We are pretty serious about our Christmas desserts around here...
Although the list of desserts we prepare varies slightly with the number of people we are expecting to feed, a regular list, (actually, funny story.. You would laugh, kind of.., to see the way we usually make up the list of what to cook each year. Picture our whole family gathered together, me with a pen and paper, asking everyone what they can't live without this year? Of course, the list would get longer and longer and more and more ridiculous, and then we'd have to decide to have a party so that we would have enough people to help us eat it all - and, if you can believe it! - still make doubles of lots of the recipes to keep in the fridge for ourselves for Boxing Day Breakfast too. Anyway, back to the list, which...), would usually consist of all or some of the following:
Home-made Chocolate Almond Ice-cream with sugared almonds; Chocolate Mousse; Chocolate-Mint Cheesecake; Choux Pastry Puffs filled with chocolate cream; Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake... (are you sensing a chocolate theme here?) ...
... home-made Strawberry Ice-Cream ring; Mango, Berry and Kiwi Fruit Salad; Pavlova; Brandy Snaps served with cream and strawberries; Gourmet Baked Cheesecake; Apricot, Chocolate and Coconut Cake; Pecan Pie; Pumpkin Pie ...
Chocolate Cherry-ripe Biscuits; Date and Rice Bubble Finger biscuits; Apple Turnovers; Chocolate and Caramel with Ginger-base Biscuits...
... Coconut Charmers (those little, round biscuits); the Chocolate Hazelnut Tree; Chocolate Cheesecake Biscuits;
Creme Caramel; Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake; Chocolate Crunch Coconut Biscuits ...
.. Chocolate Yule Log (only slightly eaten here :) (To make this, I bake two chocolate sponges in lamington tins, fill each of them with chocolate cream and roll them. I use them to make a log with branches, then cover it all in Sour Cream Chocolate Icing, decorate with a skewer, add shaved chocolate 'bark', and chocolate leaves, and finish with a dusting of icing sugar. It looks beautiful, if we had a better photo :) Our son Jonny sometimes decorates this for us now :)
One year our family cooked a four-course, sit-down Christmas dinner for 120 missionaries from our church. As usual: almost no photos, but you can see the Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch sauce here. Very yum! I know that Sticky Date Pudding might not sound so very fabulous, but this is really, really good!
I thought I would leave you with one of our recipes. If there are any other recipes from these pictures that you would like, please just leave me a note and I will email them to you. I am always happy to share recipes :)
Chocolate Hazelnut Christmas Tree
(I've included this one because it is very easy, is no-bake, and is totally yummy - if you like chocolate and hazelnuts together?)
500g dark chocolate (I always use Cadbury's dark chocolate. They have a good dark cooking chocolate.)
250g roasted hazelnuts (If still raw, put the hazelnuts in a moderate oven for 10 minutes, then rub the skins off.)
1 brazil nut
60g dark chocolate, extra
Few spoons of icing sugar
Break up the chocolate and place it in a covered dish in the microwave for a minute, or until it is melted when you stir it OR place chocolate in top half of double saucepan, over gently simmering water, making sure that water does not touch the base of the saucepan. (I use the microwave, but take note that the chocolate will not look melted until you stir it! Don't overcook, or the chocolate will burn. You'll know it's burnt by the smell, and the fact that even dedicated chocoholics will want to dispose of it in the bin.) When the chocolate is melted and smooth, stir in the roughly chopped hazelnuts and mix well. (Don't use your food processor for this - it will chop them too finely. I put the nuts into a plastic bag, then hold the bag shut while I beat it up a bit with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer. Do leave the nuts not whole, but still in big chunks. If you look at the picture you will see what I mean.)
While the chocolate is melting, prepare the trays for marking out the branches of the tree. Cover scone or biscuit-baking trays with aluminium foil. (Any flat tray, upturned cake tin, base of baking dish, or pieces of heavy cardboard can be used. What you want is a surface that is level and rigid enough so the branches do not bend while they are setting. Bread boards or pieces of wood covered with foil can be used but the chocolate will take longer to set.)
Mark out nine crosses on the foil, leave about 2.5cm between each cross. The measurements for the crosses are: 7cm; 9cm; 11cm; 13cm; 14cm; 15cm; 16cm 17cm; 18cm. (I use a ruler and pen, and mark the measurements on the foil beside each cross as I go, so I don't get confused later :)
Prepare a base for the tree; you will need a piece of heavy cardboard or pressed hardboard 20cm in diameter, it must be rigid and strong enough to support all the branches of the tree. Cover with decorative silver paper or foil. (I have a round, flat mother-of-pearl plate that I always use.) Make a cross 18cm on this base board.
Using a teaspoon, drop teaspoonfuls of the chocolate mixture along the marked crosses. Do the cross on the base board first, refrigerate, then do the remaining crosses in order of size, starting from the largest size and working to the smallest. Refrigerate crosses as soon as they are complete for several hours or, if desired, overnight. Do not freeze.
NOTE: if the kitchen is very cool, chocolate can be left to set at room temperature; this will mean the tree will take longer to make, but chocolate will have more sheen than if it is refrigerated.
Melt extra chocolate over simmering water. To assemble your tree, join the largest cross to the cross on the base board by dropping about a teaspoon of the melted chocolate into the centre of the cross on the base board; position the cross on top. It may be necessary to move the top cross around until the best position is found; if branches look a little uneven, support underneath with a match box.
Drop about half a teaspoon of the melted chocolate on top of the second cross; this forms a good base when adding the next pair of crosses.
Assemble the remaining eight crosses in pairs, starting from the largest remaining cross to the smallest cross, refrigerate until chocolate is set; about 15 minutes.
When each pair of crosses is set, place the largest pair on top of the crosses on the base board, joining with melted chocolate as before. It is important each section be completely set before topping with another pair of crosses.
When the tree is assembled, cut an end off the brazil nut, so it will sit neatly on top of the tree, place in position with melted chocolate, cover nut with chocolate and then refrigerate until set. Dust the tree lightly with sifted icing sugar when it's ready to serve. (People break off the branches to eat them.)
(I've been known to occasionally melt down some dark chocolate and mix it with chopped, roasted hazelnuts to make nut drops, just because they taste so good! Something else you could do is to add sultanas and chopped apricots to the mix, for a chocolate fruit and nut tree. I don't think I would get away with it though.. messing with a family classic!)