Sunday 26 March 2017

Let them eat Christmas cake

White Christmas biscuit cake from Enjoy by Sheila Kiley, published by the Mercier Press. Food photography Marta Miklinska
White Christmas biscuit cake from Enjoy by Sheila Kiley, published by the Mercier Press. Food photography Marta Miklinska
Macaroons from Enjoy by Sheila Kiley, published by the Mercier Press. Food photography Marta Miklinska
Enjoy by Sheila Kiely, publised by the Mercier press

Kids may pass up the traditional dried fruit offering, but they'll devour this chocolate biscuit alternative.

WHITE CHRISTMAS BISCUIT CAKE

Traditional Christmas cake looks beautiful, but there's not much point in admiring something and saying it looks wonderful if nobody is going to eat it, and you certainly don't want to eat the whole cake by yourself. It's a fact that many children don't love dried fruit, so it naturally follows that they aren't going to be huge fans of fruitcake. So that's why I give them what I know they will eat - chocolate.

Serves 12

Ingredients

For the biscuit cake: 110g unsalted butter, softened

110g caster sugar

225g McVitie's Rich Tea biscuits

110g dark chocolate (at least 70pc cocoa solids)

Assortment of finger biscuits and sweets, to decorate

For the topping:

5 x 58g Mars bars

2 tbsp water

3 x 100g bars of white chocolate

Method

Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Place the ring of a 22cm (approx) springform tin on the paper - you aren't using a cake tin, just the ring with the base removed, to shape the cake.

Beat the butter until it's smooth, then beat in the caster sugar. In a separate bowl, break the biscuits into almond-sized pieces.

Melt the dark chocolate (I use the microwave) and gradually beat it into the butter mixture until smooth. Add the broken biscuits and stir well to cover with the cake mix.

Spoon the chocolate biscuit mix into the cake ring. Press it down and out to the sides with the back of the spoon until it's even. Place the cake in the fridge to set overnight.

The next day, remove the cake ring from the set cake. Turn the biscuit cake upside down and place it on a wire rack - the bottom will be smoother, and it will now be the top. Put some parchment paper underneath the wire rack to catch the drips from the topping.

Cut the Mars bars into small pieces and melt them in a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water, mixing well to form a smooth topping. Pour the melted Mars bar topping onto the biscuit cake and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour. You can keep the piece of parchment paper to use it again for the next layer of topping.

Break the white chocolate bars into small pieces and melt them in a bowl in the microwave. Remove the cake from the fridge and set the rack back over the piece of parchment paper. Pour the melted white chocolate over the chilled biscuit cake, then carefully transfer the cake from the wire rack onto a cake stand or serving plate.

Have fun decorating with Christmas-themed sweets on top and white chocolate finger biscuits around the side.

MACAROONS

2016-11-26_lif_26448621_I1.JPG  

Everything is better with chocolate. These macaroons are like a lighter bite of a Bounty bar, which I will always associate with my mother in the 1980s. The bar came in two halves: one for the first cup of tea and the other for the second.

Makes 18-20

Ingredients

3 egg whites

175g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

200g desiccated coconut and a little extra to decorate

100g dark chocolate

Method

Preheat a fan oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Place the egg whites, caster sugar and vanilla extract in a saucepan. Whisk together over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until it's a little thickened, warm and frothy. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two - it shouldn't be very hot anyway - then stir in the desiccated coconut.

Place heaped spoonfuls onto the lined baking trays or use an eggcup to shape the macaroons instead of using spoons. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch on the outside but still squishy inside. Allow to cool a little on the trays before placing on a wire rack, as they will begin to firm up as they cool and be easier to transfer.

Break the chocolate into a microwaveable bowl and microwave it for 1 minute. Stir and check again after 30-second intervals - it should be melted in 2 minutes, but this will depend on the microwave's power.

Sit the wire rack over a sheet of baking or parchment paper to catch the drips and top your macaroons with melted chocolate. Leave to firm up - they are quite soft initially, but worth waiting for. Scatter a little extra desiccated coconut on top before serving.

Note: There are not to be confused with macarons, the fiddly little mouthful that is best left to le patissier.

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