New Years Eve Spectacular…

I know it’s not quite New Years Eve but having made this take on truffles, I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to post this (sad but true!).

Take a look at the photos first:

 

These are very easy truffles to make, simply heat some extra thick double cream, making sure it doesn’t boil, take the pan off the heat then add some cubes of dark chocolate, leave for 2-3 minutes then stir until all the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth chocolate cream. This should then be chilled for a couple of hours after which the mixture can be rolled into truffles and coated in cocoa powder or, as in this case, sugar sprinkles. I then used some mint and some orange matchmaker chocolates and stuck 1 in each truffle. Tomorrow night we will have some friends and neighbours round for a New Years Eve party and having been in the fridge for over 24 hours, these should have firmed up nicely!

These were great fun to make, I can’t wait to make the rest of the goodies for tomorrow evening.

Caramel Conundrum …

I was lucky enough to receive ‘Short and Sweet’ by Dan Lepard this Christmas and today decided to make his caramel sauce – my sister-in-law and two nieces were coming for lunch today and I wanted to give the children something special on their ice cream. It went completely WRONG!! The recipe said to boil 100g caster sugar with 25ml water and to keep boiling until the liquid went a deep red colour. I didn’t even get that far as within a few moments, all the water had evaporated and I was left with 100g of caster sugar!! Time was against me so I didn’t get the chance to have another go at the same recipe. Instead I used the recipe for the caramel that I’d made for the Salted Caramel Tart earlier this week, I doubled the amount of cream as I wanted the caramel to be a pouring sauce – it was delicious:

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So far as the children were concerned, being able to top their ice cream off with caramel sauce, maltesers, marshmallows and/or raspberries, was a real hit!

The tastiest thing this Christmas …

was a Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart. It looked tasty on paper, the ingredients were a great combination – chocolate, cream, sugar, butter and digestives – but I wasn’t expecting the final result to be quite so delicious. I even prepared our visiting parents for the fact that I thought desert had gone a ‘bit wrong’.

Here are the pictures, the recipe follows. There was total silence around the table whilst this was being eaten, someone even asked if they could lick their plate clean!

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And so to the recipe:

For the crust:

250g digestive biscuits, crushed

125g butter, melted

For the caramel:

225g caster sugar

100g chilled butter

100ml double cream

1 heaped tsp Maldon sea salt

For the topping:

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

2 extra egg yolks

250g dark chocolate

150g butter

Ice cream, to serve

1. Heat your oven to 180*C. Lightly grease a 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin.

2. Place the crushed biscuits in a bowl, add the butter and mix well. Press the biscuit mixture in to the greased tin, chill the tin in the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 10. Remove the tin from the fridge and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the base feels dry. Leave to cool.

3. For the caramel, bring the sugar and 100ml water to the boil in a pan over a medium heat, stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the butter, return to the boil and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes or until the mixture is a toffee colour. Pour in the cream and the salt and boil for another 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened. Cool for a few minutes before pouring over the biscuit base.

4. To make the chocolate topping, whisk the sugar, eggs and egg yolks for 4 minutes, or until thick and pale. Gently melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water), leave to cool for a minute and then add to the sugar  and egg mixture, whisking until smooth and glossy.

5. Spread the chocolate mixture over the caramel and bake for about 20 minutes or until it is almost set but still a bit wobbly. Allow to cool in the tin, refrigerate if you prefer your caramel firm rather than gooey (either way is great!)

And that’s it – a recipe that will definitely be going in to the family file, one which I will no doubt use again and again, whenever I get the chance.

Happy Christmas!

I hope you have all had a wonderful, happy and tasty Christmas. Below is the Christmas ‘pudding’ that I gave to my family today. One of my children really doesn’t like a traditional Christmas pud, so I decided to come up with an alternative. The result was the Mary Berry chocolate sponge (the same recipe that I used a few weeks ago and decorated with chocolate buttercream and raspberries) , covered in a Grand Marnier cream. To make the cream I mixed together the zest of an orange, 75g sugar and 3tbsp Grand Marnier, this was then left to macerate for 30 minutes. I then strained the orange mixture through a sieve and added the double cream to the orange liquid. This was whipped till it would only just hold its shape. The chocolate cake was then smothered with the cream and the decorations were added. The firework candle was an inspired impulse purchase by my husband – a fab idea.

Why my paintings are like buses …

it’s because I’ve not done any for quite a while and then I paint 3 in 1 afternoon! Unfortunately, I didn’t like the first two at all, I’ll be using the reverse side for practising at some point in the future. I think I just tried too hard to create abstract images of a hydrangea ‘head’, the results were not good at all, one was way too blurred, to such an extent that the image faded almost completely into the background, the other was so abstract that it didn’t make any sense at all.

On the upside however, I think I learned from the mistakes I made earlier this afternoon and I’m really pleased with my third attempt:

I chose a small collection of flowers that were in different stages of decomposition and I loved the colours that were created. I tried to get as close as possible to the natural colours, as with all things natural, the colour combinations were all sumptuous. I feel very relieved as part way through the afternoon I was beginning to feel quite downhearted, thinking that because I hadn’t been painting for a while, I had lost my sense of creativity.

I hope to paint again next week, when the Christmas festivities are over and before the New Year ones begin in earnest, hopefully I’ll still retain my creative mojo.

A sunday treat …

The boys were all out this morning so I thought I’d create some edible ‘art’ whilst I had the place to myself. I treated myself recently to Mary Berry’s baking book and the two recipes I have used thus far have been PERFECT. A few weeks ago, I made some Viennese Whirls – I didn’t have time to photograph them as they were hoovered up by hungry boys within moments of them being assembled. Today however, I made sure to get my camera out in time. What began as a ‘normal’ chocolate sandwich cake, turned into more of a gateau, thanks to the addition of some raspberries, a tiny amount of raspberry liqueur, some sifted icing sugar and some piped chocolate buttercream icing: Image The boys were suitably impressed, especially as this had been made for just the four of us, it was all I could do to stop my youngest putting his face in it!