Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas Fudge with Cranberries Recipe

Here is an easy recipe for Christmas Fudge. But what is it that makes this fudge Christmassy? I have replaced some of the caster sugar with some flavoured icing sugar, Christmas Punch from Sugar and Crumbs. I also added a handful of dried cranberries. I was a little unsure how it would taste as this was the first time I have used the flavoured icing sugar. Although I did enjoy the taste at Cake International show in November where I first discovered it.


Easy Christmas Fudge Recipe
Easy Christmas Fudge Recipe
I used a different recipe to my usual, using condensed milk. A recipe from Nestle's website but with a few changes to make it into Christmas Fudge. I did not use a thermometer or even the dropping some of the fudge is a glass of cold water method and it still worked perfectly. I was very pleased with the result both in taste and texture, and it was well received by all who tasted it.   I will be making more of this tasty fudge to parcel up as Christmas foodie gifts.

Christmas Fudge Recipe

Equipment
  • saucepan
  • scales
  • measuring jug  
  • wooden spoon  
  • 20 cm tray - lined with baking parchment 
Ingredients

Makes lots!

397g can of condensed milk light
150ml milk
400g caster sugar
50g flavoured icing sugar
115g butter
a handful of dried cranberries

Easy Fudge Recipe using condensed milk
Christmas Fudge with cranberries an Easy Fudge Recipe
Instructions
  • Place all the ingredients except the cranberries into a heavy bottomed saucepan.
  • Melt over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved, keep stirring.
  • Bring to the boil (keep stirring) then simmer for 10-15 minutes again keep stirring do not let the fudge catch on the bottom of the pan.
  • Remove from the heat and add the dried cranberries. Continue to stir for 10 minutes, the fudge mixture will start to thicken.
  • Pour into your tin before it gets so thick you can not pour it.
  • Leave to cool. Once cooled lift the Christmas Fudge out of the tin using the baking parchment and cut into cubes.

For something a little different why not soak the cranberries in Port.


I am linking this recipe with two Christmas baking challenges.  Cakeboi's Treat Petite hosted this month by The Baking Explorer, also Alphabakes hosted by Caroline Makes and The More Than Occasional Baker, for which purposes this Christmas post is Xmas.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Make a Christmas Table Decoration using a Cake Stand and Baubles, creating a Centerpiece for a Festive Table Setting

Whilst decorating my Christmas tree this week and glancing at an empty cake stand on the kitchen dresser, I had a moment of inspiration. Create a Christmas decoration using a cake stand. Combining the Christmas tree shiny baubles with the cake stand. Such a simple idea but very effective. Now I have a rather glamorous and festive looking cake stand.  


Make your own christmas table decoration
Cake Stand and Christmas Baubles Table Decoration
This simple idea will make a great Christmas table decoration, and would certainly create a fabulous Christmas centrepiece for a festive dinner setting. There is such a wide choice of colours and designs of bauble available in the shops, it is easy to tailor the decoration to your own table setting. 

How to make a Christmas Bauble Table Decoration

What you need:- 
  • 3 tier cake stand
  • 22 large Christmas baubles 
  • 12 small Christmas baubles
  1. Trim or hide the string on the baubles by winding them carefully around the top of the bauble.
  2. Arrange the small baubles on the top tier.
  3. Arrange the large baubles on the remaining two tiers.
alternative use and what to do with a cake stand
What to do with your Christmas baubles?

I have to admit this is such a simple way to make your own Christmas table decoration. Mine is displayed on my kitchen dresser and it has been admired by friends who think it a fabulous idea. So get that cake stand out of the cupboard today and add some bling!

Christmas table decoration ideas
Make your own easy Christmas table decoration

Friday, 5 December 2014

Russell Hobbs Aura 6-in-1 Hand Blender and Nutella Cheesecake – Review and Recipe

I was so delighted to receive the Russell Hobbs Aura 6 in 1 Hand Blender to review and to use to bake a Nutella Cheesecake recipe. They are such a well known and respected brand in the UK. A brand I grew up with, and who have continued to produce modern and reliable products.
Russell Hobbs Aura 6 in 1 Hand Blender Review
Russell Hobbs Aura 6 in 1 Hand Blender

The Aura 6-in-1 Hand Blender has many uses so I was expecting a huge box to be delivered, and pleasantly surprised by it’s compact size in the recognisable Russell Hobbs black branded box. 

Russell Hobbs Aura 6 Hand Blender Review
Russell Hobbs Aura Hand Blender
Inside it contained:- 
  • 1.2 litre processing bowl with: Processing blade, Creaming disk and Slicing / shredding disk
  • Stainless Steel blending leg
  • Stainless Steel whisk
  • Instruction booklet
All these tools give you the following functions:-
  • Processing
  • Creaming
  • Slicing
  • Shredding
  • Blending
  • Whisking
Russell Hobbs 6 in 1 Hand Blender
Tools store in the bowl

In order to review a product you first need to use it, I dived straight in with a Nigella Lawson Nutella Cheesecake recipe. Easy to make with the Russell Hobbs Aura 6-in-1 Hand Blender and truly tasted amazing. I must admit I am very much looking forward to using the blender regularly in the kitchen, blending soups, making breadcrumbs, whipping cream the list goes on.


Nigellas Nutella Cheesecake Recipe
Nigella's Nutella Cheesecake
I love… 
  • Easy to set up and simple to use.
  • Compact storage – the tools sit safely inside the bowl for storage, so you will never be hunting in the drawer for them. 
  • Minimum packaging - sufficient to protect the product to the consumer but no frivolous use of cardboard and no polystyrene at all.
  • 600 watt motor – wow now that is what I call power, you can really tell when holding the hand blender and using the whisk or blender attachment. It really did whip up the cheesecake filling in no time, be sure your baking bowl is on a non stick surface to stop it moving.
  • A bowl big enough to use, at 1.2 litres in size it held all of the biscuit ingredients for my Nigella Nutella cheesecake. 

Hand Blender Review Russell Hobbs
1.2 Litre bowl Russell Hobbs Hand Blender
Perfect for…
  • Making breadcrumbs – the bowl is big enough to take several slices of bread torn up. Which for me is great for making the breadcrumb coating for a batch bake of fishcakes for the freezer. My previous hand blender had a tiny bowl. 
  • The amateur or serious cook or baker, there are so many uses for this product. I am looking forward to trying the shredding tool, I am hoping it will make grating carrot for carrot cake easy going.
Could do better…
  • the start/stop button you press on the blender could be more ergonomically designed. Its not so comfortable for your thumb or finger to use. Although obviously you would not want it to be too easy to easily turn it on from a safety perspective.
  • I struggled a little to undo the plastic motor unit from the bowl when I had greasy hands. Not a problem for a clean and tidy cook of course.

The important stuff…
  • Currently retailing for RRP £64.99 you can be purchase it at many high street and online stores as well as the Russell Hobbs website.
  • 2 year guarantee with a free 1 year extension when you register your product online.
  • The Aura 6-in-1 blender comes with a small instruction manual, which is concise and easy to follow. Also included are 8 recipes and 21 smoothie recipes. 
Nigella Lawson Nutella Cheesecake Recipe
Nutella Cheesecake Recipe
Recipe – Nutella Cheesecake a Nigella Lawson recipe
personalised jar of Nutella
Love my personalised jar of Nutella
Ingredients

250 grams digestive biscuits
75 grams soft unsalted butter
1 x 400 grams jar nutella(at room temperature)
100 grams chopped toasted hazelnuts
500 grams cream cheese (at room temperature)
60 grams icing sugar (sifted)

Russell Hobbs Aura 6 in 1 Hand Blender
Blended biscuit base using the Russell Hobbs Blender
Instructions

  • Break the digestives into the bowl of the blender, add the butter and a 15ml tablespoon of Nutella, and blitz until it starts to clump. Add 25g/3 tablespoons of the hazelnuts and continue to pulse the blender until you have a damp, sandy mixture.
  • Tip into a 23cm/9inch round spring form tin. I used a heart shaped tin that was just slightly smaller. Press the mixture into the base using the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill.
Heart Shaped cake tin Cheesecake recipe
Perfect biscuit cheesecake base

  • Beat the cream cheese and icing sugar using the whisk attachment until smooth and then add the remaining Nutella to the cream cheese mixture, and continue beating until combined.
  • Take the tin out of the fridge and carefully smooth the Nutella mixture over the base. Scatter the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top and did not use all my nuts to cover the top just thin scattering. Then place the tin in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Serve straight from the fridge for best results.
Nutella Cheesecake ingredients
Hand Blender with whisk attachment 

Nutella Recipes
Blended quickly and easily with the whisk attachment

The Nutella Cheesecake recipe went down really well and could easily be made a day or two before it is needed. Making it perfect for an alternative pudding for Christmas Day or New Year celebrations.

No Bake Cheesecake Recipe
Nutella No Bake Cheesecake 
I have also spotted a video recipe for Mango Cheesecake on the Russell Hobbs website, which sounds perfect for the Summer.

Disclosure: My thanks to Russell Hobbs for sending me the Russell Hobbs Aura 6-in-1 Hand blender, ingredients and equipment to bake this recipe. I was under no pressure to write a positive review, all opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire a National Trust Day Out

National Trust property Hanbury Hall is located just off the M5 motorway, on the outskirt of Droitwich Spa in Worcestershire. It was something of a convenient pit stop, as my sister and I were meeting friends for lunch just off the next motorway junction.


A view of Hanbury Hall from the veg patch
Many National Trust properties remain open all year round or with reduced day over the Winter period. It is a great chance to enjoy a stroll in the gardens or parkland when they are a little quieter. Just be sure to wrap up warm, then again that sounds like the perfect excuse to call into the tea room for a cuppa. 


A view of Hanbury Hall and the Partiere

Hanbury Hall is an 18th century house and garden, set in 400 acres of park land home to the Vernon family.  

We had around one hour and twenty minutes before we had to be back on the road. Just enough time for a short guided tour around the ground floor rooms, then a stroll around the Parterre and vegetable garden. 

It's a short level walked up to the front of the house, you walk through a rather lovely gated entrance to the forecourt. It is indeed a beautiful looking house, but not a huge mansion. 



Hanbury Hall Partiere
A view of the Hanbury Hall Partiere
There were eight visitors on the house tour, and I am pleased to say our guide was very knowledgeable. I love hearing the stories of intrigue, family success and ruin. There was even a mention of Shropshire, but I will not elaborate as I would not want to give anything away. The staircase paintings by Sir James Thornhill were most impressive. Something noticed at a few National Trust properties I have visited recently, including Croft Castle, they encourage visitors to sit on the furniture. Specific chairs  are available for visitors to stop, sit and take in the surrounding - obviously not all properties can do this.

Hanbury Hall Garden National Trust
Plants protected from frost
I hope to visit again in the Spring, as the Partiere is sure to look magnificent with a Spring bulbs display. As we had very little time there was no visit to the Tea Room or a chance to explore other areas of the garden. There was also other tours of the house available, next time maybe.

Highlights
  • The Partiere
  • Tour of the house
  • It maybe Autumn but the gardens were looking very neat and tidy
  • Staircase painting
  • Location - just 10 minutes of junction 6 of the M5, great way to break up a long journey up the M5.
Interested in other National Trust or English Heritage properties I have visited:-

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Review - Afternoon Tea Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Yorkshire

You all know how I love an Afternoon Tea, and what better place to enjoy one than at a Country Hotel in Yorkshire. Last week during a short break to Yorkshire my sister and I were given the opportunity to indulge in Afternoon Tea at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough.


Afternoon Tea at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough
Table laid for Afternoon Tea at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough
We were seated in the Courtyard Restaurant for our Afternoon Tea as there was a function taking place in the lounge.  There was gentle classical playing in the background adding to a relaxing atmosphere. Having enjoyed many Afternoon Teas I can honestly say the right music really does make a difference. The table was laid ready for us including a vase of fresh flowers and 3 tier cake stand. It was not long before our tea arrived, served in a silver style teapot, along with another pot of hot water, the china was all matching as you would expect.

Afternoon Tea Scarborough, Yorkshire
Finger sandwiches make for a perfect Afternoon Tea


Menu

***

Finger Sandwiches
Roast Beef, Egg, Tuna

***

Cakes


Fruit Scones
Pastry fruit tart
Ginger Cake
Shortbread
Lemon cheesecake
Sponge cake

Served with cream and a selection of jams


Afternoon Tea Scarborough Yorkshire
Afternoon Tea at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Yorkshire


We chose a Taylors Afternoon Tea decaffeinated to accompany our sandwiches and cake.  We also opted for plain sandwiches, strictly no smoked salmon for us, all served  as finger sandwiches with no crusts, all of which tasted lovely.

The scones were served still warm, a definite requirement for a good Afternoon Tea. I much prefer my scones crusty and bigger than a 50 pence piece, so was delighted to see these very homemade scones - just how I like them.   Before you say anything about the jam being an a jar, if it is good enough for Fortnum and Mason! 


Scones and Cream at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel
Scones and Cream at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel


Afternoon Tea cakes at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel
Afternoon Tea cakes at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel
The Shortbread tasted very short and buttery and complimented the cup of tea perfectly. I was pleased to see the tea served was Taylors of Harrogate, nice to see a Yorkshire hotel championing a fellow Yorkshire supplier, particularly when it is such a well respected brand in the UK.

There were particular things about the serving of the scones that showed it is the attention to detail, those little extras that make an afternoon tea special.  I loved how the chef served the whipped cream in a small espresso cup decorated with a strawberry, so much nicer than just in a small bowl. The butter served as flower shaped pats.


It would be nice to have a menu on the table accompanying the afternoon tea, or have the array of cakes explained. You can refer back to a menu as you are enjoying your Afternoon Tea, it is easy to forget when you are told what the cakes are.

My highlights:-  

  • Linen tablecloths and napkins
  • Cream served in Espresso cup
  • Flower butter pats
  • Relaxed atmosphere
  • Delightful cakes

Hollyhock in bloom
Even in November the courtyard garden looked tidy and ornate. It is not the easiest time of the year to make a garden look attractive, leaves endlessly falling to the ground, flowers coming to the end of their season. But my hat goes off to the gardener at Ox Pasture Hall it all looked very neat and tidy and there were even some flowers still out, Roses and Hollyhock. In the Summer Afternoon Tea is served on the terrace overlooking the garden, which must be delightful.
Welcoming Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Yorkshire

Read my review of my stay at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Yorkshire.


Disclosure: I was offered 1 nights accommodation for 2, breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner for the purposes of reviewing my stay.  I was under no obligation to give a positive review, opinions expressed above are my honest opinion.