Chocolate Refrigerator Cake

The Spanish love sweet things.  I don´t think I´m making too much of a generalization with that statement.  Not that they´re greedy, but a little cake or biscuit is always most welcomed with a strong cup of coffee at the end of a meal, or a big bowl of milky coffee if it´s the start of the day.

Dealing with preparations for our unexpected lunch for 12, I was lucky that I had already made some of Spree´s gorgeous Mexican Wedding Cookies for an earlier family meal. The recipe makes plenty, and they were hugely popular. The only change I made to these, as I was in a rush, was to grind all the nuts (I used almonds and walnuts) and not chop half of them.  Lovely, lovely little biscuits and I´ll definitely be making them again.

Another quick recipe which came to mind was for Chocolate Refrigerator cake.  I made this the night before our lunch party and cut the cake into small squares the next morning.  These went down well too, and it´s a good recipe to make with little children as you only need a (supervised) heat source for melting.

Here´s the way I made it, although you can chop and change (or even omit) the fruit/nut filling.

250g crushed digestive biscuits (graham crackers)
100g butter
2 tablespoons of golden syrup or honey
3 level tablespoons of cocoa powder
About half a cup of “filling” – I used the last of my drained boozy fruits and added the grated zest of one lemon and one orange

Melt the butter with the golden syrup and cocoa then add to the crushed biscuits and filling.  Mix well until everything is well coated. If you leave some large chunks of biscuit/cracker, you will have some pretty speckles in the finished “cake”.

Pour into a tin lined with cling film, flatten and press it with your finger tips then cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight until firm.

Cut into squares – it´s very rich so I tend to do “bite sized”. And that´s it. Doesn´t get much quicker or easier does it?!

Festive Cantuccini or Biscotti

 

A final, final (promise) Festive Recipe before we move into the New Year.

I´m not sure why, but in our family, Biscotti were always called Cantuccini.  Maybe it´s because the words biscotto (singular) or biscotti (plural) in Italian mean biscuits (cookies) and could apply to any type at all.  I´m not sure.

Of course, now we make our own, and like many of you out there, we add our own special twists to appeal to the people we are giving them to, or the time of year, or depending on what is available.

I´ve made these Festive Cantuccini for the last few years at this time of year because there are so many beautiful dried fruits available and the spices, to me, evoke Christmas smells.  Of course, the fruits, nuts and spices can be changed to please you and your loved ones.

Delicious served with frothy coffee or Vin Santo for dipping.  Buon Appetito!

Ingredients

  • Heat oven to 180º or Gas 4 and line 2 flat baking trays with silicon or greaseproof paper
  • 350g plain flour plus 2tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 3tsp mixed spice
  • 250g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Grated zest of one large orange and one large lemon
  • About 200g of dried fruit (I used candied peel and dried cherries)
  • 100g nuts (I used whole blanched almonds)

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl with the zest and then stir in the beaten egg with a broad knife initially and then your hands. Keep kneading even though it seems dry, it will come together.

Now add in the fruit and nuts and mix in well.  Divide the mixture into four and make a sausage shape out of each piece, about 30-40cm long. Put two on each baking sheet and bake for about 30 mins until firm.  It will spread out slightly but still be pale.

Leave them to cool slightly for about 10 mins, reduce the oven temperature to 120º/Gas 1. Cut diagonally into slices and put back on trays and into oven.  Continue to bake for about 30 minutes, turning half way through.

Can be stored in an airtight tin for up to one month (like they´ll last that long!).

All that remains for me to say on this last day of the year is, Health and Happiness to you all in 2012!

Boozy Christmas Fruit

One of my “go to” books at Christmas is Delia Smith´s Christmas.  Sometimes I follow the recipes with just a few tweaks, and other times the book just inspires me to try something new.

My parents are coming out to Spain this year to celebrate Christmas with me and Big Man.  To say I´m excited would be a huge understatement.  When I was growing up, and ever since to be honest, they always made Christmas a very special and magical time for me and my brother.  My grandparents lived with us (my mum´s parents) and next door was my godmother, Zia Luciana, and her two daughters who were all part of our extended family.  I have very happy and treasured memories.

Although I have entertained my parents before at Christmas, it´s been a while, so this year I really want to make it extra special.  Of course, one of the ways I can do this is through the food I prepare for us to share.

My dad requested a Light Christmas Pudding, which features in the Delia Smith book that I have made previously.  I´ll post that soon.  I´m also going to make an ice cream inspired by another recipe and I´ve just made some Boozy Christmas Fruit.  The recipe in the book uses mainly glacé fruit, but it´s a recipe that is flexible.

Here´s what I used (quantities are up to you)

Dried cherries, dried cranberries, dried apricots (chopped), chopped mixed peel, glacé cherries and ginger

All these are put into a jar and covered in a sweet dessert wine (I used a local wine which is very much like Vin Santo).  The recipe calls for Madeira.  I took the shot before it was mixed up to show you the different fruits.  This will now sit quietly in a cool dark place until Christmas Day when it will be spooned over the ice cream and any other desserts we fancy eating it with. I may have to do a few quality control spot checks beforehand though…just to be sure its maturing nicely you understand.

Suet Free Mincemeat

For anyone not familiar with mincemeat, let me explain.  It has nothing to do with minced or ground beef, it´s made with fruit. Well…initially it was made of meat, flavoured with sugar, fruit and spices.  This, historically, was probably to mask the strong flavours of meat which needed to be preserved without the benefit of refrigeration.

Over time the mixture became sweeter and all that now remains of its meaty ancestor, is an ingredient called suet, which is usually beef or mutton fat. This melts down into the mix to preserve it.  Vegetarian suet it now also available.

When I spent my first Christmas in Spain 6 years ago, it was impossible for me to track down ready made mincemeat for my Christmas Mince Pies, let alone suet to make my own.  Things have changed now over the years, but I still use a recipe I came across (and I don´t know where, so apologies to whoever it “belongs” to) which is a suet free version of mincemeat.

The flavours develop and improve over time, although it´s excellent even freshly made.  If you make a large batch, it will be wonderful next Christmas!

Ingredients

  • 250g brown sugar
  • 250ml cider (sweet or dry) or apple juice
  • 1kg of peeled and chopped cooking apples
  • ½ teaspoon ground mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 250g each of currants, raisins, cranberries
  • 75g glace cherries
  • 75g blanched almonds
  • Rind & juice of ½ lemon plus rind of 1 orange
  • 6 tablespoons of brandy or rum (optional)

(Feel free to vary the ingredients according to your taste)

Dissolve the sugar in the cider over a gentle heat, add all the other ingredients except the alcohol and cook until soft and pulpy.  Cool slightly, stir in alcohol and put into sterilised jars.