Monday, January 3, 2011
Friday, December 24, 2010
In case you hadn't picked up over the last month, I really love Christmas. The kids and I have had so much fun this last week baking and decorating. Yesterday we made our own bon bons, cinnamon sugar crusted almonds and lovely little mince pies. The kids sang carols the whole day and practised a Christmas puppet show they want to perform. Lots of activity.
Today will be busy with glazing the ham, stuffing and roasting the turkey and adding the final layers to the mango and raspberry trifle with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. I wish I could write up all the recipes but they will have to wait for another Christmas. In the meantime I will leave you with a recipe for Bûche de Noël which is a beautiful dessert to have on the Christmas table. We like to dust with a little fresh snow (icing sugar) and strategically place some Christmas ornaments on top. You can make little mushrooms out of meringue but that is too much effort for me.
Home made bon bons filled with chocolates, Christmas bells, party poppers, little toys and terrible jokes!
Cinnamon sugar-crusted almonds.
Glazed ham - honey, mustard, soy sauce. The house smells delicious.
Mango and Raspberry Trifle.
Mini mince pies. Need to still make the brandy butter.
Santa sacks are ready for tonight's visitor. I'm thinking Santa might like a some Cointreau on ice and piece of Russian Caramel.
buche de noel
170g caster sugar
115g plain flour
55g cocoa powder
3 tablespoons hot water
chocolate buttercream icing
Grease and line a large swiss roll tin (roughly 30cm x 45cm). Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
In a mixmaster beat the eggs until light, fluffy and thick. Add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time and beat for a further minute or two until combined well.
Sift over half the cocoa and flour then fold through. Then fold in the hot water. Sift over the remaining cocoa and flour and fold through. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.
Lay down a tea towel with a sheet of baking paper over the top. Quickly and carefully tip the baked cake onto the the tea towel and paper. Roll up the cake from the longest edge along with the tea towel and paper and leave to cool wrapped in the tea towel.
When cooled, unwrap the cake and spread a thin layer of the prepared chocolate buttercream. You can add some whipped cream too if you like. Then roll it up again. At an angle slice off each end and use some of the buttercream to glue them back on in a way that it looks like a chopped off log. Play around with whatever looks good before 'gluing'. Then cover with the remaining buttercream but leave the ends exposed so it looks like a sawed off log. Run a fork through the buttercream to resemble bark.
Pop in the fridge to firm up and then dust with icing sugar and decorate before serving.
If you don't have a large swiss roll tin then you can use a 20cm x 30cm lamington tin. Just adjust the quantities. I think that should be alright. I have added an extra gram or 2 there.
115g caster sugar
85g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
2 tablespoon hot water
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Mrs Smith was a lady who lived over the road from us when I was a kid. Mum acquired the recipe for her well loved lemon balls which is basically a kiddie friendly rum ball. We like to make it even more kiddie friendly and replace some of the sultanas with some milk chocolate chips.
Making Mrs Smith's Lemon Balls yesterday was the kids project and I warn you it was messy. I have never seen such a flurry of activity in the kitchen before. The rules were clearly outlined. No eating any sticky mixture until all the balls were rolled and safely tucked away in the fridge. If you were unable to resist then you were off the cooking team. Essie failed. She had to go and eat the remaining mixture off her hands and then wash her hands in the bathroom.
She came back with an idea. She would just roll the balls in the coconut whilst Levi and Tilly did all the rolling. So she was back on the team and it seemed to work quite smoothly. Everyone was very proud of their efforts and all the lemon balls are hidden in the downstairs fridge ready to snack on over Christmas.
I would recommend making a double batch especially if you are leaving the cooking to children. We chopped up a big block of milk chocolate and mixed it in along with about 1/3 cup of sultanas. You can play around with extra additions.
mrs smith's lemon balls
10 weetbix, crushed
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup sultanas (I go half and half with chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice
tin of condensed milk
extra desiccated coconut to coat
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into a ball. Roll these in a plate of extra desiccated coconut.
Store in the fridge in an airtight container. Best made the day before.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
In last years Christmas edition of Gourmet Traveller is a beautiful feast that I have been dreaming of.
* grilled lobster and vine leaves with confit garlic and tomato
* turkey with pan roasted vegetables, muscat glazed onions and spiced orange
* red oak fennel and radish salad with red wine vinaigrette
All set in the vineyard of a winery in central Victoria. I would be very happy to be transported to that dining table come Christmas lunch.
I'm not lining up for seafood this year so there will be no lobster. Turkey will be on the menu so I thought I would at least put a jar of spiced orange on the table. They can be made well in advance and kept in a sterilised jar in the fridge for up to 2 months. This bottle I made last week to have with a turkey I roasted on the Weber.
The recipe calls for thin skinned oranges. I had no luck finding good oranges and therefore found the rind too bitter to eat however the flesh was so lovely with the turkey. It worked just the same as a big dollop of cranberry relish would. A bit of sweetness in each mouthful but next time I would like to add a few more spices.
The cinnamon spiked jar of oranges looked beautiful on the table and would be a lovely gift to take to someones house if they are hosting a big traditional turkey dinner. Next year I will make this a month or two earlier and hopefully get my hands on some better oranges.
On another note. Keeping toddlers and young children entertained on the holidays whilst preparing for all the things that need to be done for Christmas can be a little tricky. I will get the kids to help as much as possible but 2 year olds just aren't that helpful. Setting up a table of dry food, little bowls, a saucepan and spoons to 'cook' with keeps Elliott entertained for a good hour. An oldie but a goodie. Sometimes I need reminding of the simple activities that keep kids happily busy.
I set this little table up right next to the kitchen. Then I just sweep up the mess after. Amazingly he hasn't tired of it even though he has done it several times over the last week. The older kids like to get in and 'cook' too.
(from Gourmet Traveller December 2009)
1kg thin skinned oranges
1 kg sugar
350ml white wine vinegar
1 cinnamon quill
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the whole oranges. Bring back to the boil and then simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Remove oranges with a slotted spoon. When cool slice horizontally into 5mm slices.
In another saucepan combine the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon quill and 100ml water. Bring to the boil and leave to bubble away for 5 minutes. Add orange slices and simmer over a medium heat until translucent - about 4 minutes.
Once cooled cover and leave overnight. The next day bring it back to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer the orange slices to a sterilised jar. Bring the syrup back to the boil and leave it to boil for 2 minutes then pour over the oranges into the jar. Seal the jar.
Monday, December 20, 2010
The weekend was a big melting pot of all my favourite Christmas activities. A big roast turkey dinner on the Weber, Christmas parties, Christmas carols and a bit of Christmas baking. Thanks to the downpour all day yesterday it seemed appropriate to curl up inside with a glass of mulled wine and watch our absolutely favourite movie at this of year 'It's A Wonderful Life'. It is the one movie we watch every year and it makes us cry every single time. Highly recommend it!
I needed to make something for dessert for the Christmas carols family night at our church so I set the kids up in a production line to make some Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. These are a great little treat to get the kids to help out with providing there are no nut allergies. It is just a matter of combining the sugars, peanut butter and butter and pressing into mini cupcake cases. Then pouring melted chocolate over the top. Served cold from the fridge they are a satisfying bite. The chocolate cracks and the base is so buttery and yummy which pleases kids and adults.
One quantity makes 48 mini chocolate cups. Fantastic to make ahead for a party and then pull them out and serve them on a huge festive platter.
This is a Nigella Lawson recipe and she calls for a combination of milk and dark chocolate on top. Milk chocolate does go brilliantly with peanut butter however I have previously done a batch with just 50% dark chocolate which was fantastic.
(slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson's 'Nigella's Christmas')
In a mixmaster,food processor or just with a wooden spoon, combine the brown sugar, icing sugar, butter and peanut butter until combined and looks sandy. Divide the mixture in between 48 mini cupcake cases in a mini muffin tin. Press down firmly to make an even layer.
Melt the chocolate together either in a double boiler and then pour into the mini cupcake cases to make a top layer. Leave to set in the fridge.
Friday, December 17, 2010
This is one of my all time favourite recipes. Possibly my favourite, at least in the top 3. Boiling sugar scares me or rather I should say 'scared me'. I have overcome my fear as these caramels are so worth trying.
For the last 2 years I have only ever made these caramels at my mums so I have someone more experienced guiding me. But as my parents have fled the country and living in Russia at present I had to go alone this year. Firstly I wait until all the kids are in bed as I'm so worried about little children being anywhere near boiling sugar. Then I have Joel on hand to help pour the hot caramel into the jug. I would recommend having a helping hand so one person can hold the pot and tip whilst the other can scrape out all the delicious caramel with a spatula.
I found this recipe at Design Sponge where they make a lovely little origami box out of gift paper to pop the caramels in. They are called Fleur de Sel Caramels as they use Fleur de Sel which I don't have but I'm really keen to get my hands on some after reading this post from David Lebovitz. Instead I use Maldon sea salt. The recipes calls for 1 teaspoon and I find it needs more then that. At least 1 1/2 teaspoons so I do wonder if Fleur de Sel is well ... saltier.
(slightly adapted from Design Sponge)
In a small saucepan bring the cream, butter and fleur de sel to the boil then set aside.
Carefully pour in the cream mixture. It will bubble up. Then let it simmer, stirring often until the caramel registers 248 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Pour into the prepared tin and let it cool completely.
Once set they can be sliced into small pieces and wrapped in wax paper. Twist the ends of the wrapper.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
After years of wanting to make this Italian delicacy I finally tried my hand at it and I'm over the moon with the result. I put in all the things I love in Panforte like roasted nuts and orange zest and went quite light on the dried fruits which aren't my favourite thing.
Christmas 2003 I received Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer's Tuscan Cookbook from Joel and their Panforte recipe has always made me want to give it a go. That year I also received a lovely bottle of perfume from Joel too. We had been holidaying at the coast and came home Christmas eve to find the incredibly hot summer weather had caused the perfume to explode and leak all through the other presents. So every time I open up the Tuscan cookbook a strong perfume aroma seeps out. Just as well it is a lovely perfume.
But it wasn't the recipe that finally led me to try Panforte. Standing in line at the supermarket, flicking through the Summer issue of MasterChef magazine and I discovered 3 pages all on Panforte. I couldn't resist and it came home with me.
The next day I did a little outing to Mick's Nut to get lovely fresh, pesticide free almonds and hazelnuts. The nuts were then roasted lightly and they were perfect. I think the reason I was so happy with the result of the Panforte is because fresh nuts were used. I didn't use dried white figs, glace orange rind or raisins. Instead I used about 150g sultanas and the zest of 1 orange as I wanted the roasted nuts to be the main player but I will write down the original recipe.
Perfect to have with coffee around Christmas time. It makes a lovely gift. Give the whole Panforte - slice it into wedges before wrapping in plastic wrap then gift paper. Or you can give just 1 or 2 wedges in a celophane bag tied with a ribbon.
(from MasterChef magazine Issue 8)
150g natural almonds, lightly roasted and chopped roughly
150g hazelnuts, lightly roasted, skinned and chopped roughly
75g glace orange rind (or zest of 1 orange)
150g dried white figs, stems discarded, finely chopped
100g plain flour
2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder, plus extra to dust
1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
110g caster sugar
60g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Lightly grease and flour the sides of a 22cm round tin then line the base.
In a large bowl toss together the nuts, orange rind, raisins and figs.
In a small saucepan place sugar and honey and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for another 6 minutes or until a sugar thermometer reaches 118 degrees C. Remove syrup and add the chocolate. Swirl until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
Poor the syrup over the nut mix and stir with a wooden spoon until combined then tip everything into the prepared tin. Use wet hands to press the mixture level. Bake for 40 minutes and then allow 10 minutes to cool in tin before turning out to cool on a wire rack.
Sprinkle the extra cocoa powder over the top and slice up. It will last in a airtight container for up to 6 weeks.