19 Dec 2008

Yes that is chocolate on my nose

(I admit to liking the spoons ok)Baking has to be one of the most enjoyable parts of a homemade Christmas! I'm sure you all have some well-loved recipes you save up for the festive season - my all time favourite would have to be gingerbread. I am well and truly a ginger (and spice) woman. The best gingerbread, in my opinion, is beautifully fragrant; slightly spicy and not too hard! You have have it anytime of year, any time of day, any way you like and it is guaranteed to make your heart sing. I have consulted many recipes to form my own which I think produces a very satisfying gingerbread.
It is as follows:

60g butter
3/4 cup of golden syrup

1 tbsp of crushed or
grated fresh ginger (**optional**)
1 3/4 cup of plain flour
1 tsp of bicarb soda
2 tbsp of ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp of ground cloves
1/2tsp of ground cardamon

1 tsp of cocoa powder

1 tablespoon milk

Melt butter over low heat in medium sized saucepan, add golden syrup, bring to boil, remove from heat; stand 10 minutes. Add sifted dry ingredients, milk and finely chopped peel, stir with a wooden spoon until smooth, cover, stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Mixture will become thicker. Turn mixture on to surface which has been dusted with extra flour. Knead lightly, working in only enough flour until mixture loses its stickiness. Roll our dough and cut out as desired (the range of cutters available is quite extraordinary these days - moomin-themed, yogis etc) Bake in moderate oven 8-10 minutes or until golden.

When cool decorate as you like - I'm going to give a little tutorial on icing and making sugar paste for flowers next week; so get some gingerbread made in the meantime - just don't eat it all!

Last year I made a Sri lankan Christmas cake as an alternative to the traditional and it was pretty delicious, but as I was feeling more adventurous this time round I decided to make panforte! Almost all the recipes you'll find will ask you to line your baking tin with thin, edible rice paper. I tried all over town to find some and with limited time I took a dive and used the normal baking paper (which you obviously have to peel off being eating). It turned out perfectly! And was too sticky at all. There is something so enticing about hazelnuts, almonds, dark chocolate and fresh peel together in one very dense cake. And because it is so rich you don't need to eat very much - so can easily slice it into quarters (or more) - wrap up beautifully - and give to family and friends.
150g hazelnuts
150g almonds

75g plain white flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

100g candied citrus peel, chopped

100g crystallised ginger
100g raisins (I used dried cranberries too - you can also use figs)
zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup liquid honey

100g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

4 tablespoons hot water

1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence

Roast almonds and hazelnuts in a moderate oven until golden. Take hazelnuts aside and remove skins by rubbing the
m in a tea towel. Line 20cm diameter baking tin - Italian rice paper is preferable - but I used regular baking paper - just make sure you line the sides well and cut a circle of paper out for the bottom too.

Chop nuts in half and roughly chop the ginger. Sift together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg into a bowl and stir in the peel, ginger, raisins, orange and lemon zest and brandy.

Combine sugar and honey in a small pot, bring to the boil and cook slowly over a low heat for 3-4 minutes. You'll know its ready when you put a drop of the syrup in a cup of cold water and it sticks together to form a soft ball. Break chocolate into the hot sugar mix and stir until the chocolate just melts, then stir in the water and vanilla. Quickly mix into the dry ingredients.

Spoon the mix into the tin and press with the flat of your hand to smooth the top. Bake at 160°C for 30-40 minutes (mine took about 50-60minutes) - It should feel just firm to touch.
-Adapted from healthy food.

More on my homemade adventures over the weekend -
I have much sewing, cooking, printing and packaging in store!


  1. Mam and I used to make panforte every Christmas time!

    I have not had the time to do any baking just yet, though I'm hoping to fit some in very soon. (Your gingerbread has inspired me to find the time!)

  2. I've heard that you panforte was well-known! The time has seemed to fly by quickly that even I'm surprising myself in being able to do a spot of baking and sewing here and there.


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