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Panettone Muffins

Panettone Muffins

I confess.  I am having a love affair with Panettone.  Todd thinks we have a magic Panettone that I got for Christmas that keeps regenerating itself. 😁 Truth be told I am a naughty magician that is very good at making it disappear and then reappear in the house,as if by magic (by use of my magic grocery cart).  Shhh . . .  don't tell.

I really love anything fruity.  And I especially love all of the Christmas fruity goodies like Panettone and fruit cake, mince pies, stollen, etc.  I am good at making all of it disappear too.  They are a weakness I need to work on.

These lovely muffins embody all of the flavours of a delicious Panettone, but without all of the hard work and waiting.

A lovely moist cake type of batter.  I use oil, but you could use melted butter if you wanted to.  They would certainly be a lot richer with butter  . . .

Sweet sticky raisins  . . .  chopped candied cherries.  You could use chopped maraschino cherries if you can't get candied cherries.  Just rinse and dry them off really well.

Candied citron, almond essence  . . . finely grated orange zest  . . .

I used three colours of cherries, well four actually light red and dark red . . .  green and yellow . . . flaked almonds burnish the top  . . . 

A quick mix together and then a quick bake and presto chango . . .  you magically have some really delicious moreish muffins that taste very Panettone-like.

*Panettone Muffins*
Makes 10

All of the delicious flavours of a Panettone but with none of the faff. 

1 large free range egg
60ml vegetable oil (1/4 cup)
125ml milk (1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp almond extract
100g caster sugar (1/2 cup)
210g self raising flour (1 1/2 cup)
75g candied cherries, quartered (1/2 cup, can use maraschino
cherries which have been drained and dried)
75g raisins (1/2 cup)
50g mixed peel (1/3 cup)
the finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
1/2 tsp mixed spice
a handful of flaked almonds
icing sugar to dust 

Preheat the oven to 18*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Line 10 muffin cups with paper liners.

Whisk together the egg, oil, milk and almond extract.  Stir together the flour, sugar, cherries, raisins, mixed peel, orange zest and mixed spice.  Make a well in the centre and add the wet ingredients. Stir together to combine. Spoon into the prepared muffin cups.  Sprinkle the top of each with some flaked almonds.

Bake for 20 minutes until risen and golden brown.  Let cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

These would be perfect served with hot drinks on Christmas morning while you are opening the gifts.  These muffins and I are very good friends. Happy Holidays and Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Apple Torte

Apple Torte

You could be looking at your Christmas Dessert this year.  I kid you not.  I know  . . .  not a trifle, nor a pudding, not even a fruit cake.  Instead it is a delicious cross between an apple cake and an apple pie and a cheesecake.

But it is none of those things . . .  it's a Torte.  A delicious Apple Torte!

With a shortbread-like buttery sweet pastry crust . . .  you simply press into the pan.  Easy peasy, no rolling out . . .

The crust is spread with raspberry jam and then you pour on that rich velvety cheesecake filling . . . which is as simple as beating together cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla  . . .

This is probably the faffiest bit . . .  four apples, peeled, cored, sliced and tossed together with cinnamon sugar . . . the faffy bit is laying them on top of the cheesecake filling in an attractive manner.

But that's not really much of a hardship, when you think of the end result.  Try not to eat too many cinnamon sugar apple slices while you are doing it, lol.  Me, I have a hard time resisting them. Sweet and crunchy and so cinnamony! 

A sprinkle of slivered blanched almonds and its oven ready.  I slivered my own this time instead of using flaked.  It's Christmas after all and a little extra effort is worth the time it takes.

It bakes really quickly, 10 minutes at a high oven temp and then half an hour at a moderate oven temp. At the end you are rewarded with a delicious Christmas Dessert that will have everyone scrambling for seconds.  All you need on top is a dollop of softly whipped cream.  You can sweeten it if you want, but I am so anglicised now I prefer it plain.

*Apple Torte*
Serves 10 to 12
A delicious festive dessert which is simple to make and cuts into nice firm pieces, each slice filled with lovely slices of apple. 

For the base:
125g butter (1/2 cup) softned
70g granulated sugar (1/3 cup)
1/4 tsp vanilla
140g plain flour (1 cup)
120g raspberry jam, loosened with a fork (1/2 cup)
For the filling:
240g cream cheese (1 cup)
95g granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
1 large free range egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

For the apples:
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (bout 4 cups)
70g granulated sugar (1/3 cup)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
85g slivered blanched almonds (1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Have ready a 9-inch round spring form pan.  Set aside. 

Cream together the butter, vanilla and sugar for the base. Add the flour and mix until you have coarse crumbs. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of your pan.  Spread the raspberry jam over the bottom.  Whisk together the filling ingredients until smooth and pour over top of the jam.  Toss the apple slices with the sugar and cinnamon.  Arrange gently over top of the filling. Sprinkle with the slivered almonds.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Bake for a further half an hour until the apples are tender. Cool in the pan before removing sides.

Serve cut into wedges with or without a dollop of whipped cream if desired!  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Try to let it cool completely before slicing it.  I think its even better left in the refrigerator overnight before slicing which also makes it a great dessert for Christmas dinner because you can do it the day ahead. It will slice perfectly on the day!  Happy Holidays and Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Gingerbreadman Christmas Cake Tutorial

Gingerbreadman Christmas Cake Tutorial

I wanted to show you all a simple and easy way to decorate your Christmas Cake this year.  You can seriously have it done in about half an hour.  It truly is easy peasy, and I think it is really, really cute, don't you?

First you will want to assemble all of your ingredients.  You will need one baked fruit cake. Mine is 8 inches in diameter.  You will also need some ready rolled marzipan and ready rolled fondant icing.  Don't worry if you cannot find it ready rolled, you can either buy the stuff un-rolled and roll your own, or make your own from scratch.  I am going to give you the recipes below to make both the marzipan layer and the fondant.  You will also need 3 TBS of apricot jam, warmed with 1 TBS of water or Brandy and pushed through a sieve to make it smooth and take out any bits.  I have used three gingerbread cutters.  One largish man and two smaller ones, a boy and a girl.  But you can use any combination that you have in your house.  You will also need some ribbons to decorate the edges around the cake or a paper frill, and some candies, etc. to decorate your gingerbread men. 

Once you have everything assembled it will go like wild-fire!  
It is really very, very easy!

Fasten your cake to the centre of a round cake plate/board.  I used a dab of marzipan to hold it in place. If you don't want any lumpy bumpy surfaces, you can go to the trouble of filling in any holes with some extra marzipan, but I am not really bothered myself.  Brush your cake all over with the seived apricot jam mixure. Take your marzipan and roll it over a rolling pin to move it without tearing it.  Place it gently on top of your cake, smoothing it over the top and down the sides. Smooth the paste over the cake using the palms of your hands, then trim with a sharp knife around the bottom edge of the cake all around. It is recommended that you wait 24 hours to let it dry, but because you are going to be cutting shapes out of the top you won't want to do that. You don't really want it too stuck to the cake when you  lift the shapes off. 

Now you want to brush the marzipan all over the top and sides of the cake with more of the apricot jam mixture.  Roll the fondant icing over the top of a rolling pin to transfer it and then layer it on top of the marzipan, covering the cake completely and smoothing it out with your hands pressing it down gently around the sides also.  Trim off any excess from the bottom and discard.  Now place your cutters to where you want them on top of the cake.  Press your cutter/s through the fondant and marzipan layers and remove the icing with the cutter still inserted to help give a cleaner outline. Add the gingerbread man features to the cut out shape using either cut out and shaped pieces of white fondant or fondant water icing placed in a piping bag. Marzipan shapes and sweets can be added on to and around your gingerbread man shapes for extra decoration.

I used some white piping icing to make lines and then little red balls for the eyes and buttons, which I also used some of the white piping icing to help stick them on.  I cut a bow tie out of a red glace cherry for the larger gingerbread man! 

He looks rather dapper don't you think!  Then I used halved glace cherries and some slivers of green cherry to add some other decorative touches  It doesn't quite look like holly, but I think it looks nice anyways.

I cut some ribbons and placed them around the sides of the cake.  I used ball headed pins to hold them in place.  Just remember when you go to serve your cake that they are there! 

*Vanilla Marzipan*
Makes enough
to cover an 8 inch cake

Easy to make.  You can also add flavours to this if you want to experiment. 

175g golden caster sugar (scant cup)
280g icing sugar (2 1/4 cups)
450g ground almonds (5 1/4 cups)
the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
2 medium free range eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp orange or lemon juice 

Mix the sugars and almonds in a large bowl, then rub in the vanilla seeds until even. Make a well in the middle, then tip in the eggs and citrus juice. Cut the wet ingredients into the dry with a round bladed knife. Dust the surface with icing sugar, then knead the marzipan briefly with your hands to a smooth dough. Don’t overdo it as it can get greasy. Add a bit more icing sugar if it seems too wet. Shape into a ball, then wrap and keep in a cool place until ready to cover the cake. Can be made up to 2 days in advance. 

When you are ready to use, dust your work surface with more icing sugar, then roll the marzipan into a circle about 40cm/16 inches across, dusting underneath the marzipan with more icing sugar and turning it a quarter turn after every few pushes of the rolling pin. You should also have prepared your cake by brushing it all over with apricot jam which you have gently warmed and then put through a sieve. (About 3 TBS should do it. I sometimes add a bit of brandy.)

Flip the top of the circle back over your rolling pin so you can see the underside of the marzipan, then lift the pin up and lift the marzipan over the cake. Stop once you can see that the edge of the marzipan nearest you is about level with the bottom of the cake. Flop the front of the marzipan down. Smooth the paste over the cake using the palms of your hands, then trim with a sharp knife. If any cracks appear, simply pinch the paste back together and smooth. Leave to dry for at least 24 hrs, or up to 3 days, before covering with icing.

*Rolled Fondant Icing*
Makes enough to
cover a large cake
 You could buy this ready rolled, but just in case you can't find it, here is a recipe to make your own. 

1 sachet gelatine
60ml cold water (1/4 cup)
125ml glucose syrup (1/2 cup +1 TBS)
1 TBS glycerine
2 TBS butter
1 tp vanilla
1 KG icing sugar (2.2 pounds) 

Combine gelatine and cold water. Let stand until thick.  Place in the top of a double boiler and heatuntil dissolved.  Add the glucose and glycerine. Mix well together and then stir in butter. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Cool the mixture until it is lukewarm. 

Place half of the icing sugar in a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Add the lukewarm gelatine mixture, stirring it in with a wooden spoon. Mix in sugar a little more at a time until the stickiness disappears. Knead in the remaining icing sugar until the mixture is smooth and pliable and does not stick to your hands.  If it is too sticky, add a bit more sugar.  If too dry add a few drops of water.  Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature prior to using, and knead again until soft.

I think it turned out really cute!  I wanted to show you the neat cake carrier I have to store it as well.

Its one of those Lock Top ones.  I got it quite some time ago.  You put the cake on the insert part, which has handles for lifting. Then you lift your cake and put it into the cake holder and the lid clips on air tight. There is even a handle for carrying it around, out to the car, into the kitchen, etc.  If you don't have one of these you might want to put it on your christmas list!  I got mine at a local cook shop, but I think you can get them online at various places. 

In any case I hope you enjoyed seeing our Christmas cake for this year! Bon Appetit and Happy Holidays!

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Marie Rayner
Dutch Amond Cookies

Dutch Amond Cookies

This lovely cookie is one which I bake every year for Christmas.  I have been baking it for years and years and years!  I believe the original recipe was a first  prize winner in a cookie contest in Canadian Living magazine, but I can't remember for sure.  All I know for sure is that they are definitely prize worthy, as they are that delicious!

They begin with a simple almond flavoured  brown sugar cookie dough.  Easy peasy.

An almond filling is made using blanched almonds, sugar, an egg yolks and some more flavouring in the way of lemon juice and almond extract.

The cookie dough gets rolled into 1 inch balls and you make an indentation in them with your finger tip.  Not a large one  . . .

just large enough to hold a tiny bit of that almond filling, which then gets covered over and tucked inside by the covering of another tiny pinch of that cookie dough.  A little roll between the palms seals it in nice and safe . . .

An egg white glaze and a blanched almond on top and they are ready for baking  . . . 15 minutes later you are rewarded with delicious almond cookies!! 


Sure, they are a tiny bit more effort than a drop and bake cookie, but hey!  It's Christmas and a little bit of something special warranted!  They are worth every little effort!

*Dutch Almond Cookies*
Makes about 5 dozen

I have been making these lovely almond cookies every Christmas since my children were small.  They are delicious! 

250g butter, softened (1 cup)
400g soft light brown sugar (2 cups packed)
2 medium free range eggs
1 tsp almond extract
490g plain flour (3 1/2 cups)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

For the filling:
42g whole blanched almonds (1/4 cup)
50g granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
1 medium free range egg yolk
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
You will also need:
1 medium free range egg white, lightly beaten
85g whole blanched almonds (1/2 cup)

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time along with the almond extract. Sift together the flour, salt, soda and baking powder.  Stir this into the creamed mixture until well blended.  Cover and chill for about an hour. 

Put the ingredients for the filling into a small blender/processor.  Blitz until smooth. 

Preheat the oven 160*C/325*F gas mark 3.  Butter several large baking sheets. 

For each cookie take a spoonful of th dough and roll into a 1-inch ball. With a finger make an indentation into the centre of the ball, the. fill with about 1/4 tsp of the filling.  Pinch off more dough about the size of a pea.  Flatten and use this to cover the filling.  Gently roll again in the palms of your hands to seal and smooth edges, Place onto the baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough placing the filled balls 2 inches apart.  Brush the tops with some of the beaten egg white and gently press a whole almond into the top of each. 

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.  Scoop off to cool on wire racks.  Store in an airtight container. 

These have lovely crisp edges and chewy middles.  I have never had anyone eat one that didn't want another one immediately after!!  Bon Appetit and Happy Holidays!  

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Marie Rayner
Peppermint Pettitcoat Tails

Peppermint Pettitcoat Tails

This is a delicious variation on the classic shortbread biscuit!  The name “petticoat tails” dates to the eighteenth century, and references the shape of the cookie, which is said to resemble a lady’s spread-out petticoat.

The Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy regales the following tale:  “‘An English traveller in Scotland and one very well acquainted with Frances states in his very pleasant book that our Club has fallen into a mistake in the name of these cakes, and that petticoat tails is a corruption of the French petites gatelles.

It may be so, but whatever their origins the fact remains that they are beautiful shortbread biscuits/cookies being perfectly crumbly and delicious!

Beautifully buttery and crisp shortbread triangles, flavoured with peppermint, I'll admit that they don't look very festive yet, but they will do come next week closer to  Christmas, as I plan on drizzling them with a chocolate and peppermint drizzle which will dress them up beautifully.

You can leave the peppermint flavouring out if you wish, giving you a plain shortbread petticoat tail, but the  peppermint really gives them a lovely festive touch.

You do NOT want to know the calorie count of one of these.  Trust me.   Let it suffice to say these are not healthy nor are they low fat.  They're crisp and BUTTERY!  Scrumptiously so.

Can you imagine a wheel of these, nestled amongst festively coloured tissue paper in a box for the holidays?   Tied up with red, green and white curling ribbons? 

*Peppermint Petticoat Tails*
Makes 8 servings

What afternoon tea would be complete without shortbread Petticoat Tails.  These are just that little bit more special with the addition of peppermint flavour.  Of course you can leave it out if you prefer yours plain.  Short and buttery.  Delicious!  

250g butter, at room temperature (1 cup plus 2 TBS)
100g caster sugar (1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
250g  plain flour, plus extra for dusting (1 3/4 cup plus 1 TBS)
100g cornflour (2/3 cup cornstarch)
1/2 tsp salt
icing sugar to dust

Put the butter, sugar and peppermint extract into the bowl of a food processor.  Blitz until the mixture is pale and creamy.  Sift together the flour and cornflour.  Stir in the salt.    Tip the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor and pulse until the  mixture begins to form small clumps.  Tip out onto a lightly floured board.  Bring the dough together into a ball without overworking it.   Place into a 9 inch fluted tart tin with a loose bottom.  Gently press out evenly in the tin using floured fingers and a light touch.   Mark into 8 equal wedges with the tines of a fork.
Place into the refrigerator to chill for half an hour.  Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.

Place onto a baking sheet and then bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.  Leave to cool completely on the tray.  (I like to re-prick with a fork about five minutes after I remove it from the oven for each of breaking into wedges.)  Allow to cool completely in the pan.  Dust with icing sugar.   Will keep nicely in a tightly covered tin for up to 5 days.

What friend or neighbor wouldn't smile broadly at such a gift!  You can bake several of these ahead and freeze them, tightly wrapped until the day you want to give them away.  Guaranteed to make you popular with everyone!  Bon Appetit and Happy Holidays! 

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Marie Rayner

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