Thursday, 13 December 2012

AGH! less than TWO weeks to go!

Sorrowful Halloween Deco!
Oh golly DL fans - apologies for the lack of posts, but it really has been so busy here at DL Towers that there has been a serious lack of posts. Very remiss, and something to be remedied asap. Anyhow, the "Significant Birthday" has been and gone now, so I have no more excuses (apart from the lack of Christmas decorations up in my house - in fact, there is still a single, solitary, sad and lonely Halloween decoration lurking in my hall, half up and half down - so at least I'm slacking on all fronts, eh?!).

Anyhow, just a thought on Christmas desserts. As planning is the key to Christmas joy and cheer, you need to think about this now, a week or two in advance, and plan accordingly. Now, I'm not talking Christmas pudding here; if you are a traditionalist in the pud department, you will know that your pud should be made a good month or more ago, or you will have sourced a high quality one from a reputable source by now and at the least it is ordered. (Although in a side bar, there is the whole question of sauces to go with - for me, the answer is simply "brandy butter", so I'll give a recipe for that below.)
Chocolate Roulade & Strawberry Pavlova
No, what I mean here is the "secondary" dessert. In our house, at least, Christmas dinner is a "two dessert" sort of affair. So there has to be a second one made. Also though, there are the other days... There is often a large family dinner Christmas Eve night too, when the family finally gathers, and despite the protestations on St. Stephen's Day about how you ate so much yesterday you couldn't manage another morsel - well, I find you usually do want something other than just a mince pie after you've managed to cram that turkey, ham, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwich into you (oh, I think the Stephen's Day sandwich is nearly my favourite part of the Christmas dinner, do you know that?!).

So here's a few options for you: a chocolate Christmas roulade (looks very festive too, although quite heavy along side the Chrissy Pud, so I tend to leave this til Stephen's Day, or even the day after again, when the brothers and their families usually arrive). A pavlova - perfectly light antidote to the richness of the traditional pudding and all the rest of the massive dinner. And tiramisu - simply because I love it. Of course the traditional "second dessert" is a proper, old fashioned trifle; Margaret, my DL partner (and brains behind the whole operation, if truth be told) is a GREAT trifle maker and her trifle post will be along shortly.

Chocolate Ameretto Roulade
Both this recipe and the recipe below (pavlova) are fully gluten free, so a bonus for those who have wheat issues or suffer from coeliac disease

  • 5 large eggs
  • 8 oz caster sugar
  • 6oz best dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or more)
  • ½ pint double cream, whipped
  • 2 tablepoons of Ameretto di Saronno (liquer) 
1.     Line a swiss roll tin / baking tray with silicone / parchment paper and pre-heat the oven to 180C
2.     Melt the choc with 3 tablespoons of hot water, in the usual way (bowl sitting on top of gently boiling pot of water, not touching) stirring gently, then set aside to cool slightly
3.     Seperate the eggs, then combine the yolks and sugar and beat til they go pale and nearly white
4.     Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks
5.     Add the melted chocolate to the egg yolk mixture, then gently fold in the egg whites
6.     Pour into the lined tin
7.     Bake for 20 mins at 180C
8.     Leave to cool overnight in the tin
9.     Next day, whip the cream to stiff peaks, then gently add in the ameretto
10.   Remove the cake from the tin as follows: Place more parchment paper on a tray (or a waxed bread wrapper, like Brennans or Irish Pride etc. will work perfectly too) then place this tray over the tin with the cake in it, flip over so the cake is now on the tray. Remove the paper liner, spread the cream on top and roll - use the bread paper / other parchment paper to help (if you're unsure, google it - there will be loads of YouTube clips showing you how - it's not hard you just need to go for it!)
11.   Don't worry that it all cracks, just dust it all with icing sugar and it is good to go - my FAVE choc dessert and my 5yr old's fave dessert too!

This is the Delia Smith method – she doesn’t use any cornflour or vinegar as she says that on balance, there is no need. My mum always did use both … but no one in my family has yet noticed that I don’t! Also, this recipe scales up very easily and I have made massive ones. However, on balance, I now prefer to make two medium sized ones instead of one massive one, so I’d use maybe 5 eggs and 10oz sugar in each. I’d pop them in the oven at the same time, on a shelf each. Bob’s your uncle!
  • 3 large fresh egg whites
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 10fl oz whi[ing cream
  • Fruit, to decorate
  • Preheat the oven to 150C / 300F / gas mark 2 (for a fan oven, 140C is probably enough)
  • Prepare a baking tin by lining with parchment paper and drawing a circle about  8 inches / 20cm round, as a rough guide
1.     You need to be very careful when separating the eggs, as the merest drop of fat (the yolk) will mean that the egg whites don’t .whip up enough, so use two cups and transfer each egg white into a large bowl one at a time. I also use a metal bowl for this, but I’ve often used a plastic bowl to equally good effect. Do also make sure that the eggs are fresh – it is much easier to separate fresh eggs, the yolk is much less likely to break. However, if the yolk does break and even one drop gets into your egg white, bin it and go again – hence doing each one singly over a cup rather than into the bowl, you really don’t want to be starting from scratch as Murphy’s Law does state that it will the very last egg yolk that breaks…
2.     Using an electric hand whisk (honestly, your arm would fall off otherwise!) whip the egg whites to soft peaks, so that when you lift out the beaters the egg peaks droop a little
3.     Now you need to start whisking in the sugar – go ounce by ounce (about a dessertspoon full each time), whipping well each time and slowly you’ll see the egg whites transform into meringue, as it becomes all shiny and velvety
4.     Once all the sugar is incorporated, use a metal spoon (to keep the air in, makes a cleaner cut) to spoon about half the mixture or more onto the prepared baking tray and smooth it out to about 8 inches
5.     Now use the spoon to pop little blobs of the mixture round the edges of the pavlova – on top of the base part, not outside them, then use a metal skewer to make a swirl in the top of each blob, pulling it out sharply each time to leave a tiny peak
6.     Pop the pavlova in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 140C / 275F / gas mark one and leave for one hour (no matter what size pavlova you are making, an hour is plenty) then turn off the oven and leave the pavlovas in it til the oven is completely cold – handiest is to make it the night before and go to bed after switching the oven off and leave it in the oven overnight. This allows to meringue to dry out nicely, while still retaining that lovely squidgy-ness in the middle. Incidentally, pavlova is the one thing my mother always cooked in the electric oven rather than the range, as the electric is a “dryer” heat. Pavlova will last for up to a week, if stored in an airtight container (unfilled though, once you add the cream, it starts to go soggy)
7.     Before serving, whip the cream to stiff peaks and fill the cavity with it (I usually sweeten the cream slightly before whipping) and then fill with fruit – for Christmas, I like a mix of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, I think it looks a little more seasonal than just strawberries (my “summer” choice). Kiwis also work very well, as the tartness cuts through the sweetness of the meringue. Banana and a grating of chocolate / sprinkle of crushed flake works well too. Nigella Lawson suggests a Christmas version with pomegranate, here’s another blogger’s blog post on it)


I usually double up on this, although I just make the same number of layers and give smaller portions, as it is very rich

·         300ml / ½ pint very strong coffee
·         60g / 2oz sugar
·         2 large eggs, separated
·         1 tsp vanilla extract
·         225g / 8oz mascarpone cheese
·         4 tbsp Tia Maria
·         About 12 Savoiardi biscuits (gross under estimation – I usually use about twice this… whatever you need, but not too many or there won’t be enough cheese mixture to go around)
·         1-2 tbsp coca powder
·         Serves 4 – 6 people

1.     Sweeten the coffee with half the sugar and reserve
2.     Cream the egg yolks together with the remaining sugar until pale and light, then gradually whisk in the vanilla extract and the mascarpone
3.     Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then throw a spoonful into the mascarpone mixture to lighten it, then fold in the rest with a metal spoon with a scooping motion while turning the bowl (I do this about a third of the egg at a time), folding gently to maintain the air and keep it light
4.     Pour the cold sweetened coffee and the Tia Maria into a shallow dish and, one at a time, briefly turn the biscuits in it.  You do not want them too soggy (this is the key, I think! You want them damp but not soggy – immerse one to “soggy point”, to get the gist of what’s too far).  Arrange these like the spokes of a wheel in a 25cm / 10 inch round springform tin (I don’t have this size tin, so I use a bowl and rather than gapping out the biscuits like wheel spokes, I lay them together, so that’s why I use more biscuits – whichever you prefer)
5.     Spoon on one-third of the mascarpone cream into the tin, then a add second layer of moistened biscuits.  Repeat with a second layer of mascarpone and third layer of biscuits, by which time you will have used 12 sponges (according to the recipe!), maybe more, and finish with the remaining cream mix on top
6.     Chill for at least 8 hours (this is key too – I “pre-tasted” once, tasted of nothing… so I stick cling film on and leave it overnight in the fridge)
7.     Remove from the fridge and dust with cocoa powder before serving

Brandy Butter

This is basically just regular butter icing, made with brandy instead of milk and vanilla extract to bring it together
  • 150g butter, at room temp
  • 300g icing sugar (or maybe 50g less, if you find it too sweet)
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  1. Beat the butter til creamy, then beat in the icing sugar
  2. Beat in the brandy, til it all comes together
  3. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until ready to serve
Enjoy the calorie overload and think about exercise in the new year!

Sarah xx

And PS - I did, finally, take the Halloween sign down yesterday evening, promise

EDIT: - Monday, 17th Dec

What was I thinking - I nearly forgot! I meant to suggest a chocolate fudge sundae for the junior members of the team. This is really just an assembly job - all you have to do is make the chocolate sauce. It's also a great dessert for a summer barbecue, or any other time of the year either! The suggested assembly comes from the Sunday Times "Style" magazine, who's chocolate sauce is basically the same as mine. The chocolate sauce recipe is the recipe that sparked my interest in cooking, all those years ago. It is my Aunt Angela's, we were staying with our cousins for a few days one summer and Mum came to collect us, I was telling her she wouldn't believe how good the chocolate sauce was and she had to get the recipe from Angela - and Mum suggested that I ask for the recipe. So I did. The recipe is still written into my mother's recipe notebook in my 7 or 8 year old hand writing... You can, of course, alter this as you see fit, adding more or less of what you fancy. You will be very popular. Sorry for the photo - it is, literally, a photo of the picture from the Sunday Times recipe that is stuck into my scrapbook ... The real thing never lasts long enough in our house to be photographed, you see!

Chocolate Fudge Sauce

  • 2oz butter
  • 2oz caster sugar
  • 1oz golden syrup (about 2 - 4 dessertspoons - if you run warm water over the spoon first, the syrup should easily run off the spoon)
  • 2oz chocolate (best dark chocolate - the extra ingredients mean that even the children love it)
  • 3 tablespoons of water

  1. Melt all the ingredients together over a low heat

Chocolate Sundae(Called a "Chocabocker Glory" in the Sunday Times)

  • A handful of toasted chopped hazelnuts (you can also toast blanched hazelnuts yourself, in a dry pan over a medium heat for about 3-4 mins, til tinged with brown, then chop)
  • 150ml cream, whipped
  • 1 quantity of chocolate fudge sauce, above
  • A tub of good vanilla ice cream
  • 8 oreo cookies
  • 2 Cadbury's flakes (or 4 mini ones)
  • Serves 4

  1. Put a scoop of ice cream in a suitable glass (a large tumbler would do fine, if you don't have sundae glasses)
  2. Pour over some of the hot sauce, then crumble in a couple of the cookies
  3. Add another ball of ice cream and then pour more sauce on top
  4. Finally, add a generous blob of cream, sprinkle with some nuts and stick half a flake in the top
  5. Serve straight away!


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