Friday, 20 December 2013

Gingerbread Men

It's hard to not love a gingerbread man isn't it? Forget the whole Christmasy thing. If you are given a gingerbread man you really do have to smile. There are many, many types of gingerbread but this one (stolen from somewhere and I have no idea where) has magical properties as it keeps the form of the imprint from the mold as it bakes. It also gets smoother and bakes better the more you play with it so is ideal for sproglets to have fun with. (To state the bloomin' obvious this recipe gets very hot indeed. Melted treacle doesn't mix well with little fingers and noses so wait till the dough is cool.)   Scared to fiddle  too much with the original recipe I have only upped the spice content a little and added my top Christmas spice clove.

350g  Treacle
225g Butter
175g dark brown sugar (the darker the better in my book!)
750g Plain flour
3 tsp Ground ginger
2 tsp Mixed spice
1 tsp Ground Clove
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Large egg

1. Heat the treacle in a large saucepan. When it is runny take off the heat and stir in the butter and brown sugar until they are well combined. You may need to add a little more heat. Set aside to cool. If you have a mixer put it in the bowl ready for the mixing stage.
2. Sift the flour, salt and spices in a bowl and mix together.
3. Add a tablespoon of the floury mix to the sugar and butter and stir in. Keep doing this for 2/3rds of the flour.
4. Add the egg and mix in then add the rest of the flour and mix till it is a smooth brown dough.
5. Allow to cool. Do not miss this step the dough is impossible to work with until it is cold.
6. Turn the oven on to 350C.
7. Roll out the dough and have fun with cutters or treat it like playdoh.
8. Place the gingerbread on greased baking trays and bake for  10-15 minutes.
9. When they come out of the oven allow the biscuits to cool on the tray for a few minutes. This is essential as they fall to bits otherwise.

DECORATING TIME.....or eating with a nice cuppa.

Inevitably some come out as planned.....

Some do not.....but look how HAPPY he is!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

And the chair is done

The trouble with embarking on a massive project is that it is all consuming but not terribly interesting until it is done. I say it is not very interesting but it is FASCINATING to yourself but at best mildly diverting and at worse deadly dull to everybody else.

So here we go. A brief summary of the chair.

I stripped it right back to the bare bones while watching several episodes of Poirot. A truly messy job, the floor was revolting afterwards. No lost Faberge eggs but we did find an old penny which is always nice.

Unfortunately the stripping back revealed that the springs needed to be replaced. I had not bargained on this. I did not have a clue how to tackle this but having announced to the world my intentions to do this thing I could hardly wimp out now.

Doing the webbing is easy and rather pleasing as it's just a matter of weaving the jute tape in and out and making it really tight with a stretcher. There is something very appealing about making it tight as a drum and even though it is the easy bit it feels like being a pro.

And so to the springs. I nearly gave up at this point. Much staring at the thing didn't help. After a few stabs at it the task seemed impossible. I knew what I wanted to do. I had the theory down in my head but they just wouldn't behave. Finally I found this lesson which made it all a lot clearer:

This was the point at which the chair was most beautiful in my eyes.

A bit of fresh padding and it was time ready to make it pretty. Much pondering forced me to relinquish the idea of a fabulous bright blue or an exciting pattern. I reluctantly admitted that we have exciting cushions already and it would all be too much to add yet more pattern. In the end a nice mossy green old velvet curtain was purchased, washed and chopped up.

My nailwork leaves much to be desired but I think it looks rather splendid and it takes up a fraction of the space the old chair did while still having the same amount of bum room. Two weeks after completion and it is still holding together. The springs have not sprung off and it is actually rather comfy.

Now this was to be my last bit of upholstery but the trouble is that it is really rather addictive taking a chair fit for the dump and making it work again. Fortunately I recognise that there really is nowhere to put anything new in the house but it's only a matter of time.....

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Smoking Bishop - the ONLY mulled wine worth bothering with.

I adore mulled wine. I really, really do. So much so that I am incredibly picky about it. Don't like the type made with a nasty syrup, almost always too sweet and synthetic tasting. It's rare that the type found in Christmassy markets is worth the anticipation. Only one thing for it. Make it!

Smoking Bishop is my family's choice. Or to be specific my Mum and I make it each year while my dad says that he doesn't like mulled wine. A traditional recipe featured in 'A Christmas Carol'  (and you can't get more Christmassy than that) it has more than one variation floating around the web.

This is so successful that we have been known to run out of it at parties because nobody wants to drink the other choices. The announcement that the last jugful is nigh has been known to cause near accidents. I planned to take a lovely photo of the batch I made for a party last weekend as I thought I had made far too much. Turns out not a drop was left to lake a snap of the next morning. I could cheat and take a photo of a glass of wine but that's not the point is it? So here is Scrooge and Cratchit settling down for the evening with a frankly obscenely large bowl of the stuff.

Less sweet than most mulled wines (although you can add more sugar if you wish) it is reliant on just one spice, the clove, to give it the flavour of Christmas.

Smoking Bishop
6 Oranges
2 Grapefruit
120g white sugar (I use sugar which has had a vanilla pod in it for a bit.)
3 Bottles red wine
1 Bottle ruby port
48 + Cloves

1. Turn the oven up as high as it will go and pop the fruit in on a baking tray until they are starting to brown.
2. Stud the fruit with 6 - 8 cloves apiece (you will find it easier if you have poked a hole with a skewer first) and into a large pot with the red wine. Leave to mull overnight.
3. In the morning fish the well pondered fruit out of the wine and squeeze all the juice out into the pot.
4. Add the port and sugar.  Stir well.
5. Heat till warm and taste. Add more sugar if it is a little bitter for your taste.
6. Serve. Be careful to not let it boil. It's not romantic but I find that reheating it one jug at time in the microwave for around 2 minutes is a lot safer at parties.

In the unlikely event of  having some left it stores beautifully in a old wine/port bottle. (Don't throw the empty bottles away until you know whether you need them.)  I have no idea how long it will last for but I have happily drunk a year old batch to no ill effects.
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