Today the recipes are looking towards the cooler days and give a few suggestions as to what could be made in advance, or that can be adapted to suit the occasion. We begin with biscuits:
The first recipe makes crunchy 'gingersnap' biscuits, but tasting of spice. Omit the spice and instead use ground ginger and they become a ginger biscuits. Alternatively flavour with a little orange zest and cinnamon. For an even deeper flavour, use black treacle instead of the syrup.Spice Biscuits: makes 164 oz (10og) self-raising flour1 rounded tsp mixed spice 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda2 oz (50g) gran. sugar2 oz (50g) margarine2 oz (50g) golden syrupSift the flour, spice and bicarb together then add the sugar and rub in the margarine until like breadcrumbs. Stir in the syrup and mix well to a stiff paste. Divide mixture into 16 small balls and place on greased baking sheets - fairly well apart for they will spread. Flatten slightly and bake at 190C, 375C, gas 5 for 12 - 20 minutes. It is normal for the biscuits to end up with a cracked surface. Cool on the tin then transfer to a cake airer to get completely cold and store in an airtight tin.Crispy Ginger Hollows: makes 36 (F)4 oz (100g) margarine12 oz (350g) caster sugar1 large egg9 oz (250g) self-raising flour2 level tsp ground gingerCream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sieve together the flour and ginger and stir this into the creamed egg mixture, working it together to make a pliable dough. Knead gently and roll into balls, small walnut size. Place on greased baking sheets, leaving plenty of space to spread and bake at 150c, 300F, gas 2 for 25 minutes until just beginning to colour and have puffed up in size. Cool on a wire rack. When bitten into they should be crispy on the surface and hollow in the centre.When cooked can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw for one hour at room temperature.
Considering the cost of making a rich fruit cake these days, even though it keeps so well, we could instead make a chocolate Christmas Cake. As long as the decoration is festive, then it will go down well. This next recipe is based on a brownie recipe. Use the best chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa solids.Christmas Chocolate Cake:11 oz (300g) plain dark chocolate4 oz (125g) butter2 eggs4 oz (125g) dark brown sugar3 oz (75g) self-raising flour2 tblsp mixed chopped nuts2 x 200g bars milk chocolate7 oz (200g) dark or white chocolate for decorationPut the chocolate in a bowl with the butter and place over a pan of simmering water. Stir until dissolved and combined. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved, the combine the two mixtures together, folding in the flour and the nuts. Sp0on into a 9" (23cm) square tin and line with parchment paper. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 10 minutes and cool in the tin. Meanwhile, melt the milk chocolate and pour this over the cooling cake giving it a shake to make a level surface. Leave to set.To decorate, melt either very dark chocolate or white chocolate and pipe words over the top such as: "Season's Greetings", Merry Christmas", or what you will.
An alternative cake to the above would be a Rigo Jansci which is basically a triple layer cake, the bottom layer being a chocolate sponge, on top of this is a thick layer of ganache, and the final layer melted chocolate left to set. This could be decorated in the above fashion.
At one time used to make great piles of popcorn as - using a dry-heat pop-corn machine - it was so easy to do and the children loved to have something to nibble. The popping corn itself is very cheap - a couple of tablespoons, once popped could fill a small bucket.
It is also possible to pop corn in a saucepan with a very little oil (keep the lid on otherwise once popping begins you will find your kitchen covered in the stuff. There are also packs that can be popped in the microwave.
Not so long ago I would make up bags of flavoured popped corn to hand out on Trick or Treat night.Butterscotch Popcorn:2 oz (50g) popping corn2 oz (50g) caster sugar2 oz (50g) butterpinch salt1 rounded tblsp golden syrupPop the corn in as per instructions on the packet or machine. The place the popped corn in a large bowl, making sure to remove any unpopped corn kernels (they are so hard they could break your teeth - but usually fall to the bottom). Put the sugar, butter, salt and syrup in a small pan and heat gently until dissolved. Bring to the boil and bubble for a couple of minutes then pour this over the popped corn. Use two forks and keep tossing the corn until the kernels are coated with the butterscotch and shining. Spread the coated popcorn in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet (may need two) and cook for 10 minutes at 150C, 300F, gas 2 by which time the corn will have turned a golden brown. If you can, turn or move the corn around half-way through the cooking time so that it colours evenly. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. When cool it will have turned crunchy. Fork through to break up the clusters and store in airtight bags or containers.Chocolate Popcorn:above ingredients plus:half tsp vanilla extract1 tblsp cocoa powderFollow above instructions, adding the vanilla and cocoa to the sugar, butter and syrup before melting. Then proceed with the directions for the Butterscotch popcorn (above).
This next recipe is to do with making your own Granola,
and wish I had discovered it before I paid out for a bag of ready-made 'crunch' to add to my home-made muesli. This uses maple syrup - sold in supermarkets - and this is lighter than golden syrup with a much better flavour in my opinion, so perhaps would also work with the popcorn recipes instead of using the suggested syrup. Please note that the following recipes use adaptations of the basic granola mix, so if you plan to both breakfast on the cereal and also use it for baking, then make up the separate versions and keep separate. If deciding not to use one or t'other
, they can be added to the basic mix and tossed together.Basic Granola:2 tblsp light olive oil5 fl oz (150ml) apple juice4 fl oz (100ml) maple syruphalf tsp vanilla extractpinch salt12 oz (350g) jumbo rolled oats4 oz (100g) oat bran2 oz (25g) sesame seeds3 oz (75g) each pumpkin and sunflower seeds2 oz (50g) golden linseeds7 oz (200g) raisins or dried cranberries/blueberriesPut the apple juice, maple syrup and vanilla into a pan. Add the salt and warm through, stirring until combined. Put the oats, bran and all the seeds into a large bowl and pour over the liquid. Stir to coat thoroughly then spread out over one or two parchment lined baking trays. Bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 40 minutes, stirring the granola frequently, then add the chosen dried fruit, stir again and cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cool on the tin then store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. Eat as a breakfast dish with milk or yogurt. Can be eaten dry as a snack. See below for further recipes that use this granola as an ingredient.Tips: if you prefer to see the granola in 'cluster form', squeeze the prepared mixture in your hands before spreading out onto the baking sheets. To make a tropical version: add pieces of dried fruits such as coconut, pineapple, mango etc towards the end of the cooking time instead of the cranberries.
The next couple of recipes use a variation of the above granola. If you don't fancy prunes in this first recipe, then used dates or no-soak apricots instead. It is suggested that half the granola recipe is made using 2 fl oz (50ml) honey instead of the maple syrup, 4 oz (100g) walnuts instead of the seeds and the suggested fruit instead of the raisins/cranberries. But you can adapt as you wish.Walnut, Honey and Prune Cake:7 oz (200g) granola mix using adaptations (see above)5 oz (150g) butter, softened5 fl oz (150ml) runny honey3 eggs, beaten14 oz (400g) self-raising flourhalf tsp baking powder7 fl oz (200ml) milkCream the butter with the honey until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs. Sift together the flour and baking powder and sift this again over the creamed mixture. Add the granola and the milk and stir together until combined. Pour into a greased and lined 2 lb (1kg) loaf tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for one hour until risen and golden. Turn out onto a cake airer until cold. This will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight tin.To ice: mix together 5 oz (150g) cream cheese with 1 tblsp honey and 1 tbsp icing sugar, adding a few drops of vanilla extract if you wish. Spread this over the cake and sprinkle chopped walnuts on the top.
Although using the basic mix, this recipe requires the seeds to be replaced with roughly chopped pistachio or other nuts. Other fruits such as no-soak dried apricots or black cherries can replace the raisins.Granola Bars: makes 15half quantity of basic granola mix (adapted as suggested)7 fl oz (200ml) apple sauce/puree2 oz (50g) ground almondsPut the half quantity of granola (baked as basic recipe but with the alternative dried fruit) into a bowl and stir in the apple sauce and ground almonds. Press into a square 9" (23cm) tin that has been lined with baking parchment, and bake for a further 25 minutes at the oven temperature set for the basic mix. When cooked it should be pale golden. Leave in the tin until quite cold, then turn out and cut into bars. These should keep in an airtight tin for up to 4 days.