Friday, 20 December 2013

More Christmassy goodies

I'm not a big one for "stuff" (ornaments, keepsakes and that sort of thing) and consequently have no eye whatsoever for what "stuff" (if any) might appeal to other people. This, along with the fact I enjoy cooking and baking, means I tend to gravitate towards food gifts for Christmas. I've blogged Christmas Spice Cookies and white chocolate and cranberry cookies before, so here are some other recipes I've used  more recently.

Pretzel bites (pictured, right) are ridiculously easy and almost as ridiculously moreish, if you are into the sweet-salty thing. The verdict from my brother and his clan was that the bag barely made it home! The basics are:

150g salted pretzels, broken but not crushed to smithereens.
250g chocolate - white, dark, plain, any flavour you like
50-75g 'extras' - dried fruit or other goodies.

Melt the chocolate and stir in the pretzels and any other goodies. Dollop into bite-size mounds on foil, clingfilm or a silicon cookie mat, and refrigerate until set.

The original recipe uses white chocolate and sultanas, which I then varied to white chocolate and dried cranberries for extra Christmassy pep. Candied peel would also work, I think. This year's variation is dark mint chocolate (I used Green & Black's), and crushed candy canes sprinkled on top of the bites before they set. I will say that candy canes, if they are of the chewy variety, are harder to smash than you think! I conceded defeat with the rolling pin and had to blitz the last few big bits.

Peppermint creams are an old favourite - this recipe was good but a bit wetter than ideal. Given that just a little more or less liquid can really make a difference to icing sugar I'm surprised at the use of the naturally variable amounts of egg white and lemon in the recipe. Next time I'll measure, and not add all the lemon at once. I'd also hold back just a bit on the mint, as it was more extra-strong than candy cane!

1 free-range egg white
½ lemon, juice only
1 tsp peppermint flavouring
425g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
(optional - tiny drop of food colouring if you want)
175 dark chocolate, for dipping/piping

Whisk egg white to stiff peaks and fold in everything else except the chocolate. Work until smooth on a surface dusted with sugar - if you want to use colour for only part of the mixture, divide it here and work in the colour to one half. Roll out to pound coin thickness and use cutters of your choice to cut out shapes, then chill until set. Melt the chocolate and dip, pipe, drizzle, or use some other inventive method to get it on the creams.

The Rocky Road to Christmas Excess (pictured above, left) - adapted from this Nigella recipe. Like a normal Rocky Road, but with festive goodies. Indulgent, and serves several people as a present since it's so rich it's able to be cut into very small pieces!

400g dark chocolate - I used 200g plain and 200g of Green & Black's Maya Gold
175g butter
4tbsp golden syrup
Moderate handfuls of Christmassy inclusions - I used:
Gingerbread pieces (mix of lumps/crumbs)
Shortbread pieces (ditto)
Mini marshmallows
Glace cherries (halved or whole)
Candied peel
Sultanas soaked overnight in Cointreau (sherry, brandy, whatever... or tea for a non-alcoholic option)

Nigella says you can melt the chocolate directly over a gentle heat with the butter and syrup, but I don't trust my electric hob to be gentle so I used the double boiler method for the chocolate and stirred in the separately-melted-then-cooled-a-bit butter and syrup. Then add that mix to the goodies in a mixing bowl, and stir gently until well combined (the marshmallows will melt and mix in if you are too rough). Pour into a clingfilm-lined deep tray and refrigerate overnight. Turn out, chop into bite-size cubes and dust with icing sugar and maybe edible glitter or lustre if you're feeling sparkly.

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