Christmas Cake

Here’s a Christmas lesson, this post was written early and posted late because there are so many things that I’m always trying to do at this time of year. I need to learn to slow down and enjoy the time more.

It’s been an introspective year for me. I’ve thought of so many times in my life I’ like to go back to and tell myself to make different decisions or to make decisions for the right reasons not because of being scared or feeling that there was no choice. But time travel isn’t possible and I’m trying to learn to give myself the same care that I extend to others. To allow myself to know I made the best decisions I could at the time with the information I had. We can’t go back in time but we can go forward with all of the life experience and knowledge we have and make decisions for the right reasons in future.

As I write it’s December 1st and I’m waiting for my Christmas Cake to come out of the oven. It’s at least a month after it ‘should’ have been made and it’s made to a much more simple recipe than the usual recipe I use. But rather than having to try and convince myself it’s not happened that way because I’m never good enough or organised enough or have let anyone down I feel happy it’s done now. I decided to do other things up until now and I decided to make this recipe, not the other one. There really isn’t a sort of person who makes the perfect family recipe Christmas Cake and a sort of person who buys a cake there’s only the sort of person who does what they do with the time they have and deserves to be happy and proud of themselves.

As usual, Mary Berry can be relied on to provide a lovely simple recipe.

I made it a bit more special by soaking the fruit in a mix of sherry and brandy overnight before I started.

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My heirloom electric whisk from the 1980s finally gave up the ghost during the creation of cupcakes for the school Christmas Bizarre so I ended up making this using the food processor as I’ve become much too lazy to cream butter and sugar by hand.

Adding the flour and ground almonds and a little orange essence as we didn’t have almond and it seemed more suitable than peppermint which was the other alternative in the cupboard.

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Had to mix in the fruit by hand after draining off the excess alcohol (which I saved to pour on once the cake is cooked) maybe I should have used a slightly bigger mixing bowl because it was a bit tricky to hold such a full bowl while pouring mixture into the tin.

Once the cake was cooked and had plenty more alcohol poured over the top it is cooled and stored for a couple of weeks before it’s ready for the marzipan and icing.

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Christmas Cake

 

 

 

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Sweet potato and peanut cookies.

I really love sweet potato. I’ve never had something made with sweet potato that I didn’t like. Well not before today anyway.

The weather was properly cold for the first time this year and sunny too which cheered me up. It was the end of the half-term holiday so I had a lovely walk with my dog (well mostly lovely except of course the ratbag wanted to chase all the squirrels). It’s his least favourite time of year because of all the fireworks, which used to be one of my favourite times of the year but not so much with a terrified dog almost every evening for about 3 weeks.

The cold weather arriving is legitimising my desire to make stews and soups more and more so today I was making a shepherds pie of sorts (it had veggie mince and sweet potato topping). So I thought I would give some sweet potato baking a go too.

I’m not linking to the recipe I used because this isn’t the best of reviews (plus I slightly changed it as not a fan of raisins and didn’t have pumpkin seeds available) but it’s not the recipe’s fault.

  • img_20171030_131915.jpg3/4 Cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1/2 Cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs

Cinnamon and Maple Syrup Ingredients for cookiesWhisk together. Then add and mix in.

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 Teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Add and combine

  • 1/3 cup oat mix flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Spoon tablespoons full on to a lined baking tray. Bake at 350f 175c or gas 4 for 20 minutes.

For me, they are the wrong texture for a cookie and taste entirely of slightly gone off peanut butter. The rest of the taste team said they look like chicken pieces and taste disgusting. I think we need to find someone who likes the idea of peanut butter flavour cake. Taking them to a meeting this evening to try them out on some friends.

Back to the drawing board for me when it comes to sweet potato baking. The sweet potato shepherds pie, on the other hand, is amazing.

Moments

Prioritising has never been a strong point for me I’m good at getting bored easily and forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. I may have mentioned before I need lists. This is never more true than on weeks like this one when my youngest started full time school and suddenly I was already busy every day of the week. I’m trying to take things slow and appreciate the small moments so that all of the things that need to be done don’t become overwhelming.

I’ve been continuing to think about how we need to teach ourselves and our children to cultivate positive mental health and good practices and habits to help prevent potential problems rather than just firefight when the problems start to get bad. This week I’m trying to slow down and remember the most important thing happening in my life is my children are growing up. To do this I’m trying to make sure I look at them and listen properly when they talk to me. To spot the times of day they are ready to open up and to focus and listen. It’s not easy especially when all three want to talk at once but just because I don’t always succeed doesn’t mean I’m giving up.

Looking for recipes for lunch box friendly cakes and biscuits made me remember a favourite from my own childhood. Mary Berry (yes always the family favourite cookbook) Melting Moments.

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I’ve made one small adjustment because I don’t buy margarine anymore, sometimes I swap for butter but this time I swapped for coconut oil.

It’s a cream fat and sugar add egg and then flour and oats type of recipe. The biscuits are shaped by hand and rolled in oats then flattened on the tray. As with all the recipes in the book pretty simple.

They’re baked at quite a low temperature and for 20 minutes which was just about perfect, the tray on the top shelf slightly more well done than the one on the middle meaning those ones were crunchier and the middle shelf ones were chewier.

The taste team took their responsibilities very seriously and rated them ‘good’ on smell, snap, crunch and chew.

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Failing the challenge but not at life

After challenging myself to bake at least once a week for a year, nine months in, I’ve failed for the first time. Last week I didn’t just fail to write I failed to bake. I did bake bread (sourdough) which in itself represents a win, didn’t think I was going to keep that up as well as I have done. But it’s not a win on the baking for fun side of things. It wasn’t a positive choice just something that happened, the week went by while I was deep in the parenting trenches. The last week of the holidays is always the hardest because everyone has had enough of each other and everyone is feeling the nerves of what will the new school year hold. We held it together, just about, but it’s been hard work. Not least because the challenges that teens today have to face and the pressures on them are immense and it’s really no wonder that there is such an increase in mental health issues.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this but I’ve got a strong feeling positive mental health and how to create, maintain and support it is a gaping hole in our society. I’m going to have a lot more thinking and writing to do over the next months and years. Lots of threads in my life seem to be coming together.

This week baking is back and these flapjacks are really yummy but not at all healthy. They did make a great back to school treat though.

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I’m fed up with not being able to find sugar free cake recipes that don’t have wither sweeteners or non-standard ingredients in so I’m setting out now to start making up my own recipes that are simple as well as healthier.

I had some pears that needed eating up so my first go was a pear and ginger loaf.

4 Pears peeled poached and pureed

3 Eggs

150g Butter

175g Self Raising Flour

1 teaspoon Ginger

1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup

All in a big bowl whisk for 2 minutes. Place in greased and lined loaf tin. Bake at Gas 6 for 50-60 minutes.

 

It was too fatty and not sweet enough and didn’t rise as much as it could have. Not inedible though and a good first step. Next week apples in place of pears and some more tweaks and see where we go.