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Category: Food

Sweet Treats for Christmas

In my last blog I promised you a few Christmas sweet-treat recipes, so here they are. I make these every year to give to people as small gifts. I don’t dare keep them in the house too long or else I’d eat them myself! 

1. Christmas Crack

This recipe was given to me years ago by my friend Violeta, who is a superlative cook, and I make it every year. And if I don’t, I get reminded!! I parcel it up in cellophane bags as a small gift. Warning: it’s called Christmas Crack for a reason — a salty-sweet-crunchy-toffee-chocolatey-nutty delight, it’s deliciously addictive. 

Ingredients
1)  4 ounces salada biscuits (saltine crackers or plain non-sweet salted dry biscuits — enough to line your baking tin (or biscuit sheet or jelly roll pan). Mine is approx 9.5 x 14 inches (24 cm x 35 cm, but the size of the tin doesn’t matter much — as long as you can line it completely with the crackers. Depending on the tin size, the resulting toffee mix will be slightly thicker or thinner.)
2)   250 g butter  (1 cup or 1 stick)
3)   250 g brown sugar (1 cup) (but white sugar is okay or a mix of both)
4)   2 cups chocolate melts or a slab of good cooking chocolate broken up. Dark or milk, it doesn’t matter. I often mix them up.
5)  3/4 cup chopped nuts — I use lightly toasted flaked (sliced) or slivered almonds, but any nuts will do, or use sprinkles if you’re allergic to nuts.

Directions
1  Preheat oven to 205 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit)
2  Line baking tin with baking paper(parchment paper), then line it with salada/saltine crackers in single layer.
3  In a saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil then boil without stirring for 3 – 4 minutes. Immediately pour over saltine crackers and spread to cover crackers completely.
4  Bake for about 6 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes while the chocolate melts. (see pic)  Spread melted chocolate and top with chopped nuts. Cool completely and break into pieces.

People generally eat it as a sweet treat, but you can also use the crumbs (or crumble it lightly) as sprinkles to top ice-cream. You can google other recipes for this. There are dozens. Here’s one.

Easy “cheats” nougat

No candy thermometer needed for this one, it was passed on by my friend Anne L. and uses marshmallows from the supermarket.

I use a square lamington tin (approx 9inches or 24 cms square) but it’s a very forgiving recipe and a variety of tins can be used. I’ve also tried to make the quantities useful for a range of countries, but they are also slightly flexible, so don’t worry too much about getting them ultra-exact. And once you’ve made one batch, you’ll want to experiment, I’m sure.

Ingredients:
1)  several of sheets of rice paper  (enough to line the tin top and bottom)
2)  80 gms (5.5 tabsp or 1/3 cup) butter
3)  500 gms (approx 1 lb) white marshmallows (from the supermarket)
4)  375 gms (approx 13 ozs or 1.5 cups) white chocolate melts (buttons)
5)  4 cups toasted almonds, (I often add dried cranberries and pistachios for some Christmas color.) 

Directions
1) Line the tray with baking paper then with rice paper.
2) Toast almonds (on foil under griller or in oven) until golden
3) Melt butter gently and add marshmallows. Allow to melt, then add white chocolate melts, stir to combine.
4) Take off heat and add roast nuts and berries. Mix well.
5) Pour mix into lined tray, spread evenly, cover with rice paper and baking paper again and smooth with bread board (to make flat and firm.)
6) Refrigerate for 4 hours.
7) Slice as fancy as you like. They look pretty cut into bars and wrapped in clear cellophane. Or cling-wrap.

They can also be made with dark chocolate (see pic above). One year I couldn’t find packets of white marshmallows anywhere, only white and pink marshmallows packed together. So I bought double quantities and made my usual white nougat. I didn’t want to waste the pink ones but I don’t eat marshmallows, so I decided to try the recipe using milk/dark chocolate. It turned out beautifully and was very yummy.

Mendiants 

I often make mendiants as a gift and present them in a small, pretty box.  They are quick and simple to make, yet yummy, so they also make an excellent make-at-the-last-minute gift. 

On a sheet of foil, I place small blobs of melted chocolate (half a dozen blobs at a time) and working quickly before the chocolate sets, I arrange on each a collection of nuts and dried fruit.

For toppings I use spiced cocoa almonds, macadamia nuts, pistachios, candied ginger and dried figs, and the chocolate I generally use is Lindt dark chocolate. But you can use whatever you like. I usually print off this label to go with them because a traditional French confection with monkish connections sounds so much better than a blob of chocolate with nuts and dried fruit on it, doesn’t it?

Mendiants are traditional French confections composed of  chocolate disks studded with nuts and died fruits. Traditionally, the nuts and dried fruits used refer to the color of monastic robes — raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnut for the Augustins, dried fig for Franciscans and almond for Carmelites. Now a Christmas tradition,  recipes for this confection have embraced other combinations of toppings.

If you try these recipes, let me know how you go. They really are quite yummy and straightforward, and my friends are always very happy to receive them.

A trifle for Christmas

It’s Christmas Day and all over the world people are celebrating. And feasting.

Here, it’s summer time, but because so many of us have ancestry from the northern hemisphere, we all still dream of a white Christmas (though many of us have never experienced snow) and the shop windows are full of fake snow — even while we’re roasting in the heat.

A lot of people still eat the full traditional Christmas dinner, with roast (baked) meats and vegetables, followed by the traditional plum pudding. 

I love plum pudding, but this year I made trifle instead. If you’ve never made trifle, it’s easy — more a case of assembling a dish, rasher than cooking. In this case, I bought sponge cake, sliced it thin and made a kind of sandwich with lemon curd (home made — also easy)

Put a layer of cake in the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle it with sherry (or orange juice), then layer in fruit, custard, fruit, jelly (jello) and repeat the process. I always use fresh fruit –  for this one I used mostly mangoes and lots of blueberries, strawberries,  youngberries and raspberries, but I’ve also used other fruits in the past — bananas, passionfruit,  peaches, apricots, kiwifruit — anything yummy, really. Mostly I try to use fresh fruit, but if fresh fruit is in short supply, a little added good canned  fruit, like sliced peaches, is fine. 

The final layer is freshly whipped cream topped with fruit. It’s light and yummy, and even nicer the second day.  (In fact I did all except the final whipped cream and fruit layer the night before.) And perfect for dessert in the warm weather.

Do you like trifle? Do you usually have plum pudding for Christmas dinner or not?

Wishing you all the best for the festive season.
Anne xx

Edible gifts

I’m very fond of making edible gifts — really it’s just an excuse to make something fun, and then give it away so that I’m not tempted to eat it myself.

This year I made “Christmas crack” and white chocolate nougat. Both are quite easy to make but look pretty and, wrapped in cellophane, make lovely small edible gifts. The nougat is on the right. I use a “cheat’s recipe” passed on by a friend. Her recipe only used almonds, but I switched it to almonds, pistachios and dried cranberries to make it more Christmassy. When I put it on my Facebook page, so many people asked me for the recipe, I thought maybe it ought to go here, as well. So here’s the recipe.

 

The other thing I made—and I often make this for Christmas, as it’s so yummy and people always love it — is called “Christmas crack”. It’s a layer of salted crackers with toffee baked over (and into) them, then chocolate melted over that and sprinkled with toasted nuts – I use flaked or slivered almonds. It’s made as a slice, and you chill it in the fridge and then break it up.

It’s toffee nutty salty chocolatey goodness — and be warned, it’s addictive.

Here are two of the little bags  of Christmas Crack that I gave to friends at a pre-Christmas author dinner. There are heaps of recipes on the web, and here’s one.

All the very best for the festive season. I hope you have a peaceful and happy time, with good food and good company.