Monday, December 5, 2011

seasonal delights

So I somehow managed to enter the festive season with one doozy of a two week long headcold (a summer cold of all things, although this summer so far has been rather disappointing on the warmth front to say the least!) But, as of now, I am putting sniffles and weather complaints on the backburner, dosing up on vitamins and determined to get excited about the holidays and the delicious anticipation of baking, catching up with friends and general all round festive cheer.

So I plan to get cracking on in the next few weeks about Christmas snackery, foodie gifts, side dishes and other seasonal delights.

Firstly, let's talk fruit mince tarts. Something I haven't made since we visited Japan a few Decembers ago and I suddenly started channelling Delia Smith in a big way. This time though, I did them the cheat's way, which is to say the easy far less time-consuming and curse-inducing way.  I referred to this inspiring post on jam tarts for the pastry and... (here's where I whisper a little bit) then filled them with Robertson's fruit mince filling (from a jar!).  No pastry lids, no fuss, just pure wanton deliciousness. Hence why there are no photos...

Anyway, whilst we're on the subject, can I also tell you that the aforementioned fruit mince filling goes alarmingly well stirred through plain yogurt.  I mentioned this to Kristian the other day and his excited, wide-eyed response was: "What about if you stirred it through ice-cream with broken up pieces of shortbread?" This particular pimped up variation might be a good one to try in the post-xmas haze when you stumble upon some left-over tarts in the fridge and think, How could we disguise these into a new and rather marvellous dessert? Yup, we're a sweet-tooth household we are!

But as all good sweet-tooths know there is a cure and it is cheese. The other day I arrived home after an epic session at Harris Farm to discover I had bought five different kinds of cheese. I was a little excited and decided to have another crack at parmesan biscuits.

I first tried making these a few months ago and I was so disappointed by the result (I basically ended up with a tray-sized flat mess of buttery-cheesey gloop) that I was a little gun-shy. Empowered by my army of cheese and several conversations at work on the subject, I decided to have another crack.

Parmesan Biscuits
Adapted from this recipe

125g salted butter
250g plain flour
80g grated parmesan
1 egg
pinch salt
1 tsp sweet paprika

Rub together the butter and flour, salt and paprika then mix through the parmesan and egg. The mixture should come together to form a dryish dough. Add a little water if needed to bind it all together.  Form the dough into a thin sausage about the diameter of a 50c piece and rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. This bit is especially important and I think where I went wrong the first time I made these biscuits. The colder the dough is when it goes into the oven the better. There will be less spreadage, which is a good thing.

Preheat the oven to 180C then cut the dough sausage into coins 3-4mm thick and place on a baking tray.

Cook for 10-12 minutes until golden then rest the biscuits on a rack to cool and harden up a bit. They are great on their own but also go rather well with quince paste and seedless red grapes, which are absolutely smashing at the moment! Red fruit and festivity ahoy.


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