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Old 11-21-2004, 01:12 PM   #1
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Christmas Baking (and steaming!!!)

I'm really interested to know what your traditional baking involves. Last year I rebelled and didn't do any of the traditional English cooking, this year I am doing it all. I am baking a Christmas cake (in the oven as we speak, it's been in there for three hours, another hour and a half to go) then I wrap it in foil and feed it with brandy every couple of weeks.

Last week I steamed my Christmas puddings, the mixture made two, so if anyone wants one, it's in my fridge, all tied up with string and ready to go!

Mince pies are the next thing on the agenda. I made two lots of fruit mince two weeks ago and they are happily maturing away, I made another batch yesterday with grated quince. I'll make the pies a few weeks before the big day and will freeze them.

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Old 11-21-2004, 01:45 PM   #2
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Chrstmas Tea Ring - origin - MOL. Made from a rolled crust (long rectangle), and filled with raisins, butter, brown sugar, walnuts, and cinamon, similar in flavor to mince meat, but without so much cloves, glazed with a green colored milk/sugar glazing. Originally, I imaging the glaze was mint flavored. But I detest mint. I can't help it. My grandmother once gave me a York Peppermint Pattie. She didn't let me know it was mint. I took one bite and ... well, I won't go into what happened).

Another favorite is the cookie Christmas Tree. I have a kit that has a bunch of star shaped cookie cutters, each slightly smaller than the other. You make a simple sugar cookie recipe, spread with royal icing, and stack to form a very nice christmas tree. I use both red and green food coloring in seperate batches of the icing. You can decorate with those little silver colored candies, red hots, etc. Makes an attractive and edible display. To get even more fancy, I sometimes make little icicles from simple syrup cooked to the hard crack stage, and attach them with the help of a toothpick and melted sugar do the tree. Looks very cool.

I've always wanted to make a gingerbread house, but haven't done it yet. I wonder if sugar could be made into a pencil thick rod, and heated like glass to create edible ornaments for a real tree. I've seen one of the chef's on the Food Network blow molten sugar, like glass into a swan, so I have to think it could be done. That would be a very interesting project for me to try. But temperature would be tricky. I wouldn't want the sugar to carmelize.

Any of my food fanatical freinds out there every blow glass, or sugar? Have we any artists in our midst? Let me know.

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 11-21-2004, 05:01 PM   #3
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Mea culpa, Goodweed...to the attempts and not artistry...

Sugar has always absolutely fascinated me and I guess I inherited the candy-making genes of my ancestors. Well, a couple of them anyway. I have a collection of photos of my grandmother wielding a blowing pole with a glob of expanding sugar at the end near an open and raging oven. SHE, as was her mother before her, was an exceptional artist and made art glass-quality vases and bowls and all kinds of containers and platforms to showcase her confections for sale. The technique then was precisely the same as glass blowing. Today, it's a little bit safer, but not much!

I had the incredible opportunity a few years ago to take a three-day course locally with a pastry chef and artist named Susan Notter, who was then leading sugar courses at a culinary institute in Gaithersburg, MD (I recall that and think I'm right.) Nowadays I believe she is a private consultant of sorts. Anyway, the course was fascinating and yielded a few burns, some folks with major ones! We made a swan and a vase and spun miles and miles of threads. The equipment nowadays uses a bulb blower that is hand-squeezed to inflate the sugar. Probably a lot easier than my grandmother's technique.. And we use small blow torches for directing heat in lieu of open ovens. Heat lamps are an absolute must for keeping the sugar warm and pliable.

Would this work on a gingerbread house's construction? Hmmm....if you can keep from burning the gingerbread, it will!

Today, other than making ribbon candy that is very, very similar, most of the stuff I do is making a table display for the Christmas buffet (about the limits of my play with blow torches, but it keeps me playing with play dough!), and I always spin a fine weave of threads in my croquembouche at Christmastime. If you would like the syrup recipe and technique, I will be happy to supply same. Did you know that until a mere decade ago, Hollywood used sugar "glass" to form its breakthrough panes in those action flicks?

So...if you ever wondered what I would love to do, if I ever grew tired of my real profession (unlikely), you've just hit upon it.
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Old 11-21-2004, 05:07 PM   #4
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Re: Christmas Baking (and steaming!!!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by kyles
I'm really interested to know what your traditional baking involves. Last year I rebelled and didn't do any of the traditional English cooking, this year I am doing it all. I am baking a Christmas cake (in the oven as we speak, it's been in there for three hours, another hour and a half to go) then I wrap it in foil and feed it with brandy every couple of weeks.

Last week I steamed my Christmas puddings, the mixture made two, so if anyone wants one, it's in my fridge, all tied up with string and ready to go!

Mince pies are the next thing on the agenda. I made two lots of fruit mince two weeks ago and they are happily maturing away, I made another batch yesterday with grated quince. I'll make the pies a few weeks before the big day and will freeze them.
I usually make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, and maybe one other pie. I always bake a turkey on Thanksgiving, but for Christmas it could be a baked ham, or some type of beef roast. Would you mind giving me your recipe for Christmas cake and the steamed pudding? My husband is from England but I have no clue how to make alot of the things he was used to. I'm not even sure if we would have some of the ingredients here in the U.S. but I would love to try them both. particulary the steamed pudding.
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Old 11-21-2004, 06:14 PM   #5
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I made my Christmas cake 2 weeks ago and it's already had its first drop of brandy!

I don't make my mincepies until Christmas Eve (family tradition!) as I don't like to freeze them.

Next weekend is the start of my Hogmanay baking. First Sunday of Advent allows just enough time for things like the black bun to mature nicely!
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Old 11-21-2004, 06:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Audeo
Mea culpa, Goodweed...to the attempts and not artistry...

Sugar has always absolutely fascinated me and I guess I inherited the candy-making genes of my ancestors. Well, a couple of them anyway. I have a collection of photos of my grandmother wielding a blowing pole with a glob of expanding sugar at the end near an open and raging oven. SHE, as was her mother before her, was an exceptional artist and made art glass-quality vases and bowls and all kinds of containers and platforms to showcase her confections for sale. The technique then was precisely the same as glass blowing. Today, it's a little bit safer, but not much!

I had the incredible opportunity a few years ago to take a three-day course locally with a pastry chef and artist named Susan Notter, who was then leading sugar courses at a culinary institute in Gaithersburg, MD (I recall that and think I'm right.) Nowadays I believe she is a private consultant of sorts. Anyway, the course was fascinating and yielded a few burns, some folks with major ones! We made a swan and a vase and spun miles and miles of threads. The equipment nowadays uses a bulb blower that is hand-squeezed to inflate the sugar. Probably a lot easier than my grandmother's technique.. And we use small blow torches for directing heat in lieu of open ovens. Heat lamps are an absolute must for keeping the sugar warm and pliable.

Would this work on a gingerbread house's construction? Hmmm....if you can keep from burning the gingerbread, it will!

Today, other than making ribbon candy that is very, very similar, most of the stuff I do is making a table display for the Christmas buffet (about the limits of my play with blow torches, but it keeps me playing with play dough!), and I always spin a fine weave of threads in my croquembouche at Christmastime. If you would like the syrup recipe and technique, I will be happy to supply same. Did you know that until a mere decade ago, Hollywood used sugar "glass" to form its breakthrough panes in those action flicks?

So...if you ever wondered what I would love to do, if I ever grew tired of my real profession (unlikely), you've just hit upon it.
I'd love the recpe for the sugar blowing. I think it would be great fun, and yest I am very familiar with burns. I have scars from such things. I once was melting the end of a nylon rope to keep it from freying. It dripped onto one of my fingers. I immediatley immersed it if very cold water. But I have a scar. And the one from spilled gasoline on a pant-leg - shin thanfully). Anyways, I have learned to respect hot things, including glue guns, soldering irons, hot liquids and oils, mortorcycle mufflers, etc. I will be careful, and use all safety precautions.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 11-21-2004, 06:58 PM   #7
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Alrighty then! I'm headed into work now, but will have it for you tomorrow, Goodweed. It's a lot of fun and the "Wow Factor" is off the scales!

Boy, do I know nylon!

Hasta manana!
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Old 11-21-2004, 07:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishbel
Kyles
I made my Christmas cake 2 weeks ago and it's already had its first drop of brandy!

I don't make my mincepies until Christmas Eve (family tradition!) as I don't like to freeze them.

Next weekend is the start of my Hogmanay baking. First Sunday of Advent allows just enough time for things like the black bun to mature nicely!
Ishbel,

I've asked Kyles to post the christmas cake recipe, but wonder if you could post yours as well. I'd like to try this out.
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Old 11-22-2004, 03:51 AM   #9
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Here's the recipe I've been using for the past 10 years or so... it's by a British chef called Delia Smith - and is a little 'lighter' and more moist than my old family recipe! Christmas cake is very rich, a small slice is quite enough 8) The recipe was published in her book, Delia Smith's Christmas.

Classic Christmas Cake

1 lb (450 g) currants
6 oz (175 g) sultanas
6 oz (175 g) raisins
2 oz (50 g) glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
2 oz (50 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
3 tablespoons brandy, plus extra for 'feeding'
8 oz (225 g) plain flour
1/2 level teaspoon salt
1/4 level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 level teaspoon ground mixed spice
8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter
8 oz (225 g) soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 oz (50 g) almonds, chopped (the skins can be left on)
1 level dessertspoon black treacle
grated zest 1 lemon
grated zest 1 orange

4 oz (110 g) whole blanched almonds (only if you don't intend to ice the cake)

You will also need an 8 inch (20 cm) round cake tin or a 7 inch (18 cm) square tin, greased and lined with silicone paper (baking parchment). Tie a band of brown paper round the outside of the tin for extra protection.

You need to begin this cake the night before you want to bake it. All you do is weigh out the dried fruit and mixed peel, place it in a mixing bowl and mix in the brandy as evenly and thoroughly as possible. Cover the bowl with a clean tea cloth and leave the fruit aside to absorb the brandy for 12 hours.

Next day pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C). (For important information about cooking at gas mark 1, click here)Then measure out all the rest of the ingredients, ticking them off to make quite sure they're all there. The treacle will be easier to measure if you remove the lid and place the tin in a small pan of barely simmering water.

Now begin the cake by sifting the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing. Next, in a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until it's light, pale and fluffy. Now beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the creamed mixture a tablespoonful at a time; keep the whisk running until all the egg is incorporated. If you add the eggs slowly by degrees like this the mixture won't curdle. If it does, don't worry, any cake full of such beautiful things can't fail to taste good! When all the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices, using gentle, folding movements and not beating at all (this is to keep all that precious air in). Now fold in the fruit, peel, chopped nuts and treacle and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.

Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon and, if you don't intend to ice the cake, lightly drop the whole blanched almonds in circles or squares all over the surface. Finally cover the top of the cake with a double square of silicone paper with a 50p-size hole in the centre (this gives extra protection during the long slow cooking). Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 41/2-43/4 hours. Sometimes it can take up to 1/2-3/4 hour longer than this, but in any case don't look till at least 4 hours have passed.

Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling. When it's cold 'feed' it – make small holes in the top and base of the cake with a cocktail stick or small skewer, then spoon over a few teaspoons of brandy, wrap it in double silicone paper secured with an elastic band and either wrap again in foil or store in an airtight container. You can now feed it at odd intervals until you need to ice or eat it.
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Old 11-22-2004, 10:14 AM   #10
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Thank you so much ishbel!
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