Want to create dream desserts this Christmas? Michelle Darmody has done the work for you.
It can be nice to have a change from the usual mince pies and pudding at this time of year. Panforte is a traditional Italian treat from the Tuscan region. It is generally made with more dates than used here but the substitution for other dried fruits brings this recipe a little closer to the flavours of Christmas we are used to in Ireland. It lasts well for a week or so in a tin and a little goes a long way. I cut it into quite thin fingers and serve it with either a strong espresso or a glass of dessert wine. You need rice paper for this recipe; if you can not find it a sheet of baking parchment at the base will help you remove it from the tin.
I often serve the fingers of panforte with a simple grilled marzipan star. After rolling the marzipan to less than 1cm in thickness it is cut with a star cutter, topped with a half of a cherry and grilled for five minutes on a baking tray. The intense almond flavour complements the rich fruit of the panforte and they look festive served beside each other on a plate or cake stand.
Scones can be a good start to a cold and frosty Christmas morning. The recipe here is made with a twist on the traditional, the soft warm flavour of saffron works well with the orange zest and cranberries and they look strikingly bright and colourful. I eat them still warm with a scraping of butter melting into the pastry. If you do not have time to make these on Christmas morning, which is quite likely, you can make the scones a day or two beforehand and then freeze them.
Lastly I included the recipe and instructions to make the beautiful cake shown here. I have used a chocolate cake at the centre of this edible townscape, but you can attach the panels to whichever cake you like. The ganache helps to stick the gingerbread to the cake but royal icing would work just as well. This would also be a nice way to decorate the sides of a traditional Christmas cake topped with a white iced snowscape. I measure the cardboard shapes against the cake tin when I cut them so I know they will all fit together around the cake. The biscuit will expand slightly while baking so allow for this. You can trim the cookies while they are still warm if you think they have expanded too much. Make sure to cut varying heights for the buildings and some skinny ones and wider ones to make a nice variety.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved