Christmas baking competition

robert dyas_81419We have a baking bundle from Robert Dyas, worth £250, to give away to Countryside’s best Christmas baker

We’re asking you to either make an advent calendar, build your own gingerbread house or bake a meringue cake. Miranda Gore Browne has made all three to help to guide and inspire you, but you can make any 3D structure and the advent calendar is down to your imagination. You can also follow Miranda’s lead and make lots of different treats to hang on your calendar, add messages and little packets of ingredients, so friends and family can make their own cakes and biscuits. Or you can come up with something completely different!

The prize
Make light work of baking and perfect your skills with this exclusive bundle of baking goodies from high street favourite, Robert Dyas. Whether you’re crazy about cakes, barmy about bread, or particular about pies, you’ll be cooking up a storm in your kitchen and be the envy of all your friends with this huge range of goodies!

Along with essentials like nesting bowls, scales, a cooling rack, measuring jugs, and a rolling pin, you’ll be able to unleash your creative side with a piping set and pastry and batter cutters. Essentially everything you need to give Mary Berry a run for her money!

How to enter
Once you have baked your cake, constructed your 3D structure or made your advent calendar, take some photos and email them together with a brief description to: bG9ybmEubWF5YmVyeUBuZnUub3JnLnVr. Entries will be collated and sent to Miranda Gore Browne for the final judging. Her decision will be final. The closing date is 10 December 2021 and, for full terms and conditions, click here. Good luck and happy Christmas baking!

advent calendar_81414Baking and kindness advent calendar

Rather than frantically pulling open the doors on a shop-bought advent calendar, why not enjoy making your own and creating a more meaningful countdown to Christmas. Here’s my take on an edible advent calendar – add your own recipes and ideas for food kindness and enjoy counting down to Christmas in a more thoughtful way. It’s fun to create and personalise, and a great way to bring everyone together through food throughout December.

You’ll need:
Christmas ribbons
White string
Posting labels
Biscuit cutters
Little pegs
Paper bags
A pin board or chalkboard (or hang like bunting)

Edible gift ideas:
Some foodie gifts will last the 24 days until Christmas, but you might prefer to make in three batches, and fill the calendar as you go.
Fudge lasts well, as does coconut ice, toffee and gingerbread, or if you’re making in instalments, you could pop in homemade favourite biscuits – jammy dodgers, bourbons, millionaires shortbread or flapjack.
Gingerbread biscuits in Christmas shapes or initials are lovely, as are homemade hot chocolate dippers.
Foodie kits can be added in little bags.

Here are a few ideas for some foodie kits, but use your imagination and come up with your own ideas for your advent calendar.
Magic Reindeer food:
Edible glitter
Sugar sprinkles
Instructions: On Xmas Eve sprinkle on the grass, so Father Christmas’s reindeer can see where to land and have a rewarding snack!

Warming porridge for a winter’s morning:
1 cup of porridge oats
1 tbsp of drinking chocolate
1 tbsp of sultanas or dried cranberries
A pinch of mixed spice or cinnamon

Festive film night supplies:
1 cup of popcorn
A list of Christmas films to watch together

Acts of festive kindness
Here are a few ideas for some acts of festive kindness that you might like to add to your advent calendar. Think about what it might be nice to add to yours.
Make a garden bird feeder
Make dog biscuits and send to all your friend’s dogs!
Call a grandparent, aunt or uncle or family friend and ask them if they would share their favourite Christmas recipe with you.
Make a big batch of Christmas biscuits, wrap tightly and box them up. Post to family and friends.
Bake a double batch of cakes and drop one into a neighbour you haven’t seen for a while.
Drop some food into your local foodbank.
Sign up to volunteer for a local food-based charity, to help deliver food or to cook for them.

gingerbread figures_81417

Biscuit farming scene

Create a 3D farming scene out of biscuits and let your imagination run wild. We aren’t looking for perfection or Paul Hollywood handshakes; make your own shapes and templates, show us your creativity, get the children involved and tell us the story behind what you’ve made, what inspired you and any challenges you faced along the way.
Here’s a little chocolate biscuit barn that I have made to inspire you and also my recipe for a delicious chocolate gingerbread but feel free to experiment, make your own design and weave in your own flavours, quirkiness and structural supports.
I always use royal icing to stick my biscuit creations together, but you might prefer to use a different kind of edible adhesive!
You may find it easier to do this project over a couple of days. Day 1: make the dough and leave it to chill and rest, Day 2: cut out the gingerbread house shapes, rest again and then bake, Day 3: decorate and build.

Milk chocolate gingerbread:
100g milk chocolate, melted
400g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
100g dark brown sugar
100g golden syrup
2 eggs
720g plain flour
80g cocoa
1 tsp of ginger
Pinch of salt
1 x 500g packet of roll out icing to cover your base
1 x 500g packet of pre-mixed royal icing sugar

Or make your own royal icing using this recipe:
500g icing sugar
2 egg whites
½ teaspoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of water

For the chocolate gingerbread: Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water or in short bursts in the microwave, then put to one side to cool a little.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Add the melted chocolate and golden syrup then mix again to combine.
Beat the eggs in a jug with a fork and then add to the mixture, mix gently.
Add all the remaining ingredients (sift the cocoa if it looks lumpy).
Mix gently until a dough forms. It will be quite sticky but that’s how it should be at this stage.
Shape the dough into two fat discs and wrap each one in non-stick baking paper. Pop the dough into the fridge to rest for at least 3-4 hours, or you can leave it for a couple of days.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out between two pieces of non-stick baking paper. Return to the fridge to chill for about an hour.
Lay the templates on top of the flat dough and cut around carefully with a craft knife, lift onto a lined baking tray and put back into the fridge. Chilling the pieces at this stage will ensure they keep their shape during baking.
Bake for about 20 minutes at 170 degrees then turn the oven down and bake for another 30 minutes at about 120 degrees. You need the biscuit shapes to be very dry and hard and this extra time in the oven really is essential so your construction will be sturdy enough.
Leave to cool before sticking together with the royal icing sugar and creating your farming scene.
For the royal icing: Use 500g premixed royal icing sugar mixed with a little water and whisked for about five minutes to make stiff peaks.
If you are making your own: Use a whisk attachment to beat together the icing sugar, egg whites and lemon juice and beat until stiff peaks form before adding the water.
Homemade royal icing should be kept in a bowl with a clean damp cloth over the top and can be refrigerated for about 5 days, you may need to whisk it again if it goes a bit runny.

gingerbread cutout_81415

To build the gingerbread house, you will need:
A pizza cutter or sharp knife
Non-stick baking paper
A board as a base (I used a chopping board)
A piping bag for the icing (or a food bag with the corner snipped off

sticky chocolate apple almond cake_81418

Sticky apple and chocolate meringue cake

Use 1 x 8 inch loose-bottomed cake tin, lined with a cake tin liner or non-stick baking paper.

For the cake:
200g unsalted butter
200g soft brown sugar
3 eggs
150g ground roasted hazelnuts or ground almonds
A pinch of salt
½ teaspoon of cinnamon or mixed spice
170g self-raising flour
30g of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of baking powder
100g milk or dark chocolate chopped into small chunks
400g British baking apples, peeled and cored then chopped into small pieces

For the meringue layer:
4 egg whites
200g caster sugar
½ teaspoon of cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Cream together the butter, sugar and mixed spice or cinnamon.
Beat the eggs in a jug and then add to the creamed butter and sugar mixture.
Gently fold in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, ground nuts and salt.
Add the chopped apples and chocolate chunks and carefully fold in. Scrape into the lined tin.
Stand on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven, set a timer for 30 minutes.
Whilst the cake is in the oven, make the meringue. Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form, then add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition until it’s smooth and glossy.
When the cake has baked for 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 170 degrees and then carefully lift the cake out of the oven onto a heatproof surface. Pipe or spoon the meringue on top and return to the oven on a low shelf to bake for a further 30 minutes.
Leave to cool a little, then remove from the tin and put onto a pretty cake stand.
Dust with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream, crème fraiche or thick yoghurt.

Related categories: Cakes and bakes Desserts Food Recipes

Last edited: 24 November 2021 at 15:05

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