Saturday, 24 December 2011

Chocolate Treats & Fruit Mince Pies

So it's Christmas Eve, and for me, that means last minute baking. Seeing as I made my Christmas pudding a few weeks ago, all I really have left to make was my Fruit Mince Pies. But, I also decided to whip up a recipe that I saw on Nigella Kitchen, which was for a Chocolate Treat. 

This chocolate square is very simple to make, but is absolutely moorish. I use a mix of milk and dark chocolate, but you can use all milk, or all dark, it's really up to you! Nigella recommends using a disposable foil tray to set the chocolate, and I agree, it's easy to get chocolate out. But, you can line a spring form tin and use that.

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
200g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate
250g salted peanuts
2 x 50g crunchie bars

Method

Combine the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan over low heat. Break the chocolate into the butter mixture.
While the chocolate is melting, put the peanuts into a medium sized mixing bowl, and break up the crunchie bars over the top. Mix them together.
Once the chocolate is melted and velvety, add it to the peanut mixture and stir to combine.
Pour the mixture into your prepared tin, cover and set in the fridge.






















Once the mixture is set you can cut it up into squares, or break it up into odd shaped pieces. 



























I've been making these mince pies for years, they are easy to make, and so much better than the store bought ones. I usually use jar fruit mince, and store bought pastry (mostly because I'm too lazy on Christmas Eve to make my own, but of course you can make your own)! If you can, use Careme Vanilla Bean Shortcrust Pastry, it's handmade, butter pastry using a french recipe, and is just as good as homemade, plus it's so full of butter that there is no need to line your cupcake trays! This makes about 16 large pies, or about 30 mini ones.

Ingredients

1 packet  Careme Vanilla Bean Shortcrust Pastry
2 Jars Fruit Mince

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C
Roll the pastry out between 2 sheets of baking paper. The pastry is pre-rolled, but I always roll it out a little bit more. Then use a pastry cutter, or a wide glass to cut rounds out of the pastry.






















Gently push the pastry discs into cupcake pans, and fill with fruit mince.
Bake for between 12 and 15 minutes, until the pastry is browning and the mixture is bubbling. 
Leave to cool in the trays for about 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool.  


Monday, 19 December 2011

Meringues

A couple of weeks ago, some girlfriends and I decided to have our own version of Christmas dinner. We decided that we should try to fit as much fun and food into this time of year as we could. We each decided on a dish to bring and set out for a night of eating.

I was asked, very kindly to make my meringues, so I thought, to make it a bit more special I would make them into mini pavlovas.

INGREDIENTS

4 x egg whites
250g x caster sugar
2 tsp x white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp x corn flour
1 tsp x vanilla extract

METHOD

Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and pre heat the oven to 160c

Separate your egg whites from their yolks, I like to separate my eggs in a separate bowl, transferring to my mixing bowl one at a time. The white can have no yolk whatsoever in them, or they won't work. Doing it this way means if you accidentally let some yolk through, you've only lost 1 egg.
Once you have 4 whites in your mixing bowl, beat until soft peaks form. Slowly add the castor sugar 1 spoonful at a time, beating well between additions. Once all the sugar is in the bowl, beat until the sugar is dissolved. You can tell if the sugar is dissolved by rubbing some of the mixture between your fingers, if it feels gritty, keep beating. You might not be able to get rid of all the grittiness, but try to get it as smooth as possible.

Next fold in the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla until combined.

If you are making meringues or mini pavlovas, dollop the mixture into 6 rounds. I like to dollop it all out, then go back and smooth them down with the back of a spoon. If you are making a large pavlova, make one large round dollop and smooth.
























Bake for about 50 minutes, once done the meringues will be hard, and may be slightly cracked. Turn the oven off and open the oven door slightly, leave the meringues in the oven until completely cooled.























To make them into pavolovas, whip 300mls cream with 1 tbsp icing sugar. I know people always say not to use an electric whisk to whip cream, but really, it's too much effort to hand whip cream, and as long as you watch the cream and stop it before its over whipped, it's fine. I never hand whip my cream. Make a good sized dollop of cream ontop on each meringue, top with fresh fruit of your choice, and dig in!!

 





















We also enjoyed, cob dip loaf, roast pork with crackling and veggies, and banoffie pie (yes, 2 desserts) it was a great night, with great company and great food!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas!

I’m currently sitting at work, panicking about all the things I still have to do before Christmas, and I’m starting to think I have a few long days ahead of me.

I’ve decided this year, for the first time, but hopefully not the last, to make all my Christmas gifts. And while I’m good in the kitchen, I’m not so good with the arts and crafts. So, everyone is getting some sort of food based gift; ranging from homemade mueslis layered in a tall jar, to homemade food/hand sugar scrubs. I felt, up until today, that I had made a good start in putting all the gifts together. I have had the ingredients since the last week in November, but when I think about it, I still have to make the scrubs, lemon squash, and mueslis and make up my tea sampler packs. Once that’s done, I still have to make mince pies, chocolate loaf, brandy butter sauce, vanilla ice-cream, and put my Christmas crackers together. Phew.

On top of all of that, my girlfriends and I have decided to have a Christmas party this Sunday, where we all bring a main and a dessert dish. This is brought on by our mutual love of both Christmas and good food. And while I’ve opted to make relatively easy dishes (a cob dip loaf and a Pavlova) it’s finding the time to make them that is the hard part.

Oh well, I’m heading to my folks house tonight to help them put up the tree and wrap their gifts. That should hopefully take my mind off how much I have to do for a few hours.

I think Saturday is going to be a full day in the kitchen, and on my feet. Wish me luck

(PS I’ll post pictures of my presents, food & the accompanying recipes when I have a chance!)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Salted Caramels

I made my delicious (even if I do say so myself!) salted caramels last night. I’m using these as sweets to put in my Christmas crackers. I think making Christmas crackers are so much better than store bought ones. I usually put a $2 scratchie and a sweet in mine. You can pick up the make your own kits at Spotlight, and they come complete with the bad jokes and the paper hats, just add your own gift!

But, my salted caramels! I always think I have so much, but it never fails to disappear quickly (especially around my family!) these are extremely Moorish little bites, and make great presents.

INGREDIENTS

300ml thick cream
1 cup caster sugar
½ cup golden syrup
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
40gm unsalted butter

METHOD

Line a loaf tin with baking paper and set aside

Combine cream, sugar, golden syrup, vanilla & salt in a saucepan over low heat and stir continually until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and cooking stirring until a candy thermometer reaches 121C, or until it reached firm ball stage (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, drop some of the mixture into cold water, if it makes a firm ball, it’s ready) this takes about 15 mins, but you will know it’s ready when it has that syrupy thick consistency. Don’t worry if it takes longer than 15 minutes. Once it's ready, remove from the heat and stir in the butter until combined and the butter is melted.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and set aside to cool. Once cool, cover and put in the fridge. Once the caramel is set, you can slice it into little squares. I find it easy to wrap each square in wax paper and twist the ends.

Enjoy!

PS I’ll post photos of my caramel very soon!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

Lots of my friends are always asking me for my recipes, or how to make a certain thing, so I decided to put it all in one place. My plan, is to post things that I make (particularly the things I make in the kitchen!), photos of things I like, or find interesting, and just general good/cute/pretty things.



I hope you enjoy it