California Raisin Ruby Mincemeat by Charlotte White

California Raisin Ruby Mincemeat by Charlotte White

I am not a huge fan of mincemeat. Scratch that, I really dislike mincemeat so the request for a mincemeat recipe made my heart sink a little. Why? When I love fruit and spice, why do I hate mincemeat so?

I considered this question and took everything that I disliked in traditional mincemeat out and replaced the currants and peel with the flavours that I enjoy. Join me in welcoming sweet cherries and pomegranate to my take on mincemeat which is every bit as blood red as its name suggests.

Ingredients:

350g chopped apples (two good sized Bramleys)
350g California raisins
200g frozen sweet pitted cherries
75g dried cranberries
zest and juice of an orange
juice and seeds of a pomegranate
175g light muscovado sugar
50g unsalted butter
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
good grating of fresh nutmeg (around ½ tsp)
100ml ruby port

Makes a 1 litre jar, sufficient for 2x large tarts or 24x mince pies

  1. Peel, core, and chop the apples into small cubes, throwing them into a large heavy saucepan as you go.
  2. Tip the rest of your prepared fruit into the saucepan; sweet California raisins, dried cranberries, and the wonderfully convenient frozen cherries.
  3. Zest the orange into your saucepan and squeeze all of its juice in too.
  4. Halve the pomegranate and squeeze the juice from each half into the saucepan. The satisfying crunch as you squeeze is one of the joys of this procedure! Crumble the seeds from the squeezed pomegranate into the saucepan – you will need to pick out the white membrane of the fruit if it falls in as it is not very pleasant to eat.
  5. Add sugar, butter, and spice to the saucepan along with the port.
  6. Turn on the heat and get the contents to a gently bubbling simmer. Set a timer for 30 minutes and enjoy the smell as it fills your kitchen.
  7. After 30 minutes, turn the heat up and boil the contents more violently for a further 20 minutes, checking with a stir every now and then to make sure it is not burning.
  8. Spoon the hot mincemeat into a 1 litre glass jar and close the lid. Allow to cool completely before opening. The flavours will mature beautifully so I recommend making this a week or two before you plan to use it.

 

California Raisin Ruby Mincemeat Christmas Tart

California Raisin Ruby Mincemeat Christmas Tart by Charlotte White

This is a far less fiddly way to get your mincemeat and pastry fix this festive season; don’t get me wrong, I love a mince pie, but one big tart is far easier to prepare than a dozen individual ones!
With the Ruby Mincemeat happily maturing in your pantry, the real time preparation of this tart is quick and easy. If you are less than confident with pastry, please feel free to use shop bought sweet shortcrust and then follow the method. However, if you are feeling ambitious, an Almond Pastry works oh so well with the cherry studded mincemeat.

For the Almond Pastry:California Raisin Ruby Mincemeat Christmas Tart by Charlotte White
150g unsalted butter (fridge cold)
100g golden caster sugar
3 egg yolks
150g plain flour
100g ground almonds
pinch of salt
Preheated oven 190⁰C / 375⁰F / Gas Mark 5

For the Tart Filling:
100g California walnuts
100ml golden syrup
2 eggs
50g unsalted butter (melted)
400g Ruby Mincemeat
You will need:
24cm loose-bottomed fluted flan dish
ceramic baking beads

Preheated oven 150⁰C / 300⁰F / Gas Mark 2
1. I always use a food processor to make pastry as it keeps my hot hands away from the mixture for the longest possible time! Start with the butter and sugar and blitz until combined.
2. Add the egg yolks and blitz again.
3. Add flour, almonds, and salt, processing until all has come together.
4. Turn the pastry out onto a worksurface, press into a large flattened round, and wrap in clingfilm. The pastry will need to rest in the fridge for 1hr to firm up.
5. Roll your chilled pastry as thinly as you are able, remembering that any breakage, cracks, or tears are no reason to re-roll. Any damage can be patched in the flan tin and the more you work the pastry, the tougher it will become. As a cake decorator used to working with fondant icing, I had to learn this the hard way over many years!
6. Drop your rolled pastry into the flan tin. Press diligently into the bottom edges and up the fluted edges of the tin. Any holes that appear should be patched by pressing a little extra pastry into the broken area.
7. Trim the edges of your flan tin with a sharp knife or by rolling your rolling pin over the top edge. Return the tin to the fridge for at least 15 minutes while you preheat the oven.
8. Prick the bottom of the pastry several times with a fork to allow for any steam to be released and prevent any bubbling at the bottom of the tart. Use a large piece of baking parchment, which you have crumpled up as if to throw away and the reopened, to line the inside of the pastry filled flan tin. Press the parchment into the bottom edges of the tin and fold the overhanging bits over the edges of the tin. Fill with ceramic baking beads to weigh the parchment and pastry down.
9. Blind bake the pastry for 15 minutes before removing the beads and parchment and baking for a further 5 minutes to dry out the bottom of the pastry.
10. Remove the flan tin from the oven and reduce the heat to cook the filling.
11. Combine California walnuts, golden syrup, eggs, butter, and Ruby Mincemeat in a large bowl. I crumbled my walnuts a little but wanted to keep them fairly intact.
12. If you have any remaining pastry, it is very easy to decorate the top of your tart with shapes cut out using cookie cutters and placed on top of the filling.
13. Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 25 minutes, until set and smelling divine. Eat warm or cold, with a dash of cream or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Vegan Christmas Spiced Cupcakes with California Raisins

Vegan Christmas Spiced Cupcakes with California Raisins by Charlotte White

As Cab Calloway said, ‘everybody eats when they come to my house’. I want all of my guests to leave wholly satisfied and stuffed full of food at any time of year and Christmas is no exception. We do need to consider friends with dietary requirements and I am not one to cordone off an area of the table for them; I want any alternative bakes to be just as good as their traditional counterparts so that they can be enjoyed by all.

Lots of bakers get very scared of vegan and dairy-free baking but I promise that there is nothing to fear here. The distinction is easy, vegans don’t eat any animal products whatsoever and dairy-free folks don’t eat anything that has come from a cow. These cupcakes contain no butter or eggs but taste incredible. I promise. Trust me and try it, especially if you are afraid to.

Ingredients:Vegan Christmas Spiced Cupcakes with California Raisins by Charlotte White

170g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp mixed spice
pinch of salt
170g caster sugar
120ml soy yoghurt
120ml vegetable oil
1tsp vanilla extract
150g carrot (grated)
75g California raisins
75g California walnuts

You will need:
12x cavity muffin tin
12x foil cases

Preheated oven 180⁰C / 350⁰F / Gas Mark 4

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, raising agents, spice, salt, and sugar. Stir to break up any lumps.
  2. In a jug, fork together soy yoghurt, oil, and vanilla extract. Always use the best quality vanilla extract that you can afford and never use anything called ‘essence’ as it is artificially produced and synthetic tasting.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and combine until nearly all incorporated.
  4. Add grated carrot, California raisins and California walnuts to the mixture. I break walnuts roughly by snapping them in my hand – you want fairly large lumps of walnut in the cupcakes. Stir until all is evenly distributed and no lumps of dry ingredients remain.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin, lined with foil baking cases.
  6. Bake the cupcakes for around 17 minutes until risen and springy to the touch.
  7. Allow to cool for a few minutes in their tins before turning out onto a wire rack. Once cool, the cakes are ready to be topped with Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting

Ingredients:

125g block margarine
125g vegan cream cheese
500g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp soy milk

  • Beat the margarine until pale and creamy. I use my freestanding mixer for this job and essentially treat the whole process the same as if I was making non-vegan frosting.
  • Add half of your vegan cream cheese to the mixture and beat until combined.
  • Add half of your icing sugar and mix in completely before adding your remaining vegan cream cheese. If the mixture looks runny, do not panic too much as the icing sugar will bring it together.
  • Add the rest of your icing sugar and continue to beat on a medium speed. Throw in a tablespoon or two of milk to prevent the frosting from getting too heavy and continue beating for around 5 minutes. The result should be a light and pale frosting.
  • Use this frosting to top your cupcakes, either with a spoon or a piping bag. Adorn liberally with sprinkles.

California Raisin Christmas Cake by Charlotte White

California Raisin Christmas Cake by Charlotte White

There are few things so Christmassy as the smell of a Christmas cake baking in your oven. The warming spice scent seems to permeate every room of the house and lucky is the guest who drops in as this baby is baking!

Baking your Christmas cake is the perfect way to get into the festive spirit ahead of time, as you will need to prepare the cake 4 weeks before you intend to serve it. As such, I use this baking time to consider the other foods that I will make on the big day, to write lists of gifts I need to buy, and figure out what it is that I should be asking Father Christmas for. It’s both tradition and ritual, as steeped in superstition as ruby port.

My Christmas cake has a little twist in that I use lots of red fruits, ruby port, and there is not a currant in sight as I really dislike them. Your own Christmas cake can contain everything that you love as well as anything than needs using up. Those leftover bits of dried fruit and nuts from the year’s baking? Throw them in! The more the merrier.

Ingredients:California Raisin Christmas Cake by Charlotte White

700g California raisins
150g dried cranberries
150g dried apricots (chopped)
100g glace cherries (halved)
100g dried dates (chopped)
25g stem ginger
450ml ruby port
300g unsalted Butter
180g muscovado sugar
4 eggs
½ tsp orange extract
1tbsp black treacle
300g plain flour
150g ground almonds
2tsp mixed spice

You will need:
8” round deep cake tin, lined with baking parchment and wrapped in brown paper

Preheated oven 150⁰C / 300⁰F / Gas Mark 2

  • Begin by weighing your dried fruits into a large saucepan. Pour 450ml of ruby port over the fruits and warm gently over a very low heat. Stir your fruits to ensure an even coating in the warm alcohol for around 5 minutes. The fruits will plump up beautifully in their boozy bath.
  • Remove your soaked fruits from the heat, cover the pan with clingfilm, and leave to steep overnight. You can get away with leaving the fruits to soak for longer but aim for at least 8 hours before using them.
  • Before beginning your cake, you will need to prepare your cake tin. I have listed separate instructions for ease of use so please ensure that you refer to these before you start baking up a storm.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until pale. Allow 5 minutes for this job in a freestanding mixer or a few minutes more using a hand whisk. Add your eggs, one at a time to prevent curdling. If your mixture threatens to split, throw in a spoonful of flour from the weight that you have measured for this cake.
  • Once your eggs are incorporated, add orange extract and the treacle. Beat until evenly coloured.
  • In a separate bowl, combine your flour, ground almonds, and mixed spice. Carefully fold one third of these dry ingredients into your cake mix.
  • Fold one third of your steeped fruits into the cake mix until evenly distributed.
  • Repeat steps 6 and 7 until all of your dry ingredients and fruits are combined in the cake mix. Spoon this heavy mixture into your prepared cake tin, ensuring that the mixture is pressed into the edges of the tin and smoothed down on the top, and bake for around 3 hours. As with all cakes, this one will be risen and springy to the touch when it is completely cooked. When in doubt, a cocktail stick inserted into the middle of your cake should come out clean. 3 hours usually does the trick but if your oven is notoriously fierce, you may want to check 10 minutes early. If your cake does not feel completely cooked through when you check, you can leave this cake in for up to around 3 hours and 10 minutes.
  • When you take your cake out of the oven, drizzle over a tablespoon of ruby port and wrap in tin foil. As the cake cools, this will infuse additional festive spirit into your cake. Leave this little parcel on a wire rack until it has cooled completely. This will take several hours.
  • When your cake has cooled, you will be able to turn it out of its tin, keeping the greaseproof paper as a wrapping around your cake. Wrap once more in tin foil, place in an airtight container, and keep in a cool, dry place. You will need to leave the cake to mature for at least 4 weeks before even thinking about serving it. Each week, you should check on your fruitcake and feed it with a tablespoon of ruby port – each time you check it, the delicious smell will have deepened.

Preparing your cake tin

You will need:

Sturdy cake tin, 3” deep
Greaseproof baking paper
Heavy brown paper (the kind used to wrap parcels)
String

  • Begin by wrapping a length of greaseproof paper around your cake tin to measure the length that you will need (for an 8” tin, you will need approximately 26”) and cut this to allow for the height to be around an inch deeper than your cake tin. My tin is 3” deep so I have cut a 4” deep piece of greaseproof paper.
  • Cut ‘teeth’ along the bottom edge of this strip of paper, around ½ inch apart. When you lay this piece of paper around the inside of your cake tin, the teeth will fold inside the tin and sit perfectly.
  • Cut a circle of greaseproof paper to sit in the bottom of your cake tin. With the ‘teeth’ from your edge strip of paper beneath this circle, you will have created a perfectly lined cake tin.
  • Cut a length of brown paper to line the outside edge of your tin. I like to fold my brown paper so that I have a double thickness. You will need to tie this paper around your cake tin with string so that it is secure. This extra layer protects the cake from the heat of the oven and prevents burnt edges.

To see other Christmas recipes – click here

California Raisin Christmas Pudding Cookies by Charlotte White

California Raisin Christmas Pudding Cookies by Charlotte White

These cookies are easy to make and fun to decorate. Making these would be a wonderful chilly day activity for children or a great way to get ahead on a homemade gift. I imagine that a few of these lightly spiced and very chocolatey cookies, bagged neatly in cellophane or arranged in a ribbon-tied box, would be gratefully received!

I’ve included an optional ingredient here because it is always exciting to have an excuse to use a fun ingredient; my Christmas Pudding extract can be found online from a company called Foodie Flavours. It really does taste and smell like Christmas Pudding. If you cannot find this, add a ½ tsp of mixed spice to add that festive feel.

Ingredients:California Raisin Christmas Pudding Cookies by Charlotte White

200g unsalted butter
200g golden caster sugar
1 egg
Christmas Pudding extract (optional)
150g California raisins
350g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
100g white chocolate
holly leaf and berry sprinkles

You will need:
6cm round cookie cutter
baking sheets (2-4)
baking parchment

Preheated oven 180⁰C / 350⁰F / Gas Mark 4

Makes 30x 6cm round cookies

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together using some kind of mechanical assistance to aid you – I use a freestanding mixer but an electric handwhisk works just as well. Aim to combine the butter and sugar until the texture is light and pale.
  2. Beat in the egg until fully combined.
  3. Add the Christmas Pudding extract if using or spice.
  4. Chop the California raisins as finely as you are able. The natural stickiness of the raisins makes this a bit tricky but the smaller you can get them, the easier you will find it to cut out the cookies later. Add the chopped raisins into the mixture.
  5. Add the flour and cocoa and mix until a dough forms.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a worksurface, bring together into a large flattened round, and wrap in clingfilm. The dough will need to rest in the fridge for an hour to firm up the butter.
  7. Roll the chilled dough out to around 5mm thickness. I use marzipan spacers to create an even thickness across the dough, that’s a top tip if you can get hold of these wonderfully versatile pieces of plastic!
  8. Use a 6cm round cookie cutter to cut your cookies from the dough. Place each one on a baking sheet, lined with baking parchment.
  9. Return the cookies to the fridge for 10 minutes before baking. This prevents the cookies from spreading out in the oven.
  10. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, or until dry and firm to the touch. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  11. A little melted white chocolate, drizzled onto the cookie with a teaspoon, creates the perfect Christmas Pudding look. I held my cookie up to allow little drips of chocolate to be teased out with my spoon, then I topped the cookie with a couple of holly leaves and a berry from a jar of sprinkles. You can find these in most supermarkets.
  12. Allow the decorated cookies to set before bagging, boxing, or snaffling unashamedly in front of It’s a Wonderful Life with a glass of mulled wine.

To see other Christmas recipes – click here

California Raisin Chocolate Christmas Showstopper

California Raisin Chocolate Christmas Showstopper by Charlotte White

This recipe begins life as my Chocolate Mud Cake, which has NEVER gone unappreciated! If you need a really good go-to chocolate cake, this is the one for you. It is moist and sticky as a chocolate brownie and keeps beautifully for up to two weeks… or so I am told, as I have never had one last so long in my house.

Christmas is the time of year when a selection of all manner of fancy nuts and nibbles find their way into my shopping basket and this is a great way to use up any leftovers because you can really use whichever nuts you most enjoy to complement the California raisins, which are made even more sticky and sweet than usual by baking in this luscious chocolatey cocoon.

Ingredients:

330g dark chocolate
330g unsalted butter
3 tbsp instant coffee granules
240ml water
190g plain flour
190g self-raising flour
60g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
720g caster sugar
6 eggs
165ml buttermilk
55ml vegetable oil
300g California raisins
100g macadamia nuts (roughly chopped)
50g flaked almonds

You will need:
3x 8” round sandwich cake tins

Preheated oven 160⁰C / 325⁰F / Gas Mark 3

  1. Begin by melting dark chocolate and butter in a large saucepan with coffee granules and water. The coffee can be cheap but keep the chocolate of the kind that you would like to eat. You will not taste the coffee but it does bring out the flavour of the chocolate in a way that you will taste the benefit of nice chocolate.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flours, cocoa powder, bicarb, salt, and butter. Stir to mix all together and break up any suspicious lumps of flour and sugar.
  3. In a jug, fork together eggs, buttermilk and oil until combined. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix until you have the start of a thick paste. It will be dry, do not worry.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture onto the dry paste and mix to combine into a thick and glossy chocolate batter.
  5. Add California raisins, macadamia nuts, and flaked almonds to the chocolate batter and stir to distribute.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between 3x 8” sandwich cake tins, each one lined with baking parchment.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, until a cocktail stick comes out with just a few crumbs but no wet batter attached to it. Allow these cakes to cool completely in their tins before turning out – if you try to turn them out while still warm, the cakes will crumble apart.
  8. Once cool, the cakes are ready to be filled and covered with Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting

Chocolate Cheesecake Frosting

Ingredients:

250g unsalted butter
200g cream cheese
100g cocoa powder
500g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp full fat milk

  • Beat the butter until pale and creamy. Best done in a freestanding mixer though entirely doable with an electric handwhisk or by hand, if you are Popeye.
  • Add the cocoa powder and beat into a dark paste. You will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and to the bottom a few times to get all of the butter incorporated.
  • Add half of your cream cheese to the mixture and beat until combined. Remember that you will need to stop every now and then to scrape the sides of the bowl and encourage the chocolatey butter into the centre.
  • Add half of your icing sugar and mix in completely before adding your remaining cream cheese. If the mixture looks runny with all of the cream cheese, do not panic too much as the icing sugar will bring it together.
  • Add the rest of your icing sugar and continue to beat on a medium speed. Throw in a tablespoon or two of milk to prevent the frosting from getting too heavy and continue beating for around 5 minutes. The result should be a wonderfully light chocolate frosting.
  • Use this frosting to sandwich your cake layers together and spread the remaining amount around the top and sides of the cake. Decorate in a suitably festive way with sprinkles and plenty of edible glitter. Slice liberally and enjoy entirely.

To see other Christmas recipes – click here

California Raisin Festive Rocky Road

California Raisin Festive Rocky Road – by Charlotte White

You know those recipes which are almost embarrassingly easy to make? The ones where you feel the need to qualify any compliment with a confession of how little work went into the making? This is one of those recipes and I feel no shame.

This is the time of year where time is at its most precious. There may be days when you just don’t have the hours to put in to labouring in the kitchen and need something that can be whipped up in five minutes in your pyjamas for an onslaught of visitors the following morning!

Plus, this is a great way to introduce young children to the wonders of baking without the need for hot ovens or sharpened utensils. It’s a win-win recipe and a personal favourite.

California Raisin Festive Rocky Road - by Charlotte White

Ingredients:

200g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate
100g unsalted butter
60ml golden syrup
200g digestive biscuits (broken pieces or chocolate covered balls of)
200g California raisins
150g pistachios (shelled but not peeled)
150g mini marshmallows
assorted Christmas sprinkles

You will need:
8” square silicone cake tin

  1. Because Rocky Road is held together with quite a lot of chocolate, use chocolate that you enjoy eating. Cheap chocolate makes cheap tasting Rocky Road. I use a mixture of milk and dark chocolate to please the tastebuds of everyone in my house! Break the chocolate into a large heavy bottomed saucepan.
  2. Add butter and golden syrup to the saucepan and heat very VERY gently, watching like a hawk and stirring until nearly all the chocolate has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir until all has melted.
  3. Allow the hot chocolate mixture to stand while you combine the other ingredients in a large bowl. You can use broken pieces of digestive biscuits or the little chocolate covered digestive biscuit balls than come in bags. Separate the California raisins, which can sometimes become stickily stuck together, chop the pistachios a bit if you like but leave the pieces large, and toss in the marshmallows that you have not eaten while the chocolate was melting.
  4. Tip the fruit, nuts, and naughtiness into the chocolate mixture. Stir everything together so that the chocolate has coated everything.
  5. Tip into a silicone baking tin and press down into the corners.
  6. Sprinkle with a festive selection of sprinkles and allow to set at room temperature. You probably won’t need to refrigerate at this time of year!
  7. Once set, carve into servings and enjoy the adulation from your guests as they enjoy your ‘efforts’

To see other Christmas recipes – click here