jeudi 15 décembre 2011

The sweetest thing

Bild 237

Today hasn't been the easiest of days. The whole overground train network is down after a computer system failure with many people stranded and a few unlucky ones stuck in tunnels. Lack of information meant I waited 25 minutes on a cold platform before giving up and cancelling all other arrangements. Still, it wasn't all bad; stopping off to do some Christmas shopping and finding time to braise a red cabbage (recipe coming up soon). We're down to the last of the sweet stuff and between you and me, I'm relieved. After a day of excess on Tuesday with all those cookies and then snow topped spice cake for breakfast yesterday I'm off sugar for the rest of the week in an attempt to detox a little in time for the festivities. That doesn't mean I can't write about it though. The mince pies turned out great thanks to my friend S. who suggested using Pflanzenfett instead of shortening for the pastry as you can't get it over here. I can't say it tastes exactly the same but it brings the necessary lightness and crispness which you can't achieve with all butter.

The orangettes couldn't be simpler and will make everywhere smell of warm citrus fruit and chocolate, the very essense of Christmas, no? Thanks to the lovely Susan of Bricolage and Giulia Geranium (two of my favourite blogs so please check them out) for giving me the idea to make them.

Bild 177


Until a few days ago, I never understood the mania for making mincemeat yourself. I'd always found really good shop stuff which we added some extra brandy to and even an article in the Guardian about the virtues of the homemade variety failed to convince me. In Berlin though finding mincemeat isn't all that easy; I was delighted to come across some at Galeria Kaufhof by Wilkin and Son, although at more than €3 a jar, you might curb your mince pie ambition. Yet when I used it in the cheesecake I was somehow disappointed with the flavour and decided to take the plunge and make my own. It turned out to be amazingly simple; if you've got plenty of time, combinig the ingredients overnight to let the flavours blend might be a good idea but it's not essential. I also noticed that with the homemade kind the individual ingredients are much easier to taste rather than the usual fruity mass.

Recipe adapted from a mix of those by David Lebovitz and Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess.

Makes 600g

2 medium sized cooking or sharp apples (boskop/russets/canadiens gris are good), peeled and cut into quarters
juice and zest of an unwaxed lemon
125g raisins
125g sultanas
50g glacé cherries, roughly chopped
50g blanched almonds, chopped into thin slivers
2 tablespoons brandy
125g soft, dark sugar
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 x 300g jam jars

In a large saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice over a low heat. Add the chopped apples and all the other ingredients, except for the brandy. Simmer gently for about half an hour until the mixture has become very soft and slightly liquid. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little before stirring in the brandy. Spoon into sterilised jars (see note below) and cover the tops with a wax disc.

To sterilise jars you can either put them in the dishwasher and remove them when clean but still warm or otherwise wash them in soapy water, dry thoroughly and place in an oven at 180°C for 5 minutes.

Mince pies (from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess)

Bild 248

Makes around 24

300g plain flour, sifted
75g shortening/ Trex or Pflanzenfett in Germany
75g cold, unsalted butter
juice of 1 orange
a pinch of salt
600g mincemeat (see recipe above)

some icing sugar to dust over

1. Sift the flour into a small bowl and using a teaspoon, add small dollops of the shortening and butter. Rub in a little with your fingers and place the bowl in the freezer for 20 minutes.
2. Mix the orange juice and salt in a little jug and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
3. When the time is up, tip the flour and fat into a food processor and pulse until you have crumbs like rolled oats. Drizzle in the orange juice a little at a time through the funnel and continue to pulse until the mixture is just beginning to stick together. Remove the dough from the food processor and on a floured work surface, knead it a little with your hands until it forms a ball. Divide into two discs, wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for another 20 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
5. When the time is up, roll each disc out as thinly as possible but not so thin that it breaks or won't support the filling. Using a 6-7cm round cutter, cut out circles in the pastry and gently place each one into the pie mould, pressing down a little so they're even. Fill each one with a generous teaspoonful of mincemeat as nobody like a dry mince pie. When you've cut out enough circles for the base, roll the pastry out again and cut out the tops using a star shaped cutter, placing each one lightly on top of the mincemeat.
6. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, checking that they don't burn. Leave the pies in the tins for a minute or two as it makes them easier to remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Dredge with icing sugar before serving.

Orangettes (from Smitten Kitchen)

Bild 183

3 large organic oranges
water for boiling
250ml water + 225g sugar for the syrup
400g dark chocolate (I used 70% Lindt)

1. Slice the tops off the tops off the oranges and with a shap knife, score the peel from one end to the other and remove. Cut the peel into thin strips and trim the edges to make them neat.
2. Place the strips a large pan of boiling water for 5 minutes, drain and throw the water away as it will contain bitter juices. Boil a fresh lot of water and place the strips in it for another five minutes. This step removes the bitter taste.
3. Make the syrup by mixing together the 250ml water and 225g sugar and bringing it to a gentle simmer, Tip in the peels and cook for about an hour, checking back from time to time that the pan hasn't run dry.
4. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool and dry out. I placed a piece of baking parchment underneath to collect the sticky drips.
5. When they're cool, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, stopping to stir every 30 seconds with the latter. Using a fork, dip each strip of peel in the chocolate and leave to set on a baking tray covered with parchment. When the chocolate has set, store them in a metal tin.

11 commentaires:

  1. Mmmhhh, I cannot resist a good mince pie or orangette! Both creations look fantastic and so irresistible.



  2. Ah, thank you for the link, m'dear. I missed out on going to the market & haven't bought my oranges yet (I'd planned to make them the day I posted the links). Finally, though, the chocolate I was hoping to use has gone on this weekend.

    I have my Nigella cookbook next to me as you said the cake was based on hers. I've not made it & I don't have a proper pan for it. But I am thinking I'll make it this winter. Thanks for all the tips, recipes, & beautiful photos.


  3. @Rosa - Thanks a lot dear friend.
    @Susan - My pleasure! So glad you got the chocolate and I hope you manage the trip to the market. The orangettes are so delicious. I don't have the Bundt style tin Nigella uses for the spice cake either so just used a plain springform which you can too. It sank a bit in the middle but somehow everyone had the impression it was supposed to be like that. Will be making it again this winter as it was so popular.

  4. Ah, the mince pies look gorgeous. I love the way you photograph your bakes. Absolutely drool-worthy! :-)

  5. Those mince pies are darling. I'm happy to see you've mentioned braising a red cabbage. I love such things. I need to balance all of the sweet inspiration I've been seeing lately. Braised cabbage is just the thing.

  6. @Suman - Thanks a lot. I think was pleased with the way the pies turned out as well and I even managed to remove them from the muffin tin safely :-)
    @Denise - Yes, absolutely, there needs to be a balance and Christmas lunch without lots of veg just wouldn't be right. Made the cabbage yesterday and it was so delicious, braising is incredible. Will probably post the recipe tomorrow though as I'm not sure how much time there'll be for blogging today.

  7. Quelle jolie collection encore! je suis sure que le mincemeat fait maison est tres superieur aux varietes toutes faites et que tu feras beaucoup d'heureux autour de toi.

  8. This is not the first time I've read about Lebovitz's mince....guess I better try it. Your tarts look adorable. Cute little stars on top!
    I'm with you...going on a no-sugar, no salt for a few days to prepare for the big holidays coming up. :)
    Happy Christmas to you, Vanessa!

  9. So many sweets. So little time. You have been busy! They all look so delicious. Especially the orangettes.

  10. Wahou ! Quelle production ! Tes mincemeat sont fabuleux. Je regrette de ne pas pouvoir les goûter. Si seulement je pouvais en faire autant... mais je manque de temps en ce moment. Je te souhaite un beau week-end. Bises. Julia*

  11. Oh my, I am on a sugar high just reading all your wonderful baking posts! Most inspiring. I am starting the cookie baking this weekend. I am envious of the spekulatius cookie cutters.