Christmas is Coming…

It’s Christmas Eve! Yay!

I’ve finally summoned my festive spirit out of the dark hole it’s been hiding in, and the kitchen smells gloriously of baking pastry, and wintery spices. The tree is up and sparkling, I’m belting out Frozen on repeat, and there’s golden glitter nail polish on standby if I remember to put it on.

I baked up a batch of pork and mustard sausage rolls.

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They weren’t quite as good as the chorizo and pepper sausage rolls I made earlier in the year, but they were still very moreish, and I ate more than my fair share! All I did was spread a thin layer of wholegrain mustard against the pastry, then adding the sausagemeat and rolling it up. They definitely make a great change from the sweeter snacks that lying about in abundance this time of year.

Then, I baked another batch of scrummy mince pies, and liberally dusted them with icing sugar.

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I’m in the process of defrosting my last piece of the Gateau L’Opera which will be served up tomorrow as dessert, all that remains is to pipe on a suitably jolly message over the top, and sprinkle it liberally with gold glitter.

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Hope everybody else is getting their festive bake on (or helping eat it all). I’ll be making the most of the holiday season this year – with my baking cupboard bulging as ever, what other delights will be coming out of the kitchen I wonder?

Maybe some more of these gruyère and smoked bacon straws?

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To all my blog readers, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! 

Gruyère and Smoked Bacon Straws

Crispy and crunchy, with salty smoky bacony goodness running through the centre, and a generous punch of gruyère cheese. It’s perfect fodder for the party season.

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You can wield them like a wand, have a minature duel, stick them out of your mouth like walrus tusks, or just gobble them down in several bites. If you try not to lick your lips, it’s well nigh impossible!

Make them long or short, or fat or thin…no matter, because they all taste scrummy :). Indeed, the tight button on my jeans can attest to how terrifyingly moreish these are! I was going to add some wholegrain mustard to some of the straws but I didn’t bother in the end. I still think it would be a great addition – for super posh cheese straws!
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If you don’t have any puff pastry lying about handily, I’ve included a recipe for quick rough puff pastry underneath that doesn’t take too long. Of course, you can completely skip this step and just buy it in the supermarket!

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I’m starting to wish I was more organised, and did all my Christmas shopping in November! John Lewis, usually so reliable, failed to deliver and various online parcels are still pending. In-store, everything has flown off the shelves, so I might have, ahem, to throw in some last minute substitutions.

Gruyère and Smoked Bacon Straws 

Makes around 9 straws

  • 110g unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 130g plain flour
  • 50ml water, cold
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • large handful grated gruyère cheese
  • thin strips of streaky dry-cured bacon or pancetta

Cut the butter into small cubes. Tip the flour and salt into a bowl, and rub the butter in roughly until half rubbed in, with plenty of small lumps of butter. Tip the water into the bowl, and bring together with a table knife into a rough looking ball of dough. Wrap this in clingfilm and pop into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Once chilled, take out the pastry ball, and roll out into a long rectangle, three times longer than wide. Fold into three like a letter, and wrap again. Chill for another 30 minutes. Once chilled, take the pastry out, turn it 90˚, roll it out into a rectangle and fold again. Repeat this step until you have done 3-5 folds in total.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Now roll out the puff pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin and baste with beaten egg. Sprinkle over with grated cheese. Gently press this into the pastry to make sure it sticks. Then turn the sheet of pastry over, baste the other side with beaten egg, and sprinkle over a layer of grated cheese on that side too. Cut the pastry into strips. Lay over a slice of bacon and roll the pastry strip up into a straw. Place on a baking tray. Then repeat this with all the other strips of pastry.

Bake the cheese straws for 25-30 minutes until golden and the bacon is crisp at the edges.

Festive Mince Pies

YAY, it’s December!

Christmas is round the corner, festive stuff fills the shops, et cetera. Time for me to get my baking jig on and fill the house with calorific edible goodies, like mince pies.

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Oooh the humble mince pie. It sounds so gross. Like it’s full of gristle, and ground up bits of meat that nobody wanted to eat whole.

Good thing it’s not (at least, not the modern day mince pie). For those unfamiliar with them, they’re sweetly sticky, spiced, and packed full of glossy dried fruit. Then there’s all that pastry too!

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Gosh I’m on such a pastry kick these days. I think it’s because I went a bit crazy a few weeks ago and made loads, and now I feel guilty about how full the freezer is with pastry, and there’s no space for the frozen vegetables to go.

To be honest, I don’t see the point of making my own mincemeat. I only ever use up a little bit each year, and homemade stuff seems to taste the same to me, only a lot more boozy. So with these mince pies, it was a quick scurry to Waitrose, and plucking the last remaining jar triumphantly off the baking shelf.

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Actually, when I think about it, with ready made mincemeat and pastry, mince pies are as about as simple to make as jam tarts, but you get about triple the amount of domestic goddess points. How great is that?

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The first lot of photos turned out luridly yellow thanks to the lack of actual daylight at 5pm. Of course, I was hardly only going to make one batch of mince pies, so I took another set of snaps during the daytime, which turned out a lot better!

Mince Pies

Makes 12

  • 300g shortcrust pastry
  • 1 jar of mincemeat

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry. Cut out larger circles from it, and use them to line a 12 hole muffin tin. Prick the base of each pastry case with fork. Into each case, coax in a spoonful of mincemeat.

With the remaining pastry, cut out smaller circles or stars, or other shapes, to use as lids for your pies. Dab a little water around the edge of each pastry case so the pastry lids stick down nicely. Pop your pies into the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are golden and the mincemeat is bubbling.

Leave the pies to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then unmould and set onto a cooling rack to cool down completely. You can dust them with icing sugar at this point if you like too.

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Next year I might even make my own mincemeat – I’ve tried a suet-free version before, but now I’ve got plenty of the stuff leftover from sticky toffee puddings, so why not go all out?