Tag Archives: christmas

Tempering and producing your own Christmas chocolates…

IMG_2927…is much easier than I first though possible! Once I mastered my secret weapon… And the thrill of offering your own homemade chocolate is … well… a THRILL!

A few attempts and several recipes later, I can give you my very first and almost foolproof recipe for gorgeous and velvety homemade chocolates. The glossy squares in the picture encase a delicious strawberry ganache. But if raspberries are easier to come by, they will do just as well. If you are running short of presents, you have got a week to master this.

These recipes are adapted for the Thermomix and I have to say, this machine really allows you to quickly temper chocolate almost as well as a professional tempering device. There. I have said it: I am never trying anything else again…

For the strawberry purée:

  • 200 g strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • 20 g granulated sugar
  1. Heat the strawberries and sugar 6 minutes/80°C/Speed 3/Reverse Blade Direction (using reverse blade stops the strawberry pips breaking up/splitting and releasing any bitterness). Pass through a fine sieve or muslin cloth into a small bowl and set aside. Squeeze by hand to get as much purée as possible or press with the back of a spoon.

For the chocolate ganache:

  • 130 g whipping cream (37% butterfat)
  • 130 g strawberry purée
  • 4 drops strawberry essential oil OR ½ tsp natural strawberry extract
  • 650 g good milk chocolate callets/chips/drops OR milk chocolate bars broken into 1 cm pieces
  1. In a clean TM bowl heat the cream and strawberry purée 8 minutes/60°C/Speed 2.
  2. Add the chocolate and melt 3 minutes/50°C/Speed 2.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the TM bowl with the spatula, then melt again 5 minutes/37°C/Speed 2. Pour the chocolate mixture into a frame or tray lined with clingfilm 1 cm deep. Allow to set at room temperature overnight then place in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours. Cut into desired shapes and store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

This recipe comes curtesy of the Thermomix website and the following is pinched from Thermochoc.com. It works a dream.

Tempering the chocolate

Thermomix method

Ingredient:

▪   500g high quality chocolate, broken into small pieces

  1. Pulse the chocolate on Turbo for 5-6 seconds, to turn it into pieces about the size of crushed hazelnuts, this helps it to melt evenly.
  2. Take out about half the chocolate and put to one side.
  3. Heat the remaining chocolate on 50 degrees, speed 2 for 6 minutes. This will take it up to about 46-48 degrees.
  4. Add the remaining chocolate and mix on speed 2 for 6 minutes. This will take it down to about 28-29 degrees, and the chocolate might look like it’s starting to lump.
  5. Heat at 37 degrees for 30 seconds on speed 3. This will take the chocolate up to about 32-33 degrees, which is a good temperature to use.

Your chocolate should now be tempered. Which basically means that each molecule is back into place et your chocolate will now have a snappy texture and a glossy appearance- So tempering is a little bit like putting together lego blogs!

Keep the pan in a bigger one full of hot (not boiling) water so you can keep it at melting temperature while you work with it.

Cut up squares from the cooled strawberry ganache and dip them into the tempered chocolate. Remove carefully and leave to dry onto a silpat or grease proof paper. While still soft, you can decorate with a violet or a rose petal dipped in sugar- avalaible from delicatessens or baking supplies.

IMG_8545With thanks to www.thermochoc.com

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Big Ben in gingerbread and other festive delights

I had three teenage girls in my kitchen this week-end, exchanging geeky (chemistry!) jokes and spilling laughter and edible glitter all around the place! They used our recipe from last year and wanted to build a gingerbread house, but being ambitious and competitive young things, they decided on Big Ben as a template! So here it is: Big Ben in gingerbread and sweets.

This will make a fantastic Christmas centre piece and is now displayed in prime position in our house…

We also baked and decorated lots of gingerbread shapes to give as presents in hampers and boxes. Same recipe just shorter baking time. Because the recipe has masses of honey and spices, those are really delicious as well as decorative and none of us seem to get enough of them at tea-time… They make great dunkers!IMG_3188IMG_3182

IMG_3178IMG_3180IMG_3189Well done girls! I am very proud of you and you are very welcome to come back next year! Buckingham palace this time?!

Mini Christmas cakes for well-wishing

On Christmas morning at 11am, A. and I went to Westminster Abbey for the magical “Crib service” in the royal cathedral- because prayers and Carols are as essential to my Christmas as mince-pies and foie gras ! 
Halfway through the nave, a life-size nativity scene awaited us, on a bed of straw, next to two beautifully lit trees… and lots of small children joined in the nicest and best loved carols. It was a very moving, secluded and intimate service – but you are also in for a treat if you have booked seats for the 4pm candlelit Christmas service of today.
There were only a few people with us, all gathered around the Crib and with the 30 metres of the nave above us, figuring the infinite sky beyond the barn. We talked of shepherds coming to worship the babe and of their gifts of lamb. I thought of giving when you have nothing to give and of the generosity of strangers that is at the core of Christmas lore. Back home, I wrapped presents with renewed energy ! Giving love… Wrapping love.
Tis’ the season of presents and goodwill and cakes make lovely little gifts. I found this recipe on the net, by Rachel Allen and changed only a little- I am notoriously bad at following recipes…
Last minute Christmas cakes: They don’t keep for long either!
Ingredients list:
  • sultanas 225 g
  •  currants 225 g
  • mixed candied peel 110 g , chopped
  • Dates 75 g , stoned and chopped
  • crystallised  ginger 25 g , finely chopped
  • Butter 250 g , softened
  • light brown sugar 250 g
  • Eggs 5
  • Orange zest1 tsp , finely grated
  • Ground almonds 50 g
  • plain flour 275 g
  • All spice 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon 1 tsp ground
  • Nutmeg 1 tsp, freshly grated
  • Rum or brandy, 125ml

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add the eggs one by one, alternating with spoonfuls of sieved flour.

Add the fruit and ground almonds; continue adding the spices and zest and mix well. Flavour with rum or brandy.

Put in a warm oven at 170º for 1 hour  for a big one or just 30min for the mini versions. Much better if you are short of time than the 3 or 4 hours that Christmas baking usually entails!

Eat the next day with a cup of tea or if you want to make little new year’s gifts of them, feel free to cover with a sheet of marzipan and a duvet of icing  and then decorate according to your fantasy. Wrapped up with a simple ribbon, they make delicious home-grown presents. We hosted some Christmas drinks last week and I gave one with a card to each of my leaving guest. If you are feeling like sharing more, they can go in a hamper with some jam!

Merry Christmas Joyeux Noel Feliz Navidad

An edible Advent calendar- this month idea!

Maybe due to the shorter days and the tendency to spend more time indoors when it is colder outside, but it is nice to see that the pre-Christmas period is when everybody feels at its most creative and I usually go into overdrive with craft projects and ideas for cards or presents! One cannot possibly tire of knitting scarves for a loved one- but that’s an other subject…

Here is my latest  production: an Advent calendar, both decorative and edible.

How to: I bought lots of very small gifts, chocolate and sweets to put into tissue paper  and made them into parcels. Each parcel is then tied with florist’ string or ribbon and clipped with mini pegs each holding a different number from 1 to 24. I found these at Tiger, a nice discount shop, but you could use mini gift tags or pricing labels and number them yourself with a bright gold pen.

I tried clipping each parcel along a long ribbon (as in below) but they were a bit heavy so I opted for scattering them  in a pile inside a pretty box. The idea is that every morning from the first of December, one of us will open a present until there is none left. We might even leave the opening to guests- sometimes…

A christmas garland in indigo and red

A Moscow mule to take you to Christmas!

I know ! A donkey would have been more appropriate… but I am not offering you a ride, rather the recipe for my new favourite drink. Which I discovered – of all places!- at my youngest son PTA party. For the un-initiated and the non-British, PTA stands for Parents and Teachers’ Association. But unlike the parents-teachers evenings of my childhood,  it consists of quite a bit of alcool as well as some very nice homemade food ! The trick is not to get too tipsy before you get to see the Physics teacher so your (/my) lack of empathy for his subject is not too blindingly obvious… Excessive enthusiasm won’t do either… He won’t be fooled!

In any case, the Moscow Mule did seem to loosen up

T'is the season of mince pies!

everybody and if it can make a PTA meeting a scream, then it’s got to work everywhere! I loved it and made it at home the next day.

Ingredients list:

  • Two measures of Vodka
  • 3 drops of Angostura Bitter
  • One measure of lime juice (about 3 or 4 squeezed)
  • lots of crushed ice
  • Enough Old Jamaica ginger beer to top up a tall glass


Mix it all in, top up with the ginger beer and decorate with wedges of lime and some fresh mint.

Enjoy!