As always, Christmas Day yesterday was a special time for our family, with a large gathering and plenty of food, laughter, love, and of course, gifts.
As the extended family grows, and the economy tends not to, we agree every year not to give as many gifts, and certainly not to the adults. However, if you can’t spoil your loved ones at Christmas after a belt-tightening year, when can you spoil them? And as we all know, Christmas and belt-tightening of any sort are unlikely roommates (think gammon, chicken, lamb and beef, accompaniments and the all important caramel pudding, chocolate mousse and ice-cream. And then, of course, there’s still tea-time later!)
This year, instead of buying gifts, I decided to put what I’ve learnt through my kitchen adventures to use, and gave all the aunts and cousins a selection of sweet things in their Christmas bags. It turned out pretty well, and all seemed particularly touched by the effort (it helps that all are firm believers in the Sweet-Tooth Fairy).
As the treats played the role of a “stocking filler” of sorts, I didn’t need to make huge amounts even though there are 6 aunts and uncles, 2 cousin pairs, a brother and sister, a mom (just no partridge in a pear tree!). I decided to go for variety, and cut the pieces slightly smaller than I usually do, which meant just one batch of each chosen type was needed to give every recipient a nice amount in their goodie bag.
In each Christmas bag was Cashew Brittle, Honeycomb, Macadamia Nougat, Vanilla Fudge, Hot Chocolate Fudge (made the same as Vanilla Fudge, with half a tablespoon of hot chocolate powder stirred in with the vanilla) and Coconut Ice (updated improved recipe to follow). I bought small cellophane packets to put each in, in each bag, and tied them with gold thread, before putting them in little read bags I got at the baking shop nearby.
I made the fudges in a 20 x 20 cm tin and cut 48 squares. I used the same tin for the nougat, but cut fingers rather than squares and got about 54 pieces. For the coconut ice, I used a 20 x 24 cm tin for about 60 pieces.
The honeycomb was also made in the 20 x 20 cm tin, while I filled the small baking (swiss-roll) tray making the brittle. I wanted a slightly thicker brittle, and more than I usually make, so I used 3 cups of sugar and 3 cups of cashew nuts, which filled the tray just as wanted.
I have yet to find a way to make tidy, uniform brittle – how you cut perfect squares from the rock-hard sugar I just don’t know, and all recipes I’ve found mention that it can be done, but no-one has actually shown this to be true. (With hard evidence.) Ditto the honeycomb, so for these two, I simply threw in as many pieces as I felt were needed. For the others, each packet had 4 or 6 pieces.
Season’s Greetings everyone!