The great seasonal bake off
Some of our top chefs offer up their favourite festive recipes.
Throughout the year, most of us make an attempt to watch our waistline and keep cakes and biscuits out of harm's way. But Christmas is the one time of year when we can let our hair down, hide the calorie counter and enjoy a few days of delicious food.
We asked some of Ireland's top chefs for their favourite festive baking recipes to help us make the most of the only time we are allowed some guilt-free indulgence.
Pear and Gingerbread Crumble from Rachel Allen
For the Gingerbread
60g (2½oz) unsalted butter
75g (3oz) treacle
50g (2oz) golden syrup
140g (4¾oz) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
100g (3½oz) caster sugar
Pinch of salt
125ml (4½fl oz) milk
For the syrup
75g (3oz) caster sugar
2 tsp finely grated root ginger, or finely chopped crystallised ginger
Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.
Line the base and sides of a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with baking parchment.
Melt the butter, treacle and golden syrup in a small saucepan on a low heat, and then set aside.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the spices, sugar and salt. In another bowl, whisk the egg, then add the milk and the melted butter mixture and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth - it will have a wet, sloppy consistency.
Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes until risen and firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. (Wait for at least 45 minutes before opening the oven to check whether the gingerbread has cooked, otherwise it can collapse in the centre.)
While the gingerbread is cooking, make the syrup. Place the sugar and ginger in a small saucepan with 75ml (3fl oz) water; bring to the boil on a medium heat and boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened and syrupy.
Once the gingerbread is cooked, take it out of the oven and, leaving it in the tin, pierce it all over the top with a fine skewer, then pour the syrup over and leave to cool completely.
When it is cold, take it out of the tin and serve.
For the Crumble
6-8 pears (900g/2lb total weight), peeled, quartered and cored
110g (3¾oz) caster sugar
200g (7oz) gingerbread
75g (3oz) oat flakes
75g (3oz) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ Gas mark 4.
Cut the pears into chunks 2-3cm (¾-1¼in) in size and place in a pan with 50ml (2fl oz.) water and the sugar.
Cover with a lid, place on a low heat and cook for 8-10 minutes until the pear is soft. Tip into a 1 litre (1¾ pint) capacity pie dish (or 6 individual ramekins).
To make the crumble, break the gingerbread up into crumbs, leaving it slightly coarse.
Mix in a bowl with the oat flakes and melted butter, and pour over the pear mixture so it coats the pears evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes until slightly crunchy on top. (Individual ramekins will take 15-20 minutes.)
Serve with softly whipped cream or custard.
Mincemeat Palmiers from Kevin Dundon
2 lemons, juice and zest
1 x 375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
3 tbsp butter, melted
3 tbsp icing sugar
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
In a bowl, combine the mincemeat with the lemon juice and zest.
Roll the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface into a long oblong shape.
Cut in half widthways, then brush each piece of pastry with some melted butter and sprinkle with icing sugar.
Spread the mincemeat over the puff pastry, then with the shortest end facing you; roll both long edges of one piece of pastry towards the centre.
Brush a little beaten egg down the centre to stick the two halves together.
Repeat with the remaining pastry.
Place the rolls onto a baking tray and leave to chill for up to half an hour.
Remove the rolls from the fridge and using a sharp knife slice into 1-inch thick pieces. Lay each slice onto the baking tray, and brush well with the beaten egg.
Place in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until puffed up and golden.
When baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Dust with icing sugar and serve.
For more information on bookings or gift vouchers visit dunbrodyhouse.com
Panettone from Catherine Fulvio
150ml milk, warmed
2 tsp dried yeast
100g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g butter, melted
3 tbsp Marsala
1 tsp vanilla extract
500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp orange juice or brandy
75g candied peel
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp flaked almonds
Place the milk and yeast in a small bowl and whisk together.
Whisk the sugar and eggs together in a bowl until well incorporated and light, then add in the melted butter, Marsala and vanilla.
Place the flour and salt into a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add in the yeast and milk mixture along with the egg mixture and knead for 5 minutes on a low speed.
Cover and leave to rise in a warm, draught-free place until it doubles in size, which will take about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, soak the raisins in the orange juice or brandy in a small bowl.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. Butter and line a 20cm deep cake tin. Make a 10cm collar with double thickness parchment paper and line the sides of the tin.
Tip the dough out on a floured surface, mix in the raisins and candied peel and lightly knead for 3-4 minutes. The dough should be soft, so oil your hands well to handle it. Roll the dough into a ball and place it into the tin. Leave it to rise for 30 minutes.
Brush the top with the beaten egg and sprinkle over the almonds. Bake for about 55 minutes, or until well risen and golden. Transfer to a cooling rack.
To buy a copy of Catherine's latest book -Bake Like an Italian or for information on gift vouchers and Christmas Party bookings visit ballyknocken.ie
Oatmeal, Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies from Neven Maguire
275g (10oz) Flahavan's Progress Oatlets
225g (8oz) butter, at room temperature
150g (5oz) caster sugar
100g (4oz) plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
½ tsp baking soda
100g (4oz) dried cranberries, roughly chopped
100g (4oz) white chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Blend the oatlets in a food processor until quite fine. Then add the butter, sugar, flour and baking soda, and blend again until the dough just comes together.
Tip into a bowl and beat in the cranberries and white chocolate.
Shape into 12 even-sized balls and arrange on the lined baking sheets, well spaced apart, and then squash them down with the palm of your hand to about a 4cm (1½in) thickness.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they are a pale golden colour and soft to the touch.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool and harden on the sheets for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool for a few minutes before tucking in with a nice glass of milk or a cup of tea.
Neven Maguire's latest book FAST published by Gill and McMillan costs €22.99. For more information visit nevenmaguire.com