Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cranberry Dessert Two Ways: White Chocolate Dipped Cranberries & Cranberry Cheesecake Pots

So I know I said my Gingerbread Linzertorte post was the last for this year, but I bought some cranberries for the first time ever a couple of days ago, and got inspired to make not only one, but two really easy Christmas desserts using cranberries - White Chocolate Dipped Cranberries, and Cranberry Cheesecake Pots! Both of these desserts scream Christmas.

The white chocolate dipped cranberries are the easy peasiest to make, they really just speak for themselves. I'm not going to even type the recipe out per se, as all it requires is melting white chocolate in a medium sized bowl (Hersheys White Chocolate Chips are great for this), dipping your washed and dried cranberries into the melted chocolate (or just dousing them all in like I did), removing them all carefully with a spoon one by one, and then placing them onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Place them in the fridge to harden, and ten minutes later you have the most addictive little chocolate covered berries!

If you have more time you could stick each cranberry onto the end of a toothpick for better ease of dipping, and sprinkle some edible gold sequins (mine were from Wilton) to make them look even more special.
What I love is how the white chocolate sweetened the effect of the sour tart cranberries as, if you have tried cranberries on their own, you will know how pretty sharp tasting they are! But dipped in chocolate they make a great snack to keep in a bowl on the coffee table, or just anywhere around the house if you have got guests over for the holidays. And really for a first timer like myself eating cranberries, I could not stop popping them into my mouth like popcorn! 
If you still have some cranberries to spare after making your cranberry turkey sauce (and dipping them in white chocolate!), why not try these cranberry cheesecake pots? This recipe is basically a re-working of my Blueberry Cheesecake Pots, but I increased the amount of sugar in the cranberry sauce (to combat the sourness!), as well as adding a little water. Otherwise the rest is all the same. And honestly, even this recipe took me all of half an hour to make. The cranberry sauce is delightfully sweet and jammy against the cool creamy mascarpone, and of course its a no-bake! As with the blueberry cheesecake pots, I just used whatever biscuits I had lying around - in this case golden oreos!
So there you have it. If you are looking for ways to sweeten your cranberries, without serving them with the Christmas turkey, I hope these two ideas inspire you to use them in a different way!
Cranberry Cheesecake Pots
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food
Fills four glasses, or eight mini glasses
150g cranberries
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp water
6-8 digestive biscuits (depending on how much biscuit base you like)
2 tbsps melted butter
250g tub of mascarpone
4 tbsp heavy cream
4 tbsp icing sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced.
1. Cook the cranberries with the caster sugar and water for about five to ten minutes, on low heat. Stir occasionally until a syrup has formed and the cranberries have popped. Leave to cool.
2. In a processor, blend the biscuits together with the melted butter till fine.
3. Line the bottom of your glasses with a layer of the biscuit mixture and chill for ten minutes.
4. Meanwhile, mix the mascarpone, cream, icing sugar, lemon zest and juice together in a bowl.
5. Alternate layers of cheesecake and blueberry mix in each glass and serve immediately or keep in the fridge till ready to serve.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gingerbread Linzertorte and Christmas Nostalgia!

Christmas is nearly here!

It might surprise some people reading this, knowing I'm a practicing Muslim, but Christmas is always going to be a memorable time of the year for me. I grew up believing in Santa Claus (Father Christmas), and our house always had a big decked out (plastic) Christmas tree every year with presents under it. We exchanged Christmas cards at school, and I absolutely miss singing carols! My mum would make a roast chicken with luscious gravy and veggies for Christmas day lunch, and one of my most favourite memories is my dad driving my sister and I every year to Harrods in London, at night, especially to see the beautiful window displays, all whilst munching on hot roasted chestnuts!
We never celebrated the religious aspect of it, and now that I am much older I can look back on those memories fondly, whilst being fully aware of who I am today and what I firmly believe in. Not to mention, Christmas is very different here in Dubai. Oh sure it is celebrated openly, and all the shops have been decorated just as spectacularly. But maybe it is exactly that - being older and wiser, and knowing that it gave joy in my youth, which makes it all the more special in my mind. Truth be told, I think Christmas will always hold its most special place in the heart of a child!
I guess what I'm trying to say is, even though there may be no more Christmas trees and presents, this time of the year can't go by for me without a little nostalgia and celebration. Apart from lots of store bought chocolate and mince pies, we never really baked anything for the holiday when I was growing up. So naturally when it came to baking another post for the blog I was inclined to try out a Christmas inspired recipe! And that's where this deliciously spiced gingerbread linzertorte comes in.
Traditionally the linzertorte finds its origins in Austria, and has become a firm holiday favourite in Hungary, Switzerland and Germany too. Most recipes involve lemon and almonds, but this gingerbread version has an abundance of spices to make it a lot more Christmas friendly.

The combination of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and pepper really gives this linzertorte a warmth and festive aroma. My husband even commented on the pleasant smell when he came home from work, as it basically makes the house smell like everything you would associate with December baking.  Filled with a raspberry jam layer, the sticky sweet tartness perfectly complemented the spice infused nutty crust, and was enjoyed greatly with vanilla ice-cream!
The dough is quite delicate though, so be gentle when rolling it out and definitely whilst handling too. You can probably tell from the pictures that I had a little trouble with my shell tops breaking! Be sure to take the tarts out just when they seem right, without over-baking, and I would also recommend a really generous layer of the jam.

I want to end this post by wishing all my readers seasons greetings, for Christmas and the New Year, as this will be my last post for 2013! And a question for nostalgias sake, I would love to know, do you celebrate Christmas differently now than you did in your youth?
Gingerbread Linzertorte
Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 1 large, or 4 mini tarts
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg white
Raspberry jam
1. Preheat oven to 162 degrees C, with the rack in the lowest position, and grease tart pans.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt together in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar and using an electric whisk on low speed, mix until combined.
3. Add the butter and mix until well incorporated. Add the molasses and egg yolks, mixing until the dough comes together.
4. Roll out 2/3 of the dough on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/4 inch thickness. Whether  making small tarts or one large tart, use your tart pan as a template. Cut around the pan whilst placed lightly on the dough, using a small sharp knife, and adding an inch extra to the outside to form the sides of the linzertorte.
5. Fit the cut dough rounds into your pans. Spread a thick layer of jam all over, and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes.
6. Roll out the remaining dough to fit the size of the tart pans exactly. Transfer rounds onto a parchment lined baking tray, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes from the rounds. You can reserve the cut outs as mini cookies, baking for 10 minutes at 162 degrees C.
7. Remove shell bases from fridge, and brush rim with the egg white. Carefully slide the cut out rounds onto the top, pressing the edges to adhere. Refrigerate until firm for 20-30 minutes.
8. Bake about 25-30 minutes for mini tarts, until crust is golden brown and jam filling is bubbling, and 50-60 minutes for the large tart. Leave to cool on rack.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Easy Christmas Dessert: Coconut Whipped Cream with Raspberries & Meringues

I've always been slightly baffled by people who love hosting dinner parties and entertaining.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the idea of serving a group of close friends a lovely home-cooked three-course dinner, or watching people delight at being served imaginative canap├ęs.
In fact I even often like to update an imaginary 'food-to-serve-at-a-party' menu in my head.
But truth be told, no matter how easy a recipe looks to me, or how much time I give myself to prepare, it always ends up taking me way more time and effort than I imagined!
Cringe. That's why the thought of hosting always has me shaking in my boots, rather than thinking up matching cutlery combos.
My mum used to host dinners a million times a year when I was growing up, bless her socks. But no, not me, I wasn't blessed with the 'soiree' genes.
I know this is something a lot of us struggle with at this time of the season. And that's where this dessert comes in. A coconut whipped cream, topped with raspberries and homemade peppermint meringues. Its a simple impressive dessert which says winter and Christmas all over it.  The best part is it takes no time to put together and you can keep it on hand in the fridge to take out and serve when needed.
There is just a hint of sweetness from the icing sugar in the cream, and the desiccated coconut lends some lovely added nutty texture. Top with raspberries, a sprinkling of toasted coconut, and a few peppermint meringues to enjoy a creamy, fruity dessert with a subtle mix of flavours and crunch.
Obviously you could buy the meringues, but what I like too is that making meringues themselves has to be one of the easiest dessert recipes ever. Plus one recipe makes you easily 100 little meringues, which means you'll have lots to serve in a pretty bowl on the coffee table, keeping guests and kiddies happy.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I was to be hosting a Christmas party, this dessert would be my serving savior!
Coconut whipped cream with raspberries and peppermint meringues
Inspired by Simones Kitchen
Serves 4-6

250ml whipping cream
4 tbsp icing sugar
4 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tbsp coconut cream
Mini peppermint meringues
Toasted desiccated coconut, for garnish

1. Whip the cream with an electric whisk, until stiff peaks form. Add in the icing sugar, desiccated coconut and coconut cream, whisking only for a few seconds until incorporated.
2. Fill dessert bowls with the cream, then top with raspberries and the peppermint meringues, and sprinkle over the toasted desiccated coconut.
For the peppermint meringues
Adapted from Womans Day
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
Red gel colouring
1. Preheat oven to 90 degrees C, and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. In a large glass or metal bowl, whisk together the egg whites, caster sugar and cream of tartar, over a saucepan of simmering water. The bowl should not be touching the water. After 2 to 3 minutes the sugar will have dissolved and the egg whites should be warm to the touch.
3. Remove the bowl from the heat, and using an electric whisk, beat on a low speed. Gradually turn the speed up, beating for about five minutes until soft glossy peaks have formed.
5. Transfer a tablespoon of the mixture to a small bowl and tint with the red gel colouring. Using a skewer and the tinted mixture, draw vertical stripes in a piping bag fitted with a star piping nozzle.
4. Fill the piping bag with the egg white mixture, and pipe small onto the prepared baking tray. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the meringues have just set on the outside, and leave to cool completely.
5. Keep meringues in a tightly sealed tin or contained, and store in a dry and cool place.
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