The Cook and the Curator, the cooking blog of Sydney Living Museums. I picked up a few good tips from Cloudy Kitchen’s ANZAC biscuit recipe.

The first of these tips was to brown the butter, to give more depth of flavour. To make the brown butter, you need to start of with a slightly bigger quantity of butter, to make up for the loss of volume when browning. I therefore adjusted the butter up in the ingredients section.

The second tip was to cook the biscuits at a lower temperature than I would normally use – this stops the biscuits spreading too much. The result is a plump biscuit, crisp around the edges and squidgy in the middle!

The third tip was to cook both trays at the same time in the oven, as the mixture changes consistency when left for a while before cooking.

So here are my “revised” 2021 ANZAC biscuits!

Ingredients

165g salted butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.

Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat until melted. Once the butter is melted, cook for about 3-4 minutes, swirling the pan often. The butter will foam and turn a golden brown. Remove from the heat and put into a bowl to cool slightly.

Combine the melted butter and golden syrup in the same saucepan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and boiling water and whisk to combine. Remove from heat.

Mix the rolled oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter/golden syrup mixture and stir until well combined.

Take tablespoons of mixture and make into balls. Place the balls onto the baking trays, allowing space for spreading. Don’t flatten the balls!

Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are dark golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on the trays. The biscuits will firm up as they cool. Now remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin. They keep well for a few days.

Sourdough Hybrid Hot Cross Buns

I love Easter and all the baking opportunities it provides. There are so many traditional recipes with strong cultural or religious origins, and I’m as fascinated with the history of the recipes as much as with the delicious pastries and bakes themselves.

But hot cross buns are my favourite. As a bread baker I guess this is to be expected! I always make them at Easter, having a go at a different recipe each year. But in 2021 I decided to develop my own version. I have had so much experience baking with sourdough recently that I thought I could use some of that know how in a hot cross bun recipe. So this recipe is a hybrid – it uses both dry yeast and some sourdough starter. The result are well risen, light and flavourful buns.

The recipe makes 16 – but if you only want to bake 12, I have included the quantities to bake a dozen – see below.

For the observant readers who have counted 15 buns in the photos, I actually managed to get 17 buns from the dough! So I decided to bake two buns on another tray.

Ingredients

Buns

250g mix of sultanas and raisins

40mls Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat

625g strong flour

7g dried yeast

12g salt

125g sourdough starter

Zest of 1/2 an orange

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

I teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves

50g brown sugar

30g golden syrup

2 medium free-range eggs, well beaten

60g unsalted butter, in small pieces

200g full fat milk at room temperature

150g apple juice

50g candied orange peel

Cross

75g flour

75g water

3 teaspoons caster sugar

Glaze

50g caster sugar

50g golden syrup

100g water

Method

Soak the raisins and sultanas in the Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat for up to 3 hours to plump up the fruit.

Starting with the flour, add all the other ingredients (except dried fruit and candied orange peel) to a large bowl. Just make sure the yeast is on one side of the bowl and salt on the other.

Mix everything roughly together using a wooden spoon, just to amalgamate the ingredients. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Using the dough hook of an electric mixer, knead on low speed for 10 minutes until the dough is soft, shiny and passes the windowpane test. This dough is initially quite wet, so it will take 10 minutes kneading to bring it to that lovely elastic consistency you are looking for.

Add the sultanas, raisins and any residual alcohol that hasn’t soaked into the fruit, and the candied orange peel. Mix for about a minute on low to distribute the fruit evenly through the dough.

Remove the bowl from the machine and cover with a plastic bag or tea towel. Leave to prove in a warm place for 2 hours.

The dough should have doubled in size. Carefully remove the risen dough from the bowl and place on a board or bench top which has been lightly floured. Putting a little more flour on your hands to stop the dough from sticking, flatten the dough to a rough rectangle, and fold in half lengthways. Cut in two and roll each half into a sausage.

You should get 16 hot cross buns from the mixture. Take one sausage and divide into two, then divide each into 4 pieces.

To shape your buns, take one piece and roll into a ball, and with your cupped hand over the top of the ball, keep rolling on the board or bench top till you feel the dough tightening and developing a nice ball shape.

Repeat with remaining balls. Do the same thing with the other sausage.

Place the 16 balls – now buns – onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper.

Cover with a large plastic bag or a tea towel and leave to prove again. I prove this second time in the fridge overnight. You can also prove at room temperature for an hour or more until the buns have grown a little in size. (They don’t get huge – this happens in the oven.)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced or 190 degrees C non fan for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crosses by mixing the flour, water and sugar in small bowl. Use a bit of judgement here – you want a paste that is not too runny, but not so stiff that it can’t be piped. So add/subtract flour and water to get the right consistency. Fill a piping bag or a zip lock bag that you can cut the corner off with the cross mixture, and pipe lines across each row of buns, then pipe another set of lines at right angles to the first set to make the crosses.

If you’re in any doubt how to do this, YouTube has how-to videos!

Put the tray into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the buns are a dark golden brown.

As you can see from the colour of the buns in the photos, my buns are a deep burnished colour. But they are soft and moist inside!

While the buns are baking, make the glaze. Put the caster sugar, golden syrup and water into a small saucepan and heat gently on the stovetop stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes until the glaze has thickened slightly.

Once the buns are cooked, remove from the oven. Brush the warm syrup over the warm buns, making sure you brush the sides as well.

When the buns have cooled slightly, eat with lashings of good quality butter. The next day, split and toast and serve with, of course, more butter!

Hot cross buns freeze well too, so make a pile that you can store in the freezer and reheat as necessary.

NB Reheat in the oven, the buns don’t do well in the microwave.

Quantities for 12 hot cross buns

(Some quantities stay the same as it doesn’t make a huge difference to alter these quantities).

200g mix of sultanas and raisins

40mls Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat

450g strong flour

7g dried yeast

10g salt

100g sourdough starter

Zest of 1/2 an orange

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

I teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves

40g brown sugar

20g golden syrup

2 medium free-range eggs, well beaten

50g unsalted butter, in small pieces

150g full fat milk at room temperature

100g apple juice

50g candied orange peel

Cross

75g flour

75g water

3 teaspoons caster sugar

Glaze

50g caster sugar

50g golden syrup

100g water

Easter Simnel Cake

Simnel cake is traditionally made for Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. Mothering Sunday in the UK is what we call Mother’s Day here in Australia, except we mark this day in May. A bit confusing!

I’ve been very interested in the Simnel cake, what it’s made of and its history. It’s a light fruitcake with two layers of marzipan, one layer baked in the centre of the cake, and one layer placed on top of the cake. The cake is adorned with eleven balls of marzipan, representing Jesus’ Apostles, minus Judas Iscariot. This last reference reminds us that this is an Easter cake, and can also be eaten during the Easter period and on Easter Day.

So I decided to make a Simnel cake for Mothering Sunday this Easter, Sunday 14 March. I have read many recipes for the cake, and eventually decided to adapt a recipe from the Hairy Bikers. I made a few changes to create my version of the cake. Whatever way you look at it, there are not that many ways you can make a Simnel cake – actually there is pretty much only the one basic recipe with a few adaptations! The link to the Hairy Bikers original recipe is here.

My version is baked in a slightly bigger tin than most recipes specify. I wanted a cake with a bigger diameter to serve more people. I used quite a lot of marzipan in order to get good coverage on the cake. I also went with blow torching the cake rather then putting it under a grill, as this was so much easier and you can control the heat source.

Ingredients

Marzipan

335 icing sugar

260g caster sugar

525g ground almonds

3 large free-range eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons apricot jam (to stick the marzipan onto the cake)

Fruit cake

Juice and zest of an orange

Juice and zest of a lemon

500g sultanas, raisins and currants, in any mix you prefer

150g glacé cherries

225g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg, ginger, allspice – any or all of these are fine, use what you prefer

3 large free-range eggs

175g soft butter

175g brown sugar

Method

Make the marzipan first, as this needs to rest for an hour or so before it goes into the cake.

Sift the icing sugar and caster sugar into a large bowl, and then mix through the ground almonds.

Beat the eggs with the almond extract and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Stir into the dry ingredients with a large spoon or spatula to make a rough dough. Use your hands to continue to turn the mixture into a dough that is able to be rolled out.

Put some icing sugar onto a work surface – bench top or ideally a large wooden board. Knead the marzipan for a couple of minutes until it’s a smooth dough.

Put the marzipan dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for at least an hour, preferably two, to allow the ground almonds to swell and absorb some of the moisture from the eggs.

For the cake, put the orange and the lemon juice in a small saucepan and add the dried fruit and cherries. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and heat for two minutes, stirring until the liquid disappears. Be careful not to burn the fruit by cooking it dry. Remove from the heat and leave to completely cool. Putting the fruit into a bowl and sticking it in the fridge can speed things up if you’re short on time.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C non fan forced, or 140 degrees fan forced.

Grease a 22cm spring form pan and line the base with two layers of baking paper.

Put the flour and spices in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs in a smaller bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer such as a KitchenAid until light and fluffy and well mixed. Make sure all the mixture, even at the bottom of the bowl, is well incorporated.

Add the whisked eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. To stop the mixture curdling – this can easily happen when adding eggs to butter and sugar – mix in a tablespoon of flour after each egg addition.

Gently fold in the flour to the rest of the mixture by hand. Stir in the dried fruit and the orange and lemon zest. Spoon half of the mixture into the springform tin, trying to get a smooth surface.

Working with marzipan. Divide the marzipan into three equal balls. Weighing them is probably the best way to do this. Wrap two of the balls in plastic wrap to prevent them drying out.

Place a large length of baking paper on your work surface and dust with icing sugar. Put the remaining ball ono the baking paper and cover with another length. Roll the ball into a circle that’s bigger than the springform tin. You can check this by putting the cake tin on top of the rolled marzipan and making sure the marzipan is 1-2 cms bigger than the tin.

Now peel the top layer of baking paper off the marzipan and put the marzipan circle carefully on top of the cake mixture in the tin, then peel off the remaining baking paper.

Put the rest of the cake mixture on top of the marzipan and smooth the surface.

Place the springform tin into the preheated oven and bake for about approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden-brown, and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If the cake is browning quickly but is obviously not cooked, cover the top with some aluminium foil.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Then remove from the tin, peel off the lining paper, put the cake on a wire rack and leave to completely cool.

Marzipan topping. This cake is best decorated using the bottom of the cake as its flatter. Turn the cake upside down and put onto a plate or board to allow you to decorate.

Place a length of baking paper onto the work surface with more icing sugar. Put one of the marzipan balls onto the paper and cover with another piece of baking paper. As before, roll the ball into a circle that’s bigger than the springform tin. You can check this by putting the cake tin on top of the rolled marzipan and making sure the marzipan is 1-2 cms bigger than the tin.

Heat the apricot jam in a microwave on low, or in a small saucepan on low heat for a couple of minutes.

Brush the surface of the cake with the warm jam and cover with the marzipan circle. The circle should just hang over the edge of the cake. Press the marzipan gently onto the cake, easing out any lumps. You can neaten up any overhang that’s too long with a sharp knife.

Now take the remaining marzipan and roll it into eleven balls to represent the Apostles. Weigh the balls to make them uniform – 20g for small balls or 25g for bigger ones. In either case you will have marzipan left over – always welcome as a sweet treat.

Dip each ball into the warmed apricot jam. Position them round the outside of the cake.

Now for the fun part – get out your cook’s blowtorch and lightly scorch the marzipan topping and balls! Be careful not to overdo it. If you haven’t got a blowtorch, put the cake under the grill for a couple of minutes until scorched but not burnt.

Place the cake onto a serving plate or board. Put a yellow ribbon – traditional – around the cake. I went for a green ribbon, with its associations of the renewal of life, appropriate for the Easter season.

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.

 

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