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Friday, 18 November 2016

Christmas Fruit Cake

Festive Baking Time

It will have been roughly
six weeks since my gorgeous
jewelled box of booze soaked
fruits have been waiting
patiently to be used,
and the time has come to
get out my favourite cake tin  
and get cracking.

This Sunday is Stir up Sunday,
the special day in our baking calendar 
that is dedicated to 
getting our groove on
with all our Christmas baking 
and preparation.

A perfect time get cracking with this
lovely recipe.

I have used a tin I bought in 
Lakeland many years ago,
 which has been lovingly 
the Christmas cake tin.

It's a good, strong 8 inch tin which always
seems to produce a lovely even bake.

Lakeland is one of those shops I
have to wander around,
 and come out of with some random purchase,
that I "had to have"
but didn't really need.

Miss. Bee  refers to Lakeland as a
"mam shop".

In other words,
there is nothing in there of any
faint interest to her!

One of my best tips I can give you when it comes
to baking a fruit cake is to
line your tin well.

Over many years of experiencing 
well baked disasters,
I have found spending a little time on
lining your tin well will pay
a huge reward at the end when you remove
the cake and find beautiful
golden brown sides to the cake.

Double line your tin with good quality
baking parchment and leave a collar
approximately 3 inches above the top of the cake tin.

This will shield the cake whilst baking.

Folding the sheet in half will give just about
enough height for this.

I fold the folded edge back over by about an inch
and make a small cut about a inch apart.

This will allow the paper to sit neatly 
around the base of the tin before you
put the base layer in.

I do find that about two hours 
into the baking process the top of
the cake can start to look done.

I tend to put a cover over at this stage just to
protect the cake from over baking.

The easiest thing for this is a 
piece of baking parchment
crumpled into a ball,
unroll it and then mould it into the
shape of the top of the tin.

Drop the cover down into the collar of
the lining parchment but do not force it down
onto the cake itself.
This will protect the cake without affecting
the baking process itself.

Now to get down to the cake.

This recipe is adapted from Ruth Clemens
a.k.a the Pink Whisk.

Ruth has shared some amazing recipes
over the years and this
has got to be the one recipe I cannot
recommend more.

It is simple to follow,
and the couple of little changes I have made
are insignificant to the original recipe,
but it  tastes delicious.

Ruth suggests a long, 
slow bake to really bring out the flavour
of the cake.

Having tried several ways of baking
fruit cakes over the years,
I have to agree that the slower bake really
does make a huge difference to not only
the flavour of the cake but also the texture.

You will need :
1 x soaked fruit
225g softened butter
150g light brown sugar
75g dark brown sugar
2 tbsp treacle
5 large eggs
285g plain flour
2 rounded tsp mixed cake spice 

1. Pre heat the oven to 110c(fan)/gas mark 1
Cream together the butter and sugars 
until they are light and fluffy.

2. Add the treacle and beat in well.

3. Add each egg and mix well before
adding the next.

I always break the egg into a little jug before adding
to the mixture.
This makes sure the odd bit of egg shell is avoided

4. Next add the flour and mixed spices.
Give it a last stir up and then you are ready 
for my favourite part,
adding the fruit.

5. Gently peel off the lid from your soaked fruit
and just take a second the 
inhale the amazing
smell that will be unleashed 
on your sense of smell.

It is one of those treats that will
evoke every memory of Christmas from your
childhood -
helping your grandmother to
make the Christmas cake in the 
kitchen when you were
a child,
being the chosen one to get the first
slice of the Christmas cake when it was 
cut on Christmas day,
my list could go on!

But I digress,
back to the preparation.

Scrape every last raisin and drip of licour
from your storage bowl into the cake mixture
and gently but firmly stir the mixture until
the fruit looks evenly distributed.

Pour into you prepared cake tin,
smooth off the top of the mixture
and bake in the oven for 
3 hours 45 minutes.

Yes I know it seems like a long time,
but trust me it really is worth it.
Plus the house will smell amazing
for a whole lot longer.

You now have plenty of time to clean up
and of course the most important
part of any cake,
cleaning the spoon.


Be sure to keep an eye on the baking.
I start checking mine after about 2 to 2.5 hours.
If the top starts to look dark brown it's time to
put the hat on!
(see above notes)

Keep checking the cake,
and when a skewer comes out clean,
remove from the oven and allow to cool
completely before removing from the tin.

Once fully cooled,
remove from the tin and it's ready for wrapping,

Lay out two layers of foil and 
two layers of greaseproof paper
like the picture below.

A cross of foil

now a cross of baking parchment on top of the foil

Remove the baking parchment from your cake 
but leave the base disc if you can
as this will help when you are
feeding your cake with the alcohol.

Pop your cake on top of the paper
and foil,
and give it a good basting with
your chosen alcohol.
I used rum, 
but brandy is another popular choice.

Wrap the cake and store in
an airtight container.

Pop it into a cupboard away from direct sunlight
and heat.

Feed it every 3 to 4 days for the next couple of weeks,
or until the cake will not absorb
any more liquid.

That's it - job done!

You can decorate the cake when you
are ready. 
There are so many options for
decorating from 
very traditional royal icing
to more modern fondant designs.

The internet is a wealth of inspiration 
when it comes to cake decorating,
and I would love to see your designs.

Until next time,

enjoy your day.


Monday, 26 September 2016

Apple and Blackberry Jam

Bramble and Bramley Jam

I love September.
Apart from it being my birthday month,
I  have always enjoyed
how the month plays out.

It's that time of year when
you can feel the air is changing a little,
and it is just a little fresher
when we leave the house
in the morning.

The dark nights are creeping in and
the temperature is dropping
once the sun has gone.

I think Autumn maybe on it's way.

Following a recent day out
with my family
down to Bedale,
we made the
serendipitous discovery
of a huge Bramble bush
in the car park.

We always park down by the river
and it has become a ritual
to feed the ducks before we leave.

I make sure to empty the
bread bin before we leave
so that the children
have plenty of
treats to throw to the ducks.

Though I fear Little Bee was just a bit
over enthusiastic this time.
He threw in a whole bread bun,
much to the amusement of his sister,
and the ducks seem more than happy.

On returning to the car
Miss Bee commented on all
the black berries
which I must confess,
I had completely missed.

I discovered an emergency carrier bag
in the boot of the car
and berry picking commenced.

We managed to get quite a haul,
almost a full kilogram,
and some pretty purple fingers to boot.

I had a browse around my recipe books
at home and decided to try
this lovely recipe for
Bramble and Bramley Jam.

It is from Vivien Lloyd 
and is very simple
but tastes delicious.

I got about six medium size
jars of jam from this recipe.

They look beautiful stacked up on my shelf
and the beautiful deep, 
jewelled purple
colour looks so tempting.

I have given a couple away as gifts already
and the recipients seemed very pleased.

I have detailed the recipe below but the
link above will give you the same information.

You will need :

1kg(2lb) blackberries
200ml (7floz) water

340g (12oz) peeled, cored and sliced cooking apples ( prepared weight)

1.4kg (3lb) granulated cane sugar

1. Pick over the blackberries and place them
in a large pan with half the water.
I used my jam pan for this.

Bring to the boil, then simmer until tender.
Place the apples in a separate pan
with the remaining water
and cook until the fruit is pulpy.

Meanwhile warm the sugar
in a low oven,
140C/275F/Gas 1.

2. Place the cooked apples
into the preserving pan
with the blackberries,
Add the warmed sugar
and stir until it has dissolved,
then bring the jam quickly
to a rolling boil.
You benefit from a
thermometer at this stage.

This took about 5 minutes for me.

3. As soon as setting point is reached,
remove the pan from the heat and
leave it to stand for a few minutes.

I prefer to drop a little of the jam
onto a cold saucer and if you
get a little crinkle on the surface
when gently pushed with your finger tip
you know it's ready.

4.  Remove any scum with a metal spoon
by gently pushing out towards
the edge of the pan
and then scooping it  away.

5. Gently stir the jam and pour it into the jars,
 up to the brim.

Seal the jars immediately
with new twist top lids.
Leave the jars upright and
undisturbed until cold.

Label the jars and store in a cool cupboard.

These will keep for approximately
six months unopened
but they are perfect for gifts so
will they last that long?

Have fun with your foraging
and until next time,
enjoy your day.