We’ve been busy in the kitchen this week, making edible gifts designed to stimulate the appetite of Harry’s fairy Godmother who is currently recovering from surgery. I’m the first to admit that my kitchen skills leave something to be desired; my husband was mildly astonished by my culinary incompetence when we married – my party trick was to peel off the film from a microwave meal with one hand whilst programming it with the other – and things have improved only slightly since then. As such, Harry and I look for recipes which produce stunning results but require very little skill. Often, we make them up as we go, as we did with these White Chocolate and Strawberry Pastilles (above); a perfect Christmas gift for a foodie, and startlingly simple to make. Our Edible Gold-leaf Florentines are a cheat’s version of the classic florentine, as we simply sprinkled the chopped fruit and nuts on the top of ours, before daubing with edible gold leaf…
- white and milk chocolate (chips, chunks; you choose. We used 200g of each and produced a LOT of sweets!),
- freeze-dried strawberries – try the home-baking section of the supermarket, and if that fails you can of course use sprinkles, balls or cake decorations instead, as shown below
- for the Florentines; a selection of chopped nuts and fruit. We had candied peel, raisins, glade cherries and flaked almonds in the cupboard already so used those, but chopped mixed nuts would be great.
- I used a silicone macaroon sheet from here to get perfect shallow discs, but if you don’t have one lying around (and who does, frankly?), just drop small dollops of the melted chocolate on a baking sheet and flatten and shape into rounds with the back of a teaspoon.
For both the pastilles and the florentines, melt your chocolate in your usual way (experts whizz it in the microwave; I am not very vigilant here so prefer to melt it over boiling water on the stove, using the double-bowl method). When melted, drop small spoonfuls into your mould or onto your baking sheet, and smooth the tops with the back of a teaspoon. Leave to set for about 10-15 minutes; you don’t want them to harden, but simply to lose some of their runniness so that the topping doesn’t cause them to spread and spill. Now you can add your topping; for both recipes, just sprinkle your chosen topping over the chocolate discs. For the florentines, I placed a flaked almond on each then sprinkled the chopped fruit on top. Don’t worry if they scatter everywhere; once the chocolate is fully set you can retrieve stray fruit, nuts and sprinkles.
Now pop in the fridge for an hour to harden. Once hard, you can gild your florentines (and then remember to tell your friends later; ‘what did I do today? Well, y’know, gilded my florentines…’. Take a clean paintbrush and use it to dab a little edible gold leaf on to the top of each one.
Once you’ve done this, you can taste-test them with any small kitchen helpers, before wrestling the remaining few precious sweets away so that you have at least a handful to package up as a gift..
I packaged our white chocolate and strawberry pastilles in a little gift box, layering with white baking parchment. For the florentines, I used the cracker templates from the last post to make a pretty cracker using sturdy gift wrap (birdcage wrap from here), and carefully stacked the florentines in there.
A word of advice; store these beauties in the fridge until you’re ready to use them, and encourage your recipients to do the same; like all chocolate which has been previously cooked, it will take on a slightly dusty greyish appearance if you just store it in a cupboard – the taste won’t change, but they’ll be at their most shiny and gorgeous if you keep them chilled.
Crackers! Thank you to everyone who shouted ‘Yes PLEASE!’ last week in the cracker snap giveaway; Harry made the draw last night and later this week crackers will be winging their way to 10 readers across 3 continents. A number of you asked where to buy snaps from so that you could source them yourselves, so I’ve done a bit of research and here’s a start point for you…
- In the UK, try here for different sizes packs of snaps or here for cracker kits – or ebay.co.uk which always has a few sellers
- In the US/Canada, try here for online ordering, or US friends tell me that Michaels often stocks them near the gift wrap in store at this time of year
- For Australia and New Zealand, try here (they also shop to certain other countries)
The next big DIY; I’ve just sourced this slightly mouldy and very cheap bookcase on ebay to make Harry’s Christmas present; a play hardware store and garage (I know, I know; go with me on this one….). He loves his kitchen and shop, so this is the last piece of play furniture that we have room for; I’m thinking petrol pump, pretend car wash – I’ll keep you posted!
The Impossible Pirate Cake: and finally, my birthday cake pirates are taking shape! I’ve found it’s actually quite therapeutic rolling fondant in front of the TV of an evening, glass of red wine in hand – kind of like the grown-up version of Play-doh. I’m still trying not to think about how I make the actual cake/ship itself..