As always, Christmas Eve is made up of me and mine making gingerbread houses. See my previous Christmas posts for recipes (although there are very many fabulous ones online). This year we also made two miniature houses for gifts as well as a gingerbread star tree. I have to say Christmas Eve is truly my favourite day during the festive period. Have a wonderful time, love and sparkles xx
Yes, I know it’s February, but the following blankets were made as gifts for Christmas hence the title! 🙂 In fact one of these has only just been given as it was completed in January 🙂
I made these over a seven month period which sounds horrendous, however, there is nothing I love more these days than whiling away a couple of hours in the evening with my crochet hook and some gorgeous yarn. Downside for the other half is I like the big light on to crochet which kind of kills the mood for him (especially if he is watching one of his grey swedish killing type programmes). However, he is also partial to watching Wheeler Dealers or Car SOS or similar. No mood setting needed for those 🙂 Result, happy couple 🙂
Three of these blanket patterns came from the blanket supplement found on Simply Crochet magazine issue no 33. Check out their website for details. The sampler blanket was initially inspired by this one. In fact my first few rows were following the pattern properly but then encouraged by this lovely blog I had my first go at making it up as I go along. Really happy with the result 🙂
What I really loved about the patchwork style blankets was the conveyor belt style of crocheting I was able to do. Once I had mastered round 1, 2 or more, all I had to do was simply do another 20, 45 or in one case 104!!!! Something so very pleasing about small piles of crocheted squares or rounds that are then for the most part put together using the join as you go method. Love this way of putting a blanket together. Once you have all your bits you simply spend an afternoon or two arranging them how you want them and then a blanket will appear seemingly very very speedily. Happy Days.
Usually on Xmas eve (in fact every xmas eve that I can remember) we have made a Gingerbread house. This year has already looked a little different as we moved house in February, then the oldest children moved out as well. The youngest is already into her second year at Uni so things have been a little less xmassy in general 😦
So with that in mind, this year we decided that as all the children would be with us from xmas eve, we would start a new tradition of decorating the tree with homemade items as well as the gingerbread house. Well needless to say the gingerbread house is still in it’s component parts awaiting icing as well as numerous sweeties. We may finish it tomorrow, we may eat it!
Anyway, for your xmas pleasure, here are the pictures of our fabulous tree, resplendent in popcorn and cranberry tinsel, gingerbread peeps and hearts, red red ribbons, pompoms and a crochet unicow 🙂
I found myself watching the Bake Off Christmas Masterclass the other day with my daughter. We spent a perfect hour together with tea, cake and Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Bliss 🙂
Mary Berry, with her effortless style walks us through a chocolate yule log. The yule log has a chocolate ganache topping, and after our first attempt at making this we decided that, although yummy ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/yule_log_15656) it was very,very rich. We thought a chocolate buttercream would make for a lighter alternative. The downside is that it is indeed lighter in colour so visually not as log like!
Anyway, this is a really easy recipe that has worked every time we have made it. Next time I may add some black cherries to the cream filling for an added yumminess.
65g self raising flour
4 large eggs
100g caster sugar
250 ml/300 ml double cream. Mary Berry uses 300 ml. When I made this earlier I had only 250ml left in the carton. This worked fine and I suspect 200 ml would also be enough.
250g unsalted butter.
100g chocolate of your choice. I used milk chocolate for this one but whatever your family likes works here. Melt this before you add it to your icing.
1 tsp vanilla paste.
around 100g icing sugar, although I tend to add this bit by bit and then taste.
a little hot water.
Line a 33cm x 23cm swiss roll tin with baking paper. Butter it first, it helps the baking paper stick in all the right places. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk your eggs and sugar together until they have become thick and creamy. It will more than double in size too. The only way to really do this is with an electric hand mixer or a food mixer. I wouldn’t even attempt this by hand, you’ll be there all day!
Then sift in your flour and cocoa to the egg mixture. Fold this in gently, a metal spoon does this best. Once the mixture is an even colour (nice and chocolatey) you’ll have done it right.
Pour your mixture gently into your prepared tin and gently push it to the sides. If you are too rough you will knock your precious air out that you spent whisking in earlier.
Place in the centre of the oven and bake for around 8 minutes. The edges will start to come away from the sides of the tin and the cake will have a bounce to it when lightly pressed with your finger.
While your cake is baking prepare your work surface with a sheet of baking parchment that is roughly one and a half times the length of your swiss roll tin. Sprinkle this generously with icing sugar. You will be turning out your hot cake straight onto this when it is baked.
Peel off the baking parchment. Asbestos fingers help here! Then cut a groove about 2 centimetres from the end of your cake and then using the baking parchment roll up your swiss roll tightly and then leave to cool completely.
Once your log has cooled you can prepare the filling and topping.
Whisk the cream until it is thick and spreadable.
Unroll your swiss roll gently and then spread the inside with your cream. Re roll your log using baking paper again to help you.
Place log onto whatever you intend to serve it on.
Cut a section of log on the diagonal, and then place it alongside the body of the log to look like a branch. Apologies if this is phrased badly. Hope the picture helps with this.
For the topping, in a bowl whisk using an electric mixer, your butter until it is creamy and pale. Add icing sugar, vanilla paste and melted chocolate. Whisk together till creamy, adding a dash of hot water to this makes the mixture light and creamy. Go easy though, only a dash. Too much and your mixture will split 😦
You can either pipe on your chocolate icing or spread it on. I used a piping bag with a star nozzle to create the illusion “haha” of a log. However I have made this before and just used a pallet knife to cover the cake with icing and added grooves with it to give it a log effect! Whatever rocks your world. In fact if you have a small child handy, I would let them do it and then get them to find a robin (fake not real!) to perch on the top. I cannot find our robin so settled for a dusting of cocoa and edible glitter.
I do hope you enjoy making this and I promise it is much simpler and more straightforward than the instructions suggest!
Have had a truly wonderful Christmas Eve. As always I made a gingerbread house and decorated it with the help of the offspring. This year we had the added help of the firstborn’s girlfriend, Jas Poole. who is an excellent photographer as well as being creative with a jelly tot! (check out her website here http://www.jasminepoole.co.uk/)
I hope you feel inspired to have a go, I really can’t think of a nicer way to spend the day.
Well apologies for the lateness of this recipe blog, those christmas days tend to run away with themselves don’t they.
The following recipe is what you will need to make the 3D cookie tree I mentioned in my last post. The recipe can be found on the back of the pack of star cookie cutters that I purchased from Lakeland http://www.lakeland.co.uk/14489/3D-Christmas-Cookie-Cutter-Set. The recipe is pretty spot on but I found the addition of vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract is a bit yummier and can also be bought from Lakeland.
300g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
2 small eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
a pinch of salt
600g plain flour, sifted
First line some baking trays with baking parchment ready for your stars.
In a bowl cream together your butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the beaten eggs, vanilla and salt and mix well. Then gradually add your flour and mix until well incorporated. This can take a while as the mixture is quite dry. Worry not, persevere and it will come together.
Once you have a dough pop it into a plastic bag and then pop it into the fridge to chill for at least an hour.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) or gas mark 4.
Once your dough is chilled , roll it out to around 3-4 mm.
Now time to cut out your stars. You will need 2 of each, only one of the teeniest star for the top though. Arrange them on your prepared trays. They don’t spread much so you can put a fair few on the trays. Even so it took me about 3 lots of 2 batches in the oven to cook them all. If you have a double oven. YAY.
They take around 10-12 minutes to cook. Once they are firm and golden you can take them out of the oven. Do bear in mid the various sizes you are cooking, if you can do batches of similar size stars together so they cook together. You will need to adjust the time slightly for the biggest ones as well as the teeny ones but not by much (only a minute or so each side).
Leave them to cool on the baking trays for around 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. If you are impatient like me and need the baking trays for the next batch. You can slide the baking sheet with your hot cookies onto a wire rack, but please, please be careful as they are hot and fragile (one or two of mine broke doing this!)
Once you have all your cooked cookies and they have cooled down, you can assemble your tree. We used royal icing to stick ours together which works brilliantly until you try and eat your tree. Ours was stuck so well we had to go at the thing with a hammer!!! Your choice really, I would still use royal icing if you want your tree to be on display for a few days as we did. It kept really well for nearly a week on the kitchen table. If you want to eat it swiftly a butter icing will do or fondant icing as pictured below.
The picture below is of the one on the box from Lakeland. You can see our creation on my previous post (mine will get an inferiority complex if I post it here!!)
Well it’s five minutes till xmas day. We made our traditional Christmas Gingerbread House today as referred to in my last post. This year though we made something new as well. I picked up some star cookie cutters and made ourselves a xmas cookie tree. When I am less sleepy and more able to construct sentences I will post the recipe and link to where you can get these cutter sets. Meanwhile I hope you like the pictures as much as we enjoyed making them.
In our household, Christmas would not be Christmas without a gingerbread house. Every Christmas Eve since my children were fairly small I have made the house and the offspring have decorated it with as much sweet confection as they can get their hands on. They tend to follow the rule of one for the house one for them!!! I have followed a recipe gleaned from The Children’s Step by Step cook book by Angela Wilkes bought many years ago from a Dorling Kindersley book party. Try this link to buy : http://www.dk.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780751351217,00.html Right first things first. Ingredients:
340g plain flour
115g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda – do not forget this, I did twice and the result is sturdy to say the least (teeth shattering in fact!!!!)
175g soft brown sugar
4 tablespoons golden syrup
I also add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a dash of ground cloves for extra xmas spice. Nutmeg is also a lovely addition.
Royal icing – you can now buy a pack of royal icing that just needs water added. I use around half a pack for this recipe.
Method: In a saucepan put the butter, syrup and sugar and then stir over a gentle heat until melted together. In a bowl sift the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl. Add the slightly cooled syrup mixture and the beaten egg. Mix together, once combined place the dough into a plastic bag and chill in the fridge for a minimun of thirty minutes.
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C, Gas mark 5 Sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and roll out your dough to a thickness of 1/2 cm (1/4 in). Use your template to cut out your pieces for your house. The nicest one I have found is at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4900/ There you will find another recipe for gingerbread as well as a template you can download.
Cook your pieces for between 8 and 12 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they do catch on the corners which would be a shame after you’ve worked so hard. Cool on a wire rack. This recipe does give you more than enough mixture to make not only your house but also a collection of shapes which can include trees, stars and of course traditional gingerbread men.
Right time to assemble your creation. Mix up your batch of royal icing following the packet instructions. Once mixed place this mixture into a piping bag. You can buy disposable ones fairly cheaply which make cleaning up a breeze. Pipe an even line of icing down the sides you intend to stick and push firmly together. You can use a tumbler or mug to lean the first pieces up against until they hold together, this won’t take long at all. I usually put all the ground pieces together and then leave it to set thoroughly before attempting to put the roof on. When you do put the roof on you can lean it against something to hold it in pace whilst it is setting but if your icing is thick enough it should hold fine. Now comes the fun bit, watch as your offspring smother your darling house with all the little sweeties you bought earlier. Jelly tots, smarties, chocolate buttons all work really well. Have fun, Enjoy Lx