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CHRISTMAS PANNA COTTA

Christmas panna cotta

I don’t really like Christmas pudding. There. I said it. It’s too rich, too heavy and quite sickly, especially to eat on what is, lets face it, the most gluttonous day of the year.

I’m always looking for an alternative that still feels just as festive. At home my mums Christmas pudding ice cream does the job. This year I can’t make it back to the UK to see my friends and family and I fear that my own iced Christmas puds might just leave me homesick and hankering for my mums version.

Christmas panna cotta
I’ve come up with something that’s just different enough to feel like a change. These are indulgent without feeling too rich and heavy. They might just be the perfect end to your festive feast.
These also have the added bonus that, aside from setting time, they’re really quick to make and can be made well ahead of time. Cause lets face it, who has time to spare at Christmas? Make sure that you use a fat-free mincemeat for these (i.e. one made without suet). Oh look, there’s a recipe for that here: https://colonialcravings.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/fat-free-mincemeat/ what luck!

xmas panna cotta

Ingredients
makes 4 (8-10 dinky ones for parties)

250ml double cream
250ml whole milk
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp brandy
1 tsp vanilla
3 leaves of gelatine
2 tbsp mincemeat plus 1 tsp for each glass

Christmas panna cotta

Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water and set it aside to soak.
Combine everything else except the mincemeat in a medium pan and set it over a low heat. Allow it to become quite hot whilst stirring it but don’t let it boil. Remove the pan from the heat.
Squeeze the excess water from the softened gelatine and add the leaves to the pan. Stir until they have dissolved.
Put a teaspoon of mincemeat in the bottom of each of your serving glasses or moulds. Add two tablespoons of mincemeat to the cream mixture and stir them in. Divide the mixture between the glasses and then pop them in the fridge to set.
Before serving either sprinkle the tops with a tiny bit of cinnamon if you are serving the panna cotta in glasses or tip them out of the moulds and onto dessert plates.

Christmas panna cotta

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GINGERBREAD TIRAMISU

gingerbread tiramisu

The time has come for Mr Colonial Cravings annual office festive hoopla. I’m not sure they refer to it like this but I think that maybe they should start.
To say thank you for the hours of photographing food that he puts in (my hands are just too shaky to take a decent picture) I’ve made him something extra special.
I’ve combined his favourite Italian treat with something festive from their Austrian neighbours. Gingerbread! And it is so good! If you like gingerbread lattes then you’re going to love this. Seriously, this tastes amazing. Layers of richly spiced sponge soaked in boozy coffee, sandwiched together with thick zabaglione cream. Christmas dessert heaven…

gingerbread tiramisu
You can bake the sponge ahead of time because it keeps really well, and also if it is a tiny bit stale then it tends to soak up the coffee better. Winning all round!
If you don’t have a spring-form cake tin, of just don’t want to serve the tiramisu like this, then you can of course just build up the layers in a serving dish, trifle-style. Either works well for this.

gingerbread tiramisu

Ingredients
serves 10-12

Half the quantity of gingerbread from my gingerbread latte cupcakes, baked in a spring-form pan for about 35 minutes at 180°c.

https://colonialcravings.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/gingerbread-latte-cupcakes/

300ml strong brewed coffee
3 tbsp sugar
50ml brandy/dark rum (feel free to use more if you like it really boozy)
1 tbsp coffee liqueur (optional)
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla paste
225g mascarpone (room temperature)
200ml double cream
dark chocolate to serve

gingerbread tiramisu

Trim away the very top of the cake, to expose the crumb and slice the sponge in half horizontally. Set aside.
Mix one tablespoon of the sugar with the coffee, brandy/rum and coffee liqueur (if using) and let the coffee cool a bit.
Place the remaining sugar in a mixing bowl with the egg yolks and vanilla and place it over a pan of simmering water. Whip the yolks until they are pale and fluffy and have at least doubled in volume. Remove them from the heat and let it cool for a minute or two before beating the mascarpone into it.
Put the cream in another bowl and whip it until it becomes thick and fluffy. Use a large metal spoon to fold the cream into the egg yolk/mascarpone mixture.

gingerbread tiramisu
To assemble the tiramisu place a layer of the sponge back into the springform pan that you baked it in. Brush the surface of it with the coffee mixture. You need it to be saturated but not so soggy that it loses all integrity.
Spread half of the creamy filling mixture evenly over the sponge and then carefully place the second layer on top. Brush this with coffee too, again making sure that it is well moistened but not drenched. Don’t worry, you won’t need all of the coffee mixture. Cover this with the remaining cream mixture and smooth off the surface. Put the tiramisu in the fridge to firm up for a couple of hours.
Dust the top of the tiramisu with some grated dark chocolate (I like to be fairly liberal with it) and run a palate knife around the edge of the tin before releasing the catch and removing the sides of the tin. Carefully transfer the tiramisu to a serving plate. Enjoy!

gingerbread tiramisu

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BRANDY APPLE PIE

Brandy apple pie

I’ve made a fair few apple pies in my time. They’re one of my preferred vehicles for clotted cream, especially in the colder months. Plus I’m continuing my quest to make pastry as good as my Grandma used to make, one day I’ll get there.

Brandy apple pie

Now she never put booze in her dough but following my success using gin in a tarte au citron during the summer I thought it might be worth slinging some in a pie too. Now here’s the science part. The theory is the alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water so subbing it in place of water should make for lighter, crisper pastry.
Don’t worry if you aren’t that keen on the idea of a boozy pie. It doesn’t taste boozy at all, and of course the actual alcohol bakes off (which is kind of the point). It really does just leave you with light crisp pastry. It’s some of my best pastry work, I’m slowly and surely getting closer to my Grandma-goal.

Brandy apple pie

There’s enough pastry here for a standard double crust pie so please don’t feel obliged to spend ages making a fancy cut-out top if that’s not your thing. I just have too much time on my hands some days!

Ingredients

Pastry
300g plain flour
175g butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soft brown sugar
3-4 tbsp brandy

Filling
5-6 apples
75g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp brandy
15g (ish) butter

1 beaten egg and white sugar to finish off

brandy apple pie

Cut the cold butter into small pieces and gently rub it into the flour with the tips of your fingers, until it resembles bread crumbs. Mix in the salt and sugar with a fork. Use the brandy to bring the mixture together to form a ball of dough. Add the liquid a tablespoon at a time so that you don’t end up adding too much. Flatten the ball a little and wrap it in cling film. Pop it in the fridge to chill and relax for about 30 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and lightly grease a 20cm pie tin.
Peel, core and slice the apples quite thinly. Whisk together the sugar, salt, cornflour and spices in a large mixing bowl and then toss the apple in this. Sprinkle over the brandy.
Take the pastry from the fridge and cut it in two, make one piece slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger piece out so that it’s a few millimeters thick and large enough to line the pie tin. Do this either on a lightly floured surface or on a piece of parchment paper. I prefer to do it this way as it makes it easier to transfer it to the tin later.
Carefully place the rolled pastry into the pie tin and gently push it into the corners. Leave a little over hang at the edge. Tip the apples into the lined tin and spread them out. Dot the surface with butter.

Brandy apple pie
Roll out the remaining dough, again to that it is a few millimeters thick and a little larger than the size of the pie. If you want to do some fancy cut outs on the top of the pie then now is the time to do it. Brush the edge of the pie with a little of the beaten egg and carefully place on the lid. Gently push it down around the edges to seal the pie. Trim and crimp the edge however you like, the easiest thing is just to press down the edges with the tines of a fork. Add any extra pastry embellishments you like (made from any leftover scraps of pastry), using the beaten egg as a glue. Brush the whole pie with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake the pie for 45 minutes, until the apples are soft and the pastry is golden brown.
Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving so that the juices can thicken. Serve with homemade custard, ice cream or glorious velvety Cornish clotted cream.

Brandy apple pie

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CRANBERRY & ORANGE VICTORIA SPONGE

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

A well made classic Victoria Sponge is a thing of beauty, although I have to confess that I do always have to have cream or buttercream in my filling (sorry Women’s Institute).
It’s all about the texture. It should be light and springy with a nice even crumb so be careful that you don’t over beat the batter. In a traditional Victoria Sponge you also rely solely on the quality of your ingredients for the flavour so I always use real butter rather than baking margarine and I always try to find fresh free-range eggs. I only ever use free-range anyway but if you can get locally reared ones then 9 times out of 10 they’ll be richer than anything you buy in the supermarkets. They’ll also give your sponge great colour.
I find that I get the best results when I let all of my ingredients get up to room temperature before I start.
American self-rising flour does seem to be a tiny bit different to U.K self-raising flour but this recipe should work fine with both.

Classic Victoria sponge

If you want to make the classic Victoria Sponge then just leave out the orange zest from the sponge, sandwich it together with good quality jam (usually strawberry or raspberry) and dust the top with a little sugar.

classic Victoria sponge

Ingredients
serves 10-12

Orange sponge
3 eggs
the weight of the eggs (inc shells) in butter, sugar and self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tbsp milk
zest of 1 orange

Cranberry compote
70g ish cranberries (mine were frozen)
30g sugar
juice of 1 orange

Swiss meringue buttercream
1 egg white
50g sugar
70g butter (room temperature and cut into small pieces)
zest of 1 orange

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease two sandwich tins. Place a disc of baking parchment in the base of each.
Weigh your eggs, in their shells so that you know how much flour, butter and sugar you’ll need.
Sift together the baking powder and flour a couple of times and set it aside. This will get plenty of air into it.
Using a hand or stand mixer beat together the butter and sugar until it is pale, thick and fluffy, this should take a minute or two.
Lightly beat each egg and mix them, one at a time, into the butter and sugar. Follow each addition with a spoonful of the flour and beat it well. Once you have added all of the eggs briefly beat in the orange zest. Sift the remaining flour into the batter in two batches and carefully fold it in.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Finally stir in the milk to loosen the mixture to a nice soft dropping consistency. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared tins (I actually weigh mine) and level off the tops. Bake them in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes. Don’t be tempted to open the oven door during this time as you might cause them to sink in the middle. Once the time is up open the oven door and test that the sponges are cooked with a skewer. Give them another minute or two if it doesn’t come out clean. They should feel light and springy once they are cooked.
Put the cooked sponges on a wire rack and let them cool in the tins for five minutes then turn them out on the rack and carefully remove the greaseproof paper. Let them become completely cool before you fill them.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Make the compote by combining the sugar, cranberries and the juice of the orange in a small saucepan. Pop this over a moderate heat and let it gently bubble away for a few minutes. Mash the berries a bit to release their juice, but be careful as they tend to pop and you don’t want them to splatter you with hot juice. Once the juice is thick and syrupy you can leave the compote to cool and become a bit jammy.
Swiss Meringue buttercream is next on your to-do list. Put the egg white and sugar in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently whisk it to keep it moving whilst it heats, it needs to be quite warm and the sugar needs to have dissolved into the egg white. Just rub a little between your fingers to check the temperature and that it isn’t grainy. Remove the pan from the heat and then whisk the egg white until it is stiff (like meringue) and cool. An electric mixer makes this pretty quick and easy. Once it is cool you can slowly beat in the butter, one small piece at a time. If the mixture is too warm then the butter will simply melt so make sure it’s cool before you start. You can pop it in the fridge for a few minutes if you need to. Continue to whip the buttercream until it has emulsified and become smooth and creamy and then mix through the orange zest.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Decide which of your cakes is the least pretty and place it, upside-down, on a serving plate. Spread the cold cranberry compote onto it and the follow this with the orange Swiss meringue buttercream. I prefer to pipe this but to be honest it isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to the way it tastes!
Carefully place on the top layer of cake and then sprinkle it with a little icing sugar as a finishing touch.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

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NUTELLA PROFITEROLES

Nutella profiteroles

I wasn’t joking the other week when I said that I needed more choux pastry in my life. If you’ve never tried to make it before I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. You don’t even need any fancy equipment to make profiteroles either, just a saucepan, a wooden spoon, a baking sheet and a couple of teaspoons. It’s pretty quick, super easy and will make you feel all sorts of fancy when you show off your patisserie skills.
The filling of these is a super-simple two ingredient Nutella mousse (it’s just whipped cream and yummy Nutella but shhhh…don’t tell anyone.) Despite being so simple it tastes incredible, which let’s be honest, most things made with Nutella do!
I don’t like to serve these with the classic chocolate sauce because I think that it over powers the mousse, and tends to make them a bit too sweet. Just a little chocolate decoration is all that required.
Mr Colonial Cravings was a huge fan of these, I’m pretty sure that if I’d left him alone with them he would have eaten all 16 in one go.

Nutella profiteroles

Ingredients
makes 16

choux pastry
60g butter
120ml water
75g plain flour
2 eggs

filling
200ml double cream
100g nutella

chocolate to decorate

Nutella profiteroles

Pre-heat the oven to 200°c and line a large baking tray with parchment or a silicone mat.
Put the butter and water in a medium saucepan and bring it to boil. Remove the pan from the heat and tip in all of the flour. Vigorously beat it with a wooden spoon until you end up with a ball of dough that has pulled away from the sides of the pan. Lightly beat the eggs. Add about a third of the egg to the pan and beat it in. Once it has been absorbed add another third and beat it again. After the third and final addition of egg, the dough should become soft, smooth and glossy.
Use a couple of teaspoons to drop blobs of the dough onto the prepared baking tray. If you need to smooth off any edges or pointy bits then just dip your finger in a little water first.
Bake the choux pastry for 30 minutes then turn off the oven and open the door a bit, leave them in the oven for a further 10 minutes to dry out a little.
Once they are done you can transfer them to a wire rack to cool. I would recommend poking a little hole in them, somewhere discreet, to let the steam out and prevent them from becoming soggy. You can use this later when you fill them.

Nutella profiteroles
Softly whip the cream for the filling, so that it just holds its shape. Take a big dollop of the cream and mix it into the Nutella to lighten it a bit. Transfer this mixture back into the rest of the cream and whip it again, until it becomes more stiff, but be careful not to over-whip it.
Put the Nutella mousse in a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Insert the tip into the steam hole that you created in each of the cooled profiteroles and gently squeeze in the filling. Drizzle the top of each one with a little melted chocolate and then pop them in the fridge until you are ready to serve them.

Nutella profiteroles

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CHILI CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE

Chocolate mousse cake

I don’t think that I can actually overstate how bloomin’ amazing this cake is. Even Roald Dahl Willy Wonka style naming wouldn’t come close to describing exactly how delicious this dessert tastes. Not just tastes mind you, the texture is heavenly too, crisp and meringue-like on the top and at the edges, rich and fudgy in the middle. And oh that slight spiciness too, tingly and warm and brilliant. Yes, I am proud of this bake.

Chocolate mousse cake

The cream complements it wonderfully, and I’ve allowed plenty of it (because I’ll always be a West-country girl), but you could of course serve the cake with just a dusting of icing sugar and scoop of ice cream.

Ingredients
serves 8 (but I wouldn’t share it)

150g dark chocolate
4 eggs
100g sugar
75g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract/paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

Vanilla-rum cream
300ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp sugar

fresh raspberries and mint to decorate

Chocolate mousse cake

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease a spring-form cake tin. Line the base with grease-proof paper.
Chop up the chocolate and melt it together with the butter, either in a double boiler or by using short blasts in the microwave. Let this cool a little.
Separate the eggs, putting the whites and yolks into two large mixing bowls. Add the sugar to the yolks and beat them until they are really pale (the colour of butter) and thick and fluffy. Add the spices and vanilla to this and briefly beat it again.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold a stiff peak.

Chocolate mousse cake
Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture and mix them together, making sure that they are well blended. Adding the chocolate to the eggs (rather than the other way around) will reduce your risk of the chocolate seizing. Take a big spoonful of the whipped egg whites and mix it into the chocolate goo. This will lighten the mixture a bit. Carefully, using a big metal spoon, fold in the remaining egg whites, a couple of tablespoons at a time.
Pour the moussey batter into the prepared tin and bake it for 40 minutes.

Chocolate mousse cake
Leave the cake to cool in the tin on a wire rack, the middle will sink a lot but that means that you can fill it with even more cream. Don’t worry if you have cracks in the top either.
Run a pallet knife around the inside of the tin and then carefully release the cake. Hopefully it will come away cleanly and you can slide it off the base and onto a serving plate. Carefully peel away the paper from underneath, this can be a bit fiddly because the top of the cake might be a bit crisp and delicate.
Place all the ingredients for the cream in a mixing bowl and whip until it forms soft peaks. Either pipe or spoon this on top of the cake to fill in the crater in the middle and decorate it with the raspberries and mint leaves. You can serve any leftover cream alongside the cake or it’s amazing on top of hot chocolate or coffee.

Chocolate mousse cake

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WHISKY HONEYCOMB ECLAIRS

Whisky honeycomb eclairs

I think that maybe there should be more choux pastry in my life. It’s way easier to make than you might think. In fact, provided you’ve got strong wrists for all that beating, I think it might be one of the easiest pastries to make.
And who doesn’t love an eclair now and then. Or profiteroles. Or Paris-Brest. Or gateau St. Honore. I think you get the point…
These are made from lovely light and crisp pastry filled to the brim with boozy honey-bourbon whipped cream and crowned with a rich dark chocolate ganache and crunchy honeycomb. Yeah, you know you want it.
I made my honeycomb because it’s dead easy and I couldn’t find any here but you could just crush up a Crunchie if that works better for you.

Whisky honeycomb eclairs

Ingredients
makes 6 small eclairs or 4 full size ones

Choux pastry
30g butter
60ml water
35g plain flour
1 egg

Bourbon honey cream
120ml double cream
20ml bourbon
1-2 tsp honey

Chocolate topping
30g dark chocolate
5g butter
1 tsp honey
1 tsp cream

crushed honeycomb to decorate

Whisky honeycomb eclairs

Pre-heat the oven to 200°c and line a baking tray with parchment or a silicone mat.
Put the butter and water in a medium saucepan and bring it to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and tip in the flour, all in one go. Vigorously beat it with a wooden spoon until you end up with a ball of dough that has pulled away from the sides of the pan. Lightly beat the egg and add about half of it to the pan. Beat this in, once it has been absorbed add the rest of the egg and beat it again. The dough should become soft, smooth and glossy.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a very large round nozzle (or if you have disposable bags you can just snip the end off). Pipe the dough onto the tray in thick strips, mine were about 4″ long. If you need to smooth off any edges then just dip your finger in a little water first.
Bake the eclairs for 30 minutes then turn off the oven and open the door a little, leave them in the oven for a further 10 minutes to dry out a little.
Once they are done you can transfer them to a wire rack to cool. I would recommend poking a little hole in the bottom or side to let the steam out and prevent them from becoming soggy.

Whisky honeycomb eclairs
Put all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl and whip them until they are thick and fluffy. If you want to pipe in the filling then put this mixture into a piping bag fitted with a smallish nozzle. Otherwise you slice each of the cooled eclairs down the side and spoon in the cream. If you are piping it in then you can enlarge the steam holes a little so that you can poke the tip of the piping nozzle in and then gently squeeze in the filling.
To make the topping put the butter, cream and honey in a small pan and gently heat them over a very low heat. Finely chop the chocolate and then add this to the pan too and stir it until it has melted and combined to form a smooth ganache. Let this cool for a moment or two and then spread it onto the top of the eclairs. Before it sets sprinkle on a bit of crushed honeycomb as a decoration.

Whisky honeycomb eclairs

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