Sweet Festivities

With the exception of Thanksgiving and Easter, there are few celebrations in the yearly calendar that are so well defined by the food served around them. Christmas, though, is the most glamorous from a dining perspective.

Panforte di Siena
180g    Acacia honey
120g    golden syrup
210g    brown sugar
60g    cocoa powder
60g    plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tspns     cinnamon powder
1 tspn     garam masala powder
120g    dried apricots, chopped finely
90g    candied orange zest
90g    candied (glace) pineapple
180g    hazelnuts, roasted and finely chopped
150g    almonds, whole, skinless, roasted and loosely chopped
90g    macadamia nuts, roasted and loosely chopped
2    lemons zested, finely
1    orange zested, finely
1 tbs    orange marmalade

  • Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  • Lightly grease and line a 20cm cake ring with baking parchment.
  • Place the honey, golden syrup and brown sugar into a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring to avoid the sugar catching on the base.
  • When it boils, reduce heat and allow it to     simmer for three minutes.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour and the cocoa powder with the cinnamon and garam masala.
  • Add the dried apricots, candied orange zest, candied pineapple, hazelnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, lemon and orange zests and marmalade.
  • Pour the boiled sugar mixture over all the ingredients and stir all to combine.
  • Spread the mixture into the base of the lined baking tray and press flat, using the back of the mixing spoon.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.
  • Remove and dust heavily with icing sugar. Allow to cool and then dust again with icing sugar before cutting small thin slices to enjoy with coffee or as a snack.

Lebkuchen Cookies
300g    plain (all-purpose)flour
8g     cinnamon, powder
8g     ginger, powder
8g     bicarbonate (baking) soda
120g     caster sugar
40g     cream
30g    golden syrup
1    egg
500g     dark chocolate, melted

  • Into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted    with a paddle attachment, place the sifted    flour, cinnamon, ginger and bicarbonate soda. Add the caster sugar.
  • Chop room-temperature butter into small    pieces and add to the dry ingredients, and mix until the butter has been worked into the dry ingredients completely.
  • When the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs, add the egg, cream and golden syrup and mould the mixture into dough. Ensure the dough is completely worked and there are no dry ingredients remaining at the base.
  • Remove the dough and rest overnight, covered in plastic and place in the refrigerator.
  • Heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Roll the chilled dough onto a floured bench surface to approximately 1cm in thickness. Use a 6cm diameter round cutter to cut  out the cookie dough and place them onto  a parchment lined tray.
  • Allow space for expansion upon baking.
  • Bake the cookies for 14 minutes.
  • Remove when baked and allow them to cool on the tray. When cool, spread the bases with the melted chocolate and set back on the parchment paper to set.
  • Serve when the chocolate has hardened.

White Christmas
60g    rice bubbles (rice crispies cereal)
30g    dessicated (powdered) coconut
45g     slivered almonds
60g    icing (powdered) sugar
45g     currants
20g     candied orange peel
20g    candied glace cherries, chopped
30g    dried apricots, chopped finely
150g     copha (white coconut shortening) or hard coconut oil

  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Place all the ingredients except the Copha or coconut oil into a mixing bowl and combine together. Place the Copha or coconut oil into a saucepan and warm until melted and clear.
  • Pour the Copha or coconut oil over the ingredients in the mixing bowl and use a spoon to combine all the ingredients well.
  • Press the finished mixture onto the baking sheet allowing it to be 3cm in thickness. Press it into shape and flatten the top surface.
  • Cool in the refrigerator for two hours.
  • Remove and cut into thin slices and serve as a snack or with coffee.

180mls     milk
1 1/2  tbs    dried yeast
200g    caster sugar
240g    unsalted butter
1 tspn    salt
3    whole eggs
4    egg yolks
1    lemon finely zested
1    orange juiced and finely zested
1 tbs    vanilla
600g    plain (all purpose) flour
30g     kismis (white) raisins
30g    currants
30g     candied orange peel
30g     sliced almonds toasted
Icing sugar for dusting

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Celsius.
  • Heat the milk in the microwave so that it is warm but not hot. Stir in yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Stir well and set aside, covered, for 15-20 minutes in a warm area.
  • In a food processor add together the sugar, salt, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, lemon zest, orange zest, orange juice and butter. Add the yeast mix to the food processor and     pulse again briefly. Add the flour little by little until a dough starts to form.
  • Pour the wet sticky dough onto a well floured board and sprinkle the raisins, currants, candied orange peel and nuts over it. Use a scraper to fold and knead the     dough, adding a little extra flour to bring the dough together.
  • Shape the dough by hand into a ball and     place it inside of a well greased 20cm diameter panettone mould or the deepest sided container that you have.
  • Place in a warm area to rise for three hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
  • Bake the panettone in the preheated oven on the lowest shelf of the oven with all other shelves removed. Bake for     approximately 40-50 minutes.
  • Remove and allow it to cool for five minutes before removing from its container, and allow it to cool on a     cooling wire.
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve slices when cool.

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The Finishing Touches

Merry Festivities to One and All!