Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Tis The Season!

I can't believe it's only one-and-a-bit days until Christmas! The good news is, I actually think I'm all organised. For once. The tree is up, the presents are all wrapped, cards have been sent and received, and all the Christmas baking has been done. I'm even half way through preparing my contribution to the family party on Christmas night (dessert - did you guess?).

Who knows? We might even get that quiet, relaxing Christmas Eve I've been aiming for (and missing entirely) these last few years!

In the meantime, I thought I'd share this recipe with you. Nowadays it seems to me that every man and his dog make something that looks similar to these little "mini puddings". But as far as I can tell, most of those recipes involve either a) using leftover actual Christmas pudding/cake; or b) just decorating a plain chocolate truffle to look like a pudding. Both of which would be delicious, I'm sure, but they're just not the same thing as the ones I grew up with. This recipe gives a nod to Christmas pudding by its use of currants and brandy (and the decoration, obviously). But The Hero here is the chocolate/brandy combination. They are very chocolatey and yummy. And there's still time to give them a try!

Mini Pudding Truffles

190g currants
1/4 cup brandy
250g chocolate cake crumbs (this can be any old chocolate cake, it doesn't have to be fancy)
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/3 cup icing sugar
125g dark chocolate, melted
100g white chocolate Melts (maybe "bark" in America?? Whatever white chocolate product you'd use to coat something with, anyway)
2 tsp oil
180g extra white Melts (these ones need to be round - see picture)
4 - 5 spearmint leaf lollies
2 - 3 red glace cherries

The first thing to do is soak the currants in the brandy for At Least one hour (overnight is even better if you have time).
When the soaking time is up, crumble your chocolate cake into fine crumbs, then add icing sugar, dark chocolate, and the currants WITH their soaking liquid.

Mix together, and then roll the mixture into small balls and refrigerate for half an hour. Note: this is not the easiest mixture to roll, due to the currants, which spend most of their time pursuing freedom from chocolate captivity (one must ask oneself WHY?). I find it's more a case of squeezing them into balls, rather than rolling per se.

While the balls are chilling, get yourself a small sharp knife, and start cutting up your cherries and mint leaf lollies (you can also use green glace cherries or angelica, but personally I think the mint leaves taste better and are easier to cut). Cut them as you will, keeping in mind that they are supposed to end up looking vaguely like holly. Here is ours this year:

Very geometrical. Maybe a little bit too much so - maybe a more organic vibe would have been better, as per previous years. But triangles were easy. And hey, they're still cute.

Next, melt the 100g white chocolate Melts, and use a drop of this to "glue" one of your chocolate balls onto an intact white chocolate Melt (ie the "extra" 180g are for the bases). Repeat. Once your little "puddings" all have bases to sit on, they are ready for decorating.

Drizzle a little of the melted white chocolate Melts onto the top of each truffle, and add a piece of cherry and two pieces of mint leaf - voila! Holly! With this step you will need to work only two or three truffles at a time - because they are cold, you only have a limited window of opportunity until the white Melts solidify, at which point obviously your "holly" won't stick anymore.

I realise this probably sounds all very complicated. It isn't. My three year old did a sterling job of sticking the "holly" on (see above).

And that's it - all you have to do now is a taste test! I encourage you to give these a whirl - they really do taste good, but honestly? For me the best thing about them is they're so darn cute. And when they're on a plate with lots of brown things (cookies, other chocolate things, etc), they really do inject some Christmas spirit!

And I should mention that I did not create this recipe! It was cut out of a magazine of some sort many years ago by my grandmother. So I'd love to credit its creator, but unfortunately I don't know who he/she was...

Merry Christmas everyone - I hope you and yours have a happy and safe holiday season!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Christmas "Presents"!

Yesterday was Muffin Tin Monday (the last week of the "Holidays" theme), but I have been having computer ISSUES, hence my late post. Still, Better Late Than Never, right?

Anyway, in week 1 of the Holidays theme, Lizz of "A Little Bit of This & That" came up with the coolest idea - she wrapped her muffin tin compartments! And I thought to myself, That is awesome; I Shall Steal That Idea.

So I did. Here is our tin for this week:

Now the only problem with this idea was that I very stupidly thought it would be a marvellous idea if the whole thing was a Lovely Surprise. The Muffin had had a late night the night before and was, shall we say, fractious. She did not take well to being excluded from the filling of the tin. There Were Tears. So of course I felt awful (as the whole idea was that it would be fun, not distressing), and let her help after all. The great irony being that her excitement and apparent sense of wonder in opening the compartments seemed to be not at all lessened by the fact that she knew what was in there beforehand. So a lesson was learned. By me. ie Do Not Get Between A Budding Junior Masterchef And "Her" Kitchen.
The Muffin took great delight in opening each "present" one at a time and eating some of its contents before opening the next, and I forgot to take a photo before "wrapping" it. So this photo is sort of a "during" shot - some of each thing has already been eaten.
Top Row: Cheese & bacon muffin; Apricots & cherries; The Mystery Dessert Item (only not so much of a mystery as she chose it. But the suspense seemed to remain intact nevertheless)
Bottom Row: Carrots; Spinachy yoghurt dipping sauce; Macaroni cheese.
And finally, the unveiling of the dessert compartment:
A mini pudding truffle. These are really yummy (and no, they're not made out of actual Christmas pudding). Recipe later, I promise.
The After Shot:

Despite the initial drama, a success! (she left about half the macaroni cheese, but between that and the muffin, this was a fairly carbs-heavy lunch, so I didn't expect her to finish it).

To see what other mums did this week, go here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Christmas #2

Yesterday was Muffin Tin Monday, and the theme was Christmas again! I tried to include a fair bit of fruit this time, as we were baking our Christmas goodies yesterday, so there was a fair bit of ingredient-sampling going on. I figured her lunch could do with some vitamin involvement...

So here goes:

Top Row: Apple stars (and the pieces the stars were cut from, cause they were pretty too); apricots; cherries.
Bottom Row: Cheese Christmas tree with olive "presents" hiding underneath; Gingerbread man shaped cheese & ham sandwich with mini-M&M features; Cheese tree with olives again.
The After Shot:
'Nuff said.
To see what other mums did this week, go here: Muffin Tin Mom.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Christmas Snowman

Yes! It is Muffin Tin Monday - but if you're not interested in that, scroll down a bit, because today I am giving you two posts for the price of one, and the other one is an awesome recipe for REAL Melting Moments!

But back to lunchtime - the theme for the next three weeks is Holidays (ie Christmas, Hannukah, etc), which means for us it's Christmas!

The Muffin is super-excited about the approach of Christmas, and it's really cute as it's the first time she's really had any long-term excitement/anticipation about it. Such fun!

So here's our first Christmas-themed Muffin Tin Meal - a Snowman Scene:
Top Row: Apple stars and banana slices; Sparkly cheese shooting star (with edible glitter - you can't really see it in the photo, but The Muffin thought it was awesome), also some stray banana slices; Chocolate egg (Disney Princess Kinder-Surprise-type thing, already belonging to The Muffin - sigh. I swear one day I'm going to do one of these without sugar in it).
Bottom Row: Plain yoghurt with a few Christmas sprinkles on top; Snowman shaped Vegemite & cheese sandwich with sprinkle face & buttons; Tree/Plant made out of spinach leaves.
The After Shot:

I know you're probably thinking that the spinach leaves were ambitious to start with, but she actually a) requested at the shop the other day that we purchase "leaves" specifically for MTM, and b) reminded me whilst I was making the lunch "don't forget the leaves, Mummy!" But in the end, she only ate two.

Then again... She ate two! It's all in the way you look at it, I guess.

This was a very popular tin. Check out what other people did by heading over to the Muffin Tin Mom - hey, why not make a tin yourself next week? :o)

The Real Deal

There are in life a number of things that are almost always disappointing. Office Christmas party Secret Santa gifts, for instance. For me, a lot of these things are baked goods. Cupcakes that are beautifully decorated, but the first bite of which reveals they are clearly made from box mix. Lemon meringue pie bought at a cafe. And the worst offender? Melting Moments.

Oh, yes. You know what I'm talking about, you horrid rock-hard tasteless cookie, you. Sitting up there in a glass jar on the counter of the coffee shop, looking all tasty.

Well fear not, readers. Because I'm going to share with you The Best Melting Moments In The Known Universe (as determined by me). Now I didn't create this recipe - I got it from my mother, and I daresay she got it out of a cookbook somewhere. But damn, it's good. I have altered it this much: by the addition of lemon zest, and by making up the icing as I go along.

Melting Moments

250g butter
1/3 cup icing sugar
225g Plain flour
1/2 cup cornflour
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Cream butter, sugar & lemon zest together. Sift flours into mixture and combine.

Roll mixture lightly into small balls, and place on a lined baking tray. Flatten each slightly with a fork, as shown:

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 10 - 12 minutes, or until they are juuuuust starting to get a touch of colour around the edges (you want more or less the whole cookie to stay pale).

(As you can see in this picture, I was messing around and thought I'd try making some chocolate ones by substituting some of the plain flour for cocoa powder. They were good too, but the lemon ones are still my favourite)
Next, make your icing. You can play around with this and make it to your own taste, but essentially you want some combination of icing sugar, lemon juice and a little butter. I like it to have a noticeable zing from the lemon juice. The only thing to keep in mind is that it does need to be very thick. And if you want it to set hardish (which you do if you're like me), then not too much butter - the icing should be quite white.
Then just spread a decent amount on one biscuit...

... then sandwich with another, and leave to set. Then put the kettle on!

Oh, yeah. These are The Real Deal - just like your nanna used to make.
But be warned: Once you taste these, you'll never eat one from a cafe again...

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