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.
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 chips or a slab of good cooking chocolate broken 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.
1 Preheat oven to 205 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 Line baking tin with foil, 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 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.
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.)
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.
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.