Monthly Archives: December 2012
Can you believe that 2012 is coming to a close already? I don’t know where this year has gone. I think I’ll forever think of 2012 as a quick moving current, a pleasant but very swift breeze! I resolve in 2013 to try to take things slower (if that’s even possible with two small children!) and make the most of every minute!
Yesterday, I baked up another batch of gingerbread. I’ve hardly baked much this whole year and yet in the past couple of weeks, our kitchen has been the center of the universe (as it usually is this time of year!) and I’ve done some successful baking! This time, I went with Nigella Lawson’s Guinness Gingerbread, which is every bit as heavenly as it sounds. There’s only a cup of Guinness in the recipe, but it’s enough to give the recipe a little something-something. The lack of molasses this time around also makes for a less strong, more child-friendly cake. I found it to be the best kind of spice cake imaginable – super moist and sticky, without screaming “Christmas.” It’s gingerbread for these post-Christmas days and the kids loved it.
Have a wonderful New Year’s and all the best to you in 2013! I’ll see you back here on Thursday!
Nigella’s Guinness Gingerbread
1 1/4 sticks 10 (tablespoons) butter, plus some for greasing
1 cup golden syrup (such as Lyle’s)
1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 rectangular aluminium foil pan or cake pan, approximately 13 by 9 by 2-inches
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line your cake pan with aluminium foil and grease it, or grease your foil tray.
Put the butter, syrup, dark brown sugar, stout, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pan and melt gently over a low heat.
Take off the heat and whisk in the flour and baking soda. You will need to be patient and whisk thoroughly to get rid of any lumps.
Whisk the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug and then beat into the gingerbread mixture, whisking again to get a smooth batter.
Pour this into your cake/foil pan, and bake for about 45 minutes; when it’s ready it will be gleamingly risen at the centre, and coming away from the pan at the sides.
Let the gingerbread cool before cutting into slices or squares.
The U.S. may have created the slanket and the snuggie, but the U.K. is doing one better – they’ve introduced the adult onesie and it is taking off like wildfire! Pink, Miley Cyrus and even the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has one.
Every major high street story in the U.K. is carrying them and ASDA grocery store reported selling 140,000 of them in the last week alone. Check out ASDA’s Christmas video with grown adults romping around in some amazing animal printed ones:
(OnePiece sells to the U.S., if you’re looking for one stateside.)
If you’ve ever seen “Love Actually,” you’ll remember those scenes where Billy is hoping that his rip-off of “Love is All Around” will be the Christmas number one and wondered, “What is the big deal about a Christmas number one?”
In the U.S., I have no idea what song is currently number one on the charts and haven’t even heard a chart show on the radio since Rick Dees was doing that kind of show on the radio (and I will not reveal how long ago that was!)
And yet, in the U.K., this tradition is alive and well and a Christmas number one is still considered quite prestigious (since it tends to be the busiest time for record sales). This year’s Christmas number one? “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” the Simon and Garfunkel classic re-recorded by the Justice Collective, which is raising money for the families of the 96 Liverpool fans who were crushed to death from overcrowding at Hillsborough football stadium in 1989. Justice Collective includes Sir Paul McCartney, Melanie C, Robbie Williams and more.
Have a listen!
And by comparison, here’s this year’s Christmas number one in the U.S.: “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars.
I feel like we need to tack an additional 14 days to December to revel in the fun of the season – more time to watch “Home Alone” and “Elf” and “The Holiday,” for Bailey’s Irish Cream nightcaps and for filling the house with the smell of baked goods.
I’ve failed on the last item this month – I’ve wanted to make these gingerbread houses, not to mention this and these. But one thing I did manage was a batch of sticky gingerbread from Nigella Christmas.
I’ve never made gingerbread before but after Starbucks abruptly ended their run on gingerbread loaf pre-Christmas, I had to get my fix elsewhere. Nigella’s recipe is absolutely fantastic – easy to do and actually gets better by the day! Here’s my adapted recipe. Enjoy the remains of the season and will see you back here on Thursday! Have a happy Christmas with you and yours.
Makes 20 squares
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
3/4 cup molasses
2/3 cup packed soft dark brown sugar
3 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 teaspoons warm water
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs, beaten to mix
2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a roasting pan or ovenproof dish (approx. 12 x 8 x 2-inches) with aluminum foil or parchment paper (if using foil, grease it too).
In a saucepan, melt the butter over a lowish heat along with the sugar, syrup, molasses, fresh and ground gingers, cinnamon and cloves.
Take off the heat, and add the milk, eggs and dissolved baking soda in its water.
Measure the flour into a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed. It will be a very liquid batter, so don’t worry. This is part of what makes it sticky later.
Pour it into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes until risen and firm on top. Try not to overcook, as it is nicer a little stickier, and anyway will carry on cooking as it cools.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the gingerbread cool in the pan before cutting into 20 squares, or however you wish to slice it.
Make ahead tip:
Make the gingerbread up to 2 weeks ahead, wrap loosely in parchment paper and store in an airtight container. Cut into squares as required.
Freeze ahead tip:
Make the gingerbread, wrap in parchment paper and a layer of aluminum foil then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for 3-4 hours and cut into squares.
There are few words to explain the allure of the Radio Times Christmas issue, which is on newsstands in Britain now. It’s just one of those traditional symbols of the season for Brits. Think TV Guide but bigger, better and packed with all of the juicy details about the Christmas programs that will be airing on British TV during the holidays.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact Brits only have five main TV channels (if you don’t have a Digibox) or the fact that British TV shows typically are limited runs (compared to American TV shows that continue on for years … I’m talking to you, Simpsons!), but there is genuine magic when Christmas rolls around and many of these shows that had ended (ie. “The Office” or “Only Fools and Horses”) have a Christmas episode (a reunion with our old friends on the telly!). This Christmas, there will be Christmas episodes for “Downton Abbey,” “The Royle Family,” and “Doctor Who,” as well as a new sequel to “The Snowman.”
There’s always the usual parade of Christmas movies and children’s programming and even the glorious cooking shows (Delia, Nigella, Jamie Oliver, etc.) serve as a tasty reminder of the season. The Radio Times details them all so you don’t miss a bit. It’s an enduring British tradition that I love this time of year.
I do love Buzzfeed and in my deepest moments of procrastination, I find the site really very engaging. Yet another example: their post asking how do you make a British picture even more British? Click and see what they do to the above photo of Stephen Fry.
This did make me laugh: Buzzfeed’s 21 Brilliant British People Problems. Don’t miss #16!
It seemed almost mystical when I heard that my MIL in England has a “no needle drop” variety of Christmas tree this year. Why do we not have such a variety? Why are we as Americans destined to a needled existence?!
When we were living in London ten years ago, I remember buying our Christmas tree online for £5 and was delivered to the house in a cardboard box – all six feet of it! Once we unwrapped the box and cut the netting that enveloped the tree, voila! Instant Christmas tree!
And so it seems fitting that ten years later, the Christmas tree industry in the U.K. would progress to non-needle drop Christmas trees. What next? Trees that decorate themselves? Trees that tie themselves to the roof of your car? Trees that never do that leaning thing?
Finally, for those looking for alternative Christmas trees on our side of the pond, look no further than Apartment Therapy’s round-up of the best 15. These will definitely not drop needles!
For dinner parties and entertaining during the holidays, my husband will often make a trifle for dessert. Ladyfingers, fresh raspberries, jam with lashings of cream and sherry (or cointreau).
But every time he makes it, I can’t help but be reminded of that episode of “Friends” when Rachel prepares a very unusual “traditional” English trifle.