Gingerbread is almost synonymous with Christmas and making some to hang on the tree is something I aspire to each year. This year, I’ve actually done it. Not that we have a tree to hang any on, but I’m hoping that the friends we are giving them to will.
Reading through a review copy of What to Bake & How to Bake It, I noticed a recipe for iced gingerbread cookies that used treacle as a variation. I find the word treacle very hard to resist – something to do with childhood memories of my mother’s treacle pudding, I imagine. Decision made: I would knock up some gingerbread. I followed the recipe almost exactly, adding only a little chocolate (of course) and a few additional spices. A pinch of black pepper for additional warmth was needed I thought as well as some allspice for Vanesther’s Spice Trail and some nutmeg.
What to Bake and How to Bake It by Jane Hornby (published by Phaidon Press at £19.95), is a rather beautiful book. It’s quite a large hardback and has a turquoise textured paper cover that makes me want to stroke it. Two matching turquoise bookmarks add distinction and there are plenty of gorgeous pictures to admire. It appears to be more a work of art than a manual. It’s certainly a book to treasure.
As the title suggests, this book is aimed principally at those who are new to baking or who require a confidence boost. Each recipe is spread over four to six pages, with lots of step-by-step aerial photography and accompanying instructions. Ah, so it is a manual, albeit a rather lovely one. Methodologies, terms and equipment are covered at the beginning and there are plenty of tips and tricks to be found throughout. Anyone working through a few of these recipes would learn pretty much everything they needed to turn out fabulous, cakes, breads, biscuits, pies and desserts. Despite this, I think the book is also useful to the more experienced baker; most of us still have something to learn. Creating a Swiss roll is one of my bêtes noirs, so maybe I’ll be able to crack it with the steps shown here.
There are fifty recipes in total and although the classics are represented, there is plenty here to keep the more experienced baker interested and inspired. Shortbread is covered for example, but orange, lavender, pecan and chocolate versions are also given. I have my eye on the malted chocolate birthday cake as I’m a sucker for a malteser and if I hadn’t been ill in the run-up to Christmas, I would have made the pistachio and fig biscotti which sounds exotic and comforting in equal measure. Other bakes that might restore me to health include: blueberry-cinnamon crumb cake, cranberry stollen and Linzer cookies.
This is how I made:
Spicy Gingerbread with Limoncello Icing
- Melted 110g Rodda’s salted butter in a large pan with 200g dark brown sugar, 2 tbsp treacle and 25g dark chocolate.
- Allowed to cool a little then beat in a duck egg (large hen’s egg would be fine).
- Beat in 2 drops Holy Lama cinnamon extract (2 tsp ground cinnamon), a drop of black pepper extract and a drop of nutmeg extract.
- Sifted in 150g wholemeal flour and 200g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp allpice and a heaped tsp ground ginger.
- Mixed until just combined, then left in my cold kitchen to firm up for an hour.
- Gathered the mixture together to form a ball of dough and rolled out on a floured surface to about the thickness of a £1 coin.
- Cut various shapes from it, rerolling the leftovers again and again until the dough was all used up.
- Placed biscuits on a lined baking tray and baked at 180C for 7 minutes – mine were quite small and larger biscuits would need a couple of minutes or so longer.
- Used a chopstick to make holes for threading whilst the biscuits were still hot from the oven, then removed them to a wire rack to cool.
- Mixed 3 heaped tbsp icing sugar with just enough limoncello to make a thick, but slightly runny icing.
- Piped this onto my biscuits and left them to dry.
- Made about 80 biscuits.
The biscuits smelt wonderful, both in and out of the oven and were as warming and delicious as I’d hoped. The touch of limoncello icing gave an added note of sophistication. They may not have looked very sophisticated, but I’m blaming the flu virus for that. CT and I quickly polished off all the rejects and the rest got packed into bags for gifts.
I am sending these biscuits of to Vanesther over at Bangers & Mash for The Spice Trail, which is allspice this month.
Some are also winging their way to Karen over at Lavender and Lovage who has appropriately chosen sugar and spice for this month’s Cooking with Herbs.
First of all I’d like to wish everyone a Very Happy New Year. May 2014 bring you plenty of chocotunities.
When I saw this spiced stollen traybake over at How to Cook Good Food before Christmas, I knew I would have to make this or something similar very soon. I had no stollen at all last year and it is one of my favourites. A spicy stollen full of fruit and marzipan in cake form is an excellent idea. My version is actually quite different to Laura’s, but hers was the inspiration. These would have been perfect for bringing in the new year along with a glass of something special or for celebrating today, New Year’s Day.
As it happens, my mother’s birthday is on New Year’s Eve and as we were going to be out and about, I needed something portable. She’s a bit of a marzipan fan, so stollen cakes seemed to fit the bill very nicely. I’d also been sent a surprise Christmas parcel from Dr Oetker which handily contained both marzipan and chocolate chips.
This is how I made:
- Added 75g sultanas and 25g mixed peel (homemade) to a bowl together with 25g ground almonds and 2 tbsp rum and left to soak overnight.
- Creamed 150g unsalted butter with 125g cardamom (golden caster) sugar.
- Grated in the zest of a small lemon.
- Added 1/2 tsp freshly ground coriander, a good grating of nutmeg and a good grinding of black pepper.
- Creamed some more until the mixture was very light and fluffy.
- Beat in 3 small eggs.
- Sifted in 160g flour (half wholemeal, half white), 1 tsp mesquite powder (optional), 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda.
- Stirred this in alternately with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 2 tbsp sour milk.
- Folded in the fruit and rum mixture, 50g dark chocolate chips and 100g chopped marzipan.
- Spooned into 15 cupcake cases then scattered a few flaked almonds over the top.
- Baked at 180°C for 20 minutes, then turned onto a rack to cool.
- Dusted with vanilla sugar.
The house smelt deliciously of nutmeg and coriander whilst the cakes were baking. CT and I couldn’t help ourselves, but had to filch a warm one as they came out of the oven. Ooh, they were so delicious, sweet and seasonally spicy.
We ate another one or two whilst watching The Hobbit (second time for us, birthday treat for my mother). They may not have been as impressive as Smaug’s Hoard, but each bite uncovered buried treasure – rum soaked sultanas, marzipan and chocolate chips or occasionally all three. The sponge was light and a glorious yellow just like the dragon’s gold. And if CT takes another one without permission, I’ll be breathing fire all over him. Actually he’s unable to fulfil his desire as my mother squirrelled the remainder away and is jealously guarding her hoard.
The beautiful golden yellow sponge was the result of some local free range eggs which I buy whenever I am able. I am thus entering it into this month’s Tea Time Treats where the theme is eggs. This has been chosen by the new co-host Jane of The Hedgecombers. I’m pleased to say that Karen of Lavender and Lovage remains.
With those local eggs in mind where the chickens truly run freely, I am entering this into Shop Local at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.
I’m also submitting this to Jac’s Bookmarked Recipes over at Tinned Tomatoes where you can see last month’s round-up.