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Christmas Treats

Christmas Treats are our #1 pastime in the kitchen at this time of year with so many spices and rich smells coming out of it. Particularly the wafts that create watering mouths, namely orange zest and dark chocolate, peppermint and vanilla. Homemade treats are something we get stuck into with the boys every year and it’s lovely to share with their friends and families. Christmas comes but once a year, with all that comes, we bring foody cheer!

Christmas mini-muffins

Make 24 mini muffins in cute individual cases – perfect for Christmas canapés or as a daily advent calendar-style treat.

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Ingredients

200g/7oz self-raising flour, sifted

100g/3½oz golden caster sugar

100ml/3½fl oz sunflower oil

75ml/2½fl oz milk

1 large free-range egg

50g/1¾oz qood quality dark chocolate, chopped

1 heaped tbsp high quality mincemeat

50g/1 ¾oz good quality white chocolate, chopped

50g/1¾oz dried (or fresh) cranberries

Preparation method

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and put 24 mini-muffin cases inside a mini-muffin tin.

Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl, then make a well in the centre. Whisk together the oil, milk and egg and slowly pour into the bowl, stirring gently. Divide this mixture between two bowls. In one bowl add the dark chocolate and mincemeat. Add the white chocolate and cranberries to the other bowl. Stir very gently.

Divide the two mixtures among the 24 muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and risen.

Remove the muffins to a wire rack and eat warm.

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Bite-Sized Party Bark

You can have this party bark done from start to finish in an hour or less – about 15 minutes of prep, and the rest of the time for your bark to set.

With the help of a set of shaped ice cube trays or candy molds, a simple recipe like chocolate bark looks so much more festive.

What you will need:

White Chocolate to melt or use milk chocolate just as easily.  If you do, make sure you are using something that’s designed to melt easily.  How do you know?  Check to see what the melting instructions on the package are.  Avoid anything that doesn’t have melting instructions or it could go claggy…a technical term there for you.

You will also need something salty, something crunchy, something chewy, and something with nice color for a good recipe.  You don’t need to follow my recipe exactly – check your cupboards!  You probably have ingredients that will work.

What I used for 2 trays of treats (28 pieces):

1/2 package of Vanilla Candy Melts
2 Tbsp. chopped nuts (your preference)
2 Tbsp. toffee pieces or Smarties
2 Tbsp. mini chocolate chips
1 oz. Craisins  (sorry, I don’t know how many Tbsp. that would be, I just had the individual packages on-hand for lunches, and I used one of them)

Stir all your mix-ins together, melt your chocolate and stir it often.  You can spoon your melted chocolate into the cube sections, but I’ve discovered that you can put it into an empty ketchup bottle or squeezy dressing container r(washed thoroughly of course) and squirt it that way.  No little candy strings that way, and you can put in exactly how much you want.

Sprinkle your toppings on.  Press them in just a little, to make sure that everything sticks.  You may wonder why we didn’t just stir the whole mixture together… I just find that this way is easier and prettier.  If you’d rather mix it and spoon it and smudge it around a lined baking tray – feel free! (picture attached)

Now, just cool your cases until they are solid.  If you’re in a rush, you can speed this process up by putting it in the fridge, though it’s not necessary – it will harden just was well on the counter.

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(These bite sized bark are from the Happy Hour Project)

Then, just pop them out.  If your trays are pretty rigid (like mine) I found that by twisting them like you would for ice, then turning it upside-down and giving each cavity a decent press on the bottom with a spoon handle, I got all of them to pop out without too much of an issue.  If you’re using silicone trays – it will be really easy.  Just press up on the bottoms and your bark will pop right out.

Then, just toss them on a plate to serve!

party bark

 Ho’ Cho’ Sticks – Hot Chocolate on a Stick makes about 45 treats

Ingredients:

3 candy canes for crushing
6 x 200g Melts or cooking chocolate
silver balls
100 g white chocolate for melting

Piping bag or zip lock

Ice trays for moulding, you can use shaped fun ones which might make less than 45 treats or the standard ice cube version which should get the full quota from this mix
Wooden teaspoons
Cellophane bags or sheet
Twist ties in Christmassy colours

Method:

Crush the candy canes and set aside.
Melt the milk chocolate according to package directions.
Fill the pastry bag or zip lock bag with the melted chocolate. If using a zip lock bag, snip off a corner.
Fill the trays by piping in the melted chocolate.
Leave to partially harden (about half an hour), then place the wooden teaspoon in each one. Sprinkle with some crushed candy canes and silver balls.
Leave to harden completely.

Melt the white chocolate according to package directions.
Carefully remove the chocolates from their moulds. Dip each in the white chocolate and then in more crushed candy canes and silver balls.
Leave to harden on a plate.

You can spread the work load over 3 days/evening. I melted and formed the treats the first day let them harden overnight. (I used the Wilton brownie bites pan.) I added the white chocolate glaze and the garnishes the second evening. I wrapped them and added the gift tags on the third day.

Package each treat with cellophane and a twisty tie.

choc spoon

 Crystallised Orange & Chocolate ‘More-Mores’

 Ingredients:

4 large unwaxed oranges, or 2 oranges and 2 lemons

Big bag of granulated sugar

 Method:

Cut the fruit into 8 wedges, and then cut out the flesh, leaving about 5mm thickness of peel and pith. Cut each wedge into 3-4 strips.

Put the peel in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 5 mins. Drain, return to the pan and re-cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 30 mins.

Set a sieve over a bowl and drain the peel, reserving the cooking water.

Add 100g sugar to each 100ml water you have. Pour into a pan and gently heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the peel and simmer for 30 mins until the peel is translucent and soft. Leave to cool in the syrup, then remove with a slotted spoon and arrange in 1 layer on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Put in the oven at the lowest setting for 30 mins to dry.

Sprinkle a layer of sugar over a sheet of baking parchment. Toss the strips of peel in the sugar, a few at a time, then spread out and leave for 1 hr or so to air-dry.

Pack the peel into an airtight storage jar or rigid container lined with baking parchment. Will keep for 6-8 weeks in a cool, dry place.

To make into a delicious gift, melt the chocolate in a small bowl.

Dip the candied orange peel into the chocolate to half-coat them, shaking off the excess. Put them on baking parchment to set, and then pack into small cellophane bags tied with ribbon or pretty kitchen string.

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 Vanilla Extract

A really simple ‘wow’ gift – perfect gift for a baker or ‘pretty kitchen’ lover – this is an all year round special gift.

Ingredients:

2 or 3 vanilla bean pods

Vodka

Method:

Place 2 or 3 vanilla beans in a bottle and cover with vodka. Let sit for 2-3 months (or more) and you’ve got the most amazing homemade vanilla extract. PLUS: you never have to replace it! – Just top off with fresh vodka when 1/3 of it is used and you’re good to go!

Pretty it up with a personalised label – we love these printables from the Botanical Printer Works that are free and good to go!

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Reindeer Food

Ingredients:

Oats (the magic sort)

Edible glitter

Wishes and dreams (you’ll extra if you can’t get magic oats)

Method:

Place the magic oats, edible glitter and wishes & dreams in a bowl, mix well and scatter through the garden or on in a bowl on your front door step.

The reindeer will have a little bit of this while they wait for Father Christmas unload. The nicer your wishes and dreams the faster they fly.  Listen out for the jingle bells on the 24th!

Here’s a printable if you want to leave a note too.

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Have a great Christmas y’all x x

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