Christmas is a time to bake…
…and here’s Liz’s twist on the traditional mince pies to bake at home.
First the mincemeat. This is a recipe to make your own without the dreaded palm oil, although you can, of course, use your favourite out of a jar.
- 500g each of currants, raisins and sultanas (= 1500g in all)
- 500g cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped fairly small
- 2x250g boxes shredded beef suet (you can use vegetable suet)
- 100g whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
- 350g demerara sugar
- 100g dark muscovado sugar
- rounded tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 rounded tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 large, juicy lemon
- 250g whole mixed peel, chopped into small dice
- 125ml dark rum (The alcohol is optional. You could maybe use some good apple juice as an alternative.)
- 125ml Disaronno
- 175ml French brandy
- Wash the dried fruit thoroughly in a colander under the cold tap. Tip the fruit on to clean tea towels and dry by patting in the cloths
- Put the dried fruit in a very large bowl with the apples, suet, almonds, sugars and spices. Grate the zest of the lemon into the bowl, then squeeze in the juice. Add the peel and the alcohol or apple juice.
- Mix all the ingredients thoroughly. It’s easiest to do this with your (very clean) hands.
- Cover and leave to stand for 24 hours. At this point the family can join in by giving it a good stir (with a spoon!) whenever they pass by.
- Pack the mincemeat into sterilised or dishwasher-clean jars (Kilner jars are ideal) and top with greaseproof paper jam covers. Seal the jars tightly and store in a cool place.
The mincemeat will last from one year to the next, if it’s soaked in alcohol though not if you use apple juice instead. But who are we kidding, it’s not going to be around that long.
Bake Liz’s mince pie muffins
- 300g/10oz plain flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 115g/4oz caster sugar
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 175ml/6 fl oz milk
- 2 tbsp Grand Marnier or Cointreau (we didn’t have either and used a splash of rum but orange juice is an alternative)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 115g/4oz butter melted
- Finely grated zest of lemon
- Homemade or luxury mincemeat
- Preheat oven to 200ºC/Gas6/400ºF
Grease or line 12-hole muffin tin (or use paper muffin cases)
- Combine flour, baking powder, caster sugar, ginger and nutmeg and sift into large bowl.
- In a separate bowl or jug combine the milk, Grand Marnier, egg, butter and lemon zest. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined. Don’t overmix.
- Half fill each muffin cup with the mixture, top with a dollop of mincemeat—this isn’t a scientific measure; the recipe suggested a heaped teaspoon but it wasn’t enough!—nestling it down into the mixture, then top with more muffin mixture to cover.
- Bake for about 20 minutes until risen and golden. Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Dust with icing sugar and decorate with holly leaf and edible glitter.
Bake Joanna’s Spiced Apple Cake
This cake/pudding isn’t only for Christmas. We eat it all year round in our house. But the warmth of the cinnamon makes it smell wonderfully festive and it’s a doddle to make using the all-in-one method. It also freezes very well if you can stop your family from eating it first.
I often make two and put one in the freezer for emergencies 😉
Ingredients for cake
- 100g/3oz self-raising flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 100g/3oz soft margarine or spread
- 100g/3oz caster sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons milk
9 inch/22 cm sandwich tin, greased and base-lined with baking parchment. A loose-bottomed tin works well. You can also use an 8 inch/20 cm tin, but you’ll need to leave the cake in the oven for an extra 5-10 minutes because the deeper mixture takes longer to cook through.
- 50g/2oz demerara sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 very large cooking apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (You could use eating apples instead but I find Bramleys work best in this recipe)
- 25g/1oz butter, melted
The pictures right show the cake before and after I added the melted butter.
Then it goes straight into the oven—
see method, below.
- Set oven to 180ºC/160º Fan/350º F/Gas mark 4
- Put all the cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well blended and very fluffy. Scrape mixture into prepared sandwich tin and level.
- For topping, mix demerara sugar and cinnamon together thoroughly so all the sugar is coated. Sprinkle half mixture evenly over the top of the cake.
- Arrange apple slices in a wheel around the edge of the cake, overlapping them to fit.
- Sprinkle rest of sugar/cinnamon topping over apple slices.
- Dribble the melted butter evenly in a ring over the middle of the apple slices.
- Bake in centre of preheated oven for about 30 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Test by pressing a finger lightly in middle of cake. If it springs back, it’s done. If you’re planning to freeze the cake, don’t let it get too brown as you’ll be putting it back in the oven to reheat before you serve it.
- Serve very warm with ice cream or cream (or both). Serves 4-6 depending on greed.
Variations, and freezing
- If serving from the freezer, allow cake to defrost completely, then reheat in 160º fan oven for 5-10 minutes. Topping won’t be quite as crunchy if cake has been frozen. You could always sprinkle more demerara sugar on the hot cake when you take it out of the oven and press it into the top with your (clean) fingers.
- If preparing the cake for a crowd, you can make double quantities in a deeper tart tin, 12 inches/30 cms across. Method as above but test the larger cake after about 50 minutes because it can cook more quickly than the small one. Depends on size of tin and your oven.
The baked spiced apple cake looks like the one above—and smells enticing—though you can see that I spilled some of the melted butter on the centre, hence the sugary splodge. The sponge mixture rises to (mostly) cover the cinnamon apples so you don’t get the “apple wheel” look of a pastry apple tart, but the taste is scrummy. Try it and see what you think.
We both hope you enjoy making—and more importantly—eating our goodies.
Happy Christmas from Liz and Joanna
and the rest of the Libertà hive