I must admit I have little Noah’s birthday to celebrate this weekend and the thought of Christmas is looming in the shadows of that but it hasn’t stopped me starting to prepare: decorations, advent calendars and yummy Christmas recipes, along with some Christmas crafts that we can all get involved in over the festive period. I have put a collaboration of bits together to help inspire those of you who want to get started with the shopping but not sure where to start!
I love making my house look Christmassy and this year I have purchased a few new items that will look lovely on the mantle piece, hanging on door handles and decorating the kitchen units:
- Memo Holder With Hanging Hearts a gorgeous little card display that will look perfect in the kitchen
- Noel” Christmas Wooden Block Letters “ this will look brilliant on the mantle piece with my candles
- CHRISTMAS COTTAGE T-LIGHT HOLDER I purchased two of these candle holders as I thought they would look beautiful on the mantle piece on a bed of cotton wool to look like snow
- RED JINGLE BELL WREATH DECORATION I love hanging things from door handles, this red wreath would look lovely around the front door so everyone see’s it as they leave the house
I am so excited to sit and make the PAPER CHAIN KIT VINTAGE CHRISTMAS with the children this year, they are just old enough to take part in fun little activities like this – we are going to decorate our kitchen with fab paper chains so that it feels really Christmassy over December and most probably January too! The Make Your Own Little Christmas Friends Craft Kit make for a great Christmas craft activity that we can also use as little presents for people too. I love making things to give away, it makes it mean so much more.
Counting down to Christmas
I have always wanted to do my own advent calendars for the children and make the surprises on each day a little different from a chocolate face or shape, so this year I have purchased them a lovely 50’s style advent calendar and I plan to put homemade sweets, cakes and little tiny toys for them to count their days down to Christmas day.
I love baking especially when there is a theme to the baking, I love the Christmas style muffin cases, especially as they are square. This recipe is a brilliant recipe for Christmas:
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 90ml (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) water
- 50g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 125ml milk, any kind
- 1 large egg
- 180g (1 ½ cups) wholemeal strong bread flour, plus more for kneading
- 120g (1 cup) dark rye flour
- 50g (1/4 cup) white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- A 7g sachet (2 ¼ tsp) instant active dried yeast*
- 1 tbsp mixed spice**
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Zest of an orange
- 90g (3/4 cup) raisins
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1 to 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 2 tbsp water or orange juice (from the orange you zested earlier)
- To make the paste: combine the plain flour and water, then pour into a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the mixture thickens into a paste. Take it off the heat then stir in the butter until melted and combined. Stir in the milk and then the egg until the mixture is smooth and leave to cool to room temp.
- To make the dough: place the wholemeal strong bread and rye flours, sugar, salt, yeast, mixed spice and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir them together then make a well in the centre of these dry ingredients. Pour the paste mixture into the well then stir everything together to make a dough. Tip the dough onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead for 6 to 8 minutes until smooth and slightly sticky, adding flour as needed. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover it with clingfilm. Leave it in a warm place for 2 hours or in the fridge for 12 hours. The dough should have doubled in size***.
- After this resting period, add the orange zest and raisins to the bowl – fold and knead them into the dough. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll them into balls. Grease a 2lb loaf tin with some refined rapeseed oil (often labelled vegetable oil) and line the balls of dough up in the tin (2 rows of 4 dough balls). Cover the tin loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place for around 45 minutes to rise again.
- Remove the clingfilm from the dough. Mix together the cross mixture (adding enough water to make a pipeable paste) and place into a sandwich bag with the very corner cut off. Pipe it in continuous lines across/along the rows of the dough, decorating each ball with a cross. Bake for 30-40 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180°C until deep golden on top.
- Meanwhile heat the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir and bring to the boil, cooking it until reduced by half. Remove from the heat.
- Remove the baked bread from the tin and brush all over with the warm glaze. Leave to cool completely before slicing. The glazing of the loaf is completely optional but it helps add a bit of extra sweetness and makes it look even more amazing!
- Cooking Tips
- * The yeast I use doesn't need to be dissolved in water before use. If your yeast requires activation before use: warm the milk in the saucepan (before you make the paste) until just lukewarm, remove from the heat and then stir the yeast in. Set aside for 5 minutes until frothy then decant into a bowl and continue with the recipe as usual, adding the milk-yeast mixture to the paste in step 2.
- ** Mixed spice is a mixture of ground spices: cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg and allspice. For those of you in the US, pumpkin pie spice mix or apple pie spice mix will sub in well.
- *** If you left the dough in the fridge for 12 hours and it didn’t double in size, remove from the fridge and leave in a warm place for an hour. This should help the dough rise.
- I like to toast slices under the grill in the oven and then smear them with butter and lemon curd.
- Store the loaf wrapped in baking paper in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature for 4 to 5 days.