Thursday, 20 December 2012

Gingerbread House

Happy Friday Everyone. 

Well it's that time of year again where I became a hermit for 2 days and created my master piece the annual Gingerbread house. 

As you guys probably remember from last year this design caused me great havoc with pieces cracking, a roof with a massive bow in it and quite literally a few mental breakdowns. However, this year I refused to let it beat me and I managed to only escape with a sliced index finger (which is proving rather difficult to type this post). 
This year I made it my mantra to remain patient while putting the house together. This was my down fall from last year and I believe impatience contributed to the many cracks I had to 'cement' back together. I also did something else a little different with the roof. Which I can thank my brother for giving me this idea. Given the size of the roof pieces, I highly, HIGHLY, recommend some support beams (as shown above). I've used 4 wooden kebab skewers taped together here but some small wooden dowel would be great too. Not only does this help support the roof but it stops it from breaking.
Because I didn't feel the need to repeat myself, I haven't provided the recipe for the gingerbread. But here is the link to last years house. All the ingredients, instructions and template can be found at:  http://hideandgocook.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/gingerbread-house.html 

I hope you guys get some inspirations for your own gingerbread houses from this post and make it a fun and yearly tradition for your Christmas. However, with this house needing 4 and half batches of gingerbread be prepared to be eating it for the next week. 

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Goodnight! 

The tree has been made with 5 different sized 6 pointed stars. I did two of each size to get a bigger tree. Simple glue and stack on top of each other from biggest to smallest. 


The path is done with scorched peanuts, rainbow coloured choc chips and the liquorice layer from some liquorice all sorts 


I love my little wreath!! This year however a gummy bear sacrificed it's life to make the holly leaves




Thursday, 13 December 2012

Cassata


A few weeks ago I commented on my Fruit mince pie post that I never used to eat Christmas Pudding, which meant no sweets for me after Christmas lunch. Until one year my Mum started making Cassata, also known as an Ice cream cake. However, I have taken her recipe and adapted it slightly and because of the colours she has now dubbed it 'a fancy Neopolitan'. 

After making my fruit mince pies, I had so much of the fruit mix leftover I had to think of alternative ways to use it up. I thought of ice cream as my mum's original cassata recipe is done with glacĂ© cherries and toasted almonds. Having substituted the cherries for the fruit mince I think it gives the cassata a more Christmassy feel. 

The chocolate layer I have kept the same because, lets face it, who doesn't love chocolate. 

For the third and final layer I really wanted to incorporate cherries some how. Having already used dried fruit I thought fresh cherries might be a better option. Soaking the cherries with lemon juice and balsamic vinegar might sound a little weird but believe me it gives this layer a little zing! 

The combination of flavours and textures is a definite winner in my book and I hope, like me, that it becomes a regular addition to your festive season. 


INGREDIENTS
2 Litre tub of Vanilla Ice cream
Fruit Mince Layer
1/2 cup Fruit Mince
1/2 Slivered Almonds, toasted
Chocolate Layer
125g Dark Chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup Cream
1 cup plain Chocolate biscuits, chopped
Cherry Layer
150g fresh Cherries, pitted
1 Tbs Lemon Juice
1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar 
30g Icing Sugar

Before you begin, spray a large loaf tin with cooking oil spray and line with glad wrap. This will aid in the removal of the cassata once you're ready to serve. 

To make the Fruit Mince Layer...
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Place the almonds on a tray and toast in the oven for around 5-10 minutes or until golden in colour. BUT keep a watchful eye on them as they can burn quite quickly. 

In a bowl, combine one third of the vanilla ice cream, almonds and fruit mince (I used some of my left over fruit mince from the Fruit mince pie recipe, but store bought is fine as well). Place the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and allow it to chill in the freezer for a few hours before proceeding with the next layer.
To make the chocolate layer...
First off make a ganache. I have made a ganache a few times on my blog but just to refresh your memory...

...chop the chocolate until it is rather fine and place in a bowl. Warm the cream until just before boiling point and pour over the chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

In the same bowl as the ganache, add the next third of ice cream and the chopped chocolate biscuits (ensure that the biscuits are quite chunky so you get a nice texture in that layer). Pour into the loaf pan on top of the fruit mince layer. Allow to chill.


To make the Cherry Layer...
While the chocolate layer is chilling, prepare the cherries. In a bowl, place the cherries, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Allow to macerate for at least 2 hours. 

Once the 2 hours is up, blend the cherry mix until smooth. Mix into the last third of ice cream and pour into the loaf tin over the chocolate layer. Allow to the entire cassata to chill for several hours or overnight.  


If you're making this cassata for Christmas Day it can be made days or even a few weeks in advance. It keeps well in the freezer, just remember to keep it covered. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sherry Balls

Who doesn't love a sherry ball? My Brother loves them so much that they would all be gone within the first day, leaving none for the rest of us. At first I tried making more sherry balls, hoping that he would get sick of them (or sick from them) before the plateful was finished. And when that didn't work, I resorted to hiding them in the fridge. Eventually, I just had to face facts that no matter what I did, my brother would demolish them.

I can hear you all saying, 'aren't they normally made with rum?' Well, yes they are, but in my family it has always been sherry balls. So naturally I kept with tradition. But I can assure you that these will soon become one of your family traditions too. And, if you're like my brother, try not to eat them all at once. 



 This is the ideal consistency for the biscuits...it's almost sand like, with a few chunky bits

This has got to be the best cocoa I have ever used. Dark, bitter and completely indulgent. It's probably the closest I've come to a great chocolate flavour without using actual chocolate.

INGREDIENTS
250g Plain Sweet Biscuits
3 Tbs Cocoa
1 cup Coconut
395g tin Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 Tbs Sherry
Coconut, extra

To Make the Sherry balls...
In a food processor, crush the biscuits until quite fine...some chunky bits are ok too. Place in a bowl along with the cocoa and coconut. In a separate bowl, mix the sherry into the condensed milk. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

Roll about a teaspoon full of mixture into balls and roll in the extra coconut. Place on a plate and leave in the fridge overnight before eating.

If you're a real chocoholic, you may also like to roll the sherry balls in grated white chocolate

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Fruit Mince Pies


I've got a confession to make. Up until recently I despised dry fruit with a passion! It made it really hard at Christmas time because I loved the flavour of stewing fruit for Christmas pudding, fruit cake and mince pies but I couldn't stand the texture. So much so, that my Mum used to blend the fruit before making her fruit cakes.

However, one year something happened...some may even call it a Christmas miracle. I thought it was unfair that everyone was sharing in this delicious Christmas tradition and I would miss out, so I gave the pudding another go...

...and I have never looked back!

Christmas pudding, fruit cake, fruit mince pies. I love them ALL! These fruit mince pies are a particular favourite of mine. Crumbly, buttery pastry with an added flavour of almond. The perfect morning tea treat at Christmas time. 


INGREDIENTS
Fruit Mince
500g Sultanas
375g Raisins
200g chopped Mixed Peel
170g Dried Cranberries
200g Red GlacĂ© Cherries 
1 cup Currants
250g Jar Mixed Berry Jam
2 green Apples, peeled and coarsely grated
2 cups firmly packed Brown Sugar
1 Tbs Mixed Spice
1 cup Brandy or Sherry
1 Tbs grated Orange Zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed Orange Juice
2 tsp grated Lemon Zest
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
(This recipe makes about 10 cups of Fruit Mince)

Pastry
1 cup Plain Flour
1/2 cup Almond Meal
1/3 cup Icing Sugar
120g chilled Butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups Fruit Mince
1 Tbs Milk
Raw Sugar
Icing Sugar, for dusting

To Make the Fruit Mince...
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or directly in an air tight  container (saves washing up). Store in a cool dark place for at least a week. The longer you leave the mixture the better, even 2 weeks would be fine.


To make the Pies...
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease a mini cupcake pan with oil spray

In a food processor, process flour, almond meal, icing sugar and butter until it looks like bread crumbs (ensuring the butter is properly chilled will help in this process). Add the egg yolk and 1 Tbs of cold water. Mix until the dough just comes together.

On a floured surface, knead dough until just smooth. Wrap in glad wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Roll pastry out between 2 pieces of baking paper, until about 3mm thick. Cut out rounds with a 6.5mm circle cookie cutter. Line the cupcake tin with pastry. Spoon fruit mince into each pastry case (how much depends on how big your cupcake tin is, I used around a teaspoon).

Decorate the tops however you like, I made simple crosses but you could easily use a shaped cookie cutter. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with the raw sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan before turning out and dust with icing sugar.

A big thank you to Super Food Ideas for this delightful recipe.