December 29, 2013 by sarah
I made these to go with the cheese board over Christmas. If you know me, you how much I love cheese. But now I have found a recipe for crackers that are good enough to eat in their own right rather than just being a token apparatus to get cheese to the mouth!
The original recipe is here on ‘theKitchn’ and seems to be very adaptable and forgiving. I don’t normally cook by cup measurements as it doesn’t seem accurate enough for baking (and I don’t own a cup measure) but I used a small plastic cup as the measure and got stuck in. The recipe is based on soda bread. I shoved in some dried apricots and a mix of nuts and seeds as I didn’t have enough of any particular one and the only brown flour I had in the house was strong bread flour. AND they still came out fantastic. I still have one of the loaves in the freezer for another round of crackers when I feel like it! Brill!
1 cup dried fruit e.g. cranberries, apricots, dates, raisins
3/4 nuts e.g. pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts
1/2 cup mixed seeds e.g. pumpkin, sunflower
1 cup plain flour
1 cup whole wheat, rye, spelt or other whole-grain flour
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon herbs e.g. rosemary or thyme
2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 cups milk with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice added, leave for 10 minutes
Preheat oven to 180 °C or 160 °C if fan. Grease two loaf tins.
Place the dried fruit in a small bowl and pour over very hot water from the kettle. Allow time to plump up while you get the other ingredients together.
Toast the nuts in the oven until golden brown and fragrant and then roughly chop. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flours, herbs, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Pour over the buttermilk and stir together with a spatula until no dry mixture remains but do not continue mixing beyond this.
Drain the dried fruit and if using a large fruit such as apricots or dates, roughly chop. Add the fruit with the nuts and seeds to the batter, stir gently to mix. Do not be worried if your batter look very liquid at this stage.
Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf tins, place on a baking sheet and put in the oven for about 30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. Then wrap in cling or greaseproof paper, put in a freezer bag and pop in the freezer until you are ready to do the next stage, but they need to be frozen for at least 4 hours before they are firm enough to cut thinly.
When you are ready to turn the cakes into crackers then preheat the oven to 150° C. Remove one of the loaves from the freezer and unwrap. With a very sharp knife, slice as thin as possible. Lay the slices out on baking trays so they are one layer thick.
Bake the slices for 15 minutes, turn the slices over and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so. They should now have turned a darker colour, be starting to curl at the edges but not blacken. Do not worry if they are still a little soft in the centre as they will firm up when you cool them on a cooling rack. Store in a airtight tin until ready to be eaten.
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December 19, 2013 by sarah
I only started making our Christmas cake annually a couple of years ago. It seemed like too much hassle and the supermarket one was fine if you doused it up with enough booze. But then I bit the bullet and it has definately become an annual ceremony. The actually making doesn’t take too long; the fruit is best boozed up a few days before, a bit of stirring and then hours in the oven when it just needs occasional checking but not onerously. And then the boozing up, my favourite ritual. Once a week, or more if I remember, the cake is unwrapped, prodded, sniffed and then liberally painted with booze. I write ‘booze’ because I don’t think it really matters what you use so use up those dregs at the back of the cocktail cabinet (what, you don’t have one darling) but I stipulate it must have flavour (so no vodka), not be cream based and be greater than 20% alcohol (so no syrupy things). Don’t ask me if you can make it without the alcohol; this recipe has mandatory alcohol. This cake is best made several weeks before it is due to be eaten; Delia suggests a minimum of 8 weeks, so perhaps it should really be an October Half Term activity but I usually don’t remember until mid to late November and it still tastes great.
(Delia Smith with some of my alterations)
1kg mixed dried fruits (raisins, sultanas, currants, mixed peel, glace cherries, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, dates, figs) I added a quarter of this weight in dates from our trip to Morocco
50-100ml booze (sherry, brandy, rum, whisky…)
250g unsalted butter
250g light brown soft sugar
200g plain flour
50-100g nuts (whole or flaked almonds, chopped walnuts, pecans etc)
4 large eggs or 5 medium eggs from my girls
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp black treacle
grated rind of one lemon and one orange
Several days before you plan do do the baking, put the fruit mixture into a glass bowl and add the booze. Cover with cling and shake daily until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 160 °C/140 °C fan with a shelf in the bottom third of the oven. Butter and double line a 20 cm round tin, with enough baking parchment to come several centimetres above the top of the tin. Wrap the outside of the tin with several sheets of newspaper secured with string. Sit the tin on top of more folded newspaper on a baking tray. Make a hat for the tin with double thickness of parchment cut to a circle that just fits inside and cut out a small circle in this in the centre (fold the squares of parchment up into quarters, the quarters again then round off the outer corners to give a circle and cut the point out of the circle – comprendé?).
Cream the butter and sugar until very light. Whisk the eggs separately then add one at a time to this, mixing well between and adding some of the flour if it looks like it will curdle. Sift the flour, spices and salt over the top and then fold in. Fold in the fruit (and any booze left behind), the nuts, the treacle and rinds.
Tip this mixture into the prepared tin and level off the surface. Place into the preheated oven and leave alone for 4 hours – walk the dog, do some study etc. The cake may take up to 4 and half hours but you still want a few crumbs sticking to the metal skewer when you test it; if you over cook it, it will be dry no matter how much booze you add. Leave to cool totally in the tin before unwrapping and then make some holes with a skewer all over the cake and brush or spoon over more booze. Wrap the cake in greaseproof paper and in a tin and repeat the feeding process ad infinitum.
Decorate as you wish (no fondant for me please!).
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September 29, 2013 by sarah
This is a recipe for a traditional Dundee cake with a texture lighter and crumblier than the Christmas-type fruit cake and a lovely flavour. It takes a while to bake during which it needs some attention but not constant.
175g unsalted butter at room temperature/softened
150g caster sugar or soft brown sugar, or mixture
4 medium eggs (room temperature)
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g marmalade or apricot preserve (optional)
350g of mixed dried fruit (currants and sultanas are traditional)
50-100g glace cherries, rinsed, dried and cut in half
50-100g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
75g ground almonds
finely grated rind of an orange
1 tablespoon of whisky
100g blanched almonds for the top.
A day or two before you want to make this cake, weigh out the dried fruit and splash over some sherry, whisky or rum, cover with cling film and leave until ready to make the cake.
Prepare the tin – this is very important as it will stop the cake from sticking and burning. Line a 20cm (7.5 to 8″) tin with a double layer of greaseproof paper, including the bottom, and grease well. Round the outside of the tin wrap folded over newspaper and tie with string to hold in place. Sit the prepared tin on more folded over newspaper on a baking tray. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees (150 if fan).
Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until very fluffy. Whisk in the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour between each addition to prevent curdling (it will also help if the eggs are at room temperature). Now add the marmalade or apricot preserve if using and orange zest; make sure it is soft and bit on the runny side by whisking, possibly with the whisky, before adding to the mixture otherwise you will end up with lumps (see – this is what happened to me!).
Now fold in the flour (reserving a couple of tablespoons – see next step), ground almonds and baking powder with a large spoon. The mixture at this stage should be stiffer than your average sponge batter, otherwise the fruit will sink. That reserved flour, sprinkle it over the dried fruit and glace cherries (this stops them from sinking) then fold all the remaining fruity ingredients into the batter.
Put the blanched almonds into a bowl and cover with boiling water while you spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top and press a very slight concavity into the middle of the cake (so when it rises the top stays level). Drain the almonds and dry on kitchen paper. Next, arrange the almonds in concentric circles on the top of the cake, starting in the middle. Do not push them in when you do this otherwise they will sink into the cake while cooking.
Make a foil hat that sits on top of the paper that surrounds the tin and put the tin in the oven, middle or bottom levels. It will need 2 to 2 and half hours, until a skewer comes out almost clean (err on the side of slight under doing as it will continue to cook for a bit as it cools and you don’t want a dry cake). Keep the hat on the cake until the last half an hour of cooking as this will stop burning and cracking.
When you take the cake out of the oven, brush the top with a sugar syrup made from a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of caster sugar and put back in the oven for 5 minutes to dry this then repeat the syrup but leave out of the oven. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin. This cake keeps very well for a week or more in an airtight tin and the flavour improves after a few days. Enjoy!
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