My home-made luxury mincemeat has been ‘resting’ nicely for a month. It’s now just about ready for me to make my first batch of mince pies.
We’ve got the luxury mincemeat, so how about a bit of luxury pastry too?!
I’ve gone for a buttery shortcrust pastry flavoured with almond. The flavours work so well together – and make for the perfect Christmas treat.
Compliment them with a cup of tea or glass of mulled wine, comfy chair and real fire (sleeping dog optional). It’s what Christmas (in fact, winter in general) is all about for us.
Click here to save my recipe to Pinterest for later!
- 180g/6⅓oz plain flour
- 70g/2½oz 'tant pour tant' (35g/1¼oz icing sugar + 35g/1¼oz ground almonds)
- pinch of salt
- 125g/4½oz very cold butter, cubed
- 1½-2tbs cold water
- A little beaten egg
- Put the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds and salt in a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to combine
- Add the butter and pulse again until you get to the fine breadcrumb stage
- Whilst still pulsing, add the ice cold water until the mixture begins to get lumpy - like dry scrambled eggs
- Empty ⅔ of the pastry on to 2 lengths of cling film layered one over the other at right angles
- Form the dough into a ball by lifting & bringing together the 4 ends of the cling film. Repeat with the remaining ⅓ of the pastry
- Chill in the fridge for ½ to 1 hour
- Once chilled, preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease a 12-hole or two, 6-hole muffin tins
- Lightly flour your work surface, remove your larger ball of dough from the fridge, unwrap and divide it into 12 equal pieces (about 20-22g each)
- One by one, roll each piece of dough into a ½cm thick round shape. Cut into perfect circles with a cookie cutter (or upturned drinking glass if you don't have one) that's slightly wider than the hole of your muffin tin. **Rolling each pie case individually means that you don't overwork the pastry by re-rolling over & over again**
- Gently press the pastry rounds into the muffin tin holes (handy hint: use a small lump of pastry to do this if you have long fingernails!)
- Spoon mincemeat into each pastry case and press down gently to level. Don't overfill
- Get the smaller batch of dough out of the fridge and again divide into 12 equal pieces (about 11g each)
- One by one, roll each piece of dough into a ½cm thick round shape. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. I used a star-shaped cutter but you can make other Christmas-y shapes like holly leaves, snowflakes, fir trees and the like!
- Top each pie with the shaped pastry before brushing the tops with a little beaten egg
- Bake for 12-15 minutes
- Allow to cool in the tin completely before removing
- Put on a cooling rack or serving plate and sprinkle/dredge with icing sugar
This week, we’ve watched the first in Rick Stein’s new series, Rick Stein’s Road To Mexico. His first port of call was California where he met up with Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse. While there, one of her chefs was filmed making a rhubarb galette – it looked amazing. It’s no longer rhubarb season, so I’ve made a pear galette instead.
I much prefer rustic, unfussy food like this to haute cusine with all its foams, purées and the like. A galette is just the kind of rustic dessert I crave on a cold autumn evening. A circle of sweet pastry covered with in-season fruit and roughly folded in on itself, free-form.
Instead of a pear galette (or rhubarb), you could make one with stone fruits such as peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots. How about apple & pecan, fig, blueberry or cherry?
A savoury galette with autumn & winter vegetables is also a great idea; carrots, beetroot, caramelised onion… with cheeses and/or herbs – the variations are endless!
It’s such an easy, versatile dish to prepare and cook – pastry with whatever meat, veg or fruit that you have to hand.
- 320g/11oz plain flour
- 2tbsp caster sugar
- ¼tsp salt
- 115ml/4fl oz cold butter, cubed
- 4tbsp cold water
- 2 dessert pears
- 3tbsp Demerara sugar
- 2tbsp fine semolina
- 25g/1oz flaked almonds
- 2tbsp melted butter
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, caster sugar and salt
- Using a food processor (on pulse) or hand pastry blender, cut in the cold butter until the butter is evenly distributed but still in large, visible pieces
- Add the cold water all at once
- Pulse until it begins to come together
- Empty the pastry on to 2 lengths of cling film layered one over the other at right angles
- Form the dough into a ball by lifting & bringing together the 4 ends of the cling film
- Flatten the dough into a disk inside the cling film and chill in the fridge for at ½ to 1 hour
- Once chilled, preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6
- Core & evenly slice the pears and put them into a medium-sized mixing bowl
- Sprinkle over 2tbsp of the Demerara sugar and toss to cover the pear slices evenly
- Tear off 2 sheets of parchment paper of at least 35½2 (14"2)
- Roll the dough out between the two sheets into a 30cm (12") circle
- Slide the dough on to a baking tray
- Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle the semolina evenly over the top of the dough
- Lay the slices of pear on to the top of the dough in a circle - leaving a 2cm/¾" gap from the edge. Make the slices slightly overlap and ensure you cover the entire surface
- Sprinkle over the remaining tablespoon of the Demerara sugar and the flaked almonds
- Fold the edge of the pastry over, making sure you overlap it on to itself as you go around
- Brush the melted butter over the crust edge
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown
- Slide the parchment with the galette on to a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes before consuming
- Serve warm with cream or ice cream
A biscuit recipe twice in as many weeks. We’re on a roll! This week, I’ve made a batch of delicious fig rolls… nothing like those dry horrors you tend to get in the shops. The pastry is buttery, crumbly and melt in the mouth; the filling is sweet, figgy and boozy – just lovely!
Jacobs is the brand that most people in the UK associate with fig rolls. Americans have Fig Newtons and the French, Figolu.
There’s a fair amount of debate online on the subject of, “Fig rolls: slice before or after baking?”. I decided to conduct my own experiment to find out.
I’ve decided that I prefer them to be sliced before. The pastry is neater and the fig filling softly oozes using this method.
Disagree with my opinion? Have a look at my photographic proof below! The two on the left were sliced prior to cooking and the pair on the right, after.
If you’ve given industrially manufactured fig rolls a try, not liked them and have turned your back on them – try making your own. Believe me, you’ll wonder what took you so long to embrace them!
- 125g/4½oz plain flour
- 75g/2⅔oz plain wholemeal flour
- 25g/¾oz ground almonds
- ½tsp baking powder
- 2tsp caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 140g/5oz cold butter, diced
- 1 egg yolk
- 2tbsp milk
- 200g/7oz dried figs, stems removed, roughly chopped
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 2tbsp dark rum
- 2tbsp water
- 2tbsp muscovado sugar
- ½tsp mixed spice
- 1 egg, beaten
- In a food processor or large mixing bowl, combine the flours, ground almonds, baking powder, caster sugar and salt in a large bowl or food processor
- Pulse/rub in the butter to make crumbs
- Mix in the egg yolk and just enough milk to bring it together into a coherent dough
- shape into a rough rectangle, wrap and chill for about ½ an hour
- In a small saucepan, bring the figs 2 tbsp water, 2tbsp dark rum, lemon juice, sugar and spice to a simmer. Cook gently for a few minutes until softened
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Lightly flour a work surface and roll the pastry out to around 20cmx30cm and ½cm thick. Cut in half lengthwise to make 2 long strips
- Put a line of filling down one side of each, leaving a slight gap between it and the edge
- Brush the edge with water and fold the pastry over the top of the filling pressing down gently to seal
- Cut into 4cm lengths and arrange on the baking sheet
- Brush the tops with beaten egg before baking for 20-25 minutes until golden brown
- Allow to cool on a wire rack before eating
It’s been a while since biscuits were featured in our Thursday Cakes & Bakes post, so we started listing the shop-bought biscuits we purchase regularly for potential ideas. Hobnobs sprang to mind – both plain and chocolate coated varieties. Lots of other people must like them too as Hobnobs always make the top ten list for Britain’s favourite biscuit. So today we have a home-made version of this classic brew accompaniment.
It’s a very straightforward recipe and method… and a short cooking time. You could rustle up a batch in the time it takes to get to the shop!
The resulting biscuits are golden brown and very delicious indeed. We left half plain and covered half in chocolate to cater for both preferences. Just one last decision – tea or coffee.
- 140g/5oz butter
- 140g/5oz sugar
- 1tbs milk
- 1tsp golden syrup
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 140g/5oz self-raising flour
- 110g/4oz porridge oats
- Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2
- Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale & fluffy
- Beat in the milk, golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda
- Stir in the flour and oats, combining well
- Divide and shape into 25-30 equal-sized balls (about a desertspoon-ful of dough for each) rolling between the palms of your hands
- Place 5cm/2" apart on the prepared baking sheet - they spread out a lot during cooking!
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool
- Store in an airtight container
I’ve made & posted a version of red velvet cake on the blog before. Today, I’ve used an alternative recipe to produce a natural red velvet layer cake.
I’ve done a lot of research into getting that bright red colour naturally. Beetroot powder instead of red food colouring and un-dutched cocoa powder instead of the usual alkalised type found more usually in the shops.
You see, this cake is all about chemistry. It’s the pH magic that’s created when the acid of the non-alkaline cocoa powder, the buttermilk and the vinegar are introduced to the bicarbonate of soda. As an aside, our local supermarket was out of buttermilk so I had to make my own. It’s really simple and a good tip to remember. Add a tablespoonful of white vinegar or lemon juice to a cup (235ml/8⅓fl oz) of milk, allow to stand for 5 minutes – there’s your home-made buttermilk!
The cake wasn’t the radioactive shade of red that you get when using food colouring. I think I’d add a little bit more beetroot powder next time to get a slightly redder shade however – my natural red velvet recipe is work in progress! Some people comment on an ‘earthy’ taste to their cake when using beetroot, but I can’t say I noticed any. A delicious taste was detected that’s for sure!
- 200g/7oz unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
- 420g/15oz plain flour
- 75g/2¾oz cocoa powder
- 50g/1¾oz beetroot powder
- 375g/13oz golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1½tsp vanilla extract
- 335ml/11¾ fl oz buttermilk
- 1½tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1½tsp white distilled vinegar
- 75g/2¾oz unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 450g/1lb icing sugar
- 190g/6¾oz full-fat cream cheese, chilled
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease 4 x 20cm sandwich tins and line with baking parchment
- Combine the flour, cocoa and beetroot powder in a large bowl and set aside
- In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together
- Slowly whisk in the beaten eggs, then the vanilla extract
- Start adding the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches, whisking well but slowly after each addition
- Add the buttermilk and stir until smooth
- Working quickly, combine the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in a small bowl, then fold it into the cake mixture
- Once incorporated, divide the batter between the prepared cake tins
- Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean
- Remove and cool slightly in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely
- Trim the cakes so they're level
- Rub the butter into the icing sugar to resemble fine breadcrumbs
- Add the chilled cream cheese and beat until smooth
- Stir in the vanilla extract
- Fit a large piping bag with a plain nozzle and fill with the frosting
- Place the first cake on a cake stand or plate and pipe large pearls of frosting on the top, starting at the outside and working your way inwards
- Top with the next layer of cake and repeat until all the layers are lined up and the top is fully decorated with frosting
We’ve just about made our way through last week’s mammoth sourdough coffee chocolate cake. This week, Justin has requested another afternoon tea cake – so I’ve obliged with this Swedish almond cake… one of his favourite flavours!
I came across the loaf cake on the food blog, BakingBar. It’s a family recipe, passed down by David’s grandma.
I only made a couple of little tweaks to the original recipe; I omitted the ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, added a sprinkling of flaked almonds and divided the batter into two, smaller loaf tins.
As they baked, the smell of almond wafted through the house – I could barely wait for them to be taken out of the oven before I was ready to slice and devour!
Do sit tight and be patient though, allowing the loaf to cool for half an hour or so really does make all the difference. Brew yourself a lovely cup of tea, cut a couple of slices, take a set, put your feet up and tuck in!
- 280g/10oz caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 160ml/5⅔ fl oz milk
- 1½tsp almond extract
- 150g/5¼oz plain flour
- 115g/4oz butter, melted
- ½tsp baking powder
- 30g/1oz flaked almonds
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC/ºF/Gas mark
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg
- Beat in the milk a little at a time
- Beat in the almond extract
- In a separate, medium-sized mixing bowl sieve together the flour and baking powder
- Add the dry mixture to the wet and combine
- Fold the melted butter into the batter
- Pour the batter equally into two greased & lined 500g/18oz loaf tins
- Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top of both
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes away clean
- Remove from the oven and allow the loaves to cool on their tins for 20 minutes
- Dredge with icing sugar, cut into slices and serve
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