Sunday, 30 November 2014

Christmas Cake in 5 Easy Stages: Stage Three - Feeding the Cake

This is Stage Three of my Christmas Cake in 5 Easy Stages, but don't despair if you are wanting to start your Christmas Cake now, you do still have enough time (see Stage One and Stage Two).

 Feeding the cake is just about keeping the cake nice and moist, and uses the same liquor that you used in Stage One to drizzle over. So unwrap your cake, prick the surface with a skewer and spoon over a couple of dessertspoons of liquor before wrapping back up.

You can feed the cake as many times as you like - I try to feed it twice. So, I fed it a week ago and I will probably feed it next weekend too.

The fourth stage is all about the marzipan, so arm yourself with a block of marzipan (almond paste) and some apricot jam and I will see you in mid December!

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Looking Forward in November 2014

October was fairly productive for me. Sewing: I finished my scrappy chevron quilt, made myself a new pair of pyjama trousers, re-worked my overlap skirt into my new size (not blogged)! I have also got my Winter's Lane quilt out again and have made a couple more blocks. Crafts: I was lucky enough to be given some ribbon reels by Fantastic Ribbon for whom I made the Christmas Card project. Baking: a childhood favourtite - treacle tart, and the first two instalments of my Christmas Cake series.
I am very keen to make November the month that I finish Winter's Lane, but I can't help but be persuaded to take on new sewing projects too! I have just borrowed Learn to Sew with Lauren from my local library and am very taken with the Pick Your Pockets Skirt. Coincidentally, I have a day in London mid November by myself and I may just have to go and explore the fabric shops in Goldhawk Road! 

I am also lusting after the new Norway pattern from Camille Roskelly which would look great as a Christmas centrepiece. I still haven't done anything with my map fabric (where does the time go)?

As usual, on the first of the month I am linking up to Lily's Quilt's Fresh Sewing Day.

Fresh Sewing Day

Love Mrs Jones x

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Christmas Cake in 5 Easy Stages: Stage Two - Baking

This is Stage Two of my 5 stage Christmas Cake series, click here for Stage One (the soaking). In this stage we are going to make and bake the cake. I mentioned in Stage One that the recipe I use has been modified from a Nigella Lawson Christmas Cake recipe in How to be a Domestic Goddess, and I am using the 1/4lb version here.
In Stage One, you soaked your dried fruit in your chosen alcoholic beverage (sherry, brandy or marsala). Before we get on to the cake instructions, you need to line your tin with baking parchment, both at the base and around the sides, allowing about 10cm of parchment to protrude up proud of the sides of the tin. You also need a second circle of parchment, the same size as the base, from which you will cut a little hole in the centre. You will use this to place on top of your cake to stop it burning (the hole allows you to do the skewer test).
Once you have lined your tin, use a folded length of brown paper (the same height as the parchment) and wrap it around the outside of your tin, securing with string.
Preheat your oven to 150C.
110g Butter
90g Demerara Sugar
1 tsp Grated Orange Zest
2 Large Eggs
1 tbsp Marmalade
250g Plain Flour
The Soaked Dried Fruit
1/2 tsp Ground Mixed Spice
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
A Little Nutmeg (optional)
1/2 tsp Almond Essence
Pinch of salt
1. Cream together the butter and demerara sugar in a large bowl (I use an electric whisk). Then beat in the grated orange zest.
2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Then stir in the marmalade.
3. Weigh out the flour and add to it the spices. Sift a little into the wet ingredients and stir well.
4. Then add some of the dried fruit, stirring, and repeat by adding more flour/spice then the fruit until you have thoroughly mixed both. If there is any sherry left in the dried fruit bowl, reserve this for later.
5. Add the almond essence and a little pinch of salt. Place the prepared parchment with the hole on top of the cake gently.
6. Spoon into the cake tin and bake for between 2-2 1/2 hours. I have a fan oven and mine was cooked after 2 hours. You can test whether it is cooked by inserting a skewer, if it comes out clean it is done.
7. Once your cake is out of the oven, remove the top parchment and brush over the reserved sherry and leave to cool.
8. Wrap in foil and place in a container.
Your cake needs to mature for at least 3-4 weeks. Stage Three will be all about feeding the cake, and I will be back with that instalment in November, when we will also be gathering the supplies for the decorating of the cake!
Feel free to ask me any questions.
Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Christmas Cake in 5 Easy Stages: Stage One

This is the start of a series of posts I am doing on making a Christmas Cake. I am not a professional baker, but I do make a Christmas Cake most years and the first few times I did it, I could really have done with some help. So, if this is your first year that you intend to make a cake and need a bit of hand holding - follow my series.

Stage One is all about finding a recipe, gathering your ingredients together and soaking the fruit.

Finding a recipe that will suit your individual likes is not all that easy. For years, I followed a Delia Smith recipe but some years ago changed to a Nigella Lawson one (published in How to be a Domestic Goddess) which I have adapted for my particular quirks! Once you have found a recipe, your next step is making sure you have the correct sized tin, and if not, could you borrow one from a friend or family member?

Today's stage assumes that you have your recipe (I will be providing my bastardised version of Nigella's) and that you have got your ingredients and some time in the next couple of days ready to bake the cake, so if you work all week, a Friday or Saturday night are going to be your best times to soak your fruit.

Ingredients for Stage One (Note: this is for a 18cm round cake tin or 15cm square tin):
350g Sultanas
160g Raisins
50g Glace Cherries
50g Mixed Peel (Optional)
60ml Sherry, Brandy or Marsala

1. Rinse the glace cherries in a sieve to get rid of the syrup and roughly chop into quarters.

2. Weigh out the remaining fruit and mixed peel if using and place in a large bowl with the cherries.

3. Measure out your sherry and pour over the fruit. Stir well before covering with a tea towel. This needs to be left to soak overnight.

I will be posting Stage Two during the week, but if you want to get your ingredients ahead of time, here are the remaining ingredients. 

110g Butter
90g Demerara sugar
1 tsp Grated Orange zest
2 Large Eggs
1 tbsp Marmalade
250g Plain flour
1/2 tsp Ground Mixed Spice
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
A little grated Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Almond Essence

Baking parchment
Brown paper

Love Mrs Jones x

Monday, 20 October 2014

Bake: Treacle Tart

Treacle tart was always one of my favourite childhood puddings, and making it takes me right back down memory lane. My kids didn't like the sound of it at all, until I told them it is golden syrup and not real treacle at all!

For the pastry case
100g Plain flour
75g Butter
1 tsp Caster sugar

For the filling
454g Bottle of Golden Syrup
Breadcrumbs made with 2-3 slices of bread

This makes 1 20cm (8inch) tart.

1. Rub together the flour and butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and a little cold water until it forms a ball. Alternatively, put the ingredients in a food processor and whizz together. Pour a little water down the funnel until it clumps together.

2. Put the oven on at 190C and wrap the pastry and pop it in the fridge until the oven comes to temperature. 

3. Sprinkle flour on your work surface and roll out wide enough to cover your flan dish. Place in the dish and prick the base with a fork. Add in some ceramic baking beans (I just pop a couple of teapsoons on mine) and bake blind for approximately 15 minutes. 

4. Remove from the oven and take out your beans/teaspoons.

5. Tip the breadcrumbs into the case and squeeze the golden syrup on top. You may not need a whole bottle.

6. Pop back in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes.

Delicious served with custard, cream or ice-cream.

Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sewn: Autumnal PJ Trousers

I spotted some gorgeous Fox fabric back at the Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycraft show in September, but couldn't get anywhere near the stand to buy some. However, after a quick search on good old Ebay, I found it and snapped myself up a couple of metres for some new PJ trousers.

This comes in four colourways: yellow, beige, blue and turquoise (this is turquoise).
I followed my Pyjama Trouser Tutorial to make these (which I have recently updated). It really is a quick and easy way of making PJ trousers if you have an existing pair to use as a template. I think it took me less than an hour from getting the fabric out to hemming the trousers. 

I have spotted some awesome brushed cotton penguin fabric from the same ebay seller and it is very tempting to pop back and get some of that for when the weather turns really cold!
I never tire of sewing in my own little label!!

Do pop over and check out the tutorial and if there is anything you want help with, just leave me a comment.

Love Mrs Jones x

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Le Challenge: Mix - Scrappy Rainbow Chevron Quilt

As usual, in my rush to start a project, I didn't think the quilt rules through, so after "chevroning" up all the pretty fabrics some months ago, I had to unpick half of them when I realised that I needed to sew it in straight lines to avoid those tricky Y seams! But, I love how it has turned out! 

It totally fits in with the theme Mix because it is a mix of fabric designs and, breaking all the rules, materials (cotton, linen and a little bit of polycotton too)! It feels smugly frugal to use up my fabric scraps in this way. I used an old duvet cover for the backing, some leftover dress fabric for the binding and even the batting was pieced together with (large) scraps.

This is the first time I have constructed a quilt sandwich"properly"- previously I have done minimal quilting and added on a backing much as you would a cushion back. This time, I quilted all three layers and used binding for the first time! I do concede that it seems to really frame the quilt.

I machine stitched the front of the binding but could not trust myself to do a neat enough job through from the back, so hand stitched that bit. I found the mitred corners a little tricky - some are neater than others!!

Don't forget to have a look at all the other entries this month over at Le Challenge.

Le Challenge

Love Mrs Jones x