The best festive desserts to try out this Christmas

Desserts at Christmas aren't just about the traditional cake. Michelle Darmody shares some other options for afters.

I have chosen four recipes for sweets that will help brighten up your Christmas table.

This year I decided to steer away from the classics and provide alternatives, as most avid bakers will have the Christmas cake and mince made by now, allowing the flavours to nicely blend together before the big day.

The recipes for the caddied orange of white chocolate truffles are versatile and can be served on any day over the holidays or even for a New Year’s Eve party if the mood takes you.

The traditions of Christmas are strongly ingrained in my memory; boiling the ham, setting up the fresh pine tree, or watching the pudding bubbling noisily away in its pot, the steam filling the cool windowpanes. Not everyone is a fan of plum pudding however.

It is quite rich, particularly after a large plate of turkey, ham and all the trimmings.

This ice cream version is a much lighter after-dinner alternative which still has all the flavours of the dried fruit and Christmas spices with a hint of brandy. You can decorate it as you wish with more dried fruit or a slice or two of the candied orange.

The mini jam tart recipe contains the basic sweet pastry that I use in a lot of baking, it is a great staple to have in your repertoire and works particularly well for these tarts or a more traditional mince pie.

Alternative to Mince Pies

  • 225g flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 140g of cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 5 tbs of jam

Mix the flour and salt. Rub in butter until it looks like rough breadcrumbs, do not overmix.

Stir the sugar into the eggs, mix it lightly and add to the flour with a fork.

Bring together with your hands then rest the pastry for an hour in the fridge or overnight.

Heat your oven to 180C and line a flat baking tray with parchment.

For the jam tarts use a regular size cupcake tin. To prepare your tin and rub each indentation with a thin layer of butter.

Once this is done spoon a half a teaspoon of flour into each indentation and tap the tray in various directions until the butter is completely covered with the flour.

Roll the pastry on a flour-dusted surface and cut 12 circles.

It is easiest to cut all your circles first and pop them into the fridge as you go. Pastry will always be crisper if it is baked from cold. Cut 12 stars and pop them into the fridge on a cool plate.

Gently place the cooled circles in the greased tin and place a small spoon of jam in the centre. Leave room all around so that the jam does not spill over. Pop a star on top of each one.

Bake for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then gently remove with the tip of a bread knife.

Set them on a wire rack to cool completely.

Ice Cream Plum Pudding

  • 6 tbsp of brandy
  • 1 tbs of muscovado sugar
  • 100g of sultanas
  • 100g of mixed peel
  • 100g of dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of ground cloves
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
  • the seeds from 2 vanilla pods
  • 500 mls of cream
  • 70g of caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks

Place the sultanas, mixed peel, cranberries, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves into a bowl and stir them well.

Add the brandy and sugar and stir these in. Set aside for at least three hours so the fruit soaks up the liquid.

Warm up the cream, and the vanilla seeds, in a heavy based saucepan over a gentle heat. Bring it to a gentle boil and add the sugar.

Remove from the heat and stir until the sugar melts.

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. Gently pour the cream mixture in at an even pace, whisking all of the time. If it gets lumpy strain through a sieve.

Stir in the soaked mixture and scoop everything into a pudding bowl. Remove every hour for three hours and stir. This will breakdown crystals.

Place it back into the freezer and remove from the freezer about 20 minutes before serving. Decorate with some of the candied oranges.

White Chocolate and Hazelnut Truffles with Pink Powder Coating

  • 80ml of cream
  • 220g of white chocolate, broken into small even pieces
  • 10g of soft butter
  • 50g of hazelnuts, chopped, toasted and blitzed until a rough paste
  • 20g of dried cranberries,
  • roughly chopped beetroot or raspberry
  • powder

Heat the cream over a low heat until it is shivering on top. Stir in the pieces of chocolate and butter until it melts, and everything is combined.

Stir in the blitzed hazelnuts and cranberries and pour the mixture into a bowl.

Allow to cool and then place into the fridge until it is set enough to form into truffles.

Scoop out a soupspoon size portion of the mixture and roll it into a ball between your palms.

Place onto a plate that will fit back in the fridge. Place all the balls onto the plate and allow them to harden again.

Roll the balls in the beetroot powder before serving.

Chocolate Covered Clementines

  • 4 clementines, washed and
  • thinly sliced
  • 1 1.2 cups of water
  • 210g of golden caster sugar
  • 115g dark chocolate
  • broken into pieces
  • 5g of butter

Place the slices of clementine onto a wire rack and place them into a very low oven to dry out for at least an hour.

Heat the water and sugar until it melts, allow to come to a slow boil and add the slices of clementine.

Simmer for about 30 minutes until the peel is translucent. Lay the slices onto a wire and allow them to harden.

Melt the chocolate over a low heat and when melted stir in the butter. This will help give it a shine.

Dip the slices into the chocolate until they are half coated. Lay them on a wire rack to cool with some parchment placed beneath to collect any drips.

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