Chocolate and Amaretto Tartlets
Place the pastry into the tins and freeze – there is nothing nicer then freshly baked pastry – crisp with a delicate almond smell wafting through the house.
For the pastry
200g plain flour
50g ground almonds
½ orange, zest only
160g butter, diced
1 egg and 1egg yolk
For the filling
100ml double cream
1 tbsp amaretto liqueur
Chocolate curls, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Brush a shallow muffin tray with melted butter and dust with flour.
- To prepare the pastry, place the flour and ground almonds into a bowl and add the butter, rub the butter into the flour to form fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and most of the egg yolk to form a soft pastry. Allow to rest for 15 minutes in the fridge. If you have any egg leftover add a tablespoon of water and use it as a pastry egg wash.
- Dust a surface with flour, roll the pastry out to about ½ cm thick. Use a 4cm scone cutter, cut circles of pastry and fit into the muffin tray. Line each pastry with a little square of parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake in the preheated oven for about 8 to 9 minutes. Remove the parchment and baking beans. Brush with egg wash and return to the oven for 3 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
- In the meantime, place the chocolate and cream into a bain marie (bowl over a saucepan of simmering water) and slowly melt the chocolate. Stir from time to time until the cream and chocolate have combined. Stir in the liqueur, allow to cool until just set. This will take about 1 hour.
- When ready to serve and spoon the chocolate mix into the tartlets. Decorate with chocolate curls.
Tip: Sprinkle a few toasted almond flakes in the base of the tartlets before spooning in the chocolate to give a little surprise and crunch.
Mulled Cranberry Cider for Santa
Makes 1 litre
This will bring a cheer to everyone even on the chilliest of nights. Pour some into a thermos and leave it for Santa – he will love it.
600ml cranberry juice
400ml apple cider
2 tbsp honey
1cm fresh ginger, grated
1 cinnamon stick
3 to 4 cloves
1 orange, strips of zest and juice
Pinch of nutmeg
1 apple, thinly sliced, to decorate
4 tbsp fresh cranberries, washed, to decorate
Place the juice, cider and honey into a medium size saucepan over a low heat and stir until the honey is dissolved.
Add the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, orange juice and zest and a pinch of nutmeg and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the apple slices and cranberries and stir well. Ladle into pretty glasses and serve warm.
Tip: Poach plums in this liquid it will be heavenly, just add a little more honey.
Ginger and Carrot Muffins for Rudolph
These will give Rudolph loads of energy for his very important journey. I hope he shares his supplies with the other reindeers!
225g caster sugar
100ml rapeseed oil
300g self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ to 1tsp ground ginger
½ orange, zest only
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
2 tbsp hazelnuts, roughly chopped
For the topping
100g butter, softened
180g icing sugar
½ orange, zest and juice
8 hazelnuts, roughly chopped, for decorating
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/ gas 4. Place muffin cases into the muffin tray.
- Whisk the sugar, eggs, oil and buttermilk together until thick and pale.
- Carefully fold in the flour, baking powder and ginger.
- Stir in the orange zest, grated carrots, hazelnuts and spoon the mixture into the muffin cases. .
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked and golden. Insert a skewer to check if the muffins are cooked, if it comes out clean, then they are done. Allow to cool completely before piping on piping on the topping.
- Whisk the butter until pale and fluffy. Add the icing sugar slowly and keep whisking, adding the orange zest and juice.
- Spoon the topping into a piping bag and decorate the muffin. Place a sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts on the top.
Tip: These will keep for 2 to 3 days so you can be well prepared. Serve with a well deserved glass of milk. They also freeze very well.
Ginger Bread Stars
Makes about 15 depending on the size
This is a wonderful way of keeping the children happy in the kitchen singing Christmas carols.
50g caster sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
170g self-raising flour
½ tsp bread soda
½ tsp ground ginger
15 or more small boiled sweets (polo sweets work well)
2 straws, to make holes
Thin ribbon, for hanging
Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160°C/gas 4 and line 2 or more baking trays with baking parchment.
Melt the sugar, butter, and golden syrup together in a saucepan.
Stir in the flour, bread soda and ground ginger in a medium bowl. Remove the melted sugar and butter from the heat.
Add the dry ingredients to the sugar and butter mixture to form a stiff dough that comes away from the sides of the saucepan.
Tip onto a plate, and leave the mixture to cool until just warm. Keep the dough in a ball.
While still slightly warm, roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and stamp out stars using a cookie cutter. With a smaller circle or star cutter, stamp out a centre of the biscuit. Make a hole in the top using a straw, in order that ribbon can be threaded through later to hang up.
Place the biscuits on the lined baking tray and bake for 7 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and place a small boiled sweet in the centre. Return to the oven and bake for a further 2 to 3 minutes until the sweets have melted and flooded the centre of the star. Keep an eye on them.
Allow to cool on the baking tray, until the melted sweet has hardened. Using an egg lift transfer to a wire rack and be careful the sweet will be extremely hot.
Later thread with ribbon and hang from the tree.
Tip: Omit the ground ginger and use vanilla caster sugar, add the zest of 1 lemon as well.