Festive bakes from Cooked

By
Callum Kenny, Marigold Atkey & Helen Barker-Benfield
Added
08 December, 2016

The Cooked team’s festive baking took on the theme of a GBBO-inspired technical challenge this year…

Callum cooks his first Christmas pudding

Is there anything more festive than a Christmas pudding soaked with booze and packed full of delicious fruit? Even as I sit, full to bursting and groaning after my Christmas dinner, I always manage some pud with brandy sauce. It’s arguably as important as the turkey – a controversial suggestion, perhaps, but dessert is undeniably a crucial element of the ritual. 


This year I decided to have a crack at making my own pudding. I settled on Jason Atherton’s recipe as it looked no-nonsense and didn’t require weeks of feeding, something I don’t have the inclination or discipline for.


The instructions are surprisingly clear and simple. I was rather more liberal with my alcohol quantities than Jason directed – I probably added triple the amount than was written, and as I didn’t have brandy I improvised with Whisky. And Rum. 


I put a full Sunday afternoon aside for the actual cooking. Mixing the soaked fruit with apple, carrot, flour, breadcrumbs and suet created a very wet batter, which I then distilled into pudding pots. That’s literally all the prep. Done.  But the scary bit is the unknown quantity of steaming. This process takes five hours and you have to just hope that what comes out at the end will resemble a Christmas pudding. I was a little frenzied for the duration of this, constantly worrying that I would have just cooked a sort of festive porridge. 


However, I was pleasantly surprised by what came out of the pots. They had kept their shape and looked rather sweet. But the proof is, of course, in the pudding (sorry), so taste was the real test. They were nicely sweet with a kick of citrus from the candied orange and lemon peel, and of course a good flavour of the whisky. This prevented it being too sickly. So, in my opinion, a success! We’ll just have to wait until December 25th for my family’s judgement to be passed...

Marigold masters a childhood favourite

 


I've always preferred Easter food to Christmas food. Simnel cake beats Christmas cake, lamb beats turkey, and Christmas pudding and mince-pies? Pass the Easter eggs. 


There’s one exception. The yule log. When we were little, we’d have one on Christmas Eve, a sprig of holly poked into the chocolate icing that was covering the cracks in the rolled up sponge, before heading out to carols round the tree in town. Yet I’ve never actually made one; perhaps they are so tied to childhood. Perhaps because they are so unapologetically Christmassy, so cosy, so cheerily un-chic. 


Trihne Hahnemann’s yule log is a real treat of a recipe. It’s one to take your time over: definitely not one to attempt on a weekday evening. It may be easy – and it really is – but it does take time. So I embraced that and began it in the morning and didn’t finish it until the evening, sprinkling the gold dust over it so my housemates could return to a real showpiece of a pudding. 


I panicked when I saw I would have to make caramel but no, you just let the sugar melt and voila, you have an amber liquid to pour into a shimmering lake. Deeply satisfying. The sponge takes no time whatsoever and rolls up beautifully with the cream; just keep tucking the sponge in with your fingers on the paper as you roll it up. I found twisting up the paper at either end helped secure it all nice and snugly. Cut forward several hours and all that was left was to make the ganache and decorate the log. I worried that the ganache was too liquid and would slide off my log but no, all was fine, while raking it with a fork to create a wood effect was just really very pleasing. I think the one deviation from the recipe I would make would be to leave out the marzipan leaves; the dark glossiness of the melted chocolate was so beautiful that the matte of the marzipan and the shoddy craftsmanship of my leaves rather spoiled the look. But then, marzipan is delicious. One thing I have learnt from this recipe is that what I need more of in my life is gold glitter. Everything looks better dusted with it. Fact. 

Helen conquers her fears of pastry making


Warmed in the oven and served with a dusting of icing sugar, mince pies are a must-have in our house as soon as they arrive in the shops. Faced with the Cooked team’s baking challenge and with very little spare time, I chose the mince pies, hoping it would be the easy option. And it was. I picked April Carter’s mini mince pies for their dainty look and for my attempt at portion control (the best I can do at this time of year). Plus, I like my mince pie pastry without sugar as I find the filling makes them sweet enough. The pastry was a doddle in the food processor it worked a treat and was quick and easy to roll out. April uses ready-made mincemeat so I did too, then with a scattering of pastry stars, they were ready to bake. Freshly baked and doused in icing sugar, I was relieved that they tasted as good as April said they would. I immediately made another batch and I won’t be buying any in a box this year.


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