Posts Tagged ‘sweets’

Give Some Time And Make Some Christmas Sweets

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

In this festive period, we have been asked out to various families for drinks, or the kids out to parties.  And the question always is what to give people in a period of giving.  So yesterday, the kids and I spent a happy day making sweets, much as we have done before.  So there was a kitchen full or sugar, ground almonds and the smell of chocolate.  Our clothes were covered in the light white snow of icing sugar and there was a healthy crunch of caster sugar beneath our feet on the kitchen tiles.

Our Kitchen Table Covered In Homemade Sweets

Our Kitchen Table Covered In Homemade Sweets

But why bother, when you can buy sweets in the shops.  And where they are way cheaper as well – excluding the ingredients, our time would cost each sweet at about 50p, and that’s sweet and not box of sweets.  The answer is in part that they taste much nicer as we use better ingredients like organic Fairtrade sugar, and are much more generous in the luxury components like chocolate and vanilla.  But also, it is the giving of our time.

In an age where everyone claims to be so time poor, giving excuses like I am far too busy to play with my children or cook a meal from scratch or to make sweets or bake, what is more generous than giving over some time to make something for friends and family.  And they taste pretty damn delicious as well.  Think if I were a hedge fund manager or big corporate fat cat, I could perhaps even get the cost per sweet up to £18 or more per chunk of fudge – think how generous my time would be then.

So I say, please give some time and make something for your friends and family and show how generous you can be by releasing some of your precious time to show how much you love and care.

Enough of that and down to the nitty-gritty, we made marzipan kugeln (or marzipan balls dipped in milk chocolate), peppermint creams (shaped as circles and stars and dipped in chocolate), milk chocolate shapes (Merry Christmas tablets, santas and stars), vanilla fudge and chocolate fudge.  There was something about the fudge that made it extra soft and velvety this year and less crystalline and tablet like.  I think it was the patience and extra diligence over the stirring, but it could just have been the recipe, which was tweaked for the ingredients I had to hand.

Homemade Chocolate Fudge

900g / 2lb caster sugar
100g / 3¼oz unsalted butter
1 large tin of evaporated milk (410g/ 14½oz)
¼ of evaporated milk tin of cold water
250g / 9oz milk chocolate

Prepare a tin, by lining the base with some baking parchment.  We use a 2cm (½ inch) deep pan that is 30cm by 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch).

Put the caster sugar, unsalted butter, evaporated milk and cold water into a heavy bottomed pan.  Put the pan over a medium heat and with a wooden spoon stir the mixture until it is fully dissolved.  While the sugar mixture is melting, melt the milk chocolate over a pan of boiling water, then when melted switch off but keep warm by keeping over the pan.

Turn up the heat a tad and let the sugar mixture boil rapidly, stirring consistently all the while.  When the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (114C/238F), remove from the heat immediately.  I reckon this part takes around 20 minutes, but many books seem to claim it is much quicker.  Now you need to vigorously stir the mixture until it starts to thicken and begins to become rough – this takes 10 to 15 minutes and is quite tiring on the old arms.

Pour the fudge mixture into the baking tray, smooth over with a spatula.  Then using a sharp knife, cut the fudge into whatever sized cubes you want.

Leave to cool for 3 hours, then turn out of the baking tray, break off the fudge pieces, eating a few along the way to ensure the taste and texture are spot on, then put into an airtight container or some pretty gift boxes for pressies.

Homemade Chocolate Fudge In Gift Box

Homemade Chocolate Fudge In Gift Box

Recipe For Egg Free Marzipan And Baking For Christmas Fairs

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

It’s the time of the School Christmas Fairs, Nativity Plays and Carol Concerts and we are always being tapped for products or being asked to do some baking. 

But one of the problems we have always had is that, firstly, Christmas is our busiest part of the year for Steenbergs Organic in terms of order volume, and secondly, the fairs etc seem always to be mid-week.  But as both Sophie and I are working baking mid-week is almost impossible beyond the odd cake or biscuit.

As I discussed in an earlier blog, I have been experimenting with sweet making instead of baking.  Sweets last longer and can be made at the weekend and children (and adults) possibly prefer sweets to baked goods!

I have devised my own egg-free marzipan which we have coated in delicious dark El Rey 61% chocolate from Venezuela, as well as moulding chocolate into santa shapes, snowmen shapes and christmas bauble shapes; we used El Rey chocolate for all these – the dark one, a milk one and a white chocolate.  We have dipped brazil nuts in dark chocolate and milk chocolate.  We have also made milk chocolate circles and sprinkled them with mixed chop nuts and some sultanas.

These have then been bagged up into some polythene bags and then put into some nice Christmassy small bags for sale.  As always, the amount of effort, cost of materials and packaging never quite add up to the sales price, but you cannot be an accountant about everything in life.

Christmas sweets and shortbread snowman

Christmas sweets and shortbread snowman

This morning I have also started my token bit of baking – some shortbread snowmen, using a mould that we got at Lakeland.

So I’ve done my duty and I can go and listen to the school carol concert today in Ripon Cathedral with a clear conscience.

For those who are interested, the marzipan I made is a variation on something I found on the web.  I am going to keep my recipe a secret but heres the one from the Internet: 

350g/ ½lb organic ground almonds
350g/ ½lb organic icing sugar
4tbsp water
2tsp Steenbergs natural almond extract

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and knead dough until smooth.  Sprinkle some icing sugar on a baking board, roll flat and then cut into shapes – I made round balls and simple rectangles.

Recipe For Sweets At Christmas Fairs

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Inspired by marzipanning the Christmas cake yesterday and acutely aware of the looming Christmas Fair after the Carol Concert at our children’s school, I decided to experiment with some sweet making this morning.  Also, chidhood memories of Niederegger marzipan may have played on my psyche.

I think we’ll look at making fudge and peppermint mice – I’ve already talked about the recipes for these on a previous blog: see https://steenbergs.co.uk/blog/2009/08/make-your-own-birthday-tea/.

We used a slightly different marzipan recipe to the one from yesterday as I wanted something less rich and a bit drier.  I also beefed up the almond flavour with some of our very own Steenbergs natural almond extract.

Ingredients

350g/12oz   Ground almonds, delumped using your fingers
175g /6oz   Icing sugar, sieved
175g/6oz   Caster sugar
1½tsp  Lemon juice
¼tsp Steenbergs natural almond extract
1 Free range egg, lightly beaten

Put the ground almonds and sugars together in a mixing bowl, then make a hole in the centre.  Add the lemon juice, natural almond extract and beaten eggs into the hole.  Mix it all together – I use my hands for this, massaging it all together into a smooth paste.   When it has all mixed into a ball, put it onto a lightly iced board.

Now, you can do as you wish.  For this experimentation, I simply rolled small amounts into smooth balls; it’s probably about 1tsp for each ball, but you just need to break it off the main ball with the tips of your fingers.  We then dropped some of the balls into cocoa which is nice and easy, but the children were not sure about the mix of the bitterness of the cocoa and the sweetness of the marzipan; I actually quite liked it.

Coating marzipan in dark chocolate

Coating marzipan in dark chocolate

For the remainder, I melted two 150g bars of dark Green & Black’s chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.  We then dipped the balls into the melted chocolate and using a toothpick scooped them out and left them to dry on some baking parchment.

You probably only need 200g of chocolate as we had some left over and poured this into some chocolate moulds that we have to make some chocolates.  The dark chocolate worked really well against the sweetness of the marzipan, but milk chocolate would work better for individual chocolates.  I think we will also look at getting some brazil nuts and coat those in chocolate, as well as some white chocolate to play with the colours a bit.  This could really be quite fun; really messy fun.

A selection of homemade sweets

A selection of homemade sweets

We also experimented using the marzipan with trying to make mice shapes.  We shaped the marzipan into a thick oval, teased out the end to make a nose and pinched up two small bits to make the ears.  Then we stuck on some pink coloured balls for the eyes.  We will either use string or find some edible shoelace to make the tails when we use the peppermint cream mix to make the actual ones.

Everyone’s got involved in some capacity, particularly scoffing the sweets down!

I have ordered some little gold truffle boxes to put them and they have Merry Christmas printed on them.