Frangipane Mince Pies (+ Mincemeat-Free Alternative)

Frangipane Mince Pies

The first time I saw a frangipane mince pie, I fell a little bit in love.

To put this in context, I’m not much of a mince pie eater. If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that I’d take chocolate, caramel or creamy desserts over boozy dried fruit any day of the week: an indifference to festive desserts that extends to both Christmas pudding and cake. If a mince pie is all that’s on offer, I’ll probably end up eating it (top removed, filled with copious amounts of brandy butter then replaced) and I do enjoy the ritual of baking them at this time of year, but getting excited about a recipe? It doesn’t tend to happen. Continue reading

Festive Fig Rolls with Orange, Honey & Cinnamon

Festive Fig Rolls

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If my husband happened to be said man, you could pretty much guarantee his affection for life with a humble packet of fig rolls.

When he was little, Carnivorous Husband’s mum would always buy two packets of fig rolls at the supermarket: one to keep in the cupboard and one for my hungry husband-to-be to consume in one sitting. A couple of hundred miles away, at a similar age and unaware at this point that he even existed, I took a similar approach to a freshly baked loaf of bread. Some treats, it seems, are made to be savoured, others to be eaten in enormous quantities. Continue reading

Mini Chocolate Amaretto Yule Logs

Chocolate Log via @thelittleloaf

Flourless chocolate sponge filled with chocolate amaretto cream

When did food start getting smaller? I’m not talking super-sized fries or ridiculous restaurant portions here (global obesity statistics suggest that serving-size is anything but under control), but pre-packaged foods: the biscuits, chocolate bars and ice creams of this world.

The other day Carnivorous Fiancé was feeling a little bit under the weather. Food being my go-to solution for many of life’s smaller problems, I popped to the shops to buy him our ultimate childhood treat: a mint cornetto. Pulling it out of the freezer cabinet I was taken aback by how small it seemed, a thought only compounded by seeing it in Carnivorous Fiancé’s (much larger) hand as he polished it off in a matter of mere bites. Continue reading

Chai Spiced Syrup, Apple Cinnamon Crisps & an Innocent Mocktail

Winter Apple Mocktail

Sparkling spiced apple juice topped with a snowflake biscuit

This Sunday, I reached saturation point.

It’s that time of year when, with the holidays just around the corner, everyone begins to let their hair down. Christmas parties take place, the champagne starts flowing and the number of chocolates in the office outnumbers employees by fifteen to one.

Last week’s festivities culminated in a weekend of celebrations: a friend over from Australia, another one heading off there (what is it with my friends and Oz?), Carnivorous Boyfriend’s DJ debut and a big birthday meal. Christmas treats were baked (more on that later this week), sleep was lost and alcohol consumed. By Sunday evening, a mocktail felt not just desirable, but really rather necessary. Continue reading

Gingerbread Lime Ice Cream

Gingerbread ice cream

Soft, spiced gingerbread with the kick of sweet, sharp lime

When something goes wrong in the kitchen, what’s your default solution? Are you the inquisitive person who keeps consuming what they’ve made until over half is gone, trying to ascertain exactly what it is that doesn’t taste quite right? Do you shower everything in icing sugar and hope that no one notices? Do you calmly set the failure to one side and start the whole process from scratch? Or do scrape whatever it is into the bin in a fit of fury, never to be spoken of again?

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Chocolate Christmas Wreaths

Chocolate biscuit cake

‘C’ is for Christmas – the perfect festive chocolate treat

Saturday marked the official start of Christmas in the little loaf household.

We went in search of an oversized tree, cranked up the cheesy tunes, cracked open some bubbles and spent the afternoon stringing up lights and debating between different baubles. I baked a batch of gingerbread (which was delicious, but not quite perfect enough to make an appearance on the blog just yet) and the flat was filled with warmth, laughter and the scent of spices. Continue reading

Alternative Mince Pies (Cinnamon Pastry, Pear Caramel, Chocolate Ganache)

chocolate ganache tarts

Flaky pastry pies filled with chocolate ganache & pear caramel

Without sounding like a complete scrooge, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Christmas baking.

My Granny would always serve a traditional homemade pudding on Christmas day, within the fruity, rich folds of which there would be hidden a well-worn thrupenny bit. With a market value of a pound for whichever lucky person discovered it in their slice (hopefully without breaking any teeth), it was the subject of much excitement amongst the children of our family, but never enough to convince me to accept a whole slice of this strange, slightly stodgy dessert. Continue reading

White Chocolate & Peppermint Candy Cane Macarons

candy_cane_macarons

Shiny-shelled macarons with a hint of peppermint

Much like dreaded dinner party nemesis the soufflé, macarons have earned themselves a bit of a reputation as a difficult beast. Browse your favourite blogs or recipe sites and you’re sure to encounter strict words of warning and reams of advice; how to avoid the shell cracking, how to achieve the perfect raised ‘feet’, the importance of almonds and why ageing your egg whites is crucial. It’s enough to put off even the most intrepid of bakers.

At the end of the summer I joined Mactweets, a ‘virtual Mac Kitchen’ which sets its members a new challenge each month, allowing them to share the highs (and lows) of their attempts at macaron mastery.  I’ve made a fair few batches of macarons now, and what I have learnt is this… Continue reading

Baked Alaska Mince Pies

alternative_mince_pie

The perfect alternative festive pud? 

There’s something about Christmas that can bring out a militant side in the most relaxed of people. Those who at other times of the year will happily go with the flow suddenly become sticklers for tradition, asserting their right to enjoy the season’s festivities exactly as they’re used to them. This differs from family to family, but the same Christmas conversation seems to take place on an annual basis amongst my friends; we list the dishes we always eat, the smoked salmon starters or lack thereof, the bubbly opened at breakfast, turkeys basted, potatoes roasted and enforced enjoyment (or not) of the dreaded brussels sprout. While dishes might vary from household to household (turkey is traditional, others go for goose, etc) there seems to be one constant; people stick to what they know at Christmas. With a few exciting elements thrown in perhaps, but generally speaking, if Mum’s mince pies or Granny’s incredible gravy don’t feature, there’s going to be trouble.

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Gingerbread & White Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

gingerbread_men

Golden spiced gingerbread & rich, smooth ice cream

As resident little loaf in this household, I’m understandably pretty partial to anything with the word ‘sandwich’ in the title. Any excuse to enjoy bread is always welcome, and there’s such certain comfort in something delicious sandwiched between two slices of thick-cut homemade bread.

After getting an ice cream maker for my birthday this summer, I began experimenting with numerous flavour and texture combinations, accompanied by my trusty ice cream bible, The Perfect Scoop. Following in quick succession came a trip to Sicily with a group of girlfriends at the end of August, where I strolled the streets looking for the best gelato available, feeling like a kid in a candy store when presented with such choice and quality. Continue reading