‘Tis the season for festive baking so how could I resist this Christmassy tin of golden syrup? It’s destined to be a plant pot / pen pot / tin of pretty things in the future. For now though I put the syrup to good use with these gingerbread reindeer, which are actually upside down gingerbread men. Clever, huh? Sadly I can’t claim credit for the idea; it’s all over pinterest. I am really pleased with how they turned out though!
If you fancy something a bit more cakey, here are some previous posts with my favourite festive recipes. I’ll be making all of these over the next few weeks!
Gingerbread reindeer (recipe tweaked from Delia’s)
1. Put 75g light brown soft sugar, 2 tbsp golden syrup, 1 tbsp black treacle, 1 tbsp water, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 rounded tsp ground ginger, a pinch of ground cloves and the finely grated zest of 1 clementine into a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring.
2. Take the pan off the heat and add 95g butter, cut into cubes, and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda. Stir until smooth.
3. Gradually stir in 225g plain flour, sifted, and mix until you have a smooth dough. This takes a bit of work but it will get there!
4. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for about half an hour until cool and firm, then roll out, cut and bake at 180 c / gas mark 4 for about 10 minutes; they should be golden brown and firm to touch. Mine were ready in 8 but my oven is quite quick. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
5. Stand them on their heads and use royal icing (ideally in one of these) to turn your army of gingerbread men into a gaggle of gingerbread reindeer. When it comes to eating them you get to bite the head off first without feeling bad about it!
I had a friend visiting at the weekend and the glorious sunshine on Saturday prompted an afternoon trip to St Andrews. By the time we’d brunched and travelled and lunched it was practically time for the sun to set, it being November and all, so we didn’t see that much of the town but we did see some gorgeous sea and sky. St Andrews is a little place, a curious but charming combination of long sandy beaches and quaint leafy streets, with almost equal numbers of students and tourists. Formerly famous for having the oldest university in Scotland, it is now well known for being the place where Kate met Wills, and almost every coffee shop in town claims to have been their favourite date spot. Apart from the one we stopped in, which claimed to be the place where they broke up!
A couple of weeks ago we had a murder mystery party. Have you ever done one? They are really fun! All you need are the game, a group of willing friends and a prepare ahead dinner menu so you don’t miss out on any of the action during the evening. Our game was called Pasta, Passion and Pistols and was set in an Italian restaurant so we went all out with the red checks and candles in wine bottles to set the scene. Our prepare ahead dinner consisted of antipasti to start, stuffed conchiglioni for main course (a combination of these two recipes) and cherry chocolate cake with cappuccino ice cream for dessert, all of which went down a treat while we tried to figure out which one of us had done the deed. If I had more energy this post would have been full of deathly puns but it’s nine o’clock on a Sunday night so the recipe will have to do instead!
Cherry chocolate cake (adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess)
1. Gently melt 125g unsalted butter in a large pan. Add 100g dark chocolate, broken in to pieces, and remove from the heat. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
2. Add 150g caster sugar, 2 large beaten eggs, 300g cherry jam (or whatever jam you like; the original recipe uses marmalade) and a pinch of salt and mix well. Gradually stir in 150g self raising flour until well combined.
3. Grease and flour a 20cm springform tin and pour the mixture into it. Bake at 180 c for about 50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool.
This is quite a plain cake so I spruced it up with some icing sugar and snowflake stencils before serving with the ice cream.
It is most definitely autumn (and very nearly winter) in Edinburgh these days, and scarves and gloves are the order of the day for these crisp November days. See also: wrapping up warm and going for walks in the sunshine, buying pheasant at Stockbridge market and making plans for stews and soups and pies, trying to make the flat feel warmer by putting candles everywhere, and cooking up hearty weekend brunches. I love a tattie scone but have never made my own, until I stumbled across a recipe while wondering what to do with some leftover mashed potato, like it was meant to be. Combine with some leftover coleslaw and some crispy bacon (hiding behind the stack of scones in the picture up there) and you have a perfect brunch for a chilly morning. They would also make a cosy supper, maybe with some smoked fish and spinach, or sausages and beans, or piled high with garlicky mushrooms.
Tattie scones (recipe from BBC Good Food)
1. Peel and cube 250g potatoes and cook in boiling water until tender, then drain and mash until smooth.
2. Sift 200g plain flour and 1 tsp baking powder into a large bowl and add the mashed potato along with 50g melted butter, 3 tbsp milk, and 2 beaten eggs. Season well and mix to a sticky dough.
3. Heat some butter or oil in a frying pan and add dollops of the mixture. Fry for a few minutes on each side until browned. After I flipped them I then squished them down with a spatula to get neater patties rather than big blobs of mixture. This mixture made about 10 heaped dessert spoon sized scones, so I kept the first batch warm in the oven while I cooked the rest.
I’m a total wimp. As in, I can’t watch Doctor Who without a cushion to hide behind, and when out alone on dark nights I worry about bumping in to Death Eaters. So Hallowe’en isn’t exactly my favourite time of year (hence the non-spooky pumpkin lantern – mine is the owl, of course!) and the offer of a complimentary trip on the Edinburgh Ghost Bus Tour made me decidedly nervous. I had seen the big black double decker previously used as a funeral bus around town and was intrigued by its description as a comedy horror tour, so thought I would give it a chance. It turns out I needn’t have worried as it was much more comedy than horror, and even I wasn’t scared! The conductor was full of silly jokes and general nonsense, along with some spooky stories and not-so-terrifying tales. If you are looking for serious stories of ghostly goings on then this is probably not the tour for you. We enjoyed our hour on the bus and the conductor had everyone rolling in the aisles, but it certainly wasn’t as scary as expected, thank goodness!
If you are interested in learning more check out the Ghost Bus website.
* The Edinburgh Ghost Bus Tour gave me 2 complimentary tickets in return for this review. All opinions are, of course, my own. *
Just a quick post to say thank you to everyone who entered my great big Bake Off giveaway! Entries have now closed and the randomly chosen winner is Susan B. Susan, you didn’t leave an email or web address so please get in touch to claim your prize. My email address is just over there on the right!
So the final cakes have been baked, tasted and judged and the Great British Bake Off is over for another year. How better to watch the final than surrounded by friends and bread, as I did on Tuesday?! Actually, there were only two types of bread, these pittas from me and an amazing cheddar and bacon sourdough from a more committed baker. But we also had fudge, cupcakes, truffles and a cake stand built of biscuits so by the time Mel or Sue announced the winner we had all slumped into a baked-goods-related coma. We just managed to muster enough energy to give the deserving winner a round of applause before launching into my brilliant baking quiz, for which no baking knowledge was really required. It included questions such as ‘is a jaffa cake a cake or a biscuit?’ and ‘what is my favourite sort of pie?’ so it wasn’t really taking itself too seriously. There was a prize for the winner though!
And now that I’ve rambled on for far too long I think it’s time for the easy-peasy pitta recipe in case you fancy having a bread party of your own! I am still not very comfortable dealing with yeast but my friend assured me this was an easy recipe, and it certainly was pretty straightforward, and yummy too.
Pittas made from Magic Dough (recipe from River Cottage)
1. Put 250g plain white flour, 250g strong white flour, 1 1/2 level tsp fine sea salt and 1 tsp instant dried yeast in a bowl and mix well.
2. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and 325ml warm water and mix to a rough dough. Flour your hands a little then tip the dough on to a work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth. It is quite a loose and sticky dough which helps the texture of the bread so try not to add too much flour.
3. Once kneaded put the dough in a clean bowl with a little oil and turn until it is covered with a light film. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size. This should take 1-2 hours. Once risen tip the dough out and knock it back by poking it with your fingers until it collapses to its original size.
4. Divide the dough into 12 egg sized pieces and roll each into a 5mm thin oval. Transfer to a greased baking sheet and leave for 10-15 minutes before baking at 220 C / gas mark 7 for about 8 minutes until puffed up and lightly browned. Wrap in a clean tea towel to cool which will keep them soft.