Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Christmas Chocolate Meringues

We first wrote this article for Zomppa International Food Magazine Christmas edition. You can view this here.

It’s never long before Halloween is long past and Christmas is on our doorstep so in this issue we’re going explore the Christmas traditions around baking. We have been thinking hard for a Christmas influenced recipe which will leave you feeling less guilty than indulging on some of the other less healthy Christmas treats on offer.

Although living in Ireland, many of you will already know how we are completely in love with the Netherlands and its traditions. We have decided to share with you some of those Christmas traditions which stood out to us as being the most interesting.

In Holland the Dutch have a character known as Sinterklaas, who is believed to live in Spain during the rest of the year. You may recognise him as looking like our Santa Claus. Sinterklaas has his very own day of celebrations in Holland which is normally quite a while before Christmas day, in 2012 Sinterklaas arrives on 17th November! During this celebration Sinterklaas arrives in Holland with his helpers, known as Piets. Sinterklaas arrives on a white horse and don’t be surprised if you see his checking his little red book to see which children have been naughty and which have been nice. Sinterklaas then travels through the streets in a massive parade through Amsterdam dishing sweets out to all the adoring children. This is a celebration which we would urge everyone to try and experience if they are in the Netherlands during this time of year. A less well known Dutch Christmas traditions is that in rural areas of the Netherlands, Dutch farmers blow horns to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and said to ward off evil spirits. Between when Sinterklaas arrives and normally 5th December, it is traditional for children to leave a shoe in front of the fireplace of their homes, if they are good Sinterklaas will leave them some gifts. It is traditional for most Dutch families to celebrate what we call Christmas Day on 5th December, including gift giving and opening of presents.

During our latest visit to the Netherlands we discovered more Dutch Christmas favourites, something we became addicted to while we were there was Kruidnoten which are basically mini ginger biscuits, about the size of 10p piece or smaller. These are the perfect combination of spice, crunch and deliciousness! 

Candy Canes, which are normally peppermint flavour, are now universally connected with the festive period across the globe.  It is believed that these first made their appearance in Cologne, Germany around the late fifteenth century.  Thought to have been the creative invention by a choirmaster of Cologne Cathedral, who was rather fed up with the noise that children made during the cathedrals festive celebrations. One year the choirmaster appointed a local candy business to make a sweet treat that could be given to his congregation’s children during the Christmas service. In order to tie it in with religious teachings he asked the candy maker to make the candy in the shape of a shepherd’s crook, to remind the children of the shepherds who visited Jesus in the stable on the night he was born. And thus the candy cane was born. This Christmas treat quickly spread across Europe and on to the rest of the world in time. We've since became familiar with peppermint flavoured treats at Christmas. Inspired by this wonderful festive flavour we have created a recipe which is light, chewy, minty and chocolaty all in the same mouthful. Sounds great doesn't it!

Low Fat Christmas Chocolate Meringues

The Ingredients:
80g Caster Sugar
2 Egg Whites
3tbsp Cocoa Powder
0.5tsp Cream of Tartar
0.5tsp Peppermint Extract
0.25tsp Salt

The How-To:
Preheat oven to 120c.
Line a large baking tray with a piece of parchment baking paper.
Sieve the cocoa powder, cream of tartar and salt together in a bowl and set to the side.
Pour the egg whites into a large bowl and beat on medium/high speed until soft peaks form.
Slowly fold the caster sugar into the egg whites, use a metal spoon and fold gently so as not to knock too much air out of the egg whites.
Fold in the peppermint extract.
Now slowly fold in the cocoa powder mixture. Fold just enough to combine the cocoa powder throughout the mixture. Don’t worry if there are a few specks of white.
Place tablespoons of this mixture on the baking sheet. Leave 1-2 inches between each to allow them to expand a little during cooking.
Bake for 1 hour in the middle of the oven. The low temperature and the long bake time give the meringues a gooey chewy chocolate centre. So it’s worth the wait!
Drizzle with some high cocoa content dark chocolate for extra indulgence.
Allow to cool for 20-30 mins before removing from the baking sheet. You may need to use a palette knife to ensure the bottoms do not stick and come apart.

You’re Done!

Have a fab Christmas from BakingBar!


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Cherry & Lemon Drizzle Biscuits

These biscuits are a modern twist on the traditional coconut ring biscuits. We hope you enjoy the sweetness of the cherries contrasted with the tangy lemon.
In this recipe we use Sasa Demarle's two fab products the SilPat and Roul'Pat. We cannot recommend these enough for their non stick, easy clean ability and usefulness in the kitchen.

The Ingredients:
200g NEILL'S® Plain Four
120g Butter
90g Caster Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
15 Glacé Cherries
Lemon Zest from half a Lemon

60g Icing Sugar
1.5tbsp Lemon Juice

The How-To:
Preheat oven to 190c.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Beat in the egg yolk.
Mix in the lemon zest.
Cut your cherries into quarters or smaller if you wish.
Mix the cherries into the biscuit mixture.
Sieve in the flour ensuring everything is well combined.

Roll the dough out to 0.5cm thick on a lightly floured worktop or we recommend using the Roul'Pat by Sasa Demarle Inc. These are fantastic non stick workstations perfect for rolling out your biscuits and making the mess a lot easier to tidy up after.

Using an approx 8cm cookie cutter cut biscuits out of the biscuit dough.
Using a palette knife or large flat knife carefully transfer the biscuits onto a baking sheet.
To bake your cookies we also recommend the SilPat non stick baking sheet also from Sasa Demarle Inc.
You will be able to fit between 6 and 8 cookies on the one sheet, they do not spread much during baking.
Using a lot smaller cookie cutter cut a small ring out of the centre of the cookies.
This is a lot easier to do once you have transferred the biscuits onto the baking sheet.
A top tip is to use a fork to carefully remove the centres of the biscuits.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 12 mins or until lightly golden brown.
Remove and allow to cool slightly before removing to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Now we need to make the lemon drizzle. Simply mix together the sieved icing sugar and lemon juice to get an icing consistency which is easy to drizzle over the biscuits however you like.
Allow the icing to set on the biscuits before enjoying.

You're Done!


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Christmas Gift Guide 2012

Like every year we have put together our list of recommended Christmas gifts, to make that present choosing task a little bit easier.

Over the past few weeks we have been taking both the Taylors Eyewitness Ceramic knives and design coloured knives on a test drive. Taylors Eyewitness have been making knives since the early 1800’s so as you can imagine the level of quality and craftsmanship of these knives is exceptional.

The ceramic knives are the perfect gift for the professional chef. Their soft grip handles combined with their super sharp zirconia ceramic blades which keep these knives sharper for longer make these knives the must have knife set. Taylors Eyewitness haven’t stopped at designing stylish knives but they have also considered their presentation and display in your kitchen by designing stunning knife blocks and stands which would look stunning in any stylish kitchen.

The design coloured knives add a modern twist in that the actual knives blades are vibrantly coloured, non-stick and hard wearing. This range of knives are a cheaper alternatives suitable for those starting off experimenting in the kitchen but still want a superior set of knives to give them ‘the cutting edge’.

Taylors Eye Witness knives are available from many retailers.

You may have read our recent article about Woodwick Candles. If you have, you will know why we rave about them so much. If you haven’t you can read it here. We believe Woodwick candles are by far the most superior candles which are very excellently priced for their burn time. Woodwick have recently started producing their candles with a new cross shapes wick opposed to the flat wood wick, this means they burn more evenly and release even more of their gorgeous smell. With new scents coming out every few months we are sure we will be writing more about Woodwick in the coming months. Some of this year’s Christmas inspired candle scents are Snow Day, Enchanted Evergreen, Holly Berry and our absolute all-time favourite…. Camp-fire Marshmallow! Yes toasted marshmallow smell could just be a candle away from flowing through your house. We also love the Santa's Cookies scent which is made up of freshly baked cookies, natural vanilla extract and a hint of nutmeg. Their presentation makes them perfect for gifts which are why we have listed them in our top gifts this year for Christmas. You can buy Woodwick candles in the UK from here and in the USA from here.


With the steady growth of home baking and the growing trend of retro kitchen accessories we have found that DotComGiftShop offers a great selection of retro kitchen items which will have childhood memories flooding back. One item which we particularly love is the selection of retro kitchen scales

Kitchen scales went from being beautiful and practical pieces of kitchen equipment which took pride of place, to horrible moulded plastic scales, to flat and uninspiring digital scales in recent years. We’re glad these beautiful scales are making a comeback. We love the injection of colour and retro vibe these give your kitchen. These scales are not only a beautiful gift for someone but a practical one too.

The Pampered Chef has quickly become known as one of the most trusted and reliable cookware companies. We have selected two of their key products from their many quality items as our recommended Christmas gift ideas this year. These are the Brownie Pan and the Pizza Stone. The heavy and superior non-stick aluminized steel of the brownie pan means that the brownies are evenly baked and more importantly the brownie pan makes individual brownies so say goodbye to having to neatly cut your brownies again. This pan makes perfectly square and identical brownies every time. The second item is the medium sizes pizza stone with handles. Any Italian cook will tell you how invaluable pizza stones are in the kitchen. They make beautiful thin and crispy pizzas by quickly absorbing moisture and are also perfect for cooking pastry and even bread! This is a brilliant gift idea as the recipient will get hundreds of uses out of it. The brownie pan can be bought from the UK store here or US store here. The pizza stone can be bought from the UK store here or US store here.

Chocolate….everyone loves to receive chocolate as a gift. But premium high quality and curiously unusual chocolate is in a completely different ballpark altogether! Montezuma’s has come up with a fab range of ‘Best of British’ inspired flavour combinations. Whether it is the crunch of the meringue pieces in the 100g Eton Mess chocolate bars or the salted peanuts and butterscotch pieces in the huge 500g Nanny Goat bar there is something for everyone. Using exceptional high quality Venezuelan Milk Chocolate or Ecuadorian dark chocolate these bars wont fail to delight!
Of course if you wish to stick with the theme of Christmas, Montezuma’s has a fantastic Christmas range this year. From carefully put together hampers to delicious selections of Christmas truffles there is a gift to suit everyone. There is even a Christmas chocolate bar library made up of 5 different 100g chocolate bars including Minted - Milk with Crunchy Peppermint and Sea Dog - Dark with Lime & Sea Salt.

Earlier this year we reviewed the Adagio IngenuiTEA teapot and we were not disappointed! With the growing popularity of green tea, white tea, black tea…in fact all teas more and more people are looking for convenient ways to get their tea fix during the day. The IngenuiTEA makes using loose-leaf tea not only a doddle but fun too! The IngenuiTEA teapot is uniquely designed that it holds just enough tea for a cup, or a little more of tea. Simply pop the required amount of loose-leaf tea in the chamber, add the hot water and allow to brew for a few minutes. Now comes the fun bit. When the IngenuiTEA and set it on top of your cup, the IngenuiTEA’s unique design means that a valve is then opened and the tea is filtered out into your cup, minus the tealeaves. The tea is crystal clear thanks to the metal mesh filter. MAGIC! With hundreds of teas available from Adagio Teas this teapot makes having tea fun! Adagio also has a US website which can be found here.

Most of you will know who much we adore the Netherlands and it doesn't stop there. We are massive fans of Henri Willig cheese. Henri Willig’s traditional Dutch methods of making cheese attract over a million tourists annually to their farms in the Netherlands. If you’re ever in the Netherlands keep your eyes open for their 12 stores. But don’t worry, Henri Willig has exceptional customer service meaning you can order all the cheese you need online from their website! There are many many varieties of cheese to cheese from whether it is individual cheeses or specially put together gift baskets such as the ‘Vincent’ gift basket consisting of Goat cheese and Smoked Cow cheese together with their two new cheeses, Fenugreek and Hot & Spicy and a jar of Dutch Honey Mustard. 

If you want to pick your own selection of cheeses you will find everything from highly recommended Pesto Cheese to AgedGoats Cheese which is won the best old goats cheese in the world award at the 2006 World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison Wisconsin.

Whittard has been around since 1886 so what they don’t know about tea and coffee isn’t worth knowing. We have selected a special collection of their items for a ‘coffee lover’s gift’. This comprises of the wonderfully varied selection of Whittard’s 9 most popular ground Coffees from around the World which is beautifully presented in a gift box and individual boxes for each coffee. Coffees include Monsoon Malabar, Santos and Java, Sumatra, Guatemalan Elephant, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Pico Duarte, Colombian, Costa Rican and Mocha Djimmah. To go alongside this wonderful collection of coffees Whittard offer a Flavoured Coffee Syrups Set which comprises of Vanilla, Gingerbread, Hazelnut, Caramel and Cinnamon. Add a bit of extra extravagance to your coffees made in your own home. You’ll think twice about buying high street chain coffee again.

Hotel Chocolat has a long standing reputation as being one of Britain’s most respectable cocoa growers and chocolatiers. As with all occasions throughout the year Hotel Chocolat has not failed to deliver when it comes to their fantastic Christmas selection. There is truly something for everyone, young and old, modern or traditional. Forgot buying a holly wreath this Christmas, why not buy one of Hotel Chocolat’s selection of huge 450g chocolate wreaths. There are a few to choose from including The Purist FestiveWreath. Made with fine Arriba cocoa, premium Piedmont hazelnuts and Marcona almonds, and the succulent jumbo golden raisins. Or try the Festive Wreath. Made with 50% cocoa milk chocolate, cookies and hand cut florentines that beautifully balance the sweetness of the chocolate. 

Or if you are after some fantastic stocking fillers Hotel Chocolat has them all. From the Christmas PickMe Up gift box  or for those who don’t like traditional Christmas mine pies why not try Hotel Chocolat’s AlternativeMince Pie gift box of 6 mini chocolates shaped like mince pies containing layers of praline and salted caramel… delicious!

Everyone loves a bit of sophistication at Christmas, and even more to receive it as a gift. How about something from Britain’s oldest wine and spirits merchants? By appointment to both HM The Queen and The Prince of Wales Berry Bros. & Rudd has been synonymous with sophistication and luxury. No3 London Dry Gin was created using as few ingredients as possible to achieve what Berry Bros. & Rudd believe gin should truly taste like. There is an interesting, almost fascinating fact about No3 London Dry Gin, in that the number 3 repeatedly appears. From the number of the shop on St James’s Street, 3 centuries of heritage of the company, the 3 fruits and 3 spices used in the creation of the gin and even 3 men and 3 woman gathering the juniper berries which give the gin its well-known flavour. Berry Bros. & Rudd prise this gin on its simplicity; it is still distilled in copper pot stills. To get your mouth watering for this delicious gin we’ll run through some of the enticing ingredients. From the obvious inclusion of the juniper berries to the Spanish orange peel and grapefruit and don’t forget the hints of Angelica root, Moroccan coriander and, finally, cardamom. The simplicity of this gin reflects back in both the history of this illustrious company and the origins of how dry gin was introduced into Britain by William of Orange, crowned king of England in 1688. The design and presentation of No3 London Dry Gin is unforgettable. From the key inset into the bottle, the high shoulder green glass bottle to the traditional cork stopper.

Most of you may not have heard of Magisso Ltd, but you’ll wonder why when you discover some of their fantastic creations. Magisso is a production house for Nordic design and innovations. Magisso aims to develop products to make our lives a little bit easier, and in the process come up with some fascinating design features. The one product we love the most and which we recommend for any keen baker this Christmas is the Magisso Cake Server. When you first lay eyes on the cake server you’ll struggle to see how it could possibly even be a cake server, or anything to do with baking for that matter. But once you see in in operation you will wonder why someone didn't create this before now to avoid those sticky fingers or messy slices of cake.  Presentation is just as important when serving cake and this wonderful product has mastered it perfectly as having an intriguing design which is guaranteed to be a conversation starter when someone receives it as a gift. You can view a demonstration of the cake server here.

If you’re looking for a practical gift for that loved one who is always cooking or baking look no further than Demarle’s fabulous range of baking sheets. Professional and celebrity chefs swear by them and claim they just can’t live without them anymore. We know you can buy non-stick trays and other non-stick mats but the non-stick coating eventually wears off and you’re left with an ugly sticky mess when you try and cook something. Demarle offers three main fantastic products, the SILPAT, the SILPAIN and the ROUL’PAT all with their specific ingenious purposes. The SILPAT is our absolute favourite product perfect for most baking needs, from pastry to cookies, from candy to chocolate nothing sticks! You’ll be seeing us using the SILPAT with almost all our baking going forward! The SILPAIN has a very specific purpose but an equally important one. The SILPAIN is designed for using with all types of dough from pizzas to breads. The uniquely perforated non-stick baking sheet ensures that moisture from the underside of your bread or pizza can escape ensuring a crisp base rather than a soggy one. The last product has saved us so many incidents of our worktop being covered in sticky dough, melted chocolate or just about anything when it comes to baking. The ROUL’PAT is essentially a non-stick countertop workstation. Whether it is for rolling out pasty, dough and working with fondant or even craft projects! There are literally millions of uses and it doesn’t stop with baking. You can buy these products from many companies worldwide. In the US these are available from Bed, Bath and Beyond and Macy's to name just two.

We’ve long been fans of Suzanne’s Shazzam Jams. Our love first began with her More than Strawberry Jam which contains a hint of apple and Malibu rum, who wouldn’t love that! But Suzanne has been busy in the kitchen because there are a whole new variety of jams available just in time for Christmas! If you’re after something Christmas themed there is everything from Mulled Cranberry & Orange Sauce, Bramley Apple & Cranberry Jam and our popular flavours of Christmas Pudding Chutney, Christmas Chutney, Mulled Plum Jam, Cinnamon Marmalade & Hot Toddy Marmalade! If you’re after something just a bit different Suzanne’s alcoholic shot variety is perfect! They include everything from Raspberry Vodka Jam, Blueberry Smash Jam and even Strawberry Daiquiri Jam! Or even if you want a taste of Northern Ireland there are fabulous gift sets which include pottery pieces fired by Suzanne herself in her very own kiln!

We discovered Blond Amsterdam while we were Live Blogging from the city earlier this year. If you missed this you can read our Live Blog which we have kept on the site here. Blond Amsterdam has created a treasure trove or new, modern, fresh design ideas on their ranges. One of our favourite gift ideas from Blond Amsterdam is the Travel Coffee Cup for coffee on the go! Of course make sure to browse their other ranges for other gift ideas. Not a fan of coffee not to worry! Blonde Amsterdam has an amazing range of tea cups, saucers and even cake plates. Our favourite is the Pink Cup & Saucer with matching cake plate. Jazz up your tea parties a little with Blonde Amsterdam!

Do you read recipes off your iPad when you’re baking in the kitchen?  Fed up getting your iPad messy with your sticky fingers? Belkin has come up with a perfect solution, the Belkin Chef Stand and Stylus. The Chef Stand has a non-slip base making it perfect for kitchen use and has two different positions to suit every need. The stylus, or as Belkin like to call it the wand comes with its own stand and is completely washable in soapy water, as is the stand. The stylus makes browsing your recipes on your iPad a breeze without the mess. In the UK you can find details here or in the USA here.