Saturday, December 24, 2011

Apple and Cinnamon Flapjacks

T'was the night before Christmas when all through the house, everyone was a-buzz, disturbing the poor mouse.

It's been a hectic day. We have our traditional Christmas Eve get together with our neighbours tonight and the house has been in a state of preparation since 9AM! We've been cleaning, cooking and I've been baking and decorating like a fury and the house is now completely ready for Christmas. I made my traditional cinnamon shortbread, decorated my Christmas cake and was struck by the sudden urge to make something different. As I have previously mentioned I LOVE flapjacks, and I have previously posted a recipe for basic Oatmeal Flapjacks, which forms the basis of these beauties. 

These flapjacks are more moist than the original recipe and the apples give them a very tender texture, the cinnamon lending a slight spice and the raisins giving a burst of sweetness. They don't hold together as well as the other recipe but are perfect served warm with vanilla ice cream! Thanks to the daily spud for the pic :)

Apple and Cinnamon Flapjacks
Makes one 9" pan
  • 175g butter,
  • 225g light brown sugar
  • 2tbsp golden syrup
  • 350g rolled oats (jumbo oats)
  • 2 cooking apples (I use Bramley)
  • 200g raisins
  • 2 tsps cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 150 C and grease a 9" square tin
Melt the butter with the sugar and syrup in a saucepan over a medium-low heat,
stirring to avoid sticking and burning until the butter has melted completely
Remove from the heat and stir in the oats, ensuring they are well coated in the mixture
Grate the apple into the saucepan and throw in the raisins, mixing well
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down with the back of a spoon
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden on the top
Cool completely then cut into squares with a knife and remove from the tin

As I said before these flapjacks are far more prone to fall apart than my original recipe but BOY are they yummy :) They're the perfect way to get away from heavier Christmas treats, and the crumbly bits will taste even BETTER for a light Christmas breakfast served with yoghurt :)

Wherever you are in the world, whether you're at home with your parents, or with people you love, meeting friends for Christmas drinks or spending the evening curled up by the fire reading or watching silly TV, I hope this Christmas is full of magic and wonderful moments for you all.

Merry Christmas from me and my exhausted cookie cutters :) x

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Baking Begins (a month ago)

It's Christmas, which means a bustling buzzing city, silly day time movies and cozying up on the couch with my family. It means turkey and ham, roast potatoes, sherry soaked fruitcake, boozy Christmas pudding, mince pies, Christmas cookies, great conversation, and silly cracker jokes.

I love Christmas, the excitement, the sense of togetherness and family that pervades the air, intertwining with the scent of cinnamon and cloves. I figured I'd start my Christmas baking countdown with my Christmas cake which admittedly was baked in November but I thought I might scare people off if I posted the recipe then :P

This recipe is an old family recipe passed down from my mother's side, originating from Canada and a newspaper from the 50's. The traditional christmas cake contains currants and spices, not this cake. This is a light fruitcake but the effect is a much moister, richer cake with none of that grittiness you often find with darker, more traditional fruitcakes.

WORD OF WARNING! The raisins need to soak for at least 12 hours before going into the mix!

Christmas Cake
  • 4 cups chopped candied orange and lemon peel, pineapple, candied ginger and glacé cherries
  • 2lbs jumbo golden raisins
  • 1.5 cups butter
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsps baking powder
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1-1.5 bottles sweet sherry or Madiera
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 cup whipping cream
Place the raisins in a bowl and cover with the sherry
Wrap in cling film and leave overnight

In the morning, transfer them to a saucepan and bring to a boil, simmering over a medium heat for 30 mins until the raisins have swollen.
Drain and reserve the liquid to pour over the cake later, and add the raisins to a large mixing bowl (my aunt traditionally used a baby bath!)

Preheat the oven to 130C and prepare a 9" deep cake tin by lining the sides with stiff brown paper (not cardboard) and lining the sides and base with greased greaseproof paper. Make sure these linings come about 4-6 inches above the rim of the tin.

Sieve the flour and baking powder and salt into a small bowl

Chop the almonds roughly, leaving some whole and add too the raisins, throwing in the glacéd fruit, candied peel, pineapple and ginger.
Add a handful of flour and toss to coat the fruit mixture

Cream the butter and sugar in another bowl until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, plus some flour to prevent the mixture splitting. Beat well.

In yet another bowl whip the cream into stiff peaks

Arrange the smaller bowls around the big bowl full of fruit and alternate adding the cream, batter mixture and flour mixture to the fruit, folding gently.
When all of these piles are well combined in the main bowl transfer the batter into the prepared tin, pushing it to the edges and making sure it is spread evenly and smoothed. Place this tin into a roasting tray with a little water in the base of it to stop the cake drying out.

Bake for 5-6 hours, checking the water leveland topping it up as needed.The cake is done when a skewer comes clean out of the center.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 2 days, then turn out and put tin foil around it.
Make holes with a skewer and pour over the liquid from the raisins.
Cover with the tinoil and wrap tightly in a plastic bag to keep it airtight.
Unwrap and decorate closer to Christmas :D

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving and a Kitchen Disaster

Thanksgiving is very much an American thing. Unlike other customs which have travelled across the pond and been copied by Europe and the world, this holiday seems exclusively American; ask any Irish person when Thanksgiving is or what it's about and you'll probably get an answer along the lines of 'Some time in Autumn...ish and something to do with Native Americans and turkey...maybe...'

I've learned a few things about Thanksgiving thanks to my lovely American, Ethan, and I feel that the most important part of it is that it represents a chance to get together as a family and enjoy great food and company. This year is the first year I'm actually going to be experiencing Thanksgiving firsthand so we'll see if my estimation of it has changed by this evening.

I'm bringing dessert this year and without pause for thought Ethan chose Pecan Pie. So I dug out a recipe I've made before with fantastic results. There's no corn syrup in this recipe because it's next to impossible to get over here and when you do manage to find it it's ridiculously expensive. In fact when this recipe was written I doubt corn syrup even existed over this side of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, when I wet to remove it from the oven it was black...ALL THE WAY THROUGH! My oven apparently has a hotspot right in the center, which defies the laws of baking physics but anyway! So I had to improvise and whip up a banoffee pie instead, which is a very American dessert and luckily also one of Ethan's favourites.

Rather than post up the abysmal pie disaster I am going to post the Banoffee recipe, I promise to post my corn syrup free pecan pie next time I make it

Banoffee Pie
Makes one 9" pie

  • 450-500g digestive biscuits 
  • 140g butter, melted
  • 387g tin condensed milk
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 3-4 bananas
  • whipped cream (to decorate)
Put digestives in a sandwich or ziploc bag and crush using a rolling pin, or kitchen mallet, or something similar
Tip into a bowl and add the melted butter, stirring to coat them evenly
Pour this mix into a loose bottomed 9" pie tin and press into the base and sides.
Chill in the fridge for 20-30 mins
Add the condensed milk, brown sugar and butter to a pan and heat over a medium heat, until it thickens and becomes a caramel colour.
Pour into the tin and smooth into an even layer over the base, chill for 45 mins - 1 hour
Slice the bananas into rounds approximately 3-5mm thick and layer over the caramel until it is all covered.
Put the cream into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe around the outside edge of the pie.

Imagine, DESS-aster (:P) saved by bananas, caramel and digestive biscuits! They may be my new kitchen heroes! Many thanks also to Ana over at Pinch of Salt for the photo :)