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 I was given a jar of Mackays Orange, Lemon and Ginger marmalade and a blank slate to cook whatever I liked with it for #mackaysmarmalademarch my mind went as blank as the aforementioned slate! Being a devoted fan of the orange stuff, I’d already blogged all of my favourite things to do with it so coming up with something new was seriously challenging. Looking back through my old recipes for inspiration I found one involving marmalade that was a particular favourite – sticky marmaladey cocktail sausages – and wondered how I could improve upon those little beauties…
The thing is, sweet marmalade and savoury sausage is a properly delicious combination, the more so when the marmalade has reduced while cooking into a lovely sticky glaze that you can lick off your fingers. So I knew I wanted to stay with some finger-foodie, which led me eventually to these.
Sausage rolls are so easy to make that it really is a sin not to. The secret is good quality sausages and ready rolled puff pastry. Beyond that, anything goes, and half the fun is experimenting with different flavour combinations, like Thai red curry paste, or marmalade! What I love is that the marmalade adds a lovely but subtle sweet note without overwhelming the sausage roll (another reason to get good quality sausages). The black onion seeds add another savoury note as well a bit of texture, but you could use poppy seeds or sesame seeds if you have some of those handy.
The first batch of these taught me 1) not to get carried away with the amount of marmalade you use because it will get too watery and you’ll end up with the dread soggy bottoms, 2) not to glaze until you’re into the last 10 minutes of cooking time because a marmalade caramelises really really quickly, and 3) the combination worked just as well as I hoped it would.
2 tablespoons marmalade (I used Mackays Orange, Lemon and Ginger)
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp milk
Butter or oil for greasing, or waxy baking parchment paper
Black onion seeds (also called Nigella seeds)
Start by preheating the oven to 200C. While it’s heating up, prepare the baking sheet by greasing it or lining it with parchment paper.
Lay the pastry out flat on a lightly floured surface, or more waxy baking parchment, and cut horizontally right down the middle so that you have two long strips. Mix together the egg yolk and milk to make an egg wash, then brush the far border of each strip of pastry with a little of the egg wash.
If using sausages, cut a slit up the length of the sausage skin with scissors or a sharp knife and poke all the sausagemeat out into a mixing bowl. Add one tablespoon of marmalade and then snap on a pair of CSI vinyl gloves and get your hands stuck in, mixing it all up until the marmalade is combined well with the sausagemeat.
Divide the sausage meat mixture in half and shape each piece into a long, thin sausage, along the length of the pastry towards the edge nearest you. Then roll the pastry away from you and up and over to seal in the sausage meat. Roll the whole thing over so the sealed edge is underneath.
(If you’re making these ahead of time they can now be kept in the fridge for 24 hours, lightly covered with cling film, or they can even be frozen for up to 3 months - if cooking from frozen just add another 10 minutes to the cooking time).
Use a sharp knife to cut into thumb-length sausage rolls, discarding the pastry ends. Score a couple of slits in the top of each one before lifting them carefully onto the greased/lined baking sheet. Pop in the oven, middle shelf, and bake for 25 minutes.
Warm up the other tablespoon of marmalade in a small saucepan until it gets a little runny. After the sausage rolls have been in the oven for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and brush them with the runny marmalade before sprinkling all over with black onion seeds. Pop back into the oven for 5-10 minutes, until they are cooked through and golden.
Freeze the sausage rolls individually on the pastry parchment, once they're frozen you can then pop them into a bag and they won't stick together!
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.