This is my favourite time of the year, all twinkly lights on the tree and curling up under a soft blankie to watch Love Actually for the 100th time with a Snowball cocktail and binge eating M&S party food. And Hubby baking up a storm! There really is nothing quite like the smell of gingerbread cookies in the air on Christmas Eve to make you feel properly festive 🙂
That said, what he bakes is mostly gifted away to family in pretty jars or festive little bags of delicious. These are my Dad’s favourites and “better than anything shop bought!” (how’s that for a five star review!). Hubby swears they’re incredibly easy to make. I swear they’re incredibly easy to accidentally eat a ton of!
Sugar & Spice Candied Nuts
Moreish nuts that make a great wee homemade gift, that is, if you can resist eating them all yourself...
And now for something sweet! Sweet… and a little salty, because, you know, grown ups need treats too 😉
This is an adaptation of something a work friend, @emmypelle, rustles up that makes any store bought sweet treats taste like runners up!
My plan was to make it exactly as @emmypelle does but I got Hubby involved, and when Hubby gets inovlved nothing is safe from his tampering and tweaking (honestly, he’s a menace!). This time in the form of marshmallows, a very American ingredient when making rice krispie cakes apparently, which just made the bars EVEN gooier still! This is not a bad thing…
He also decided to get his artistic hat on with some white chocolate marbling which I have to say is really quite pretty! The salt was my single contribution in this whole thing, an attempt to give these delicious treats a bit of a grown up spin. Also, who doesn’t love a little salt with their chocolate or caramel these days!
These are so easy to make that I think they’d be great for getting small kiddies into the kitchen to help. I have plans to make these with my 3 year old nephew at Christmas, he’s already dubbed them ‘Oncle Heath’s chochocs’, which I fully expect to be as messy as it’s going to be fun 🙂
Gooey Grown Up Salted Mars Bar Rice Krispie Cakes
A classic kid's sweet treat, given a bit of a grown up spin.
Chop up all of the chocolates. Butter a deep baking tray (we used a 24x24 one) and then line it with parchment to make it super easy to get your chocolate treats out of the tray!
Set a saucepan half-full of water over a high heat. When the water is boiling pop a mixing bowl on top and add the butter and golden syrup and leave to melt.
When the butter syrup mixture has melted, add the marshmallows and chopped mars bar and melt that too, making sure all the nougat in the mars bars has melted.
Take the bowl off the pan, add the rice krispies and mix well. You're looking to incorporate all of the melted mixture. Top tip from @emmypelle, the more krispies you add the less gooey the bars are, so you might want to experiment with different amounts of krispies to get your optimum level of gooey!
Tip the krispies mixture into a buttered baking tray and spread it all out, aiming for a flat surface.
Pop another heatproof bowl over your pan of boiling water, break up the milk chocolate into the bowl and get that all melted down. When it's ready, pour it over the rice krispies in the baking tray and spread it all out so that it's good and even and you're covering the entire surface.
You can stop here and just pop it straight into the fridge, the white chocolate and sea salt are entirely optional (but very very delicious!).
Do the same again with white chocolate, only when you pour it over the milk chocolate do it in as haphazard a fashion as possible so that there's patches of white chocolate rather than an even spread. Take a toothpick and just drag the tip of it all through the milk chocolate to create a marbling pattern.
When you're happy with your marbling, add a couple of pinches of rough sea salt over the top and then pop it into the fridge overnight to cool.
It all gets quite solid, so take the tray out of the fridge about half an hour before you're going to eat it and you'll find it much easier to cut the krispie treats up.
Keeps for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge, if you manage not to eat them all before that!
When Hubby first moved over from the States he would bake up a storm at Christmas – we’re talking every type of cookie under the low winter sun, and staying up into the wee hours making sure the batches were as fresh as they could be before we parcelled them out on Christmas day. As a non-baker it was all a bit of a novelty for me, but there is something properly magical about the smell of freshly baked gingerbread cookies filling the house on Christmas Eve, and it is now the smell of Christmas for me, not to mention Hubby’s gingerbread cookies are zomgscrumptious… But! That’s for another post, because this post is for something else entirely 🙂
The only non-cookie baked goods that get a look in at Christmas are these tray bake bars which are simply amazing. They are the perfect marriage of contrasts; sweet and salty, soft and crunchy, with one of those moreish digestive biccy bases and then topped with bits of Daim bar on top, and soooooo ooey and gooey that you can’t help but lick every last bit off your fingers and then hope you find a bit you missed!
He assures me they are easy to make, and I assure you they are every bit as delicious as they look and then some. And they freeze like a dream so your batch could last for months (if you have the willpower, that is!). Chase with a glass of cold milk for optimum nom…
Before I hand you over to Hubby for the recipe, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and that your turkeys were plump and your stockings well and truly stuffed 🙂
Sticky, sweet & salty pecan bars
Sweet and salty, soft and crunchy, all on top of a moreish digestive biscuit base.
2-3 bars hard toffee (Heath bars in the US, Daim bars in the UK), roughly chopped
coarse sea salt
Begin by preheating your oven to 350F / 175C.
Spread your pecans in a single layer on a baking tray, and roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. You don’t want them to actually blacken.
Set aside the pecans to cool, and then roughly crush them in a bag with a rolling pin, or in the food processor, once cooled. Be careful not to get too carried away, you don’t want to end up with a bag of pecan crumbs or, worse, pecan dust!
Grease your baking tray with butter before topping with a layer of non-stick baking parchment (the butter helps to hold the parchment in place which you’ll be thankful for when you’re trying to get the bars out neatly).
Prepare the base by melting the butter and then adding to the digestive crumbs, mixing as you go to incorporate fully. Now press the mixture into your baking tray, spreading evenly in one uniform layer. Pop into the fridge and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes but up to 2 hours if you can.
When the base has chilled, prepare the caramel by combining the sugar, butter and cream in a medium-size saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium heat, stirring occassionally. Once the mixture is smooth and well-mixed, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and add your pecans. Stir to combine.
Now pour the caramel-pecan mixture over the base, tilt & angle the pan until the mixture is as evenly distributed as possible.
Give this a few minutes to set, and then drizzle the condensed milk all over the top.
Pop in the oven and bake for 12-16 minutes, until browned and bubbly.
Remove from the oven, and while the bars are still hot, scatter over the chopped Daim bars and lightly press into the mix (non-stick implements are best for this) to help set, and then scatter with sea salt. If you have any eddible stars or glitter to make the bars even more festive then now’s the time to scatter them on top too.
Allow the bars to cool for about an hour before refrigerating overnight. This will help to ensure that the base is fully set and the bars are gooey and delicious. Don’t try to cut them until they’re fully cooled (try being the operative word), you’ll thank me for this later.
Hubby’s notes on the recipe
This recipe really is an amalgam of many parts; thrown together to create the Frankenstein’s monster of baked goods.
After trying the salted caramel bars at Starbucks, I thought I’d have a go at making them at home. After doing a bit of research, I stumbled across this (http://www.eat-drink-smile.com/2010/12/salted-caramel-pecan-bars.html) blog post which credits the recipe to Southern Living magazine.
Inspired, I thought I’d have a go. But, I couldn’t resist tweaking it a bit, and so I decided on using a standard cheesecake base for this. 200g digestive finely crushed digestive biscuits to 150g butter is a good base to start with. This will be ok for most baking sheets, but I up it to 300g/200g for the larger baking tray I have at home.
To cap it off, I remember my mum making these really delicious tray bakes when I was a kid, and so I incorporated elements from what I could remember of her recipe, which included adding the condensed milk and the toffee bars.
I have no idea where the time has gone! We popped stateside to visit Hubby’s folks for a couple of weeks in September and then I blinked and it’s almost November! Which is probably just as well, because this delicious steamed pudding is perfect for the onset of Autumn. As I sit here listening to the rain I think I can safely say that the comfort food season is officially open 😉
A couple of years ago we had some friends come visit us from New York. It was their first time in Scotland so we took them on the mother of all road trips, up through the Highlands and all the way across to Skye. The pair of them are as fond of good food as we are so having dragged them right up to the doorstep of the Three Chimneys it would have been a shame not to cross it and go in…
A meal at the Three Chimneys deserves a blog post all of its own, it really is that good, but today I’m going to rave just about the pudding which was worth the 400 mile round trip alone – the sponge was seductively dark but surprisingly light, and tasted most definitely and deliciously of marmalade which, as you might have noticed, is a particular favourite flavour of mine 🙂 If you ever ever make it up there don’t even look at anything else on the dessert menu, it will only tempt you away from one of the best puddings you’ll ever have.
Alternatively, stay home and have a go at making it yourself! We watched Nick Nairn make this on Saturday Kitchen one morning and it looked really really easy, like what-have-you-got-to-lose easy, so we tried it out courtesy of a recipe in The Guardian and it really was as easy as NN made it look. But, and probably most importantly, it comes a damn close second to the real thing! We made this as our contribution for the family Christmas dinner last year and the parentals have already pre-ordered it for this year 🙂
The Three Chimneys serves theirs with a Drambuie custard but Hubby and I found a nice vanilla ice cream goes just as well, so serve up with whichever you prefer.
This pudding supposedly freezes well but we’ve never had enough leftover to try (!) If you do freeze it though, you can apparently reheat it by steaming it again, or popping it in the microwave for a few seconds. Hubby has plans to pan fry slices in a little butter but see comment above re lack of leftovers…
Three Chimneys Hot Marmalade Pudding
A sweet citrusy steamed pudding that is perfect for a cold night.
25g self-raising wholemeal flour (or white self-raising flour)
120g soft light brown sugar
8 tbsp coarse-cut marmalade, plus 3 tbsp extra for serving
3 large eggs
1 rounded teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Other stuff you’ll need…
3 pint pudding basin
Large mixing bowl
Large saucepan or stewpot, deep enough to fit the pudding basin inside with the pan lid firmly on
Start by buttering the pudding basin well, and then set to one side.
Place the breadcrumbs, flour and sugar into the mixing bowl.
Melt the butter and marmalade in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Pour the melted ingredients over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and then mix it all together thoroughly.
In a seperate bowl, whisk the eggs until they’re frothy, and then beat gently into the pudding mixture until it is all blended together well.
Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in 1 tablespoon of cold water before stirring into the pudding mixture, which will increase in volume as it absorbs the bicarb.
Finally, spoon the mixture into the buttered basin. Cover it with close-fitting lid or, alternatively, make a lid with circles of buttered greaseproof paper and foil, pleated together across the centre and tied securely around the rim of the basin (if that made no sense then click here to watch a very good video explaining what to do).
Lower the pudding basin into the saucepan/stewpot of boiling water (the water should reach halfway up the side). Cover and simmer for two hours, checking the water throughout and topping up when needed (trust me, it will need it!).
When the two hours is up, carefully remove the pudding basin and remove the lid. Put a plate on top, turn the basin upside down and wait for the pudding to unmould. It should do this on its own but if it needs help then give it a sound tap on top, or squeeze if the basin is plastic, and it should slide on off.
Remove the basin and rejoice in the dark steamed perfection of your pudding!
Melt the extra marmalade in a small saucepan, then drizzle all over the pudding as you’re serving it.
Marmalade on toast is one of my favourite things for breakfast, which is odd since I’m really not a fan of oranges and rarely, if ever, eat them. Marmalade, however, I will scoff down quite merrily and any way I can – it makes a cracking sticky sweet glaze for cocktail sausages, an awesome steamed sponge pudding (it is the signature dish at The Three Chimneys on Skye and is deservedly legendary!) and thanks to this recommendation from my friend Ali B, marmalade also makes for an incredibly moreish ice cream flavour!
Legend has it that its name comes to us via Mary Queen of Scots, whose seasickness during her crossing from France to Scotland prompted her maids to cry “Ma’am est malade” and have the chef whip her up some of his sugary quincy seasickness cure. I do believe this has been soundly debunked though… 😉
But I digress. Back to marmalade ice cream, another perfectly Summery recipe! I’ve adapted this from Claire Kelsey’s recipe as printed in The Metro a couple of weeks ago. Her version uses wholemeal bread and dark brown sugar to be the ‘toast’ to the marmalade, but the friend who tipped me off to this recipe used jamaica ginger cake instead, and I have to say the ginger marmalade combo is simply phenomenal, so that’s the way I’m blogging it.
If you’re looking to try making your own ice cream then this is a great recipe to start with as it doesn’t require an ice cream maker or any churning, just fold it and freeze it 🙂 The toughest thing you’ll have to do is decide if you’re going to go with shreds or without. The correct answer is, obviously, with! And one last thing, because it’s a no-churn ice cream the longer it’s in the freezer the more ice crystals will grow on it, so eat it quickly before it loses its creamy texture – trust me, this will not be difficult…
Makes 1 litre
Marmalade Ice Cream
Citrusy ice cream with zingy ginger cake bits that just needs folding and freezing (no ice cream maker necessary).
Preheat the oven to 170C. While it’s heating up, crumble the cake into coarse breadcrumbs that resemble rubble. Spread the crumbs on to a baking tray pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until they are crisp but not hard – you’re aiming for them to provide a lovely crunchy contrast to the smooth ice cream. Set them aside until they’re cool.
Then… make a meringue by whisking the egg whites in a scrupulously clean bowl. When they start to form soft peaks, add the icing sugar and continue to whisk for another minute until they turn glossy. Stop before the meringue becomes stiff.
In your largest mixing bowl, mix the marmalade into the double cream, then whisk into soft peaks. Again, stop before it becomes too firm, otherwise you won’t be able to fold your mixtures together.
Use a spatula or a very big spoon to add a little of the meringue to the marmalade and cream, and fold in, turning the bowl are you go. Then add the rest of the meringue into the bowl still using a folding motion. The idea is to retain as much air as possible in the mix.
Lastly, scatter the cooled ginger cake crumbs over the top and repeat the folding and turning, mixing the crumbs through the cream.
Put the mixture in a tub, cover and freeze overnight. This is scoopable almost straight from the freezer.
If you want to try it with ‘toast’, use 100g wholemeal bread instead of the Jamaica Ginger Cake, crumble into breadcrumbs and mix with 70g dark brown sugar before baking as above.
Adapted from Claire Kelsey, Marmalade on Toast Ice Cream
Adapted from Claire Kelsey, Marmalade on Toast Ice Cream
Oven-warm homemade banana bread, slathered with butter that melts on your slice, and a pot of leaf tea… weekends don’t start much better than this! Unless you’re waking up to the smell of one of these already baking because somebody lovely decided to surprise you with it. 🙂
Hubby assures me it’s very easy to make which means I never say no when he suggests it! And if I ‘forget’ to eat the bananas in the kitchen then he suggests it more often than not… I suspect that he’s also after any excuse to use the HydroBake setting on our new oven, which keeps the humidity from whatever’s baking in the oven as steam and just makes his baked noms that much better (which I didn’t think was even possible!).
And it’s ‘loaded’ because of all the fruit and/or nuts Hubby throws into the mix which, given his inability to leave well enough alone, changes every time – today’s one was full of stewed apples and cinammon! But the flavour of the banana always wins through, and the older the banana the stronger their flavour – we’ve even frozen bananas that looked beyond saving because we knew how awesome they would be in this, that and we are trying to be better about food waste (if you are using frozen bananas, defrost thoroughly first otherwise you won’t be able to mash them).
I’m a traditionalist when it comes to banana bread and prefer it loaf shaped, hands down, over muffins. They’re more portable muffin sized but I think a little drier, and you really just can’t beat the perfection of all that melty butter on a warm slice of loaf. Look at my picture again and tell me I’m wrong 😉
Hubby's Loaded Banana Bread
Oven-warm homemade banana bread, slathered with melting butter, it doesn't get much better than this.
(or for a healthier option, use 3/4 cup of apple sauce instead plus 1 tbsp vegetable oil)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Butter or Vegetable Oil to grease tin.
Stuff you can take or leave…
- 3/4 cup chopped pecan or walnut pieces, don’t process these as it becomes too grainy (Hubby says he prefers pecans for taste)
- a few handfuls of sultanas or raisins. Asda has a dried fruit mix that has raisins and golden sultanas plus lemon peel.
- Fresh blueberries also go in really well. If you’re using these, add them gently by hand just before baking to keep them whole.
Other stuff you’ll need…
6 by 9-inch loaf pan of muffin tray
Large mixing bowl
Preheat the oven to 175C for bread or 200C for muffins and put the oven rack in the centre position. Lightly grease your loaf pan with vegetable oil or butter (if you’re using muffin cups or silicon trays, skip this).
In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and sour cream, and whisk until smooth.
Peel the bananas and place in a small bowl. Mash with the back of a fork until there are no big lumps remaining. Add these to the wet mixture together with the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and whisk to combine.
Add the nuts and dried fruits / berries at this point. Do this before you add the flour so as not to overmix.
Add the flour and stir until just combined. Be careful, again, to not overmix.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and give it a good shoogle and bang it a few times on your counter to get rid of any air bubbles in the mix. Sprinkle a little brown sugar over the top, and then pop into the overn and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes for bread (or 25 minutes for muffins) until golden brown and risen. Check if the bread is done by pushing a toothpick into the middle, if it comes out clean the bread is ready.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before turning the bread out of its pan. More fruit-heavy loaves will need longer to cool to avoid falling apart. Muffins not in cases should be allowed to cool in their trays.