Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas in the heat and all things sweet...

What would Christmas be without the smell of baking circling around the kitchen and the giving of gifts to those you love?  Australia always seems to be a little at odds with itself at Christmas time. There are festive decorations in the cities, songs about snow, ice and mulled wine, but all the while the sun continues to blaze outside and scorch the streets and everyone is planning their summer holidays.  It has taken me almost 6 years to adjust to Christmas in the heat, I’m not entirely sure that I ever will, but that doesn’t mean that I have to miss out on the smells and joy of Christmas baking.  A lot of Australians spend Christmas day having roast dinners at home with family and friends; even if the temperature reaches over 30C.  What can I say; those European first settlers’s traditions persist!  My Mother in Law is German and she is an expert at making ‘Gutzi’s, so much so, that she has included a selection of wheat free biscuits especially for me at Christmas time. I’m a lucky lady. 

I was delighted to receive a package of wheat free baked goodies from my lovely friend Lauren, who lives across the pond in the UK and is the owner of the delightful blog Around the World in Eighty Bakes.  In return I posted Lauren some of my Christmas bakes; truffles, coffee hazelnut and pistachio biscotti and some hazelnut chocolate hearts and stars. I hope she enjoyed them - I certainly enjoyed the baking!

(Gigantic) Hazelnut Praline Truffles

I would be lying if I said I intended for these truffles to be the size of conkers, but alas, that’s how quite a lot of the batch turned out.  My dexterity with chocolate is still to be developed and I am looking forward to the six week chocolate module during my pastry course in 2012.  The praline consists of caramel and roasted hazelnuts and is ready in a matter of minutes.  Once the praline cools it is simply pulsed in a food processed and ground to a fine meal to be mixed into the truffle mixture. Although the ingredients for the praline mixture appear to be very rich, once combined the flavours mellow and the dark chocolate takes centre stage. I coated the truffles in a variety of different toppings, 100s & 1000s, dark chocolate and swirled white and dark Chocolate. The process is time consuming but the effort is very worth the end result. 

Coffee Hazelnut and Pistachio Biscotti

Given that ground nuts are often the heroes in wheat free baking I was delighted to find a recipe that could be easily adapted for wheat free biscotti.  I have to admit, I’m not a coffee drinker (Green Tea for me please) but I do love the taste of coffee in biscuits and cakes.  I liked the process of making the biscotti, the mixing, cooling and double baking. I don’t recall biscotti ever being served as a traditional Christmas biscuit but I figured, why not? This version is almost savoury compared to your average biscuit.  It’s a perfect partner for a morning coffee or tea.

Chocolate Hazelnut Hearts and Stars

These cute biscuits made even more than the recipe suggested and I ended up with an abundance of hearts and stars.  I used blended wheat free flour mix for the biscuits and I believe they worked remarkably well.  The recipe called for hazelnut meal which I replaced with almond meal and I topped the biscuits with roast hazelnuts instead.

If you would like any of the recipes please leave a comment and I will post them.
Merry Christmas to all, enjoy the festive season and I hope it is filled with lots of relaxing and of course plenty of cake!

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