Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Christmas baking

Christmas is definitely a time to bake as much food as possible and then eat as much food as possible. This is definitely a family tradition and the ability to over cater is genetic on my mum's side of the family. So, I managed to bake lots of different things, but a new discovery were these lovely little almond meringue biscuits called Batons Marechaux. I found the recipe in my Leith's Baking Bible, which is one of those books that has a recipe for pretty much any baked item you can imagine and quite a few you could not.  Sadly, it doesn't have a lot of pictures, which I love in a cookbook, so I'm not sure if I got them quite right, but they taste great. They are based on a basic meringue which is so much easy to make with my kitchenaid then with a handheld mixer. all you have to do is sit and watch it turn egg whites and sugar into lovely, shiny, clouds. I have a feeling I may be making meringues and meringue based things quite a lot in future... You then fold in ground almonds and pipe them into fingers. These are sprinkled with hazelnuts before being baked. They are then sandwiched together with chocolate- om nom nom! As you can see from the picture i am not that good at piping consistent shapes... but they still taste totally gorgeous.
Batons Marechaux waiting to be sandwiched together with chocolate.
As Christmas simply would not be Christmas without mince pies, I had a go at some of these too.  My first go came out somewhat too large as I didn't have any bun tins so used muffin tins... They were really a bit big for mince pies, so for the next lot I went to the other extreme and used mini muffin tins.  These turned out very dinky indeed  and made a very nice couple of mouthfuls. I used the sweet short crust pastry recipe from Short and Sweet, which was surprisingly easy to use for something as irritatingly fussy as pastry normally is.  The idea of topping them with a little star was from Nigella's Feast.  I did have a bit of a problem with this, as the mince mixture had a tendency to escape through the holes and glue the pies into the tin! I had to spend a rather annoying few minutes chipping the dried sugar away from the pies so I could then lever then out.  I'm not sure if using less filing would actually help here, as I made them in two batches and used less in the second than the first but they still leaked all over the place.  So next time I may stick with tradition and just use lids to avoid annoyance!

Continuing with the mini these, one of the most popular things I made over Christmas was a large batch of MIni Christmas cakes from Nigella's Feast. She claims that the mixture will make 18, I managed to get 28! I think they look rather fun in a big tower on my cupcake stand, finished with a little icing sugar snow.

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