Shortbread cookies, plum pudding and mincemeat tarts are some of my favourite Christmas dishes. I would gladly give up stuffing and mashed potatoes for an all-dessert feast. So I leave the mains to my mum, and take care of dessert. As you know from before, I am a great fan of cheesecake, so the crossover into a mincemeat cheesecake is terrific. It also has a delightful hint of brandy to it, which makes it perfect for all the grown ups in your life. If your New Year’s resolutions don’t include diets of any kind, you can find Nigel Slater’s recipe for Mincemeat Cheesecake on The Guardian.
For the last few years I’ve also given myself the task of making something to munch on while we open gifts on Christmas morning. We used to make those pop-open Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, smothered in icing, served with a big pot of tea. But you can make something even tastier with just a little planning. This year it was Christmas Chelsea buns, which are fitting given their London-based history.
Hope you all had a merry Christmas, and have a great time celebrating the new year with good friends (and food).
Christmas Chelsea Buns, adapted from Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake. I know Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bake-off, a truly tasty reality show. (Making Bûches de Noël has never been so stressful.) Hollywood also has the honour of creating what is said to be the most expensive loaf of bread in Britain, a roquefort and almond loaf that sells for £15 at Harrods. The “Rolls-Royce of loaves.”
- 300mL whole milk
- 40g salted/unsalted butter, softened
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 10g salt (dial this back a bit if you used salted butter)
- 10g instant yeast (this will seem like quite a lot, but it is indeed how much you need.)
- 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
- 40g unsalted butter, softened
- 75g soft brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 100g dried cranberries
- 100g dried apricots, chopped
- 75g apricot jam
- 125g icing sugar
- Finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp water
Heat the milk and butter in a saucepan until the butter melts and the mixture is lukewarm.
Put the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the flour and the yeast to the other side. Add the milk mixture and the egg and stir together to make a rough dough. Flour a work surface and tip the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, until it is smooth. Wash the original bowl, oil it lightly and put the dough into it. Cover with a clean tea towel and place in a 90℉ oven to rise for at least an hour.
At this point, line a baking dish with parchment paper. I found an 8″ x 11″ dish worked quite well. Now tip the dough out onto a work surface and roll it out into a rectangle about 5mm thick. Mix the butter, sugar and cinnamon together and spread over the surface of the dough. Then sprinkle over the dried fruits and roll up the dough into a cylinder. Cut into nine slices and place these, cut side up, into your prepared baking dish.
Cover the dough with a tea towel and set it aside to rise again for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to around 375℉ (190℃). Then bake the buns for around 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown (mine took at least 35 minutes, but that will depend on your oven and the size of your–tee hee–buns.)
Meanwhile, make the apricot glaze by warming the apricot jam with a little bit of water. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush them with the glaze and set aside to cool on a wire rack. When the buns are quite cool, mix the ingredients for the lemon icing. Mine was a bit runny, but I’ve increased the amount of icing sugar. It should spread nicely, and you can get awfully fancy with it if you like.
Thanksgiving is over and done (long done if you celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in mid-October), but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some photos of a pumpkin cheesecake. I’ve made this twice, and it’s seriously the best. And I bought bourbon! (Just for this recipe, I promise.) It’s not a difficult recipe either, though it does come in three steps: crust, filling, top. Funnily enough, the last time I made it was in Estonia, where it was equally hard to find things like pumpkin and graham crackers. Never fear. It’ll turn out well no matter what. Even if you, like me, have to substitute butternut squash for pumpkin, maple syrup for most of the sugar, and “health cookies” for the graham crackers. On the plus side, unlike a traditional cheesecake, it won’t matter a bit if the top cracks. That’s what the sour cream topping is for.
My camera battery has been sadly languishing at my mum’s, so I’m indebted to my friend Stasya for taking all these nice photos. I was pretty haphazard about this, throwing in handfuls of this, pinches of that, so I don’t have anything close to a recipe for you. Find it over at Smitten Kitchen instead. I’d only suggest that you double the crust. There’s never enough.
Moscow is now a snowy winterland, with its scary iced-over sidewalks and bouts of freezing rain. But the boulevards especially look so nice. This one from Old Moscow, of the Chisti Prudi Boulevard (right near my flat) captures the feeling quite nicely. Happy winter, friends!