Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Christmas greetings

on December 25, 2012

So – I meant to post yesterday but, as Christmas Eve is a real day of preparation for me and I had hardly any spare time until we collapsed on the sofa to watch The Polar Express just before the girls’ bedtime, I didn’t get round to it. So I’ve stolen a few moments whilst everyone watches the last bit of Strictly to wish you a happy Christmas and share some foody thoughts with you.

So, we made it to the end of term, despite viruses (viri?), bad weather and tiredness. I was especially pleased with the way the teachers’ presents turned out this year – I was given a new run truffle recipe by a friend which is cheaper to make on a large scale (using cocoa and syrup instead of chocolate), have a longer shelf life and, although different in texture from my other recipe, was very well received!

Melt 1.5oz butter, 1tbsp syrup, 1tbsp milk and 1tbsp rum together in a pan. Then remove from the heat and mix into 6oz icing sugar and 1oz cocoa. Once they are combined, beat hard for a few minutes and then allow the mixture to set a little in the fridge. Scoop out small amounts and roll into balls, then coat in chocolate strands and refrigerate again to firm up. They’ll keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a few weeks (if they’re around that long!)

I bought some little boxes in Lakeland (intended for baking and presenting cakes but equally good for sweets etc) and piled in my truffles – some coated in chocolate strands and some in gold lustre dust – and then put them in a cellophane bag. When I tied on the ribbon I also added the Christmas tree decoration the girls had chosen for each teacher.

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For the Sunday school teachers I found some gorgeous little boxes. I can’t link to them as they’re a discontinued product, which is a bit of a shame as they’re really cute and I hope there’s something similar next year. They’re designed for presenting a single cupcake or other small gift, so I chose cookies as I thought they’d go better in the boxes than the truffles. I used Cherry Menlove’s White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies recipe, but made smaller cookies to fit into the boxes by using a teaspoon of mixture instead of the golf ball directed in the recipe and a shorter cooking time (I estimated 10 minutes but in fact in the O Z O it took 7!). This way, instead of the two dozen large cookies the recipe yielded a whopping EIGHTY small cookies of a regular biscuit size. I am therefore giving them away to anyone who comes nearby!

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The problem of what to give our small army of window cleaners was solved when Southern Daddy answered the door to the Chief Window Cleaner guy and paid him the regular rate! If they come back this week they’ll get cookies. All the other service providers have had truffles, apart from the bin men who once again had to go without on the grounds that we’re invariably either still asleep or out of the house when they come round.

So finally we reached Christmas Eve. Despite planning pretty much the same Christmas Dinner as last year, I made a few changes to my preparation as I decided to have a go at my own stuffing and made Delia Smith’s Eighteenth Century Chestnut Stuffing (a doddle, apart from chopping the chestnuts which is boring and takes ages – I kept reminding myself how much worse it would be if I’d had to peel them too!) in addition to the gravy stock and the cranberry sauce.

I also departed from my usual habit and, inspired by Mary Berry on the Great British Bake Off Christmas programme, made royal icing for my Christmas cake instead of the usual sugarpaste. What a boon that turned out to be! Firstly you don’t have to get your marzipan smooth and most importantly you don’t have to worry about rolling, ripping or unevenness. I intended to use Mary’s own recipe from the show, but as that was online and Delia Smith’s recipe was in my book in the kitchen I began using that. I mixed the egg white and icing sugar and then beat the mixture on the top setting of the electric mixer for AGES but without success. I then reverted to Mary Berry’s recipe, whereupon everything started to come together. It turned out that if you use pasteurised egg whites, as I was, it takes much longer to get to the stiff-peak stage and one website even went so far as to say lemon juice must be added to achieve the stiff peaks at all. My icing made, I anointed the marzipan with vodka and spread the mixture over my cake – taking about 2% of the time I usually do to ice a cake – and added my new decorations (as we’re not a traditional “snow scene” household we had to get decorations but I found some suitably retro ones in Lakeland!). Later, when the icing was set, I finished it off with a ribbon.

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So, that’s all I have to tell you, really! Today was lots of fun, from the annual panic that the turkey won’t be in the oven soon enough to turn the temperature down before we went to church, to the carols and quizzes at church and the presents and food and family games (Bananagrams!) back at home! I’ll sign off here for 2012 and settle down to listen to the last ever episode of Bleak Expectations.

Happy Christmas, all of you. See you in the New Year!

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