Friday, 21 November 2014

What are your Christmas traditions?

Christmas Hot Chocolate

I think we all have a set of Christmas traditions. The ones we grew up with and the new ones we create as grown ups – especially once children come onto the scene. Most of the Christmas traditions I can remember from my childhood seem to revolve around food – no surprises there! My mother and I would prepare large batches of traditional Greek cookies together – melomakarona (spiced honey cookies) and kourabiethes (snowballl cookies) weeks in advance. A number of these would be gifted and the rest would be piled high on a large platter in the living room – needless to say me and my bother would snack on them constantly.

My childhood Christmas tree went through a glitzy fake '70s disco phase then moved on to a minimalist wooden version in the '80s before reverting back to the classic real tree in the early '90s (phew!). But we always had homemade decorations and biscuits on our tree along with little chocolate baubles – which my dog would steal from the tree whenever they happened to be within reach.

Christmas dinner (usually on Christmas Eve) was always a massive feast – my mother would use the oven and stove so much the electricity would always cut out around the time the guests would start to arrive. We would have to light candles and transfer a couple of dishes to the neighbours oven to finish cooking.

Homemade Christmas
Festive Lindt Chocolate

These days Christmas is all about the children and it starts with a tree purchasing trip – me usually begging for a modest one while Anya and Sam always choosing the biggest one possible. The tree decorating session may be my favourite activity – always with Christmas songs playing and festive hot chocolate to keep us all going. We have several cookie, ornament and gingerbread house decorating sessions in the weeks leading up to the big day.

This year Christmas came early courtesy of Lindt chocolates – an enormous package filled with numerous chocolatey delights of all shapes and sizes arrived at my door and despite trying to hide it from the children they soon discovered it and were nearly apoplectic with joy. Rather than eating as many as possible really, really, fast which was what my kids had in mind we decided to create an advent calendar with the little chocolate figures – each bag containing 2 chocolate treats and small toys and other Christmassy bits and bobs to be shared between Anya and Sam. Word of warning: always include two of the same treats in each bag to avoid massive arguments later. Since the kids helped to label and fill the bags we are going to have a little advent bag treasure hunt each day in December. This was Sam's idea and a good one at that!

Homemade Christmas: Advent Calendar

Christmas Hot Chocolate
Serves 2
200g cold Lindt milk chocolate or a mix of milk and dark chocolate
400ml whole milk (you may need a little less or more depending on mug size)
4 tbsp softly whipped cream (or use cream from a can)
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1 tbsp mini marshmallows
chocolate curls
caramel or chocolate sauce to drizzle
2 candy canes to stir
dusting of cocoa or ground cinnamon

Method
  1. Roughly chop the chocolate and put in a mini chopper or food processor. Blitz in short pulses until the chocolate is ground almost to a powder.
  2. Add 2 heaped tablespoons of the chocolate in each mug and mix to a paste with a little boiling hot water. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Heat the milk in a saucepan or the microwave and pour over the chocolate. Stir very thoroughly or whizz with a milk frother.
  4. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of whipped cream onto the hot chocolate and top with the marshmallows, chocolate curls and a drizzle of chocolate or caramel sauce.
  5. Add a candy cane in each mug to use as a stirrer. 
  6. Store any leftover ground chocolate in an airtight container.
Supergolden Bakes: Christmas Hot Chocolate

Lindt are generously offering Supergolden Bakes readers a selection of their festive chocolates. Simply enter via the Gleam form below, making sure to comment on this blogpost first before completing any other entry options.

Win a selection of Festive Lindt Chocolates

Terms and conditions
> Giveaway open to UK residents over the age of 18 only.
> One winner will receive a selection of festive Lindt chocolates including: Christmas advent calendar, chocolate lover's bag, bear tree decorations and a Santa 5 pack stocking filler! 
> The giveaway ends on the 12th of December.
> Entries using an automated process or software to create bulk entries will be disqualified.
> The winner will be randomly selected, announced in the Gleam giveaway box and contacted via their provided e-mail address shortly afterwards. Please claim your prize within 4 days of being notified.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Gingerbread & chocolate meringues


I have been suffering from early onset Christmas-itis of late. The are numerous symptoms: listening to Christmas music; obsessively pinning on my Pinterest Christmas board, making ornaments and, this is clearly an advanced case, making not one but two gingerbread houses last weekend. Most, if not all, of these symptoms can be attributed to the fact that I have been creating seasonal recipes and features for other websites which have put me in a premature Christmassy mood. The symptoms have spread to the children – they had to decorate a gingerbread house with their friends – and now we are watching Frosty the Snowman and the Muppet Christmas Carol around the clock. I wonder if we have peaked a little early this year!

I was making a Pavlova for one of my freelance recipe gigs and I had some leftover meringue from doing the step photos and plenty of gingerbread biscuits from the other recipe so of course I had to put the two together... It is a marriage made in heaven! So good, so easy and the meringues can be made in advance and given out as gifts too... I would like to thank Green & Blacks for supplying some of their fantastic chocolate for me to play with – receiving chocolate in the post is definitely one of my favourite things!

I used Biscoff spread folded in the whipped cream (that stuff is hugely addictive!) but if you can't find any blitz 6 gingerbread or digestive biscuits until you have very fine crumbs and fold 3 tablespoons in the cream instead (reserve some to sprinkle on top as well). I think this would work really well with crunchy peanut butter instead of Biscoff.

Gingerbread & chocolate meringues with Biscoff whipped cream
Gingerbread & chocolate meringues with Biscoff whipped cream

Gingerbread & chocolate meringues
3 large egg whites (90g | 3 fl oz)
180g | 6.3oz (caster) sugar
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnammon
1/4 tsp cloves
200g Green & Blacks 70% chocolate, melted and cooled
(can also use milk chocolate if you prefer)
––––––
250ml | 1 cup double cream
100g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 tbsp Biscoff spread, heated until runny
crushed gingerbread or Lotus biscuits to serve

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 125C | 250F. Line a large tray with baking paper.
  2. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of your stand mixer (making sure it is spotlessly clean or the meringue may flop). Lightly whisk together until frothy.
  3. Start whisking at high speed and add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. 
  4. Once all the sugar has been added, stop the mixer and sift the cornflour and spices over the meringue. Continue whisking at high speed until the meringue is glossy, forms stiff peaks and doesn't feel gritty. 
  5. Add 3 tablespoons of melted chocolate and gently fold until barely mixed in.
  6. Spoon large dollops of the meringue on the prepared tray, spaced slightly apart, and drizzle with some melted chocolate.
  7. Lower the oven to 100C | 210F and bake the meringues for an hour or until they don't stick to the baking paper any more.
  8. Turn the oven off, open the door slightly and leave the meringues to cool in the oven.
  9. Whisk the cream and icing sugar until you have soft peaks and then fold in the Biscoff spread.
  10. Top the meringues with the whipped cream, drizzle with melted chocolate and sprinkle with some crushed biscuits to serve.

Gingerbread & chocolate meringues with Biscoff whipped cream

Gingerbread & chocolate meringues with Biscoff whipped cream

Gingerbread & chocolate meringues with Biscoff whipped cream