Sunday, January 17, 2021

Christmas treats

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Find it hard to buy a gift for that ‘someone’ who has everything? Often a gift that has been made from love is the best gift to give. There is nothing better than receiving a creation from someone who has put their time and effort into it and made it all from ‘scratch’.

Gifts of food can be beautifully packaged in a nice jar or in the case of baked goods, can be placed into a lovely festive dish, wrapped in cellophane paper and gathered together with curled ribbon and an X’mas card.

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And what’s more, you can get the kids involved with the cooking, and definitely the decorating!

Curried Nuts

These nuts can be presented in a clear or frosted glass jar. They are delicious and sticky, and are a great snack to have with a nice cold beer on a hot day!

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp curry paste
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tbsp savoury chutney
  • 500g cashews, almonds, walnuts, peanuts or macadamia nuts, or a mixture of your choice

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add all ingredients except the nuts.

Simmer until the sugar has melted. Remove from stove. Add the nuts, mixing until well combined.

Place the nut mixture on a pre-lined baking tray and place into a preheated oven at 180 degrees for a conventional oven, or 160 degrees fan forced oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.

Christmas Shortbread Cookies

Cut into shapes of X’mas trees, stars, Santas or snowmen, these are a great giveaway for teachers and students alike, and make a change from the candy cane and card combination.

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (this has a more intense flavour than vanilla essence)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups plain flour (sifted)
  • 1 tbsp cold water

Preheat oven to 170 degrees for a conventional oven or 150 degrees for a fan forced oven.

In a large bowl, place the butter, sugar, vanilla, egg and tablespoon of cold water. With an electric mixer, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Stir in the sifted flour. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until the mixture comes together.

Divide into 2 portions. Wrap with cling film and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Place one portion of the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper, the size of your baking tray. Roll out dough with rolling pin until 5mm thick.

Using various shaped Christmas cookie cutters i.e. Christmas tree, gingerbread and snowmen, angels and Christmas bells, cut out the shapes into the dough, but leave at least 2cm between each cut cookie. The dough can soften quickly, and leaving adequate space between the cut cookies makes it easier to remove the excess dough. The easiest way to do this is to scrape away with a knife.

Add the excess dough to the other half of the mixture and repeat the process. The mixture should make about 30-40 cookies depending on the size of the cookie cutters used.

Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. These cookies can be dusted lightly with icing sugar or for a hands-on decorating effect, get the kids to help out.

Use icing writing pens to create smiley faces on the gingerbread men or tinsel on the Christmas trees, or decorate with cachos and sprinkles.

X’mas shaped cookie cutters can be purchased at most major department stores and come in a set, while icing pens are available at most supermarkets in the baking section.

Mini Fruit and Nut Cakes

This recipe makes 12 muffin-sized cakes. Place some on a small serving tray and wrap up nicely for a lovely two-in-one gift.

  • 2 cups dried fruit
  • ¼ cup apple juice
  • 75g blanched almonds
  • 75g walnuts
  • 75g pecans
  • 1 egg
  • 60g butter, melted and cooled
  • ¼ brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ cup (75g) plain flour, sifted
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp all spice
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam
  • Paper-lined foil patty cases (available from the baking section of your supermarket)

Preheat oven to 160 degrees for a conventional oven or 140 degrees fan forced oven.

Place the paper-lined patty cases into a 12-hole muffin tin. Put the dried fruit into a bowl and add the apple juice.

Allow to soak for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. While fruit is soaking, place the almonds onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and allow to bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Keep aside to cool.

Whisk together the egg, melted butter, sugar and vanilla. Stir in the sifted flour and baking powder, then the soaked fruit and baked nuts.

Spoon mixture evenly into the prepared patty cases, pressing the mixture with the back of a spoon to fill in any gaps.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden and firm.

Remove from oven but leave the cakes in the muffin tray.

Warm the jam in a microwave oven, until runny. Strain through a sieve so the jam is free from any fruit skins.

Brush the cakes with the jam, while they are still warm.

White Christmas Rocky Road Cupcakes

A true Aussie recipe, the traditional rocky road in cupcake shapes is a very special kind of treat.

  • 125g slivered almonds
  • 2/3 cup desiccated coconut
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 100g snake lollies
  • 1 cup rice bubbles
  • 375g white chocolate melts
  • Paper patty cases

Preheat oven to 180 degrees for a conventional oven or 160 degrees for a fan forced oven.

Place the slivered almonds on baking paper, placed onto an oven tray, and bake for 5 minutes. Allow to cool.

Cut up the snake lollies into small bite size pieces. Combine these with the desiccated coconut, mini marshmallows, rice bubbles and cooled slivered almonds in a large bowl.

Place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt in the microwave, in short bursts of 25-30 seconds at a time, stirring the chocolate each time. This will ensure the chocolate melts evenly and doesn’t burn.

Add the melted chocolate to the ingredients in the other bowl, ensuring that they are well coated.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the patty cases and place them onto a tray. Place tray into the refrigerator allowing the mixture to set for about 30 minutes.

Serve as a part of your festive presentation tray.

Latte Flavoured Truffles

Coffee-lovers, rejoice. This is a special one for you with the flavour of your favourite drink.

  • 2 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 2 tbsp thickened cream
  • 2 tsp boiling water
  • 3 x 180g blocks of white chocolate
  • 1 tbsp Baileys Irish cream
  • 1 tbsp coffee beans (approx. 20-25)

Place boiling water and coffee powder into a bowl and stir until the coffee has been dissolved.

Combine one-third of the white chocolate and the cream into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in short bursts 25-30 seconds at a time.

Stir with a metal spoon. Once the chocolate is all melted and mixture is nice and smooth, it is then ready.

Stir in the coffee mixture and the Baileys. Place into the refrigerator for 3-4 hours or until firm.

Line a tray with baking paper. Roll the mixture into small balls, about 2 teaspoons at a time.

Place onto the tray and place into the freezer until firm.

Place half the remaining chocolate into a heatproof bowl and in the microwave, melting the chocolate in short burst 25-30 seconds, stirring with a spoon.

Chocolate will be ready once melted through and smooth. Using a fork, dip truffles into the melted chocolate, shaking off the excess.

Return truffles to the tray and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Melt the rest of chocolate in the microwave in the same way, re-dip the truffles with this second coat of chocolate and top each truffle with a coffee bean.

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