Witt chef tutor Joachim Ogden has gone all out with chocolate and spice, fruit and nuts, and everything nice.
He's made three sweet treats with extras for the festive season, offering options for people with time on their hands and those who are super busy.
Joachim's festive baking is definitely in season for Christmas. He's created a French chocolate Yule log with meringue mushrooms, taken his time to bake an authentic German bread called stollen and whipped up fruit mince pies and served them with rum butter.
While his fruit mince pies look the real deal, Joachim admits they've been made the easy way. "The pastry was bought from the supermarket," he says.
The fruit mince mix was supplied by fellow Witt chef tutor Angela Ferguson and came from a recipe she found on the internet.
"Angela said that there are thousands of recipes on the net. But remember, the supermarket product is rated in most households," Joachim says.
His pies are made with sweet short pastry, but some have puff pastry lids. At home he often makes them entirely with the latter. "My personal preference is with puff pastry. It's a lot lighter."
A few tips for making fine pies include egg- washing the lids before sticking them on and making a hole in each to let the steam out the top. "Otherwise they just pop open. Have some music - Christmas carols - playing at the same time and think about who you are going to give them to when you're making them, because Christmas is all about giving, not spending."
His chocolate offering is Buche de Noel, which in French means Yule or Christmas Log. "This is a rolled roulade covered with chocolate butter cream - ganache for me - and combed to simulate tree bark," he says.
"Use your imagination when decorating the logs - make gingerbread Christmas trees, meringue mushrooms, add Santa and reindeer. I used meringue magic mushrooms," he says.
These festive fungi can be prepared days in advance, and stored in an airtight container. This recipe yields about 15 wee mushrooms.
"I have used a French meringue, which is tender, light and fragile. Pipe immediately after mixing."
To ensure the meringue forms properly, scald the whisk and bowl to get rid of any fatty residue that may interfere with the mixture.
Preparation is key for the meringue, so get the piping bag with plain nozzle ready and line trays with silicone non-stick baking paper.
The actual roulade is made with fresh chocolate sponge. "You can use your favourite recipe, or try this out to make your sponge sheet."
He advises cooking your sponge sheet in a hot oven and then pre-rolling it while it's still warm.
Of his festive treats, it's the stollen that takes the most effort.
"This takes time, and should be made with someone else to enhance the memory of it all," he says.
To make this bread from Dresden in Germany, Joachim says it's important to leave the fruit to soak in alcohol for at least 24 hours.
Another tip: "Don't kill the yeast. The milk should be body temperature. If your milk is too hot it kills the yeast and your bread won't rise. If it's too cold, it will just take longer to rise."
When folding the fruit into the dough, it's important not to have any come through to the outside, because it will burn, he says.
His most important piece of advice is to use genuine marzipan through the centre of the stollen - not almond icing.
If you don't make your own marzipan, he recommends going to Vetro in New Plymouth for a 200g block of the real thing.
When shaping your dough, make it into a smile. Bake and when it comes out of the oven, slather with melted unsalted butter and then cover with vanilla sugar.
"It tastes like Christmas," he says.
Joachim, the head of Witt's hospitality department, wishes everybody a joyful holiday and a happy New Year and shares a resolution message.
"Follow your bliss. There's something about the word bliss, and it's not about greed or lust. It's about finding the thing that you love doing; that you can do where time melts away . . . it's your authentic pathway."
100g butter, at room temperature
50g (2 Tbsp) icing sugar
1 to 2 shots (15ml or 30ml) rum
Put all ingredients in a bowl and cream until smooth. Add more icing sugar or rum to suit your tastes.
Serve with freshly baked fruit mince pies.
1 egg white
60g caster sugar
1 drop lemon juice
Whip egg white and lemon juice until quadrupled in volume - it should be a thick foam.
Gradually add 1/3 of the sugar while continuing to whip. Slowly add the next 1/3 and keep whipping and then add the final 1/3, still beating.
Place baking paper on an oven tray and then, using a plain nozzle, pipe meringue to form discs for mushroom tops and kisses/peaks to make the stems.
Turn oven on to 130C , pop in tray of meringue mushroom pieces and bake until dry. You can turn up the heat for a little more colour or lower the temperature to keep the mushrooms pure white.
Once dried out as meringues, make a hole in the base of the mushroom tops using the tip of a small, sharp knife, pipe a little chocolate inside, and insert the kiss or stem.
A little dusting of cocoa powder brings the mushroom to life.
You will get a yield of about 15 mushrooms, depending on size.
CHOCOLATE YULE LOG
75g soft flour
10g cocoa powder
100g caster sugar
50g butter, melted
Before making roulade, turn oven to 190 degrees Celsius, line a baking tray with silicone non-stick baking paper and place another piece of this baking paper on your workbench. Dust with caster sugar.
Sieve the flour, cocoa powder and cornflour into a bowl.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and caster sugar until it becomes a light pale foam that "holds its tail".
Fold in the dry ingredients using a whisk, then fold in the melted butter. This should take less than 1 minute; otherwise you will knock out too much air.
Using a step palette knife, spread sponge on the prepared baking tray.
Bake in oven for 4 to 6 minutes, depending on your oven, until the sponge is cooked and springs back when you press it with your finger.
Remove from oven, and flip on to your prepared piece of baking paper that has been dusted with caster sugar. While warm, roll the roulade and paper together like making sushi.
Once cool, unroll, splash with alcohol or sugar syrup infused with aromats of your choice. Spread cream chantilly or your favourite filling on the sponge sheet. Ice with chocolate ganache and decorate with holly and meringue mushrooms.
1 cinnamon quill
1 slice of orange
1 slice of lemon
1/2 vanilla pod
Bring all ingredients to the boil, remove from heat, cool and use as required. Store in refrigerator.
1 Tbsp sugar
Beat until thick and smooth, but not buttery.
300g dark chocolate
Boil cream, pour over chopped chocolate, whisk smooth. Let sit for 5 minutes, whisk again. Allow this to sit at room temperature, then use to spread over roulade once filled and rolled. It's important to spread the chocolate ganache while soft. Comb it to create the wood texture pattern.
Makes 3 large or 6 small loaves
FRUIT AND NUT MIXTURE
55g glace cherries
115g candied orange peel
115g almonds (sliced or slivered)
115g golden raisins
115g dark raisins
70ml dark rum
Chop cherries, candied orange peel and almonds into raisin-size pieces.
Add golden raisins, dark raisins and rum. Mascerate (soak) for at least 24 hours.
100g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
1/4 egg white or 1 Tbsp amaretto or 50g glucose (corn syrup)
Blitz almonds and sifted icing sugar in a food processor.
To make the paste you need a binding agent - egg white, Amaretto or corn syrup. Add 1 tsp at a time, enough to form a dough consistency. Plastic wrap and store in an airtight container until ready to use.
QUICK VANILLA SUGAR
225g granulated sugar
115g icing sugar
10ml vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean pod
Mix together sugars and vanilla and place on a tray. Coat the loaf after you have brushed it with melted butter.
40g compressed fresh yeast or 20g dried yeast (make sure it hasn't expired)
5g malt extract or 15ml honey
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground cloves
1/3 tsp ground allspice
625g bread flour (strong)
285g unsalted butter
Dissolve yeast in warm (body temperature) milk. Add salt, malt or honey, granulated sugar, eggs, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.
Mix in half the flour and add soft butter. Mix in remaining flour, knead until soft and then cover. Leave to proof until dough is double in size.
Flatten dough into a large rectangle and spread fruit on half of the surface lengthways. Press fruit in slightly and fold dough in half to enclose the fruit and nuts.
Cover and leave to rise until double in volume.
Prepare the almond filling or use pre-made marzipan - not almond icing.
Punch down the dough, stretch and shape into a flat rectangle. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces.
Shape into oval loaves, making sure the fruit and nuts are inside the dough, not on the outside. Roll loaves to make slightly tapered at the ends. Leave, seam-side down, on the table.
Roll loaves flat, keeping the same general shape. Press a dowel in the centre of each to make a light indentation.
Pipe almond filling, dividing evenly among the three loaves.
Fold flattened pieces nearly in half lengthways, making the bottom part about 1/2 inch (1cm-2cm) wider than the top. Bend loaf into a slightly curved shape, with the fold on the inside of the curve.
Place loaves on trays lined with baking paper and allow to rise until 1 1/2 times their original size.
Bake between 180 and 190 degrees Celsius (depending on your oven) until baked through - about 20 to 25 minutes for 15cm loaves, about 30 to 35 minutes for 30cm loaves.
Brush loaves with melted unsalted butter immediately after removing from oven.
As soon as loaves are cool enough to handle, coat with quick vanilla sugar.
Taranaki Daily News