Mulled Cranberry Apple Cider

This is very similar to my mulled cider recipe here, but I have given it a Christmas tweak.

Cranberry Mulled Cider1

You can totally make a non-alcoholic version of this to make it family friendly, just substitute the cider for apple juice (and leave out any rum or brandy!)

I love creating recipes that make me think of cozy evenings in front of a crackling log fire, with perhaps snow falling outside, or a storm raging on a winter’s night, while I am warm and snuggly inside!

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If a snow storm was raging outside and you are indeed sitting by that crackling log fire, then this will definitely warm the soul too.

1.5 litres of hard dry cider (use good quality apple juice if making a non-alcoholic version)
0.5 litres of pure cranberry juice
3-4 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 orange, stuck with 10 cloves
1 punnet of fresh cranberries
¼ fresh nutmeg – grated
2 small apples, cored and cut into chunks
2 clementines, cut into segments
½ cup (packed) brown sugar
Maple syrup or honey – adjust to preferred level of sweetness
Brandy or rum to spike – optional

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Add everything, except the maple syrup or rum if using and heat gently over a low to medium heat and allow all the flavours to mingle. Leave on a low heat for around 20 minutes. Don’t allow the cider to boil. You can also do this in a crockpot or slow cooker if you have one.  Taste and add a little maple syrup or honey to sweeten a little.

Serve hot in heatproof glasses or mason jars with a shot of brandy or rum if desired and decorated with a cinnamon stick.

Cranberry mulled cider

The non-alcohol version would be lovely for Christmas morning, opening presents with the children.

Buckeyes

We all love peanut butter in my house, especially Reece’s peanut butter cups.  Not overly keen on the chocolate though, sorry!  These are very similar to a peanut butter cup, but homemade and – well, nicer chocolate too!

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I’ve seen buckeyes around on the internet for a few years now and they are traditional in Ohio as they resemble the buckeye tree nut – basically just like a conker.  They are traditionally served around Christmas time, so I thought I would have a go and bring buckeyes to the UK.

They are really easy to make and take no time at all to make a batch.  I have a double recipe here, which makes practically a whole tree full, but you can halve the recipe, or halve the dough, freeze it and make some another time.  They are really rich and indulgent, so you wouldn’t want to eat too many anyway, but great for a crowd.

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I have used a mixture of dark and milk chocolate, but you could go all dark to offset the sugar a little if you wish.

Ingredients:
500g smooth peanut butter – I used Skippy
120g softened butter
pinch of salt
1tsp vanilla extract
450g icing sugar – seived
200g dark 70% chocolate
100g milk chocolate

Method:
Beat the peanut butter, butter, salt and vanilla in bowl until smooth. I use my stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but this is easily done by hand.

On low speed (and with a towel wrapped around the mixer) beat in the sugar until combined. You are looking for a fairly stiff and mouldable mixture that you can easily roll into balls without getting in a mess. If it looks too sticky, add in a little more icing sugar. Similarly, if it is too dry and turns into crumbs, add another spoon of peanut butter. Its a very simple mixture, you can’t really go wrong.

Taking around a tablespoon of mixture for each one, roll into balls and place on a non stick liner, or waxed parchment. Skewer each one with a cocktail stick and chill, or freeze until firm.

Buckeyes

When you are ready to dip, break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in the microwave, stirring the last few lumps in the residual heat to completely melt.

I like to transfer to a smaller bowl at this point as you want to dunk the balls to coat them.

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Dip each ball into the molten chocolate and let the excess run back into the bowl and place back onto the non stick liner. As the peanut butter balls are so cold, the chocolate will set immediately and leave you with a nice, thin, crisp shell.

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Finish coating all of the balls, tipping the bowl as the chocolate runs out and leave to set.

Pull out the cocktail sticks and leave the chocolate to completely set, before smoothing out the hole with a clean finger, or the back of a teaspoon.

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I prefer them kept refrigerated, but you can place them into little paper cases in a festive box and give them as gifts.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Spiced Maple Frosting

Who doesn’t love a whoopie pie?  These yummy treats are made with pumpkin, spices and sandwiched together with a decadent, spiced, maple cream cheese frosting.  All the flavours of autumn in one small (if indulgent) little cake.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie

I made mine in a couple of Wilton 12 hole, Harvest whoopie pie pans, but they work just as well baked on a baking sheet with a non-stick liner, or parchment paper.  If you do use one pan, just be aware that you will need to keep washing and re-greasing it between baking the batches.  This can be a little time consuming, but if you want the cute shapes, totally worth it of course!

I’ve used a mixture of dark and light brown sugar and lots of spice for a dark and spicy mixture. There is more spice in the frosting too, along with maple extract.  All the flavours work so well together and create a perfect autumnal treat.

This recipe makes around 24 whoopie pies, depending on how big you make them

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Ingredients:
200g dark brown soft sugar
200g light brown soft sugar
200ml vegetable oil
2 extra large eggs
1 can of pure pumpkin puree
380g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
A little extra butter, melted for brushing the whoopie pie pan

Frosting:
280g full fat cream cheese at room temperature
115g butter at room temperature
450g icing sugar
2tsp maple extract/or use 2tbs maple syrup
2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp ground cloves
Pinch of ground allspice

Method:
Prepare the fosting first by seiving together the icing sugar and spices into a bowl.

In another bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and maple extract together until light and fluffy. I do this in my stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, but you could easily do this with a wooden spoon.

Beat in the spiced icing sugar until smooth and fluffy.  I wrap a towel around the mixer at this point to avoid huge clouds of icing sugar coating my entire kitchen!  You don’t get that problem with a wooden spoon!

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When the frosting is prepared, I pile it into a piping bag and chill until I’m ready to sandwich the cakes together.  This helps to firm up the frosting a little and make it easier to handle.  You could just leave it in a covered bowl in the fridge if not using a piping bag.

To make the whoopie pies:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF and brush the baking pan with melted butter or line a baking sheet with a non-stick liner or parchment.

Sieve the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and soda together in a large bowl.

Place the oil, sugars and vanilla in a bowl and whisk together.  I used a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, but this could easily be done with a hand whisk.

Beat in the pumpkin and eggs until smooth, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.

If using a whoopie pie pan, I find it easiest to use a piping bag.  I pipe the mixture around the outside first to ensure the batter gets into all the corners and then work into the centre in a spiral.  You only need to half fill the little holes as the mixture will rise.  Give the pan a tap to help any air escape and settle the mixture.

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If not using a pan, drop heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto the lined baking sheet, leaving room for the cakes to expand a little.

Bake for around 7 – 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them, they are ready when the cakes spring back to the touch and a cocktail stick comes out clean.

Leave them to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack and baking the next batch.  Let cakes cool completely.

When all the cakes are baked and cooled, either pipe or spread a little of the frosting onto one side and sandwich the two cakes together.  You can leave them plain, or add a few sprinkles around the edge.  I’ve used some bronze sprinkles here, which I think work well, but some people have been known to add crispy bacon bits too!

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These are great for a party, an after-school snack, or just with a cup of coffee.