#Christmas #Recipes Tidings of Comfort & Joy

And here we are our second Holiday season in Toronto, Canada. Thankfully this one is a LOT less hectic than last years’ where it wasn’t so much Rudolph & Co. dashing around as it was me, trying to get unpacked and set up in our new home. As you could imagine not much time was left for baking the traditional festive wares, never mind experimenting and trying out new recipes!

This year however I’ve allowed myself the pleasure of being ahead of the game. A slew of expected visitors may have something to do with that. As crazy as it sounds having the tree trimmed and house decorated in November DOES free you up to do so much more. Or at least plan it!

The last Christmas spent in the UK, I created some food gift hampers to gift to friends and included some of my favourite festive foods. “Twinkling” caramel sauce (subtly spiked with rum); Crunchy spiced cookies; Christmas cake (with the emphasis more on chocolate than fruit) to name a few. This got me thinking as to what I would gift this year if given the opportunity. The first three recipes here would make ideal food gifts for those nearest and dearest to you.

Biscotti make such a great alternative to the stalwart festive cookie. Enjoy their crunchy texture studded with roasted hazelnut and cranberries with a hot cup of coffee while you put your feet up, taking a break from the looming festive onslaught. Stollen has always been my preference to the traditional Christmas fruit cake- maybe the inclusion of sublime marizpan has something to do with it? Here I’ve omitted the usual mixed peel in favour of apricots and cranberries- for no reason other than I personally hate the stuff. I find it too bitty and chewy for my liking. Fudge has always been a favourite of mine. Smooth, creamy and sweet it never fails to warm me. Bringing my ever present twist to things I’ve added some liquid smoke to lend a subtle smokiness which works so well with  the maple flavour of the fudge. Finishing it off with a gentle sprinkling of Kosher salt gives it a lip-licking quality that sings of pure indulgence. Not to mention making the finished treat visually reminiscent of the coats of baby deer in winter snow.

The fourth recipe I’ve included is not so much a food gift for other people but rather for yourself. I  know too well how frenzied and manic Christmas morning can be so I wanted to make something that might help alleviate some of the culinary pressure of that time. Preparing them the evening before is a massive shortcut that helps no end on the big day. Packed full of filling and flavours of cinnamon, apples, cranberries and pecans  they’re an extra special treat that’s sure to get the day off to a wonderful start.

I do hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I have, both creating and tasting them, and I’d like to wish you and yours a wonderful, peaceful  holiday season and happy new year. (Wow! never thought I’d be writing that so soon!)

Biscotti (3)

 

Hazelnut & Cranberry Chocolate Biscotti

Makes 20-24

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups All-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cups of hazelnuts (filbert) , toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • All-purpose flour for dusting

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 150°C/300F
  2. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and dust lightly with flour
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with balloon whisk attachment,  beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and doubled in size.
  4. Fold in the vanilla and almond extracts
  5. Sift in the flour, cocoa and baking powder
  6. Add in the nuts and fruits and fold thoroughly until the mixture comes together a dough
  7. Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and lightly roll out into a log shape. Divide the log into two, halfway along it’s length
  8. Place the logs on the lined baking sheet and with your hands lightly flatten logs to approximately 40mm wide x 20mm high
  9. Bake in your pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes or until firm
  10. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. After this time cut the logs into slices (10-15mm thick) and  lay  them flat on a baking sheet (with cut-side uppermost) and bake again for 10-15 minutes or until crisp
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack
  12. These can be kept for up to a week in an air-tight container

 

Biscotti (6)


Stollen (4)

Alternative Stollen

Makes 1

  • 4 cups white bread flour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fast action yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 almond extract
  • 2/3 cups almonds nibs
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried lemon zest
  • 8 oz marzipan

To finish

  • 1/4 stick butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp icing (confectioners’)  sugar

Method

  1. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and lightly dust with bread flour. Set aside until needed
  2. Put the flour and sugar in a stand mixer bowl and stir to combine. Add the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other
  3. In a pan combine the milk, butter, lemon zest, orange zest and heat gently until the butter has melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool and infuse. Stir occasionally to prevent the zests clumping
  4. With the dough hook attached and on a medium speed, add the cooled milk/ butter liquid in a steady stream. Leave the machine to knead for 6 minutes until smooth and pliable
  5. Whilst the dough is kneading, mix the nutmeg, cloves, vanilla and almond extracts, dried fruits and almond nibs together in a bowl
  6. Remove the dough from the stand mixer bowl and place the dough on top of the fruit mixture and knead from the outside into the centre. When everything has been fully incorporated, return to the bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise for 1-1 ½  hours in a warm place, until doubled in size
  7. Flatten the dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 45cm x 35cm. Shape the marzipan to about 25 x 15cm and place on top of the dough. Wrap the dough so it encloses the marzipan and place the full loaf on your prepared baking sheet, with the joining seam at the underside. Cover and leave to rise for 45mins – 1 hour until risen and doubled in size
  8. Preheat the oven to 190C /375F and bake for 40mins. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Brush the baked loaf liberally with melted butter, and dust with icing sugar. Leave to cool completely before serving
  9. This will keep for up to a week, wrapped and stored in an airtight container

 

 

Stollen (2)


Fudge (4)

Salted Smoky Maple Pecan Fudge

Makes 36 pieces

  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, chopped
  • 1 cup icing (confectioners’) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure Maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves, roasted and roughly chopped
  • Kosher Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Line and butter an 8-inch square baking pan or silicone pan with baking parchment, allowing the parchment to extend over sides of pan
  2. Mix the evaporated milk, brown sugar and butter in large saucepan. Bring to boil on medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture reaches 236°F on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage). (Be patient- this will take about 30 minutes. Also DO NOT leave it unattended!)
  3. Remove from heat and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. (Careful! The sides of the bowl will become VERY hot)
  4. Add the icing sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract and liquid smoke and beat together with on low speed. Increase speed to medium; beat until thickened and smooth.
  5. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the chopped pecans. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Sprinkle the top of the fudge with kosher salt to your taste. (I usually use 2 good pinches, evenly sprinkled)
  6. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm. Use baking parchment to lift out of pan onto cutting board.
  7. Cut into 36 squares and enjoy!
  8. If stored at room temperature this will keep for up to a week in an air-tight container, if stored in the fridge it will  last for up to two

Fudge (1)


Cinnamon Rolls (5)

Christmas Morning Cinnamon Buns

Makes 12

For the dough

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried lemon zest
  • 4 cups white bread flour
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon fast-action yeast
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the filling

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3 cup fried cranberries
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup apple butter

For the glaze

  • 2 cups icing (confectioners’) sugar
  • 1/4 cup eggnog

Method

  1. Put the milk, butter, cinnamon, orange zest and lemon zest in a small saucepan and heat very gently over the lowest available heat until the butter has melted. Set aside and leave it to cool to a lukewarm temperature
  2. In a bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the flour and sugar. On one side of the bowl add the yeast, and on the opposite side add the salt
  3. Into the flour bowl add the cooled milk/butter mix and the beaten egg.
  4. With the dough hook attachment, knead this on medium for 8 minutes. It should become smooth, pliable and come together in a ball
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, large bowl and cover tightly with lightly oiled cling film. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 1- 1 1/2hrs
  6. Grease with butter a 23cm x 33cm high sided baking tin and set aside until needed
  7. Prepare the filling by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon and softened butter in a bowl. Beat until well combined. Set aside until needed
  8. When your dough has risen, tip it out into a lightly oiled surface and roll out to 40x50cm
  9. To fill , spread the cinnamon butter (as evenly as you can) over the surface of the dough. Next spread the apple butter in an even layer. After this sprinkle on the dried cranberries. Once this is done, finally sprinkle on the chopped pecans
  10. Starting at the long edge, roll the dough into a tight log shape
  11. Trim the ends off the roll and then cut into 12 even pieces*
  12. Arrange the rolls in a 3×4 formation (cut side up) in your prepared baking tin. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and pop into the fridge. Leave to slow-proof overnight
  13. On the morning of baking, remove the tray of risen cinnamon rolls from the fridge 30 minutes prior to baking
  14. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F
  15. Bake the rested rolls in the oven for 30 mins. If the edges start to brown too soon, lightly cover the pan with foil
  16. When baked, remove the rolls from the oven and set aside to cool while you prepare the glaze
  17. To prepare the eggnog glaze, combine the icing sugar and eggnog in a bowl or jug. Whisk until well combined and smooth
  18. Drizzle the glaze over the still-warm cinnamon rolls and enjoy

A word of warning- these are very sticky and moreish…unwrapping gifts at the same time is not recommended!

*To cut the cinnamon rolls I use a length of either dental floss or fish-line. Loop it around the dough log where you want to make the cut, pull in opposite directions and there! You have a perfectly cut cinnamon roll ready for baking. Failing this of course, feel free to use a knife!

Cinnamon Rolls (2)


Mother Pic

This post is dedicated to my mother, Anne, who passed away earlier this year. The lady who inspired a thousand cupcakes and so much more.

“But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins”

Mitch Albom

 

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#Recipe Sweet ‘n’ Salty Upside Down #Cheesecake

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I recently ran a poll on my Twit-stream in connection with #NationalPopcornDay asking for votes for which recipe people would like to see from a selection of three. Each of the recipes used popcorn in an alternative way. Not that there’s anything wrong with just munching on a bag in front of a good movie! But you know me and how I like to mix it up a bit!

Think of this, if you will, as a “deconstructed” cheesecake. Literally flipping everything your familiar with about cheesecake on it’s head. “Salty taste in a cheesecake?”, you say, “That’s a bit unusual”. “The crumb layer is ON TOP!?!…well that’s just crazy!” Welcome to my world.

 

sweet-n-salty-upsidedown-cheesecake-1

Sweet ‘n’ Salty Upside Down Cheesecake

Cheesecake

200g Feta Cheesecake

300g Cream Cheese

130ml whipped cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

 

Caramel sauce

210g of sugar

85g butter

120ml double cream

 

Crumb topping

14g Sweet and Salty popcorn, crushed

90g digestive biscuit crumb

50g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

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To make the cheesecake:

  • In a stand mixer bowl, beat the feta cheese until smooth.
  • Add in the cream cheese, half of the whipped cream and the salt, and mix until combined.
  • Add in the remainder of the whipped cream and mix again until fully combined.

 

To make the caramel sauce:

  • In a large saucepan, heat the sugar over a moderate heat. Continue to heat until the sugar turns a deep amber color. DO NOT STIR! If needed you can swirl the pan.
  • When the deep amber color has been reached add in the butter and stir until melted.
  • Once the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. Take extra care here as adding the cream will cause the mixture to foam up and steam. Continue to whisk until the foaming subsides and the sauce is smooth.
  • Leave to cool fully before proceeding.

 

To make the crumb topping:

  • Over a medium heat melt the unsalted butter in a frying pan.
  • Add in the biscuit crumb and crushed popcorn. Toss to coat in the melted butter.
  • Mix in the brown sugar and stir to evenly coat.
  • Continue to stir until the crumb mixture gently browns and caramelises.
  • Remove the crumb mixture from the pan and allow to cool on a plate or bowl until needed.

 

To assemble:

  • In an oblong pie dish, spoon the cheesecake mixture and smooth.
  • Pour over the caramel sauce and spread to smooth.
  • Liberally sprinkle over the crumb mixture and lightly press down.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Serve and enjoy!

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