Tag Archives: gifts

PINK PEPPERCORN PETTICOAT TAILS

Pink peppercorn shortiebread

Try saying that five times fast! Shortbread petticoat tails always make me think of Christmas. Someone always gets one of those tartan boxes filled with them, hopefully the ones coated in dark chocolate. Yum!
These have a little spicy twist to them in the form of pink peppercorns, which actually aren’t spicy in the sense of heat, but have a more floral fragrant quality. They go very well with the rich, crumbly, buttery shortbread.

Ingredients
115g butter
50g sugar
pinch of salt
120g plain flour
20g cornflour
30g fine ground semolina
1/2 tsp pink peppercorn (lightly crushed but not ground)
1/2 tsp vanilla paste

Lightly grease an 8″ fluted edge loose bottomed tin.
Cream together the butter, sugar and salt and then mix in the rest of the ingredients. You might find it easiest to do this with your fingers, like making pastry.
Bring the mixture together lightly to form a crumbly dough and transfer this to the prepared tin. Press it out to fill the tin in an even layer. Smooth off the top with the back of a spoon and then put it in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 150°c whilst the dough is in the fridge.
Bake the shortbread for 30 minutes. It shouldn’t really colour too much. Take it out of the oven and whilst it’s still warm score markings for your petticoat tails and prick the surface with a fork before lightly dusting the surface with a little sugar. Leave the shortbread to cool in the tin before lifting it off the base and cutting through completely.

pink peppercorn shortbread

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CHRISTMAS BISCOTTI

Christmas biscotti

I generally find that tackling wrapping a particularly daunting pile of Christmas presents is easier with something close by to keep your energy levels up.
Yes, coffee alone could do it but a piece of gingerbread biscotti on the side doesn’t hurt. And your reward after the final bow is tied and gift tag signed? A wee drop of your favourite festive tipple with a piece of Christmassy mincemeat biscotti to dunk in it of course!

Gingerbread biscotti
Biscotti in America tends to have a slightly softer texture to the stuff I’m used to in Europe so that’s what I’ve aimed for with these but it’s just down to the length of the first bake really. If you want these to be very crunchy (which is better for dunking) then give them an extra five minutes or so the first time the dough goes into the oven. This will also make them a bit easier to slice.
I like to use dark chocolate to decorate the gingerbread ones and white for the mincemeat but use whatever you like. Or even leave them plain (although it is Christmas…)

Mincemeat biscotti

Ingredients
makes 20 slices

75g butter
50g white sugar
50g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
pinch of salt
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

100g of mincemeat
OR
75g golden syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
big pinch of allspice
40g crystalized ginger, finely chopped

chocolate to decorate

Christmas biscotti

Pre-heat the oven to 180°c and lightly grease a large baking sheet.
Cream together the butter, sugars and salt until they are pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and follow each addition with a spoonful of flour to stop it from curdling.
Next add either the golden syrup, if you’re making the gingerbread biscotti, OR the mincemeat and mix this in. Finally tip in the flour and baking powder (and spices and crystalized ginger for the gingerbread flavour) and beat the mixture to leave you with a soft sticky dough.

Mincemeat biscotti
Coat your hands in flour and then roll the dough into a sausage shape on the baking sheet. Flatten it a bit and then bake it for about 20 minutes. It should be starting to crack on the surface a little but not yet browned when it’s ready.
Take it out of the oven and leave it to cool for at least 20 minutes, until it is cool enough to handle and feels fairly firm. Cut the biscotti dough into 1.5cm thick slices and lay them out flat on the baking sheet.
Return these to the oven for 10 minutes then flip them over and cook them on the other side for another 10 minutes. They should be quite golden and crisp when they are done. Leave them to cool on a rack.
Melt some chocolate, any type you like, and use this to dip or drizzle over the biscotti. Allow the chocolate to set before munching away!

Gingerbread biscotti

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RUM ‘N’ RAISIN FUDGE (small batch)

rum & raisin fudge

Fudge is now my go-to recipe when I have a little bit of condensed milk to use up. I find making it in small batches much easier on the wrist too as it requires so much less beating!

Rum and raisin is a classic fudge combo and they’re wonderful rich flavours for this time of year. I like to steep my raisins in the rum as I think this makes them plump up a bit more and it also means that some of the ‘raw’ alcohol flavour burns off a bit. This is rich and mellow and creamy and wholly indulgent. There’s enough here to share but it’s totally up to you if you do or not!

Ingredients
Cuts into 12 big pieces

50g raisins
50ml dark rum
200g condensed milk
55g butter
125g soft brown sugar
100g granulated sugar
75ml cream
1 tsp vanilla paste

rum & raisin fudge

Put the rum and raisins in a decent sized pan and gently heat them for a minute or two.  Put the raisins in a mixing bowl but don’t worry about cleaning out the pan properly.
Combine all of the other ingredients except the vanilla in the pan and melt it together over a low heat. Stir it well as it melts to ensure that the sugar is completely dissolved.
Increase the heat a bit to bring the mixture to boiling point. Continue to gently stir it (you don’t want to splash yourself!) to stop the mixture catching on the bottom of the pan and burning. Let the mixture bubble for about 10 minutes, it should darken a little and have reached ‘soft ball’ stage when it’s done. You can check for ‘soft ball’ using a sugar thermometer or by dropping a little of the mixture into some ice-water. It should form a soft ball, obviously!
Once you’ve reached soft ball stage you can remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot fudge into the bowl containing the raisins. Add the vanilla paste and then beat the living daylights out of the fudge with a wooden spoon. You’ll need to keep beating it for quite some time but eventually it should start to lose its glossiness and become thicker with a slightly crystallised texture.
Pour the fudge into a small tin lined with grease-proof paper, smooth off the top and leave it in the fridge to cool completely before cutting into squares and lifting it out of the tin.

rum & raisin fudge

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NEW YORK DECOUPAGE PICTURE FRAME

A city so great they framed it twice...

A city so great they framed it twice…

I made this picture frame as a wedding present for two of my favourite people.

A couple of years ago they came out to visit me in America-land we all went on a pretty awesome trip to NYC so I thought it would be nice for the happy couple to have a memento of that.

Decoupage picture frame

I made the frame using the same method that use when I make my decoupage chairs, using Mod-podge to stick on the paper and then applying a couple of coats of wipe-on poly varnish to seal the whole lot and make it a bit more durable.

Decoupage picture frame

I really like the look of this…I might have to make something similar for myself to remind me of some my own adventures!

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CROCHET T-BAR BOOTIES

Tiny crochet T-bar booties...

Tiny crochet T-bar booties…

This is a pair of dinky little purple T-bar shoes which I made using a free pattern I picked up at my local craft store. I had some wool left over from another project so I thought that I may as well have a go at making them.

I think they turned out pretty well, considering the fact that I’m not very good at following patterns (I always lose my place and confuse the abbreviations.) Apparently they have been well received by the little lady to whom I sent them, well she tried to eat them, which as we all know is a pretty big compliment if you’re less than a year old, so that’s good enough for me!

...for cheeky feet!

…for cheeky feet!

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MALTED MILK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

malted milk chocolate truffles

Chocolate truffles are ludicrously easy to make and taste so much better than shop bought chocs. These ones do take a bit more time from start to finish than the usual recipes, although for a lot of the time they are just sat in the fridge firming up. Your actual active time is fairly minimal, meaning you’ll be able to get on with other things (exploring other posts on here for example…)
These are so wonderfully light and fluffy, they’re like little clouds coated in chocolate. I can’t decide if they taste more like creamy malteasers or grown-up milky ways (that’s 3 musketeers in America I think.) Either way, they’re really, really good!
Ideally you want to use tempered chocolate for coating the truffles, it’ll be crisper and make them look more shiny. If, like me, you find coating the truffles is a bit of a challenge then you can probably just roll them in chocolate shavings and still get a pretty great tasting treat.
The whipped ganache also makes a pretty amazing frosting for cakes if you want to make something particularly decadent.

malted milk chocolate truffles

Ingredients
makes about 30

200g milk chocolate
200g double cream
2 tbsp malt extract
1 tsp vanilla paste

150g (approx) 70% cocoa tempered dark chocolate for coating (plus sprinkles and wot not)

Chop up the milk chocolate and put it in a large mixing bowl. Put the cream in a small saucepan and warm it over a moderate heat. You want it to be hot but don’t let it boil. Stir in the vanilla and malt extract. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for about two minutes before stirring well. Make sure that the chocolate has melted and is well blended with the cream.
Put the ganache in the fridge and let it thicken and firm up for an hour. Use an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip the ganache until it is light and fluffy, like a thick chocolate mousse. Put it back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, longer if you like.
Line a couple of baking trays with parchment or foil. Use teaspoons, a mini ice cream scoop or a melon baller (whatever you find easiest) to scoop out the truffles and place them on the trays. Because the mixture is so light and fluffy it’s pretty hard to make rolled truffles out of it so just do the best you can. I like to use 2 teaspoons to create mini-quinelles.

malted milk chocolate truffles

You guessed it, you now need to put them back in the fridge, for at least an hour, so that they are as firm as possible when you dip them.
Melt the dark chocolate and use this to carefully coat the truffles, I use a skewer and only dip them very briefly so that the warm chocolate doesn’t melt the centres. Place them on the lined trays and decorate them with sprinkles, a dusting of malt powder or a drizzle of extra chocolate before leaving the coating to harden and become crisp.

malted milk chocolate truffles

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BOURBON CHAI FUDGE

Chai bourbon fudge

I think that I may be very suggestible, I’m probably an advertisers dream. (Shame for them that I don’t have a disposable income at the moment.) I’ve been reading the Vish Puri detective series and it makes me really crave both chai and whisky. Whenever he has some, I want some and I’m not even really a whisky drinker. Mind you I also always want to drink butterbeer when I read Harry Potter. That is until I tried it on the studio tour, that stuff is not as pleasant as it sounds!
I’ve made some chai infused bourbon before (https://colonialcravings.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/mumbai-moonshine/) so I know that they’re flavours that go together but I really wanted to try something different with them. I also wanted to make something for Mr Colonial Cravings for Valentines day so a pretty box of fudge seemed like the ideal solution.
This is another small-batch recipe so it’s pretty quick to make too.

Chai bourbon fudge

My spice blend is the same one that I use in my Coconut Chai Granola; 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, pinch of ground coriander. By all means use a pre-mixed blend if you have one that you prefer.

Ingredients

200g condensed milk
55g butter
125g soft light brown sugar
100g sugar
40ml milk
35ml cream
1 1/2 tsp chai spice blend
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tbsp bourbon

Gently melt everything but the vanilla and bourbon in medium-sized pan over a low heat Stir it constantly to make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved.
Increase the heat a little and bring the mixture to boiling point. Carefully stir the mixture to stop it from catching on the bottom of the pan and burning. Let the mixture bubble for about 10 minutes, it should darken a little and have reached ‘soft ball’ stage when it’s done. Make sure that you continue to give it a carefull stir every now and then.
Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes to cool a little. Begin beating the mixture, after about a minute of beating add in the vanilla and then the bourbon.
As you beat the fudge it should cool and thicken. You want it to become ever so slightly grainy and lose its shine. This does take quite a lot of elbow grease I’m afraid, although I found that once the mixture has cooled a bit you can use a handheld electric mixer to beat it. It will still take a while but it will reduce your risk of getting RSI in your arm.
Pour the thickened and cooled mixture into an appropriate size tin or dish, lined with parchment, and spread it out into a thick layer. Leave the fudge to set and become completely firm before cutting into squares and removing from the tin.

Chai bourbon fudge

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