You've probably noticed I haven't written anything for a few days. I had a busy weekend, really: checking out the Re:Start night market on Friday, lending Bex a hand with her Christmas baking on Saturday, and finally, spending pretty much all day Sunday doing my own.
I had intended to be a bit more organised and do more of this in the evenings last week. Somehow, that didn't happen, but I'd decided today was the day I'd be bringing my annual trays of Christmas baking to work, so I had to spend Sunday getting it all done.
The first recipe I tackled was orange biscuits (p35). This was the final remaining variation of those basic biscuits I made the other day. They're made in exactly the same way, except you add a bit of orange zest. I once again ignored the instruction to shape the dough into balls, instead rolling it out and cutting into cute little Christmas trees.
Since my Christmas tree cutter is very small, it made lots - far more than I needed. It took quite a while to get them all cut, baked and cooled, but once they had, I laid them all out close together on the benchtop and drizzled an orange icing back and forth over them all (a conveniently quick way of icing a lot of biscuits at once). I should perhaps have added some colour to the icing so it stood out more, but at least it offset the faint orangey flavour of the biscuit.
Next, I made the fruit squares (p83). This is a recipe from the pastry chapter, but since I was using flaky pastry from the supermarket, it wasn't particularly difficult. I halved my roll of pastry and spread it with a fruit mixture comprised of raisins, sultanas, currants, apples, lemon rind and juce, along with a bit of butter, brown sugar, mixed spice and cinnamon.
I placed the remaining pastry on top and pressed the edges together with a fork. The recipe didn't say to brush anything over the pastry, but it looked so dry without an egg wash or something. I decided to brush over a little of the juice left in the bowl I'd used to mix the filling.
A few pricks of a fork and the pastry was in the oven. it cooked in well under the suggested cooking time, and came out puffy and golden. I cut it up while hot, and set it aside to cool.
Butterscotch (p219) was next on the list. I've got a lot more relaxed about sweet making since the first toffee horror when I stood over the pot for what seemed like hours. I dissolved sugar and cram of tartar in water and added some prepared gelatine. After that, I brought the mixture to the boil, added some butter and let it bubble away while I cleaned up the kitchen, keeping one eye on the pot and occasionally checking for setting point.
Once the mixture looked like it had reached 'soft crack' (I definitely should have bought a sugar thermometer when I started this challenge. It would have saved some headaches) I poured it into a tin and put it in the fridge to set.
As the butterscotch set, an unappetising buttery fluid began to ooze out. I suspect that this might indicate I didn't judge the boiling time right by the time it had fully set and I was breaking it into pieces, there was a lot of this goo on it. It tasted pretty good though - chewy, but tasty. I scraped the buttery stuff off and hoped for the best.
Next, I had to tackle a recipe that's been on my mind for a while. After all, what possible excuse could I have to make toffee apples (p221)? After a bit of discussion with some workmates, I decided that substituting cherries for the apples might make for a more user-friendly, bite size result.
The toffee was surprisingly easy to make. I pute some sugar in a saucepan with vinegar, butter and water. When the sugar had dissolved, I added cream of tartar and a drop of red food colouring. The mixture then needed to boil until it reached 'hard crack' so I left it alone for a bit.
But not too long - the toffee reached 'hard crack' much more quickly than I had expected. I was soon dipping cherries (and one apple, just so I can say I've done it) in the toffee mixture and leaving them to set on a piece of baking paper. I did have to reheat the toffee slightly when it started to thicken, but other than that, it was easy - and my little toffee-coated cherries looked delicious!
Finally, I had to make something to go in those little tart cases I'd made from basic biscuit dough the other day. For this, I intended to make pineapple filling (p78). I have to say this filling was not quite what I'd pictured: it's merely crushed pineapple with a bit of sugar, water and gelatine to make it set. It was pretty easy to make though, and I soon had a tray of little pineapple-filled tarts chilling in the fridge.
It took me all day, but I finally had everything done. I put the butterscotch and cherries in the fridge, since they seemed to be melting in the heat, and packed everything else away in the pantry.
This morning, I got up early to put together my goodie trays. I was dismayed when I opened the fridge and found that my gorgeous cherries had gone all sugary and melty overnight. Added to that, the butterscotch had fused into a single sticky lump, and I had to lever the pieces apart with a knife.
I piled everything on the plate anyway, amazed (as usual) by how much stuff I'd actually made. The individual components might not have all been top notch, but it all looked quite good stacked together on a plate. It cant have tasted that bad though, since almost all of it got eaten - at least from the platter we had in our office. I don't know about the other two.
So that's Christmas baking done for another year. This time next year, I'll be able to make whatever I want - I wonder if some Edmonds recipes will sneak in there anyway?
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