Quick Christmas Pudding With a Chocolate Twist

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Love it or hate it, the great British Christmas dinner would not be complete without a traditional, steamed Christmas pudding afterwards. The problem is that traditional, home made, steamed Christmas pudding can take a lot of time to prepare and to cook. And then when you’ve slaved over a pudding for days and cooked it for hours and hours, half the family (often the younger generation, but we aren’t pointing fingers) complain that actually, they don’t even like it. The thing is, much as we all know we should have a Christmas pudding for dessert on Christmas day, it has gained a bit of a Marmite-esq love-it-or-hate-it status.

So, as much as we wanted to keep the tradition alive, and make a Christmas pudding this year, our professional baker, Kate Moss, and my non professional baking self, decided to try and come up with something a little different that might appeal to a wider audience. We also wanted to come up with a recipe that could be made on the day, so as not to be a slave to a Christmas pudding for the next two months.

This quick Christmas pudding recipe offers all the fruity, boozy, gooey goodness of a traditional pud, but the chocolate and orange flavours add a fresh twist and taste absolutely divine alongside the mixed fruits and liquor. The rich dark chocolate and Cointreau sauce further enhances the flavours of the pudding and makes your Christmas dessert that little bit more indulgent.

For this recipe, we have used ready made mincemeat. If you do have the time, this can of course be replaced by home made mincemeat (but you can’t call it “quick” then I’m afraid).

photo aEquipment:

Mason Cash Pudding Basins – 1 x 20cm or 2 x 16cm

Large Mason Cash mixing bowl

Wooden spoon

Greaseproof paper or Muslin squares

Large saucepan

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Ingredients:

300g mincemeat
175g fine cut marmalade
4 tablespoons treacle
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 2 oranges
3 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons Cointreau
100g light brown sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
200g dark chocolate chips
225g self raising flour
100g butter, frozen

For the Sauce:

300ml double cream
200g dark chocolate
Zest one orange and the juice of half
1 tablespoon Cointreau

Method:

1. Mix all the ingredients except for the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl, and mix well. Coarsely grate the frozen butter into the mixture, stir in, and then follow with the flour. Your mixture should be quite sloppy at this point and easily fall off a spoon.

2. Grease your pudding basin(s) with a little butter then line the base with discs of greaseproof paper and ladle in your pudding mixture.

3. Cover your pudding with greaseproof paper or muslin cloth, and secure with string.

4. Place your pudding basin(s) in a large saucepan, and pour boiling water around so that it comes halfway up the sides of the pudding basin(s). Cover the pan, and bring the water to a gentle simmer.

5. Steam this way for 1-2 hours if using smaller pudding basins, or 3-4 hours if making one large pudding. To check your pudding is ready, insert a skewer. If it comes out clean, your pudding is good to go.

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6. While you are waiting for your puddings to steam, pour the cream into a saucepan and heat until almost simmering. Be careful not to boil your cream, though.

7. Remove from the heat and add the dark chocolate and the orange zest and half the juice of the same orange. Mix well.

8. Add a tablespoon of Cointreau and stir until smooth. If you want your sauce to be a little stronger, you can always add more Cointreau to suit your own taste.

When your pudding is steamed to perfection, turn it out onto a plate and dust with icing sugar, finish off with holly leaves if you want to be really Christmassy, and serve.

This recipe will serve approximately 8 people.

Recipe by Kate Moss

How To Care For Your Kitchen Knives

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A good set of kitchen knives are a chef’s best friend, and with a little love and care, they can last for years, and still work as efficiently as though they were new. Keeping clean, sharp, good quality kitchen knives to hand will keep your kitchen running efficiently and safely.

1. Keep your knives dry:

Knives can rust, even when you may think they are not doing. Do not leave them to soak, dry them immediately after washing, carefully and thoroughly.

2. Do not put knives in a dishwasher:

The extreme heat and chemicals used in a dishwasher can cause a lot of damage to your kitchen knives. Add to this that they clunk against other objects, and can become damaged and are left to stand in a hot, moist environment which is a bad idea all round!

3. Use a wooden chopping board:

Chopping onto glass, metal, slate etc can cause severe damage to your knife blade, as the surface is too abrasive. A good quality, wooden chopping board will protect your knife blade, as the sharp blade will be cushioned by the soft wood grain as opposed to meeting a harsh surface which blunts it. For top quality wooden boards, have a look at our Handcrafted Chopping Boards by C4 Designs.

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4. Hone your knife regularly:

Not to be confused with sharpening. A honing steel (a long, thin metal rod with a rubber or plastic handle) is used to keep your knife blade straight. Every time a knife is used, it bends slightly from the contact with food, and the chopping board. Using a honing steel straightens out any tiny kinks built up over time, and keeps the blade working like new.

5. Sharpen your knife regularly:

Equally, not to be confused with sharpening. You need to sharpen your knives with professional sharpening equipment or a whetstone. How often you sharpen your knives will be determined by how often you use them. A good way to tell if they are in need of sharpening though, is to cut through a single sheet of paper. If your knife slices through easily, you’re good for a little longer. If it does not, however, it’s time to get sharpening.

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6. Keep them clean:

Leaving food residue on a knife will cause bacteria to build up, which could be passed to your food, and can also cause knives to rust. Keep them clean by washing them in hot soapy water after use, and immediately drying them. Do not use harsh detergents or cleansers containing chlorine bleach, as these can accelerate corrosion of the blade steel.

7. Store them individually:

Keep your knives in a knife block, or sheathed in a drawer. Storing knives loosely will cause them to grate against each other and damage each other.

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So remember, if you are going to invest in a good quality knife, treat it properly and it will serve you well. Keep it clean, keep it dry and keep it sharp.

Safety Tip: A blunt knife is more likely to slip and cut you than a sharp one. While a sharp cut may be more severe, a cut from a blunt knife will be messier and take longer to heal.

Top 10 Home Made Kilner Christmas Gifts

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Saving a bit of money is always a welcome thought towards the end of the year, and making your own Christmas gifts can be a very thoughtful way of saving some pennies and offering something completely different and unique. The Kilner jar lends itself brilliantly to home made Christmas gifts, as it is so versatile, not to mention available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Even standing alone and empty, its traditional, rustic looks are a charming sight and a worthy gift for anyone’s home.

1. Kilner Sweet Jar

Probably the easiest of the home made Kilner Christmas gifts, and a very versatile one. We probably don’t need to explain, but all you have to do is choose your favourite shape of Kilner Jar, choose a sweet to suit whoever your gift is for, and decorate with ribbons or bows, and a gift tag.

Kilner Jar with chocs

2. Kilner Painted Flower Vase

These Kilner Jars are painted in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, which we absolutely love. The colours on offer are stunning and the soft texture is lovely to the touch and gives a unique matt finish. You can choose your favourite Kilner Jar, but we find the Kilner 1 Litre Preserve Jar is a great size and shape, and the embossed Kilner logo looks lovely. Finish with a bunch of fresh flowers for the perfect, heartfelt gift, that can be used again and again.

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3. Kilner Body Scrub

This is ridiculously easy, and makes a lovely gift. All you need is sugar, oil and essential oil, and possibly food colouring if you want to brighten up your mixture. You could either simply make the body scrub in a Kilner Jar, and decorate it with a ribbon, or you could make your Kilner Body Scrub as part of a gift set, and add a body brush, loofah or bath mitts.

To make the scrub, you will need sugar or salt. Salt is a little coarser so if you want a scrub that is more gentle on the skin, use sugar. If your Kilner Body Scrub gift is for someone with particularly sensitive skin, use a darker brown sugar as this is softer still.

Next you need to choose your oil. Baby oil works fine, or you can use olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil or whatever oil you prefer. You need to be mixing two parts sugar or salt to one part oil, however much you decide to make. So you could make a nice big Kilner jar full, as a main present, or use a tiny 125ml Kilner jar as a stocking filler. Mix the sugar and oil well, but don’t be alarmed if the sugar or salt settles to the bottom, with the oil at the top. This is normal as the two parts usually never stay mixed.

Body Scrub

Once mixed in, if you want your scrub to smell heavenly, or even offer therapeutic properties, you can add a few drops of your preferred essential oil. We found a list of essential oils and their therapeutic properties here.

Your scrub is now ready to use, but if you wanted to make it a coloured variety you could add a few drops of food colouring, although we probably should note this will work best with a sugar and baby oil mix, as it will start off a nice clear/white so it will colour well. Dark brown sugar and vegetable oil mixed with food colouring could be disastrous.

4. Kilner Candle Jars

This is another super easy, versatile home made gift that can be extremely cost effective, especially if you make home made Kilner candles in bulk. You can choose from a massive variety of colourants and essential oils, and decorate the jar however you see fit.

All you need to do is carefully melt your wax in a glass bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water. Never ever leave melting wax unattended. Once your wax is fully melted, you will need to let it cool a little before adding your fragrances or colourants. Some fragrances can lose their scent in high temperature liquids. Most craft store bought waxes come with a guide to tell you what temperature you can add fragrance and colour, so have a food thermometer handy.

While waiting for your wax to melt and cool a little, you can prepare your wick. to do this, wrap one end of the wick around a straight stick or a pen, making sure there is enough wick hanging down to just touch the bottom of the Kilner jar when the stick or pen is rested across the top. This makes sure your wick is nice and straight and does not move while the wax dries around it.

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Once you have added the desired amount of scents and colour, mix well and pour your wax into the Kilner Jar and leave to cool and set. Your candle is now ready. If you want to go that extra mile, you could also decorate your jar in whatever manner you choose to make it that little bit extra special.

You can buy candle supplies for your Kilner Jar Candles in any good craft store. We found Hobby Craft had some great stuff.

5. Kilner Infused Olive Oil

Recipe Rosemary Garlic Infused Olive Oil, herb infused DIY (7)

Infused olive oil is a fantastic present for someone who enjoys cooking and eating and experimenting with good food. The safest way to infuse oil, especially if you don’t want to inflict sickness on your friends and family for Christmas, is to use dried herbs. Fresh herbs contain water which causes bacteria growth in the oil, so if using fresh herbs, you will have to dry them first.

Dried herbs that work well are thyme, rosemary, sage, basil or oregano. These work well on their own, but if you want to get creative, you can blend more than one herb.

The simplest way to infuse your oil is to put the herbs in the bottom of a Kilner bottle and pour your olive oil over the top. Obviously the quality of the oil you choose to use will determine the quality of your finished gift.

If you wanted to infuse the flavours faster, you can heat the oil and herbs on a stove top. This will not only bring out the flavour of the herbs more quickly, but also prevent bacteria growth. Strain the herbs if you want a clear mixture. Store in a cool, dry place for one week.The flavour will intensify over time. Your oil should then be stored in a refrigerator and with dried herbs, should last for anywhere between a few weeks and several months. If the mixture should spoil however, discard it immediately. If you have been brave enough to make your Kilner Infused Oil with fresh herbs, you should store in a refrigerator and use within one week.

6. Kilner Toiletry Kit For Her

The introduction of Kilner’s coloured clip top jars has made it very easy to put together his and hers gift sets. Choose a pink clip top 0.5 litre or 1 litre jar and fill it with girlie trinkets. You could do a nail kit including nail clippers, file, cuticle sticks, hand cream polish and remover pads. Or you could do a mini facial kit with miniature cleaner, toner, moisturiser, cotton pads and a facial scrub, or anything of your choice really. simply fill it with goodies, tie a pretty ribbon round it, and voila. The perfect gift for her.

Love Jar (all their favourite things)

7. Kilner Toiletry Kit For Him

Do exactly the same as the above but with a blue Kilner jar and a shaving kit. Or he may want a mini men’s facial kit. That’s up to you.

Kilner Fathers Day

8. Kilner Jar Wall Mounted Planter

A great home made gift for someone who likes to grow their own herbs, or this can even be used to store utensils up and out of the way. You could give it as an empty planter, or fill it with ready planted herbs to make it extra special. All you need is a decent piece of reclaimed wood, flush mounts for hanging on the wall, clamps, screws and Kilner Jars. If you are anything like me, you’ll be looking for the most rustic piece of wood you can lay your mitts on, but if not, you can easily go to your local hardware store and buy a piece the size you want. And while you’re there, don’t forget to pick up the clamps and screws.

The first thing you will need to do is screw some flush mounts into the back of the wood at either side. Make sure they are level or whoever you give your gift to may have problems with wonky plants!

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Next, simply drill holes in the clamps and secure them to the wood with one screw. Lower your jars into the clamps and tighten them snugly around the jar.

If you are planning on planting herbs before you gift your planter, put some stones in the bottom of each jar, as there is no drainage in the preserve jars.

262a2a282806b3da496deddab25b2b4c9. Kilner Jar Pin Cushion Sewing Kit

Again a very simple idea, but one that can be versatile and looks really creative when done properly. All you need is a little fabric of your choice, some stuffing, a Kilner Preserve Jar and some glue.

Separate the lid of the Kilner Preserve Jar so you have a metal ring and a disc. Draw around the metal ring on the fabric, then cut it out leaving an extra inch or so around where you have drawn. Place your cut out circle of fabric in the palm of your hand then a chunk of stuffing. Push the fabric and stuffing half way through the metal ring, leaving some spare fabric on the inside of the metal ring to catch and trap the disc. Push the disc on to secure your fabric, making sure it is smooth and raised on the top side of the ring, and hopefully starting to look like a pin cushion. Use a little glue to secure the disc in place, and hold your fabric and stuffing in place behind the disc.

Fill the jar with essential bits of sewing kit, pop your fabric pin cushion lid back on, and you’re done.

10. Kilner Jar Lamp

These are super simple and very impressive gifts. All you need is a drill with a hole cutter, a lantern cord kit, and a large Kilner Jar with a screw top lid.

Find the centre of the lid, drill a hole to mark the middle, then place on a gripping surface like an old piece of carpet, so the lid does not spin, and cut a hole with the hole cutter, big enough for the end of the lantern cord. Neaten any sharp edges with a file, then fit the bulb end of the lantern cord kit through the hole and secure in place by screwing the other half on inside the lid. Fit the bulb, replace the lid and you’re away!

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So, whether you want to be frugal, or just fancy getting creative with your gifts this Christmas, make sure the Kilner Jar is on your shopping list!

Top 10 Reasons to Buy a Nespresso Citiz and Milk

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Any lover of coffee will know, there are a million different ways to make the “perfect” cup of coffee, and a minefield of machines, gadgets and techniques, all designed to help you enhance your coffee and make it that little bit more of treat, without nipping out to your local coffee shop and having it made for you by a professional barista. Clearly, we are not short of available gadgets, but the nagging question is, how many of them really work? Are we really getting what we pay for?

I have tried and tested several different coffee machines in my lifetime, from the Coffee Machine/Alarm Clock, that used to wake me up with a shrill alarm and a cup of dishwater disguised as coffee to the swanky built in machine my mum had fitted into her new kitchen, which never made even one cup of coffee how I actually thought I had programmed it to do (I tended to get half a cup of mind blowingly strong coffee with a head of milk froth, or it’d be a milky mess that overflowed and resulted in half an hour’s cleaning up after a seriously disappointing “coffee”) I had started to lose faith in the idea of barista style coffee in your own home. That was until I had one last ditch attempt, and bought a Nespresso machine.

I cannot speak for other Nespresso models, but the Krups Nespresso Citiz and Milk is far and away, the best coffee machine I have ever had the pleasure to own. I would even go as far as to say I prefer a cup made by my own fair hand, with the help of the Nespresso Citiz and Milk of course, to a coffee shop bought version. A bold statement considering I am definitely no barista, but that is my belief and I’m sticking to it. There are a number of deciding factors that make the Nespresso Citiz and Milk so fantastic, so I have gathered together what, in my humble opinion, are the top 10 reasons to invest in one of these little beauties.

1. It makes the perfect cup of coffee

Let’s get this one out of the way early. The coffee tastes fantastic. Of course, who can say what the perfect coffee tastes like, when there are so many different ways to drink it? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but the beauty of the Nespresso Citiz and Milk is that it uses Nespresso’s custom designed pre portioned coffee pods, of which there is a huge range to choose from, catering to all tastes and preferences. Once you’ve chosen your personal favourite, you then have the option to vary the ratio of espresso shot to milk, and whatever way you choose, it cannot be denied that the result is delicious. The Aeroccino milk frother prepares divine light and creamy hot or cold milk, ideal for innumerable coffee recipes, whatever the season.

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2. It’s simple and easy to use

The Nespresso Citiz and Milk is extremely simple, quick and easy to use, with no mess. The capsule is held in place in the top container, and your coffee is brewed at the touch of a button, while the milk is frothed simultaneously in the Aeroccino, also at the push of a button. Could not be simpler. After use, the capsule drops down into the dispenser underneath, which is easily removed for emptying later.

3. Variety

The Nespresso catalogue of Grand Cru perfectly portioned coffee offers a variety of tastes, strengths, flavours and intensities, so you can choose the perfect coffee depending on your taste, mood or time of day. You can vary the size of cup, the size of espresso shot and control the amount of milk you add, to create the perfect blend for you. Start the day with an intense, woody Roma, enjoy a creamy smooth Dulsao Do Brasil mid afternoon, and an after dinner Decaffeinato Intenso in the evening, so you can enjoy flavoursome coffee, without the caffeine keeping you awake. If you like a flavoured coffee, there are vanilla, caramel and chocolate perfectly blended with a round and balanced Livanto coffee.

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In addition to choosing your favourite coffee, you can also programme the Nespresso Citiz and Milk to pour however much water you need for your perfect drink.

4. Perfect Portion Capsules

Nespresso’s signature coffee capsule system means that you get the same results every time, as each capsule offers the perfect portion of smooth, delicious coffee. This also means no faffing about with coffee beans or granules.

5. Nespresso’s coffee is selected from the top 1-2% of the world’s green coffee production

Simply put, it’s the cream of the crop. Need we say more?

6. Nespresso’s focus on sustainability

Sustainability is important, to maintain healthy ecosystems and environments for our planet and the humans and other living organisms that live on it. Nestle Nespresso have a long term, holistic approach to sustainability, and their trademark Ecolaboration program provides a framework for partnerships and innovation to drive on-going, sustainable development. Throughout all the processes involved in their coffee production, from sourcing the coffee beans, to capsule recycling, Nestle Nespresso are committed to ensuring sustainability across all operations.

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7.Nespresso Members Club

Nespresso’s relationship with consumers and members of their Nespresso Members Club is of high importance to the brand, and every day they cultivate relationships with millions of devoted consumers, allowing them to continually strive to meet the expectations of their members.

8. Easy to Clean

A vital factor in buying a coffee machine, as there is nothing worse than either having to spend copious amounts of time pulling a machine apart and cleaning all its nooks and crannies, or worse, not being able to clean it properly, resulting in funky tasting coffee that has run through unclean pipes, and been mixed with slightly sour, aged milk!

The Nespresso Citiz and Milk poses none of the above problems. The Aeroccino is a separate container, which can be lifted off and rinsed right after use. To clean the machine, simply lift the lid to dispense the used capsule, then run through a cup of hot water with the touch of a button to clean any remaining coffee residue from the pipes. Could not be easier.

9. It looks fantastic

Well, we didn’t want to be superficial and focus on looks too early on, but let’s face it, it is a factor, and a pretty big one if you’re into style in your home. The Nespresso Citiz and Milk is delightfully neat and compact, and features beautiful curves and textured surfaces, that combine to make this a statement accessory that looks as great as it performs.

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10. Quality Assured

Last, but by no means least, in our top 10 reasons to buy the Nespresso Citiz and Milk is that you are assured of the highest quality of both machine and coffee. All Nespresso machines are designed to guarantee consistent quality, with the entire system working towards this promise. Add to this that every Grand Cru coffee capsule in the world is produced in one of two state of the art production centres in Lausanne, Switzerland, to guarantee quality control for every capsule sold in the world.

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Since 1986, Nestle Nespresso have had one simple goal: to enable millions of people to create and enjoy the perfect cup of coffee, in the comfort of their own home. And if I didn’t believe it was possible before owning a Nespresso Citiz and Milk, I certainly do now.

Have a look for yourself at our Krups Nespresso Citiz and Milk machines, and see if you agree.

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Perfect Pie by Mason Cash

Mason Cash Perfect Pie

It may be because I’m Northern, but to me there is nothing better than coming home on a chilly Autumn evening to home made pie. The weather seems to have suddenly taken a dramatic turn for the worse this weekend, and I’m really starting to struggle not to turn the heating on. Cool evenings in the garden are now being replaced with hot drinks under a blanket and I’m finding myself dismissing the salads and lighter foods in favour of some heart and belly warming, wintery stodge.

Shop bought pie is one thing, but I always prefer to make my own, so I can get it exactly how I want it. The perfect level of lovely butteriness in the pastry, and the correct pastry to filling ratio. Plus I love a slightly crusted edge, which is where a shop bought pie often falls down. Having said that, I wouldn’t consider myself a pro at pastry baking, and there have been numerous flops over the years. This is where Mason Cash come to the rescue.

Mason Cash are a brand recognised for traditional designs and values, and their name is synonymous with home baking. Best known for their traditional cane mixing bowls and white pudding basins, Mason Cash have expanded over the years to design and develop more and more ranges of bake ware and to include more and more specialist products. Their products are not only known for their attractive looks, quality materials and affordability, but also for their practicality. Mason Cash will look at the consumer needs in a particular cooking or baking niche, and design the products around current pitfalls or problems, to perform to the task in hand and offer the cook or baker an easy solution.

Mason Cash Perfect Pie Baking Dishes

Mason Cash researched some common problems associated with pie baking and delved into possible solutions that could help someone with recurring soggy bottom syndrome, burnt bases or shrinking pastry. The Perfect Pie range has been designed with all these problems in mind, and built in solutions to see that you make the perfect pie, every time.

The Mason Cash Perfect Pie range offers four different pie dishes, one large rectangle, one oval and two round pie dishes. The dishes are made from tough stoneware, which is great for cooking evenly because stoneware heats gradually and evenly throughout the dish. The base is slightly raised on “feet” which allows air to circulate underneath the dish and provides ventilation, allowing the base to cook evenly as well, and ensuring it does not end up soggy while the rest of the pastry crusts nicely.

Mason Cash Perfect Pie Range

The interior embossed design on the pie dishes is not just for aesthetics. These fine ridges not only improve the heat distribution further, making sure the pastry cooks and browns evenly, but they also make it easier to remove your pie, meaning it comes out the perfect shape and does not fall apart.

The rims of the pie dishes feature a pastry anchor to add grip to the pastry and prevent it shrinking and slipping down into the filling of the pie.

Mason Cash Baking Beans

The Mason Cash Perfect Pie range also offers other helpful accessories for baking pies and pastries, such as cutters, pasty moulds, a pastry blender to evenly blend your pastry ingredients, pie birds to act as a steam vent in your pie, and ceramic baking beans for perfect blind baking.

Home made pies, perfect every time with Mason Cash.

Mason Cash Perfect Pie

Top 10 Essential Christmas Cake Baking Tools from Mason Cash

Mason Cash Mixing Bowls

Welcome to October, home of Halloween, nights drawing in, dark mornings, colder weather, oh and the beginning of the Christmas preparations! What? I hear you exclaim. Christmas prep already? Yes, we know it seems a little early but if you like to plan ahead and be as prepared as possible for the upcoming festivities, you will understand that October actually is the best month to start your Christmas planning.

For anyone who has made their own Christmas cake before, you will know that this is one home baked cake that needs plenty of time to mature. There are arguments as to how long exactly, but this really depends on taste. Some people like to start three months in advance while others feel six weeks is enough. The choice is yours.

Home baking has boomed in popularity over the past few years, and we have TV shows such as The Great British Bake Off to thank for this. Plus the economy, which demands we shell out less on expensive, professionally made foodstuffs, combined with a raised awareness of what goes into our food that encourages us to spend less, and know more about what we’re eating by making it ourselves. Add to this that home baking is a fun pastime we can enjoy with family and a great way to entertain ourselves throughout the winter months. So what better time to try your hand at making your own Christmas cake?

Mason Cash is a name synonymous with home baking and what they don’t know about home made cakes, pies, puddings or bread is probably not worth knowing. Your mother would have known and your grandmother before her, that to be a truly devoted home baker, you must own at least one Mason Cash mixing bowl, if not a whole set. Well, if it’s good enough for Mary Berry and her Great British Bakers, it’s good enough for us.

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As a first time Christmas Cake Baker, there are a few essential pieces of equipment you will need and, trust us, Mason Cash can help with all of these. There are an obvious few that anyone, even a first time student in favour of a tin of beans and a microwave would find in their kitchen cupboards, but for the rest, put your trust in Mason Cash and we promise, you won’t go far wrong. We’ll start with the easy stuff.

1. A wooden spoon Fairly standard, fairly obvious, if you want to mix anything, it’s a good idea to keep one of these to hand. If you are one of the chosen few that has not yet invested in the essential wooden spoon, Mason Cash do offer a great hard wearing environmentally friendly rubber wood version, with a nice little thumb indent to protect those pinkies while your stirring up stubborn mixtures.

Mason Cash Mixing Bowl

2. A large mixing bowl To make the perfect Christmas cake, it is essential to have a large roomy mixing bowl to mix your fruits and booze together. You will also need a second bowl to mix up your cake mix. Mason Cash offer a huge variety of fantastic mixing bowls of all sizes, whether you’re a fan of the traditional style or a more modern, colourful version, and there is nothing better to have in the kitchen that a top quality, heavy duty stoneware mixing bowl that you can pass down to your children when you’re done baking with it.

3. Weighing Scales A decent set of weighing scales is essential to get your cake mix just right, and Mason Cash do a great 5kg scale in their Essentials range. Available in cream or red, this scale is perfect to accurately weigh out your Christmas cake ingredients.

4. Skewer Making sure your cake is done before removing it from the oven is crucial, and the Mason Cash skewer is perfect to check that your cake is cooked right through.

5. Newspaper Okay, we aren’t offering this on sale because we’re pretty sure you can find a free piece, but newspaper or brown paper is really useful when baking a Christmas cake to protect the cake when cooking. A Christmas cake contains a lot of sweet and dried fruit and sugar and the cooking of the cake can take over 4 hours. Wrapping the cake tin in newspaper and standing it on a few sheets of paper during the baking process prevents it from cooking too quickly or burning during the long slow cooking process.

6. Rolling Pin Moving onto decorating your cake, a rolling pin is essential for getting your marzipan and icing layers rolled out to perfection. Mason Cash have a fabulous non stick rolling pin which is perfect for rolling out icing and will be useful for year round cake decorating after you are done with your Christmas cake.

7. Spatula Such a simple, but useful tool. The Mason Cash 28cm spatula is perfect for levelling your cake before cutting, for decorating your cake and making sure everything is smooth, and even for removing you cake from the cake tin, if it is being ever so slightly stubborn.

8. Turntable This is very useful if you intend to get creative with your Christmas cake decorating. The Mason Cash tilted turntable allows you to easily sculpt and decorate your cake, easily without causing damage trying to turn it around.

Mason Cash Cake Decorating Turntable

9. Icing Bag and Nozzles Okay we may be straying away from “essential” kit here but if you want to give your cake a professional finish, then what better way that to pipe icing around the edges for a stunning finish? Mason Cash have an easy to use 6 Nozzles, Icing Bag and Scraper Set, which caters to all your decorative icing needs.

10. Cake Stand Show off your home baked creation in all its glory on a gorgeous stoneware Mason Cash cake stand. What better way to end your Christmas feast?

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So, now you’ve got the equipment, here are a few Christmas cake recipes for you to try out:

Mary Berry’s Christmas Cake

BBC Good Food Christmas Cake

Tesco Classic Christmas Cake Recipe

Product of the Month: Typhoon Novo Teal Bread Bin

Typhoon Novo Teal Bread Bin

They say blue is the number one favourite colour and although I don’t know who “they” are, and I don’t know where the study relates to, I do believe it is true that if you choose blue, you can’t go far wrong. This goes for anything and everything, from your evening gowns to your jeans, to your walls or, of course, to your kitchen accessories.

Blue is a serene, tranquil colour. It brings about a sense of calm and makes us feel refreshed and clean. Are there any other colours out there that make you feel relaxed and energised all at the same time? Nothing springs to mind!

Darker blues are considered powerful and a symbol of knowledge, while lighter shades are soft and healing. In nature, we are surrounded by differing shades of blue, be it from the sea or the sky, and we have come to see this as a dependable colour, something to inspire trust, honesty and responsibility.

So, what better colour to accessorise a kitchen with than this calming, fresh, clean favourite? You can even mix and match lots of different shades of blue to really make the most of this beautiful colour in all its many guises.

It is no surprise then, that our current best selling product is the teal bread bin from Typhoon’s Novo range. This bread bin is a winner on every level. Offering stylish storage solutions, a fabulous, fashionable accessory for your kitchen sides and a well designed, practical bread bin that will deliver exactly what you would be looking for in a bread bin: plenty of space and the ability to keep your bread clean and fresh.

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The Novo Teal Bread Bin is a perfect example of Typhoon’s focus on design led style. The bold teal enamel coated steel makes a statement and cries out to be admired, while the stylish curves and stainless steel accents bring a retro vibe to the overall appearance. The ventilated sides and interior rack allow a little air flow, helping to keep the contents fresh and dry, while the generous size allows space for two loaves. Plenty of space to cater to the demands of a hungry family. The magnetic front opening door adds to the retro charm, whilst simultaneously assisting in the practical side of things by ensuring the door is properly closed and thus keeping your bread as fresh as possible.

The Typhoon Novo Teal Bread Bin is available individually or as part of the Typhoon Novo Kitchen Storage Set. The range also consists of large and small storage canisters, utensil jars, mug trees, spoon rests and weighing scales. And, if unlike the rest of the world’s population, blue is not your favourite colour, Typhoon also do this stunning range in white, cream and red.

Halloween with Kilner

Halloween Kilner Dispenser

There is not much you can’t do with a Kilner jar these days. Whatever the season, the holiday, or the event, the Kilner jar will find a way to worm its way into your plans and morph into something useful or decorative for you. Apart from what used to be the obvious use for a Kilner jar, i.e. preserving and storing in the kitchen, there is a whole host of other creative ideas, some of which we have tried out and shared with you, which lend themselves to each and every room in the house, and each and every event you host.

Serve up Kilner Jar cocktails in the summer time, for a fresh and funky new way to keep your guests refreshed. In the Autumn, decorate them with thin dry rusty coloured leaves and sit a tea light or small candle inside to give a lovely warm glow to keep the chill away. Year round, the coloured Kilner jars make lovely bathroom storage, to keep all those pesky bits and bobs that clutter the bathroom neat and tidy and always to hand. Store nuts, bolts and screws in a clip top Kilner so you’re always ready for a spot of DIY. Fill it with mini toiletries for an inventive Mothers or Fathers Day gift. Collect loose change in a Kilner jar to save up some pennies. Or even layer the dry ingredients of a cake mix, then decorate with a ribbon and recipe card for a lovely home made gift.

Autumn Leaf Kilner Jars

At Christmas time, the Kilner Jar is a candle, a Christmas decoration, a jar to be filled with scented pine cones or “snowflake” flavoured pot pourri. Fill it with bath salts or sweets or make it into a home made candle and you have a Kilner Jar Christmas gift. Make individual Kilner desserts, for quick and easy puddings with a professional touch. Fill a large Kilner jar with fairy lights for an innovative Christmas decoration or even put tea lights in smaller Kilner jars and hang on a string leading up to your front door for traditional and beautiful outdoor lanterns. The list goes on…….and on…..

So, with Halloween approaching, and the prospect of a little spooky party and some trick or treating on the horizon, Kate and I decided to test out some Halloween decorations and also make use of our beloved Kilner jars. These are a couple of very affordable, super easy ideas, which will keep the kids entertained at minimum effort and cost to you.

Spider Jelly in a Kilner Jar

Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without creepy crawlies and Kate came up with the idea for Spider flavoured jellies in Kilner Jars. All you need is some jelly of your choice (we used orange to match the colours of the pumpkins and munchkins) and either some 250ml Kilner Preserve jars or 125ml Kilner clip top jars. Simply make your jelly as normal, fill the jars and drop in a plastic spider. If you chill the jellies in the freezer, the Kilner jars come out with a thin layer of condensation which adds to their spookiness.

Halloween Kilner Dispenser

For drinks, we used our Kilner Drinks Dispenser and filled it with “blood” cordial, which was actually orange cordial with the best part of a bottle of red food colouring added to it. This gives it a great blood red colour. We also decorated the outside of the Kilner Dispenser with sticky spiders, and of course added more plastic spiders inside the dispenser. If you are throwing a Halloween party for adults, you can always add another Kilner Dispenser with a “blood” cocktail, instead of cordial. As long as the original drink is a lighter shade of red than the food colouring, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Halloween Kilner Handled Jars

We then served our “blood and spiders” concoction in Kilner drinking jars. Again these can be decorated with sticky spiders to add the finishing Halloween touch.

Drape fake cobwebs over your drinks table, scatter in some creepy crawlies and stand the Kilner dispenser in the middle, then dot around carved pumpkins, with tea lights inside to give an eerie glow and light up your Kilner “blood” dispenser. Oh and don’t forget to switch out the lights and shout “Boo!”

Kate and Becky’s Ginger Spiced Mulled Wine

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Okay okay, we know, we are super early with this one and we really aren’t trying to send you into a frenzy by talking about Christmas before the end of September but this is a recipe we felt was too good not to tell you about.

Contrary to our usual practise, we are trying to get ourselves fully prepared for the Christmas season this year, which means although we do have Autumn and Halloween still to come first, we do have to start thinking about Christmas around about now. My new in house baker/product tester/cake eater/wine taster (as of yesterday), Kate Moss, and I have decided we wanted to come up with some original Christmas recipes to share with our followers and customers this festive season. This mulled wine recipe was our first project, which we intended to keep under wraps until at least November. However, we decided to treat you with this ginger spiced mulled wine because it is getting colder at night now, and who could really object to their house smelling like Christmas? And, well…..wine is good (in moderation folks, we aren’t promoting binge drinking here!)

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This recipe is really easy to make, and I’m afraid even easier to drink. It’s great to have bubbling away when friends and family call round, even if for the lovely aroma alone, and it could very easily double up as a nice Halloween drink if you need an excuse to start making it now (I.e make a giant vat of it and label it a cauldron as it bubbles away). You don’t need to spend a bomb on the red wine either. We used a boxed Shiraz which was cheaper than buying by the bottle, if you’re going to be making a few batches over the winter.

The honey in the recipe is a replacement for the usual added sugar. Not only does this make it a healthier option, but it also has a richer flavour which you can just taste a hint of through the wine. The ginger flavour is just the perfect Christmassy finishing touch, and what we believe to be he key ingredient to really make your mulled wine stand out from the crowd!

So here you go: Kate and Becky’s Ginger Spiced Mulled Wine.

Ingredients:

750ml red wine of your choice
500ml cloudy apple juice
3 tbsp clear honey
Zest and juice of one lemon
Zest and juice of one orange
Handful of cloves
One whole orange (to stick the cloves in)
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 tsp ground ginger
Pinch All Spice

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Method

Take the whole orange and randomly insert the cloves into the skin, then place the whole orange and cloves into a large saucepan or stock pot.

Combine the red wine, cloudy apple and honey and pour in with the orange and heat on the hob over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile zest the lemon and orange and add zest to your mix. Halve the fruits and squeeze the juice into the mixture as well.

Add all the spices, leaving the cinnamon stick and star anise whole.

Bring the pan to simmer and simmer over a low heat for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Remove pan from the heat, take out the orange and sift mixture through a muslin cloth or fine sieve to extract the zesty bits, star anise and cinnamon. Serve in a mug or handled glass whilst hot. Delicious!!

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes by Kate Moss

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Here at Silver Mushroom, we are thrilled to be welcoming on board trainee chef and budding baker, Kate Moss. Kate has been keen on baking and cooking since a very early age and it has long been her passion to bake professionally and share her recipes and creative ideas with others. For a while now, she has been trusted to try and test our baking products and report back to us on the best (and worst) of the bunch, and is now keen to move to the next level and start sharing her baking with us, and ultimately with you.

Kate’s introductory recipe for you is this fantastic chocolate butterfly cupcakes recipe. These heavenly butterfly cupcakes look and taste divine, and are relatively easy to make, if you have the right tools and a steady hand. Kate’s signature chocolate cake recipe is to die for and can be adapted to a variety of cupcake designs for all occasions or even larger cakes. All we can say is we wish you luck getting past eating all the cake mix before it’s cooked! We struggled….

DSC_0130For the cake:
4oz plain flour
4oz caster sugar
3/4oz cocoa powder
½ tsp cream of tartar
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
4floz milk
2 1/2 oz soft margarine
1 egg
For the buttercream:
150g butter
350g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
2 drops vanilla extract
2 drops green food colouring
For the chocolate butterflies:
100g dark chocolate
150g white chocolate
Food colouring of your choice

Kate’s method:

“Okay, first, we need to begin with the cupcakes….

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease a 12 hole cupcake pan. We used a Kitchencraft Masterclass fluted cupcake pan in these pictures, which offers fabulous non-stick properties, so there is no need to use bun cases or grease proof paper.
2. Sieve the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt and mix together.
3. Add the milk and margarine and mix well with a wooden spoon, or if you’re lucky enough to have one, an electric mixer.
4. Add an egg and mix for another minute or so until the mixture goes lighter in colour.
5. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake pan then place in the middle of the pre heated oven for 15-20 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

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Next onto the buttercream….

1. Soften the butter and sieve in the icing sugar a little at a time, mixing as you go along. If you decide to do this with an electric mixer, be sure to take it slowly and use a mixing bowl guard if you have one, because trust me, icing sugar gets everywhere!
2. Add a little milk until your buttercream is of a smooth consistency that will be easy to pipe.
3. Next add the vanilla extract and the green food colouring and mix well until all your fluffy buttercream is a lovely grass green colour.
4. Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag with a star shaped nozzle, and pipe in blobs onto the top of the cakes, making a grass effect.

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And now for the really creative bit….

1. Draw 12 pairs of butterfly wing templates onto grease proof paper. If you aren’t as handy as Kate with a pencil, we do have the Mason Cash Chocolate Decorating Kit, which features templates of gorgeous butterfly wings that you can simply trace onto grease proof/tracing paper.
2. Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, ensuring the bowl does not touch the water. If you want to shortcut and do this in the microwave, then that is fine, but make sure you melt a little at a time and keep stopping to stir the chocolate so it does not burn and stick to the bottom of the bowl.
3. Once melted, spoon the chocolate into a piping bag with a very fine round nozzle, and pipe around the edges of the butterfly wings.
4. Melt the white chocolate in the same way as before, and add a few drops of food colouring until you have reached the desired colour. We have done some with pink and some with blue, but any colour of your choice is fine.
5. Pipe the white chocolate in the middle of the wing templates to fill in the wings.
6. Use a skewer or even a fork prong or toothpick, to pull in the edges of the darker chocolate to make the lines inside the wings as seen in the picture.
7. Chill the wings in the fridge, making sure they are laid flat.

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Assembly:

Angle the chilled wings in the buttercream, pushing down until they stand up on their own. Pipe some dark chocolate down the middle between the wings to create the body of the butterfly.”

We hope you have enjoyed Kate’s first recipe. Keep your eyes peeled for more treats from our favourite new baker!

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