Christmas Cocktail Party 2011 – Part 2. Desserts!

On to the cavity inducing part of dinner…

While this dessert spread may look reasonably well executed, its preparation, I assure you, was not. I’m sure you’ve also experienced this at least once… not an available kitchen surface in sight, bins overflowing, sugar everywhere, the beeping of the oven punctuated by expletives… no? just me?

The final result, though, was worth it – mostly because it was wonderful to be with loved ones, eating a gingerbread man’s face and sipping on very alcoholic punch. Merry christmas everyone!


GINGERBREAD MEN (AND WOMEN!)

125g butter, at room temperature
100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
1 egg, separated
375g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
plain flour, to dust
150g (1 cup) pure icing sugar, sifted
8-10 drops red liquid food colouring
8-10 drops green liquid food colouring
mini M&Ms, to decorate

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  3. Meanwhile, place egg white in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric beater to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide icing among 3 bowls. Cover 1 bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Add red colouring to 1 bowl and stir until combined. Add green colouring to remaining bowl and stir until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
  4. Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick. Use a 9cm gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes. Place on trays about 3cm apart. Repeat with any excess dough.
  5. Bake in oven for 8 minutes (for soft gingerbread) or 10 minutes (for harder gingerbread) or until brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool.
  6. Place prepared icings in small plastic bags. Cut a small hole in a corner of each bag. Pipe icing over gingerbread men to decorate. Finish with mini M&Ms.

Makes 20


MINI PAVLOVAS
(Nigella Lawson recipe)

8 large egg whites
pinch of salt
500g caster sugar
4 tsps cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsps white wine vinegar
750ml whipping cream, duly whipped
1kg fruit of your choice (I chose passionfruit, blackberries and kiwi fruit)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line 3 trays with baking paper.
  2. Whisk the egg whites with the salt until they’re holding firm peaks but are not stiff. Gently add in the sugar, spoonful after spoonful, still beating, until you’ve got a bowl full of gleaming, satiny, snowy meringue. Sprinkle the cornflour, a few drops of vanilla and the vinegar on top and fold in to combine.
  3. Draw 18 circles of approximately 10cm circles (using a pint glass as a guide, if this helps) on the baking paper-lined trays.
  4. Spoon the meringue onto the trays into the delineated circles, and spread and smooth to fill. You want to make the meringue slightly higher at the rims, or just use the back of the spoon to make an indentation in the centre to hold the cream and fruit later.
  5. Put into the oven, turn it down to 150ºC/gas mark 2, and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them in for another 30 minutes, then take out of the oven to cool. I just transfer them, on their baking parchment, to wire racks.
  6. When you want to assemble them, dollop cream into the indentation, and smooth it with the back of a spoon, leaving the odd peak. Place whatever fruit and syrup you desire. Dust with icing sugar.

Makes 18


PEPPERMINT SEMIFREDDO

This Martha Stewart recipe turned out surprisingly well and I also learnt a surprising number of things whilst making it, mainly that everything tastes better in ice cream form and that crushing candy canes is a messy business (don’t ask me why I thought smashing them with an array of heavy duty kitchen utensils in a plastic bowl was a good idea and why my kitchen is now missing two plastic bowls). Whilst semi time consuming, this dessert would be a great finisher to a heavy meal as its very light and refreshing.

225g peppermint candy
3 cups heavy cream
6 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
175ml peppermint liqueur OR 2 tbsp peppermint essence

  1. Finely crush half the candy between the two sheets of parchment paper – I resorted to a meat tenderiser at one stage, but whatever works for you.
  2. Place cream in a medium bowl. Whisk in the crushed candy, and whip until stiff peaks form. Chill until ready to use. Roughly crush remaining candy and set aside.
  3. Prepare an ice bath. In a large metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisk egg yolks and 1/3 cup of sugar until pale. Add liqueur; whisk vigorously until mixture is thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to ice bath; continue to whisk until cool.
  4. In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water, whisk egg whites and remaining sugar until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm to the touch, about 2 minutes. Attach bowl to mixer, and beat until stiff and glossy peaks form.
  5. Fold the egg-white mixture into the egg-yolk mixture one-third at a time. Fold in the whipped-cream mixture. Spoon mixture into serving dishes, layering it with reserved crushed candy. Freeze until firm, at least 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Serve with crushed peppermint candy on top

Makes 15


CAKE PUDDING BALLS

1 box Devil’s Food Cake (Betty Crocker)
1 tub packaged chocolate icing or your favourite buttercream recipe
375g packet milk chocolate melts
100g packet white chocolate melts
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Christmas themed sprinkles (or decorations of your choice)

  1. Make cake in accordance with packet instructions. Once cooked, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  2. Using either a fork or a food processor, breaking up the cake until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Add icing mixture to cake crumbs until well combined.
  4. Line an oven tray with baking paper. Roll tablespoonfuls of cake mixture into balls and place on the prepared tray. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 4 hours or until firm (I left mine in overnight).
  5. Place the milk chocolate melts in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water. Stir with a metal spoon until chocolate melts. Add the vegetable oil and stir to combine.
  6. Insert a skewer half way into a ball and dip it into the chocolate until well covered. Return to the tray. Repeat with remaining balls. Set aside for 5 minutes or until set. At this stage you may need to put them back into the fridge to harden them up again, as mine were melting all over the place.
  7. Place white chocolate melts in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water. Stir until chocolate melts and is smooth. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Spoon a little of the melted chocolate onto the top of each cake pop, allowing it to run down the sides slightly. Decorate with sprinkles. Return to baking tray to set completely.

Makes 40


STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM

Not technically a recipe, but who can resist a big bowl of bright red strawberries next to a bowl of sugar ladden whipped cream? Slightly out of focus here, but you get the idea!

Hope you enjoyed the recipes 🙂

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