When it comes to adults at Christmas, you rather feel, what present can I give this person that they don’t already have? Unless you have lots of money and can give them a car, a computer or a holiday, it’s difficult. If they like cooking then you can look at my Christmas gift lists for foodies: kitchen items or books.But if you have less money and more time, people will appreciate home-made food gifts. I usually make up a hamper from my pantry along with some freshly made Christmas treats. This year I will give my parents, for instance, home-made preserved lemons, some Marmite Christmas tree biscuits, home-made Creme de Cassis (recipe in my next book), poached pears in white wine and saffron and home-made sweets, all beribboned and labelled in attractive jars.
To present these recipes below, you’ll need packaging materials such as coloured tissue paper or parchment paper, a box and some ribbon or pretty coloured twine.
Learn how to make these confectioneries and more at the ‘patisserie fine’ class at Madame Gautier’s Cookery school ‘La Technique’ in West London (near Willesden Junction). They have classes in Christmas cookery ‘Fete de Noel’ and other classical French techniques. Prices range from £45 to £120 per class including all ingredients. You take home a generous bag of your creations.
These couldn’t be easier and frankly taste nicer than many of the mass-produced chocolate selections you find in the supermarkets. (My pet Christmas hate, those enormous
crates boxes of chocolates you find in France, all of which have the same praliné centre. Yawn). This is a nice morning activity to do with children, they will enjoy getting mucky (and I’m sure quite a bit of finger licking will take place). Make one or all of the centres, let them set then prepare several bowls of different coverings.
For the chocolate truffle centres you’ll need a shallow Tupperware/plastic container approximately 20cm x 10cm for setting the ganache.
Here are dark, white and milk chocolate ganaches mixed with different flavourings but feel free to mix and match, replace orange with lemon zest, or Baileys with Kahlua, ginger with finely grated lemon grass.
Dark Chocolate and Ginger:
300ml double cream
100g stem ginger, chopped finely
300g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
30g unsalted butter, cubed
Add the ginger to the cream.
Bring the cream to the boil, remove the pan from the heat and, whisking briskly, add the chocolate to the cream. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, smooth and shiny.
Whisk in the butter until amalgamated.
Pour into your Tupperware container and allow to set in the fridge, for approximately three hours.
White chocolate and Baileys:
100ml double cream
300g white chocolate, good quality, broken into small pieces
15g unsalted butter, diced
Heat the cream and the Baileys in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. Once hot, remove from the stove and whisk in all of the chocolate until melted. Then add the butter and whisk in until completely incorporated. Pour into the plastic container, allow to set in the fridge, for approximately three hours.
Milk chocolate and Orange:
Zest of 1 orange
200ml double cream
325g milk chocolate, good quality, broken into small pieces
25g unsalted butter, diced
Zest the orange, avoiding the white pitch which is the bitter part. Add the zest to the cream and bring to the boil. Once hot, remove the pan from the stove and briskly whisk the chocolate into the cream, until it is melted. Then whisk in the butter until melted. Pour into the plastic container, allow to set in the fridge, for approximately three hours.
Prepare your coverings for your truffles. I used edible glitter, dessicated coconut, ground pink peppercorns, powdered dehydrated raspberry, chocolate sprinkles, icing sugar and cocoa powder. You could also use ground nuts such as hazelnuts or almonds, or nibbed pistachios.
Prepare several bowls with the powders, remove the chocolate ganaches from the fridge.
Using a sharp teaspoon, small ice cream scoop or melon baller, scoop out a 2cm sphere from your ganache. You could use your hands (keep them cool and dry) to pat the ganache into a round shape. Then roll the truffle into the powdered covering of your choice.
Have a box ready, lined with pretty paper or a doily, and tuck in your home-made chocolates once they are rolled and dusted.
A marshmallow is basically an Italian meringue set with gelatine. It used to be made from the sap of the mallow plant, considered to be medicinal. One of these days I’m going to try to make them with mallow root. Here is a recipe with honey and mallow. You can cut these into squares or use sharp biscuit cutters in star shapes, Christmas tree shapes or snowflake shapes to cut them out. Dust liberally with icing sugar.
20cm x 40cm baking tray or plastic container.
Parchment paper/silicone paper
Electric whisk or stand mixer with whisk attachment.
400g caster sugar
13 platinum or bronze leaves of gelatine
(or 6 level teaspoons of gelatine powder, I tend to use leaves however)
Water to cover the gelatine leaves
2 egg whites
2 tsp rose water
A dab of pink food colouring paste
1 tsp vanilla extract for plain vanilla
40g cocoa powder for chocolate ones
1 tsp lemon extract plus yellow food colouring
other flavourings plus food colouring, the possibilities are endless.
Icing sugar to dust
Line a small baking tray or Tupperware box (approximately 20 x 40cms) with parchment paper/silicone paper.
Pour the sugar into a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Add enough water so that the sugar has a wet sand consistency. Heat until the sugar turns into syrup, shake the pan rather than stir. Place the lid on (condensation) or brush the sides with water so that the sugar does not crystallise. When your syrup reaches 125ºc, it will be ready. This will take about 10 minutes but keep an eye.
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water. They will take a few minutes to soften.
Start to whisk your egg whites until stiff then add the softened gelatine leaves until they are entirely incorporated, no lumpy bits.
The syrup should be ready so add the rose water or other flavouring. Then pour it into the egg whites but not directly in, direct it to the sides of the bowl with the whisk still going, you don’t want the egg whites to cook.
Add the food colouring if using until you achieve the colour you would like. Keep whisking until the mixture is thick and glossy then pour it into the prepared baking tray or plastic container.
Chill it in the fridge for two hours.
Once firm and cool, cut it up with a well oiled knife or use oiled cutters for shapes.
Put your icing sugar or say, cocoa powder into a shallow dish and coat the marshmallows well.
These will last a couple of weeks.
I’ve never made these before and can see myself experimenting with all kinds of flavours and alcohols. These are vegan. There are some unusual ingredients here (pectin, glucose syrup and citric acid) but it’s worth buying them for future use, as they don’t cost much, don’t go off and you can use them for many other recipes.
A digital thermometer
A plastic container 10 x 20cm
12g yellow pectin (available online at souschef.co. uk or at Melbury and Appleton)
50g caster sugar
500g blackcurrant purée (you can either buy this ready-made or make your own) or other flavour
500g caster sugar
70g glucose syrup (Dr Oetker liquid glucose is available from the baking section of most supermarkets)
3g citric acid (available at Lakeland or Asian food stores)
100g granulated sugar to dust.
Mix the pectin and the 50g of caster sugar together in a small bowl or cup. Have this next to your hob.
Heat the puree in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan to medium hot then whisk in the pectin and sugar. Bring to the boil and tip in the 500g of caster sugar and the glucose syrup. Bring to 107ºc and continue to boil at that temperature for a few minutes, until the mixture appears to be thicker than jam.
Turn off the heat and add the citric acid, then pour into your prepared plastic container to set. Chill in the fridge, then unmould from the box and cut into cubes.
Pour granulated sugar into a shallow dish and dust the cubes liberally with the sugar.
To make fruit purée, such as blackcurrant puree, blend 500g of clean blackcurrants (frozen if not in season) with 100g caster sugar and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Then push through a sieve to remove all the seeds. This will keep in the freezer for three months.
With thanks to Madame Gautier cookery school.