Michelle Darmody's tempting festive treats

Our baking columnist Michelle Darmody whips up some delicious dessert options for Christmas Day, from mince pies to ginger chocolate stars

Michelle Darmody's recipes are designed to be made by all ages. Picture: Fergal Phillips

CHRISTMAS baking fills the house with wonderfully warm and comforting smells. It provides a cozy barrier from the cold and frost outside the window. When younger I was always excited to help stir the Christmas cake mixture or pop the tops onto the mince pies.

The three recipes today are designed to be made by anyone in the family — little or large. They are recipes that small hands can manage quite well.

The simplicity of the puff pastry mince pies make them excellent to make with very young family members. There is an instant delight at seeing them come from the oven, golden and puffed up with warm, sweet air. A spoon of jam could be substituted for the Christmas mincemeat if that was preferred.

The stollen cake may have some more challenging flavours but it a good recipe to make without the aid of a big mixer. Once all of the ingredients are weighed out it is a matter of adding elbow grease and a big wooden spoon and stirring it all up together. I like the layer of marzipan as it adds to the cake, both in flavour and presentation. You can see the soft pale layer when you cut into it.

I chose stars as today’s theme. A few star cookie cutters can be used to decorate the main cake and also used by children to cut out the chocolate ginger treats or the puff pastry.

Be careful the ginger chocolate stars are addictive — you may find yourself nibbling up all of the off cuts.

Puff Pastry Mince Pie Stars 

300g of puff pastry

100g of Christmas mincemeat

1 egg, beaten

Line a baking tray with parchment and preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

Cut the sheet of pastry into stars with a cookie cutter.

Use a smaller circular cutter and press it down in the centre of each star. You just want to make an indent into the pastry, not cut it right through. This will allow the exterior of the star to rise and puff up and keep it flatter where the mincemeat is placed.

Place a teaspoon of mincemeat where the circle indent is. Place the stars on the baking tray leaving about an inch between each one.

Brush the pastry with the beaten egg.

Bake until golden and puffed up, about 15 minutes.

Stollen Star Cake 

225g of soft butter

230g of muscovado sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten

225g of self raising flour

1 tsp of baking powder

100g of ground almonds

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

1 tsp of ground nutmeg

200g of mixed peel

2 tbs of Christmas mincemeat

200g of grated carrot

200g of marzipan icing sugar for dusting

Line an 8 inch round, loose base of spring-form, cake tin.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.

Place the butter, sugar, eggs, flour,baking powder, almonds and spicesinto a large bowl and stir until completely combined. You can also use a slowsetting on a mixer with the paddle attachment.

Add in the peel, mince and grated carrot and stir them into the mixture.

Scoop half of the mixture into the tin.

Flatted the marzipan into a disc about 4 inches in circumference. Sit it on top of the mixture in the tin. Scoop the rest of the mixture over the marzipan and smooth it out on top.

Bake for half an hour and then reduce the oven to 160 degrees and continue baking for a further half an hour.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin forabout ten minutes then turn it out onto a wire rack.

Once completely cooled place some star cookie cutters on top of the cake and lightly sieve some icing sugar over them. Gently remove the cutters to leave the star imprint on the cake.

Chocolate Ginger Stars 

250g of dark chocolate, crushed into very small even size pieces

100g of butter, soft

80g of golden syrup the zest of an orange

250g of ginger nut biscuits, crushed

110g of crystalized ginger, chopped coco powder for dusting edible silver powder for dusting

Line and 6 x 6 inch square tin. Set aside a star cutter.

Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup together in a heavy based saucepan.

Add the biscuits and ginger and stir then in.

Pour into the lined baking tin and place into the fridge for a half an hour. Cut the tray into stars and place back into the fridge to cool completely.

Dust with the coco powder and some edible silver powder before serving.

250g of dark chocolate, crushed into very small even size pieces


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