November has been a somewhat interesting month at Larkswold. We were fully expecting another countrywide Lockdown, but rather taken aback when it actually happened. We tidied things away, hung up our aprons, went home and focused on planning ahead for Decembers Workshops.
First up I baked a batch of mince pies, and promptly polished them all off (pretty much single handedly) in a matter of days, as it transpires neither of my children like them. How did I produce such Philistines? In case you're wondering I make my own pastry and use regular supermarket mincemeat and jush (is that a word?) it up with orange zest and some cherry compote. Boom.
So, I froze my second batch and defrosted a few to test them out (again, not great for the waistline but necessary I felt in the name of testing) and this proved entirely successful, so I now have a freezer FULL of mince pies ready for our guests in December - organised huh?
Then Melinda got on the bandwagon and proceeded to make not one, but two varieties of chocolate roulade, one with passionfruit and the other a Bouche du Noel no less. Sigh. These were VERY good, but are a lot of work and too many calories, so these are not on our Menu, not this year anyway.
By now it was mid-November so I cracked on and made 2 Christmas cakes for Larkswold and another for our family, I have literally never been this organised in my life!
Looking for another Christmas type bake I came across a recipe I'd cut out of an old Waitrose magazine years from 2004 (does anyone still do this?) for a nutty, spicy, chocolatey Italian bake called Panpepato (it's like some strange tongue-twister, I'm not sure I can actually pronounce it - I'll work on that) It has a great mix of spices and appealed to me as it keeps really well.
I made a batch and we all gave it the thumbs up - even the children which was rather surprising.
I also discovered that if you forget to add the flour it is (a bit sticky but still tastes great) Gluten free!
If you feel inspired to try something new, I have added the recipe below.
So, let's go! Don't be put off by the long list - it's not as bad as you might think at first glance.
Rice Paper (I used greaseproof paper and it was fine)
100g walnut pieces
100g blanched hazelnuts (yes you can blanch them if you accidently bought them unblanched but it's a bit of a messy business - buy blanched to save time!)
100g blanched almonds (as above)
200g mixed peel or candied citrus peel
50g plain flour (omit for Gluten Free version)
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g caster sugar
225g runny honey
25g unsalted butter
icing sugar for dredging
For directions please follow this link
A few notes:
1. I do not own a sugar thermometer and so just boil it until it's mighty hot - so far it has worked every time!
2. Any variety of mixed nuts seems to work well, but avoid cashews as they roast too quickly
3. I don't own a loose bottomed square tin, and don't have much patience for cutting out greaseproof paper, so I just scrunch up my greaseproof paper, unscrunch and let the mixture push it into the corners of the tin. Works a treat.
So, Christmas baking has been a fun way to fill November, alongside honing our Christmas Wreath making skills we feel more than ready to host our December Workshops. Might not be as ready with Christmas shopping mind you, but I think this year has been a reminder on how important our friends and family are to us, and just seeing our loved ones will be enough.
Bring on Christmas!