Festive Chocolate & Cranberry Buns

19 December 2013

These little beauties are the Chocolate & Cranberry Buns I made and took to the after-school mulled wine & cake sale yesterday. I would normally opt to bake a sponge type cake, but I really want to broaden my culinary repertoire with more bready-bakes. It is something I am going to strive to spend some time doing in 2014 - bake bread, buns and pastries. I think it's a bit of an art, and I do find baking with yeast a little daunting. I remember talking to my local baker, saying how I'd love to be able to make a decent loaf and he told me it just takes practice - lots of it. Perfecting a satisfactory loaf seems a great post Christmas pastime. I shall put it on my January 'to do' list.

The House That Lily Built

16 December 2013

This weekend we had another pre-Christmas get-together with friends. But this time Lily took over the 'baking duties'. Along with presents and a festive refreshment, we took along this Gingerbread House that Lily decorated. With six children between the ages of 1 and 8, it was the perfect occasion for such a treat.

I'd never made a Gingerbread House before, but thought, that at the age of 8, Lily might like to give one a go. After a busy week, I decided to cheat a little and purchase ready-made gingerbread (something I would never normally do). However on opening our little flat-packed biscuit house, I found that a wall and one of the roof sides had broken. So, not wanting to disappoint Lily, who was very enthusiastic about her forthcoming house project, I baked the gingerbread from scratch. All in all, it turned out to be a very labour intensive project, but I think you'll agree Lily did a sterling job with the decoration. 

A Festive Chocolate + Ginger Cake

12 December 2013

Christmas started at the weekend for us when we went to a friends Christmas party. The same weekend each year, our friend puts on the most Christmassy of gatherings. I wrote about it a couple of years ago here. This year I baked this Chocolate + Ginger cake to take along. It's adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. You can replace the ginger preserve with the preserve of your choice. I've had successes with raspberry, marmalade and fig, but somehow the ginger version really comes into its own at Christmas. It's a super-quick recipe, perfect for this busy time of year.

Chocolate Ginger Cake.

125 g unsalted butter
100 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300 g good-quality ginger preserve
150 g sugarpinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150 g self-raising flour
icing sugar to decorate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Grease and line the base of a 20 cm spring-form tin with baking paper and set aside.
Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over a low heat to melt. When it’s almost melted, stir in the chocolate and allow it to melt a little. Take the pan off the heat and stir until the butter and chocolate are smooth and melted. Add in the ginger preserve, sugar, salt and eggs and stir well until everything is combined. Sift in the flour and stir again (taking care not to overmix), then pour the batter into the prepared tin. Bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before you turn it out. Once it’s completely cooled decorate as desired, or leave completely plain. 
For this occasion I topped the cake with drizzled icing and silver balls and a festive scene. It can also just be finished off with a little icing sugar passed through a sieve, like a dusting of snow. Simple.
Photography: Buttercup Days

A Christmas Wreath

9 December 2013

Christmas, for me, is a great excuse to set those creative juices flowing. I've always hankered after the idea of making my own wreath and this year I finally put it into practice. I attended a local wreath-making evening class last week and this was the result. It's not perfect, but I was really pleased with it being my first attempt and all that. 

There were about 25 of us in the class and after watching a demonstration we were left to our own devices and the array of materials on offer. It was easy enough to make once I had mastered the wiring together of the foliage. I kept it natural and relatively simple and included bay, cinnamon sticks and dried orange to give it a delicious aroma. 

Granted, it's not a very rock n' roll way to spend an evening, but my home now has a lovely festive front door and that pleases me no end. A sign of the times I guess.

Beetroot & Ginger Soup

8 December 2013

I've had my first mince pie of the season. They are my biggest festive weakness and I've done well to hold off until now. There will no doubt be many tempting treats to be had over the coming month, so to balance things out a bit, I'll make sure I cook plenty of healthy meals. Soup is always a winner in our house - it's packed full of goodness, it's quick to make and the kids lap it up.

This week I shared one of my favourite winter soup recipes, Beetroot and Ginger Soup, over on Heart Home. For the recipe just pop over to the Heart Home blog.

Recipe: Scandilicious
Photography: Buttercup Days

P.S. Do you like the new Buttercup Days banner? I opted to change to this black & white illustration to allow the photography to take centre stage. There is still a bit of tweaking to do but it almost there.
Thanks to Keith & Mark at Absolute Zero° for doing their magic with the illustration and to Milly at Cow Systems for making it all work.