Got a fab recipe for Christmas this week – for gifts, to scoff yourself, whatever takes your fancy – delish!
Bit like mincemeat, but without the suet – and can be enjoyed in a whole range of different ways – on scones, over ice-cream, Christmas tart (spoon into blind-baked cases) or spooned straight from the jar *guilty look* What? What???
Anyhoo – It’s also going to provide the opportunity to illustrate creativity, because the preserve I ended up with was not the one I intended to make, but is still absolutely delicious.
This recipe began life in the kitchen of Mme Christine Ferber, the undisputed QUEEN of preserves. She lives in Niedermorschwihr, the little Alsacian village of the borderlands with Germany and is the go-to woman for the likes of Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, Pierre Herme and anyone else who demands nothing but the best. Her preserves are made from local, seasonal produce and she presides over every batch. Never working with more than 4kg of fruit at a time, she marries flavours and textures beautifully, and has created over 800 flavour combinations.
So I found this recipe on a French magazine website almost a year ago and have been dying to make it all year. When I managed to snag the last 4 quince at the local farm shop, I thought I was all set, but the further I got into the recipe, the more I found out that I lacked some of the ingredients, so I just had to improvise like a BOSS. Now don’t start flapping about not having quince, because I didn’t have enough either – so I improvised with apples. Then I couldn’t find any dried pears, so I used dried pineapple instead. And so it went on.
So what I have for you here, and in the picture above, is the recipe I made, rather than the recipe I followed. It makes about 8-9 jars – plenty for gifts and a couple to keep. For anyone who is interested, the original Christine Ferber recipe is here.
2 kg of fresh quince or Bramley apples or a mixture of both
2 litres of water
1 kg granulated sugar
200 g dried pineapple
200g dried figs
100 g dried prunes
200g dried apricots
100g raisins 
50 g candied lemon peel, cut into thin strips
50 g candied orange peel cut into thin strips
50 g dried cranberries
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g walnuts pieces
150g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 ground star anise
- Wipe the quince/apples with a cloth and rinse in cold water.
- Cut into quarters and place in a preserving pan and cover with 2 liters of water.
- Bring the pan to a boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer gently for one hour, stirring occasionally.
- Strain the juice through a colander and then strain it again through a piece of muslin to clear it of most of the pulp.
- Discard the fruit pulp.
- Measure out 1300ml of the hot liquid and pour over the dried pineapple. Leave it to soak for 3-4 hours. You can leave it longer – overnight if you like, but I was in the mood to make this jam NOW! Today! 😉
- Wash your jars and lids and put into the oven on a baking tray at 100°C, 80°C Fan. Always err on the side of caution and have more jars than you think you’ll need.
- Cut the figs, prunes and apricots into strips 3mm wide. NB DO NOT get the ‘ready to eat’ dried fruit – it’ll just break down into a mush. Make sure you get the old-fashioned ‘tough’ dried fruit.
- Slit the dates and remove pits. Slice into 3mm strips
- Pour the apple liquid and the pineapple into a preserving pan with the sugar, figs, dates, prunes, apricots, raisins, lemon and orange peel, cranberries, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, and the spices.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Skim any scum from the surface.
- Keep cooking on high heat for five to ten minutes, stirring constantly.
- Skim again if necessary.
- When the temperature reaches 100°C, add the walnuts and almonds.
- Bring the mixture to 104°C and test that the setting point has been reached by spooning a little of the syrup onto a cold plate and placing in the freezer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat while you check. If the surface if the jelly wrinkles when you push your finger through it, then setting point has been reached. NB This is really just to double-check – if it reaches 104°C, you’re fine. This is not a solid-set jam, it’s more ‘fruit suspended in spiced apple jelly’.
- Ladle into the warm jars and seal whilst hot.
- Wipe jars and label when cooled.
 I used Sainsbury’s snack raisins, which is a mixture of golden, flame, crimson and green raisins. Beautiful!
Something sweet to tickle your taste-buds this week, and something unbaked too!
I’ve been meaning to post this for quite a while, but I keep getting distracted with other recipes! Although this is simple, it’s fab for a special treat, and wrapped in shiny cellophane, makes a great gift. So with shops already full of Christmas decorations, I thought I’d try and get ahead of the game with a (non) baking gift idea for the festive season.
The generous slug of booze makes it very much an adult version, but you can leave that out or replace with orange juice for a family friendly version. I deliberately chose Rich Tea biscuits rather than digestives because the recipe is so rich and decadent, their plain, dry and crunchy texture make a perfect counterpoint.
115g plain chocolate – 70% if possible
115g milk chocolate – Milka or some other creamy Swiss delight
56g unsalted butter
2tbs golden syrup
180g Rich Tea biscuits – roughly broken
56g flaked almonds
Chocolate Glaze Topping
100g plain, 70% chocolate
25g unsalted butter
- Warm the rum slightly (10-20 seconds in the microwave). Add the raisins and leave to soak while the rest of the ingredients are being prepared.
- Line a tin with clingfilm and spray lightly with oil. A square tin 18-20cm is a suitable size, but you can vary the size depending on the thickness of Tiffin you require.
- Put the biscuit pieces, almonds and cranberries into a bowl and mix.
- Put the chocolates, butter and syrup into a pan and heat gently until melted and well mixed.
- Pour the chocolate mixture over the biscuit mix.
- Add the raisins and the rum and fold together to combine.
- Press the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
- Cover and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
- When the Tiffin is chilled and firm, make the chocolate glaze topping:
- In a small pan over simmering water, heat the butter and chocolated until melted.
- Pour chocolate mix over the chilled Tiffin and smooth the surface.
- Cover the pan with cling film, taking care that it doesn’t touch the surface of the chocolate glaze, and leave in a cool place overnight to set.
- Cutting the Tiffin
- This bit might be redundant, but I thought I would include some tips to getting sharp and clean cubes of Tiffin like in the picture when you come to divide up the block – useful if you’re intending to give it as gifts.
- Remove the block of Tiffin from the tin and peel off the clingfilm. Try and keep your fingers from touching the chocolate glaze – a squidgy chocolate fingerprint is going to ruin the effect.
- Put the Tiffin onto a cutting board and lightly mark out where you plan to cut. This recipe is so rich and decadent, a 2cm square/cube packs more than enough flavour.
- For cutting, you will need an extremely sharp, thin knife, a jug of boiling water and a tea-towel.
- Hold the knife blade in the hot water for about 10 seconds. Remove and wipe dry with the tea-towel.
- Make just ONE cut through the Tiffin and return the blade to the hot water. Repeat until the block is cut to your liking.
- The hot water heats the knife blade, which makes it easier to cut through the chocolate cleanly by melting it as it cuts. Rinse/heat/dry the knife after EACH cut, otherwise you’ll get crumbs spoiling the sides of the blocks.
 Don’t make the pieces too small or they will crumble into mush with all the vigorous stirring required.
 I prefer the tartness of cranberries as well as the splash of colour they provide. If you’d prefer a sweeter version, try crimson raisins or chopped glace cherries instead.
Something norty but nice this week, with no actual baking required – Bonus!
An item that I usually have tucked away in a cupboard is a squeezy bottle of sweetened condensed milk – so that when I come across a recipe that uses just a small quantity, I don’t have to open a whole tin. Usually.
Not sure what happened to my squeezy bottle – but for the 2 tablespoons of condensed milk for last week’s choux pastry, I ended up having to open a 400ml tin. So then I had to find something to use up the rest of the tin. My standard use for sweetened condensed milk is a deliciously creamy fudge, but for a change, I decided to look for something different.
Raffaellos are one of the lesser-known cousins of the milk chocolate and hazelnut (“Ambassador, with these Rocher, you’re really spoiling us”) Rocher. However, according to Wikipedia (so it must be true!) there’s also a coconut/almond version Ferrero Garden chocolate which, from the description (a half almond, surrounded by coconut cream, encased in wafer coated with coconut flakes) sounds even more like the confection created here. But I’ve never heard of a Ferrero Garden (coconut) chocolate before today, so I’m calling these Raffaellos and that’s that! 😉
This is a variation on some chocolates I made a few months ago, and if there’s one thing I learned from that particular experimentation, it’s: start small. There are several layers to this piece of confectionery (almond, cream filling, crunchy coating, chocolate, coconut decoration), and a little generosity with the cream filling can mean a finished chocolate of such *ahem* ‘rustic’ proportions, Mary Berry would be horrified. Seriously. The ones I made before were beyond golf ball and heading rapidly towards snooker ball size.
A lesson learned is a tumpty-tumpty-tum as the saying goes, so let’s get on with the show! I’ve greatly reduced the original quantities, because I ended up with such a vast amount of filling, I kept running out of stuff to finish them with!
100ml sweetened condensed milk
100g unsalted butter
100g dessicated coconut 
100g cream cheese, room temperature
4 tsp runny honey or agave nectar
100g whole almonds
- Put the butter and condensed milk into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted.
- Add the 100g of dessicated coconut and stir to combine. Set aside to cool.
- Beat the cream cheese and honey until smooth and well combined.
- When the coconut mixture has cooled, add it to the cream cheese mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Put the mixture into the fridge to firm up (about an hour).
- Toast the almonds by either dry-frying in a pan over medium heat or by laying them on a baking sheet in a 180°C, 160°C Fan oven for 10 minutes (I prefer this method, as they are less likely to scorch). Set aside to cool.
To coat 
Rice crispies cereal
300g white chocolate
200g dessicated coconut
- For Stage 1 of the coating process, it probably more efficient to work in small batches of about 10 at a time.
- Pour some rice crispies into a bowl ready for coating.
- Take a small amount of filling (5g is ideal) and press an almond into the centre.
- Roll it between your hands into a ball shape, then drop the ball into the bowl of cereal.
- When you have 10 balls of filling in the bowl of cereal, swirl the bowl around so that the balls get thoroughly coated in the rice crispies. Don’t worry if there are a few gaps, they’ll be filled in by the next step.
- One at a time, take the coated balls of filling out of the bowl and roll between your hands until the rice crispie coating has been pressed smooth and there are no gaps.
- Set the coated balls on a baking tin.
- When all the balls have been coated (or you’ve run out of almonds as I did!), put the baking tin in the fridge to firm up (about an hour). If you don’t want to wait, put the tin in the freezer while you melt the chocolate.
- Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a glass bowl over gently warming water to melt. NB White chocolate – even the most deluxe brand – is notoriously temperamental to melt. Usually, I melt chocolate in the microwave, but for white chocolate, I always use the much gentler water-bath method. Also, don’t stir. Just let it sit and melt by itself. If, after 10 minutes there are still one or two lumps, then GENTLY fold the mixture over once or twice to help it along. Remove from the heat and move to your working area. I suggest keeping the bowl over the hot water, to help keep it liquid.
- Remove the tray of fillings from the fridge/freezer and set it to the left of the melted chocolate.
- Pour the dessicated coconut into a bowl and put it to the right of the melted chocolate.
- Put a plate to the right of the bowl of coconut for the finished chocolates.
- For each chocolate
- Coat in white chocolate. There are several methods you can use to do this, but the best approach I found was to hold the rice crispie coated ball in a small pair of sugar tongs and use a spoon to pour the chocolate over and then tap gently on the side of the bowl to get rid of any excess chocolate. Fill any gaps by dipping the ball into the chocolate on the spoon.
- Drop the coated ball into the coconut and swirl the bowl around so that it gets thoroughly coated. It’s best to do this one at a time, otherwise the balls stick together.
- When it’s fully coated, put it on the plate.
- When finished, put the balls in the fridge to set fully.
- Keep chilled.
 The dessicated coconut provides a textured filling, which personally I like, but which might not appeal to everyone, so I have come up with a solution: substitute with 100g coconut milk powder and leave out the honey. I get my coconut milk powder from the local oriental foods shop. It looks just like regular milk powder, but it has the sweet aroma of coconut. I’ve just checked the labelling and the brand I’ve got does contain some milk solids, so if you’re lactose intolerant, please bear this in mind. The mixture is much softer than that with dessicated coconut, so it requires more chilling. Edit: It’s been (quite rightly) pointed out to me that, if you’re lactose intolerant, then a little bit of milk products in your coconut milk powder is, frankly, the very least of your worries with this recipe. *lying* I was just testing – glad you’re all paying attention 😉
 Exact quantities will depend on the size and number of balls that you make.