Archive | December, 2013

What’s for Christmas lunch?

25 Dec

I know it is still not Christmas yet in some parts of the world, but here in NZ it is almost the end of Christmas! We had a big Christmas lunch with my brother-in-law and his family, I am still feeling full right now.

Every year I make something sweet as a part of Christmas gift to my brother-in-law. I made some cupcakes two years ago and made some cookies last year. This year I decided to make something traditional – mince pies. I was inspired by Anna Olson’s mincemeat pie, but I made some mini pies instead. To take a shortcut I used store-bought mixed fruit mince (including raisins, currents and cherries) but add some grated apple, citrus zest and spice. Also because the mixed fruit mince have been sweetened already, so I added less sugar in the filling. They came out just the right amount of sweetness. The pastry was flaky and tasty. I couldn’t help eating one when they came out from the oven 🙂

For the kids I made some cake pops. It was my fist time to make cake pops – not as easy as I thought. The balls were not  smooth as I didn’t crumble the cake into small enough pieces. You can find lots of tutorials on YouTube. Anyway my nieces-in-law and nephew-in-law loved them, haha!

To answer the question in the title, we had ham, turkey, prawn, avocado & grapefruit salad, beetroot salad, pea salad, chicken, mango & spinach salad, trifle, Christmas cake, mango & ricotta semifreddo and my mince pies!

Christmas to me is about gathering together with food and joy. Merry Christmas to everyone!

Mince pies (makes 12 mini pies)

Pie dough

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tspsalt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cool unsalted butter, cut into pieces (does not have to be ice cold)
¼ cup cool water
2 tsps lemon juice

Mince filling

400g mixed fruit mince
1 granny smith apple, peeled and coarsely grated
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
⅓ cup honey
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2½ Tbsps lemon juice
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Pie dough

  1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt together. Add the oil to coat the flour and mix until the flour looks evenly crumbly in texture.
  2. Add the butter, use a pastry cutter, electric beaters or a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cut in until rough and crumbly but small pieces of butter are still visible. Stir the water and lemon juice together and add all at once to the flour mixture, mixing just until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into 2 disks, wrap and chill until firm, at least an hour.

Mince filling

  1.  Toss the grated apple, mixed fruit mince with the brown sugar, honey, lemon juice, orange and lemon zest and spices. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours, up to 24 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Pull out the dough from the fridge 15-30 minutes before rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough just less than ¼-inch thick. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin and cut the pastry to fit each hole.
  3. Stir the melted butter into the mince filling and spoon this into the each muffin hole, spreading to level it. Use a cookie cutter to cut out 12 star shapes. Arrange the cut-outs over the mince filling.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes at 200C, then reduce the oven temperature to 175 F and then bake for about another 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Cool the pie for at least 2 hours before dusting.

Note: after I made the pies I read an article about mince pies. It said brandy or rum adds flavors to the mince pies. I don’t have brandy but I should have added some rum instead!

Mince pies

Mince pies

My first cake pops

My first cake pops

Cake pops in bags

Cake pops in bags

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Fraiser torte

8 Dec

When I first watched Anna Olson making fraiser torte on TV, I fell in love with the cake because it was so elegant! I was dying to make one of my own. Here it came – strawberries are in season now and I was going to a work BBQ party. so I thought it would be nice to make a cake to share.

I followed exactly Anna’s fraister torte recipe, so I am not going to post it here but I am here to tell a moral story. When I was making the sponge cake base, I rushed it so the eggs weren’t whipped enough, the cake came out flat and dense. I was struggling with whether I should do it again. I said to myself maybe the taste was still all right, just like a biscuit base for a cheese cake, it is flat and dense but taste nice, right? If I was going to redo it again I had to bring the eggs from the fridge to room temperature, and then spend another 40 minutes baking the cake, wait for it to cool down and then put the mousse layer on. I would lose the entire Friday night! My husband came to the kitchen and saw the cake, he said “Is this a pancake?” Ha ha…it did sum up my failure! He saw my hesitation and said “I know deep down you want to make it again, then just do it. Don’t settle for something that you are not happy with.” Thanks to his encouragement, I baked the sponge cake again and finally made a beautiful fraiser torte. Without a nice base I am sure the final product won’t look as good. Taste wise, the mousse had a strong strawberry flavor, but not too sweet. It was as smooth as a cheese cake. Everyone loved it 🙂

Another practical lesson: there is no shortcut in baking. Time and patience will make the best cake!

Fraiser torte

Fraiser torte

Fraiser torte

Fraiser torte