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Christmas Hamper Baking

I love home baked goods and I think there is nothing nicer than a bag of lovingly made shortbreads or a tasty chutney served on a crosttini with a chuck of nice cheese warmed in the AGA, oh bliss. Well last year I decided to make 3 of my lovely friends hampers for Christmas. They had been such amazing friends through a tough year I wanted to show them my appreciation so I decided I'd put something in each tailored to their likes. This is so lovely as you can really make it such a personal gift.
140ml milk (lukewarm)
7g easy yeast
1 tsp caster sug
pinch of salt
125g strong white bread flour
100 g plain flour
1tsp mixed spice
100 g mixed fruit (soaked in rum overnight)
25 g flaked almonds
25 g peel ( I blend my peel into a paste as I hate that yucky texture)
50 g softened unsalted butter
an egg  (to enrich the dough)
250 g Marzipan

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
Combine milk and egg  in a large jug, pour into well of dry ingredients.
Mix together, and Knead in a machine with a bread hook for 5 mins. Now knead in the softened butter for about 3 minutes
Return to an oiled bowl, cover and prove for 90mins.
Knock back for 2 minutes shape into an oval and shape marzipan into a long sausage shape, place in centre and encase in the dough.
Place seem side down onto a baking sheet, leave to rise covered for 60 mins in a warm place.
Bake in a preheated oven 180 for 35- 40mins.
Brush with a little melted butter and dust with lots of icing sugar, fabulous sliced and toasted with lashings of butter, yummy xx

These are the most simple and versatile thing in the world to make, you can actually make a truffle for anyone, The Basics
Equal amount of chocolate to the same in DOUBLE pouring cream
So 200 g Dark chocolate = 200 ml of cream
Bring cream to just before boiling point and pour over broken up chocolate, stir until you have a nice shinny gloss, Then you can play, Popping candy ? Orange zest ? Coconut milk  ? Liquor ? Brandy ? Scotch ? The list is endless a quick mix and cover and store overnight in the fridge.
The next day take a spoonful and roll into mouth size balls.
The next fun bit roll them in anything you fancy, chocolate stars, grated white/milk chocolate, crushed freeze dried raspberries (my fav), coconut, sprinkles, chopped nuts, cocoa powder and lustre dust the list is endless. Once rolled pop into petite four cases and chill, the will last as long as the double cream would last in the fridge.

A quick Chutney
Melt 2oz of butter in a sauteing pan, add a large chopped onion, slowly sweat down slowly, for about 10 minutes, add 2 dessert apples diced, sweat down for a further 10 mins, chop 5 tomatoes, add to the pan, then add 1 tbsp of white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoon of mincemeat, 3 tbsp dark brown. Cook down until all liquid has disappeared. Then spoon into a sterilised jars.

With granola it's another thing where you can tailor-make to your own tastes, I base mine with a bowl of oats, (8oz) then I add 2 tablespoons of applesauce, a big splodge of honey, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, a handful of nuts (your favourites) chopped, give a big mix with your hands, turn out onto a baking sheet, bake at 160 for about 40 mins, giving a little mix around every 10 mins or so ( it needs to dry out the mix) take out of the oven, leave to cool, then add some dried fruits, I add apricots, dried cherries and sultana's and store in an airtight container.

1 cooking apple diced, peeled and cored
 500g of a mix of Raisins, sultana's, currants, apricots, dried cherries, dried cranberries
a handful of mixed chopped nuts (not peanuts)
25g peel ( I blend mine to a paste)
3 tsp mixed spice
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of suet or melted butter
zests of an orange and lemon
juice of orange
combine all ingredients in a large heat proof bowl, place in the bottom of the AGA covered with foil, or in a very low oven gas mark 1, heat for an hour, leave to cool, stir in 3 tablespoons of brandy.

Shortbread, for me this is THE Christmas biscuit.

Homemade Cranberry sauce
1 large cooking apple peeled and diced (tiny)
1 punnet of cranberries
zest and juice of an orange/2Clementines
1 large cup of sugar caster or granulated
1 cup of water
Bring ingredients to the boil reduce heat until all of the cranberries have popped and liquid has reduced down, cool (add a glug of port if you'd like) transfer into sterilised jars
To make chocolate stirrers 
Gently melt some white and milk chocolates, then spoon into piping bags and leave to cool for 10 mins. Pop giant chocolate buttons into mini muffin cases in mini muffin pans, pipe a thin layer of white chocolate, leave to set repeat with the milk, leave to firm slightly and add wooden stirrers with a marshmallow threaded onto the end, leave to set. serve with a mug of warm milk and enjoy