Christmas madness and almost perfect gingerbreads

   The Christmas is probably busiest time to lots. I always end up running around trying to make everything perfect, like there is no opportunities after the 25th of December. I have grand plans how I will be super organised and start to get ready weeks before the big day. The truth is I do everything few days before Christmas Day, hoping that I will get everything done on time.

The gingerbreads were ready on time but got decorated few days after the Christmas, which means I’ve eaten most of them as guests, who they were meant to, were gone and I like them too much. I have lot’s of gingerbread recipes but I think those are the closest as they should be by Estonian standards and would pass Mary Berry test to snap properly, even after the few days they are still crispy.

Old Style Gingerbreads

2 dl sugar

3/4 dl dark syrup ( I used treacle, but you can also use Golden Syrup or make your own by melting the sugar on high heat until it ‘s desired colour)

1sp cardamom

1sp cinnamon

1tsp cloves

1sp mixed spice

150g butter

2 eggs

7dl flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Measure sugar, syrup and spices to the saucepan. Cut the butter in to the small pieces and add to the saucepan. Heat it up to the boiling point until the house is filled with the divine smell. Mix it well. Take it from the cooker and put the saucepan in the bowl filled with the cold water so it will cool down quickly.

Add slightly beaten eggs

Mix flour and bicarbonate of soda  and mix well. Cover the saucepan or wrap the dough to the cling film. Keep it in the fridge 3-4 hours or even better, overnight.

Next day roll it out thinly on the floured table. Cut out the gingerbreads with cutters and place them on the baking sheet, which is covered with baking paper.

Bake them on Gas mark 4 (175C) about 10  minutes.

Cool them and decorate.

 I have to say, that they have disappeared rather quickly from the plate, while enjoying all the Christmas lights – gone bit mad this year, but I really hate this December darkness and it really cheers our house up.

Christmas 2015 and rum cakes aka “Vana Tallinn” cakes

I love the Christmas time. Once the decorations go up after continuous nagging from children, everything feels brighter and more festive.

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And tidy rooms are the bonus as all the Collins family comes for our annual Christmas meal. I cooked 10 kg turkey from the Court Farm Butchers, my favorite place to buy meat, and of course all the trimmings to go with it. There was 17 of us – 5 families of Collins’s and the dog and 2 cats, most living souls we had together for the Christmas ever. 🙂 We even managed to get us all to stay still for the family photo.

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I love this one best as I was trying to crab Lonni, who was chasing the cannon ball – yes, that was the present, my husband gave it to his dad. I love how relaxed everyone is and have a good laugh – this describes best our get together – laid back, laugh, food, wine, games.

I baked lot’s of gingerbreads.

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I made the blood sausages  very first time with my new Kenwood.

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and made quite a few “rum cakes” over the Christmas. The Rum cakes or “Vana Tallinn cakes have been real hit not only among Estonians and I have been asked recipe for the countless times so here it is. I must say I don’t follow the recipe for making them, so I’ll try to estimate quantities here.

Rum Cakes with White Chocolate filling

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First you need a sponge. Originally those cakes were made in bakeries from the sponge leftovers to avoid a waste, but at home you hardly have any spare sponge so I will give my fool proof sponge recipe, which I got from my favorite Estonian cake makers Olga blog.

4 eggs

2dl sugar

1dl boiling water

3dl plain flour

1tsp baking powder

Put the eggs in the bowl with sugar and beat it 10 minutes until it’s almost tripled in size. I have until now (before I got my fantastic Kenwood) used hand mixer, while using my  another hand for the Facebook. 🙂

Before the 10 minutes are over I switch on the kettle and boil the water. I measure it to the measuring jug and then slowly add to the egg mixture while still beating it.

Mix the flour and the baking powder together and sift it to the egg mixture.

Fold carefully it with the spatula from the bottom of the bowl to up, until there is no lumps.

Line the baking tin with the baking paper – for cakes I use 24 cm diameter tin, but as  the shape is not important on this instance you can use any tin really.

Poor the mixture to the tin and bake on gas mark 5 for 30 minutes.

The sponge is ready, when the inserted skewer comes out clean. If the cake starts to get dark too quickly, cover it with baking paper.

Take it out from the oven and leave it cool for bit and then turn it to the cooling rack, remove the lining paper and leave it cool completely.

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1 sponge

3-5 sp cacao powder

rum or “Vana Tallinn” (it’s Estonian liqueur, which everyone gives as a present but most people don’t like to drink but I use it lots in my cooking replacing brandy or rum) or any other liqueur which has more than 30% alcohol or if you prefer non alcoholic ones use the rum essence instead, quantity depends of your taste

150-200g soured cream

100g white chocolate

150g cream cheese

For making rum cakes, crumble the sponge in to the bowl and take a little out for rolling cakes in it later.

Add cacao powder, I like it darker so I’ll add 4 or more spoonful’s but you can use less of it.

Now add the soured cream, start adding about 100 grams and mix it with your hand squeezing mixture together

Add the alcohol or essence, here you need to do quite a bit of tasting to make it, how you like it, but not too much or you don’t have anything left for the balls 🙂

If you achieved desired taste you might need to add more soured cream to get the consistency suitable for the rolling the balls.

Now, I’m using scale to get all the balls same size – 30g for small bite, 40 g bit bigger and 50g for the proper sized one, but if you not fussed just take the mixture with the spoon and roll the balls with your palms.

Roll them on the saved crumbs.

Then I’m using the scissors to make the lines, cut softly on 3 angles and then press down with your dumb on the middle of the ball so it becomes like a flower shape ball.

For the white chocolate and cream cheese filling. melt the white chocolate in the sauce pan or in the microwave. If it’s too hot , let it cool a bit. Then mix it with the cream cheese.

If the mixture becomes too runny leave it to the fridge for a while.

Now pipe the filling to the middle of the cakes and decorate as desired.

Start to prepare for new sponge as those cakes don’t last long.

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Christmas Eve with Paddington Bear

It was Christmas Eve today, actually yesterday, the night you have Christmas meal with your family in Estonia. Over the years the tradition is faded in our house. First years when I moved here I tried to do Estonian Christmas food but I think it became too much as we always have Christmas lunch as well. It would help to have some Estonians around, who would appreciate importance of the day.

So this year we headed to cinema to watch Paddington Bear instead of the traditional meal. Lying here, I left pork join to the oven so we would have meal ready , when we get back.

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I’m glad we went. It was really “feel good” film. Very British. And the Paddington reminded me our Lonni – especially when he was naughty.

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It made me emotional and laugh out loud. Definitely worth to watch.

When we got home, our meal was almost ready.10407367_10152912889169836_6904873981061924257_n

I’m off to butter my turkey now and then is time for bed or our quests won’t get any food tomorrow 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone!