Tag Archives: nigella lawson

Christmas Dinner Prep Nov. 2, 2017. Time to Soak the Dried Fruit for the Christmas Pudding. Please make this. It is easy and amazing, and…there is still time!

Christmas Pudding has the reputation for being stodgy, heavy and full of unappealing dried fruit, and in general, it is true. When I was growing up I tasted many truly terrible puddings. We would be dragged to relatives houses over Christmas and sure enough a cup of tea with a slice of pudding would be set in front of me. There were the aridly dry ones that would crumble in your mouth and I would need to drink two or more cups of tea to help wash them down. Next most awful were the  puddings that were chock full of candied mixed fruit peel. The luminous artificial dye in the peel would run into the cake part and the taste was tinny and chewy in a very unpleasant way. Horrible pudding memories!

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This lovely pudding was made by Darina Allen, an amazing Irish chef, food writer and founder of the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland

I steered clear of making Christmas pudding for years, but, when one year I decided to try my hand at making one, I realized that Christmas pudding didn’t have to be heavy, stodgy and unpleasant. My pudding was rich and intensely flavorful but with a wonderful sticky pudding moisture that was addictive. Yes I am praising my own pudding, but my effort came with lots of help from taking a large portion of my mother’s Christmas spirit and combining it with the things I liked and a hefty dose of advice from various cookbooks and cooking gurus. 

Pedro Ximénez Sherry (sweet sherry is used to soak the dried fruit for your pudding)

My pudding is a little different every year and the main difference is I change the liquor I used to soak the dried fruit and, I change-up the dried fruit I use. I have used conventional fruits like currents and prunes to things like dried blueberries and figs in my pudding. This year I want to try a sherry that Nigella Lawson swears by for her pudding and use dried cherries as one of my fruits. I also think I want to add something from the chocolate family, be it cocoa powder or actual dark chocolate pieces…I haven’t decided yet.

soaking fruit for christmas pudding

I don’t always use sherry to soak my fruit. One year I used rum and it was amazing too (so don’t run out and buy sherry if you have something else that might work in your liquor cabinet that has sweet notes)

Today all I am going to do is get my fruit soaking for a few day (up to a week), in some delicious sweet sherry and make my mind up over the next few days.

If you are going to try your hand at this pudding along with me, you will also need to soak your fruit. For this stage you will need:

  • 1 cup Good Quality Sweet Sherry. If you know nothing about sherry, just get a recommendation from where you buy it. (I am using Nigella Lawson’s recommendation of Pedro Ximenez Sherry. She waxed on about it, so I believe it must be good. It is also used by Darina Allen for her pudding so I don’t think you can go wrong here. It is expensive though…close to $30 for a bottle, so if you plan on buying this, just know that it is great for sipping and can be added to plenty of other desserts).
  • 3 1/2 cups GOOD QUALITY dried fruit (choose 3 or 4 that you like…such as: currants, golden raisins, dried cherries, dried blueberries, figs (chopped), prunes (Chopped).

Method for Soaking Fruit:

Put fruit in a bowl and add the sherry. Stir. Cover and place on a shelf or cupboard somewhere for a few days. Give the mixture a quick stir every day (if you remember).

Dried Fruit for Pudding

This year I am using currants, dried cherries and dried blueberries

IN A FEW DAYS YOU CAN MAKE THE PUDDING!

*And if you are just discovering this recipe or feel in the mood to try this, you will also need a Pudding Basin*

 

 

 

 

A Walnut-Nutella Torte and Christmas Party! (serves 10-12)

time to Party (anyone thinking: Deer? Headlights?

Time to Party (anyone thinking: Deer? Headlights?)

We were invited to a Christmas Dessert Party at our friend Tom’s and of course we accepted. It is started to feel like Christmas even thought the days are unseasonably balmy. Anyway, it was an excuse for my daughter “the young baker” to test out another recipe from her favorite cookbook, The Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

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Ghirardelli chocolate

As she perused her book I told her to make it a little challenging, after all she was way past being daunted by cracking eggs and handling the vibration of the electric mixer. I knew it would come from the chocolate section (a given), and was happy she choose something I knew I would love but don’t possess the patience to make myself (too many steps for this One-bowl-And-It’s-Done-Girl!)

We had everything for her Torte in the pantry except for the hazelnuts, but when I went to the supermarket I couldn’t justify paying 3 times what every other variety of nut cost! I figured walnuts would work just as well, and in this case I was not wrong.

Nutella is a staple in our house!

Nutella is a staple in our house!

The other thing we changed in the recipe was adding a little more ground nuts to the body of the cake, and, using less nutella. That was for another practical reason: Ms. Lawson’s recipe called for 14 ozs of nutella but the standard jar in the US is 13 ozs, so went with that. I don’t believe in driving yourself mad following directions to the letter, and I’m trying to teach my daughter how not to get frustrated with recipes from cookbooks. That way she will learn how to relax when cooking and be more spontaneous.

finished torte!

Finished Torte!

Her cake was beautiful, and so delicious, I hated leaving it at Tom’s at the end of the evening.

A small selection of cakes at the party - yum!

A small selection of cakes from the party – yum!

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for cake:

6 large eggs, separated

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup soft butter (2 sticks, 8oz or 226 grams)

1 jar Nutella choc/hazelnut spread (the small jar in the US is 13oz and this will do fine)

1 tbs water

1/2 cup plus 2 tbs ground walnuts (I ground up some in my food processor. They can be rubble-like or fine in consistency)

4 oz bitter-sweet chocolate, melted (I a bar of Ghirardelli chocolate)

for icing:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tbs water

4 oz bittersweet chocolate

for Topping:

3/4 cup broken walnut pieces.

Equipment: one 9″ springform pan which has been buttered and parchment or wax paper has been buttered and laid in the bottom.

Method:

Preheat oven 350*

1 – Separate eggs, making sure to use a medium/large bowl for the whites. Whisk the whites until stiff (but less stiff than for a meringue). Set aside.

whisk egg whites

whisk egg whites

2 – Place butter and Nutella (use a small spatula to scrap out the last bits clinging to jar) in a large bowl and beat until well mixed.

Beat nutella adn butter together

Beat nutella and butter together

3 – Add the ground walnuts, egg yolks and water to the mixture and blend well.

Add reamining ingredients (except choclate)

Add remaining ingredients (except chocolate)

4 – Mix in the melted chocolate.

Add melted chocolate

Add melted chocolate

5 – Fold in the egg whites. Be gentle as you want to keep the mixture as airy as possible.

fold in egg whites gently

fold in egg whites gently

6 – Pour into your springform pan and place in preheated oven for about 40 minutes. (start checking after 35 minutes, and if the cake is pulling away from sides of pan or top looks brown, remove). Place pan on top of a wire rack to cool completely.

scrape into prepared pan

scrape into prepared pan

7 – While the cake is in the oven, melt the chocolate with the cream and water. When it has melted, use an electric whisk to beat until it is thick enough to spread onto the top of your cake (it does not have to be stiff). Set aside until the cake has cooled.

Make icing for cake

Make icing for cake

*if the icing refuses to thicken, add 1 tbs of confectioners sugar (icing sugar) to the mixture and that should do the trick* And on the other hand, if it gets too thick add a little water until it is a good consistency for spreading*

8 – Roast the walnuts: put medium saute pan on medium heat and add the walnut pieces. Cook, tossing occasionally until the walnuts start to pick up a little brown color in spots (6 to 8 minutes). Remove to a plate to cook completely.

brown walnuts

brown walnuts

9 – When cake has cooled, remove from pan very carefully and place onto a cake plate (or any flat board or plate). Spread with icing with a palette knife or spatula.

The fun part

The fun part

10 – Decorate with walnut pieces.

finished torte!

Finished Torte!

Serve alone or with a dollop of fresh cream.

This is the best way to clean the bowl!

This is the best way to clean the bowl!

Molten Chocolate Baby Cakes (serves 6)

The one and only reason my young baker has not been documented baking luscious desserts lately is because she is a sneaky cook!

Molten Chocolate Baby Cakes

When my lovely 10-year-old daughter (nearly 11!) decided she was comfortable in the kitchen, she would disappear for between 30 and 40 minutes and then arrive from the kitchen with something sweet and delectable. Despite my being happy having something lovely to enjoy with an afternoon coffee, I wasn’t comfortable with her little white and beautiful hands taking hot trays from a 400* oven.

Getting ready to bake

So, last night I had my camera ready when she crept into the kitchen to plan her “dessert ambush” She was very determined the only thing I did in the kitchen was take pictures, and so I bit my lip and offered no motherly advice. It turned out she didn’t need any.

she loves chocolate

She made a beautiful dessert with the help of her Nigella Lawson cookbook. It appears my life in this house as pastry chef has come to a close. Rock on Ide!

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You will need: 4 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (or 12 oz bittersweet block chocolate), 1/2 cup sugar. 4 large eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour. 6 ramekins, butter for greasing ramekins.

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool slightly.

Melt chocolate

2 – Cream the butter and sugar together until creamy.

cream butter and sugar

3 – Beat the eggs into the mixture one at a time.

Add eggs

4 – Add the vanilla, then stir in flour

Add vanilla

5 – Stir chocolate into mixture.

add chocolate

6 – Butter the ramekins and divide the chocolate mixture equally between each cup.

fill ramekins

7 – Place on baking tray, place in oven, and cook for 12 minutes.

baked

8 – Remove and immediately turn onto a plate.

Eat

Serve moltenly hot.