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The Christmas Bake Off

Baking at Christmas, I wish...
Well the Christmas preparations have started in earnest now. I've shaken off my bah humbug, which was mainly due to the miserable weather. I should be used to it by now ,you can squeeze a girl into ski pants but you can't stop an Ozzie one yearning for the economy-sized bottle of Hawaiian Tropic and a garishly printed sarong at this time of year.
I've mentioned it before, I don't do that much baking normally but it gives me real pleasure to do lots at Christmas time, whether it is to give as gifts or to eat with family and friends.
Here are some of my favourites.

Cocoa Nib Florentines

Cocoa nibs are small morsels of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cocoa beans. Nutty, slightly bitter and very moreish, they work in both savoury and sweet recipes. And they are a major superfood, having more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea.This recipe for  Cocoa Nib Florentines is really delicious, and would make the perfect pressie for the chocolate lover in your life.

Girdlebuster Pie
Now I seriously don't have much of a sweet-tooth, you're more likely to find me fanging on duck fat ,triple- cooked chips dipped in bearnaise sauce than truffling in a bagful of candy, but I saw Nigella on TV the other night making this Girdlebuster Pie and although not really baking as such, thought genius! Ice-cream, buttery biscuits, bourbon and butterscotch sauce, what's not to love?? This will be our Christmas dessert and I'll try making individual ones in mini -muffin tins for New Years Eve treats.

Orange Popping Chocolate Chip Cookies
For the last couple of years Santa has popped an Über British,Terry's Chocolate Orange with Exploding Candy into our stockings and this year shouldn't have been any different except Santa's helper didn't factor into them not being readily available in the shops and being a bit to late to order online.... so in the the spirit of make do and mend, these cookies make a pretty good substitute. You can buy popping candy at the bigger Waitrose stores or online but they're just as good without.

Orange Popping Chocolate Chip Cookies
250 grams plain flour
175 grams butter, cut into small cubes
50 grams sugar
1 large orange,zest and juice
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of orange essence (optional)
100 grams of chocolate chips
25 grams popping candy ( optional )
Pre-heat the oven to 180C, butter a baking sheet
Put the flour, sugar and bi-carb into a large bowl. Rub in the butter until you have a breadcrumb texture. Add the orange zest, juice, vanilla and orange essence, mix to combine, add a drop of milk if mixture too dry. Add the chocolate chips and popping candy and squish through evenly. Roll into a sausage shape, approx 30cm by 5cm, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for a minimum of 10 minutes. Slice into rounds about 2cm thick and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. This mix freezes well and I'll be giving these away uncooked in their sausage-shaped wrap, bon-bon style so they can be sliced off and cooked when needed.
Cornbread with cheese and jalapenos

Cornbread, not very British but I love it all the same, rich but light and spiced up with jalepeno peppers or chorizo served with the left-over turkey or with chunky guacamole and red cabbage coleslaw, makes great comfort food. I use the Barefoot Contessa's recipe as a base, but substitute buttermilk or natural yoghurt for the milk. Adding whole corn kernals and chopped up coriander works really well too.
Well we're coming to the end of a pretty challenging year for many people, many countries. Maybe we'll be a little more kind, a little more thoughtful and better humoured over this Christmas time.I send you all the best for the holidays and wish you a bright and love-filled 2013.
Love Food X
Ps. Some great, green, last minute gift ideas from Inhabitat, free and next-to, perfect for the kids to make!


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