Food

Make your own edible Christmas presents: from spiced gingerbread to marshmallow baubles

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If you’re running low on Christmas present ideas (voucher? Boring. Another beauty set? Likely to be regifted in the new year. Novelty socks? Please, no), then why not try making your own edible gifts? They won’t take up valuable festive cupboard space and the recipient will appreciate the effort that went into creating them. These matcha truffles tap into the trend for adding Japanese green tea to all manner of sweet things and the green colour adds an additional festive feel, while the marshmallow baubles can either be hung on the tree in cellophane bags or packaged up in threes and used as delectable stocking fillers. Plus, you can use the leftover marshmallow chunks to top your mug of hot chocolate. Everyone’s a winner.

Spiced gingerbread marshmallow baubles

Spiced gingerbread marshmallow baubles

Preparation time: 40 minutes, plus 8 hours setting time
Cooking time: 10 minutes

For the marshmallows:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 150ml boiling water
  • 30g powdered gelatine
  • 2 cloves
  • 1½ tsps ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 500g white granulated or caster sugar
  • 4 tsps golden syrup
  • 30g molasses
  • 200ml cold water
  • Cake-release spray (£3.96, lakeland.co.uk)

For the decoration:

  • Cornflour and icing sugar, for dusting
  • Christmas shape cookie cutters
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • Edible metallic cake decorations (optional)

Method

Step 1: Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then set aside. Pour the boiling water into a bowl, sprinkle over the gelatine and stir in with a whisk until dissolved.
Step 2: Grind the cloves in a pestle and mortar until they have the consistency of a powder and mix with the ground ginger and cinnamon, then add to the gelatine mix.
Step 3: Put the sugar, golden syrup, molasses and cold water into a high-sided saucepan (at least 5l capacity) and set over a high heat for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool slightly before stirring in the gelatine mix. Add the egg whites to a food processor and slowly pour the sugar mix in. Whisk on full speed for 5-10 minutes until the mixture has the same consistency as lightly whipped double cream.
Step 4: Spray two 23x23cm baking tins with cake-release spray and split the marshmallow between the two to create thin 1.5cm layers. Cover with cling film and leave to set at room temperature (eight hours). Turn out onto a surface dusted with cornflour and icing sugar.
Step 5: Use Christmas cookie cutters to cut out shapes from the marshmallow, dusting each with the cornflour and icing sugar mix. Wash the cutters between each use to get neat edges. 
Step 6: Dust off the cornflour and sugar mix. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring gently, until melted. Transfer to a piping bag with a fine nozzle and pipe designs onto the shapes. Sprinkle edible metallic decorations on to the wet chocolate, if you wish. Leave to set for a few minutes.
Step 7: Once set, slide the shapes into cellophane bags and seal with a ribbon. They will keep for up to two weeks.

Matcha truffles

Matcha truffles

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 4-5 hours chilling time
Cooking time:  10 minutes

For the truffles:

  • 120ml double cream
  • 300g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsps matcha*, plus extra for dusting

For the coating:

  • Icing sugar, for dusting
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate 
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting

Step 1:  Bring the cream to the boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat, tip in the white chocolate and whisk quickly until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
Step 2:  Sift in the matcha and beat well again. Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl, cover and chill for 4-5 hours or until completely set.
Step 3:  Using a teaspoon, scoop out small spoonfuls of the truffle mixture onto a tray and return to the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
Step 4:  When the mixture has firmed up again, dust the palms of your hands lightly with a little icing sugar and roll each piece of truffle mixture into a neat ball and place back on the tray. Return to the fridge while you melt the chocolate.
Step 5:  Melt the chocolate in three separate bowls – one white, one dark, one milk. Spoon a little of the white chocolate onto a plate and roll a quarter of the truffle balls evenly in it and then return to the tray. Place these back in the fridge. In the same way, coat a quarter of the remaining truffles in the dark chocolate, then another quarter in the milk. Then recoat the first set of truffles in white chocolate again. You’ll need to roll each truffle in the same melted chocolate around three times to get a good coating. Roll the remaining quarter of the truffles in cocoa powder. 
Step 6:  Sprinkle all the truffles with a little more matcha powder before the chocolate sets.

Recipes from The Book Of Tea by Louise Cheadle and Nick Kilby (£16.59, Jacqui Small, waterstones.com), out now, and All Things Marshmallow by Ross O’Brien and Amy Nelson (£20, Jacqui Small, foyles.co.uk), out now

We pick the best of the latest food, drink and restaurant launches, below:

  • The book

    If the photography in Lizzie Kamenetzky’s Winter Cabin Cooking (£16.58, Ryland & Peters, amazon.co.uk) doesn’t make you feel instantly cosy (roaring log fires, twinkling candles and knitted blankets), then the food certainly will. Filled with alpine favourites such as tartiflette, fondue bourguignonne and apple strudel, it’s hygge on a plate.

  • The drink

    We’ve all heard the rumour about lining your stomach with milk pre-booze. Well now you can bring the milk to your martini with Black Cow vodka (£26 for 500ml, Marks & Spencer, marksandspencer.com), which is made from the fermented milk of a herd in Dorset. Cheers.

  • The gadget

    Leaving your dinner in a slow cooker while you’re at work is already a great idea, but Morphy Richards’ Sear and Stew (£24.49, currys.co.uk) takes easy cooking a step further. It also has a setting that lets you fry the meat off before you start simmering to maximise flavour. We can taste that hotpot already.

  • The restaurant

    Bringing a slice of Manhattan cool to Manchester’s Northern Quarter, The Pen and Pencil (thepenandpencilnq.co.uk) is inspired by the advertising industry of the New York borough. The bar has nods to bygone eras and the menu echoes the NY influences, with strip steak and a house burger. Grab an Old Fashioned and make like you’re in Mad Men.

  • The toast topper

    Available in assorted festive colours and flavours, Lancashire bomb cheese (£9.95, britishfinefoods.com) is perfect for Christmas – simply slice off the wax top and scoop it out onto toast. British cheese at its best.

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