festive munchies – la bûche

We went traditional English for our Christmas lunch main course this year but as a nod to where we live I dispensed with English Christmas pudding and instead made a chocolate yule log (la bûche).After comparing the various recipes I could find and doing a tour of the local boulangeries to see what they were offering it seems that the choice basically comes down to chocolate or a mixture of chocolate and chestnut.

As there was a fairly even split at the table this year of adults and children I decided to play safe and go with chocolate. I followed Nigella‘s recipe from her book Feast without modification and then let the children add the decorations (and if you look carefully you will also see where they tasted the icing at the same time!).Maybe it was because I had made it and seen how much sugar had gone into the dessert but for my taste this dessert is just too sickly sweet. Despite this it did look good and everyone else loved it (I think they would have licked the plate if I had let them!).

Festive munchies – the ‘star’ tart

A fairly simple take on a mince pie – sized up and with added stars!Having invited people for a meal a few days before Christmas I decided to serve up a festive dessert…and you can’t get much more festive than mince pies. I love mince pies but to my mind the balance of mincemeat filling to pastry has to be just right – or erring on the side of more filling…in other words, too much pastry is not good (no matter how good the pastry).In addition, the mincemeat has to be just right – not too thick or gluey – as otherwise the mince pies just become a stodge pie.

As I was planning to serve three courses before we even got to dessert I decided that although our mincemeat was not too thick or stodgy I would lighten the tart slightly by combining the mincemeat with some apple compote.I briefly cooked peeled, cored and chopped apples over a low heat with a little water, some lemon zest and juice and a smattering of brown sugar. I then pureed the apple to get a smooth zingy puree which I used to line the base of the pastry case and I then added the mincemeat on top.Rather than topping the entire tart with pastry I got my little helper to cut out some pastry stars which I placed on top of the mincemeat.I the popped the tart in the ovenand served it up twenty minutes later dusted with a light sprinkling of icing sugar and with a healthy dollop of crème fraiche!

Festive munchies – lebkuchen

According to wikipedia Lebkuchen is a traditional German baked Christmas treat, somewhat resembling gingerbread. If you look on the internet (just search Lebkuchen on google) there are many recipes, all variations on a theme. The one I used here is a slight variation on the recipe in the Hairy Biker’s 12 Days of Christmas book.

I like their recipe because the addition of lemon and orange zest (lots of the other recipes only included lemon zest) gives the biscuits a nice tang and the dough that this recipe makes up is easy to manipulate – not too greasy nor too dry. Once baked the dough makes fairly solid biscuits that are slightly crunchy and very very tasty (and they don’t break when little children ice them with fairly heavy hands!).

According to wikipedia and other sources these biscuits are traditionally round, or sometimes rectangular. But when you have a drawer full of biscuit cutters in all shapes and sizes and for all seasons and occasions it seems a little “triste” to just make round shapes. For this batch, which I left without icing, I made heart shapes, stars and christmas trees.Now for the recipe. These quantities make around 30 biscuits, depending on the size you make them. As I said earlier this recipe is basically taken from the Hairy Biker’s Christmas book but they use ground almonds where I used flaked almonds (which give the biscuits more crunch) and I used a slightly modified quantity of golden syrup which I used instead of runny honey (I suspect that doesn’t make much difference although I prefer the subtler taste of syrup  than the sometimes overpowering taste of honey).

  • 75g butter
  • 3 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 50g soft dark brown sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g flaked almonds
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Put the first four ingredients in a pan and heat gently until melted. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the other dry ingredients and, when melted, the butter and syrup mixture. Mix to make a stiff dough. Split the dough into four parts and then take little balls of each part to pat down to form round biscuits or use biscuit cutters to cut out festive shapes. Bake at 180°c for around 10 minutes – they should still be slightly soft when you take them out of the oven as they will harden on cooling.

Happy eating!



Festive Munchies – Christmas party cupcakes

We had a combined birthday party and christmas drinks party at the weekend. For children’s birthday parties we normally organise some kind of treasure hunt and/or parcours outside but as it is December and somewhat chilly we had to think of more inside activities instead. After the usual handful of traditional party games (pass the parcel and variations of musical statues) I wanted a calmer activity for them to do before devouring the cake.

I made a couple of cupcakes per child and a whole batch of biscuits and prepared three different coloured icings and a whole series of toppings. The children could then choose what colour icing to put on their cake and which toppings.The cupcake toppers came with the paper cases but you could make your own by printing a suitable image onto sticker paper and sticking them to a cocktail stick (like I did for these cakes).

Advent Calendar 2011

It’s that time of year again. Sleigh bells ringing and all that….children saying “I want that” every time an advert comes on tv and having to queue twice as long in the supermarket as people start to stockpile food as if the shops were going to be closed for a year.

Bah humbug? Me?? On the upside there are advent calendars and not to be outdone by Kinder (who seem to have monopolized advent this year, if the enormous pile of Kinder advent calendars helpfully situated by the tills in my local supermarket is anything to go by) I have my own. In fact it is so good that it has its own page – click on the link at the top, just under the heading to check it out – and then check back every day for a little bit of festive cheer!