Stir Up Sunday

Christmas is coming! Well, in 35 days it is. Preparations have begun and I’m already planning what bakes I’ll be adding to the table. So get ready for a few festive recipes that’ll be perfect for all the gatherings and get-togethers which I’m sure are already filling up your calendars!

The first recipe I’ll be sharing is for my Christmas Pudding. Now, I know this may sound a bit keen but this is the perfect time to get started. Today is the last Sunday before advent, also known as Stir up Sunday, and this is traditionally the day when Christmas puddings were made in advance, allowing them plenty of time to mature before eating. Everyone in the family would get involved, each having a stir of the mixture before its long and slow stint in the steamer.

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In all honesty, I’m not normally a big lover of traditional Christmas puddings – I much prefer a fat slice of chocolate cake or some warm mince pies after gorging on our Christmas feast. But this year, I teamed up with BBC Songs of Praise and the lovely Rev’d Kate Bottley and gave my spin on a Christmas pudding. Adding a few not so traditional ingredients such as maple syrup and pecans, I also opted for Cointreau as my tipple of choice rather than brandy, as well as a good sprinkling of cinnamon and mixed spice.

You’ve got plenty of time to make this pud and then top it up with more alcohol each week so it’s ready for it’s after dinner debut. Don’t be put off by what might seem like an unnecessarily excessive cooking time. Yes, 6 hours is a long time to wait for anything but the beauty of a Christmas pudding is that you don’t actually do much. Everything goes into the bowl, give it a good stir, and then just let it do its thing. Give it another 2 hour steam before serving and you’ve got yourself a wickedly good end to Christmas day.

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R E C I P E

Ingredients

500g Dried mixed fruits
170ml Cointreau
100g Plain Flour
80g Light Muscovado Sugar
40g Dark Muscovado Sugar
150g Suet
125g Fresh Breadcrumbs
1 ½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 ½ tsp Mixed Spice
Zest of 1 Large Orange
70g Chopped Pecans
1 Bramely Apple, cored and finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped stem ginger
2 medium eggs, beaten
2 tbsp maple syrup

Pecan Cranberry Sauce
80g butter
80g Light Muscavdao Sugar
2 tbsp Cointreau
Handful Cranberries
Handful Pecans

M E T H O D

Add the dried fruits and the liqueur to a bowl and leave to steep for a few hours or preferably overnight
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, suet and breadcrumbs and spices. Add in the zest, chopped apple and pecans and stem ginger.
Mix in the eggs, maple syrup and soaked fruits. Get the family round so everyone can have a stir and then transfer the mixture to a greased pudding basin pressing it down firmly.
If your basin doesn’t have a lid cover it with a layer of baking parchment and then a layer of tin foil tying it firmly with some string. Tie another piece of string across the top to make a handle and steam the pudding for 6 hours on an upturned saucer in a large saucepan. Fill it with boiling water that comes halfway up the pudding bowl and cover.
Once steamed, leave to cool and store in a cool dry place. When you’re ready to eat the pudding, steam it again for another 2 hours before serving.

For the pecan sauce:

Melt the butter and sugar together in a pan and then toss in the pecans cooking for about a minute. Stir in the cranberries and the liqueur allow to bubble for a couple more minutes. When ready to serve the pudding, spoon the sauce over the top.

Pumpkin, Chorizo and Fougasse

I got back from an amazing and restful holiday in Thailand a few days ago and after the longest journey home, it was fair to say that I was utterly unprepared for the bitterly cold weather that was waiting for me. After spending two weeks in the sun stuffing my face with the most delicious rice and noodle dishes for breakfast lunch and dinner, I really craved some soup. Just a big hearty bowl of something to warm me up. There was a lonely looking pumpkin hanging around on the kitchen counter, crying out to be put to use after failing  to make the cut for Halloween carving. I decided to put it out of it’s misery and came up with a quick and easy dinner of pumpkin and chorizo soup. Adding the chorizo really elevated this humble dish, bringing about a welcome spiciness and depth of flavour.

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Not being one to waste food, I also roasted the pumpkin seeds with some sea salt, olive oil and a bit of chili. They added the perfect level of crunch when sprinkled on the soup but they’re also great for a quick and healthy snack.

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In keeping with the chorizo theme, I also added it to some fougasse. A fougasse is one those breads that can be jazzed up in infinite ways. It’s such a simple bread to make but looks quite fancy and tastes absolutely beautiful. The perfect accompaniment to tear and dunk into my comfort soup.

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R E C I P E
serves 3-4

Ingredients

1 Medium Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
120g Chorizo, plus extra to serve
700ml Chicken Stock
450g Pumpkin, roughly chopped
2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp Dried Chilli Flakes or Cayenne Pepper
Pinch Nutmeg
Pumpkin Seeds

M E T H O D

Finely chop the onions, garlic and chorizo and add to a saucepan with a little olive oil
Fry until onions are softened
Pour in the chicken stock and then add in the chopped pumpkin
Season with salt and pepper, thyme, paprika and chilli if using
Cover and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes until the pumpkin has softened.
Transfer the contents to a blender and process until smooth
Pour the soup back into the saucepan and cook on a low heat for a further 5 minutes
Stir in the nutmeg and serve with some extra chorizo, cream or Greek yoghurt.

For the roasted pumpkin seeds, rinse the seeds in some water and pat dry
Place them on a baking tray and sprinkle over some sea salt, black pepper and chilli flakes
Drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven Gas Mark 4/180C/350F for 15-20 minutes until they’re crisp and golden

Baked Chai Doughnuts

If you’re someone who bakes often, then I’m sure that like me, you find yourself regularly acquiring masses of new baking equipment, obscure shaped tins and random bits and bobs that are just too cute not to buy.

I bought a doughnut pan online about a year ago after seeing the most beautifully decorated and perfectly round baked doughnuts all over my favourite blogs. I literally only used the pan once before it found itself relegated to the back of a cupboard. I was recently craving some fluffy homemade doughnuts but really didn’t have the time or energy to make a yeasted and fried batch. And to be honest, the thought of heating up a whole vat of oil wasn’t particularly appealing. But then I remembered my little treasure that had been hidden away and was waiting patiently to be used again.

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I’m so glad that I dug it out because these bad boys were so worth it. Much quicker and significantly less messy to put together than their fried counterparts, I had these ready to eat within half an hour. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty hard to beat a deep fried doughnut filled to the brim with a creamy filling but these are definitely a welcome change – especially if you’re wanting something that little bit healthier.

Embracing the change of seasons and welcoming those cozy autumn days, I went for a spiced Chai doughnut. Packed with some of my favourite spices, this was such a treat.Ten minutes in the oven and my kitchen was filled with this wonderfully fragrant smell –  a warming blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom as well as the more rich and darker spices of cloves and allspice. I’ve listed the ratio of spices I used in the recipe below, but please do feel free to adjust to your own tastes.

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Once baked I tossed half the batch into some cinnamon sugar and the other half I dipped into a coffee glaze. Both were equally fabulous.

So if you don’t mind adding another bit of equipment to your collection, maybe think about getting one of these pans, they’re relatively inexpensive and produce the cutest little treats.

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R E C I P E
Makes 12-16

Ingredients

250g Plain Flour
120g Caster Sugar
1 & 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
Chai Spice Mix: 1tsp Cinnamon, 1tsp Ground ginger, 1/2tsp Ground Cardamom, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Large Eggs
230ml Buttermilk
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
60g Melted Butter + extra for greasing
50ml Strong Brewed Chai Tea

Coffee Glaze
1/2 tsp Espresso Powder
1 tbsp melted butter
50ml Whole Milk
125g Icing Sugar

Cinnamon Topping
100g Caster Sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
2 tbsp Melted Butter

M E T H O D

Grease the doughnut pan well with some butter and preheat oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F
In a large bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside
In a separate bowl or jug, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs. Stir in the vanilla and melted butter and Chai tea
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir very gently util just incorporated. Careful not to overmix!
Pour the mix into a large disposable piping bag and snip off the end ( A food bag also works fine!) Pipe the mix into the doughnut pan and fill about 2/3 of the way up
Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until fully cooked and spring back when you touch them
Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack
Repeat with another batch until all your batter is used up

For the sugared doughnuts, brush each one lightly with melted butter before dunking in the sugar and cinnamon mix ensuring both sides are evenly coated

To make the coffee glaze, dissolve the espresso powder in the milk before adding in the melted butter.
Stir this into the icing sugar and mix until you have smooth glaze thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Dip one side of each doughnut in the glaze and let it set on a wire rack

 

Lemon and Thyme Drizzle

I’m a big fan of lemons. If there’s ever a time I’m spoilt for choice looking at a dessert menu, as long as there’s something lemon based, I’ve found a winner.

A lemon drizzle is most definitely a British classic. It’s hard to beat a thick wedge of  light buttery sponge drenched in a sharp but sweet citrussy syrup. It certainly is one of my favourites.

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The lemon and thyme cake I made this week is just a slight twist on the usual drizzle. I have to admit, the very first time I heard about this combination in a cake I was a bit sceptical, but believe me it really does work!  The fresh thyme brings a wonderfully unique and fragrant flavour to this classic without distracting too much from the star of the show.

Each layer of sponge has specks of fresh thyme running through before being soaked with a tangy thyme infused syrup. To sandwich the layers together, lemon curd is rippled through some mascarpone for a creamy filling that cuts the sharpness and keeps everything light and fresh.

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With it’s sunshine yellows and bright airy feel, in a way, this cake felt like a final farewell to summer. As autumn is fast approaching and the skies get greyer, I’m  very much in the mood for more cozier and warm bakes. Think loads of apples, spices and hearty pies and puddings. You’re in for a treat.


R E C I P E
Serves  6-8

Ingredients

230g Unsalted Butter, softened
200g Caster Sugar
Zest of 1 Lemon
3 tsp Finely chopped fresh thyme
4 medium Eggs
1/2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
150g Plain Flour
80g Ground Almonds
1 and 1/2 tsp  Baking Powder
40g Sour Cream

Syrup
Juice of 2 Lemons
80g Caster Sugar
2-3 Sprigs of thyme

Filling
250g Marscapone
2 tbsp Lemon Curd

M E T H O D 

Grease and line two 6 inch/15cm cake tins. Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F
Add the butter, sugar, zest and thyme to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat together until pale and fluffy
Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. If the mixture looks curdled, add in a tablespoon of flour
Stir in the vanilla
In a separate bowl , sift together the flour, almonds and baking powder
Gently stir this into the butter until just combined
Fold in the sour cream
Divide the batter equally between the two tins and bake for 30-35 minutes

To make the syrup, heat the lemon juice, caster sugar and thyme and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few more minutes and then remove from the heat
Once the cakes are out of the oven, prick holes in the surface with a skewer and pour over the syrup
Allow to cool on a wire rack

To assemble, level each cake with a serrated knife if they’re not completely level.
Mix together the mascarpone and lemon curd and use half to sandwich the cakes together
Spread the rest on top and decorate with lemon slices and fresh thyme

 

 

 

 

#GBBO

Hey there readers – both old and new! The past week or so has been rather exciting to say the least! In case you haven’t heard, I’m one of the contestants on the seventh series of The Great British Bake Off! *yaaaaay* After months of secrecy, it’s feels wonderful to finally be able to explain what I’ve  been up to!!

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 Credit: Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions

Since it all came out, it’s been such a whirlwind of excitement and busyness mixed  with numerous exclamations of ”no way!!” and ‘say whaaaat?!’’ from unsuspecting friends. But there’s also been an overwhelming amount of such supportive and encouraging messages which I’m so grateful for.

The first episode last week was such a joy to watch and I can’t wait for you to watch along and see all the crazy adventures we got up to in that famous tent! It really was such an amazing experience in which I gained eleven truly fabulous baker friends.

Besides Bake Off, I’ve been a busy bee in the kitchen lately and so thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve been up to. From salted chocolate tarts to my trusty layer cakes, as well trips to some fancy patisserie shops, this summer has been a great time for baking.

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White Chocolate and Cherry Cake
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Salted Chocolate and Caramel Tarts

I’ve also been working on some new recipes which I hope to share soonish! I’m so excited to get more content up on here so watch this space!

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Eclairs at Maitre Choux

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Plum Crumble Cake

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Ricotta, Prosciutto and Rocket Flatbread