Tag Archives: holidays

It’s chocolate time!

My sincere apologies for the great big break!  I fully intended to update from a family members computer whilst away, but quite frankly, it just didn’t happen.  Lots of other wonderful stuff did.  Admitedly, as I look at the bleak frozen expanse which happens to be just outside my window right now, I can assure you that I would rather be back in sunny, sunny Florida – more daylight hours, warmer, dryer weather, and wouldn’t you know it, my hair frizzes less, and my skin cleared up.  Hints are no longer being made to Husband – subtelty is obviously not working.  We need to move to the US now.  Sorry England – it’s been nice(ish), but I think I’m more than ready to go home. So there you go.  Ahem.

Onward to more food related things…

I know, I know.  We’ve all had more than enough chocolate over the last few weeks / months to last quite a long while.  But really – is there such a thing?

Admittedly, I can eat enough chocolate to feel just a wee bit ill, but I’ll soon get over it.  And maybe I’m not as excited about it this year as last year, but we got out the Quality Street tins have been on sale since forever, and got more expensive as we got closer to Christmas – score one for us for buying (and eating) about 5 tins in September…  By November, we needed a break, and by December, they just weren’t that exciting any more.

That’s my VERY EXCITED snowflake – just had to pop my kid in there, didn’t I? Totally unrelated, except for a bit of a holiday theme – and to introduce my helper…

A few years back, I used to work for a large UK general retailer with a Milton Keynes based head office.  Milton Keynes has an unfavourable reputation among many people in the UK, but once you get over the round-abouts (and it will teach you how to drive around them like no where else), it’s really rather a nice place .

Point of the story… (random, I know) – there was a shop in the mall in the city centre which sold American foods – the first time I visited, I easily dropped 50 quid with just shear excitement.

I soon learned to contain myself, and began to feel a bit self-righteous about spending enough on a chocolate bar to pay for it’s flight across the Atlantic.  So, feeling a bit homesick one day, and lusting for a peppermint patty, but without one to hand, and tight-fisted as I am, unwilling to fork out my child’s college fund to pay for one, I decided to learn how to make one myself.

It started with a recipe from VegWeb, which gave me the basics, and I just sort of took it from there – after a few tries, I played around a bit with other flavours, and now, every Christmas, and sometimes more often, I make my own cream chocolates – so here’s my recipe for you:

Home made Chocolate Creams

  • sweetened condensed milk (lowfat is ok) – about 400g tin (I think it’s 397g, if we want to be pendantic…)
  • flavouring extract of choice (see flavour options below) – about 1 TBS
  • optional – food colouring – as much as you want for desired colour
  • about 1.5kg icing sugar
  • 500 g chocolate of your choice (I prefer dark chocolate – it works with everything
  • 2-3 TBS fat of choice – oil produces a smoother finish, butter has a nice mouth feel, but can discolour the chocolate
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add milk, flavouring, and colouring if using
  2. Blend well, then start to add in icing sugar – about 120 g at a time
  3. Continue adding icing sugar until your mixture resembles play-doh and is no longer sticky to the touch.  If you’re using a hand mixer – be careful, you don’t want this to happen:
  4. If using a hand mixer or a kitchen-aid, go for the bread hooks – this is not a light dough…
  5. Knead the dough cream a bit with a bit more icing sugar, making sure it’s not at all tacky to the touch
  6. Roll dough into small balls (you can totally make these huge – I just like the bite-size idea better)
  7. Place balls onto cookie sheets lined with greaseproof paper and leave to dry – a few hours at least, best overnight.  They will firm up, and you will be able to flip them and dry the underside after about 2 hours – so do that.  It makes the chocolate dipping bit easier!
  8. Melt chocolate in a bowl over scalding water (I used to do these with microwave melted chocolate – but it’s just easier to melt it properly – just trust me).
  9. Dip cream centres into melted chocolate, using two forks – one to dip, one to drip melted chocolate off cream centre – otherwise you have a big thick chocolate blob with a teeny tiny cream centre.  If you want that – go for it.  We’re easy that way.
  10. Place the chocolate covered cream onto a greaseproof paper lined baking sheet to firm up.
  11. Decorate if desired. 
  12. Store in a cool place, between sheets of greaseproof paper, if stacking
  13. Recipe makes about 4 baking sheets of chocolates

  Flavouring options (in lieu of things I would do differently, because the different flavours are pretty much it…):
The sky’s the limit here – I do peppermint, to which you really should add equal parts mint and vanilla – trust me, as well as strawberry, orange and lemon.  I can imagine these would be wonderful with almond, with an almond stuffed in the centre, or any variation thereon.  You’re only limited by what flavourings you have.  Just remember – if you’re going to do lots of different flavours, do something different to the tops of the chocolates – so you can tell them apart!


Mince pie-cookies?

Christmakkah is in full swing!  No work for a whole 3 weeks!!!! (So excited!), mother-in-law is making Christmas dinner (at her house – score for our side – no cooking or cleaning for me 🙂 And grandparents to look after child).  Holiday in America is just around the corner (and it’s really warm in Florida right now – didn’t have summer over here, so we get it for two weeks over there – score again!).

We had the annual nativity play at the nursery.  That’s my little snowflake in the front (so proud -even if she did cry a bit, and insist that I sit on the stage with her… again).  I’m not sure why a nursery feels it’s a good idea to put a bunch of three and four year-olds on a stage in front of all the parents – so many crying children – not great fun.  But the little ones were snowmen this year – SO CUTE.  They were Christmas puddings last year (do you know how hard it was to find a Christmas pudding costume?  Thank you Sainsbury’s – my Christmas pudding last year had wings and a wand – perfect – but didn’t stop the crying…).  This year, my little one graduated to snowflake.  And she was an awesome spinning snowflake.

Anywho, I’m the Jewish half of the Christmakah celebrations over here – husband is the gentile.  So I didn’t really grow up with mince pies.  Actually, I’d never had one until I moved to the UK.  And to be brutally honest, I don’t much care for them.  Husband and daughter, on the other hand, can get through 6 dozen a day, if given the chance (I think they’re both growing – just in different directions)…

I made mince pies once for husband (before child).  They weren’t his mother’s, so he didn’t eat them.  I decided not to try again.

This year, we tried something different – since Monkey wanted to do some weekend morning baking, and we were short on ingredients, but had some basics to use, and a jar of mincemeat malingering about in the cupboard.  So we turned them into biscuits / cookies (I prefer cookies… obviously).  And the went down really well.  Husband, child, and co-workers have all been fed on them.  Superb.

Mince pie cookies (based on the Borden Nonsuch recipe)

  • 3.25 c flour
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sodium bicarb (baking soda)
  • 250 g butter (about 1 cup)
  • 1.5 c demerara sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 411 g jar mince
  1. Mix flour, salt and bicarb in very large mixing bowl
  2. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and mix well
  3. Add wet bowl to dry bowl and mix well
  4. Add mincemeat and continue to mix until well incorporated
  5. Drop onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper / greaseproof paper and bake at 350 F / 180 C for about 8 minutes, until lightly browned.
  6. Transfer to wire rack to cool before eating / storing.
  7. This makes about 50 cookies –  enough to fill two tins, so be prepared for gifting!

What I would do differently next time

I might consider halving the recipe, but otherwise, these were really nice – everyone’s eaten them, and to me, that’s what makes a great cookie 🙂

Happy holidays!