Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Triple Chocolate and Chestnut Yule Log



Chestnut Yule Log with Penguin Robin and Holly Fondant Decorations

Slice of Chestnut Yule Log with Penguin Robin and Holly Fondant Decorations


Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you all had a great stress-free day :) I had a bit of a baking marathon, baking dishes for my family as well as my boyfriend's. So don't be surprised that my next few (or several!) posts will be about the dishes I made.

First up is my yule log - a chocolate Swiss roll, which I filled with a sweetened chestnut puree and a chestnut white chocolate mousse. I covered the cake with a whipped milk/dark chocolate ganache, as I didn't want the cake to be overly bitter. 

I finally added some fondant decorations to my cake to give it a festive flavour.

The recipe was surprisingly straightforward - don't be put off by the fatless sponge - if you follow my instructions it will work I promise! This cake is suitable for children and adults so is perfect as a treat between Christmas and New Year's.

Makes 1 Yule log (serves 10-12)

Ingredients:

For the sponge:

  • 4 eggs
  • 100g light soft brown sugar
  • 65g self raising flour
  • 40g good quality cocoa powder


For the chestnut puree:

  • 100g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts
  • 120ml (1 cup) milk
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


For the chestnut white chocolate mousse:

  • 100g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts, chopped
  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 1/2 sheet of gelatine


For the chocolate ganache:

  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids)
  • Pinch of sea salt


To finish:

  • Blocks of fondant icing (I used green, red, black, yellow and white)

Method:

For the sponge:

1. Preheat the oven to 200c (180c fan)/400f/gas mark 6. Grease and line the base of a 33 x 20cm baking tray (with at least 1cm in depth).

2. Use an electric whisk to whisk the eggs with the brown sugar until the mixture has at least doubled in volume, and has lightened in colour and a ribbon of mixture forms when the whisk is lifted from the bowl (about 5 minutes).

3. Carefully sift in the flour and cocoa powder, and then use a big metal spoon to cut and fold the flour into the mixture. Try to knock as little air out of the mixture as possible. As soon as no more lumps of flour are visible, stop folding.

4. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 6-8 minutes until the cake is slightly springy to the touch. 

5. Carefully take the sponge out of the tray onto a clean tea towel, leaving the greaseproof paper on (and touching the towel). With the long end towards you, roll the sponge up, rolling the towel with the sponge. Leave the sponge to cool rolled up. 

For the puree:

1. Place all of the ingredients for the puree into a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved, then leave simmering for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

2. Use a food processor or blender to blitz the mixture until smooth. 

For the chestnut and white chocolate mousse:

1. Finely chop the white chocolate and set aside. Meanwhile soak the gelatine in cold water until it is clear and soft (about 5 minutes).

2. Bring 50ml (3 tbsp) of the double cream and the soaked gelatine to a boil in a saucepan. Take the saucepan off the heat and pour in the chopped white chocolate. Beat until the white chocolate has melted and set aside to cool. 

3. Whisk the remaining 250ml double cream until soft peaks form (when the whisk is lifted out of the cream a peak forms that topples over at the tip). Fold the white chocolate mixture into the whisked double cream.

4. Fold in the chopped chestnuts and set aside.

For the chocolate ganache:

1. Finely chop the milk and dark chocolate. Meanwhile bring the cream to the boil in a saucepan. 

2. Once boiling, take the pan off the heat and pour in the chopped chocolate and salt. Beat until smooth then set aside to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until the ganache looks spreadable (about half an hour). 

3. Take out of the fridge, and leave at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Use an electric whisk to whip the ganache until is has thickened and holds it's shape when piped.

4. Spoon into a piping bag lined with an open star nozzle (I used a Wilton 1M nozzle), and set aside until needed.

To assemble:

1. Unroll the cooled sponge. Spread the chestnut puree evenly onto the sponge, leaving a 1/2cm gap around the edges.

2. Spread on the chestnut and white chocolate ganache, and smooth evenly onto the sponge, again leaving a 1/2cm gap around the edges.

3. Roll the sponge back up, peeling away the greaseproof paper so that none is in the sponge. After rolling, turn so that the seam (where the ends of the sponge meet at the end of the roll) is underneath.

4. Cut a third of the cake off and position to form a branch on the rest of the cake.

5. Pipe lines of ganache on the cake to resemble the wood. Pipe spirals on the end to resemble the ends of the log.

6. Make decorations out of the fondant icing. To make the holly leaves, I used a small leaf fondant cutter and green fondant icing. For the berries I simply rolled small amounts of red fondant into balls.

For the robin, I dyed the white fondant brown (using concentrated ivory food colouring), then decorated with a red belly and yellow beak and feet. 

For the penguin I used black fondant for the head and body, white fondant for the belly and face, yellow fondant for the feet and beak, and more black fondant for the eyes and wings.

7. Enjoy!!


Chestnut Yule Log with Penguin Robin and Holly Fondant Decorations

Slice of Chestnut Yule Log with Penguin Robin and Holly Fondant Decorations

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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Eggnog Mince Pies

Custard topped Mince Pie


Custard topped Mince Pie


This week, I decided to vary my classic mince pie recipe, adding a custard layer on the mincemeat, which had been lightly splashed with brandy. It has the feelings of eggnog and mincemeat in a mouthful, and the creaminess of the custard is delicious against the crisp pastry shells. 

You can buy store bought mincemeat or make your own (my recipe for mincemeat is here). 
If these are for kids/alcohol haters, omit the brandy and add something like orange juice instead.

Makes 12 pies

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 190g (1 & 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 45g (3 tbsp) icing sugar
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 90g (4 & 1/2 tbsp) butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp water

For the filling:
  • 400g (1 & 1/4 cups) jar good quality mincemeat
  • 500ml (2 cups) milk (I use skimmed, but whole milk would give a richer result)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 70g (1/3 cup) sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) brandy (or orange juice)
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • Zest of one orange

Method:

1. Lightly grease the base and sides of a 12 cup deep muffin tray.

2. Prepare the pastry. Into a large bowl sieve the plain flour, icing sugar, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

3. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Be patient at this point and make sure no large clumps of butter remain.

4. Add the egg yolk and water. Bring the dough together with your hands. Knead lightly into a ball.

5. Roll the dough out between two layers of clingfilm, until it is around the thickness of a pound coin (around 2mm). Cut out 10cm circles (using a fluted cutter) and gently transfer the the muffin tray. Chill for 20 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 200c (180c fan)/430f/gas mark 6.

7. Place a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into each tart case (so that it is between 1/2 and 2/3 full). Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the pastry is lightly golden. Set aside to cool.

8. Once cool, prepare the custard. In a medium saucepan heat the milk with the vanilla extract.

9. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, orange zest, corn flour and plain flour until smooth. Once the milk/vanilla mixture is gently simmering, pour over the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

10. Return the eggy mixture to the saucepan, and stir constantly until thickened. This will only take a few minutes. Whisk in the brandy or juice. 

11. Pour into a measuring jug (for easier pouring), and pour the custard on the top of each mince pie, until they are completely filled. Place in the fridge to set for around half an hour.

12. Enjoy cold or warmed :)


Custard topped Mince Pie

Custard topped Mince Pie


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Saturday, 10 December 2016

Festive Cinnamon-spiced Macarons

Cinnamon spiced Macarons filled with Cinnamon Buttercream

Cinnamon spiced Macarons filled with Cinnamon Buttercream



Here's a recipe for macarons, a french almond biscuit/pastry typically sandwiched together with a creamy filling. They are notoriously tricky to bake (and oddly expensive to buy) so I thought I'd give them a go.

I'm not going to lie - it took a few attempts to get these working. However, yesterday I found success and I'll share my tips with you guys :) Ideally you want to end up with biscuits that are slightly shiny, with no cracks. They're crisp on the outside but have a light soft texture in the middle.

I coloured mine a light yellow colour, and filled them with a cinnamon buttercream, which I also lightly spiced with ginger. Think the warming inside of a cinnamon swirl.

The end results were bliss (if not perfectly even in size), and I'd really recommend giving them a go.

They would make the perfect addition to a Christmas food hamper, and would really impress whoever you were giving them too :)

The only equipment you need is a baking tray and a piping bag - no special nozzles required!

They're written in the recipe but here are the key points where mistakes could be made:

1. Use free-range egg whites. Caged eggs give worse meringues in my experience, and this is crucial for a good macarons.
2. Grind the almonds with the icing sugar, and sieve them. Not doing this can lead to grainy-ness and an uneven bake.
3. When whisking the meringue (the meringue is used to make the macarons), make sure the peaks are stiff!
4. Leave the piped macarons until a skin forms. Not doing this will lead to cracking.
5. Gently sandwich two macarons together - they are delicate creatures.

Makes 12 (24 biscuits sandwiched together)

Ingredients:

For the macarons:

  • 125g (1 cup) ground almonds
  • 125g (1 & 1/4 cups) icing sugar
  • 90g (around 3 medium eggs, or 6 tbsp) free-range egg whites (use the best quality egg whites you can, and make sure they're as fresh as possible)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • Concentrated gel food colouring (optional, I used an ivory concentrated gel)

For the buttercream:

  • 100g (1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp) softened butter
  • 200g (2 cups) icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp ground cinnamon (to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1-2 tbsp milk

Method:

1. Whizz the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor (or a high-speed blender such as a Nutribullet) until very fine. Pass the mixture through a sieve into a medium mixing bowl.

2. Add 40g (about 1 & 1/3 medium, or 2 tbsp & 2 tsp) egg whites to the ground almonds/icing sugar, and beat to form a paste.

3. Heat the caster sugar and water in a saucepan gently until the sugar has melted. Bring to the boil and heat until a sugar thermometer reads 115c/240f.

4. Meanwhile, in a completely grease free bowl (I find glass bowls work best), whisk 50g (about 1 & 2/3 medium) egg whites until they are very frothy, and a soft peak is formed when the whisk is lifted from the mixture. (Soft peak means that the mixture forms a tip that topples over to one side).
I used an electric hand whisk for this, but a whisk attachment on an electric mixer would work well too. I wouldn't recommend doing this by hand unless you want a bicep workout.

5. Pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites, whisking constantly. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted from the mixture (by stiff peak, I mean that a peak is formed when the whisk is lifted, which does not topple over to one side). BE PATIENT at this stage - it will probably take 5-10 minutes. You have effectively made an Italian meringue at this stage.

6. Colour the egg white/sugar meringue mixture to your desired shade.

7. Add a tablespoon of the meringue to the almond/icing sugar/egg paster, and beat well to loosen the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining meringue mixture, until the meringue is evenly distributed. Fill a piping bag, and cut off 1cm from the end.

8. Place a small amount of macaron mixture onto each corner of two baking trays, and line the trays with  baking parchment.

9. Pipe 4cm circles onto the tray. Hold the piping bag directly above where you want to pipe, and pipe enough mixture to make a 4cm circle. To make things more consistent (I didn't do this but it's a good idea to do if you have time), draw 4cm circles on the opposite side of the greaseproof paper, and use this as a guide to make equal macarons.

10. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, leaving a 2cm/1/2 inch gap between each macaron.

11. You should see a tip on each macaron, left by the piping bag. Gently pick up and drop the baking trays on the surface. This allows the macarons to settle.

12. Preheat the oven to 170c (150c fan)/325f/Gas mark 3.

12. Leave the macarons for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until a skin has formed on the macarons. You can test this by lightly pressing a macaron - if the mixture doesn't stick to your finger, the skin has formed.

13. Bake the macarons for 8-10 minutes until they are firm. Keep a close eye on them as they burn quickly.

14. Take the baking parchment carrying the macarons off the trays and leave the macarons to cool fully. Then carefully peel the macarons from the baking paper.

15. Make the buttercream. Place the butter in a medium mixing bowl, and beat until very soft. Sift in the icing sugar, and then add the ground cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Add a tablespoon of milk, and then start to cream the butter into the icing sugar with a wooden spoon. Keep beating until the mixture is smooth and slowly drops off the spoon when lifted from the bowl. Add drops of milk if the mixture is too stiff.

16. Taste the buttercream, and add more cinnamon if desired. Spoon into a piping bag.

17. Flip half of the macarons over and pipe buttercream onto each flipped base. Gently press a non-flipped base onto the buttercream-covered macarons.

18. To present my macarons I used the remaining buttercream to stick the macarons in two lines. These would also look beautiful in a box or gift bag.

19. Enjoy!!

Cinnamon spiced Macarons filled with Cinnamon Buttercream

Cinnamon spiced Macarons filled with Cinnamon Buttercream

Tammymum


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Saturday, 3 December 2016

Classic Mince Pies with A Twist

Star topped Mince Pies


Here's a real classic now that December is upon us. My ultimate mince pies - here I used a little shortcut of shop bought mincemeat, but I jazzed it up with orange, apple and some extra spices. You'd be amazed the difference little touches like that make! Alternatively making your own mincemeat is very straightforward - my recipe is here.
I used a muffin tin to make my mince pies - if you prefer shallower pies, this recipe will make 24 little pies. If you do this, only bake them for 10-15 minutes.

Makes 10 mince pies

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 250g (2 cups) plain flour
  • 160g (2/3 cup) butter or margarine, softened
  • 80g (1/3 cup and 1tbsp) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Finely grated zest of one orange
  • 1 egg


For the mincemeat:

  • 1 jar mincemeat (store bought or homemade)
  • 1 orange, peeled and the flesh chopped
  • 1 apple (I like a braeburn but any sharp apple will work)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) amaretto (optional)


Method:

1. Make the pastry. Simply add all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl, and rub the butter into the rest of the ingredients (this can also be done briefly in a food processor, or by hand). Add a tablespoon of cold water if the mixture is too powdery and isn't coming together into a ball.

2. Using your hands bring the pastry into a smooth ball (where no lumps of butter can be seen). Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 200c (180c fan)/400f/gas mark 6. Lightly grease a muffin tin - the easiest way to do this is with some spray oil, but a small amount of butter or margarine will work too. Greasing the tin will make your life 1000x easier when it comes to taking the pies out, believe me!

4. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of cling film, until it about 3mm/1/8 inch thick. Use a 9cm circular fluted cutter to cut out 10 circles for the "case" of the pies. Carefully place into the muffin tin, and trim off any excess pastry with a knife.

5. Make your filling. Mix the mincemeat, chopped orange, apple, cinnamon, ginger, and amaretto, if using, until the segments of orange and apple are evenly distributed throughout the mincemeat.

6. Fill the pastry cases with the mincemeat, so that it fills three quarters of the case. 

7. With the remaining rolled out pastry, cut out stars or other christmassy shapes, and place on the mincemeat filled cases. Sprinkle with caster sugar, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the sides of the pastry are lightly browned.

8. Leave to cool for around 5 minutes before taking out of the tins - the easiest way to do this is to gently press a knife down the side of the pie, releasing it from the tin. The pie should then pop out easily.

9. These are AMAZING served warm with a little cream, but also delicious at room temperature :)

10. Enjoy!

Star Topped Mince Pies

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Thursday, 24 November 2016

Sparkly Orange Chocolate Truffle Baubles


White Chocolate Baubles filled with Cointreau milk chocolate ganache. No ribbons. Half gold, half glittery pink.

White Chocolate Baubles filled with Cointreau milk chocolate ganache. Half glittery pink, half gold.


It's not even December yet but I couldn't wait to start making some Christmassy treats. I was really interested in making different Christmas decorations, and so thought of ways to make glittery Christmas baubles.

Spheres of white chocolate filled with a cointreau milk chocolate truffle filling. YUM. These have a lovely delicate orange flavour, and for children (or if you don't fancy using the alcohol), freshly squeezed orange juice would work really well too.

These really weren't as difficult to make as I thought they'd be. I used a cake pop mould to generate the spheres of chocolate. If you don't own one, don't worry. You can dip balls of the truffle filling in melted white chocolate - it's a little messier (great fun for children though!), and still works well.

There are loads of easy variations for the filling. Using your favourite liqueur, for example a coffee liqueur like Kahlua, would make a delectable after dinner treat. For something more child friendly, peppermint essence (around a teaspoon for the amount made here) could be added, or even dessicated coconut, nuts or dried fruit for an extra dimension of flavour.

Pink cake pop mould - makes 20 cake pops
I used a cake pop mould very similar to this one

Set of 8 Wilton Concentrated Gel Food Colourings
I purchased these Wilton concentrated gel food colourings from Lakeland (also available on Amazon)

Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray
Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer spray


Makes 10 baubles

Ingredients:

  • 200g (7 oz, 1 cup) white chocolate
  • 200g (7 oz, 1 cup) milk chocolate 
  • 100ml (7 tbsp) double cream
  • 40-60ml (3 - 4 tbsp) cointreau (or fresh orange juice), to taste
  • Concentrate red food gel colouring (for the red/pink baubles)
  • Edible pink glitter
  • Around 3 tbsp vodka or rum
  • Edible gold spray


Method:

1. Make the truffle mixture. Chop the milk chocolate finely and place in a bowl. In a small saucepan heat the double cream until you can see small bubbles forming and the cream is beginning to simmer - this will only take a few minutes.

2. Pour the cream over the chopped milk chocolate and stir until all of the chocolate has melted.

3. Add 40ml of the cointreau/orange juice and stir in. Taste the mixture - if you'd like more of a cointreau/orange kick add another 20ml.

4. Place in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes if using cake pop moulds, and 2 hours if not.

5. Break the white chocolate into chunks and melt on full power in a microwave for 15 second bursts, stirring well after each burst.

6. Once all of the chocolate has melted, separate into two bowls. Dip a toothpick or end of a spoon into the red food colouring gel, and use this to colour one of the bowls of white chocolate a pink/red colour.

7. If using cake pop moulds:

Take a tablespoon of the pink/red chocolate and set aside (this will be used to cover the seal between the two halves). Place teaspoonfuls of the pink/red white chocolate into 10 mould halves, and use the back of the teaspoon to spread the chocolate up each side. Place in the fridge to set for 10-15 minutes

Take a tablespoon of the white chocolate (that hasn't been coloured) and set aside. Place teaspoons of this chocolate into 10 more halves, using the back of the teaspoon again to evenly spread the white chocolate up the side of each mould. Place in the fridge to set. Place in the fridge to set for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the moulds from the fridge, and add teaspoons of the truffle mixture into each white chocolate half, try to reach the top of each mould.

Stick two halves of the baubles together - the chocolate truffle mixture acts as glue. To make baubles, place each end of the ribbon in the truffle mixture of one half, then stick on the other half (effectively sandwiching the ribbon between the two halves).

Re-melt the reserved pink/red and white chocolate, and use the back of the spoon (or a finger) to cover the seal between the two halves. Place in the fridge to set.

8. If you aren't using a cake pop mould:

Once the truffle mixture is firm to the touch, remove from the fridge and roll tablespoons of the mixture into a ball shape (roughly the size of a golf ball).

Place on a tray, and if you want Christmas tree decorations, press both ends of the ribbon into the truffle mixture, making sure they are well embedded in chocolate. Chill for 10 minutes to firm up.

Dip each truffle into the white chocolate or the pink/red chocolate. The cleanest way to do this is to place a truffle on a spoon, dip it fully in the chocolate, then transfer it to a tray. The messy (and more fun way) involves getting your fingers covered in chocolate by dipping the truffles into the chocolate by hand. Either way, dip them, then place in the fridge to set (around 15 minutes).

9. Decorate the baubles:

For the gold baubles. Spray each bauble with the gold glitter spray.

For the pink/red baubles. Place a few teaspoons of the pink edible glitter in a small bowl and add the vodka or rum. Stir to evenly disperse the glitter, then use a paintbrush or small pastry brush to brush the glitter onto each pink/red bauble. Leave to dry (the alcohol will evaporate off quickly leaving lovely glittery baubles).

10. Enjoy!!


Tammymum


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Friday, 18 November 2016

Manchester Christmas Markets 2016


Manchester Christmas Markets

This post is a little different from me, as it contains no recipes! However after going to the Manchester Christmas markets today, I couldn’t stop raving about it, so thought I’d let everyone know how great it was.

To start, the weather was horrible…a whole lot of rain and icy wind, the day didn’t start off great. From Manchester Piccadilly we walked down towards the Market, and soon saw the wooden shacks representing the Christmas market. The first stall of note I came across was selling beautiful pieces of jewellery, made from miniature flowers! The roses were my favourite, and it was hard to walk away from the stall. 

We passed many fudge and chocolate stalls – one stall was selling Christmas cake fudge, which sounded crazy! To the look of it, it was fruity fudge topped with marzipan. We weren’t feeling like fudge though, so we moved on.

After grabbing a coffee to warm us up, we continued down the street and saw a wide variety of wooden ornaments and plaques, great gift ideas for children. If you didn’t know, I adore anything penguin-related so was on a hunt for the best penguin item I could find. The first option were some adorable garden ornaments, made up of brown stick-like things, which were shaped into a penguin. Very cute, but I don’t have a garden so it wasn’t really suitable. On the same stall however they had the most amazing birdhouses that looked like castles and big houses. They were very cool.

We moved on to find some hot food. The Christmas markets originated in Germany, so it wasn’t surprising that there were many Bratwurst stands. Last year we tried a bratwurst with cheese in the middle – good but the cheese is so hot you can’t taste anything after eating it. This time we went for a standard Bratwurst, perfectly cooked with caramelized onions and mustard. Delicious.


Bratwurst
In case you weren't sure what a hotdog looked like...(from Google)

We got around to Exchange Square, where we saw our first mulled wine stall. We both still had a lot of coffee left so avoided the stall for now, but had a spy on the flavours on offer. They included strawberry and amaretto, raspberry liqueur, passionfruit and Cointreau and an apricot and brandy. All spiced with cinnamon and other festive spices.

We then moved on to what would be my favourite stalls of the day. First was a cheese stall, run by the Saddlesworth Cheese Co. Two years ago, my boyfriend and I went to the markets for the first time and came across this stall. They had a cheese called Smelly Ha’peth, a creamy yet full-flavoured blue cheese. We fell in love, and the next year bought a large slab of it. This year we went even further and to my slight surprise, my boyfriend bought half a wheel of it. The cheese can be frozen, which is good as we ended up with over a kilogram of it, and the quality is amazing. If you go to the markets, I’d highly recommend their cheeses. If you’re not a fan of blue cheese, they make and sell other artisan cheeses that are sublime also. Their website is here if you’re interested.

Smelly ha'peth blue cheese
Smelly ha'peth (from the Saddlesworth Co website)


My favourite stall was the next one along. It was all about alpaca fur, from hats and scarves, to rugs with panda designs on, and soft toys. I’ve never felt alpaca fur before, and oh my, it was like touching clouds. To my absolute delight they had made penguins out of the fur! Unbelievably cute and fluffy – I wanted to buy them all!

I was now rather hyper after my penguin delight, and we went to get mulled wine. We went for a large raspberry liqueur mulled wine, and got our 2016 markets mug! It was delicious as expected, and not as sweet as the strawberry and amaretto one we’d tried the year before. So now I was hyper and pretty tipsy as we continued our trip around the market.

2016 large Christmas mug
2016 large Christmas mug

As we continued our wanderings, we went to a stall selling Schokokuss, German chocolate kisses. The base is biscuit/waffle, and they are filled with a mousse like substance flavoured with all different things – chocolate orange, mint being key examples. They’re covered with a dark chocolate. We went for a bailey’s Schokokuss, and if you like Baileys, you will adore these! They’re not too strong (less strong than Baileys chocolates that can be bought in supermarkets nowadays), but have a lovely Baileys twang. So good, and I would love to work out how to make them.

Schokokuss
Schokokuss (image from Google)

We love our sweets, especially ones I struggle to make. We came to an Italian stall, selling cannoli and amoretti biscuits, and a pastry known as sfogliatelle. No, we can’t pronounce it either, and always get weird looks when we try to… These are layers of super crispy pastry, forming a triangle shell with a sweetened ricotta filling. I’ve tried to make them once, and it was a bad day in the kitchen…the pastry has to be rolled out so thin (like filo), and then after rolling the pastry, they have to be filled and sealed, then baked. Somehow the filling doesn’t leak out! It’s something I am determined to work out how to do, and if anyone has any tips, they’d be greatly appreciated.

Sfogliatelle - Italian crispy pastries filled with sweetened ricotta
Sfogliatelle (image from Google)

We wandered the rest of the stalls, and saw some other cool items, one being a cushion with a cute cactus saying how no one would hug it. There was also an amazing stall selling scented coffee beans, which they sold whole or ground! We had a whiff of loads of them, some examples being blueberry muffin, fudge and baileys. Our favourite by far though were the chocolate orange beans – they had such a beautiful aroma of coffee and Terry’s chocolate orange. I bought 100g of the ground beans, and can’t wait to try them!

We ended up in a large square (my Manchester geography is terrible), where there was a huge inflatable Santa on a building. There was also a very impressive assembled two-story beer house, with a reindeer head poking from the second floor. It even sang Christmas songs! In this square we ate lots of freebies including delicious Serrano ham, and other cheeses. The best stall in this section for me was a lovely stall selling all kinds of amber jewelry, which were just so pretty and well priced! From rings to earrings and necklaces, they had so much variety – these would make a gorgeous gift for a loved one!

Inflatable Santa Christmas Markets
Santa's here!
Singing reindeer at the Manchester markets
This reindeer sings!


Our wanderings were over and we returned to Manchester Piccadilly, full of happiness and satisfaction. We travelled to the markets midday on a Friday, and spent about 3 hours walking around.  We both took a day off work, as we wanted to be relaxed whilst walking around. If you do go, try to avoid evenings and weekend afternoons, unless you don’t mind being surrounded by people. Nevertheless it will be a great day out, and I highly recommend it to everyone!
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Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake

Pumpkin pecan cheesecake slice


It's coming up to Halloween, and I decided to fuse two American classics of pumpkin and pecan pie - except I fused them into a cheesecake. The creamy pumpkin, spiced with cinnamon and ginger, worked really well with the pecan nuttiness, and I think it'd be great as a thanksgiving dessert.
This recipe makes one 18cm cheesecake, but if you double up the ingredients, it will fill a 23cm tin.

* I make my own pumpkin puree as it's really easy, and has no added nasties in it. To make your own, preheat your oven to 180c (160c fan)/ 355f/ gas mark 4.
Peel and chop the quantity of pumpkin (or butternut squash) you need into bite size chunks.
Drizzle with oil and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife easily passes through the pumpkin.
Leave the pumpkin to cool, then blend until smooth.
Store the puree in the fridge until needed :)

Ingredients:

For the base:

  • 100g oaty biscuits (ginger biscuits would also work well)
  • 40g butter, melted
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon


For the filling:

  • 240g (1 cup) soft cheese
  • 100g (1/2 cup) light soft brown sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g (1/2 cup) pumpkin puree*
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 50g chopped pecans
  • 1 tbsp treacle 


Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 165c (150c fan)/325f/gas mark 3. Grease the base of a 18cm loose bottomed cake tin.

2. Crush the biscuits using a rolling pin (or in a food processor) until no large pieces of biscuit remain. Pour in the melted butter and cinnamon, and stir until well combined.

3. Press the biscuit mixture into the prepared cake tin. Use the back of a spoon to make sure the biscuits are stuck down well.

4. Prepare the filling by whisking the soft cheese with the brown sugar and vanilla. Keep whisking until all of the brown sugar has dissolved (and no clumps remain).

5. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk until smooth. Divide the mixture evenly between two bowls.

6. To the first bowl add the pumpkin puree, cinnamon and ginger. Beat until smooth.

7. To the second bowl add the chopped pecans and treacle. Beat until smooth.

8. Pour the pecan mixture into the cake tin. Slowly add the pumpkin mixture and gently marble in. The two will mix, but you should end up with a nice pattern on top of the cheesecake.

9. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until when it is lightly moved, only the very centre of the cheesecake wobbles. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then lightly go around the sides of the tin with a knife. This will help prevent cracking. Leave to cool completely then place in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

10. Enjoy!!


Mummy Mishaps
Casa Costello



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