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November 25, 2011

Cooking with Chocolate – Gifts for any occasion

by Val Reynolds

We love cooking with chocolate and here are just a few of our favourites to keep handy when friends drop by. Chocolate Truffles, Creamy Vanilla Fudge with Chocolate and Nuts, Chocolate and Cinnamon Swirl Meringues, the list goes on and on! So easy to make too! All in our absolutely favourite book: Gifts from the Kitchen, 100 irresistible homemade presents for every occasion by Annie Rigg, published by Kyle Cathie.

Here is one recipe we make once in a blue moon because it hardly ever is used for what it is intended for … spreading on toast, or as a layer in a sponge cake, or as a topping to cookies. It is so yum it generally gets eaten direct from the jar! Oh well, we have no resistance – do try it!

Chocolate and Hazel Spread 

Ingredients for one 450 g jar

75 g blanched hazelnuts
100 g dark chocolate (72% cocoa solids) chopped
100 ml condensed milk
1-2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
Pinch of salt
3-4 tablespoons hot water
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4

Tip the hazelnuts on to a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven for about 5-7 minutes, until pale golden
Remove the nuts from the oven and cool slightly

Tip the warm hazelnuts into a food processor and chop until they become an almost smooth paste

Gently melt the chocolate, condensed milk and hazelnut oil in a small pan over a low heat
Stir until smooth and add to the hazelnut paste in the food processor
Add a pinch of salt and blend, then add the hot water and blend again, until the mixture has a thick, spreadable consistency
Spoon into a sterilised* jar and leave to cool
Cover with a lid and label when cold
This will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks

*You can sterilise jars in the oven – 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 for 20 minutes. Place on a thick layer of newspaper covered with a tea towel then add the hot liquid

And this recipe, Florentines, is so easy to make and so yum we hesitate to give you the details as your waistline may well be adversely affected!

Ingredients : Makes 24 Florentines

75 g mixed candied peel
75 g glacé cherries
75 g blanched almonds
25 g unsalted pistachios or flaked almonds
25 g unsalted butter
50 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon clear honey
25 g plain flour
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons double cream
100 g dark chocolate
100 g white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
Line two solid baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment
Finely chop the candied peel and quarter the glacé cherries
Chop the blanched almonds or pistachios
Mix the fruit and nuts together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside
Melt the butter, caster sugar and honey in a small pan over a low heat, stirring constantly to prevent the sugar catching on the bottom of the pan
Remove from the heat and add the flour, ground ginger and salt. Stir until smooth, then add the cream and stir again.
Pour on to the fruit and nuts and stir well to combine
Spoon rounded teaspoons of the mixture on to the prepared baking sheets, leave plenty of space between the mounds otherwise they will meet and will need breaking apart
Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until the edges of the Florentines are gold brown

Cooling Florentines on rackRemove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheets until crisp

Melt the chocolates separately in heatproof bowls over pans of barely simmering water. Spread the underside of each Florentine with either dark or white chocolate and leave until the chocolate has hardened before packaging in single layers between sheets of waxed or non-stick paper.

Florentines will keep for 4-5 days in an airtight box

All recipes taken from Gifts From The Kitchen by Annie Rigg (Kyle Books, £16.99) Photography: Catherine Gratwicke

You might like to see our other features:

Cooking with Chocolate – Sweet and Savoury
Chocolate Cake for Coeliacs

Val Reynolds, Editor

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