Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Keeping Account

Tip: next time you make dough in a bread-machine, to later be baked in the oven, sit down and clock-watch, writing down the timings - including the gaps between - then in the future you can easily add things towards the end. My machine takes 45 minutes to just make up the dough, so as soon as 30 minutes has gone by, and the machine is in its resting stage, it is pretty safe to add things without them breaking down too much.

Christmas Stollen: makes 1 loaf - 10 to 12 slices
12 oz (350g) strong plain white flour
half tsp salt
1 tsp ground mixed spice
2 oz (50g) butter, diced
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
2 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
zest of 1 lemon
6 oz (175g) mixed dried fruit, incl. peel
few glace cherries, finely sliced
2 oz (50g) blanched almonds, finely chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
approx 4 fl oz (125ml) warm milk
6 oz (175g) marzipan or almond paste
icing sugar and ground cinnamon for dusting
Sift the flour, salt and spice into a bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar, dried yeast, lemon zest, dried fruit, cherries and almonds. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, with enough milk to mix into a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, shape into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
When ready, return the dough to a lightly floured board, punch down then shape into an oblong about 8" a 4" (20 x 10cm) and 1" (2.5cm) thick. Roll the marzipan into a sausage, just slightly shorter than the length of the rectangle.
Place the marzipan in the centre of the dough, folding over one side of the dough to enclose it, then rolling the dough to take up the excess from the other side (this means the marzipan willl be off centre). Press edges of the dough together to seal. Place onto a greased baking sheet, cover and leave to rise again for at least 45 minutes, an hour is better if you want a light textured loaf.
Bake the Stollen at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack. Sift together the icing sugar and ground cinnamon over the top.
Variation: drizzle thin glace icing over the top of the Stollen instead of the sugar and spice.

In a magazine recently I noticed a recipe for biscuits which contained caramel, so have adapted this to include the caramel that I suggested we make ourselves (with an additional reminder of how to make caramel just for this recipe). Now I haven't as yet made the biscuits, but the recipes states it makes a goodly number so you get a lot for your money. Even better, as the weight of the ingredients are exactly the same (not including the caramel) you could make a smaller amount by just using less of each - in other words, no need for pen and paper to work it all out.
Caramel Crunch Thins: makes at least 50
9 oz (250g) each plain flour, caster sugar, softened butter
5 oz (150g) made caramel* (amount can be approximate)
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Crush the caramel into crystals the size of coarse demerara sugar (easily done if a food processor or use a pestle and mortar), mix this into the flour then fold both into the creamed mixture to form a soft dough.
Take teaspoonfuls of the dough and roll into small balls and place well apart on baking sheets which have been lined with non-stick baking parchment or Magic Carpet. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 12 - 15 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cake airer. Continue until all the biscuits have been baked. Store in an airtight tin.
* To make the amount of caramel for the above: put 150g sugar in a pan with 2 tblsp water, heating gently until the sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly until the syrup begins to darken. A good guide as to when it is ready is the lovely smell of caramel it gives off. If it gets too dark it will begin to taste bitter.
Pour the hot caramel onto a greased baking tin and leave to get cold and brittle. Then follow directions above re crushing the caramel.