Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Triple Chocolate and Chestnut Yule Log

Chestnut Yule Log with Penguin Robin and Holly Fondant Decorations

Slice of Chestnut Yule Log with Penguin Robin and Holly Fondant Decorations

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you all had a great stress-free day :) I had a bit of a baking marathon, baking dishes for my family as well as my boyfriend's. So don't be surprised that my next few (or several!) posts will be about the dishes I made.

First up is my yule log - a chocolate Swiss roll, which I filled with a sweetened chestnut puree and a chestnut white chocolate mousse. I covered the cake with a whipped milk/dark chocolate ganache, as I didn't want the cake to be overly bitter. 

I finally added some fondant decorations to my cake to give it a festive flavour.

The recipe was surprisingly straightforward - don't be put off by the fatless sponge - if you follow my instructions it will work I promise! This cake is suitable for children and adults so is perfect as a treat between Christmas and New Year's.

Makes 1 Yule log (serves 10-12)


For the sponge:

  • 4 eggs
  • 100g light soft brown sugar
  • 65g self raising flour
  • 40g good quality cocoa powder

For the chestnut puree:

  • 100g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts
  • 120ml (1 cup) milk
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the chestnut white chocolate mousse:

  • 100g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts, chopped
  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 1/2 sheet of gelatine

For the chocolate ganache:

  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids)
  • Pinch of sea salt

To finish:

  • Blocks of fondant icing (I used green, red, black, yellow and white)


For the sponge:

1. Preheat the oven to 200c (180c fan)/400f/gas mark 6. Grease and line the base of a 33 x 20cm baking tray (with at least 1cm in depth).

2. Use an electric whisk to whisk the eggs with the brown sugar until the mixture has at least doubled in volume, and has lightened in colour and a ribbon of mixture forms when the whisk is lifted from the bowl (about 5 minutes).

3. Carefully sift in the flour and cocoa powder, and then use a big metal spoon to cut and fold the flour into the mixture. Try to knock as little air out of the mixture as possible. As soon as no more lumps of flour are visible, stop folding.

4. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 6-8 minutes until the cake is slightly springy to the touch. 

5. Carefully take the sponge out of the tray onto a clean tea towel, leaving the greaseproof paper on (and touching the towel). With the long end towards you, roll the sponge up, rolling the towel with the sponge. Leave the sponge to cool rolled up. 

For the puree:

1. Place all of the ingredients for the puree into a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved, then leave simmering for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

2. Use a food processor or blender to blitz the mixture until smooth. 

For the chestnut and white chocolate mousse:

1. Finely chop the white chocolate and set aside. Meanwhile soak the gelatine in cold water until it is clear and soft (about 5 minutes).

2. Bring 50ml (3 tbsp) of the double cream and the soaked gelatine to a boil in a saucepan. Take the saucepan off the heat and pour in the chopped white chocolate. Beat until the white chocolate has melted and set aside to cool. 

3. Whisk the remaining 250ml double cream until soft peaks form (when the whisk is lifted out of the cream a peak forms that topples over at the tip). Fold the white chocolate mixture into the whisked double cream.

4. Fold in the chopped chestnuts and set aside.

For the chocolate ganache:

1. Finely chop the milk and dark chocolate. Meanwhile bring the cream to the boil in a saucepan. 

2. Once boiling, take the pan off the heat and pour in the chopped chocolate and salt. Beat until smooth then set aside to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until the ganache looks spreadable (about half an hour). 

3. Take out of the fridge, and leave at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Use an electric whisk to whip the ganache until is has thickened and holds it's shape when piped.

4. Spoon into a piping bag lined with an open star nozzle (I used a Wilton 1M nozzle), and set aside until needed.

To assemble:

1. Unroll the cooled sponge. Spread the chestnut puree evenly onto the sponge, leaving a 1/2cm gap around the edges.

2. Spread on the chestnut and white chocolate ganache, and smooth evenly onto the sponge, again leaving a 1/2cm gap around the edges.

3. Roll the sponge back up, peeling away the greaseproof paper so that none is in the sponge. After rolling, turn so that the seam (where the ends of the sponge meet at the end of the roll) is underneath.

4. Cut a third of the cake off and position to form a branch on the rest of the cake.

5. Pipe lines of ganache on the cake to resemble the wood. Pipe spirals on the end to resemble the ends of the log.

6. Make decorations out of the fondant icing. To make the holly leaves, I used a small leaf fondant cutter and green fondant icing. For the berries I simply rolled small amounts of red fondant into balls.

For the robin, I dyed the white fondant brown (using concentrated ivory food colouring), then decorated with a red belly and yellow beak and feet. 

For the penguin I used black fondant for the head and body, white fondant for the belly and face, yellow fondant for the feet and beak, and more black fondant for the eyes and wings.

7. Enjoy!!

Chestnut Yule Log with Penguin Robin and Holly Fondant Decorations

Slice of Chestnut Yule Log with Penguin Robin and Holly Fondant Decorations

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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Eggnog Mince Pies

Custard topped Mince Pie

Custard topped Mince Pie

This week, I decided to vary my classic mince pie recipe, adding a custard layer on the mincemeat, which had been lightly splashed with brandy. It has the feelings of eggnog and mincemeat in a mouthful, and the creaminess of the custard is delicious against the crisp pastry shells. 

You can buy store bought mincemeat or make your own (my recipe for mincemeat is here). 
If these are for kids/alcohol haters, omit the brandy and add something like orange juice instead.

Makes 12 pies


For the pastry:

  • 190g (1 & 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 45g (3 tbsp) icing sugar
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 90g (4 & 1/2 tbsp) butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp water

For the filling:
  • 400g (1 & 1/4 cups) jar good quality mincemeat
  • 500ml (2 cups) milk (I use skimmed, but whole milk would give a richer result)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 70g (1/3 cup) sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) brandy (or orange juice)
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • Zest of one orange


1. Lightly grease the base and sides of a 12 cup deep muffin tray.

2. Prepare the pastry. Into a large bowl sieve the plain flour, icing sugar, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

3. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Be patient at this point and make sure no large clumps of butter remain.

4. Add the egg yolk and water. Bring the dough together with your hands. Knead lightly into a ball.

5. Roll the dough out between two layers of clingfilm, until it is around the thickness of a pound coin (around 2mm). Cut out 10cm circles (using a fluted cutter) and gently transfer the the muffin tray. Chill for 20 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 200c (180c fan)/430f/gas mark 6.

7. Place a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into each tart case (so that it is between 1/2 and 2/3 full). Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the pastry is lightly golden. Set aside to cool.

8. Once cool, prepare the custard. In a medium saucepan heat the milk with the vanilla extract.

9. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, orange zest, corn flour and plain flour until smooth. Once the milk/vanilla mixture is gently simmering, pour over the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

10. Return the eggy mixture to the saucepan, and stir constantly until thickened. This will only take a few minutes. Whisk in the brandy or juice. 

11. Pour into a measuring jug (for easier pouring), and pour the custard on the top of each mince pie, until they are completely filled. Place in the fridge to set for around half an hour.

12. Enjoy cold or warmed :)

Custard topped Mince Pie

Custard topped Mince Pie

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Saturday, 10 December 2016

Festive Cinnamon-spiced Macarons

Cinnamon spiced Macarons filled with Cinnamon Buttercream

Cinnamon spiced Macarons filled with Cinnamon Buttercream

Here's a recipe for macarons, a french almond biscuit/pastry typically sandwiched together with a creamy filling. They are notoriously tricky to bake (and oddly expensive to buy) so I thought I'd give them a go.

I'm not going to lie - it took a few attempts to get these working. However, yesterday I found success and I'll share my tips with you guys :) Ideally you want to end up with biscuits that are slightly shiny, with no cracks. They're crisp on the outside but have a light soft texture in the middle.

I coloured mine a light yellow colour, and filled them with a cinnamon buttercream, which I also lightly spiced with ginger. Think the warming inside of a cinnamon swirl.

The end results were bliss (if not perfectly even in size), and I'd really recommend giving them a go.

They would make the perfect addition to a Christmas food hamper, and would really impress whoever you were giving them too :)

The only equipment you need is a baking tray and a piping bag - no special nozzles required!

They're written in the recipe but here are the key points where mistakes could be made:

1. Use free-range egg whites. Caged eggs give worse meringues in my experience, and this is crucial for a good macarons.
2. Grind the almonds with the icing sugar, and sieve them. Not doing this can lead to grainy-ness and an uneven bake.
3. When whisking the meringue (the meringue is used to make the macarons), make sure the peaks are stiff!
4. Leave the piped macarons until a skin forms. Not doing this will lead to cracking.
5. Gently sandwich two macarons together - they are delicate creatures.

Makes 12 (24 biscuits sandwiched together)


For the macarons:

  • 125g (1 cup) ground almonds
  • 125g (1 & 1/4 cups) icing sugar
  • 90g (around 3 medium eggs, or 6 tbsp) free-range egg whites (use the best quality egg whites you can, and make sure they're as fresh as possible)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • Concentrated gel food colouring (optional, I used an ivory concentrated gel)

For the buttercream:

  • 100g (1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp) softened butter
  • 200g (2 cups) icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp ground cinnamon (to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1-2 tbsp milk


1. Whizz the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor (or a high-speed blender such as a Nutribullet) until very fine. Pass the mixture through a sieve into a medium mixing bowl.

2. Add 40g (about 1 & 1/3 medium, or 2 tbsp & 2 tsp) egg whites to the ground almonds/icing sugar, and beat to form a paste.

3. Heat the caster sugar and water in a saucepan gently until the sugar has melted. Bring to the boil and heat until a sugar thermometer reads 115c/240f.

4. Meanwhile, in a completely grease free bowl (I find glass bowls work best), whisk 50g (about 1 & 2/3 medium) egg whites until they are very frothy, and a soft peak is formed when the whisk is lifted from the mixture. (Soft peak means that the mixture forms a tip that topples over to one side).
I used an electric hand whisk for this, but a whisk attachment on an electric mixer would work well too. I wouldn't recommend doing this by hand unless you want a bicep workout.

5. Pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites, whisking constantly. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted from the mixture (by stiff peak, I mean that a peak is formed when the whisk is lifted, which does not topple over to one side). BE PATIENT at this stage - it will probably take 5-10 minutes. You have effectively made an Italian meringue at this stage.

6. Colour the egg white/sugar meringue mixture to your desired shade.

7. Add a tablespoon of the meringue to the almond/icing sugar/egg paster, and beat well to loosen the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining meringue mixture, until the meringue is evenly distributed. Fill a piping bag, and cut off 1cm from the end.

8. Place a small amount of macaron mixture onto each corner of two baking trays, and line the trays with  baking parchment.

9. Pipe 4cm circles onto the tray. Hold the piping bag directly above where you want to pipe, and pipe enough mixture to make a 4cm circle. To make things more consistent (I didn't do this but it's a good idea to do if you have time), draw 4cm circles on the opposite side of the greaseproof paper, and use this as a guide to make equal macarons.

10. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, leaving a 2cm/1/2 inch gap between each macaron.

11. You should see a tip on each macaron, left by the piping bag. Gently pick up and drop the baking trays on the surface. This allows the macarons to settle.

12. Preheat the oven to 170c (150c fan)/325f/Gas mark 3.

12. Leave the macarons for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until a skin has formed on the macarons. You can test this by lightly pressing a macaron - if the mixture doesn't stick to your finger, the skin has formed.

13. Bake the macarons for 8-10 minutes until they are firm. Keep a close eye on them as they burn quickly.

14. Take the baking parchment carrying the macarons off the trays and leave the macarons to cool fully. Then carefully peel the macarons from the baking paper.

15. Make the buttercream. Place the butter in a medium mixing bowl, and beat until very soft. Sift in the icing sugar, and then add the ground cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Add a tablespoon of milk, and then start to cream the butter into the icing sugar with a wooden spoon. Keep beating until the mixture is smooth and slowly drops off the spoon when lifted from the bowl. Add drops of milk if the mixture is too stiff.

16. Taste the buttercream, and add more cinnamon if desired. Spoon into a piping bag.

17. Flip half of the macarons over and pipe buttercream onto each flipped base. Gently press a non-flipped base onto the buttercream-covered macarons.

18. To present my macarons I used the remaining buttercream to stick the macarons in two lines. These would also look beautiful in a box or gift bag.

19. Enjoy!!

Cinnamon spiced Macarons filled with Cinnamon Buttercream

Cinnamon spiced Macarons filled with Cinnamon Buttercream


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Saturday, 3 December 2016

Classic Mince Pies with A Twist

Star topped Mince Pies

Here's a real classic now that December is upon us. My ultimate mince pies - here I used a little shortcut of shop bought mincemeat, but I jazzed it up with orange, apple and some extra spices. You'd be amazed the difference little touches like that make! Alternatively making your own mincemeat is very straightforward - my recipe is here.
I used a muffin tin to make my mince pies - if you prefer shallower pies, this recipe will make 24 little pies. If you do this, only bake them for 10-15 minutes.

Makes 10 mince pies


For the pastry:

  • 250g (2 cups) plain flour
  • 160g (2/3 cup) butter or margarine, softened
  • 80g (1/3 cup and 1tbsp) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Finely grated zest of one orange
  • 1 egg

For the mincemeat:

  • 1 jar mincemeat (store bought or homemade)
  • 1 orange, peeled and the flesh chopped
  • 1 apple (I like a braeburn but any sharp apple will work)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) amaretto (optional)


1. Make the pastry. Simply add all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl, and rub the butter into the rest of the ingredients (this can also be done briefly in a food processor, or by hand). Add a tablespoon of cold water if the mixture is too powdery and isn't coming together into a ball.

2. Using your hands bring the pastry into a smooth ball (where no lumps of butter can be seen). Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 200c (180c fan)/400f/gas mark 6. Lightly grease a muffin tin - the easiest way to do this is with some spray oil, but a small amount of butter or margarine will work too. Greasing the tin will make your life 1000x easier when it comes to taking the pies out, believe me!

4. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of cling film, until it about 3mm/1/8 inch thick. Use a 9cm circular fluted cutter to cut out 10 circles for the "case" of the pies. Carefully place into the muffin tin, and trim off any excess pastry with a knife.

5. Make your filling. Mix the mincemeat, chopped orange, apple, cinnamon, ginger, and amaretto, if using, until the segments of orange and apple are evenly distributed throughout the mincemeat.

6. Fill the pastry cases with the mincemeat, so that it fills three quarters of the case. 

7. With the remaining rolled out pastry, cut out stars or other christmassy shapes, and place on the mincemeat filled cases. Sprinkle with caster sugar, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the sides of the pastry are lightly browned.

8. Leave to cool for around 5 minutes before taking out of the tins - the easiest way to do this is to gently press a knife down the side of the pie, releasing it from the tin. The pie should then pop out easily.

9. These are AMAZING served warm with a little cream, but also delicious at room temperature :)

10. Enjoy!

Star Topped Mince Pies

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