Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas... (& Sweets for Santa!)

Here in Australia, it gets pretty hot at Christmas time.  Tomorrow is forecast to be 39 degrees Celsius.

So when it fell to me this year to make the dessert for Christmas lunch, I thought something made of icecream would be very welcome in the middle of the day!

Lately I've been a bit obsessed with gingerbread (oh yes, there has been a lot of baking going on.  Just not much blogging).  So I decided it would be rather nice to make a layered molded dessert of gingerbread and vanilla icecreams - mmm....  Ooh, and I could enter it into the latest Sweet Adventures Blog Hop!

Didn't it turn out pretty?  I was panicking a bit about getting it out of the mold before Christmas Day, but it seems to have gone back into the freezer with no problems...

If you're not thinking about licking that picture, with its chewy-crunchy gingerbread base, and deliciously frosty layers of vanilla and gingerbread creaminess, you totally should be.  Trust me.  But wait - it gets cuter.  This is what it's going to look like when it hits the table tomorrow:

Teeny gingerbread men and hearts, with a royal-iced gingerbread star, complete this treat!

So here's the recipe - and it might be too late to make it for Christmas Day, but you could definitely make either of these icecreams on their own just to eat from a bowl - the vanilla is really good, but I am very proud of the gingerbread - maybe I'm biased in favour of anything gingerbready right now, but personally I think it's sensational...

Gingerbread Icecream Tree

Vanilla Icecream
400mL cream
100mL whole milk
1 vanilla bean
5 egg yolks
125g caster sugar

Modus Operandi
Place cream, milk and vanilla bean in a medium sized saucepan, and heat slowly just until boiling point, then remove from heat immediately.  Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy.  Gradually add the cream mixture to the egg mixture, and continue to whisk until combined.  Transfer the mixture to a clean saucepan, and cook over low heat, stirring all the time, for around 15-20 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon.  Do not allow to boil!  Refrigerate the mixture until cold (preferably overnight), before churning in an icecream maker.
Pour churned icecream into your chosed mold, and freeze.

115g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
300g sifted plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp grated nutmeg

Cream the butter and sugar just until smooth.  Stir in the molasses and egg yolk.
Combine the dry ingredients and stir into the molasses mixture until smooth.  The mixture will be very soft and sticky - that's okay.  Wrap it in plastic, and chill for at least one hour.
Meanwhile, take a piece of baking paper and draw around the shape of the mold you have used for your icecream.  Cut the shape out, and put it aside.
Preheat the oven to 175C (350F).  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about 8mm thickness.  Using your baking paper template, cut the shape you will need for your base out of your gingerbread dough (in my case, a large Christmas tree).  Transfer the shaped gingerbread onto a lined baking tray (note:  you will make your life much easier if you keep the paper shape on the gingerbread tree shape until you have transferred it to the tray.  It will inevitably warp a little in the process, and having the paper template still there means you can smooth it back into shape before baking).  Remove the template and keep it for later.
Bake the large gingerbread in the oven until firm, and the edges are golden brown (the actual time will vary depending on the size and shape of your mold.  Mine took around 15 minutes).
Bake your small cookies for around 8-10 minutes.  Cool on trays.

When it is completely cool, move your large gingerbread shape to a board, and trim it back to the desired shape using your paper template.  Theoretically I imagine this would be easier while the gingerbread was still warm, but I wasn't game enough to move it at that stage.  Please yourself.  :o)

Gingerbread Icecream
600mL cream
Some of your Gingerbread cookies - I used about 90g of them (although I had some left over from my last batch, so depending on the size of your mold's base, you might need to make two batches of gingerbread if you want to decorate with them too.  Not sure... sorry.  But hey, who minds extra gingerbread around the house, am I right?)
6 egg yolks
150g light brown sugar
2 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

Exactly the same as for the vanilla icecream, but add your gingerbread cookies to your cream mixture right at the beginning.  When you remove it from the heat, strain it through a sieve.  The cookies will have turned to mush - stir it a bit to help the liquid through the sieve, but don't force it all through.  Most of the cookie mush will go through the sieve easily - any that doesn't, discard.
Add the spices and molasses to the egg/sugar mixture just before adding the cream mixture.
When the icecream is churned, pour it into the mold on top of the vanilla, and freeze.

To construct:
Take your icecream out of the freezer, and whilst it is still in the mold, press the gingerbread base firmly onto it.  Return to the freezer until it is time to serve.

At serving time, flip the icecream tree out onto your desired serving plate (it's a good idea to freeze that, too, to stop the icecream from starting to melt quite so quickly!)  Decorate as desired.

Wow, that was kind of long.  But trust me, it's totally worth it!  And after all, we all deserve to be a bit indulgent at Christmas, right?

I really hope that you and yours have a wonderful, fun, peaceful holiday season - and do check out the other Sweets For Santa at the blog hop below - this month it's being hosted by Christina over at The Hungry Australian - she did an icecream dessert too, and it looks amazing!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bad Blogger. Bad, Bad Blogger.

Wow...  So it's been a while, huh?  I mean, I know my blogging "schedule" is fairly erratic at the best of times, but I can't believe I haven't posted anything here since Hallowe'en!

So I'm not going to bore you with seven weeks' worth of Muffin Tin Mondays.  We've totally been doing them, but I just seem to have been incredibly busy lately, what with sewing, prepping for The Muffin's first ever ballet concert, baking for her end-of-school parties.  And at the end of any given day, when it's been a choice of:  a) blog latest Muffin Tin and/or cookie;  b) relax with husband in front of the TV;  or c) fold washing / sew something in front of the TV...  well, let's just say that blogging never managed to win that fight.

Wait a minute... did I say "sew something"?  Why, yes.  Yes I did.  Truth is, I've been spending a fair bit of my free time on my new(ish) hobby, which is sewing - not clothes, but toys, ornaments, and cute things.  And guess what - I've even opened an Etsy shop!  And people who are not my relatives have bought things from me!  You can probably guess I'm pretty excited about that.  If you're interested in checking out my Etsy shop, it's here:  Lollybright Toys!  I'd really love it if you'd stop by and tell me what you think...

Now, I do have a couple of Muffin Tins to show you - just this week and last week's.  We decided to do a "Twelve Days of Christmas" theme.  We split the twelve days over two weeks, and it was such fun!

So here goes:  On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Bottom Row (right to left):  Twelve Drummers Drumming (drumsticks made from cherry bocconcini impaled on pretzel sticks);  Eleven Pipers Piping (strips of hash brown, with music note picks);  Ten Lords Leaping (or apple frogs, actually).
Top Row (right to left):  Nine Ladies Dancing (ballerina fairy bread);  Eight Maids a-Milking (milk);  Seven Swans a-Swimming (swan carved out of a pfeffernusse, with pale blue M&M water).


Bottom Row (right to left):  Six Geese a-Laying (hard-boiled egg);  Five Gold Rings (made of cheese);  Four Calling Birds (chopped up mango with music note picks).

Top Row (right to left):  Three French Hens (cut out of carrot, with cheese wings & beaks, black sesame eyes and heart-sprinkle combs);  Two Turtle Doves (dove shaped pikelets with butter);  and a Partridge in a Pear Tree (dried pear)!

She ate the lot out of the second tin (days 7-12), and all but one gold ring and one French Hen out of the first tin (days 1-6).  She had a huge amount of fun with this - the way she ate it was hilarious.  She sang the song, and ate a bit of each thing with Every Single Line.  She even managed to ration each thing out so that she had a little of each left for the last line of the song.  The fact that this meant she was eating sweet then savoury then sweet then savoury the whole time did not faze her at all.  Too funny.

If you want to check out some more Muffin Tin Goodness, click on over to the Muffin Tin Mom's blog - she's on a break right now, but people can still link up.

I promise I'll be back here again before Christmas, to share some yummy treats - 'tis the season to be on a Massive Sugar High, after all!  Until then, I hope you and your families are safe and well, and enjoying the festive season.

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