Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Lots of Treats

What a lovely time I had on Friday at 'Let's Make Christmas' at Fortnum and Mason, meeting with Vanessa, Dan Lepard, and so many interesting fellow foodies. 

Vanessa and Dan

We took our gifts along, everything had a ticket attached, and then a lucky dip so we got to take home some different goodies.

The delicious Little Wafers are White Chocolate with Rose and Dark Chocoate with Orange, and were made by Sarah from Sarahs Kitchen Diary and she also made the Piccalilli.  My hubby and sons were extremely impressed by this as I refuse to buy it, the shop ones are such a vivid artificial yellow that seems to stain everything they touch.  I am trying to persuade them to save this lovely treat for Christmas but they think it should be opened now and then I can make some more! 

The scrumptious Fig and Nut cake was made by Lady Rhubarb and just look at the label she attached.  A work of art.

If you would like to enjoy these Christmas treats or are looking for ideas for Christmas gifts to make then do visit their blogs for the recipes.

A very big thank you is due to Vanessa, and also to Dan, and Fortnum and Mason's for hosting this fun gathering.  They not only gave us space, but provided tea and cakes all afternoon and then gave us all a goodie bag to take home.  I am looking forward to their White Chocolate and Cranberry Florentines but have squirrelled them away with a label on ' Don't Touch - For Christmas'.

Fortnum and Mason now have their Christmas window displays, based on The Follies this year, and a real treat to behold whilst anticipating all the wonderful delights inside.

Always difficult photographing shop window displays but these give you just a glimpse.  Inside there were more of the follies to greet us and a spectacularly decorated store.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Let's Make Christmas Three

Today has been a flurry of activity in between work.  Gingerbread cake was made before work this morning and then gingerbread and icing this evening, with lunch break spent shopping, and some blogs to put together it's no wonder that I am feeling a little tired, but so excited about meeting blogging friends tomorrow.

Anyway, over the years numerous Gingerbread Houses have been made for Christmas, I am not quite sure why we don't make them all year round but probably because of the white icing snow effect.  I shall have to think about this as really there is no reason not to use different coloured icing and therefore not have a snowy effect.  I don't remember Hansel and Gretel traipsing through the snow, and ending up in the witch's gingerbread house.  In fact the more I think about it the more I am sure they didn't because they dropped crumbs of stale bread to find their way back but of course the birds ate them.  Those crumbs wouldn't have shown up on snow.

However, I am digressing so back to Gingerbread Houses.  Now although I have normally made them with children in mind and have often put a surprise inside, there always seems to be adults tucking in as well.  Ginger is definitely a popular adult taste and my Mother always requests ginger goodies if asked what she would like for birthdays or Christmas.  So with this in mind I thought about creating a Gingerbread House for adults.  As we always seem to be worried about eating too many Christmas treats a small size won't make anyone feel too guilty!  Now I said that it is fun to have a surprise inside the houses and this one is of a very gingery sort.  The house is built around a gingerbread cake that has been cut in half and filled with a piece of stem ginger and then a ginger buttercream to hold it all together.  

Gingerbread Surprise House

Gingerbread Cake recipe from Good Housekeeping Cookery Book

450g  Plain Flour
5 ml  Salt
15 ml Ground Ginger
15 ml  Baking powder
5 ml  Bicarbonate of Soda
225g  Demerara Sugar
175g  Butter or margarine
175g Treacle
175g  Golden Syrup
250 ml  Milk
1 Egg, beaten 

Grease and line a 23cm square cake tin.  (I actually used individual square cake tins). Sift the flour, salt, ginger, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.  Warm the sugar, fat, treacle and syrup until melted, but do not allow to boil.  Mix in the milk and the egg.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid and mix thoroughly.  

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven at 170C (Mark 3) for about one and half hours, or until firm to the touch.  Turn out to cool on a wire rack.

Gingerbread Biscuits

I have had this recipe for years written on a piece of notepaper, but I think it came from one of my sisters.  Another imperial measurement one! 

12 oz  Plain Flour
1  teaspoon  Bicarbonate of Soda
2  teaspoons Ground Ginger
4 oz Butter, diced
6 oz  Soft Light Brown Sugar or Muscovado Sugar
4 tablespoons  Golden Syrup
1 Egg, beaten

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger.  Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Stir in the sugar.  Beat the syrup into the egg, then stir into the flour mix.  Mix together to form a smooth dough then knead until smooth.  

Divide the mixture into two and roll out half at a time on a floured surface until quarter inch thick.  Cut out shapes and place on greased baking sheets.  Bake at Gas 5 for 12 to 15 minutes.  Leave to cool slightly then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Having made the gingerbread cake I then cut templates to make my house.

Let's Make Christmas Two

The next gift idea for Christmas is based on those chocolates and sweets that I first started making when but a youngster.  Now in days B.C. (Before Children) I would make huge quantities of sweet treats and due to demand even sold some at work.  The money from those then funded all the ones that I gave away to family and friends.  I used to make at least 20 varieties but these days, with the demands of family, it is usually just some of the favourite sorts.  So here are the recipes for four different truffles.  

The Rum Truffle recipe is the one my mother always makes.  The other three came from my grandmother's friend, who taught me.  As they are rather old recipes they are in imperial measurements, which I have to say I still use most of the time!  With all the recipes I was taught that once you have added egg yolk keep over the heat for 2 minutes stirring all the while so that they keep longer.

Chocolate Rum Truffles

6 oz  Plain Chocolate
1 oz  Butter
2  teaspoons Rum
1  Egg yolk, lightly beaten
2  teaspoons Evaporated Milk or cream
Plain Chocolate vermicelli or cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water.  Add the butter and mix, then keep stirring and add in a thin stream the Rum, beaten egg yolk and evaporated milk or cream.  Mix well then remove from the heat and put in a cold place for at least an hour.  

Take teaspoons of the mixture and roll into balls in your hand, then roll in the chocolate vermicelli or cocoa powder.

Orange Liqueur Truffles

2 oz  Milk Chocolate
1 oz  Butter
3 oz  Icing Sugar
1 Egg yolk, lightly beaten
Grated rind of a small Orange
1 teaspoon Cointreau 
Milk Chocolate vermicelli or extra icing sugar.

Pour Cointreau over orange rind.  Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water.  Mix the egg yolk with the cointreau and orange and then pour in a thin stream into the melted chocolate, stirring all the time.  Continue to stir for a couple of minutes and then remove from the heat and mix in the icing sugar.  Beat well then leave the mixture to cool.  Work the mixture with a wooden spoon before shaping and rolling in vermicelli or icing sugar. 

Alpini Truffles

2 oz  Milk Chocolate
1 oz  Butter
3 oz  Icing Sugar
1  Egg yolk, lightly beaten
4 oz  Hazelnut spread
Quarter oz of Hazelnuts
Milk chocolate or blended Milk and Dark chocolate for dipping

Toast the hazelnuts and chop them into small pieces.  Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water.  Pour the egg yolk in a thin stream into the melted chocolate, stirring all the time.  Continue to stir for a couple of minutes and then remove from the heat and mix in the icing sugar, and lastly the chopped hazelnuts and hazelnut spread.   Beat well then leave the mixture to cool.  Shape into rough logs  and leave to firm for an hour. 

Melt the chocolate for dipping in a bowl over a pan of hot water and dip the logs.  Before the chocolate sets on top mark with the back of a fork.  When set dust with icing sugar.

Cherry Brandy Truffles

3 oz  Plain Chocolate
1 oz  Butter
2 oz  Ground Almonds
2 oz Icing Sugar
Almond essence
12  Glace cherries
Cherry Brandy liqueur
Plain chocolate for dipping

Soak the cherries and 1 teaspoon of the syrup from the pot in  Cherry Brandy liqueur.  I normally leave for at least a week, often longer. 

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water.  Add 2 teaspoon of the syrup and liqueur, a few drops of almond essence and, lastly, the almonds and sugar.  Mix well.  Form into balls and press half a cherry into the top.

Leave to firm for an hour.  Melt the chocolate for dipping in a bowl over a pan of hot water and dip the cherry truffles then leave to set.