Cherry syllabub and Christmas cheer

It’s Christmas Eve and I can’t help but feel contemplative. A year of big changes is almost at a close and I’m super excited about next year. Baking with Gab has taken me to wonderful places, and put me in touch with amazing people.
Most recently, those amazing people are from Anchor Cream. They approached me to see if I’d like to put together some creamy recipes. Being a dairy lover from way back, I naturally said yes! The cream is deliciously smooth and creamy (duh) and comes in these handy little bottles which make it tempting to stick in a straw and take a few sips. Definitely going to be seeing more Anchor Cream in my fridge in the new year…
I can’t wait to continue making delicious treats next year! Before next year, however, I’ve got Christmas Day!
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I’m spending mine with lots of family and a couple of welcome blow-ins. I love that Christmas at my parents’ house is open to all. It’s this giant free-for-all with kids darting in and out, adults indulging in the lolly bowls that the kids haven’t found, dogs getting underfoot and food EVERYWHERE. Ham and pork and cakes and salads and chicken and bread and dips and cheese and pavlova. You get the point.

Speculoos fondant cookies and the meaning of Christmas

This time of year really gets me thinking about what Christmas means. Having been to Europe earlier in the year, I’m thinking about white Christmas, mulled wine and open fires. Of course, Australia’s Christmas is completely the opposite. Right now it’s 30+ degrees every day and lots of humidity – not quite the idyllic Christmas that most people dream of.
Christmas spice cookies with fondant (2 of 8)
But I wouldn’t have it any other way. As much as I love experiencing parts of other cultures, one of my favourite things to do is bring them home with me. This is why I made these little gems!

Ginger spice cake and excitement

above sliceThe closer it gets to Christmas, the more excited I get. The more excited I get, the more I crave clichéd Christmas foods – give me pudding and rich spiced cakes, mince pies and roasts. It’s funny that Australians indulge in Christmas foods inspired by their northern hemisphere counterparts. Even though Christmas day can be stinking hot, we still want to have delicious cooking smells filling the house.

Christmas day is supposed to be humid and rainy this year, but that’s not going to stop me.

Choc hazelnut biscotti and Christmas food

aboveThe first time I ever tried biscotti was when it was brought home as a gift. One of the great things about having teachers for parents is that holidays always mean gifts. My dad would come home laden with Ferrer Rochers and Favourites gift packs, while my mum was gifted tea cups – my brothers and I took great delight in teasing them, trying to gauge who was the better teacher based on the volume of presents that they received.

Choc-mint dipped Christmas biscuits and small acts of kindness

aboveThis year I was invited to sign up for the Foodie Secret Santa. It’s run by Claire of Claire K Creations (she has a round-up here) and the timing could not have been better. If you’re not familiar with the concept, bloggers sign up to partake and are assigned three bloggers to mail goodies to. You receive a different gift from three bloggers in return. I made these little choc-mint dipped Christmas biscuits and sent them off to Melissa from House of Powell, Caroline of Shrinking Single and Clare from Life of Clare.

I received salted caramel fudge sauce from Melissa (we both got assigned one another!), porcini and garlic salt from an unnamed blogger and delicious, crumbly biscotti from another unnamed blogger. (I’ll update you with names when I know who the bloggers are.) I instagrammed the biscotti and caramel sauce here.

Choc cinnamon Christmas cake and delight

half cakeThis cake is delightful. It’s festive and delicious – what more could you ask for over Christmas?

For those of you who aren’t big on fruit cakes (my mother being one of those people) it’s handy to have an alternative. If you forgot to start soaking your dried fruit weeks ago, or you’re just not that keen on hanging a pudding in your garage for months on end, this is the cake for you.

It can be made the day before, or even Christmas day and it is just as festive as my dad’s Christmas pudding or caramel-filled cinnamon men.

daisy close upI have no better segue to introduce Miss Daisy than to compare her to this cake – she is also delightful. She is deliciously cheeky, excitable, and so tiny that she makes the handsome Norman look rather imposing (hah!)

Winners and trees in coconut snow

threeThis week I picked the winners of my teapot giveaway. I asked entrants to pick one of the four teapots available (red, yellow, blue or pink) and tell me four things they associated with that colour.

Caitlin won the yellow teapot, she said “Yellow is my favourite colour, it reminds me of flowers (yellow roses are mum’s favourite), sunshine, primary school sports carnivals (I was in gold, obviously, cause I’m the best), and the yellow bike that I really really really want but can’t afford.”

Charlotte says the colour of the blue teapot reminds her of reminds her of “discarded bird eggs, stormy skies, baby blankets and… blu-tack!”

Amanda said that the pink teapot was the same colour as “kitten’s paws, rosy cheeks, pink marshmallows and fairy floss! Four things that make my life just that little bit more sweet.”

The winner of the red teapot is yet to check her emails to accept. Once she’s accepted, I’ll announce the final winner. Otherwise I’ll have to pick a new winner.

Thank you to everyone that entered, I loved reading all the funny, sweet and quirky things that everyone had to say. I can’t wait to run another competition like this, it’s so lovely to see everyone’s creativity!

Unrelated to tea pots, here is my final Christmas post. These little treats only require four ingredients, and three of these are different kinds of chocolate! They can be thrown together in 20 minutes and they’re perfect for kids and adults alike.
paper caseThe only thing I should warn you about is that if you’re serving these babies in a hot climate (ie Australia), don’t take them out of the fridge until you intend to serve them, as the Christmas trees wilt a little if they get too warm.

Trees in snow:

Chocolate trees:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • M&Ms to decorate

Chocolate coconut snow:

  • 280g white chocolate*
  • 1 ½ cups shredded coconut
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut

coconutLine a large baking tray with baking paper and pour a small amount of M&Ms into a bowl. Set them both to one side. Melt your dark chocolate in the microwave and stir to achieve a smooth, even consistency.

Scoop chocolate into a snap lock bag and snip off a small section of one bottom corner. Working quickly, pipe zigzags of chocolate onto the baking paper – each zigzag will need to be slightly larger than the last to make it look like a Christmas tree. Repeat.trees

Don’t worry if your trees are different sizes or styles, this just adds to their cuteness!

Once you’ve piped each of your Christmas trees, place a few M&Ms onto each tree to look like Christmas decorations. Try to work quickly so that the chocolate doesn’t set too much before you’ve placed them. Once they’re all decorated, pop them in the freezer.

Line 16 cupcake tin cups with paper cases while the trees are in the freezer.

Melt your chocolate in the microwave, checking at regular intervals that it doesn’t burn. Combine both types of coconut in a bowl and pour the melted chocolate over the top. Using a spatula, mix the chocolate and coconut together until all coconut is coated in chocolate.

unwrappedScoop a heaped tablespoon of mixture into each paper case and flatten slightly with the back of the spoon. Using a butter knife, cut a shallow line across the length of each serving of chocolate coconut snow. When your trees have set, whip them out of the freezer and gently nestle one tree in each of the cuts that you made, ensuring that they are nice and stable.

Refrigerate for 15 minutes and serve. You can serve them with or without the paper cases.

*the white chocolate can easily be replaced with dark or milk chocolate, if you so desire.

Sharing recipes and mint chocolate crackles

chocolate crackles cardRegular readers will know that I recently held a teapot giveaway. I loved reading all of the fun, crazy, beautiful entries that people came up with. What most people don’t know is that the teapot giveaway started an ongoing relationship between Baking with Gab and the lovely people at house.com.au

When I went into the House store, I got chatting to Cat, who worked behind the counter. I explained that I wasn’t buying four teapots for myself, I was going to give them away on my blog. She was enthusiastic and supportive of my blog and we’ve been chatting ever since. It makes me super happy that a chance meeting could result in one of my recipes being printed on a snazzy looking recipe card and shared with an even wider audience.

I wanted to share the recipe on the blog as well, so that nobody missed out on this delectable and speedy treat. Enjoy!

Mini chocolate mint crackles

patternMakes 36

  • 380g chocolate
  • 50g copha
  • 41/2 cups Rice Bubbles
  • ¾ cup crispy mint M&Ms
  • Sprinkles to decorate

pourLine two 24 cup mini muffin with mini cupcake cases.

Melt the copha and chocolate in your microwave, stirring at regular intervals to avoid burning the chocolate.

singlePut the Rice Bubbles into a mixing bowl and pour the melted ingredients over them. Mix thoroughly, ensuring each rice bubble is completely coated. Toss your M&Ms into the mix and distribute them evenly.

Scoop a tablespoon of mixture into each cupcake pan and press down lightly with the spoon. Top with sprinkles, if desired.

Pop in the fridge for half an hour and resist the urge to eat them until they’ve set!

stars

My gorgeous Christmas bon-bon napkins were provided by Aqua Door Designs, a wonderful Brisbane-based design studio who print all of their linen by hand. You can find the bonbon napkins for sale on their Etsy page, here.

Christmas and pudding

expertMy claim to this pudding is not all-encompassing; it’s mine, but it’s not. It’s my dad’s. And it’s his mum’s. And it belonged to Quirks before her. This pudding is so deliciously entrenched in my family’s Christmas celebrations that I can’t imagine the festive season without it. So I’ve enlisted number one pudding expert, Neil Quirk to help with this post.

My family does, however, have a claim to Christmas. We don’t do it by halves. We love fairy lights and we have a colour theme for our Christmas tree every year. We also have a real Christmas tree (which I didn’t realise was that unusual until about five years ago, when I discovered that most people have to store their Christmas trees away in a box come January, whereas ours is chopped up and thrown into the garden as compost!) I feel as though my mother darling and I have done a particularly splendid job this year – we have an inside AND outside Christmas tree which is a first.

nativityAnd we have a babushka-style nativity scene.  This makes me happy.

Everything about Christmas is magical, and I like to think that the experience of this pudding is kind of magical too. From the very start, where you bloat your fruit with alcohol, to the mixing in of coins and the lighting of the brandy sauce, this pudding is Christmas.

Makes one 4kg pudding, which serves 30-40

  • 1 unbleached calico  or cotton cloth (about 80cm square)
  • 2 lengths of cotton string
  • 450g raisinsbloated
  • 450g currants
  • 450g mixed fruit
  • 50g glace cherries
  • 150ml rum or brandy
  • 450g butter
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 8-10 eggs
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 50g blanched, chopped almonds
  • 225g dried breadcrumbs
  • ¼ tsp bicarb
  • 1 pinch salt

mixI’m going to preface this recipe with a warning – you need quite a large bowl to mix this colossal pudding in, and you’ll need an even bigger pot to steam it in. The traditional Quirk family pudding is mixed by hand (which can get quite greasy and sticky in the hot Australian December weather), but you have my permission to use a wooden spoon.

You also need to leave the fruit to imbibe overnight. Pop all of the fruit into a large bowl and pour your rum or brandy over it. Mix well, then cover with cling wrap and leave overnight (or for a few days if you have time.)

dryThe next day, cream your butter and brown sugar together. Add in the chopped almonds and then the lemon rind, mixing thoroughly. Beat your eggs in a separate bowl and add them into the mixture.

At this point in time, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Add your calico or cotton cloth to the water to sterilise it. Leave it to bubble away for at least ten minutes.

coins

If you’re using pudding coins, pop them in to sterilise as well for ten minutes as well. My dad uses genuine sixpences from the Perth mint, but I stumbled across these beauties from jeweller, Simone Walsh and bucked tradition slightly by using them instead of the sixpences.

spoonAdd the flour, nutmeg, spices, breadcrumbs, bicarb and salt and to the mixture and combine. Spoon the alcohol-bloated fruit into the dry ingredients, mixing as you go, until all of the fruit is mixed in.

Grab a colander and take the sterilised items off the boil. Remove the cloth (and coins if you’re using them) from the water. Spread your cloth evenly across the colander and sift a thin layer of flour over the cloth. This flour will form the skin on the pudding.

coinPop the coins into the mixture now, if you’re using them. Each person in my family gets to put a coin in the mixture and make a wish, it’s a tradition. You toss the pudding in and then mix it. It’s dorky, but I love it.

Spoon your mixture onto the cloth in the middle of the colander, it should take on the rounded shape of the colander. When all the mixture is in the colander, cut two medium lengths of cotton string. Take each of the four corners of the cloth and bring them up to make a central stem at the top of the pudding.

You may need to jiggle the mixture slightly to make the mixture rounded and pudding shaped. wrapTake one piece of string and tie a knot  as tightly as possible as close to the base of the stem as possible (it’s easier if you ask for a helper at this point in times. Wind the string around the base a second time, and tie it again.

double knotAbout 4cm up from the initial knot, repeat the double knot process, but make a loop on the top one for hanging.

Fill your kettle several times and pour the boiled water into your boiler (my dad uses an ancient antique electric clothes copper, but you can just use a large soup pot.) Thread a stick or long wooden spoon through the loop that you left in the top not and rest it across the pot, so that your pudding is suspended. Boil for 7-8 hours, topping up the boiled water (so that the pudding stays submerged) and then hang it from the ceiling until Christmas day.

submergeOn Christmas day, boil for 2-3 hours before serving. Peel wet cloth off , invert the pudding, and place it on a large plate. Top with holly for garnish (real or fake, either works), and serve with lashings of cream or custard. If you want to be extra showy, warm 100ml of brandy in the microwave, set it alight, and pour it over the pudding just before serving!

Warn guests to be on the lookout for your pudding coins. It’s supposed to be good luck if you find a coin in your pudding piece…I can only imagine it would be bad luck if you swallowed one!
Neil’s tips:

  • This pudding can be made on Christmas Eve, or up to 2 months in advance.above The longer the pudding hangs, the more time the flavours have to develop and intensify. That’s not to say that it won’t be delicious if you make it on Christmas Eve though!
  • Calico is a sturdier option for pudding making, and can be used to make puddings year after year.
  • sliceHang pudding in a dry, well-ventilated space to inhibit the growth of mould on the outside of the cloth as it is hanging. Check pudding every few days to ensure that all parts of pudding and cloth have sufficient ventilation.
  • If you hang your pudding for a number of days, the fruit will dehydrate and
    give the pudding a dimpled appearance that you’ll be able to see through the cloth. Don’t worry, they’ll re-hydrate when you boil it for the second time.
  • moneyDon’t use modern coins in your pudding. Pre-decimal threepence and sixpence coins have a higher silver content – they’re purer and won’t tarnish, whereas modern coins will turn mouldy and green because they react with the acids in the mixture.

 

Side note: my teapot giveaway ends at midnight tonight!! Enter before it closes!

Baking and absences

Hello dear followers!

I’ve nabbed a computer to let you know that I’ve not forgotten you all, I have broken my computer.

And I miss you!!

I was madly blogging the other day and leapt up from my seat to plug it in to the charger, and I knocked the computer from its perch. My computer was in a very sorry state, but I’ve sent it off to be fixed and should have it fixed in a number of days.

If you miss me terribly, you can keep up to date with my adventures (Norman and I are continuing to be cute and bake, respectively) on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

I’ve been Instagramming like mad, because there has been so much going on. I went to Mudgee for a fabulous weekend with friends, I turned 24, Norman got a hair cut, the Boy’s parents have flown over from England come to spend Christmas and the new year with us, and CHRISTMAS IS COMING!! We finally got out Christmas tree as well. The house smells all piney and delicious, I can’t wait to share photos with you!

Overall, I’m pretty excited, I love December.

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Ooh AND my teapot give away is still running, there are four days left – find out how to win here!

Can’t wait to get back to blogging once my computer is fixed. In the mean time, happy baking!