60g milk chocolate
200g dark chocolate
150g unsalted butter
40ml good-quality brandy
150g dark chocolate for coating
50g cocoa powder for dusting bars
Take a cake tin roughly 14cm square and line it with clingfilm. Using a sharp
knife, chop both kinds of chocolate into small pieces and place them in a
heatproof bowl large enough to accommodate all the ingredients. Warm the
chocolate for a couple of minutes in a microwave or over a pan of simmering
water until it is semi-melted; be careful not to heat it too much. Cut the
butter into small pieces and keep it separate.
Pour the champagne and brandy into a small saucepan and place on the stove
until they warm up to around 80C; they should be hot to the touch but not
boiling. Pour the alcohol over the chocolate and stir gently with a rubber
spatula until it melts completely.
Stir in the butter in a few additions, then continue stirring until the
mixture is smooth. Pour it into the lined tray and place in the fridge for
at least three hours, until it has set firm.
Place the chocolate for coating in a mixing bowl and put it over a pan of
simmering water. Stir occasionally, and as soon as the chocolate has melted,
remove the bowl from the steam bath. Scatter the cocoa powder over a flat
plate. Turn the chilled chocolate block out of the tin on to a sheet of
baking parchment and remove the clingfilm. Use a very sharp, long knife to
cut it into roughly 2cm squares. Clean the knife in hot water after every
time you cut.
Using two skewers or forks, dip the squares in the melted chocolate, wiping
off any excess on the side of the bowl. Quickly roll the squares in the
cocoa powder and place on a clean tray. Allow the chocolates to set in the
fridge, but make sure you leave them out at room temperature for at least
half an hour before serving.
From Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ebury
Nigella Lawson’s edible Christmas tree decorations
(makes 35-40 biscuits)
I couldn’t have Christmas without these, or at least, not happily. Rituals are
essential to give us meaning, a sense of ceremony, and making these peppery,
gingerbready edible decorations is how I have always marked with my children
that Christmas has begun.
PHOTO: Lis Parsons
300g plain flour (plus more for dusting)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
100g soft butter
100g soft dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
4 tbsp runny honey
for the icing and trimmings:
300g instant royal icing (from packet)
edible glitter, or gold or silver balls
Line two baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3.
Combine the plain flour, a pinch of salt, the baking powder, cinnamon,
cloves and pepper in a food processor and, with the motor on, add the butter
and sugar, then, slowly, the beaten eggs and runny honey, though don’t use
all of this liquid if the pastry has come together before it’s used up.
Form two fat discs and put one, covered in clingfilm or in a freezer bag, in
the fridge while you get started on the other.
Then dust a work surface with flour, roll out the disc, also floured, to a
thickness of about 5mm and cut out your christmas decorations with cutters
of your choice, which could include fir-tree shapes, angels, stars,
snowflakes, and so on.
Re-roll and cut out some more, setting aside the residue from this first disc,
well covered, while you get on with rolling out the second. When you’ve got
both sets of leftover clumps of dough, roll out and cut out again, and keep
doing so until all the dough is used up. Now take a small icing nozzle and
use the pointy end to cut out a hole just below the top of each biscuit
(through which ribbon can later be threaded).
Arrange the pastry shapes on the lined baking sheets and cook for about 20
minutes. It’s hard to see when they’re cooked, but you can feel: if the
underside is no longer doughy, they’re ready. Transfer to a wire rack and
leave to cool. Make up the instant royal icing, beating it until it’s thick
enough to be able to cover the biscuits with a just-dripping blanket of
white; but don’t beat it for as long as the packet says or you’ll have icing
so thick it will need to be spread with a spatula and you won’t get such a
Carefully ice the cold decorations, using a teaspoon (the tip for dripping,
the back for smoothing), and scatter glitter or gold or silver balls over
them as you like. When the icing is set, thread ribbon through the holes in
the biscuits and hang them on your tree.
From Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus, £20)
Konditor & Cook’s Kipferl cookies
These typically Austrian cookies have spread to the far reaches of the former
Habsburg Empire and are popular throughout southern Germany and in Hungary.
Legend has it that the crescent shape is derived from the Turkish half-moon.
These days Kipferl are a staple Christmas treat in Germany but can also be
found throughout the year. It is in this tradition that we bake them all
year round at Konditor & Cook – or perhaps it’s just to satisfy the
human squirrels who love the moreish taste of toasted hazelnuts and vanilla.
After baking, the warm biscuits are rolled in vanilla sugar. It is quite
handy to have a jar of vanilla sugar in your cupboard for this and other
recipes. Otherwise, just add a small pinch of fresh vanilla seeds to a cup
of caster sugar and mix well.
PHOTO: Jean Cazals
50g ground hazelnuts
60g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla extract
125g salted butter, cut into sugar-cube-sized pieces
200g plain flour
for the vanilla sugar:
If you start from scratch and want ‘instant’ vanilla sugar, use 1 vanilla pod
to about 250g caster sugar. It’s more economical, however, to mix
scraped-out vanilla pods with sugar and infuse it for a longer period
(ideally at least a week) in a tightly sealed jar. At Konditor & Cook we
have a big bucket of sugar into which we put all the empty vanilla pods.
There is plenty of residual flavour left in them and this is the best way to
extract it. For this recipe you will need 100g vanilla sugar.
Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Spread out the ground nuts on a baking sheet
lined with baking parchment and toast them in the oven for five to seven
minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
In a mixing bowl, blend the caster sugar with the egg yolk and vanilla
extract, using a wooden spoon. Add the cubed butter and mix until the pieces
have broken down a little. Add the flour and toasted ground hazelnuts, stir,
then knead to a smooth dough with your hands.
Divide the dough into three pieces and roll each one into a sausage 16-20cm
long. Cover with clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes. Remove the dough from
the fridge and cut each length into 16 pieces (half, then quarters, then
eighths and so on). Roll each piece into a ball, then, using the palms of
your hands, shape it into a small, tapered crescent moon. Don’t make the
ends too pointy or they will burn.
Place the cookies 1cm apart on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake
for about 12 minutes, until pale golden brown.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a minute or so, then push all the
cookies towards the centre of the tray and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar.
It’s best to cover them completely. Leave to cool. When the cookies are
completely cold, lift them out of the vanilla sugar. They will keep in an
airtight container for up to two months.
From Konditor & Cook: Deservedly Legendary Baking by Gerhard Jenne
(Ebury Press, £20)
Annie Rigg’s Vanilla and chocolate fudge
(makes about 50 pieces)
This fudge will keep for about two weeks in an airtight box between layers of
non-stick baking parchment or waxed paper.
PHOTO: Tara Fisher
sunflower oil, for greasing
397g can condensed
150ml full-cream milk
225g demerara or soft light brown sugar
225g caster sugar
a pinch of sea salt flakes
100g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Grease a 20cm square baking tin with sunflower oil and line with non-stick
baking paper. Tip all of the ingredients apart from the butter and vanilla
into a 2½ litre saucepan and place over a low heat to dissolve the sugars,
stirring frequently. Once the mixture is smooth, raise the heat slightly and
bring to the boil, again stirring to prevent the mixture from catching and
scorching on the bottom of the pan. Pop a sugar thermometer into the pan,
reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the mixture reaches
114-116C. Continue to stir the fudge frequently as it cooks.
Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the fudge reaches the required
temperature. Pour the fudge into a large mixing bowl, add the butter and
vanilla bean paste, stir once or twice to combine and leave to cool for five
to seven minutes without stirring.
Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, beat the fudge until it thickens,
loses its shine and starts to become grainy. Pour into the prepared tin,
spread level and leave until completely cold before cutting into pieces to
From Sweet Things by Annie Rigg (Kyle Books, £16.99)
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