The second coming
The dishes are washed, the games packed away and all that remains is some broken mince pies and a wedge of stilton. The time has come for some bakes – one sweet, the other savoury – that make heroes of your Christmas leftovers
If you are anything like me, you live in horror of running out of food – especially over the festive period. When I have invited guests over, I buy and bake more than I will ever need, then relish getting creative with leftovers in the days that follow. If, once the halls have been undecked and all the dishes washed, you find yourself with a few beaten-up mince pies and a lump of blue cheese, these are the recipes for you.
Blondies are among my favourite things to make because they are a blank canvas for whatever bits and bobs you have in your sweet cupboard, much like chocolate chip cookies. My latest iteration contains broken bits of mince pies and sultanas plumped in brandy. The booze cuts through the sweetness; you could even replace the butter in the recipe with leftover brandy butter. Remember not to overbake the blondies so they stay gooey and chewy, one of the last indulgences of the season.
This year, any blue cheese remnants will find a home in buns, or be rolled into spicy folds of pastry and baked into cheesy scrolls. As with all my baking, I recommend tasting as you go. You could try the recipe with any cheese you have left lying around: cheddar, lancashire, parmesan … And be bold with your spicing: if you fancy a little more bite, just add a pinch of cayenne pepper. Mince pie blondies Serves 12 50ml brandy, cognac or rum 170g sultanas Juice and zest of an orange 250g unsalted butter 2 eggs 200g light brown sugar 1 ½ tsp vanilla 250g flour 1½ tsp baking powder 1½ tsp fine salt About 210g leftover mince pies
1 Heat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Butter a 30x20cm baking tin and line with greaseproof paper.
2 Put the brandy, sultanas, orange juice and zest in a small saucepan over a low heat until the fruit has plumped up. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.
3 Melt the butter in a small, heavybottomed saucepan and set aside to cool slightly.
4 In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until fluffy. Whisk in the vanilla.
5 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the egg mixture, and mix until just combined. Stir in the sultanas.
6 Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and smooth the top with a palette knife or spatula. Break up the mince pies with your fingers, then sprinkle the chunks over the top. Bake the blondies for 30 minutes. The centre should be puffed and set but still a little gooey.
7 Leave to cool completely in the tin, then cut into 12 thick but smallish pieces. These will keep well for up to 3 days in an airtight container. Blue cheese buns Makes 12 560g plain flour, plus more to roll 2 tsp baking powder 2 tsp fine salt 2 tsp paprika 250g unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes, plus 50g for melting and extra for greasing 300ml cold milk About 350g blue cheese 1 egg plus 1 tbsp milk, for brushing
1 Heat the oven to 200C/400F/ gas mark 6. Butter a 12-cup deep muffin tray.
2 To make the dough, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and paprika with the diced butter in the bowl of a food mixer until you have a coarse meal. Slowly pour in the cold milk while the mixer is running, until the dough forms into a ball and comes away from the edges of the bowl. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes. Fold the dough gently over itself once or twice to pull it all together. Let the dough rest a second time, for 10 minutes.
3 Melt 50g butter in a small saucepan, then set aside to cool slightly.
4 Clear a large work surface, dust lightly with more flour and roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 5mm thick. Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter and, before the butter hardens, crumble over the blue cheese.
5 Now roll up the dough, starting at the long side, keeping it neat and tight. Gently tug the dough towards you to keep it taut while rolling away from you. Once it’s all rolled up, gently squeeze it to ensure it’s the same thickness throughout. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll crossways into 12 even slices. Take a slice of the blue cheese roll, peel back about 5cm of the loose end of the pastry and tuck this flap under the roll to loosely cover the bottom. Place each slice in the muffin tray, flap-side down. Repeat with the remaining slices.
6 Beat the egg lightly with the milk, then brush this over the surface of the buns.
7 Bake for 25 minutes. As soon as the buns are out of the oven, flip them out on to a wire cooling rack, so that they don’t stick to the tray.
Whenever I have invited guests over, I buy and bake more than I will ever need, then relish getting creative with the leftovers
Claire Ptak is a pastry chef, author and food stylist and owns Violet Bakery in London. She is the author of the Violet Bakery Cookbook (Square Peg); @ violetcakeslondon
Cook’s tip Bake the buns right away or, alternatively, store in the freezer. Do not keep in the fridge, however, as this will deactivate the baking powder