We were very thankful to be forgoing Christmas Day lunches and dinners at our place this year after having done them for the last three. As much as we love dreaming up a menu, and preparing all the goodies, we felt tired and worn out after what’s been a difficult year, so were grateful when my younger brother put his hand up to host it. We instead invited everyone over for Boxing Day Afternoon Tea. This gave me a great excuse to try out some of the Pinterest recipes I had been pinning!
First up, several days ahead I prepared Choc Chip and Cranberry Shortbread dough, which I subsequently rolled into a log, covered in cling wrap, then stuck in the fridge and forgot about til the day. The original recipe included maraschino cherries, which I replaced with dried cranberries, and I used a mix of white and milk chocolate buds. Perhaps due to my measurement conversions, I found the recipe I followed (courtesy of Closet Cooking) to be a bit dry, leaving me with unworkable crumbs, so I worked in extra butter until I had a consistency that would stick together when pressed and could roll into logs. On the day, I just sliced the logs up with a sharp knife and popped them in the oven – easy peasy and super tasty.
Next up to make ahead of the day was blackberry macarons. I have never been able to buy or mill my almond meal to a fine enough consistency so that the surface of my macarons have that lovely smooth finish. They always end up looking a bit grainy. So, I decided that I would pipe them with a star-like shape instead and that way, it wouldn’t matter.
(I followed David Herbert’s recipe, which was published in the Weekend Australian Magazine/May 8-9 2010)
175g icing sugar
125g almond meal
3 egg whites
55g caster sugar
Preheat oven to 150°C. Line 2 – 3 baking trays with baking paper. Sieve icing sugar into mixing bowl with almond meal and mix through. Whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks and then gradually whisk in caster sugar until mixture is very stiff and shiny. Food colouring can be added at this stage (I opted for purple food colouring). Fold dry ingredients into egg whites carefully with a rubber spatula in two portions. The mixture needs to be mixed through thoroughly, but you don’t want to over-deflate the egg whites or else you will end up with biscuits – tasty, but not the end result you want (been there and done that!). Brave Tart offers excellent advice on how to make macarons and debunks many of the myths surrounding them.
Blackberries are in season, so I decided to make a curd to use in the middle for something different and to also add a bit of tartness to the already sweet macarons. I found Use Real Butter’s recipe for curd, which sounded great, and I just scaled down the volume.
1 cups blackberries, fresh or thawed
1/4 cup water
1 tsp orange zest
1/3 cup sugar
1 oz butter
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cold water
Place the blackberries, water, and orange zest in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Puree the mixture in a food processor and press through a sieve to get rid of all the little seedy bits. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar and butter. Mix the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl. While whisking the berry mixture, pour the cornstarch into the saucepan. Stir until thick and bubbling, and stir for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour the contents into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool.
Also included were My Baking Addiction’s Nutella Truffles with Frangelico. Mine weren’t quite as pretty, but they must have tasted good as I only had a few of the not-so-pretty ones left to photograph!
And last but not least, Tim Tam Truffles…and now for the post-Christmas-New-Year’s-Resolution of eating healthy…for a little while at least