Tuesday, December 01, 2009

An Apple a Day...

Recipes today are for homemade sweets. Normally fiddly to make as when made the more conventional way usually a sugar thermometer is needed, However, these can be cooked in the microwave where the timing takes care of that (temperatures also given if you wish to be exact). This is the time of year when sweets come into their own. As well offering a big boxful for guests to help themselvs, guests, they also make very good gifts.

The important thing to remember when cooking with sugar is that - when heated - it will have a very high temperature and turn sticky, so care needs to be taken to prevent it boiling over.
When cooking sweets in a microwave, use a very large heatproof container (a 5pt Pyrex one is ideal), and always handle it wearing oven gloves because both the contents AND the bowl will become very hot. Keep children out of the way.
Stick the the quantities given or they may be problems. The microwave cuts down the constant stirring usually necessary when making sweets by a more conventional method, and does away with a double pan when melting chocolate.
Some microwaves have a temperature probe, but this is not suitable for sweet cookery as the temperature of the sugar is far too hot. If you wish to check the temperature of the mixtures, use a sugar thermometer, but DO NOT leave it in the microwave during the cooking process.

Chocolate Cherry Truffles: makes 32
Power setting Full. Time 2 minutes
6 oz (150g) dark chocolate
2 oz (50g) butter
12 oz (350g) plain cake crumbs
4 oz (100g) icing sugar, sifted
2 - 3 tblsp rum (or orange juice)
4 oz (100g) Maraschino cherries, chopped
(for coating: icing sugar, grated chocolate, cocoa)
Place chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl. Cook for 2 minutes.
Stir in remaining ingredients. Chill in fridge until firm enough to handle. Form teaspoonfuls into balls, and roll in sifted icing sugar, grated chocolate, or cocoa powder. Put into paper cases and keep chilled.
Note: Maraschino cherries are those sold in jars, for adding to cocktails. These are NOT the same as glace cherries.
Tip: If you wish these to have a longer 'shelf-life' chill (or freeze) the mixture once it has been formed into balls. Then dip these into melted chocolate to cover completely. Once set these can be kept chilled for several days.

Coffee Fudge: makes 1.25lb (550g)
Power setting. Defrost (30%) and Full - 17 minutes
1lb (450g) icing sugar, sifted
1 x 196g can sweetened condensed milk
2 tblsp golden syrup
2 oz (50g) butter, cubed
1 tblsp water
1 tblsp coffee essence
Mix ingredients together in a large heatproof bowl and cook - uncovered - on Defrost for 10 minutes, stirring four times. Then cook on Full Power for 7 minutes (or until the temperature reaches 116C, 240F).
Beat until mixture begins to thicken and go grainy. Pour into a shallow 7" (18cm) square tin. Cool, then mark into 32 squares. Cut into pieces when the fudge is quite cold.

Coconut Ice: makes 1.25lb (550g)
Power setting Defrost (30%) and Full - 18 minutes
1 lb (450g) caster sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
5 oz (125g) desiccated coconut
pink food colouring
Mix sugar and milk together in a large heatproof bowl. Cook, uncovered, on Defrost for 10 minutes, stirring four times during this period to help dissolve the sugar. Then cook on Full Power for 8 minutes (or until it reaches the same temperature as the above recipe). Stir once.
Then immediately stir in the coconut. Pour half the mixture into an oiled 2lb (900g) loaf tin, then colour the remaining half pink, and pour this on top of the white mixture.
Mark into pieces with a knife. When set hard, turn out and cut into pieces.

When there are children in the family, it saves a great deal of money if anniversary cakes are made and decorated at home. It doesn't matter how ham-fisted we are, start when the children are young (when one year old they don't care a fig what a cake looks like), and as the years go by practice makes perfect, and by the time a daughter gets married, the cake should always be able to be made at home. Think how much money THAT will save.

The problem when colouring icing is that liquid colour dilutes the icing too much, so if wishing for a bright red, (often needed at Xmas time) it is almost impossible to get this as when the colour is deep enough, the icing has then become too runny. Add more icing sugar to thicken and this then turns it a lighter shade. The way to get round this is to use colour 'paste'. Have noticed in a recent Lakeland catalogue that they too now sell something similar (think they call this 'gel') and ' for those that ice', these concentrated colours are really worth having.

Make gingerbread men and pipe white icing round to define the trousers, boots, coat, beard, hat, then fill in with deep coloured thick glace icing. Red for the coat, trousers and hat, black for the boots, white for the beard etc. and hey presto: Father Christmas! Make a hole in the head before baking and thread a ribbon through after decorating and hang on the Christmas tree. Other shapes can also be made and iced to be hung from the tree. Between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night, they can be taken down and eaten.

Take a block of marzipan. Cut into three and knead a little green colour into one, red in another and leave one as-is. Roll out into strips, sandwich the plain between the colours. Roll out again to help stick together, then cut into small oblongs. Or place two together, roll out thinly, and roll up like a Swiss roll. Cut into slices. These make attractive marzipan sweets to add to the others above. Oddments of colours can be rolled up together into small balls (can also be coated with chocolate).

To make home-made 'chocolates', coat small (smaller than you first think) pieces of fudge, marzipan, Turkish Delight, fondant icing, etc. with chocolate. Or dip Brazil nuts, Maraschino or Glace cherries into chocolate. Or, mix melted chocolate with sultanas, then form these into sweet shapes, and give an overcoat of chocolate. Or do something similar with coco-pops or rice crispies. It is SO easy to make a wide variety of sweets, and many quite suitable for children to prepare (as long as they have clean hands). Just keep them away from hot sugar.

With those words, have almost got myself into sweet-making mode, we have already been given a box of chocs (with me that is mainly 'look but don't touch') but somehow it was much more fun when we made our own. And what a lot we made from just a few bits and bobs. One cube of (bought) Turkish Delight, was enough to cut into six oblongs to coat with chocolate. We can even make our own Turkish Delight. Am sure the recipe for this was given somewhere on this site. If I can find it, will let you know tomorrow.