Monday, 29 December 2014

Brie and cinnamon sugar pastry swirls

Being the holidays, I have more time to make lunch. I saw this recipe on the 'halfbakedharvest' blog and thought, well it contains some of my favourite ingredients so why not. As mentioned on the blog, I was also a little skeptical about using cinnamon sugar for a savoury lunch but somehow it really does work. The recipe was easy to follow and these are delicious hot or cold. 

Makes 12

You will need: -
One pack of shop bought puff pastry (yes I cheated)
4 tbsp melted butter
1/2 pack of brie
50g dried cranberries
1/4 cup of cinnamon sugar (1/4 cup caster sugar with 2tsps of cinnamon mixed in)

(These measurements have been adapted slightly to make buying in England easier.)

How to make them: -
1. Heat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Unroll the pastry and brush with 1tbsp of melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (make sure you save some for after it is rolled).
2. Soften the brie in the microwave them cut up and spread a little over the pastry. Sprinkle the cranberries on top evenly (I forgot to do this and had to unroll mine - very annoying).

3. Roll the pastry up lengthways as tightly as possible. Brush the outside with the remaining butter and sprinkle on the last of the cinnamon sugar. 

4. Cut slowly with a sharp knife into 1.5cm slices and put on a prepared baking sheet. They spread so make sure you leave gaps between them. Bake for 12-15minute until golden. Keep them on the baking tray for 2 minutes before removing and leave to cool a little. Yum!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Berlin Christmas markets

Berlin's Christmas markets were so festive, cultural and lively, They put the English versions to shame. My two favourites were, firstly 'Gendarmenmarkt' just off Friedrichstrasse (the main shopping street). It was 1Euro to get in but very worth it. It filled the area that is usually a main square surrounding by some of Berlin's finest architecture. At night, it was magical. The stalls were twinkling and the buildings were illuminated by lights, even with a tasteful mirrorball. There was a great selection of handcrafted gifts, hot food, traditional entertainment on the stage and a vibrant atmosphere at all times of the day. We liked this market so much that we went back a second time, this time for dinner. We both had a not so traditional pizza which seemed to have every vegetable they could find in the kitchen on top but it was good all the same. For pudding, we had some delicious samples of various ginger biscuits. 

The other favourite market was north of town on Stredzkistrasse called 'Kulturbrauerei'. This had more of a local feel but had the size an charm to rival any market I have visited. The hand crafts felt well made and tasteful, the clothing and accessories were unique, there was a cork firing range for children and all the food you could hope for, including cheese fondue and every kind of wurst (German sausage). It was in an area usually supported by a cinema, interior design shop and offices but the giant Christmas tree and festive crowd was the crowd pleaser. (my camera decided not to work at this point so sadly no photos.)

Other markets included the Potsdamer Platz market whoch lined the street with it's Christmas crafts and biscuits. This still had the usual wursts and wooden tree decorations but also had a sledging slope - very popular with the children. Also conveniently located by a shopping mall for a break form the cold. 

The market at Alexanderplatz had a large ice skating rink in the middle of the market stalls. They had very strong but delicious mulled wine. They serve it in a mug but if you return the mug then you get some of your money back. They had the usual stalls but a bigger market than most. A short walk down the road was another market, slightly tackier but they had performers doing a dance on the skate rink. 

Another market called 'Weihnachtsmarkt' was next to a very busy shopping area (the equivalent of Oxford Street in London). It didn't have as good a vibe but still plentiful with stalls. 

Our dinner choices were not very cultural (after trying wursts, stollen and mulled wine of course). We had the best burgers I have had at 'Hans im gluck'. I was surprised at 10 vegetarian options for burgers but that worked out well for me. The interior felt like you were in the middle f the woods but when yiou worked you way to the centre, there was a bar. It seemed very popular with the Germans. 

We also had a very filling lunch at 'Kaffeehaus Sowohialsauch' near the Kulturbrauerei market. T had meatballs which, to his shock, were not served in a tomato sauce. instead they were massive plain meatballs. I had eggs cooked with spring onion, peppers and goats cheese, both served with a selection of fresh baked bread. A great stock up for busy walking days in the cold. 

As our hotel didn't include breakfast, we frequented 'Coffee and Cookies' on 'Stressemannstrasse'. They offered a traditional German breakfast (bread, meats, cheese, fresh fruit) with extra treats. I had some lovely muesli with yoghurt and fruit. A good start to the day. The interior was modern with wood cuttings and a minimal but cosy feel and friendly staff. All in all Berlin is a great city to walk around. Good atmosphere, great shopping, fine architecture, plentiful museums, a vast selection of restaurants and importantly for the trip, some festive and joyful Christmas markets. Happy holidays everyone. 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Festive ginger shortbread

Christmas time! I am still a big kid at heart when it comes to Christmas - the fairy lights twinkling, the buzz in all the shops and the overly decorated shop displays.. such a wonderful time of the yeeear! This Christmas was extra exciting as we went to Berlin to see the magical Christmas markets, the trip was definitely worth it! More about that next time though. This blog is about some very festive ginger shortbread that I made just before going. 

The basic recipe was taken from the British Bake off book but it has been adapted slightly. These shortbreads had just the right amount of ginger in to be warm but not over powering. They tasted much better on day when the flavours had fully developed. 

Makes 14 fingers

You will need: -
150g plain flour
150g plain wholemeal flour
50g oats
1tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
12g light brown muscovado sugar
7 chunks of crystallised stem ginger
125g unsalted butter

Brownie tin
greaseproof paper and butter

1. Heat the oven to 180C. Tip both flours, the oats, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and stem ginger (cut into tiny pieces) in a food processor and mix until even. Add the butter in lumps and blend until the mixture looks like crumbs. 
2. Keep 3 tbsps of mixture separate then tip the rest of the mixture into a brownie baking tin lined with greaseproof paper. Press down until the mixture looks solid and even. 
3. Sprinkle the crumbs that were kept back on top and bake for 35 minutes until golden brown. 
4. Put the tin on a wire rack and cut into 14 fingers. leave to cool before removing from the tin. 

#ginger #shortbread #gingershortbread #festiveshortbread 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Festive cinnamon and cranberry brownies

We have seen a good few Christmas markets the last few weekends - they all seem to have come out of hiding! Or the elves have expanded the business... We went to Nottingham yesterday which is where I went to uni. I hadn't been beck for about 7 years and was surprised to see how many shops had changed. Tesco Express has taken over! The Christmas market was very impressive though - lots of food stalls AND an ice-skating rink: the mecca of all good markets. Nottingham is a lovely place with a lot to offer, it was very strange to see it not as a student. 

I do love a good brownie and have tried may recipes. This one has to be my favourite. Deliciously moist, rich and chewy. The basic ingredients were from the Bake Off cook book but they been Christmassed up with spices and cranberries. The spices are subtle but not over powering to the chocolate. An ideal accompaniment to a chai latte or hot chocolate. 

Makes 16

1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
50g pecans
50g dried cranberries
100g plain flour
370g caster sugar
65g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
175g butter

1. Turn the oven on to 180C. Put the pecans on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes. 
2. Put the butter in a pan and melt. Remove from the heat and sift in the cocoa powder then stir until even. Sift in the flour, add the cinnamon and nutmeg and stir using a wooden spoon until there are no streak.

3. Mix the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl then add into the cocoa mixture and stir. 
4. Roughly chop the pecans and slice the cranberries into smaller pieces. Put then into the mixture and stir again.

5. Prepare a brownie tin with greaseproof paper and pour in the brownie mixture. Spread until it is even and out in the oven to bake for 35 minutes. It is ready when a knife pulls out clean between the centre and edge. 
6. When they are cool, cut into 16 squares. 

Happy holidays!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Double chocolate crunch cookies

I am very excited about Christmas partly because of the Christmas markets. Last weekend we went to see the markets on the Southbank (London) and were pleased to see a goo range of food stalls. Some traditional German sausages (different names on 'wursts'), mulled wine, lots of beer, very cheesy toasties (Emmental - I regretted my choice after seeing a Wahaca van further down when  trying to recover from cheese overdose). There was sadly no stollen but a new treat called a 'chocolate kiss'. A new addition to my Christmas market visits but a delicous dome of marshmallow covered in a chocolate in a range of flavours. The usual craft stalls were there including the powder that magically turns into 'snow', wooden ties to buy your secret Santa at work, scented candles and wooden toys. The ski lodge style stalls always excite me as they make me think of the mountains... and snow! 

Today we went to another Christas market, claiming to be one of the best in Europe, in Winchester. The stalls are carefully picked so ensure quality craftsmanship and a good selection. There were some different photography / paintings and a good section for the chutney lover. I was quite impressed at having some new items to look at and the ice rink in the middle was a winner. The food however was limited. There were three meat stalls (pork burger, hot dog and more of the 'wursts') and one stall selling stollen / mince pies. All in all, a good market to peruse for presents but we found a lovely cafe in the centre for our lunch (my first mince pie of the year!)

This week I chose to make some cookies. they are generally simple to make when your don't have a ot of time but these ones had added crunch so I thought why not. They are from the Bake Off book (still woking through it). The book didn't have a picture to show off so I used my creative license to make sure they looked right. 

Makes 16

Ingredients: -
150g dark chocolate
30g unsalted butter
2 eggs
130g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
85g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
50g cornflakes
Packet of giant buttons

Method: -
1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and put in a heatproof bowl. Add the butter then reomove frm the heat and stir until smooth. Leave unitl it reaches room temperature.
2. Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk until thick and frothy. Stir n the chocolat ewith a plastic spatula. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and stir in. when it is mixed thoroughly then add the cornflakes and stir again until spread evenly.Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for 1 hour.

3. Heat the oven to 170C. Put a rounded teaspoon of mixture onto a tray with greaseproof paper. Repeat for the rest of the mixture leaving a good space for the mixture to spread during cooking. Flatten the cookie mixture so each is about 6 cm across. 
4. Bake for 12 minutes then add a chocolate button in the middle of each and push it down gently. Cook for another 2 minutes then remove from the oven and leave to firm up on the tray for 10 minutes. Finally, place the cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Next week I am going to get Christmas involved in the cooking...