I think we exceeded all expectation this year… not only did we have THREE desserts on Christmas day, they were all totally gorgeous!
First up was a Summery Berry Trifle: made with layers of homemade Lemon Sponge, homemade custard flavored with brandy, orange and cinnamon, and plenty of berries sloshing around in Cointreau.
Next were the individual chocolate mousse: two separate layers of mousse, the first flavored with Frangelico (the hazelnut liqueur), the second flavored with espresso coffee.
And last, but not least, the quintessential New Zealand dessert, the Pavlova! I’m not really a fan myself, but with so many egg whites left over from making the custard it seemed like the logical choice… and a popular one too.
What did you enjoy eating most on Christmas Day at your place?
Here in New Zealand Christmas is all about strawberries! To my Southern hemisphere mind, Christmas would just not be Christmas without a great big helping of strawberries on Christmas morning (some chocolate dipped, of course) and a strawberry-related dessert of some description. Now I understand this may seem like a very foreign concept to Northern hemisphere readers, whose minds must be about as far away from strawberries as possible, but please… let your mind wander.
We are a little bit spoiled here in New Zealand, we get to pilfer all the lovely wintery Christmas traditions of our English forebears, while making our own new summery traditions to enjoy at the very same time – the best of both worlds! But with enjoying fleeting traditions that come to an end all too soon, comes the need to stretch those enjoyable things out for just a little bit longer, if at all possible. This is when my mind turns to jam: strawberry, apricot and plum, they are all a jar of summer, sitting there on the shelf just waiting for the time they are taken down in winter, opened and enjoyed. For a moment, it’s like summer all over again.
Each December I make this much loved recipe for Strawberry and Vanilla Jam. It’s one from my Victoria Room cookbook. For those not familiar with Sydney’s astoundingly fabulous Victoria Room… let me just say, if you’re a fan of Victoriana like me, this is a must visit!! And strawberry jam with scones really doesn’t have a rival…
For the jam:
2 kg strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped
650gm caster sugar
1 vanilla bean pod, split
Juice of 4 lemons
Add all the ingredients to a pot with a heavy base, and gently begin to heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar has all dissolved. Then turn the heat up until the mixture is boiling. You want the jam to be on a ‘gentle boil’ if such a thing exists… still boiling, but not quite so fiercely that the bottom burns. Stir regularly while you prepare your jars (you’ll need to sterilise them). The mixture takes around 30-40 minutes to reach setting point (because strawberries are not particularly high in pectin you won’t get a super strong set with this jam – but the lemons do help to add to the pectin content), keep checking until you reach your desired consistency. While the jam is still hot divide it up between your jars (this recipe makes about 5 standard jars). If you get a good seal it will last for months!
I just love Christmas. Basically, it’s a great big excuse to bake and make all the things I love to eat, but don’t normally allow myself to have. But when Christmas rolls around there is NO holding me back – I am going to indulge!!
Normally I make the Christmas Pudding truffles that Nigella Lawson calls Puddini Bonbons, and they are lovely, in fact they are just about the only way you are ever going to get me eating Christmas pudding (I despise dried fruit… but don’t get me started on that!).
This year however, I’m kindly giving Gordon Ramsey a turn. I took his Chocolate Mint Truffle recipe and divided it up into two basic recipes – a mint version, and an orange, brandy and pecan version.
The truffles get their flavour from steeping fresh mint in gently heated cream. I did the same for the orange version by adding orange zest to the cream and gently heating it. Once the flavoured cream was hot (but nowhere near boiling) I poured it over chopped chocolate, butter and honey. For the orange version I also added brandy and chopped pecans.
Once the chocolate, butter and honey have melted into the cream, the whole lovely smooth dark mess goes into the fridge to firm up. It took about two hours before the mixture was firm enough to roll into little balls. Then I rolled the balls in good quality dutch-processed cocoa, and voila – these little balls of deliciousness are ready for eating!
Helpful Mr Ramsey suggests keeping the truffles in the fridge and warns they won’t keep longer than a few days… but with me around, slyly popping one into my mouth each time I pass by the fridge, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.
I wanted to try baking something a little festive today, and had seen some really lovely pictures on Pinterest of Peppermint Brownie. So after a bit of searching, I came across this lovely recipe from The Galley Gourmet that had three layers: the brownie (flavoured with peppermint), as well as the white peppermint icing, AND the chocolate peppermint topping decorated with crushed candy canes. Some recipes I saw left out the white peppermint icing – but what’s the point?! You might as well go all out if you’re going to bother.
It turned out pretty well. It’s nice and easy to slice, and the soft fudgy texture of the brownie combined with the crunchy chocolate topping is totally delicious. It would be great for children’s Christmas parties, or any one’s party for that matter!
For the biscuit base: 450 gm plain crushed biscuits
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
180 gm butter
100gm chopped pecans
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
Crush the biscuits in a food processor until you have a mix of chunks and crumbs, then add the spices and quickly combine. Gently melt the butter with the sweetened condensed milk and fruit zest, then add to the biscuit crumbs and mix well until all of the biscuit has been moistened. Turn out onto a tray lined with baking paper, and spread out evenly then press down firmly. Refrigerate until while you make the icing.
For the icing: 2 cups icing sugar
50 gm softened butter
Zest from one orange and 1/2 lemon
Juice from orange and lemon
Sift and icing sugar, then add the butter and zest and stir in until the softened butter is rubbed in (like making pastry). Gradually add a little bit of the juice and mix well after each addition until you get a good thick spreading consistency. Spread the icing evenly over the cooled slice then refrigerate again to allow the icing to set. Remove from the fridge and cut into squares.