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SWEET ON CHRISTMAS

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. There’s a touch of tension in the air. Who is coming to the Christmas feast? Why won’t the family make up their minds?

It’s often a bit awkward with families. Some live in different towns; there are the in-laws, siblings and cousins to consider. What are we going to eat? Why don't you all just bring a plate!

However, I’m not one for being caught short and the following recipes can all be prepared in advance. 

Pavlovas are great — especially the store-bought ones as they keep for weeks without their topping. Instead of whipped cream, try piling scoops of salted caramel ice cream on top then drizzling with a little melted chocolate.

Meringues are a pantry staple. Sandwich together with whipped cream and pile in a tower on a serving plate then garnish with fresh berries. Or crumble into whipped cream together with mini marshmallows and fresh berries = ambrosia.

Crepes can also be prepared ahead — then frozen. They can be reheated in the microwave and served with flambéed stone fruit or filled with a mixture of lemon curd and cream fraiche, then rolled and topped with limonata ice cream.

FESTIVE PUMPKIN PIE

Can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge, then garnish.

Short Pastry: 2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
125 g butter, chopped
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
Filling: 570g peeled and seeded pumpkin, chopped
395g can sweetened condensed milk
3 medium eggs
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Lightly grease an 18cm round pie dish with 6cm deep sides.

Place the flour, salt, butter and icing sugar in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add the egg. When the mixture forms a ball, remove, wrap in plastic film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, microwave or bake the pumpkin, until tender. Keep it as dry as possible.

Roll out the chilled pastry to form a 30cm disc. Line the pie dish with the pastry and trim the edges. Pat a sheet of foil over the pastry ensuring all the pastry is covered. Weigh down with pastry weights, if preferred. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mash the pumpkin well. Sieve if required. Measure 1 cup of the mash.

Whisk the cooled pumpkin, condensed milk, eggs, mixed spice and salt in a large bowl, until smooth. Pour into the crust.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and bake for 35-40 minutes until a knife inserted 3cm from the edge comes out clean. When cool the centre will firm up. Chill in the fridge.

Great garnished with coarsely chopped meringues and fresh berries. Serves 6-8.

BANOFFEE CHEESECAKE

Bananas and toffee — a classic combo. The cheesecake can be covered tightly and frozen for up to 1 month.

Base: 250g plain biscuits (gluten-free if preferred)
75g butter, melted
Filling: 150g peeled very ripe bananas
2 medium eggs, separated
500g traditional cream cheese, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence.
Topping: 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
75g dark chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 20cm springform cake pan and line the base with baking paper.

Crush the biscuits finely and combine with the butter. Press evenly onto the base of the cake pan. Bake for 15 minutes then remove and cool slightly.

Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C.

Place the bananas and egg yolks in a food processor and mix until smooth. Add the cream cheese, sugar, cornflour and vanilla essence. Mix until smooth. Tip into a large bowl.

Whip the egg whites until stiff. Using a large spoon, fold into the banana mixture. Tip onto the biscuit base and smooth the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until just set. It will firm on cooling.

Remove from the oven and run a thin sharp knife around the edge. Cool for 30 minutes then cover and chill overnight.

To make the toffee, place the sugar and water in a large, microwave-proof glass bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Continue microwaving for 3-4 minutes until the liquid is light golden. Remove — the toffee will continue to colour on standing. Pour in a thin layer onto a lightly oiled sheet of foil. Cool. Break into shards.

Before serving, drizzle a little chocolate in lines over the top of the cheese cake and allow to set. Garnish with the toffee shards. Serves 8.

ROSEWATER & RASPBERRY MERINGUES

Add character to your meringues by roughly heaping each meringue onto the baking paper.

4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup freeze-dried raspberry pieces
1 teaspoon rose water
4-8 drops natural red food colouring  
Filling: 1 cup cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 cup small fresh raspberries or
1/2 cup freeze dried raspberries 

Preheat the oven to 120°C.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff and shiny. Roughly crush the dried raspberries. Fold into the meringue with the rosewater and red colouring.

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Drop heaped tablespoons of the meringue onto the baking paper. Reduce the oven temperature to 110°C. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues to stand in the oven overnight or until completely cold. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Whip the cream and icing sugar together, until thick. Fold in a few fresh or freeze-dried raspberries

Sandwich the meringues in pairs with the cream mixture. Pile on a serving plate. Makes about 20.



Columns by Jan Bilton
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