Posts Tagged ‘dried fruit’

Brioche MD (2)

In most tea shops around England toasted Yorkshire teacakes can be found on the menu.  There is a big difference between hand made ones and mass produced.  A little like processed bread the mass produced teacake once toasted and spread with butter  becomes a doughy nothingness, whereas the hand made version is more robust with a much better flavour and texture.  These large 6” sweet bread buns are studded with currants and are delicious split and toasted with butter.  Traditionally accompanied by a cup of tea.  I prefer to replace the currants with sultanas but any dried fruit can be used.  Someone from Yorkshire might have a problem with that, as they are quite protective of their regional recipe but I am a great believer in cooking what you like and how you like.

Fresh yeast is difficult enough to find locally let alone in the centre of London.  I would have a better chance of obtaining class A drugs than finding an ounce of fresh yeast on my local high street.  Supermarkets used to offer fresh yeast for free from their bakery section but this seems to have stopped.  I have on many occasions in the past bought fresh yeast from my local baker – what always amused me was when I asked for it the shop assistant would have to go into the actual bakery to get it and when she returned the baker himself would appear to give me the once over!  I don’t know whether he was in fear that I might be setting up a rival bakery or the notion that a customer had dared to actually have a go at yeast bakery themselves.  Alas this source has also now dried up.   Which forced me to search on the internet.  I found I could buy fresh yeast online from suppliers of flour but the minimum order premium just didn’t make ordering 100 grams of yeast viable.  The answer in the end turned out to be Ebay.  Which is where I found Paul of Online-bakery.  He offers a brilliant service – order it on a weekday and it arrives through the door the next day.  For me fresh yeast gives a better flavour and is always worth the effort of sourcing.

As soon as the yeast came through my letterbox this weekend, it was straight into the kitchen where I started on the list of yeast recipes I have been itching to make.  Starting with Yorkshire teacakes.

This recipe will make six large teacakes.  It is not compulsory to eat them all in one sitting as they freeze very well.  The best way is to split them and then freeze them.  This way they defrost all the quicker and are ready to pop under the grill for whenever there is a yearning for a toasted teacake and a cup of tea.

Yorkshire Teacakes


1 lb/ 450g strong white flour

1 level tsp salt

1 oz/ 30g butter

1 oz/ 30g caster sugar

½ oz /15g fresh yeast

½ pint/285ml lukewarm milk

2 oz/60g currants or sultanas

Extra milk for brushing the tops


Place flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter.  Being lazy I use a small food processor.  I put a small quantity of the flour in with the butter, whiz to create a breadcrumb effect and then add to the rest of the flour in the bowl.

Add the sugar and sultanas (or currants).

Stir the yeast with the warm milk until blended, add to the flour mixture.

Mix to a firm dough and knead for about 10 minutes.  The dough should be smooth and elastic.

Cover and leave to rise until double in size in a warm place.

Lightly flour the work surface, knead again and divide into 6 equal sized pieces. I weigh the entire dough and then divide the number by six.

Roll into balls, flatten with the palm of your hand and put onto greased baking trays.  I find I need two trays – three Yorkshire teacakes to each.

Brush tops with milk.  Cover and leave to rise until almost double in size.

Bake in centre of the oven at 400F/Gas Mark 6 for 20 mins

The teacakes should be golden brown when ready.  If the Yorkshire teacakes don’t slide off straight away leave on the baking tray for five minutes and then remove, the extra time tends to help them to unstick.


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Every year I use the same recipe for my Christmas cake.  This is a well tried and tested recipe perfected over many years.  One year I tried five different recipes.  After much debating and tasting we whittled it down to one and then improved on it.  The family like it and that’s good enough for me.

When I was a little girl my mother had high hopes for her Christmas cake.  Cake icing was not a skill she possessed but each year she approached the task of icing the Christmas cake with new hope and vigor, thinking that this year she would create the perfect iced cake.  Each year the cake would be presented with an iced snow scene adorned with small fir trees, an overfed robin, and several patchy reindeer, topped off with the piece de resistance – the shop bought frayed red ribbon.

Achieving the snow scene was a torturous journey for both my mother and me.  It would start with the mixing of the royal icing. I would sit silently at the kitchen table watching.   This phase usually passed in a fairly upbeat mood, then the palette knife would make an appearance and my mother would attempt her foray into cake icing nirvana, kidding herself that the icing would just glide on and be perfect.   As each layer went on, the more uneven the cake became.  My initial encouragement of how good it was looking would soon dry up and a murderous tension could be felt in the air, at this stage I readied myself to flee.

In a last ditch attempt of redeeming things my mother would then move onto the icing syringe which was filled to the brim with royal icing, again she would struggle and labour over trying to squeeze out perfect shapes as demonstrated on the cover of the box but to no avail.  When eventually my mother realised she had been beaten, the palate knife re-appeared and with a few swift hand movements we were back to plan B; the snow scene.    Having stuck by my mother during her icing ordeal I would be rewarded with the task of pushing the aged but much loved cake ornaments into the deep waves of royal icing before it was finished off with a red ruff and, put on a raised dish and placed in the dining room, ready for Christmas.

My mother’s Christmas snow scene may not have been perfect but it has become a fond memory I hold with great affection along with those worn Christmas cake ornaments.

I have said it before and I will say it again recipes evolve because people change them.  If I don’t like currants, I leave them out and add the same weight in raisins.  If I don’t like cinnamon I don’t add it.  I am a big fan of cherries but I sometimes swap them for more apricots.  There are no hard and fast rules.

Christmas Cake


Rich Fruit Cake Recipe


Stage One


225g/8 oz currants

225g/8 0z raisins

225g/8 oz sultanas

50g/2 oz dried apricots chopped small

175g/6 oz glace cherries cut into quarters or halves depending on how I am feeling.

100ml/4 floz brandy


Pick over the fruit for any stalks this might not seem important at this stage but I hate eating a piece of cake and getting a bit of stalk stuck in my teeth. 

Put all the fruit into an airtight dish and add the brandy.  Stir well to blend, seal and leave. 

I tend to leave mine in a dark cupboard for two weeks or more, stirring the fruit every week or so.  The smell is fantastic and after two weeks the fruit has plumped up beautifully.


Stage Two

50g/2 oz blanched almonds chopped roughly but small

50g/2 oz brazil nuts chopped roughly but small

225g/8 oz butter

225g/8 oz soft dark brown sugar

4 eggs

225g/8 oz white plain flour

5ml/1 level tsp ground mixed spice

 ½ level tsp ground cinnamon

Greaseproof paper


brown paper or an old large envelope


Draw around the bottom of your 8″ cake tin on top of a double layer of greaseproof paper, cut out the circles and line the bottom of the cake tin with these.

Cut a length of greaseproof paper this is going to line the inside of the tin, this needs to be folded in half and placed inside the tin it should be raised above the height of the tin.  Then cut a length of brown paper folded over to go around the outside of the tin again raised above the height of the tin.  This is to help the cake from burning.  A little like a sun shield.

The oven needs to be set at 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.

Soften the butter and beat until soft and pale, now add the sugar and beat well until it is all blended.

In a measuring jug beat the four eggs and begin to pour them into the mixture a little at a time, beating constantly.  If the mixture begins to curdle add a tablespoon of flour and keep beating until it goes back to a smooth consistency.

Add the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon, and using a metal spoon gently fold into the mixture.  Add the fruit and the chopped nuts.  Using the metal spoon continue to fold in gently.  If the mixture for some reason seems dry or heavy, add 2 tbsp milk.

Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top with the back of the spoon making a slight dome in the centre.  This will help the cake to bake level.

Bake in the centre of the oven 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2 for 3 ½  hours.  I either write down the time I put the cake in or use the timer.  It’s important to get the timing right.  After 3 1/2 hours check the cake with a skewer.  If it comes out clean then it’s done, there is a lot of brandy-laden fruit in the cake so I look closely that it’s not fruit sticking to the skewer.

When the cake is done do not remove from the tin but allow it to sit until it is completely cold and then unwrap.  The cake will keep for three months but it needs to be wrapped in greaseproof paper and then foil and tightly sealed.  I then place the cake in a plastic bag, which is tied, and then into an airtight container.

I prefer to bake my cake in the middle of November to give it some time to mature.  I do not feed the cake with brandy after I have baked it.  I prefer to use the brandy to pump up the fruit.   I then cover the cake with marzipan and fondant icing.

I have also made this without marzipan and icing and instead have decorated the top with whole almonds and cherries, which I put on just before putting the cake in the oven.

If covered in the marzipan and icing it will stand being left on display which I do once it has had it final decoration but once its been cut I store it in an airtight container.  It will keep for ages like this.

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I can’t remember a Christmas Day meal when there hasn’t been a Christmas pudding served.  As a child I would always feel the pudding was the anti-climax of the whole day, as it was my least favorite of the Christmas fare, not being a big fan of anything that contained dried fruit.  The only reason I eagerly agreed to a slice, was the hope of winning the hidden gold coin.  My mother would always put a gold sovereign in the pudding.  Over the years it dawned on me that this task was always done in the kitchen, followed by the warm brandy being poured over with my mother carrying it to the table before setting light to it.  The concentration my mother exerted over this task was not the fear of dropping the said pudding but to keep a vigilant eye on where the sovereign was embedded.    It has taken many years to realise the whole thing was fixed and my chances of ever winning the much sought after coin were nil.  My mother like a magician had full control of where the coin was and who would win it.  Trusted family members and my father were high on the list.  Needless to say, after the meal, the coin would be whisked away, and no doubt put in a safe place until the following year.

My tastes have changed and matured over the years and I have perfected my own recipe, without suet.   This makes the pudding much lighter.  Instead of the traditional brandy butter I prefer a large  helping of clotted cream  Gold sovereigns are not so plentiful these days so I have replaced it with silver sixpences which I have no idea where in the pudding it is and who ever wins them gets to keep them.  I wrap each one is silver foil for hygiene and push them into the pudding just before serving, and each year there is a fresh batch of coins.

Christmas pudding

I usually make this around September to give it time to mature but I have also left it the week before Christmas.


50 gm/2 oz blanched almonds

50 gm/2 oz walnuts

50 gm/2 oz brazil nuts

75 gm/3 oz carrots

75 gm/3 oz pitted no soak prunes

125 gm/4 oz butter

1 lemon

125 gm/4oz soft dark brown sugar

2 eggs beaten

350 gm/12 oz mixture of seedless raisins, currants and sultanas (I don’t always put 125 gm/4 oz of each in I sometimes put more of one fruit depending what I have in the cupboard, as long as the total weight is 350 gm).

25 gm/ 1 oz chopped glace cherries

50 gm/ 2 oz fresh brown breadcrumbs

125 gm/ 4 oz wholemeal plain flour

50 gm/ 2 oz white plain flour

15ml/ 1 level tablespoon mixed ground spice

200 ml/ 7 floz Guinness

30 ml/ 2 tbs brandy

30 ml/ 2 level tbs black treacle (leave a tablespoon in a cup of boiling water before measuring out, the treacle will slip off the spoon).


  1. Roughly chop all the nuts, either in a food processor or by hand.  Coarsely grate the carrots and cut the prunes into small pieces, this is much easier to do if you use scissors.
  2. Beat the butter and lemon rind until soft then gradually beat in the sugar followed by the beaten eggs.  Mix in all the remaining ingredients and stir well.  At this point our family tradition is that each person comes and gives the pudding a stir and makes a wish.  When the stirring is complete cover and leave in a cool place overnight – NOT the fridge.
  3. The following day grease a 2 ½ – 2 ¾ pint (1.4-1.6 litre) heatproof pudding basin this is to make it easier for the pudding to come out after cooking.  Beat the pudding mixture again and spoon it into the basin.  To cover, cut a piece of grease proof paper and a piece of foil, place these on top of each other and fold a central pleat down the centre, place this over the top of the pudding and tie securely. After years of struggling with bits of string slipping, I like to use a strong elastic band.
  4. Steam the pudding for about 6 hours in a large saucepan filled with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the basin.  Do not stand the basin directly in the pan put it on top of an upturned plate, – cover and boil for about 4 hours, checking that the water has not boiled dry and if needed top up with boiling water from the kettle (as I like to make several pudding I use my fish kettle).  When done cool the pudding completely and re-cover the basin with fresh greaseproof paper and foil securing with a fresh elastic band and refrigerate for up to 2 months.  Some say that left in a cool place the pudding will last from one year to the next.  Although its not essential (but it adds to the whole Christmas traditional theme) I cover the cooked pudding when cooled with a square of muslin tied with a handle so its easy on Christmas day to put into the steamer and lift out but this is optional.
  5. On the day of eating, steam the pudding for about 3 hours, then turn out onto a warm serving plate.  Warm about 60 ml/ 4 tbs brandy in a small saucepan and pour over the pudding and set alight. The warming helps the brandy to light.  Depending on the year I sometimes dispense with the flaming brandy and replace it with sparklers or an indoor fountain firework.  These last a little bit longer.  The pudding can be served with either brandy butter, brandy cream or my choice of clotted cream.

If there is any pudding left over, I wrap it up in silver foil and put it in the fridge until Boxing day when we slice it up and  warm it through by putting a generous amount of butter into a frying pan and frying it.  Again served with some clotted cream.

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