The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.
Bible, Isaiah, Chapter 7
The well known affirmation by the prophet Isaiah announces the coming of the Messiah into human history. It already gives us a taste of the proximity of the marvelous Christmas day which will be the coming of Jesus. It was foretold by the prophets and proclaimed throughout the whole of Sacred Scriptures that He would be the One who would fulfil and bring them to completion. Our God will be incarnated and born due to the generous willingness of the ‘Virgin’ who, from the very beginning of time, was chosen to be the Mother of the Savior. Wake up, therefore, because the birth of the Lord is almost at hand, go to meet Him in His glory: to listen to him, to love Him and to follow Him and give gifts to him! My gift is baking.
250 g strong white bread flour
2 tbsp light muscovado sugar
162 tsp salt
15 g fresh yeast
2 tsp mixed spice
45 g butter
100 ml milk, plus 1 tbsp
1/2 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp brandy
1 egg yolk, one egg
1 tbsp vegetable oil
150 g mix of sultanas and raisins, mixed peel, glacé cherries, roughly chopped
zest 1 orange and 1 lemon
200g white marzipan
For the icing
50 g icing sugar, plus more to dust and enough water to achieve
Soak raisins, mixed peel and cherries in brandy, honey and tea overnight.
Put the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into a large bowl and mix. Rub in the butter. Put milk, treacle and brandy into a pan and warm until the treacle melts. Stir well. Beat one of the eggs and the oil into the liquid, then add the whole lot to the dry ingredients and mix to a smooth dough. Let it sit for 10 mins, then knead for 10 min on a lightly floured surface until smooth and springy. Put into an oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave it overnight in the fridge. Bring the dough back up to room temperature before use. Lightly flour the work surface. Tip the dough from its bowl, devide into 8-10 pieces and press them out into a rectangle. Scatter over the fruit and zest, knead in until even, then roll out the dough to a rectangles. Roll the marzipan into a thick sausage the same length as the dough. Sit it in the middle of the dough, wet the dough a little around the edges and roll it around the marzipan.Heat oven to 200 degrees C. Put onto them into bun baking trays, then cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise until about half their size again. Beat the second egg with 1 tbsp milk and brush it all over the buns. Optionally, sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 15 mins or until risen and golden. After a few mins cooling, lift onto a cooling rack. Melt the icing sugar with 4 tbsp just-boiled water, then brush the syrup all over the buns. Dust with a little more sugar to serve.
For the batter
200 g dark muscovado sugar
175 g butter, chopped
150 g luxury mixed dried fruits, glacé cherries
2 tsp grated fresh root ginger
zest and juice 1 orange
100 ml dark rum
199 g nuts, roughly chopped
3 large eggs, beaten
85 g ground almonds
200 g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
For the icing
400 g marzipan, 4 tbsp warm apricot jam, 500 g pack fondant icing, icing sugar, for dusting
Tip the sugar, butter, dried fruit, whole cherries, ginger, orange zest and juice into a large pan. Pour over the rum, brandy or juice, then put on the heat and slowly bring to the boil, stirring frequently to melt the butter. Reduce the heat and bubble gently, uncovered for 10 mins, stirring every now and again to make sure the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Set aside for 30 mins to cool. Stir the nuts, eggs and ground almonds into the fruit, then sift in the flour, baking powder and spices. Stir everything together gently but thoroughly, so the batter is ready. Heat oven to 150 degrees C. Scoop the cake mix into 12 deep muffin cases, then level tops with a spoon dipped in hot water. Bake for 40-45 mins until golden and just firm to touch. A skewer inserted should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack.Unravel the marzipan onto a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar. Stamp out desired shapes. Brush the cake tops with apricot jam, top with a marzipan round and press down lightly. Decorate with sugared almonds and snowflakes, then leave to set. Will keep in a tin for 3 weeks.
“Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.”
Bible, Psalm, 89:1-4, 19-26