Tag Archives: gift

My brioche “all butter”

This is NOT a quick recipe: hence I offer it for the week-end…

…But if you have never eaten homemade brioche, I promise you are in for a treat. Every time I make it, I glow in “domestic goddess” pride because somehow my guests are more touched by that offer than that of any cake or pudding. The truth is, I only make it on very special occasions because it does take 24h and I do have a life, you know… But really, it is not complicated at all and time spent on their behalf is the best gift you can bestow on your friends. At least, it is the one gift I appreciate most of all. Somebody gives me some time, or spends time doing something for me, and I go all wobbly with gratitude!

Ingredients list:

  • Flour, 350g (light and fine such as 00 type)
  • Salt 1 tsp
  • Raising yeast, 1tsp (Dry quick yeast type is fine) or if using fresh yeast, 1 thistle
  • Milk, warm and whole, 60ml
  • Eggs, 3 beaten lightly
  • Soften butter, 175g
  • Sugar, 2 tbsp
  • 1      extra Yolk to brush on tops

Take note that the butter must be soft and the eggs very fresh.

Mix the yeast into the warm milk and then pour into the flour while turning. Add the beaten eggs and salt.

Beat the dough a few minutes with a wooden spoon.

Cream the sugar with the butter and mix into the dough.

Cover the bowl with cling-film and leave to rise for 1 or 2 hours.

Knead into the bowl for a few minutes and then leave again to rise for the night or a good few hours of the day.

On the day, prepare and oil the brioche, or muffins tray, or one single pan.

Take the sticky dough out onto a floured surface and knead vigorously. Add a little flour to prevent sticking to your hands but do work quickly and with floured cold hands so it does not have time to glue your fingers together! The dough must be light and elastic.

Shape a little ball and drop it in each pan and then a smaller one on top. Brush with the yolk.

Leave for ½ hour at least in the pans, in a warm place in the kitchen.

When it has pumped up a little, put into a warm oven for 10min at 230 then lower to 180 for another 15 minutes.

I serve those little brioche with foie gras as starters or with a “fricassée” of mushrooms. But they are also delicious with butter and jam, anytime of the day. For the photo, I put whipped cream and Morello cherry jam inside and this was particularly groovy…


Mini Christmas cakes for well-wishing

On Christmas morning at 11am, A. and I went to Westminster Abbey for the magical “Crib service” in the royal cathedral- because prayers and Carols are as essential to my Christmas as mince-pies and foie gras ! 
Halfway through the nave, a life-size nativity scene awaited us, on a bed of straw, next to two beautifully lit trees… and lots of small children joined in the nicest and best loved carols. It was a very moving, secluded and intimate service – but you are also in for a treat if you have booked seats for the 4pm candlelit Christmas service of today.
There were only a few people with us, all gathered around the Crib and with the 30 metres of the nave above us, figuring the infinite sky beyond the barn. We talked of shepherds coming to worship the babe and of their gifts of lamb. I thought of giving when you have nothing to give and of the generosity of strangers that is at the core of Christmas lore. Back home, I wrapped presents with renewed energy ! Giving love… Wrapping love.
Tis’ the season of presents and goodwill and cakes make lovely little gifts. I found this recipe on the net, by Rachel Allen and changed only a little- I am notoriously bad at following recipes…
Last minute Christmas cakes: They don’t keep for long either!
Ingredients list:
  • sultanas 225 g
  •  currants 225 g
  • mixed candied peel 110 g , chopped
  • Dates 75 g , stoned and chopped
  • crystallised  ginger 25 g , finely chopped
  • Butter 250 g , softened
  • light brown sugar 250 g
  • Eggs 5
  • Orange zest1 tsp , finely grated
  • Ground almonds 50 g
  • plain flour 275 g
  • All spice 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon 1 tsp ground
  • Nutmeg 1 tsp, freshly grated
  • Rum or brandy, 125ml

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add the eggs one by one, alternating with spoonfuls of sieved flour.

Add the fruit and ground almonds; continue adding the spices and zest and mix well. Flavour with rum or brandy.

Put in a warm oven at 170º for 1 hour  for a big one or just 30min for the mini versions. Much better if you are short of time than the 3 or 4 hours that Christmas baking usually entails!

Eat the next day with a cup of tea or if you want to make little new year’s gifts of them, feel free to cover with a sheet of marzipan and a duvet of icing  and then decorate according to your fantasy. Wrapped up with a simple ribbon, they make delicious home-grown presents. We hosted some Christmas drinks last week and I gave one with a card to each of my leaving guest. If you are feeling like sharing more, they can go in a hamper with some jam!

Merry Christmas Joyeux Noel Feliz Navidad

An edible Advent calendar- this month idea!

Maybe due to the shorter days and the tendency to spend more time indoors when it is colder outside, but it is nice to see that the pre-Christmas period is when everybody feels at its most creative and I usually go into overdrive with craft projects and ideas for cards or presents! One cannot possibly tire of knitting scarves for a loved one- but that’s an other subject…

Here is my latest  production: an Advent calendar, both decorative and edible.

How to: I bought lots of very small gifts, chocolate and sweets to put into tissue paper  and made them into parcels. Each parcel is then tied with florist’ string or ribbon and clipped with mini pegs each holding a different number from 1 to 24. I found these at Tiger, a nice discount shop, but you could use mini gift tags or pricing labels and number them yourself with a bright gold pen.

I tried clipping each parcel along a long ribbon (as in below) but they were a bit heavy so I opted for scattering them  in a pile inside a pretty box. The idea is that every morning from the first of December, one of us will open a present until there is none left. We might even leave the opening to guests- sometimes…

A christmas garland in indigo and red