Arecent activity day, in which a class of enthusiastic students participated in making speciality Christmas treats, was a reminder of the simple pleasures that producing homemade food still brings.
The students were fully engaged and immersed in their work, while racing against the clock to have their delicious goodies demonstrated, prepared, decorated and packaged, before the last bell of the school day rang.
It was a reminder that we need to continue to teach these skills to the next generation, because they enjoyed learning the processes involved and their edible outcomes produced were tasty, economical and used their creative talent.
Our first recipe was Christmas spiced cookies and the dough is simple to make. It can be made into standard cookies by rolling it into balls and flattening it with a fork when it is placed on a tray, but we let the students roll out the dough and cut out shapes using an assortment of Christmas cookie cutters.
They have great patience for this process and once the cookies are baked and cooled, the students really enjoy decorating them using their imagination and skills.
A piping bag set is a useful resource to have in the kitchen to help create a pattern on the surface of the cookie.
A few bottles of food colouring also help to produce different-coloured icings. A small, clean plastic bag can also be used as a piping bag.
Simply put the prepared icing into it, squeeze it into a bottom corner and cut a small snip off the corner. Throw away the bag when finished.
When rolling the dough, make sure the bench and rolling pin are always lightly floured, to prevent the dough from sticking and causing frustration f or the cook.
The Russian caramel fudge was a real hit and it can take a few attempts to master perfectly textured fudge. Follow the recipe accurately throughout all the steps. The fudge must boil for six to eight minutes, but not so briskly that it boils over or burns the base of the pot.
Undercooking the mixture (not boiling briskly) will also have little impact and the fudge will take a lot longer than eight minutes to reach the soft ball stage.
The students discovered all this in their attempts to make the fudge.
Russian fudge seems to have its origins in Scotland and England and not from Russia, according to our research. It has a caramel flavour, developed from the combination of condensed milk, golden syrup and butter. It is very sweet and high in energy, so cut it into small pieces and eat it as a treat food.
Our third recipe is for all those adults who enjoy their traditional Christmas fruit mince pies at this time of the year.
We have made small tarts, in mini muffin pans, using homemade fruit mince filling and sweet shortcrust pastry.
The filling is easily made using the food processor and is a combination of dried fruit, spices, apple and alcohol. It stores well in the fridge, so use it to make a few batches of the tarts.
The fruit mince filling is butter and sugar-free with the sweet taste provided by the fruit. It is called fruit mince because the dried fruit is cut into small pieces and, in the days before the invention of the food processor, would have been processed in a metal device called a mincer.
With the start of the school holidays and Christmas just around the corner, get into the spirit of giving gifts made in the kitchen. Encourage children and teenagers to make tasty treats to give to friends and family.
You will be surprised by how much they enjoy these activities and they are given and received with lots of love and kindness.
This is our final Kai with Soul for the school year, so we wish everyone a happy and safe Christmas.
Enjoy making and eating delicious festive foods and remember to mix the treat foods with plenty of fresh fruits, tasty salads and jugs of flavoured water, using slices of lemons, oranges or grapefruit from your own trees.
SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY
Makes 400g pastry
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
Sift the flour into a medium-sized bowl.
Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour.
Rub the butter into the flour, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar.
Drizzle in the water very slowly and mix with a breadknife. The mixture will still be slightly crumbly.
Use your hands in the last stage to form the dough. Press the dough into a rectangular shape and place into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
TO MAKE THE CHRISTMAS FRUIT MINCE TARTS
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Lightly grease two mini muffin trays.
Lightly flour a clean bench and rolling pin, then roll out the pastry to 3mm in thickness.
Use a 7cm round cookie cutter to cut out circles of pastry.
Loosen the circles of pastry from the floured bench, using a metal spatula or fish slice. Place the pastry circles into the muffin trays, by easing each circle into the individual pans.
Fill each pastry base until 3/4 full with a spoonful of fruit mince filling.
To decorate the top of each tart, use the remaining pastry to cut out small stars or festive shapes of your choice, eg, leaves, circles or lattice strips, and place them on top of the filling.
Place into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges of the pastry are slightly golden in colour.
Cool slightly when cooked, then remove from the pans. When ready to serve, dust lightly with icing sugar.
FRUIT MINCE FILLING FOR CHRISTMAS TARTS
Makes 2 cups
400g mixed dried fruit
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp brandy, sherry or rum
Place of the fruit mix in a food processor and mince up finely by pulsing for 15-20 seconds.
Rinse the apple and remove the core. Grate the apple including the skin.
Transfer the minced fruit into a bowl and add the remainder of the ingredients. Stir well to combine. If the mixture is dry, add a little more lemon juice, alcohol or even water. The mixture should be moist and sticky.
Place the fruit mince filling into one large or two small clean glass jars. Cover with a lid and store in the refrigerator until required.
The flavour improves on standing and you can substitute the alcohol for brandy, rum or vanilla essence.
RUSSIAN CARAMEL FUDGE
Makes 25 pieces
can condensed milk
1 Tbsp golden syrup
2 cups sugar
tsp vanilla essence
Lightly grease a 20cm x 20cm baking tin.
Measure all the ingredients, except vanilla essence, into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
Boil and stir continuously for 6-8 minutes.
After 6 minutes, scoop a little of the mixture onto a teaspoon and drop into a small bowl of cold water. Roll the mixture between your fingertips and if it forms a soft ball, the mixture is ready for the next step. Repeat this test until the drop of fudge forms a small ball.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the vanilla essence. Beat with a wooden spoon or egg beater for approximately 2-3 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken. It will also lose its shine and will start to set slightly on the side of the saucepan.
Quickly pour the fudge into the greased tin and use a rubber scraper to remove the remainder of the fudge into the tin. You will have to work quickly to avoid the fudge setting in the saucepan. Leave to set.
Cut into pieces when the fudge is firm and refrigerate.
For even cooking, use a heavy-based saucepan. Take care when testing the boiling fudge mixture as it will be extremely hot.
CHRISTMAS SPICE COOKIES
1 Tbsp golden syrup (optional)
1 large egg
1 cups flour
tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Cut the butter into cubes. Place in a large pyrex bowl and microwave on high for 20 seconds, or until the butter has softened but not melted.
Add the sugar, golden syrup and mixed spice.
Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and creamy looking.
Break the egg into the mixture and stir until all the ingredients are well combined.
Sift the flour and baking powder together.
Add to the creamy mixture and stir until it forms a ball of dough. You may need to use your hand to do the final mixing.
Roll the mixture out on a lightly floured bench until the dough is smooth and 5mm thick. Use as little flour as necessary to stop the mixture sticking to the bench. Excess flour will make the dough tough.
Cut the dough into Christmas shapes using cutters. If you do not have these, squares, triangles or rectangles will do.
Carefully lift the biscuits using a fish slice onto a greased oven tray.
Bake for 8-10 minutes. The time the biscuits take to cook will depend on the size of the biscuits. When they are cooked the biscuits are very lightly browned.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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