Chocolate, Almond & Cranberry Bites – 200 Christmas Recipes Review
Unfortunately this little book, 200 Christmas recipes in the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook series, didn’t arrive in time to be really useful for Christmas. There must have been some sort of glitch in the despatch system as I didn’t receive the book, sent by Octopus Publishing for review, until a couple of days before Christmas. I did, however, manage to squeeze in one recipe – another one for my second batch of hampers – mulled wine biscuits or as I have named my adapted version, chocolate, almond and cranberry bites.
At only £4.99 I’d say this book is good value for money. It’s quite compact, measuring only 16.5 cm by 14 cm but this is quite a nice size to be easily portable and won’t take up a lot of room on the bookshelf. As you’d expect from the title, it is stuffed full of Christmas recipes and covers everything you would expect plus quite a bit more. There aren’t actually two hundred different recipes but most of the hundred or so recipes there are has a variation which bumps the number up. For example, no self respecting Christmas book would be complete without a recipe for red cabbage and this one does not disappoint: a really interesting recipe for braised red cabbage makes an appearance, using beetroot and red wine amongst other ingredients; the variation printed at the bottom of the page is for crunchy red cabbage.
Each recipe has its own double page spread, the recipe on one side and the much sought after full colour picture on the other, which makes it particularly useful for flicking through when you’re in a panic for ideas. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, although perhaps not detailed enough for a complete novice.
The book starts off with an eight page introduction giving tips on such necessities as carving the Christmas bird and making giblet stock for the gravy. As a vegetarian, I didn’t really find either of these particularly useful, but the recipe for a Madeira cake to be used as a base for several of the recipes and how to sterilise jars was more my thing. A big chapter on Christmas fare followed this which included various meat dishes but also plenty to keep vegetarians such as myself happy. Lots of ideas for puddings were also in this section with two Christmas pudding recipes, a traditional one and a last minute one to help out the less organised amongst us. Ricotta and candied fruit slice particularly grabbed my attention.
Other chapters covered: centrepiece cakes, small cakes and cookies, edible gifts and leftover turkey ideas. Plenty there to inspire me for next year and plenty to keep the, errr, chocoholics happy. There is even a recipe for fruit & nut discs which is very similar to my glitzy mendiants. A recipe for ginger nightlights particularly caught my eye – a lovely idea using gingerbread with boiled sweet panes for the tea lights to glow through. With lots of choice and not much time, I was torn between panforte de Siena and the mulled wine biscuits which I eventually went for – only I used sherry rather than red wine. Port and cherry cookies were the alternative version offered and if I’d had any dried cherries to hand I might well have used those instead.
This is how I made them:
- Warmed 120g raisins and 75g dried cranberries in 50ml orange juice, 50ml sherry and 1 tbsp of apple jelly in a pan to not quite simmering.
- Covered and left to soak for an hour.
- Melted 50g unsalted butter in a pan and left to cool a little.
- Sifted 3oz flour (half wholemeal, half white) into a bowl with 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp ground cloves.
- Mixed in 100g chopped blanched almonds, 100g chopped dark chocolate (G&B Maya gold) and the grated zest of 1 orange.
- Made a well in the centre and broke in an egg then added the fruit and butter.
- Mixed this all together.
- Spooned 28 teaspoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet placing slightly apart.
- Baked at 180C for 15 minutes or so.
- Transferred to a wire rack to cool.
- Dusted with icing sugar.