Festive Season Update!

With my best intentions I had posts planned for almost every day last week, but as you can see they never got written. Although, with the craziness of the festive season taking over – last minute shopping, baking, present wrapping and catch ups – mixed with Jeff finally coming back from his month long trip to visit family in Canada and South Korea, I think I was a little optimistic in thinking I would have the time to do so many posts! Instead, I have decided to condense most of the posts I had planned into one update, then I can be done with Christmas for another year!

First, the rest of the edible gifts I made to go into our Christmas hampers. Over the last few weeks I have talked about Cherry Jam, Homemade Vanilla Essence, Christmas M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies, Sugar & Spice Nuts & Peanut Butter Truffles… I also made some other flavours of truffles and some Homemade Barbecue Sauce to go with all of that. Mum then bought something small that was specific to each family and put these in the hampers with all my homemade gifts. Unfortunately, I got caught up in the festivities a little too much and forgot to take photos of them!

Maple Pecan Truffles Makes 20

Maple Pecan Truffles

The filling for these was based on a recipe I found in this months Super Food Ideas magazine. I had to add a fair bit more maple syrup to be able to taste it in the mix and I was even using proper Canadian maple syrup for it. I also prefer chocolate dipped truffles as they aren’t as messy in hampers, so I coated mine using the technique in my Basic Chocolate Coated Truffle recipe.

Combine 200g dark chocolate & 2Tbsp cream in a bowl and melt in the microwave until smooth. Stir in 1tsp vanilla essence, 5Tbsp maple syrup & 1/2C finely chopped dry roasted pecan nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until firm. Roll into small balls and refrigerate for another 1-2 hours.

When ready, melt another 200g dark chocolate with 25g copha. Using a skewer, pick up one ball at a time and dip in the melted chocolate, drain for a few seconds to remove extra chocolate – you just need a thin layer. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and remove skewer. Sprinkle with extra chopped pecans to cover up the skewer hole.

Hazelnut Truffles

I also made some Hazelnut Truffles using my regular recipe, but this time we had frangelico in the house so I used that instead of vanilla essence. Again, I probably used at least 3 times the amount, but they were delicious! I chose chocolate truffles as one of my challenge recipes for my round of the Cooks Club Challenge on the Taste forums and a lot of people seemed to have trouble with them. I don’t understand what is going on as I have used my 2 truffle recipes for years and can’t remember having any difficulty with them. Yes, it can get a bit messy when you make them on a warm day… your hands will get covered in chocolate inevitably, even if you make them on a cooler day (although I noticed the Peanut Butter Truffles didn’t do this, they just left oil on my hands!)… Some people had trouble coating the chocolate coated ones, and this is no attack on them or anything, but I just don’t understand how they don’t end up smooth and covered like mine! I just wish I could be there to help them all out and show them how simple it really is… maybe I do something subconsciously that isn’t in my recipe and that makes all the difference? Isn’t it interesting how the same recipe can produce such varying results for different people?

Homemade Barbecue Sauce Makes approx. 4C

Sorry, but I forgot to take a photo of this one as well… I got the recipe from the Festive Season Handbook, which has VERY ambiguous recipes and vague instructions. After boiling it for a while I realised it was looking a lot like tomato sauce or chutney, so I decided to add some parisian browning essence to make it look more the part. The recipe also didn’t mention how long it will keep, but after a google search for similar recipes I decided it will keep for at least 2-3 weeks. I think details like this, as well as the yield (which was missing from the fruit mince pie recipe), are very important points that should make the final edit for a cookbook… seriously! Anyway, we kept a bottle for ourselves and it was delicious on sausages the other day.

Saute 4 sliced onions & 4 crushed garlic cloves in 4 Tbsp olive oil until tender. Stir in 1/2C red wine vinegar, 1/2C brown sugar, 4Tbsp wholegrain mustard, 2Tbsp worcestershire sauce, 1kg chopped ripe tomatoes, 2tsp salt & 4Tbsp tomato paste. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. If you want your sauce to be brown, add Parisian browning essence a little at a time until it reaches the desired colour. Puree sauce in a blender, bottle and keep refrigerated.

2008 Christmas Presents 1

After all that christmas gift making it was time to catch up with family and friends and relax a little. Jeff, My brother Luke and his girlfriend Bianca joined Mum, Geoff and I for breakfast on Christmas morning. We had pancakes with fresh fruit, maple syrup and cream and my delicious smoothies in banana and mango flavours (with some Malibu in the mango ones for a little bit of a kick start to the morning!)… after opening presents Luke & Bianca left to go to her dads for lunch and the rest of us headed to Warburton to spend the afternoon by the river with my uncle and his family… Jeff & I left there in the evening to have dinner with his housemates family who have taken him in as one of their own since he arrived in Australia… we spent a lot of time in the car and it was slightly stressful trying to get everywhere on time, but that is Christmas day for you! And just look at all the beautiful presents I got for all of my hard work…

2008 Christmas Presents 2

A big box of Lindt balls (from Mum) with new raspberry, coffee and orange flavours… A Smiggle diary (from Luke & Bianca) – I love Smiggle, and of course I love purple!… and see that big sugar & spice box?? that has 16 little cookbooks inside it!! I saw it in the shops and fell in love with it, I am glad I dragged myself away from it because my best friend Leish and her boyfriend Andy bought it for me! :)

2008 Christmas Presents 3

Check out the cute matching socks in the middle there (from Jeff), apparently they are all the rage in Korea… the big leaf is a jewellery holding tray (from Mum & Geoff) and the photo just doesn’t do it justice, there is a gorgeous dragonfly sitting on it too… I also got an IUO for a chocolate making course that Jeff is going to take me on! Delicious!!

2008 Christmas Presents 4

That tshirt (from Mum & Geoff) is soooo soft and comfortable… I also got some Canadian goodies from Jeff – a cooking magazine, a hand painted moose & some Ice wine… and some gardening gloves (off my aunty) because I want to start a vegie patch…

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas time spent with loved ones and filled with lots of good food & laughter… I still have 2 more Christmas themed posts planned for the last 2 days of the year, but with more festivities around the corner we can only cross our fingers that I will get them done… One of them is this months Daring Bakers Challenge (sneak peek below!), which I should really get done tomorrow… but if I don’t find time to do the other one I may be sharing some interesting things to do with fruit mince in the new year!

Daring Bakers December 2008 Challenge - French Yule Log 1

What do you think?