We’ve all started counting down to Christmas and its a great idea to get ahead with your baking and any food preparation and make use of your freezer. This gives you so much more time on the day with your family, and also stops any potential melt downs! This weekend I did some festive baking using the new blocks of butter from Clover. We’ve all no doubt tried their spreadable tubs of butter but you can now get Clover in 250g blocks which are ideal for baking and soft enough to use straight out of the fridge – a definite bonus!
First up I made mince pies. I’m not a huge fan of traditional mince pies, so I thought I’d give Nigella Lawson’s Cranberry Studded Mincemeat a go as well. Here’s the recipe for the mincemeat first:
60ml Ruby Port – or Cranberry Juice
75g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
1tsp Ground Ginger
1tsp Ground Cinnamon
30g Dried Cranberries
Zest & Juice of 1 Clementine/Satsuma
1/8tsp Almond Extract
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
In a large saucepan over a gentle heat dissolve the sugar into the port/juice. Add the fresh cranberries and cover them in the liquid. Add the dried fruits, spices and zest and juice of the clementine/satsuma. Simmer for about 15/20 minutes until everything looks well combined and most of the liquid has been absorbed. You can squash any whole cranberries that remain with a spoon. Take off the heat and cool a little before stirring in the brandy, extracts and honey. Give it a big stir until you’ve got a berry like paste.
This can then be put into waiting mince pie cases, sterilized jars and stored in the fridge, or put into the freezer and used within three months.
(From Nigella’s Christmas)
Now obviously this recipe didn’t use any of the Clover so I made my own pastry which was so simple. This didn’t need the softness of the Clover straight from the fridge, but the end result did taste delicious.
240g Plain Flour
60g Vegetable Shortening
60g Cold Butter – I used my Clover Butter Block
Juice of 1 Orange
Pinch of Salt
About 350g Mincemeat
Put the flour and fat into a shallow bowl. Make sure the butter and shortening is in small cubes/dollops. Put this in the freezer for about half an hour. Mix the orange juice and salt in a small bowl and place covered in the fridge. After half an hour remove the flour mix from the freezer and whizz in your food processor until you get porridge like crumbs. Pour in the salty orange juice as you whizz it and stop as the mix begins to form a dough – you might not need all the juice. Use your hands to form a dough and create two or three discs (depending on how many cupcake trays/tart tins you have) and wrap in clingfilm and pop into the fridge for another 20 minutes. Once chilled roll each disc out one at a time and use cutters to create pastry circles to line your trays/tins. The amount of mincemeat you put in obviously depends on the size of mince pie you are making. I made mine in mini muffin tins and used about 3/4 of a teaspoon in each. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes – again depends on the size of the mince pie – at 220 degrees/Gas 7.
You can now store them in an air tight tin for about a week – if they last that long – or make them ahead and freeze for up to 3 months. Just reheat them from room temperature or frozen for 4 or 5 minutes before serving.
(From Nigella’s Christmas)
Here’s a few of the ones I made, and the amazing book I got the recipe from. Seriously – go out and buy this book. Its AMAZING.
Whilst making these mince pies – I ended up with 24 this size and the same amount of mincemeat again in the freezer – I was also making another festive favourite. I love Panattone and usually end up buying several small ones from the supermarket because nobody else in my house likes them. This year I decided I’d splash out and make my own. I’m not a fan of the traditional plain panattone – the one I buy has chocolate chips in instead of fruit – so I went on a hunt for a recipe that was similar. I found this great recipe on the Good Food website. I don’t like Candid Peel so I bulked up the cranberries and chocolate – okay mainly the chocolate – and I didn’t put flaked almonds on the top either. Here’s my version:
500g Plain Flour
14g (two sachets) Dried Yeast
100g Golden Caster Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Softened Butter – I used Clover Butter Block straight from the fridge
185g Dried Cranberries
200g White Chocolate Chips
Okay I got a little carried away with the chocolate chips but they came in two 100g bags so I just emptied them both in!!
Put the flour, yeast and 1tsp salt in a mixer – I used my Kitchen Aid. Give it a quick mix – have the dough hook in when you do this to save changing it around. Add the sugar and give it another mix. Beat your eggs in a bowl and warm the milk to hand hot temperature. Add the milk and eggs to the flour and combine to a dough then knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes. Leave uncovered in the mixer for about an hour or until its doubled in size. Cut your butter into small cubes and add to the risen dough. Mix it in thoroughly and then leave for another hour to rise again. Add your cranberries and chocolate chips and mix. Line your tins – I made four individual ones in empty 400g tins and one large in my Ikea Cutlery Tin (thanks to whoever suggested that!!) – with double thickness of greaseproof and a collar above the top of the tin of a few inches. Divide the dough between your tins or put all in one tin and let it rise for a further 30 mins. Brush the top(s) with a beaten egg and bake for 45-50 mins at 160degrees/Gas 4.
This is a long recipe because of all the rising that goes on, so its a good idea to make something else whilst you’re waiting. I had the Panattone dough rising in the corner of my kitchen whilst I made the mincemeat and then the mince pies.
Here’s my finished large Panattone.
To me it looks like a panattone – though the top could be a little smoother – and it tastes divine. The cranberries and white chocolate are a great combination, and the dough is the sort of texture I was expecting. I would show you the individual ones but there was an incident with the tins… namely me forgetting to line to bottoms and losing about an inch off the bottom of each. Not too stressful though, as they really grew and could barely support themselves. Less dough per tin next time I think!
Hopefully you’re feeling inspired to get baking for Christmas, and next time you’re in the supermarket do grab a few packs of Clover Butter Blocks. The fact you can use it straight from the fridge makes baking much faster and the results are delicious.