Peppermint Hot Chocolate Stirrers

If you have leftover candy canes from Christmas, you could try this little idea that I did as a gift for friends this year.

Inspired by a social media post, I thought I would try out candy cane spoons – mostly because I have some silicon spoon moulds that I had never used.

I started by smashing up those red and white peppermints – similar to candy canes and to be honest, I didn’t even think about saving the hassle of finding these mints and used candy canes instead!!

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Pour the crumbs into the moulds – this will be very sticky and pop in the oven at 150C and allow them to melt. I cannot stress how vital it is to keep and eye on this stage as I forgot on my first attempt and ended up with a bubbling, sugary mess. You may need to top up after the first melt, as the candies can pack down a bit.

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Once you’re happy with the thickness of your spoons and they’re completely cool, carefully remove them from the moulds.

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Whilst the spoons are cooling, melt some chocolate – of your choice – in a double broiler with a touch of butter and fill some baby fairy cake cases with the chocolate. Dip your spoons into the chocolate, just far enough for them to stand up unaided.

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Get them in cellophane bags as soon as possible, otherwise the spoons will become tacky. And there you go, peppermint hot chocolate/coffee stirrers.

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Festive Firelighters

I can finally write about these, as my friends whom I made them for have received them as part of a hamper, which they were allowed to open early for Christmas.

I got this idea off the TV the other day with Kirstie Allsopp in her Homemade Christmas series, which I love – festive firelighters. They looked easy, so I thought I would give them a go.

I started by drying some orange peel strips in the oven at a low temperature. It only took around 10 minutes – much quicker than I expected!

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Then I took 6 tealights out of their metal containers and popped them in their own individual Christmas cupcake cases and put them in the oven at around 150C I think it was, and allow the wax to melt. Again, this didn’t take long and I kept an eye all the time – just in case!

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Take the cases out of the oven, and carefully move the wick to the edge and whilst the wax is still molten, add your orange peel, cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves – or a mix of what you like – and allow the wax to cool.

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The idea is my friends can now light the wick, pop the whole thing in their open fire and their home should smell like Christmas as the fire burns.

So, thank you Kirstie for the idea, it works and was a lovely addition to the hamper.

Christmas Tree Cake

I’ve had my first go at icing a cake that wasn’t a standard round Christmas cake. For my birthday this year, I was given a Christmas tree cake tin and we thought we’d have a chocolate cake for our Christmas pudding this year.

As a trial run, I made a dummy run, which was going to be delivered to my in-laws, only for the snow to hit, so we had to eat it ourselves!

I won’t talk you through the chocolate cake, but I used Mary Berry’s recipe and it turned out really nice – well, she is the Queen of Cakes to me!

For this cake, I made two sponge cakes and after a slight wrestling match with the tin, I managed to get them out. Note to self, cooking spray isn’t enough, always line!

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The two chocolate trees were filled with freshly whipped cream and a whole jar of strawberry jam. Then, I used ready-rolled (short cut) marzipan to top the cake, before rolling out green icing (I used two packets, but three would be better) and for the trunk, I used a pack of chocolate icing, which I rolled out.

To top the cake off, I used edible glitter spray in gold and silver, some little red sugar balls, silver sugar balls and some edible snowflakes. To get them to stick, I used a little bit of gin – vodka works well too.

I didn’t think I did too bad for my first attempt and was gutted I couldn’t get it to its intended recipients. I’ll now be having another go ready for Christmas next week.

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Christmas Ham

My parents-in-law always say they don’t want anything for Christmas, so I tend to make them edible treats and this year is no different.

Along with a batch of sausage rolls – without any spice – I whipped up a Christmas ham for them.

I always get my gammon from the butcher, that way I know it has a good rind on it. Do not remove any ‘netting’ around the meat, as this will hold the shape for you. Start by allowing it to soak in moving water for at least 2-3 hours, then pop the meat in a saucepan to slowly boil. You can use water, but I like to use apple juice or cider to give the meat a nice flavour. Cover the ham completely with your chosen liquid and add a few cloves and a cinnamon stick, put the lid on the pot and leave it on the lowest heat for 2-3 hours. Keep checking to make sure you still have enough liquid in there.

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Test the meat with a serving fork and when it’s cooked, transfer the meat to a board and carefully cut off the rind, leaving a good amount of fat. Remember it will be hot, so take extra care.

Now, score the fat to make diamond shapes across the top of the joint and pop in a roasting dish – I line mine with foil for less washing up!

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Pour over some runny honey and stud the diamonds with cloves for a pretty finish. You can do a mix of honey and mustard, a fruit jelly, such as quince or even apricot jam for the glaze – play and have fun.

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Now pop in the oven at 180C for around 20-30 minutes to allow the glaze to get a nice colour on it. I take it out every 10 minutes, just to baste again with any glaze that has melted off and to make sure it doesn’t burn.

You can serve his hot or cold.

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Christmas Cake

It’s that time of year to start your Christmas cooking. This week, I have baked my Christmas cake. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her Christmas book.

First up, was to soak the fruit in brandy – all 400ml of it! After bringing it to the boil, it was left to steep overnight and it smelt absolutely heavenly.

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The next day, I prepared the rest of the mixture and was just about to start adding in the fruit and dry ingredients to the sugar, butter and eggs, when I found out I didn’t have enough nuts. Mad dash to the shop to get the missing ingredient and it was on with the mixing. Mixing together the finished batter is pretty tough going, but stick with it and think of the good it’s doing for your bingo wings!

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Lining the tin is always fun, but after some adjustments, it was ready and full of cake mix, which was then popped in the oven on 150C.

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Nigella said it would take between 2.75-3.25hours, but I checked mine after 2.5hrs and it was done.

 

 

After getting it out of the oven, I brushed the top with more brandy and wrapped in tin foil twice. It cracked!! But this was because I didn’t allow it to cool enough, so make sure you really allow yours to cool before taking it out of the tin. However, checking the cake again today and it has survived, hurrah!

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For the next five weeks now,  I shall feed the cake brandy every day, through until Christmas Eve, when I shall ice it, ready for the big day.