Archive for December, 2009

Recipe For Sweets At Christmas Fairs

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Inspired by marzipanning the Christmas cake yesterday and acutely aware of the looming Christmas Fair after the Carol Concert at our children’s school, I decided to experiment with some sweet making this morning.  Also, chidhood memories of Niederegger marzipan may have played on my psyche.

I think we’ll look at making fudge and peppermint mice – I’ve already talked about the recipes for these on a previous blog: see

We used a slightly different marzipan recipe to the one from yesterday as I wanted something less rich and a bit drier.  I also beefed up the almond flavour with some of our very own Steenbergs natural almond extract.


350g/12oz   Ground almonds, delumped using your fingers
175g /6oz   Icing sugar, sieved
175g/6oz   Caster sugar
1½tsp  Lemon juice
¼tsp Steenbergs natural almond extract
1 Free range egg, lightly beaten

Put the ground almonds and sugars together in a mixing bowl, then make a hole in the centre.  Add the lemon juice, natural almond extract and beaten eggs into the hole.  Mix it all together – I use my hands for this, massaging it all together into a smooth paste.   When it has all mixed into a ball, put it onto a lightly iced board.

Now, you can do as you wish.  For this experimentation, I simply rolled small amounts into smooth balls; it’s probably about 1tsp for each ball, but you just need to break it off the main ball with the tips of your fingers.  We then dropped some of the balls into cocoa which is nice and easy, but the children were not sure about the mix of the bitterness of the cocoa and the sweetness of the marzipan; I actually quite liked it.

Coating marzipan in dark chocolate

Coating marzipan in dark chocolate

For the remainder, I melted two 150g bars of dark Green & Black’s chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.  We then dipped the balls into the melted chocolate and using a toothpick scooped them out and left them to dry on some baking parchment.

You probably only need 200g of chocolate as we had some left over and poured this into some chocolate moulds that we have to make some chocolates.  The dark chocolate worked really well against the sweetness of the marzipan, but milk chocolate would work better for individual chocolates.  I think we will also look at getting some brazil nuts and coat those in chocolate, as well as some white chocolate to play with the colours a bit.  This could really be quite fun; really messy fun.

A selection of homemade sweets

A selection of homemade sweets

We also experimented using the marzipan with trying to make mice shapes.  We shaped the marzipan into a thick oval, teased out the end to make a nose and pinched up two small bits to make the ears.  Then we stuck on some pink coloured balls for the eyes.  We will either use string or find some edible shoelace to make the tails when we use the peppermint cream mix to make the actual ones.

Everyone’s got involved in some capacity, particularly scoffing the sweets down!

I have ordered some little gold truffle boxes to put them and they have Merry Christmas printed on them.

Recipe For Marzipan For Christmas Cake

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

I love marzipan, which is often called in a highly industrial way almond paste (an honest but bland name). 


It reminds me of the childhood magic of Christmas time.  It was especially magical as my mother’s family – she’s German – would send over the most beautiful Christmas treats.  However, much of that mysterious magic has gone as relatively cheap versions of lebkuchen, stollen and spekulatius are available in every supermarket, baker or discount store. 

And marzipan treats were part of that magic – siz inch bars of marzipan from Niederegger covered in chocolate.  I don’t know whether my tastes have got more refined now that I cook myself or whether the recipes have been cheapened over the years, but the marzipan and chocolate seems much more artificial now than they used to be.

We always made extra marzipan to make marzipan kugeln or marzipan balls, plus I would always love to lick my fingers clean.

Nostalgia; you can’t beat it, so keep on those rose tinted glasses.

600g/ 1¼lb ground almonds, sieved
275g/ 10oz caster sugar
275g/10oz icing sugar, sieved
4tsp lemon juice
2tbsp orange flower water or sherry (Steenbergs do the best organic orange flower water, but I am not biased of course)
4 large egg yolks
Apricot jam (the best you can find)

Mix all the ingredients together well.  Use your hands if you want, but make sure that they are very clean first. 

Put 4 tablespoons of apricot jam into a small pan and gently heat until runny.  Spread this over the cake.  You probably don’t need the apricot to make it stick the Christmas cake and marzipan together, but I love the additional subtle flavour; layering of flavours is one of my cooking principles especially when they are thin, almost ghostlike hints.

DSC_0758_edited-1Halve the marzipan and using a rolling pin, flatten it out and then place on top of the cake.  With the palm of your hands and fingers, smooth it all over the top of the cake. 

Using the second half of the marzipan, smooth this out using a rolling pin and slice in half lengthways.  Using the top half of marzipan,  curve it around part of the side of the cake.  Now take the rest of the marzipan and curve this around the rest of the cake.  Now using your hands and fingers, smooth the marzipan around the edges of the cake, making the join between the pieces, and trimming where necessary.

If you have any excess marzipan, eat and enjoy.

Cover and leave to dry.  In a couple of weeks time, the cake will be ready for icing.

Time to check your Christmas cake etc

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

It’s been so wet and miserable over the last few weeks and we’ve had a tsunami of orders at Steenbergs so I’ve had no time to think about my blog, but it’s 6 in the morning and I’m up and awake. 

The River Ure broke its banks by Ripon Race Course, so we had to drive through a ford where the two flooded fields overflowed into each other.  The Ure also flooded by the bridge at Boroughbridge and their sandbags were still out last night, and someone said the bridge may have moved, but I saw no-one looking at it so I guess it has been checked.

The beginning of December is the time when I take a peak at my Christmas cake and mincemeat.  You can also do the same with your Christmas pudding if you wish but I tend to leave that alone.

Carefully unwrap the Christmas cake and when open drizzle perhaps 2 or 3 tablespoons of brandy or whisky (depending on what you used when you made your cake).  Give it a few minutes to ooze into the cake and then carefully wrap the cake up again and put it back somewhere cool.

Then I have a look at the mincemeat, which you can give a stir and check the ingredients are well mixed.  If you feel it’s looking a bit dry, you can add maybe a tablespoon of pure orange juice, but it should be okay. 

Our mincemeat is dryer and less sweet than most of the recipes you find as we don’t add dark sugar to it, but I do not have a sweet tooth; the moistness really comes later as the suet adds the fat when you cook it, but even so it is still less fatty than most mixtures.  So apologies to anyone who prefers the classic style like Delia Smith’s recipe.

We’ll be marzipanning the cake this weekend, so be prepared.