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30 December 2014

New Year's Eve seems to get a lot of bad press. It's become one of those times of year that everyone looks forward to and quietly dreads simultaneously, worried perhaps that it will fall a little flat after all the hype. My Dad rejects it entirely - he goes to bed early in favour of a dawn walk on New Year's Day. Maybe he's onto something there.

While I've had my fair share of limp new year celebrations, I love the sentiment that the end of December brings. In Islam, New Year celebrations fall in late October, and constitute a time of fasting and reflection on past events in history. This might seem a strange bridge for a glutton such as myself, but I think it's easy to forget the significance of a new year amid all the angst about having a good time.

While fasting won't play a part in my celebrations, I think it's so important to reflect on the year gone, and get excited about the year ahead. A new year can be the clean page that we often need to kick bad habits or, more importantly, prompt us to start that thing we've been meaning to do all year and never quite got around to.

On 1st January 2015, Pudding Lane Blog will be one year old. This time last year, I was frantically attempting to code and trying to get this little page perfect. While I'm still striving for perfection, I am so happy, proud and quite frankly, surprised at how far this little blog has come in it's first year of online life.

While many of you favoured Gin and Tonic CakePudding Lane's debut recipe was the seasonally-fitting Post-Christmas Couronne. Other 2014 favourites included Salted Caramel Chocolate CakeOvernight Oats and Sweet Potato Brownies.

Since hitting 'publish' in a freezing, damp Stockwell kitchen on New Year's Day, Pudding Lane has hosted 44 posts (only 8 weeks of negligence then), gathered 500 Facebook likes and welcomed just over 400,000 pageviews. I don't go in for the numbers side of things often but, as this is a time for reflection, I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you that has stopped by and helped Pudding Lane get into gear. It really does mean the world to me.

Blogging has been my escape, solace and often, my sanity over this last year. My own life has come a little way too - along side a lot of tears and tonsilitis (sigh), I've navigated a house move, a promotion and a lovely new relationship. To anyone toying with the idea of starting their own little online playground - do it. You have nothing to lose, and there's never been a better time of year to give it a go.

For my last recipe post of 2014, I've gone a little European in terms of tradition. I read recently that doughnuts and other round pastries are eaten in Germany and Holland on New Year's Eve. Some say the shape represents the circularity of life, others say the opportunity to fill them with mustard instead of custard was too good a prank to miss.

Whichever your preference, here is my Doughnut recipe, which makes 6 and is adapted from Mr Paul Hollywood's. I've filled mine with custard because I love it, but feel free to substitute for jam (or mustard). Until next year - thank you. I hope you're able to enjoy these last few days of holiday with the people you love.
250g strong white flour
7g fast action yeast
5g salt
25g butter
25g caster sugar
1 egg
75ml warm milk
50ml warm water
oil for frying
150g caster sugar
for the creme patissiere filling
250ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
50g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
25g cornflour

Weigh all the dry ingredients into a large bowl, with the yeast on one side, the salt and sugar on the other. Add the butter, egg, milk and water to the middle. Using a gentle scrunching motion, stir with your hands until a slack, sticky dough is formed. Knead in the bowl until the dough is stretchy and some of the stickiness is gone. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for ten minutes until the dough is smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and allow to rise for around an hour.

Once the dough is doubled in size, tip onto a floured surface and knead to knock all of the air out. Divide into 6 equal pieces, and roll each one into a ball. Place on a lined baking tray, cover, and allow to rise for a further hour. Seperately, pour the caster sugar into a shallow bowl and set aside.

Fill a pan with oil, and use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. The oil need to be at 180C. Once the doughnuts have risen, lower them one at a time into the pan with a slotted spoon. I do two at a time, and cook them for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Carefully remove with the slotted spoon, and transfer into the bowl of sugar, rolling to coat. Repeat until all the doughnuts are cooked and coated in sugar, and allow them to cool before filling. 

If you are filling your doughnuts with custard, make the creme patissiere. Pour the milk and vanilla into a small pan, and heat until just boiling. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a large bowl. When the milk is just boiling, carefully pour half over the egg mixture, beating quickly until smooth. Add the rest of the milk and beat until smooth. Return the mixture to the pan, and whisk constantly over a medium heat until thickened - be careful not to leave it too long, or it will curdle.

Pour into a bowl, cover in clingfilm and leave to cool. Once cool, transfer to a piping bag, and pipe into the core of each doughnut. 

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