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 – 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).

Gingerbread Men

A firm children’s favourite. Probably partly because their dad doesn’t like them so they get to eat them all rather than them disappearing in the dark of night!

I have used various recipes but the current one I mostly use is a Tana Ramsay one from her book Family Kitchen. I also use various different biscuit cutters (I have a collection that could probably rival Nigella’s – but that is a whole other post) but today, as requested by the children, I have kept it traditional and simple.

 

  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 level tsp baking powder
  • 2 level tsp ground ginger
  • 1 level tsp ground cinnamon
  • 75g butter
  • 75g soft brown sugar
  • 3 heaped tbsp golden syrup

I also added chocolate drops – for decorating.

Melt the butter with the sugar and syrup in a pan and then add to the dry ingredients. Mix into a dough (it will be quite sticky) and roll on onto a well floured surface. Use your biscuit cutters to create the shapes you want and cook at 180°c for about ten minutes. They should be still soft when you take them out of the oven – they will harden up as they cool.

Taste verdict: make a double quantity! But, be aware, these are quite ‘spiky’ as my kids say so they are not for those that aren’t keen on ginger.

Chocolate chip all bran cookies

I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of All Bran as a breakfast cereal. Too much like cardboard and the monotony of the taste, or rather what taste? I like my breakfasts fruity, tasty and infinitely more exciting.

However, I am aware that we should probably all eat more fibre than we do (see I was listening Grandma). It is just so boring though.

So when my eyes fell on the recipe on the side of the packet of All Bran on the table this morning (my husband thinks that if he eats All Bran a couple of times a week it negates the fact that the other mornings he eats Frosties!) and I saw the words ‘chocolate chip’ I thought that maybe my aversion to eating bran could be over. It was at least worth a try (and surely the inclusion of All Bran in the cookies cancels out the chocolate).

The recipe below is lifted straight from the Kellog’s All Bran packet.

  • 200g butter
  • 150g sugar
  • 250g flour
  • 1/2 sachet of baking powder
  • 125g dark chocolate, chopped (or I used pépites de chocolat)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100ml semi skimmed milk
  • 100g All Bran

mix the softened butter and sugar together then add all the other ingredients. put small dollops on a baking tray and bake at 190°c for about ten minutes. (makes about 30)

Perfect for a goûter. And the taste verdict? Kids loved them, adults loved them more!