Saturday, 28 December 2019

Festive Desserts

I made two desserts for the Christmas period, as something chocolate is obligatory, but my daughter had also asked for a repeat of Dan Lepard's Mont Blanc Layer Cake.

The Mont Blanc Layer Cake recipe, based on meringue, is far too big for just three of us, particularly as it doesn't keep well, so I made a meringue roulade with only 3 egg whites, filled it with a half quantity of the chestnut and ricotta cream and drizzled melted chocolate over the top.

We decided, on trying the dessert, that although it was delicious, we all preferred the crisper meringue of the original recipe, which gives a better textural contrast with the chestnut cream than the soft meringue of the roulade.

For  the chocolate dessert, I made a half-sized quantity of Delia Smith's Chocolate Truffle Torte, which fitted nicely into a 7" (18cm) shallow cake tin. The only departure from the recipe was to use Amaretto liqueur instead of rum.

My daughter also contributed a batch of mince pies, which has become a tradition now. She uses this Mary Berry recipe, which adds dried apricots to the mincemeat and tops the tarts with grated marzipan.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Shortbread Squares (Again!) with Mincemeat and Hazelnuts

I make these shortbread squares so often these days that I feel guilty about writing a blog post about them again!

However they are so delicious and so quick to make that reminding you about them in the run-up to Christmas is probably doing you a favour. Don't bother with pastry and individual mince pies, especially if you're feeding a crowd - make these instead!

The basic shortbread recipe, and general idea, comes from Sue Lawrence's book 'On Baking'. Over time I have experimented with many fillings based on jam, mincemeat and dried fruits.  This time the filling was mincemeat mixed with apricot jam, and I also added chopped toasted hazelnuts to the portion of dough put aside for the topping.

Dough Ingredients:
170g SR flour
170g semolina
170g butter
85g caster sugar
30g finely chopped toasted hazelnuts

250g mincemeat and 100g apricot jam, mixed together well (or use all mincemeat).

Preheat the oven to 190C and line a 20cm (8") square baking tin with parchment.
Mix the flour and semolina in a large mixing bowl.
Melt the butter and sugar together gently, until the sugar has dissolved, and add to the flour mixture. Stir until well combined.
Take 2/3 of the dough and press firmly and evenly into the base of the baking tin.
Spread the filling over the base, leaving a small margin around the edges.
Mix the chopped hazelnuts into the remaining dough and crumble the mixture over the filling layer. Press down lightly with the palm of the hand.
Bake for 25 minutes, by which time the shortbread should be a light golden brown in colour.

Cut into pieces of the desired size (I make 16 squares) as soon as the tray is removed from the oven, but don't try to take the pieces out of the baking tin until they are completely cold - they are too fragile while warm, and will break up.

The shortbread layers of these squares are perfect - crisp but a little crumbly, and they just melt in the mouth. Curiously,  adding apricot jam seemed to reduce the sweetness of the mincemeat - it must just be down to the natural tartness of apricots because the sugar content of jam and mincemeat are very similar.