Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas pressies

This year I decided to make edible presents for the family and for the first time I actually made them. I was prompted by a number of blog articles I'd seen on making gifts and set about finding recipes that would appeal to ma famille.

My sisters got a selection of peppermint bark and white chocolate and cranberry chocolates care of Home Baked. Their jar of sweets was finished off with some of Sophie Dahl's peanut butter fudge.
Dad got a rather large amount of chocolate and ginger biscotti care of Cannelle et Vanille (the picture is from that blog too).

Ma got some chilli nut brittle (adapted from a Suite 101 recipe). No photo as it was just a massive jar of caramelised nuts!

Being a boy I didn't get round to making delightful gift tags for the jars. One step at a time! But I did manage to wrap them as all present need unwrapping. Fortunately all the jars survived the trip home intact, (despite the best efforts of Southeastern trains).

I think the gifts were most unexpected and on the whole well received. I was shocked at how long the biscotti took to make. They were the most labour intensive by a long way needing a double baking and lots of care. the fudge is not proper "fudge" fudge but it's ok and crazily sweet.

I also wanted to make my student sibling a Soup in a Jar, jars of red onion marmalade for everyone and some kind of boozy drink. However, time got the better of me. Maybe next year.

Anyway, thanks very much to the bloggers who inspired my Christmas gifts this year and here are the recipes I used:

Peppermint bark

200g dark chocolate
200g white chocolate
4 candy canes (or a small stick of rock)

1. Line a tray with silicon paper.
2. Melt the dark chocolate over a bain marie and spread evenly onto the tray. Leave to set in the freezer.
3. Slice the rock into thin slivers using a big sharp knife (it's harder then you think).
4. When the dark chocolate is set, melt the white chocolate and spread evenly over the dark chocolate (hopefully the cold dark chocolate will not melt too much).
5. While the chocolate is still runny, sprinkle over the crushed candy canes and leave to set.
6. Cut into into strips.

White chocolate and cranberry chocolates

200g white chocolate
Large handful of dried cranberries, chopped finely

1. Melt the chocolate over a bain marie.
2. Stir in the cranberries.
3. Spoon chocolate into moulds.
4. Chill in the freezer until solid (the colder the chocolate the less chance of it melting as you unmould)
Note: I got two great silicon moulds from Poundland!

Peanut butter fudge

125g/4½oz butter
500g/1lb 2oz dark brown sugar
120ml/4fl oz milk
250g/9oz crunchy peanut butter
1tsp vanilla extract
300g/10½oz icing sugar

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
2. Stir in the brown sugar and milk, and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes, without stirring.
3. Remove from the heat, and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla seeds.
4. Place the icing sugar in a large bowl, and pour the hot butter and sugar mixture on top. Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until smooth.
5. Pour into a 20cm/8in square baking tray, and set aside to cool slightly, then place in the fridge to chill completely.
6. Cut the fudge into squares with a sharp knife, turn out of the tin and store in an airtight container.

Chocolate and ginger biscotti

150g butter, room temperature
200g sugar
Zest of 1 orange
3 eggs, room temperature
415g flour
25g cocoa powder
12g baking powder
pinch of salt
70g stem ginger, small dice
50g chocolate chunks

1. Cream the butter, sugar and zest together. Add the eggs one at a time and scrape the bowl.
2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder,baking powder and salt and add it to the mixer. Mix until combined. Add the ginger and chocolate chunks until well distributed.
3. Transfer the dough into a half sheet pan lined with parchment and form into a log that is about 12"x4" approximately. Bake at 180°C for about 25 minutes or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. Let the log cool completely and then slice it into 1/4" thick pieces. Place the cookies on the sheet pans and bake at 160°C for about 10 minutes. Then flip the cookies over and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until dry.

Note: These things are incredibly fragile, so go easy.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Random shizzle

Things have been a bit quiet on the foodie front recently, but I have been up to a few things, just not enough to warrant their own posts:
  • I went to the Taste of Christmas at Excel and was completely underwhelmed. I think I'm getting a bit fed up of these food festivals which all seem to have exactly the same chilli flavoured things, cheese, fudge and sausage stalls.
  • I did a rather interesting taste test of a new version of a chocolate bar, which was fun. I'm not allowed it say what it was but it might be an anagram of barstar...
  • Rather sadly, I ordered my first ever take away just for myself after a particularly arduous day at work.
  • I'd love to go on the Leith's food writing course, but the places are all gone already and it's a tad on the dear side.

Thursday, 16 December 2010


Went to the Seven Dials outlet of Hawksmoor tonight for a Christmas outing with the Comms gang (and therefore the majority of the ICCHFC) for a steak-fest.

At this point, I should admit that prior to hitting Hawksmoor we'd been to Paramount (at the top of Centre Point) for a cocktail or few, consequently this review is not particularly detailed or thorough.

I can simply summarise by saying I will be going back here. The placed was packed full of festive revellers. The underground hall did not detract from the atmosphere in anyway. The big oak tables were a suitable resting place for glasses of full bodied red wine and thick juicy, perfectly cooked hunks of cow meat. I finally had a porterhouse steak and I was not disappointed. Although having shared a 900g portion, Ben and I decided that we could probably have nailed one each. The outside of the steak was crisp and dark from the charcoal grill and the meat was uniformly pink medium-rare (to allow some of the fat to render out).

We had all the side on the menu which were OK, but not awe-inspiring given the steak main event. I was quite surprised that the beef-dripping chips had only about three massive chips in the standard metal "bucket".

Apart from the fantastic steaks my only other over-riding memory is of the inordinate 45minute wait between ordering and the protein arriving, which was a massive disappointment and put the brakes on half-way through an otherwise rather spectacular evening. Apparently this was because two of our party had ordered a steak well-done. Should that really make such a difference?

Anyway, if you like steak go there. I will be going back and attempting to remember a bit more of the experience next time!

Hawksmoor (Seven Dials) on Urbanspoon

Monday, 13 December 2010

ICCHFC - Week 64: Charity bake

Today the ICCHFC put on another charity cake bake, as is customary at this time of year. However, for some reason, there was not as much enthusiasm as usual (this may have been due to the effect of pretty much everyone in the office being more interested in extra-curricula activities other than work so that there was a glut of cake and sweets throughout the whole of December.)

By ICCHFC standards it was a pretty poor affair:

Fruit loaf, flapjacks, carrot cake, Victoria sponge, muffins and rocky road were available.

I was quite pleased to hear that my classic Victoria sponge (with oodles of cream and raspberry jam) sold out first. I'd liberally coated the top with icing sugar and used a hot skewer to decorate the top. It turned out pretty well, but I was a bit over-enthusiastic with the first stripe and almost went through the top layer of the cake!

Friday, 10 December 2010


I discovered Housebites today.

Housebites is
a brand new dining experience, hosted in private homes around the country, combining the intimacy of a dinner party with the range of choice of a restaurant.

Basically it seems to be a way of organising supper clubs or underground restaurants without having to create a massive on-line following and develop a "brand": anyone can attend a Housebite and any keen cook can host one. Simply sign up on the website either as a host or a diner, pay your money and away you go.

The site has only just launched but I shall keep and eye on it as it definitely seems something to try.

Friday, 3 December 2010

ICCHFC - Weeks 62 and 63

No cake action for the last two weeks:

Week 62 John forgot to bring it in on the Monday and so promised it for Friday. For what happened next, I will turn to John
“So, I will bring a home-baked cake in on Friday J” – so the cake is at home. I forgot. What a plonka! Sorry folks :-(

As for week 63 Marianne succumbed to a baking disaster...

Next week is charity cake bake week
Related Posts with Thumbnails