19 December 2011

Handmade sweets & treats

"Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.

"An old abbot was fond of saying, ‘The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.’  

"The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all."  (Edward Hays)

I often fall into this trap myself of become distracted from Christ's birth, but I am struggling to reserve at least a little time each day in the evenings to read, reflect, write and pray a little.  We are busy each day, but it is not always a distracting business.  Here are some of our sweets and treats...


8 navel oranges
2 cups water
6 cups sugar

Cut tops and bottoms off of the oranges and cut them in half.  Slice each peel into about 1/4 inch thick strips.  Rinse and place in a large pot.  Fill with cold water, bring to a boil, and then discard water.  Repeat twice more.  (This blanching takes the bitterness out of the peel.)  Set peels aside.

In large pot, combine water and sugar.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes.  Add orange peels, and let simmer for about 45-60 minutes until peels are translucent around the edges.  Reserve syrup for cakes or other deserts.  Roll each peel in granulated sugar if desired, or dip ends in semi-sweet dark chocolate.  Place on parchment paper and let dry overnight.  Package as hostess gift, use as a garnish, or serve as a little treat by itself.  (Store in airtight container to keep candy from drying out too much.)

CHOCOLATE YULE LOG (gluten-free)

6 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tsp vanilla

1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee

1 - 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or bakers chocolate)
hot water

I. Pan Preparation:
1.  Grease a cookie sheet with 4 sides (not the flat kind) on bottom and sides.
2.  Put parchment paper on the sheet pressing down onto bottom and sides of pan.  Make sure paper is long enough to hang over pan by at least 2-3 inches on both sides.
3.  Grease bottom and sides of paper with butter.
4.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

II.  Cake Preparation:
1.  Separate the egg whites from the yolks, putting the yolks into one bowl and the whites into another.
2.  Beat egg whites on high until frothy.
3.  Add 1/4 cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
4.  Add remaining 1/2 cup of sugar to yolks and beat at high speed for about 4 mins until quite stiff.
5.  Add cocoa and vanilla to yolks.  Beat on low until well mixed.
6.  Gently pour yolk mixture over whites, carefully.
7.  Fold both mixtures together gently until no white is showing.  DON'T BEAT OR STIR THE MIXTURES OR YOU'LL LOSE FLUFFINESS!
8.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 15-19 minutes.  Cake should spring back when pressed gently.
9.  While cake is baking, lay out a plain cotton tea towel on the table and cover it with a layer of icing sugar.  When cake is done, turn pan upside down onto the tea towel.  Cool cake 1-2 minutes.
10. Carefully loosen wax paper from sides.  Peel off paper gently from bottom of cake.  (Don't worry if some cake sticks to the paper.)
11.  Starting with the short end, roll up the cake in the tea towel and let cool.  Can be kept in the fridge overnight if unable to finish it the same day, but make sure to cover it with plastic wrap.

III.  Filling
1. Mix all ingredients together.  Beat until quite stiff.  Don't over beat or you'll have chocolate butter.
2.  Unroll cake carefully.
3.  Spread cream filling evening to all sides of cake.
4.  Re-roll filled cake gently and evenly.
Note:  Sometimes cake breaks as you unroll it for filling.  Don't worry.  Just push the two edges together and fill it anyway.  Re-roll it again patching all exposed cracks or breaks but don't let the cream show.  The final coating will hide it all.

IV.  Coating
1.  Boil about 1/2 cup of water.  Place chocolate chips in a small pot add about 1/4 cup hot water, stirring until chocolate is completely melted.  If mixture is not of a spreading or icing consistency, add more boiling water.
2.  Spoon onto filled log, covering all sides.
3.  Take 2 pieces of aluminum foil and join the long sides together, folding edges over twice.  (Should end up with 1 large square of foil upon which the log should fit.)
4.  Using two spatulas, put one under each end of the log lengthwise.  Carry log with spatulas and place in the centre of the foil.
5. Place in freezer and leave for about an hour until the coating is hard.
6. Wrap the foil around the log and place in large airtight container or Ziploc bag.  Let thaw about 30 minutes before cutting and serving.  (Can be kept in the freezer for up to 4 months if cream is very fresh.)


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