Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Baking

So summer has definitely gone into hiding around here....  we have had rain, wind, rain, and more rain for the past week... Not so great for the start of the 'summer' holidays, but perfect for a bit of christmas baking.

Over the past week we've made (more than once):

Vanilla Shortbread

100g icing sugar
200g standard flour
100g cornflour
200g unsalted butter
seeds from 1 vanilla pod (or essence with seeds)
caster sugar for sprinkling 

Preheat oven to 160C degrees.
Sift together icing sugar, flour and cornflour in a bowl, then rub in butter and vanilla pod seeds.
Blend until the mixture coheres and begins to form a ball. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour.
Roll out gently and cut into shapes then bake 15-20 minutes. 
The shortbread will be pale, but not doughy - a little golden around the edges but melting, not crispy.
Cool and sprinkle with caster sugar, or a mixture of cinnamon/sugar.

Dark Chocolate Licorice Rocky Road 
(Recipe from December Taste Magazine - or if you are feeling adventurous, you can use this recipe and make your own licorice too)

500g dark chocolate (60% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
200g marshmallows, roughly chopped
150g raw almonds, roasted in 180C oven for 10-12 minutes till golden, cooled then coarsely chopped
20g freeze-dried raspberries, plus extra for scattering
130g good quality black licorice roughly chopped.

Grease and line a 25cm x 16cm baking tin with baking paper, allowing the sides to overhang (for easy removal).
Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally with a metal spoon, until smooth (2-3 minutes).
Combine marshmallows, almonds, raspberries and licorice in a large bowl, pour in chocolate and stir to coat well. Spread mixture evenly over baking tin, scatter with extra freeze-dried raspberries and set aside until firm (about 2 hours).
Turn out onto a clean surface and cut into chunks with a hot knife. Store rocky road in an airtight container in the pantry; it will keep for up to 2 weeks. 

Butterscotch Meringues 

6 egg whites (room temperature)
2 cups caster sugar
1 teaspoon butterscotch or caramel essence (I used half vanilla and half caramel)
1 teaspoon malt vinegar
2 teaspoons cornflour

In a large metal, porcelain or glass (ie not plastic) bowl beat egg whites until soft peaks form. A hand-held electric beater is ideal for this job. Gradually, a teaspoon at a time, add the caster sugar. I emphasise, add the sugar slowly. The mixture should be getting glossy, thick and shiny with each addition and the whole sugar-adding process should take at least 10 minutes.

Beat in the essence, vinegar and cornflour. Spoon mixture out into little 'blobs' onto a baking paper-covered baking tray. Bake in a low 110-120 C oven (I actually did mine at about 90 - 100C) for approximately 45 minutes until dry and crisp. The meringues should just lift off the paper easily.

This also makes a fab pavlova recipe. Just make it into one large plate-size mound on the baking tray. Cooking time will be a little longer, but bake at the same temperature (110-120C) for about 1 1/2 hours.

Gingerbread Men

2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (we used soft brown sugar and it was fine!)
150g butter
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 180C. Line 2 trays with baking paper
Sift flour, baking soda, mixed spice and ginger together in large bowl. Add brown sugar.
Add butter and rub in with fingertips until it resembles find breadcrumbs. Add egg and mix to firm dough. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour to the mix (or if too dry you can add a little water). Roll into ball, wrap in gladwrap and pop in the fridge for half an hour (my girls were in a hurry so we actually popped it in the freezer for a bit!)
Roll out onto lightly floured surface until about 5mm thick. Using cookie cutters, cut shapes, place on trays and bake for 8-10 mins.

White Chocolate Rocky Road

800g good-quality white chocolate, chopped
2 cups (240g) marshmallows, halved
1 cup (150g) dried cranberries
1 cup (30g) freeze-dried raspberries
1 cup (30g) freeze-dried strawberries
1 cup (120g) shelled pistachio nuts, chopped

Grease and line a 20cm slice tin with baking paper.
Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Melt until smooth.
When chocolate us smooth and melted, remove from the heat and stir through the marshmallows and 3/4 cup of each of the cranberries, raspberries, strawberries and chopped pistachios. Stir until well combined.
Pour mixture into slice tin and scatter the remaining dried fruit and nuts over the top, pressing down lightly to ensure everything sticks together.
Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting with a hot, sharp knife. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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