Start your Christmas Culinary Countdown on Stir up Sunday

Stir up Sunday

Stir up Sunday? Christmas Culinary Countdown? What is that I hear you cry? Well this Sunday is thirty days before Christmas and a week before Advent. Advent, yes the thing with the calendar! Stir up Sunday is a Victorian tradition where the family gathered together to make the Christmas pudding or plum duff. The tradition is believed to originated from families listening to the collect for the day from the Book of Common Prayer for this particular day;

 ‘ Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. ’

Advent is observed in Christian churches as a time of waiting and preparing for the Nativity.  Advent is derived from the Latin for “coming”. So your pudding is bound in the Christian Christmas tradition. And you thought Advent was all about a calendar with little doors and chocolate. So this special time would seem good enough for me to be the perfect start posting my Christmas recipes.

A Christmas Countdown

I am going to post lots of recipes in the run up to Christmas. A collection of classic dishes and a few unexpected twists in case you don’t like Turkey, so that you will be able to cook up a cracker of a Christmas. In this post you will find lots of ideas for home baking this festive season.

Get your Christmas Bake On

Lets look at a couple of the iconic Christmas recipes the Christmas pudding and the fruit cake. Now you don’t have to be scared or be a baker capable of winning the Great British Bake Off to make a great Christmas pudding or cake. As you will see it is really about preparation and making in advance.

Just click on the dish name for the recipe.

Aunty Mary’s Christmas Pudding

“This recipe is from one of my culinary inspirations my Aunty Mary, a brilliant cook, it really is the best I’ve ever encountered with lots of dried fruits, citrus peel and good soaking in some good beer, and now I work for a brewery how the circle has turned. We used to spend most of the day sorting through the dried raisins and sultanas to make sure there were no small stones in the bags, then they would be left overnight in stout.”

Christmas fruit cake

“For those of you who like to be organised now is an ideal time to start to prepare your Classic Fruit Cake for the festive season and start preparing your Christmas pudding and your mincemeat. This is my go-to recipe for fruitcake, rich and flavoursome enough for a christening or wedding cake or our family Christmas Cake, it is a sufficiently sturdy bake to carry the weight of marzipan and icing and can be used in tiers.”

Sable pastry Christmas cookies
Sable pastry Christmas biscuits

Christmas Biscuits

“My Christmas biscuits or cookies are a definite family favourite. They are great if you want to make something with your children to decorate the Christmas tree. But don’t worry they are very tasty too.”

Mixed Jam Linzer biscuits
Assorted Linzer Biscuits

Linzer Biscuits

Linzer biscuits are made with sable pastry which is cut into rounds and baked. The top biscuit often has a small cut out which allows the jam or fruit preserve to be seen when two biscuits are sandwiched together with jam in between. The finished biscuits are dusted with icing sugar


Biscotti

“Biscotti or cantucci ( most commonly used in Tuscany ) are delicious twice-baked Italian biscuits. They are usually made with almonds. Traditionally they are served with a sweet Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo. You might also find them on the side of a cappuccino or latte. To be honest I’m very happy dipping them in nothing more than a mug of tea. We always make several batches at home, in December, as they are a wonderful handmade small gift at Christmas time.”

Sweet pastry mince pies

Homemade Buttery Mince Pies

“Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. “


Classic Christmas Cake

My Classic Fruit Cake Recipe – Crumbs it’s that time of year again!

For those of you who like to be organised now is an ideal time to start to prepare your Classic Fruit Cake for the festive season and start preparing your Christmas pudding, and your mincemeat. This is my go-to recipe for fruitcake, rich and flavoursome enough for a christening or wedding cake or our family Christmas Cake, it is a sufficiently sturdy bake to carry the weight of marzipan and icing and can be used in tiers.

Classic Christmas Cake

Classic rich Fruit Cake

It is a real favourite and we bake at least one a month, it is a great match for a nice crumbly cheese like Wensleydale or Caerphilly. I haven’t specified the dried fruit you can use a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, apricots, cranberries, prunes or figs and you can omit the nuts if you prefer and add an extra eighty grams of flour. I use raisins, sultanas, lots of cherries and dried mixed peel.

Christmas Cake.jpg

Classic Fruit Cake

750 gr Mixed Dried Fruit

200 gr Self Raising Flour

250 gr soft Unsalted Butter

250 gr light Brown Sugar

100 gr Ground Almonds

75 gr Flaked Almonds

5 large free-range Eggs

1 tablespoon Black Treacle

1 teaspoon Ground Ginger

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

½ teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

A generous pinch of Ground Cloves

½ teaspoon Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Almond extract

100 ml Brandy, Whisky or Bourbon

Zest and juice of 1 Orange

Zest and juice of 1 Lemon

Buttered, lined, deep twenty-centimeter cake tin

Put the dried fruit, zest and juice and alcohol into a large bowl and leave for twenty-four hours stirring occasionally.

Heat oven to 150C / 300 F / Gas Mark 2. Put a damp cloth onto the work surface and place your largest mixing bowl on top. Add the softened butter, sugar, treacle and almond essence and cream together. Crack the eggs one by one into a small bowl to check they are fresh, then combine and whisk together. Sift the flour, spices and baking powder into another bowl.

Add the egg mix in batches and beat into the butter and sugar mix. Add a couple of tablespoons of flour with each batch to prevent the mix from splitting. When all of the egg is mixed in add the remaining flour and spice mix and fold together until thoroughly combined. Add the soaked fruits and flaked almonds and gently stir together. Tip the cake mix into your prepared cake tin, and tap on the work surface to knock out any pockets of air. Place in the centre of the oven bake for an hour, cover the top with two layers of baking paper and turn the oven down to 140C / 275 F / Gas Mark 1 and cook for around two and a half to three more hours or until a wooden skewer inserted in the cakes centre comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. To feed your cake poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over tablespoons of your chosen alcohol, wrap in fresh baking paper and tin foil and place in a biscuit tin or plastic tub. Feed the cake with two tablespoons of alcohol every fortnight, until you marzipan it before icing.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk   Nuts   Eggs Sulphites in the dried fruit

Please see the Allergens Page


Chocolate Cupcakes

The only Chocolate Cupcake Recipe you will ever need for National Cupcake Week

My mum makes the best Butterfly cakes ( or Fairy Cakes ) in the world. Classic Victoria sponge in a little paper case, a small amount of sponge scooped out, a blob of thick buttercream, pop the sponge back, a sprinkle of icing sugar and eh voila. We still have them when my family goes to visit Grandma and Grandad. But Butterfly cakes seem to have taken a step back with the relentless rise of cupcakes which are everywhere and what exactly is the difference?

Chocolate Cupcakes

The best Chocolate and Coffee Cupcakes

As far as I can find out the cupcake is basically the bigger American cousin of the Butterfly cake, the sponge is bigger, and it is loaded with larger amounts of icing or frosting. As it is National Cupcake Week. here is a chance for you to haul in some industrial amounts of butter and sugar and make my second favourite cupcake recipe ever for Chocolate Cupcakes and most definitely the only Chocolate Cupcakes recipe you will ever need. Why is this my second favourite cupcake recipe well I have already posted the number one  Strawberry Milkshake and White Chocolate Cupcakes recipe here.

Chocolate and Coffee Buttercream Cupcakes    makes 18

For the Cupcakes

210 ml Full fat Milk

210 gr Plain Flour

220 gr Caster Sugar

120 gr good quality Cocoa Powder

80 gr Milk Chocolate Buttons

70g soft Unsalted Butter

2 large free-range Eggs

1 scant tablespoon of Baking Powder

A good pinch of Salt

 For the Icing

500 gr Icing Sugar

160 gr soft Unsalted Butter

2 tablespoons Instant Coffee

50 ml Full Fat Milk

Chocolate or Fudge Cake Decorations

Cupcake or deep Muffin Tins

 Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 / 170°C / 330 °F and line the baking trays with large paper cases. Using an electric mixer or food processor mix the butter, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together until they form a sandy, crumb-like texture. In a bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together. With the mixer on a slow speed, gradually pour half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and mix thoroughly until combined and the batter is smooth and thick.

Chocolate Cupcake Batter

Cupcake Batter

Once all the lumps are gone gradually pour in the remaining liquid and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the milk chocolate buttons. Evenly divide the cake batter between the prepared cases and bake in the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before removing them from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the butter, beat together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. Heat the milk until scalding in a microwave and in a jug, mix in the instant coffee and stir until it is all dissolved and allow to cool. Gradually pour the cold coffee into the icing while mixing on a slow speed, then turn the mixer up to a high speed and beat the icing until light and fluffy. Scoop the whipped-up icing into a piping bag with a star nozzle, ready to ice the completely cool cupcakes. Decorate with the chocolate or fudge decorations.


Clovelly, Devon

Classic Sweet Scone Recipe

I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone;
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone.

However you pronounce the word everyone loves a scone, we are eating our way through North Devon and the Devonshire Cream Tea is a big favourite. To my mind, at least a large pot of freshly brewed tea and a plate of warm scones ready to be smothered in clotted cream ( never whipped and just don’t even bother with a tin of squirty cream ) and strawberry jam is one of civilisations greatest treats. There is some controversy between those great rivals Devon and Cornwall as to the correct way of eating a scone, cream, and jam or scone, jam, and cream, but they are united on no butter.

Scones with jam and clotted cream

Scones with jam and clotted cream

Families all have their own favoured recipes; my mum used the Bero flour baking book and the recipes can often include raisins or currents and even mixed peel and glacé cherries. In America blueberry scones are popular, you can also make savoury scones with ingredients such as cheese, bacon, onion, dill, and chives, cheese scones are almost the New Zealand national dish. The baked scone should not be confused with the dropped scone, or drop scone, which is like a pancake, and made by dropping or pouring batter onto a hot griddle or frying pan to cook it.

Clovelly, Devon

Clovelly, Devon

Now we haven’t visited too many gardens and stately homes on our holiday as the girls are a little young, we did discover Clovelly* and it’s fantastic almost vertical cobbled streets, but the author Sarah Clelland seems to have the almost perfect job she has visited and wrote about scones at over a hundred National Trust properties. I’m not sure I can think of ten different scone recipes so maybe I need to go try some more. In the meantime, here is my go-to scone recipe.

*We discovered Clovelly has a Channel Islands connection and was used as a location for the film ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’. Just don’t ever ask why Guernsey was not a location.

Classic Sweet Scone Recipe

The secret to making light crumbly scones is to handle the dough as little and as lightly as possible. Many recipes call for buttermilk, this is not always easy to get hold of, so this recipe substitutes a little lemon juice and milk. The acid helps activate the baking powder to aerate the scone mix.

350 gr Self Raising Flour, plus more for dusting

85 gr cold unsalted Butter, cut into cubes

175 ml Full Fat Milk

40 gr Golden Caster Sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Lemon Juice

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

A generous pinch of Salt

A beaten egg with a little milk for the glaze

Pre-heat your oven to 425 F / 200 C / Gas Mark 7. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl and using a metal whisk, mix thoroughly together. Add the butter then rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Add the golden caster sugar and gently mix in with a fork.

Pour the milk into a small heavy-bottomed pan and warm over a low heat. It does not want to boil or form a skin it should be just warm to the touch. Add the lemon juice and stir, make a dip in the middle of your crumb mix, add the milk and quickly combine with the fork. Once the mix comes together to stop, it is really important from now on to try not to overwork the dough.

Now comes the slightly mess part, sprinkle some extra flour on to your work surface, over the dough and onto your hands, tip the dough on to the flour and gently knead it three or four times to make a smooth formed ball of dough. Sprinkle a little more flour then gently pat the dough down until it is a level four centimetres thick. Take your cutter or a sharp cook’s knife if you prefer diamonds and press straight into the dough trying not to twist. Place the cut scones onto a flat baking tray. Combine any remaining dough into a ball and press into the cutter, this last scone will probably not rise as much as the others. Brush the scones with the egg wash and carefully place into your oven.

Bake for ten minutes until the scones are risen and golden on the top. Eat still warm, generously topped with jam and clotted cream. The scones can be frozen, defrosted and warmed through in the oven.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk  eggs (1).jpg

Please see the Allergens Page