Sunday, 18 January 2015

Season's swan song?

Handmade German Christmas ornament

The Christmas carols are still playing. At least in my car. Though in reality Epiphany is here and most Christmas things are down and put away. Mine included. Still, I am holding on to the belief that Christmas will truly be over for me only after my birthday and so the carols will continue for a few weeks more. 

Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus

Slowly but surely, the world has somehow intruded in. The children are back in school, the early morning traffic is back to an unearthly level of madness and everyone - at least on this side of the world - is gearing themselves up for Chinese New Year

My un-pretty but functional Christmas tree

The earth has grown old with its burden of care, But at Christmas it always is young. The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair, And its soul full of music breaks the air, When the sonf of angels is sung.
Phillips Brooks

I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month
Harlan Miller

Christmas - that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance - a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.
Augusta E Rundell

Christmas... is not an external event at all, but a piece of one's home that one carries in one's heart.
Freya Stark

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Butter sugar love

There's nothing more exciting than plotting what cakes and biscuits to bake for Christmas. For me anyway. The moment December descends, I'm almost always seized by a certain madness involving butter, sugar, flour, eggs and generous lashings of vanilla.

The 2014 plan was for the traditional Christmas Cake, Pineapple Jam Tarts, Chocolate Biscuits, Cashew Nut Biscuits and the super easy Sugee Biscuits. Then, a week before Christmas I fell ill. As I usually put off Christmas baking until the last week leading up to the day it was very frustrating. The only good news I had was that the all-important Cake was made and sitting quietly in a cool, dark place.

I baked anyway. A biscuit a day. Starting with the Chocolate Biscuits and ending with the Pineapple Jam Tarts. I would have liked to make at least one more type of biscuit but the Tarts took me almost six hours to make and completely did me in. I was so tired, I decided enough was enough. No more baking until I was well again.

The new kids on the block were the Cashew Nut Biscuits. The recipe I used was adapted from here. It turned out to be a most delicious biscuit. Most people loved it, the exceptions being the die-hard Pineapple Jam Tart fans.

Cashew Nut Biscuits
Adapted from KitchenTigress

150g Butter, softened
180g Caster Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
1 Egg
1/4 teaspoon Salt
200g Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
200g Cashew Nuts, toasted, cooled and ground into a powder
130g raw Cashew Nuts, split into halves
2 Egg Yolks, beaten

Preheat the oven to 140 Celsius. Sift the Flour and Baking Powder together. Set aside. Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper. Set aside.

Cream Butter and Sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in Egg, Vanilla Essence and Salt. Mix again. Gently fold in the Flour and Baking Powder. Then fold in the Ground Cashew Nuts. If the dough is sticky, add in a little Flour at a time until it leaves the sides of the bowl cleanly. Divide dough into 8 pieces and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Dust a flat surface lightly with Flour. Roll out a piece of dough at a time and cut into shapes just slightly larger than a cashew nut. Place shapes on the prepared baking tray. Roll and cut shapes until all the dough is used up.

Brush with Egg Yolk and press a raw Cashew Nut half on each biscuit flat side down. Brush again with Egg Yolk.

Bake at 150 Celsius until golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Once done, remove from the oven and cool completely on the baking tray. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

First on sixth

There's nothing better to start the year with than being in the company of friends. So on 1 January 2015, I woke-up late from the previous night's revelries (of wine, fireworks and Mamee monster snacks) and got ready (albeit groggily!) to go over to a friend's for some lunch, baking, tea and a nice long chat. 

Here are some photos of the cupcakes Miss P and I baked together. The recipe will follow at some point I suppose. I'll have to get it off Miss P, as it was from a baking kit gift she received which we are all going to benefit from (wink, wink).

Gosh, for the life of me I can't remember the name of the cupcakes, but it turned out nice and moist with warm scents of vanilla and almond topped with whipped cream and the all-important sprinkles!

Of course, Baby Patrick and his new in-pristine-condition Bunny friend came out to visit with me. As you can see, I've purposely positioned Baby Patrick at the back of Bunny, as I'm not sure you'd want to feast your eyes on His Tattiness in all his glory!

Updated on 18 January 2015

Cupcakes with Hundreds & Thousands

225g Butter, softened
225g Caster Sugar
4 Eggs, beaten
50g  Plain Flour
150g Ground Almonds
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
1 tablespoon Milk

For decoration
150ml Whipping Cream
1 tablespoon Icing Sugar, sifted
Vanilla Essence
Hundreds & Thousands

Preheat the oven at 140 Celsius. Place paper cases into a 12-hole cupcake tin.

In a large bowl, beat the Butter and Sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the Eggs until well combined.

Sift in the Flour and Baking Powder. Then add the Ground Almonds, Vanilla and Milk. Mix well.

Spoon batter into the prepared paper cases. Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes until golden and springy to the touch.

To decorate, whip Cream, Icing Sugar and a few drops of Vanilla Essence until thick. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe out spirals on top of the cupcakes, or just dollop on with a teaspoon. Finish off by sprinkling on some Hundreds & Thousands.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Every new day is like a little wrapped present

I've always thought that in January of each year we get a present of a new year waiting to be unwrapped.  This year I've decided that each and every new day I'm grated will be a present which will unwrap itself at dawn. 

Just like all presents, some will be beautiful, some welcome, some suitable, some unsuitable, some unwelcome and some downright ugly. And just like those presents, I will have to deal with each one as it unwraps. Deciding how to react and what to do will be sometimes easy, sometimes difficult. 

All I ask is that I receive the strength to cope with everything and as Sarah Ban Breathnach says "Celebrate the Sacred in the ordinary'. Instead of saying 'I'm busy', to make time. 

"Chronos is clocks, deadlines, watches, calendars, agendas, planner, schedules, beepers. Chronos is time at her worst. Chronos keeps track. Chronos is the world's time. Kairos is transcendence, infinity, reverance, joy, passion, love, the Sacred. Kairos is intimacy with the Real. Kairos is time at her best. Kairos is Spirit's time. We exist in Chronos. We long for Kairos. That's our duality. Chronos requires speed so it won't be waste. Kairos required space so that it might be savoured. We do in Chronos. In Kairos we're allowed to be. It takes only a moment to cross over from Chronos into Kairos, but it does take a moment. All that Kairos asks is our willingness to stop running long enough to hear the music of the spheres." 

Sarah Ban Breathnach