Experimenting with my newest gadget

I was lucky enough to open the Kitchenaid Ice Cream attachment on Christmas morning. Life has been a bit of a rush over the last few days, but I've finally managed to get more than five minutes to start making some ice cream. My first experiment is the other pink ice cream - Turkish Delight. In reality, it's just ice cream flavoured with rose water and coloured with a bit of pink dye, but Turkish Delight sounds a little bit nicer.

Turkish Delight Ice Cream

400ml cream
375ml evaporated milk
300ml milk
3/4 cup sugar
6 eggs
2 tbspn rosewater cordial
1 tbspn rosewater essence
1 tspn vanilla essence

Method

Combine the cream and milks in a large saucepan. Slowly bring to scalding point. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar together until sugar has dissolved. Add half the hot milk to the egg mixture and beat to combine. Return combined egg and milk to the saucepan, stir and return to heat. Add rosewater cordial, essence and vanilla. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for ten to fifteen minutes until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If the mixture boils, it will start to curdle or separate. If this happens, remove it from heat immediately and beat until the mixture combines again. Set the custard mixture aside to cool, covering with cling wrap to prevent a skin forming. If possible, chill for an hour or two, then churn according to the ice cream maker's instructions. If you don't have an ice cream maker, place the mixture in the freezer for an hour, or until the edges start to freeze. Beat, then return to the freezer. Repeat until the ice cream has a soft serve ice cream, then return to the freezer to ripen for an hour or two. If the mixture becomes too hard, place in refrigerator for half an hour until soft enough to serve.

The tenth day of Christmas

Christmas breakfast might be my favourite meal of the festive season. It's more relaxed than lunch or dinner, and the only time of the day when I'm actually hungry. At our house, it's time for catching up with friends before we set off to see the family. Presents have been exchanged and there's wrapping paper and toys everywhere. What could be better than ignoring the mess and heading outside for a delicious breakfast?

This year, the menu was bircher muesli with berry compote, waffles with grilled peaches and ricotta and rosti with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, served with a guava punch. Light and delicious, and no spoiled appetites for the main event.

Festive waffles with grilled peaches

2 cups flour
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1 tspn ground cloves
2 cups milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 peaches
1 tbspn vanillin sugar
200g ricotta
1 tspn vanilla essence

Method

Sift together the flour and spices. Add the milk and eggs and stir well to combine. Lightly grease a waffle iron, and cook waffle until golden brown. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve. Meanwhile, cut the peaches in halves and remove the stones. Sprinkle with vanillin sugar. Place under hot grill and cook until sugar caramelizes. Remove from heat. Beat ricotta and vanilla essence together until smooth. Place half a peach on top of each waffle and top with vanilla ricotta. Sprinkle with extra cinnamon if desired.

The ninth day

Time for gift baking - the gift that's always appreciated and much less stressful than hitting the shops at the last minute!




These biscuits are quick enough to make right on Christmas morning, or can be made in advance and hung on the tress as edible decorations. At our house, a couple even got left out for Santa and the reindeer to enjoy.*

Stained glass biscuits

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 tspn vanilla essence
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 packet boiled lollies

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Cream the butter and sugar together. Stir in the golden syrup, then egg yolk and vanilla essence, beating well to combine. Sift together the flour and bicarb soda and gradually add to the butter mixture until a soft dough forms. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for around 30 minutes. Roll out to a thickness of around 5 millimetres between two sheets of grease proof paper. Using a large cookie cutter, cut as many shapes as possible from the dough. Carefully remove the centre of each shape using a smaller cutter. You can bake the smaller shapes as little vanilla cookies, or chill and roll out again to make more window biscuits. Place the large biscuits on a lined baking tray, and add a boiled lolly to the centre of each shape. Bake for ten to fifteen minutes, until the biscuits are golden and the lollies have melted into windows. Allow to cool on the tray until the lolly windows are firm, then finish on a cooling rack.

*They make a surprisingly good accompaniment to Timboon Railway Shed Distillery coffee liqueur!

The eighth day of Christmas

The Christmas rush has officially come to an end at our house. Even though the tree and lights will stay up until the twelfth day of Christmas, the festive cooking has pretty much come to an end. The up side to this is that I've finally got time to catch up on some of the things I made during the mad rush.




Our first festive meal for the year was dinner on Christmas Eve. I wanted something special, but not too heavy considering the amount of food that would be handed around on Christmas Day. So for our main meal, we had a stuffed baked snapper with roquette and parmesan salad. Based on a Caribbean fish dish crossed with a paella stuffed snapper, the stuffing was the star of the show. Any large white fish would be suitable; if you can't find snapper, try trevally or red emperor.

Stuffed snapper

1.5 kg whole baby snapper, cleaned and scaled
2 tbspn olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, sliced and seeded
2 cups cooked saffron rice
200g cooked prawn meat, chopped
3 tbspn fresh coriander, chopped
lemon pepper to taste
Lime to serve

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Cut three large slits in the side of the fish. Drizzle with around half the olive oil and season with lemon pepper. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan. Saute the onion until translucent, then add the garlic and chilli and saute until garlic is soft and fragrant. Add the prawns and rice and stir to heat through. Remove from heat and stir through chopped coriander. Open the fish cavity and make sure it's clean. If the fish needs washing, use salt water only - fresh water will remove some of the flavour. If you're unsure, wipe the cavity with a cut lime and set aside for ten minutes. Once the fish is clean enough, place as much stuffing as will fit inside the cavity. Spear the sides with bamboo skewers, then lace shut with cooking twine. Place in a large roasting pan and bake until the eyes turn white - anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes depending on the size of the fish. Serve with lime wedges and salad

The seventh day

Fruit mince tarts are another one of those things I really love about Christmas. Like the cake and pudding, the fruit mince should be made well in advance to give all of the flavours time to develop. But despite not working outside the house, I seem to have run out of time this year, and have made my fruit mince extremely late. That said, cooking the fruit does help to speed things up somewhat, so you end up with a tasty pie nonetheless. The added benefit is the mix will keep a very long time if refrigerated, so you can always store any leftovers for Christmas in July.


The fruit you use really depends on what you like to eat and what you have in the house. Most of the measurements are sort of guesses - I tend to use handfuls - but as long as you have a good amount of fruit compared to liquid you should be fine.

Fruit mince

1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup brown sugar
4 apples, peeled and diced
1 cup sultanas
1 cup raisins
1 cup currants
1/2 cup mixed peel
12 dates
15 dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1 tspn ground cloves
1/4 tspn ground ginger
1/2 tspn nutmeg
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brandy

Method

Combine the juice and sugar in a large saucepan. Dissolve the sugar over low heat. Meanwhile, chop the apricots, dates and walnuts to match the pieces of apple. Add the fruit and nuts to the juice mix and bring to a simmer. Add the butter and stir through. Allow to simmer, covered for around 40 minutes or until the fruit is pulpy. Remove from heat and add brandy. Store in sterilised jars.

The sixth day of Christmas

I've been a bit slack this year. For a really good pudding, you should make it well in advance and let the flavours develop. That said, any extra time between making and eating the pudding is an advantage, and the amount of fruit and spices in the recipe ensures it won't be tasteless.





Plum pudding

1 1/2 cups prunes
1 cup dates
1 cup currants
1 cup raisins
1 cup sultanas
1 cup mixed peel
1 cup whisky
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbspn golden syrup
2 tspn ground cinnamon
1 tspn ground cloves
1 tspn ground nutmeg
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self raising flour
2 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup blanched almonds

Method

Roughly chop prunes and dates. Place in a large bowl with currants, raisins, sultanas and mixed peel. Cover with whisky, stir and leave to macerate at least six hours. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well to combine. Add the golden syrup and stir through. Sift together the flours and spices. Add to the butter mixture and mix well. Add the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. Roughly chop the almonds, and add to fruit mixture. Combine the fruit and batter mix and stir well to make sure the fruit is evenly distributed. Prepare a 2 litre pudding basin by placing a disc of greaseproof paper in the base. Place the batter in the basin, and cover with pleated greaseproof paper. Secure the paper and cover with a lid if available, or aluminium foil if there is no lid. Place a trivet in a large stockpot or tall saucepan. Put the pudding basin on the trivet, and add water up until one third of the way up the side of the basin. Bring to the boil and simmer for around six hours until pudding is browned and quite firm. Store the pudding in the refrigerator until Christmas, occasionally "feeding" with whisky if desired. To reheat the pudding, place it back in the basin and boil for around an hour. Serve with brandy sauce and cream. To flame the pudding, ladle brandy over the warmed pudding and ignite.

And on the fifth day

Gingerbread! Making the whole house smell deliciously festive. I'm not a huge fan - I prefer all of the fruity baking - but the smell of gingerbread baking certainly is right up there on the list of good things.




Since it's not a favourite, I don't have a trusted recipe for gingerbread. What I came up with was favourably rated by the breadwinner. Probably just as well since he knows I only made them because he specifically asked for them.

The recipe makes at least 40 biscuits using a 9 centimetre gingerbread man cutter. If you don't think you can eat or give away that many at once, save half of the dough, tightly wrapped in the fridge safely for a day or two, and get two days of kitchen fragrance from a single effort.

Gingerbread biscuits

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 cup treacle
4 cups flour
2 tbspn ground ginger
2 tspn ground cinnamon
1 tspn ground cloves
1 tspn ground nutmeg
2 tspn bicarbonate of soda

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Cream the butter and sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, beating well to avoid curdling. Add the treacle and stir well to combine. Sift together flour, spices and bicarb soda. Add to the butter mixture, around one quarter at a time. Mix well to a stiff dough. Form the dough into a disc, cover with cling wrap and place in refrigerator for half an hour. Place dough between two sheets of greaseproof paper and roll out to a thickness of around 5 millimetres. Cut into seasonal or people shapes, and place on a baking paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for around ten minutes until golden. Allow to cool completely on the cookie sheet - moving too soon will break the biscuits. Decorate with royal icing or enjoy them plain with a cup of tea.

The fourth day of Christmas

With not too many days to go until Christmas, it's definitely time to get my act into gear and make a proper start on the Christmas cooking. But since I tend not to start anything today that I can put off until tomorrow, I've made some more no-bake coconut ball things for a Christmas party instead.

These are along the same theme as the rum balls. If the only people eating them will be grown-ups, then using coconut rum for flavouring is a nice change. Since there were going to be small people at the party, I used coconut essence instead.

The verdict? According to Hotmo, even better than the choc cherry ones.

Apricot and coconut truffles


250g milk arrowroot biscuits
395g can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 tspn coconut essence
Extra coconut for coating

Method


Crush the biscuits to a fine crumb. Add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll generous teaspoon sized chunks into balls. Roll in extra coconut. Return to refrigerator until ready to serve.

On the third day...

On the third day of Christmas I iced the cake, but since that's not technically a recipe, here's one for eggnog.




Most of the recipes I've come across for eggnog include mountains of cream and raw eggs. Not exactly my taste, and not safe to drink for some people. My version is quite different. It's thicker than a glass of milk, and has a creamy texture, but is essentially a very runny custard. The key to getting the texture right is to make sure it doesn't boil. Trust me, boiled eggnog is not nice.

You can serve it hot with a dash of brandy and whipped cream on top, or chill it and mix it with ice cream, which is altogether more suitable for Australian summer. Either way, it's one of my favourite festive beverages.

Eggnog

2 litres milk
1 tspn vanilla bean paste
1 tspn vanilla essence
1 tspn ground nutmeg
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup castor sugar

Method

Place half the milk, nutmeg and vanilla in a saucepan. Slowly heat to scalding point and remove from heat. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the scalded milk to the egg mixture and beat thoroughly to combine. Return to heat and cook until mixture thickens slightly, without boiling. Depending on your stove, this will take between seven and ten minutes. Remove from heat and add remaining milk, stirring well.

On the second day of Christmas

More festive food - this time without any baking. I'm not sure when, or even if, rum balls became Christmas food, but they've always been something that's only eaten by my family over the festive season. Mum's recipe was always a very standard chocolate rum ball, sometimes replaced by an apricot and coconut white rum ball. I decided to try something a little bit different this year, and added cherries to make a cherry ripe rum ball.




If you have a food processor, this recipe couldn't be any easier. If you don't, it's still a simple recipe, but will involve a little more effort.

Incidentally, as this recipe is made with condensed milk, the second day of Christmas probably isn't the best time to make it unless you plan on making more closer to the day. I love them so whipped them up to take visiting. I reckon there'll be another batch on Christmas Eve.

Choc cherry rum balls

2 x 250g packets Chocolate Ripple biscuits
3 tbspn cocoa
1 cup desiccated coconut
395g can sweetened condensed milk
1 tspn rum essence
200g glace cherries
Extra coconut, cocoa or chocolate sprinkles for coating

Method

Crush the biscuits to a fine crumb. Add the cocoa and coconut and stir to combine. Finally add the condensed milk, rum essence and finely chopped cherries. Refrigerate for around an hour to firm up a little. Roll teaspoon sized amounts of the mixture into little balls, then roll in coating. Place back in refrigerator for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

Brownies

Another visit to Auntie Hotmo's, another excuse for yummy baked goods. With loads of chocolate in the pantry, I decided to make brownies. This recipe is sort of a fusion of a couple of different ones, with a bit of a Mexican influence. You could add nuts, top them with a ganache, or even add coffee or liqueur essence, but they're pretty yummy as are.




Dark Chocolate Brownies

220g dark chocolate, chopped
250g butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1/4 tspn baking powder
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 Celsius. Grease and line a 20 x 30cm swiss roll tin. Melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Sift together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon and baking powder. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre, and stir in eggs. Add the chocolate mixture and stir well to combine. Place in the prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake until set but not dry - around 45 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool in tin before turning out and slicing into squares. Dust with icing sugar or cocoa or top with ganache.
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