Thursday, 25 November 2010

My Christmas Bread

Here is my home made Christmas Bread taken last year. Dusted with icing sugar and decorated with a bow, it certainly looks the part!

A talented friend has just asked me for my Panettone Recipe. With the proviso that it is not real Panettone, ie does not have loads of eggs or butter, and is made with no liquid, then here it is. I have decided to call it Kenilworth Christmas Bread for several reasons: Kenilworth is now my home, the pumpkin was grown in Kenilworth, and it is now our Breakfast bread/cake of choice for Christmas day! .
First bake your pumpkin, cut into pieces, and you can leave the skin on, in the oven till cooked and much reduced in size. When cool enough to handle you will find that the skin comes off very easily and you can also remove any stringy bits or seeds now, and for the bread any scorched bits too. Either refrigerate, freeze and use the pumpkin for various dishes.So I take 400g of my frozen and prepared pumpkin, and leave it overnight to come to room temperature. In the morning I warm it gently and add 50g butter, and about 50g golden caster sugar. If the pumpkin is very sweet this may be OK but if you have a sweeter tooth, then add another 25g. I then whiz it together to a smooth pulp.
Whilst this is warming gently, to baby bath temp, sift 500g strong white flour with 1/2 tsp ground allspice and 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, and 1tsp fine salt. You may need up to another 100g flour if the mixture is too wet!
Dissolve 20g fresh yeast with 1 tbs water.
Put the pumpkin, butter, caster sugar mixture into your large bread mixing bowl, gradually add half your sifted flour, spices and salt. Add the yeast and keep beating, maybe with a wooden spoon, or even your hand.
Add 1 beaten egg, and keep mixing, gradually adding the other half of the flour. The dough should be very soft, but workable. Add more flour if necessary to get a good working but soft dough.
Knead until it is smooth, then let it stand and double in size. How long this takes will depend on how warm your kitchen it. I leave it to rise and normal room temperature and am guided by look rather than time. It could take two hours to rise.
Bake a selection of nuts in the oven for 10 minutes at Gas No 1: I use 25g pistachios for the green colour, and 25 grams walnuts. Next year I would like to find a local walnut tree to give me special Kenilworth walnuts for my bread! I have my eye on a couple of trees, but there were no mature nuts this year.
For the fruit element, I use 30 g candied peel, 30 g dried cranberries, and a large handful of raisins. These I soak in some alcohol about 2 tbs, in a closed container overnight, I use calvados, but any would do. I only add the fruit at the last knock down. Here you can choose and replace with whatever 'jewels' you fancy: sour dried cherries, pineapple, for example. Each year your loaf will be unique!
Knock back the dough, and incorporate the fruit and nuts. Leave the dough to relax again and then shape and fit to your tin(s). I used a normal high cake tin 8 inches wide, lined with baking parchment, about four inches higher than the tin. Because I had to add the extra 100 g flour I had sufficient to make a second smaller loaf. An alternative would be to make a few small brioche type buns. Between the tin and the parchment I placed some thickish computer paper on its side to provide a collar. The dough should come about 10 cm below the rim of the tin.
Allow to rise again at room temperate, covered, until it is at least 2 inches above the cake tin rim. Put into a pre heated oven, Gas Mark 6, and bake for about 40 minutes. Check after 25 mins, and adjust oven or protect the top of the loaf with a square of baking parchment balanced across the top of the paper to prevent scorching.
Remove from the oven, and remove from the tin. Check to see that the loaf looks cooked and return to the oven for a few more minutes if necessary. When cool, and ready to serve, dust liberally with icing sugar, and decorate with ribbon if you wish. I tried the recipe again a few of weeks ago, and it was just as good as last year.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Completed Cushion

At the WI craft group, our Autumn project was a quilted panel. We were inspired by the quilts brought by a speaker earlier in the year. When we started the project, I had no idea what I would make with it.

On a visit to the Wastells, I realised that there was a rocking chair which needed a cushion, and had a crafty measure. As the original quilted square was not quite big enough, I added a darker border which I also used for the back. I had already quilted the central panel and luckily the backing and wadding was much larger, and I was able to increase the size of the panel.The fabric for the central motif was from my stash.

I love patterns made on paper from inks floated on water. There are shops in Italy which sell this paper for book binding, and when I saw it printed on fabric, I was immediately drawn to it. That's another craft which I would like to have a go at!

Last week I went to a local shop and got the cushion, so on Saturday, I set to after lunch. Unlike knitting when one can unravel and reknit, once fabric is cut that is that, and also 'unsewing' and trying to get things square is hard for me....but I am getting better at it! It really did take me about four hours to do the cutting and machining, and several more to add the patterned binding.....I was so engrossed in the project, that when I got round to getting us some super, I realised that we had forgotten about the concert we should have gone to! Too late though to go, and nothing much on the tele, so I stitched at the binding till my eyes were completely shot, but I managed to finish it off on Sunday in the bright light of the conservatory.

This is a really small project on the scale of things, and what I have learnt is how really skilled some of my friends are, several of whom have already completed magnificent bed sized quilts!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Kitchen Notes

Late Autumn, early winter, before the rush to decide what to make for Christmas, there is time to play around in the kitchen. With gifts of surplus produce I get out books, thumb through, then try to remember what I would have liked to have made this time last year, then get stuck in.

With some apples I have made a few jars of home-made mincemeat. My favourite use of this is stuffing the centre of apples before baking.

When Mr S rolled over the large pumpkin which has been sitting in the conservatory, and saw that it was creating a dent in the carpet, I realised that it was time to 'deal' with it. Having carved it up and shared it out with another friend there has been more than enough for us. I have baked it down in the oven, frozen pieces of the baked pumpkin for use later on, and made huge amounts of delicious soup flavoured with either chicken or ham stock and bits of meat, and finished with coriander.
I also decided to have a trial run of my version of Panettone, using roasted pumpkin flesh......delicious. This time I added green pistachio nuts, dried cranberries, citrus peel and sultanas soaked in rum. The large 'cake' was made in an 8 inch cake tin, with a tall collar of paper to hold the dough so high, and the small one in a steel storage container. The small one went round to Marie-Claire's. Spread with tangy homemade wild plum jam, and freshly brewed coffee, this is one of the most delicious breadkasts, and is now a tradition at home. I shall be making this again a couple of days before Christmas ready for our breakfast.
With having ordered double quantities of walnuts, I have discovered a wonderful recipe for walnut short breads. In the biscuit line, I have also made a good quantity of Amaretto biscuits, and having had the seal of approval from several people, I am going to make a second batch, then having checked the recipe, will post it here.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Short Interlude for Jenny en route to Southern Climes

After getting back from the Wastells, we went straight into hosting Jenny, fetching her from Birmingham Airport on Wednesday through to dropping her off for the coach to Heathrowon Sunday.

On Saturday we spent the day out in Birmingham, taking the train from Tile Hill.

We stopped to take pictures by the Bull, then we went on to see the Staffordshire Hoard, which Mr S & I had been wanting to see for some time. The quality of the work was breath taking. After that exhibit, Jenny went out for a walk and Mr S and I went on to look at other sections of the Museum, which we had not touched on previous visits.

After lunch in the Museum we went on a walk up to the Jewellery quarter. The route took us over one of the canals.

We had an interesting visit to the Museum of Jewellery but did not have time for the guided visit. On the route back we came across the Pen Room. Roni from the Kenilworth Knit and Natter group mentioned that she had taken some relatives there and recommended it. We had only meant to have a peep, but I think we must have spent at least an hour there. Certainly we shall return. The architecture of the area with its industrial roots is well kept, tidiness of the area, is certainly well worth the visit.

After dropping Jenny at Warwick Parkway


we had planned on going for a Sunday afternoon walk, and with the memory of Birmingham canal still on our minds, we opted to park close by the railway station and go for a walk along that part of the canal. Going up from the Lower Hatton Lock Keepers Cottage

The country side had that early winter feel to it, the air was calm, but the damp rising up from the canal soon got through our clothes, and the thought on a warm drink back home soon beckoned.

Spending time with Grandaughter

Whilst Mr S went on a boy's course, learning all about lathes, I got on the train and went to spend a few days down at my son's. It was great to see him, the lovely dil and delightful grand daughter . I had a lovely time playing with my fast growing little one. Usually sons visit Mums and do jobs around the house, this time it was the other way round. I had some gloss painting to do: sanding, priming, and top coats were completed in between going for walks through the oak woods


going to weigh in with coffee and chats with other Mums, swimming in the pool with Izabelle, going to music session at the library. I sang along with the old rhymes and enjoyed listening and then joining in with new ones. There was another Grandma there too!

I missed Halloween night back home, but Izi had her outfit on ready to greet any revellers who called.