Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Raspberry jelly and panna cotta

A little while back I remember posting a teaser photo of a dessert I was working on for Christmas – well this is it! It’s a raspberry jelly with vanilla panna cotta. In my family we either don’t like Christmas pud or at that age where it “sits on you” when you’re trying to sleep at night. So I picked this as a light and fruity (but still calorific – don’t fret!) alternative.

Using the gorgeous copper mould Mr CC bought me for Christmas last year I set about making the jelly. Here it is setting in the fridge:

The recipe needs to be started 2 days before serving as you must ensure you’ve left enough time for both layers to set. If you don’t have that much time you could make exactly the same thing in individual moulds and these will set quicker.

It’s by no means a cheap dessert – the raspberries are expensive and all that dairy for the panna cotta isn’t exactly pennies but, for a celebration, it’s worth it. If you consider the price of a good quality dessert from a top food retailer (such as M&S or Waitrose etc) it’s comparable and you know exactly what’s gone into yours – all good stuff! Plus, it’s very rich so serves lots of people.

Homemade jelly is divine; it’s soft and intensely fruity. It’s also a lot less sweet than packet jelly so the fruit really shines through. One thing I would like to point out and I’m sure a science boffin can explain the answer, the liquid jelly mix tastes much sweeter than when it’s set. First time I made this I panicked that it was going to be too sweet so don’t worry if you think the will all be fine!

The fruit in the pan looks glorious; an explosion of colour:

Simmer until it breaks down:

The key to a nice jelly texture is straining out all the fruit seeds. I used a metal sieve – what’s gathering in the bowl is the basis of the jelly:

A piece of equipment I find particularly useful is a straining mushroom. It drives the juice through the sieve. It looks like a darning mushroom (does anyone still use those?) and, when I bought it, I didn’t think I’d ever use it – it’s so effective though, that I use it whenever I sieve fruit:

I love the crisp line where jelly meets panna cotta; it’s important to let the jelly set fully before pouring over the panna cotta otherwise you won’t get this crisp delineation.

Sorry if some of the photos are a bit murky – Christmas day was rather gloomy (weather-wise) and it was impossible to get good light.


Note – this is the basic quantity for the jelly – you can scale it up as required but allow extra setting time. For my giant mould I doubled up the quantities.
5 leaves gelatine
500g raspberries – fresh or frozen, plus an extra punnet to set in the jelly
150g caster sugar
400ml cold water

For the panna cotta recipe click here


Start by soaking the gelatine leaves in cold water until they are soft.

Place the raspberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.

Simmer further and mash the raspberries with a spoon or – and I found this really productive – the masher you’d use to make mash potato.

Pass through a sieve and return the liquid to a clean pan.

Heat gently and then remove the pan from the heat.

Squeeze all the water from the gelatine and whisk into the raspberry juice – it will dissolve very quickly.

Leave the jelly to cool a little.

Pass through a sieve into your chosen mould – sieving again will strain out any seeds that passed through first time.

Drop the extra raspberries into the jelly.

Chill until set – I left overnight.

Now make the panna cotta - for the panna cotta method click here

Pour the panna cotta over the set jelly and press a sheet of clingfilm onto the panna cotta – this stops a skin forming.

Refrigerate overnight to ensure it has set.

To turn out of the mould, dip for 5-10 seconds in warm water then press a plate against the mould and flip. You will hear a release squelch when the jelly has freed itself.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.


Friday, 24 December 2010


I always make gingerbread men at Christmas time – there’s something about the warming spice of ginger that seems festive. This year, I decided to give my trusted recipe a rest, and try a new version; mainly because my recipe is more of a biscuit and I wanted to find a truer ginger-bread.

This recipe intrigued me because of its unusual method; it doesn’t require you to melt the butter and syrup/treacle, and the flour is self raising. It also includes an egg. Using dark treacle (my usual recipe uses the paler golden syrup) produced a darker, spicier biscuit that I particularly enjoyed. I also found the dough easier to work with than some gingerbreads:

Wherever I travel I’m always likely to return with biscuit cutters and cake tins! Salzburg was no exception and I came back with two rather unusual biscuit cutters in my suitcase: a Krampus cutter ...

...and a cutter in the shape of the Stiegl brewery logo...

....oh yes, my Christmas biscuits can be filed under “e” for “eclectic” this year! Just to balance out the weirdness I did go for the more standard Christmas cutters:

It pains me to type this next sentence, but I’ve noticed that – over the Christmas period – people don’t always seem to want cake whereas they’ll always gladly accept a biscuit. Do you think I made enough?

Happy Christmas to you all – I hope your Christmas is filled with sugar and spice and everything nice!


325g self raising flour
3 teaspoons ground ginger – I used a lot more, but this is a guideline amount
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
85g unsalted butter, from the fridge
115g dark brown sugar
85g black treacle ( I tried a second batch with 45g golden syrup and 40g black treacle and preferred it)
1 egg

To decorate: whatever you choose!


Place the flour, ginger, cinnamon and butter in a food processor and blitz until you have something akin to breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a food processor rub the butter into the flour, then stir in the spices – it will stop your fingers getting stained with the spice!

Place the brown sugar, black treacle and egg in a mixing bowl and beat until runny and well combined. I always place the mixing bowl on the scales when weighing out black treacle as it saves you having to scrape it out of the scale's bowl.

Tip the flour mixture into the treacle mixture and beat until the dough forms clumps.

Tip the dough onto a large sheet of clingfilm and use the clingfilm to help you bring the dough together – I recommend this for three reasons: firstly it saves you over-handling the dough, secondly you don’t get dirty and thirdly, you don’t have to add extra flour to the dough to stop it sticking so the finished biscuit will be softer and moister.

Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/fan oven 160˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4.

Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of clingfilm – don’t add flour unless necessary – I needed a little flour when I used solely black treacle as I had sticky treacle patches in my dough; it definitely made it harder to re-roll. You’re aiming to roll it about 0.5cm thick. When I used a blend of black treacle and golden syrup no flour was necessary and re-rolling was a dream!

Use the cutters you have chosen to cut out the dough.

Re-roll the scraps and keep on until you have used all the dough. If you’ve dusted the surface with flour, it may be hard to get the gingerbread back into a ball; try wetting your hands a little and kneading the dough – it should do the trick!

Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes or until the biscuits feel firm to the touch.

Leave, in the trays, for 10 minutes to firm up, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Decorate as desired.

Gingerbread gets better with age – make this several days in advance for a biscuit that packs a punch with its flavour!

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Jam roly poly bread and butter pudding

This dessert is a show stopper – it’s the sort of dessert people have to eat more of even if they’re about to burst at the seams! The bonus for you is that all the prep can be done an hour or so in advance and the only real skill involved is slicing bread. It’s the perfect winter warmer for this rotten weather we’re all currently enduring.

Although I describe in the recipe below how to slice the bread I think it’s a good example of a picture being worth a thousand words. Here’s what your loaf needs to end up looking like:

Then slice thus:

The name tells you everything; it really is a combination of two of the best desserts ever! Personally, I find some bread and butter puddings can get a little greasy, but the addition of the jam in this dish stops that happening. Each slice of bread produces two rolls:

We’re all looking for shortcuts in the kitchen; sometimes I don’t sift flour (I know! I’m a rebel!) but one shortcut you should never take is failing to sieve uncooked custard – it will always have eggy lumps in it. See what I mean?

The finishing touch to the dessert is the sprinkling of sugar before putting the dish in the oven to bake; please don’t forget this or decided not to do it as it provides the most delicious sweet crust. The CCB (Caked Crusader’s Brother) requested a dessert made purely of the sugary crusts – they are that good!

The first time I served this I prepared extra custard (Mr CC is a custard addict) but it doesn’t need it at all. The baked custard soufflĂ©s up around the bread and provides soft creaminess. Any left over pud can be covered with foil and reheated when required...but I don’t think it will hang around for that long, to be honest!

If you only make one recipe from my site this year…this could be the one to pick!


100g unsalted butter, at room temperature – it needs to be soft
1 jar (approx 350g) raspberry jam
1 large fresh white loaf – uncut (it will weigh about 800g and it’s best to choose a sandwich type loaf that has a nice flat top)
4 eggs
400ml double cream
400ml milk
85g caster sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on top
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Butter a 2 litre baking dish – I used a disposable tin tray to save on washing up (I bought mine in Tesco for £1.50)

Spoon about a third of the jar of jam into the bottom of the tray and spread it around.

Using a large serrated bread knife, cut the crusts off the loaf (you can blitz these in the food processor and freeze the crumbs to use in another recipe).

Cut the bread into four long slices i.e. not the way you would slice a loaf to make sandwiches – this is the only slightly tricky part of the process as, without the crust, the bread loses it’s stability. I found that gentle swipes of the knife did the job better than trying to saw through it heavy-handedly.

Butter one side of each slice of the bread.

Turn the slice over and spread the remaining jam on the bread.

Roll up each slice like a swiss roll – I used the bread knife to help lift the buttery bread from my work surface.

Cut each swiss roll through so that you now have 8 dumpy little swiss rolls.

Arrange them in the baking dish jam cut side up so that they look pretty.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla.

Hold a sieve above the dish containing the swiss rolls and ladle the custard – through the sieve – into the dish. Ladle some over the rolls so that the bread can absorb the custard. You must sieve the custard as there will be eggy lumps in it.

Depending on the depth of your dish you may not be able to get all the custard in straight away – if this is the case, leave the rolls to absorb the custard then return 20 minutes later and add the remaining custard.

Leave the dish to stand for 30 minutes before baking – this is to give the custard plenty of time to seep into the bread and make it moist and creamy. It wouldn't matter if you let it stand for longer.

Preheat the oven to 160˚C/fan oven 140˚C/320˚F/gas mark 3.

Scatter 2-3 tablespoons of caster sugar over the top of the rolls.

Bake for 1 – 1 ¼ hours but check after an hour – it’s ready when the custard is set and the dessert has a golden brown look to it.

Serve one roll per portion with the surrounding custard – it cuts nicely into squares.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Cranberry and mincemeat streusel cake

One of the nicest things about baking is that all your friends, family and colleagues are aware of your passion (and very grateful to share the output from it!) and pass on recipes they’ve found either in publications or online.
This recipe comes courtesy of the CCMIL (Caked Crusader’s Mother in Law) who found it in one of her weekly magazines.

My tastes can sometimes be strange and hard to justify; for example, I don’t like mincemeat when it’s in a mince pie but, spread out through a cake I do like it.
If I was American, I believe I would have ended that statement with: Go figure.

What interested me about this recipe was that it used fresh cranberries.
Up until now, my culinary involvement with cranberries was to open a jar and tip the sauce out into a dish! I think my problem with mincemeat is that it can be very sweet and very rich and the inclusion of fresh cranberries cut through this and balanced the flavours.

The first flavour this cake imparts is the sweet mincemeat, then the spices warm up only to be cut through with the fruity tartness of the cranberry, then the spice fights back. It’s a beautiful cake with so many flavours but all perfectly balanced and complementing each other.

The cake has another ingredient I’m premiering in my baking (pretentious? Moi?) – pine nuts. I adore pine nuts but have only used them in savoury recipes or sprinkled over a salad. Here they impart rich nuttiness and crunch.

For those of you interested in my holiday ramblings, they can be found here.

Over the upcoming festive period I may make more regular blog posts than usual with all my planned Christmas bakes. I hope you enjoy them as much as my nearest and dearest will!


For the cake:

150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
4 tablespoons milk
200g mincemeat
200g fresh cranberries

For the streusel topping:

25g unsalted butter, cold
75g self raising flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
75g Demerara sugar
100g pine nuts (you could used flaked almonds if you prefer)

Optional: Icing sugar to dust


Preheat the oven to 180˚C/fan oven 160˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper ensuring that the paper comes up above the height of the tin.

Start by making the cake batter: beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as this is where you get all the air into your mix.

Beat in the eggs on at a time, along with the vanilla.

Fold in the flour and almonds.

Fold in the milk.

Fold in the mincemeat and the cranberries.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Put to one side while you make the streusel topping: rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Stir in the cinnamon and sugar.

Stir in the pine nuts then add a couple of tablespoons of water and fork it in - just so the topping starts to clump a little. Add a tablespoon more of water if it's still very dry.

Scatter over the top of the cake.

Bake for 1 – 1 ¼ hours but test the cake after an hour – if a skewer comes out clean remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. If the skewer has batter on it give the cake a further 5 mins then test again. Mine took about 1 hour 25 minutes in total.

Leave to cool completely before turning out and storing in an airtight tin. You can, if you prefer, serve the cake warm for dessert with cream.

Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Holiday in Salzburg

Salzburg was our first holiday together so it only seemed right to revisit on our post wedding holiday (nope – still can’t type that word!), and what better time of year to visit than in the run up to Christmas?

Salzburg, like much of continental Europe, really goes to town in the run up to Christmas and every square had its own Christmas market. It was lovely to see wooden items made by craftsmen and hand painted rather than the mass produced plastic tat we’re so used to.

It was also nice to come across a new Christmas legend...well, new to us. In the UK you never hear mention of Krampus but he’s the sidekick to St Nicholas and punishes the children who have been naughty. We were lucky enough to be in town on his special night (5th December) and see him roaming the streets – he makes quite a lot of noise! Here are two Krampusses (Krampi?) and a suitably scared tourist:

Consequently Krampus features heavily in Christmas eats; here he is as a cutesy chocolate:

A slightly more fearsome chocolate:

A mean looking breakfast bread (don’t worry – I defeated him with my twin attack of butter and nutella):

And a rather too healthy looking incarnation made from dried fruit (although maybe for some people golden raisins are scarier than chains!):

But it’s not all Krampus. Thankfully, there are schneeballe (snowballs) to enjoy. I’d never seen or heard of these before – they are fried biscuits which are then covered in thick chocolate and other flavours. Here’s the stall selling them:

Just to put it into scale how enormous these beauties are, here’s our one after we tried to take a bite from it (I now know how a hamster feels when given a new gnaw-stick!):

After such exertions it’s likely you’ll need a drink. There are many options – will you choose punch?

Or perhaps a nip of very strong liqueur?

Or maybe a hot chocolate?

During life, one learns that there are set answers to certain questions – a good one being “does this item of clothing make me look fat?”. The correct answer – of course – is always “no”. Another example would be “would you like chips with that?”, “yes”. I have a new question to add to the list and it’s this: when ordering a hot chocolate in Austria and you’re asked if you’d like it “mit schlag” the answer is always yes, as then you will receive it with about three inches of whipped cream on top!

This example from the Hotel Sacher scores extra points for coming with a generous measure of rum:

What can one say about the divine Cafe Sacher, located within the famous Hotel Sacher? Sometimes you hear about celebrities living in hotels and all I can say is that Hotel Sacher would be my choice, if only for the cafe! I may well need to be winched out of the place, should I stay there for a prolonged period, but so be it! It has an understated elegance:

This visit, I had one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten in my life...and I don’t make such a claim lightly (in fact, I make it a few pounds heavier!). It was called “maronischnitte” which translates as chestnut slice. Such a simple name for a work of art:

Mr CC chose the chocolate truffle cake:

And here is a selection of all the cakes I will work my way through when I a) become a celebrity and b) live at the Hotel Sacher:

During out last visit we tried the famous Salzburger Nockerl and this time we splashed out and had it in one of Salzburg’s swankier restaurants – The Golden Hirsch. It blew the last one we ate out of the water! This one omitted the fruit and included vanilla. The waiter asked us if we wanted the beginner’s version or the regular. It seems that the beginner’s version only has three peaks. Guess which we opted for?

It was light as air and creamy with a thin sugary crust. Just looking at this photo makes me drool:

But I am not the hero you think. Whereas Mr CC managed both his peaks comfortably I admitted defeat. As being beaten by food is such a rare occurrence for me, I photographed it...oh the shame:

Even the street food was top quality. I bought, from one of the stalls, Florentine balls and chocolate truffles. Sinking your teeth into the Florentine balls was heavenly – thick layers of sticky sliced almonds!

The chocolate pyramid contained the richest, thickest truffle:

The one mis-fire of the trip was Esterhazy cake. It looked beautiful....

...but was actually a little dry and heavy going. As it was the first time we’d ever had it I don’t know whether we had a bad one or it’s just meant to be like that.

Finally, just to prove that we didn’t live on cake, dessert and chocolate (although it does sound an appealing diet) here is the most famous savoury Austrian dish of all – the Weiner Schnitzel, although this was pork rather than veal:

Mr CC and I both love Salzburg – the food, the scenery, the lovely friendly people, the Christmas cheer. What a perfect place to get into the Christmas spirit!