Sunday 8 December 2019

Rachel Allen: 'Quick to rustle up, and delicious to munch on - these edible gifts are perfect presents'

Festive treats always make great presents for friends and family. Rachel Allen has some simple recipes that children can help make and, of course, gobble up

Edible gifts: Rachel Allen. Photo: Kip Carroll
Edible gifts: Rachel Allen. Photo: Kip Carroll
Rudolph chocolate bark
Festive white chocolate hearts

Rachel Allen

I adore receiving edible gifts. German Christmas cookies, little mince pies, squares of fudge, mini chocolate brownies, jams, preserves - bring them on!

This week, though, I'm focusing on the really simple edible gifts that are great for children to make, too. Quick to rustle up, fun to look at - and receive - and delicious to munch on.

These three recipes are all based on chocolate, and can be put into little bags to give away - if you can bear it. The Rudolph chocolate bark, right, is a cute idea that little hands will have great fun creating.

The festive white chocolate hearts are so sweet - look out for the candy canes coming into the shops at this time of the year, and if you can get the small ones, then half the job is done.

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If you can only find the large ones, then you might need to cut half of the length off the bottom to make the little hearts.

And if you're looking for a more grown-up edible pressie, then I recommend the roasted hazelnut and coffee bark.

Feel free to switch it up and replace the hazelnuts, coffee and sea salt with everything from dried cranberries, sour cherries and pistachios, to roasted almonds, chopped candied peel and crystallised ginger. Just let your festive creative juices flow!

If you fancy making drinks to give as presents, or want to make great drinks yourself, I recommend Norwegian food and lifestyle writer Signe Johansen's new book. Spirited contains over 50 lip-smacking cocktail and cordial recipes, and many that can be bottled and gifted for Christmas. One Vin d'Orange for me, please. Published by Bluebird Books for Life.

Rudolph chocolate bark

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Rudolph chocolate bark
 

Makes about 10

You will need:

200g dark or milk chocolate

About 30 mini pretzels

10 red Smarties or M&Ms

10 mini marshmallows cut in half

Black food gel or food colouring.

One tablespoon of desiccated coconut

1 Place a sheet of parchment paper on a flat tray or baking tray.

2 Chop up, or break into pieces, the dark or milk chocolate, whichever you're using. Put 150g of the chocolate in a bowl (I use a Pyrex bowl) and sit it over a saucepan of cold water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Turn on the heat under the saucepan and bring the water to the boil. Turn off the heat immediately, and allow the chocolate to melt gently. Once it has melted, stir in the remaining 50g of chocolate pieces. Adding in the extra chocolate at the end will give your chocolate a good sheen, and a nice crisp snap.

3 Once all the chocolate has melted, pour it out onto the parchment paper-lined tray, swirling the tray so that the chocolate is about 5mm thick. Give the tray a good hard tap or two on the counter to smooth the top and get rid of any air bubbles.

4 Using a sharp knife, cut the mini pretzels into pieces to make antlers - you'll need more than you might think, so you can choose the ones with the best antler shape. Arrange the antlers on the chocolate, as pictured, left, then place a red Smartie or M&M as the nose of each reindeer, making sure to leave space for the eyes.

5 Place the halved mini marshmallows in the spaces for Rudolph's eyes, see left. If you prefer, you can use small white chocolate drops or round white sweets as the eyes instead of the mini marshmallows.

6 To simulate the reindeers' pupils, use a cocktail stick or a teaspoon to add a drop of black food colouring to the centre of the halved marshmallows. Scatter the desiccated coconut to simulate the snow.

7 Set the tray aside somewhere cool to allow the chocolate to set.

8 Once it has set, break or cut the choclate bark into pieces so that each piece has at least one Rudolph on it.

For the silkiest, smoothest result, make sure the chocolate doesn't get too hot while it is melting. Turn off the water underneath the bowl of chocolate as soon as it comes to the boil.

 

Roasted hazelnut and coffee bark

Makes about 10

You will need:

100g hazelnuts

15g coffee beans

200g dark chocolate or white chocolate

A pinch of sea salt flakes

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a flat tray or a baking tray.

2 Put the hazelnuts on the lined tray and roast them for about 10-15 minutes until they are browned (the skins should look nearly burnt). Tip the hazelnuts onto a clean tea towel and rub them vigorously to remove the skins. Discard the skins, and coarsely chop the nuts.

3 While the hazelnuts are roasting, put the coffee beans in a dry frying pan over a medium-to-high heat. Cook them for 1-2 minutes, until they are fragrant, tossing them regularly. Use a rolling pin or a pestle and mortar to lightly crush the coffee beans.

4 Chop the dark or white chocolate, whichever you're using, or break it into pieces. Place 150g of the chocolate in a bowl (I use a Pyrex bowl) and sit the bowl over a saucepan of cold water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Turn on the heat under the saucepan and bring it to the boil. Turn off the heat immediately, and allow the chocolate to melt gently. Once it has melted, stir in the remaining 50g of small chocolate pieces. This process of adding in the extra chocolate at the end will give your chocolate a good sheen, and a nice crisp snap.

5 Once all the chocolate has melted, pour it out onto the parchment paper, swirling the tray so that the chocolate is about 5mm thick. Give the tray a good hard tap or two on the counter to smooth the top, and get rid of any air bubbles.

6 Scatter the chopped roasted hazelnuts and the coarsely crushed coffee beans evenly over the surface of the chocolate, then scatter the sea salt flakes over the top.

7 Leave the chocolate bark somewhere cool to set, then break it into rough pieces.

Rachel's top tip

For the silkiest, smoothest result, make sure the chocolate doesn't get too hot while it is melting. Turn off the water underneath the bowl of chocolate as soon as it comes to the boil.

Citrus fruit

We are in citrus fruit season. Keep any leftover citrus peel and make it into candied fruit for Christmas.

Photography by Kip Carroll

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