Sunday 22 December 2013

Sunday Baking

I am filling the house full of goodies, ready for Christmas. I have tried to make a plan for what to cook and when, so we don't end up with too much, as has happened every previous year: after attempting to be 85% paleo these past four months, I worry about what the Christmas scoffage is going to do to my digestion. But, also, I don't want to miss out, of course!

Instead of a fruit cake this year I have made a Tunis cake. It reminds me a lot of my Gran and although I did look in the shops, it is really just a straightforward Madeira cake so I whipped up a practice one for work last week from this recipe, and made another today from Mary Berry's recipe. Last week's sunk a bit in the middle: probably too much baking powder. Today's took a LONG time to cook and domed a bit too much in the middle. I suspect attempt number three would work the best but I doubt there will be attempt number three until next December, now.

I was in two minds about topping it with ganache, too; the slightly-softened butter-spiked chocolate from the first version seemed to be the best compromise - after all, Tunis cake really should have very hard chocolate on top which is almost at odds with the soft cake underneath. In the end, though, I decided to trust in the Berry. I do love ganache.

As well as that, I decided to try my hand at a pan de higo. I tried one of these last Christmas because it was available to buy by the (very expensive) slice from the New Chandos deli in town. It was very tasty and good with cheese, so I thought I'd made my own, since it cost such a lot.

500g dried figs
250g dates
100g almonds
2 (generous) tbsp sherry
2 tbsp honey
Pinch of salt

Toast the almonds in the oven for about 5 minutes, then chop roughly and place in a bowl. Pour the sherry, honey and salt over the top and mix. This should let the sherry soak into the almonds a bit before everything else goes in. Also, the smell of hot, toasted almonds mixed with sherry is like the smell of actual Spain. I was whisked back to a memory of my Spanish teacher at school explaining to us what turron is.

Destone the dates and snip off the hard stalk bit of the figs. Place on a board and chop, and chop, and chop. Eventually the fruit will become a bit of a paste. Put this in the bowl with the nut mixture and bring together by hand to ensure it's all well incorporated. Scrape into a loaf tin lined with cling film. Put the cling film over the top and weight down with something (I used an unopened bag of flour). Leave for two days to set, then store in greaseproof paper.

Obviously, since this has got to sit for two days, I won't know for a while if it works. I fear I may have been slightly too generous with the sherry but in that case, hopefully chilling it will make it firm enough to slice. Looking forward to enjoying it with some lovely cheese after Christmas day!

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