The spice is right

Three es­sen­tial Christ­mas bakes

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page -

The se­cret is a gen­er­ous glug of stout and the ad­di­tion of prunes and figs ... adding depth and a fudgy sweet­ness

Claire Ptak’s figgy mulled wine honey cake

Dried figs are plumped with the re­mains of left­over red wine – so the per­fect thing to make on Box­ing Day – and steeped in spices, then drenched in honey. The tex­ture and stick­i­ness of this one makes it my favourite.

Makes 1 cake

400g dried figs 165g un­salted but­ter 75g brandy 300ml red wine Zest of 1 or­ange, and 25ml freshly squeezed or­ange juice

250g honey, plus a lit­tle ex­tra for driz­zling

1 egg 1½ tsp ground cin­na­mon ¼ tsp ground cloves 200g whole­meal wheat or whole­meal spelt flour 1½ tsp bak­ing pow­der ½ tsp bi­car­bon­ate of soda

1 Pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a 23cm cake tin with bak­ing parch­ment.

2 Trim the rough stems off the figs, then chop into 1cm pieces. Cut the but­ter into small pieces and al­low it to soften to room tem­per­a­ture.

3 Put the brandy, wine and dried figs in a heavy-based saucepan and sim­mer over a medium-low heat to plump the figs. After 15 min­utes, re­move the pan from the heat and cool for 20 min­utes.

4 Add the or­ange zest and juice, then stir in the but­ter and honey. Leave for 15 min­utes, then whisk in the egg.

5 In a sep­a­rate bowl, whisk to­gether the cin­na­mon, cloves, flour, bak­ing pow­der and bi­car­bon­ate of soda. Slowly whisk this mix­ture into the wet in­gre­di­ents, then trans­fer every­thing into the pre­pared tin, and bake for 45 min­utes.

6 Cool the cake in the tin for 10 min­utes, then turn out on to a plate. To serve, driz­zle with a lit­tle ex­tra honey and serve warm with yo­ghurt.

St­effi Knowles-Dell­ner’s sticky buns

Per­fect for Christ­mas morn­ing, and lazy af­ter­noons there­after. You could use nuts, such as al­monds, in the caramel for some ex­tra crunch, though the con­trast of pil­lowy soft­ness with the sim­ple crunch of sea salt also works a treat.

Makes 16-18 For the dough

150g but­ter 500ml whole milk 50g fresh yeast 125g caster sugar

2 tsp ground car­damom or 1½ tsp car­damom pods, split open and seeds bashed 1 tsp salt About 800g strong white bread flour 1 egg, beaten

For the fill­ing

125g but­ter, soft­ened 150g light brown sugar 3 tbsp golden syrup 180ml dou­ble cream A pinch of salt 50g al­monds, chopped (op­tional) 3 tsp ground cin­na­mon 75g caster sugar

1 To make the dough: melt the but­ter in a pan, pour in the milk and heat un­til just warm to the touch. Crum­ble the yeast into your largest bowl with a lit­tle of the but­tery milk. Stir un­til the yeast has dis­solved, then add the re­main­ing liq­uid. Add the sugar, car­damom and 1 tsp salt, then about 700g of the flour.

2 Mix into a wet dough, then tip on to a lightly floured sur­face and knead it to­gether. It will be a bit dif­fi­cult to han­dle, but mov­ing it vig­or­ously around or slap­ping and fold­ing it will have an im­pact. Add a bit more flour if ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. Re­turn to a clean bowl and sprin­kle with flour. Cover with a tea towel and al­low to rise in a warmish place for 1 hour, or un­til dou­bled in size. It should now be smooth as “a baby’s bot­tom”, as my mor­mor used to say, with a fond pat. Knock the dough back a bit while still in the bowl, then tip on to a floured sur­face. Knead for a few min­utes, adding more flour if the dough seems very wet. It is ready when it releases from the sur­face eas­ily and, if you slash into the dough with a very sharp knife, there are evenly dis­trib­uted small air bub­bles. Cut the dough in half and roll each half out to form a rec­tan­gle, roughly 30 x 40cm.

3 Line a large high-sided bak­ing tin with bak­ing parch­ment.

4 While the dough is ris­ing, melt half the but­ter in a small saucepan, then add the brown sugar and golden syrup. Sim­mer over a low-medium heat un­til the sugar has dis­solved then add the cream and bring to the boil for 5 min­utes. Add a pinch of sea salt and al­low to cool un­til just warm to the touch, tast­ing to see if more salt is nec­es­sary. Sprin­kle the al­monds, if us­ing, into the pre­pared bak­ing tin and pour the caramel sauce over the top, spread­ing it out evenly.

5 Pre­heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Knead the dough, then di­vide in half and roll into 2 rec­tan­gles. Spread with the re­main­ing but­ter, cin­na­mon and caster sugar. Roll up the rec­tan­gles and slice into buns – you should have enough for about 16–18.

6 Ar­range th­ese on top of the caramel, about 1cm apart. Cover with a tea towel and let it prove for 30 min­utes.

7 Bake the buns for 15–20 min­utes, then re­move from the oven and al­low to cool a lit­tle be­fore flip­ping over. You may find that some of the caramel sticks to the bak­ing parch­ment, but you should be able to scrape it off and dis­perse it over the buns. Cool com­pletely on a wire rack set over a bak­ing sheet to catch any drip­ping caramel, be­fore sprin­kling with a lit­tle ex­tra sea salt. Pull apart to serve.

Ruby Tan­doh’s easy fig and ale Christ­mas cake

This is a last-minute af­fair com­pared with many Christ­mas cakes – but you should still soak the fruit overnight or at least for a few hours. It is still moist, dark and rich, and made in a frac­tion of the time it might usu­ally take. The se­cret is a gen­er­ous glug of stout and the ad­di­tion of prunes and figs to the usual cast of dried fruit, adding depth and a fudgy sweet­ness.

To soak

200g prunes, chopped 300g cur­rants

100g glace cher­ries, chopped 150g dried figs, chopped 175ml stout

For the cake

175g un­salted but­ter, soft­ened 175g soft light brown sugar

4 large eggs

2 tbsp black trea­cle

Zest of 1 or­ange

125g dark rye flour

50g plain flour

2 tsp mixed spice

1½ tsp bak­ing pow­der

¼ tsp salt

75g blanched hazel­nuts, finely chopped

1 The day be­fore you make the cake, com­bine the fruit in a bowl and douse with the stout (a good porter or, at a push, brown ale will suf­fice, but the mel­low, choco­latey depth of stout is best). Cover the bowl with cling­film and leave overnight – or at least for a good few hours – un­til the fruit has ab­sorbed most of the liq­uid.

2 The next day, pre­heat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2, line a deep, 20cm round cake tin with bak­ing parch­ment and wrap the out­side in a cou­ple of lay­ers of foil to pre­vent the cake’s edge from dry­ing dur­ing the long bak­ing time.

3 Cream the but­ter and sugar to­gether un­til com­pletely smooth then, one by one, add the eggs. The mix­ture is likely to cur­dle a lit­tle at this point, but don’t panic: just add 2 tbsp or so of plain flour to smooth the mix. Stir in the trea­cle and zest. In a sep­a­rate bowl, com­bine the flours, mixed spice, bak­ing pow­der and salt. Add th­ese dry in­gre­di­ents to the wet mix­ture and stir un­til roughly com­bined.

4 Add the hazel­nuts to the batter along with the soaked fruit mix­ture (in­clud­ing any stout left un­ab­sorbed). Com­bine thor­oughly. Spoon the mix­ture into the pre­pared tin and place on the mid­dle shelf of the oven. Bake for 3½-4 hours, or un­til a small knife in­serted into the cen­tre of the cake emerges clean. If the top of the cake be­gins to darken too deeply dur­ing the bak­ing time, just cover with foil.

5 Once baked, let the cake cool com­pletely in its tin be­fore dec­o­rat­ing. It could take overnight to cool, but it’s cru­cial to wait un­til it’s stone cold be­fore slic­ing. It will con­tinue to firm, set and mel­low as it ap­proaches room tem­per­a­ture. Dec­o­rate it (or not) how­ever you please.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.