At the end of last year I finally managed to set up my first cook club as a prelude to beginning of a new venture I am due to launch over the coming months. This course was set in time for Christmas as it was all about edible gifts, perfect for friends and family as everyone loves to receive a homemade gift. The morning was a huge success being both informative and practical and everyone went away with heaps of goodies ready to wrap!
Salted chocolate and almond honeycomb
Childhood memories of crunchy bars flood back every time I make this delicious toffee, chocolate and almond honeycomb. Watch the magic happen when you add bicarbonate of soda to your caramel – it is just like volcanic lava bubbling in the pan!
200g caster sugar
5 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp water
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g dark chocolate
15-20g flaked almonds
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Place the sugar and golden syrup in a small saucepan and heat very gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil the syrup without stirring until it starts to turn golden brown and reaches 150c on a sugar thermometer, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda with a wooden spoon until it foams. Tip onto the prepared tray and leave to cool and set hard, about 30 minutes.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, on high for 1 minute. Stir well, return to the microwave and continue to cook for 10 second intervals, stirring each time until melted.Spread the melted chocolate over the honeycomb and scatter with the almonds and optional sea salt. Leave to set.
Using a toffee hammer break the honeycomb into small size chunks.
Trio of chocolate truffle
Truffles and Christmas seem to go hand in hand so we rustled up 3 different flavours Pistachio Praline, Fig and Grand Marnier and Stem Ginger, all coated in a rich dark chocolate and decorated
Makes: 54 truffles
50g dried figs, chopped
1 tbs Grand Marnier or Cointreau
75g caster sugar
2 tbs water
50g pistachio nuts
400ml double cream
25g unsalted butter
500g dark chocolate
25g stem ginger, very finely chopped
1 tbsp stem ginger syrup
400g dark chocolate
1 tbs sliced crystalised ginger
1 tbs pistachio praline
a few silver and gold dragees
Place the figs in a bowl with the Grand Marnier or Cointreau and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Blitz in a food processer until fairly smooth and transfer to a bowl.
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat very gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 4-5 minutes until it starts to turn a golden brown. Meanwhile place the pistachio nuts on a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray. Pour the caramel over the nuts to cover them all and leave to set. Blitz the toffee in a food processor until finely ground. Reserve 3 tablespoons for the topping and set aside.
Place the cream, butter and chocolate in a saucepan and heat very gently, stirring, until the mixture is melted and completely smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl and place on the scales. Divide equally between 3 bowls. Stir the fig mixture into one bowl, the pistachio mixture into a second and the chopped ginger and the syrup into the third bowl, stirring well each time. Chill for about 4 hours until the mixture is firm.
Scoop small teaspoons of each chocolate mixture and roll into balls as round as possible. Place the truffles on baking paper and freeze for 1 hour until firm.
Decorate the truffles. Line 3 large baking trays with baking paper. Place the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (do not let the boil touch the water) and stir the chocolate until melted. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes.
One at a time skewer the hazelnut praline truffles onto a toasting fork (or cocktail stick) and dip into the chocolate turning to coat thoroughly. Transfer to the baking paper and immediately top a third with pistachio praline, a third with a slice of crystalised ginger and the rest with silver or gold dragees. Leave to set.
For the grown ups we made a lemon sugar syrup and added vodka, then left this to infuse. After 3-4 weeks you have a lovely fragrant ‘limoncello’ to serve with homemade almond and aniseed biscotti perfect to dip into the lemony vodka!
Makes: approx. 1 litre
225g white sugar
Place the lemons in a large saucepan and cover with boiling water, leave to soak for 1 hour, drain lemons and pat dry. Finely grate the zest and stir into the vodka. Set aside.
Meanwhile, place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Combine the lemon infused vodka and cooled syrup and pour into 2 clean dry bottles, seal and store in a cool dark place for 1 month, shaking gently from time to time.
Strain the liquid into another clean dry bottle. Chill in the freezer for 1 hour before serving.
Almond and aniseed biscotti
Makes: about 40
75g blanched almonds
125g caster sugar
250g plain white flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp aniseed
Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan-forced and lightly oil 2 large baking trays. Place the almonds in a baking tin and bake for 5-8 minutes until lightly golden. Allow to cool and roughly chop half the nuts, set aside.
Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat together for 5 minutes until pale and thick – ribbon stage. Sift in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and add to the mixer with the aniseed and chopped almonds. Beat lightly to form a soft, slightly sticky dough, then beat in the whole almonds.
Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface and roll into a 7.5 x 30 cm flattened log. Transfer to one of the prepared baking trays and bake for 30 minutes until lightly golden. Remove the oven and reduce the temperature to 150c/130c fan-forced.
Using a serrated knife cut the biscuit dough into 2 mm thick slices and lay flat on the baking trays. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Chilli caramel cashews
If you don’t fancy a biscotti with your limoncello or you want something a little saucy to serve with Christmas drinks you really must try my chilli salted cashew nuts. Raw cashews are coated with a sticky glaze of honey, butter, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. Very very moorish!
3 tbs clear honey
1 tsp salt
½ tsp smoked paprika
a pinch chilli powder
2 tbs water
2 x 150g pkts raw cashew nuts
Melt the butter in a frying pan and then add the honey, salt, paprika, chilli powder and water and bring to the boil. Add the nuts and stir-fry for 5 minutes until glazed and golden brown.
Transfer the nuts to a lightly oiled baking sheet and set aside to cool. Tap nuts gently to separate them and serve with drinks.