Nigella Lawson has your seasonal sweet tooth covered
Need a desert to impress with this festive period? From an Australian Christmas pudding to a gleaming maple cheesecake, Nigella Lawson has your seasonal sweet tooth covered
- It has been 20 years since Nigella Lawson published her bestselling first book
- To celebrate she’s helped choose a selection of her best festive dessert recipes
- The recipes include a French bûche de Noël as well as a tiramisu layer cake
It has been 20 years since Nigella Lawson published her bestselling first book, How To Eat, and to celebrate, she’s helped us choose the best festive recipes from her two decades as a food writer. Yesterday, she shared recipes for a spectacular Boxing Day spread. Today Nigella offers up indulgent and irresistible Christmas desserts.
My yule log
A traditional French bûche de Noël always looks just the right side of cutely enchanting, and there is nothing hard to like about its tender, melting chocolatiness.
Makes about 12 fat slices
FOR THE CAKE:
● 6 eggs, separated
● 150g caster sugar
● 1 tsp vanilla extract
● 50g cocoa powder
● 3 tsp to 5 tsp icing sugar, to decorate
FOR THE ICING:
● 175g dark chocolate, chopped
● 250g icing sugar
● 225g soft butter
● 1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 Preheat the oven to 180c/gas 4. In a large, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until thick and peaking, then, still whisking, sprinkle in 50g of the caster sugar and continue whisking until the whites are holding their peaks, but are not dry. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining caster sugar until the mixture is moussy, pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract, sieve the cocoa powder over, then fold in both.
Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the egg whites, folding them in robustly. Then add the remaining whites in thirds, folding them in carefully to avoid losing the air.
2 Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving a generous overhang at the ends and sides and folding into the corners to help the paper stay anchored. Pour in the cake mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
3 Let the cake cool a little before turning it out on to another piece of baking parchment. If you dust this piece of parchment with a little icing sugar, it may help to prevent stickage, but don’t worry too much as any tears or dents will be covered by icing later. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel.
4 To make the icing, melt the chocolate — either in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or in a microwave — and let it cool. Blitz the icing sugar to remove lumps, then add the butter and process until smooth.
Add the cooled, melted chocolate and the vanilla and pulse again to make a smooth icing. You can do this by hand, but it does mean you’ll have to sieve the sugar before creaming it with the butter.
5 Sit the flat chocolate cake on a large piece of baking parchment. Trim the edges of the Swiss roll, reserving the remnants. Spread some of the icing thinly over the sponge, going right out to the edges. Start rolling from the long side facing you, taking care to get it tight from the beginning, and roll up to the other side. Pressing against the parchment, rather than the tender cake, makes this easier.
6 Cut one or both ends at a gentle angle, reserving the remnants, and place the Swiss roll on a board. The remnants, along with the trimmed-off bits from earlier, are to make a branch or two; you get the effect by placing a piece of cake at an angle to look like a branch coming off the big log.
7 Spread the Yule log with the remaining icing, covering the cut-off ends as well as any branches. Create a wood-like texture by marking along the length of the log with a skewer or somesuch, remembering to do wibbly circles, as in tree rings, on each end.
You don’t have to dust with icing sugar, but I love the freshly fallen snow effect.
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Tiramisu layer cake
This recipe reads harder than it cooks. Or rather, doesn’t cook. It’s an assembly job more than anything, and it doesn’t take very long or require much in the way of skill or patience, it’s just that the number of layers makes the recipe on the page seem more complicated than it is.
SERVES 8 to 10
● 3 x 350g chocolate loaf cakes (shop-bought variety is fine)
● 300ml to 400ml Tia Maria, plus 125ml for the filling
● 2 eggs
● 75g caster sugar
● 500g mascarpone
● 250ml double cream
● 1 tsp to 2 tsp cocoa, for dusting
1 Wrap the outside of a 23cm springform cake tin with cling film or foil to avoid leaks from the base. Slice the chocolate cakes thinly, and pour 300ml (or more if needed) of Tia Maria into a shallow dish, ready for soaking the slices. Before you start to layer the cakes, whisk the eggs and sugar, and then beat in the mascarpone and double cream; I use an electric whisk for this, but there is no need to if you’re feeling muscly. Then add, gradually, the 125ml Tia Maria to make a creamy, spreadable layer for the cake.
2 Using approximately 1 cake per layer, dunk the slices in Tia Maria before lining the tin with them. Squidge them down, pressing confidently as you go. Each layer should not be too thick, but juicily compact and solid. Spread a third of the cream mixture over the soaked slices. Repeat with another layer of cake slices, and then cream again.
3 Finish with a layer of chocolate cake slices — not as soaked as the first 2 layers — reserving the last third of the cream mixture for later in a covered bowl. Press the cake layer down to make it as smooth as possible, then cover it with cling film and put in the fridge overnight, or for up to 4 days.
4 When you are ready to serve, take the cake out of the fridge, unmould, sit it on a plate, then spread with the final third of cream mixture, before dusting with cocoa and serving. The cake is too deliciously damp to lift it off the tin’s base, but I shouldn’t let that worry you. If you want, though, you can scatter some chocolate-covered coffee beans around the cake, once it’s sitting on its serving plate, to deflect critical gaze away from the visible edge of tin.
This is indeed prodigious: a billowing, regally magnificent mega-meringue. Marshmallow within, crisp and almost candied at its sugary edge, dolloped with whipped cream, lychees and passionfruit and drizzled with a vividly red, vibrantly sharp raspberry sauce.
Makes 14 generous slices
FOR THE BASE:
● 8 egg whites
● 500g caster sugar
● 4 tsp cornflour
● 2 tsp white wine vinegar
● ½ tsp vanilla extract
FOR THE TOPPING:
● 600ml double cream
● 10 passionfruit
● 10 fresh or canned lychees, drained if canned
● 300g raspberries (frozen are fine)
● 25g icing sugar
1 Preheat the oven to 180c/gas 4. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and draw a rough 25cm-diameter circle on it (I pencil round a cake tin that size). Whisk the egg whites until satiny peaks form, then whisk in the sugar, a tablespoonful at a time, until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract over the egg white, and fold in lightly with a metal spoon.
2 Mound the meringue within the circle on the baking parchment and, using a spatula, flatten the top and smooth the sides. Put in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 120c/gas ½. Cook for an hour. Then turn off the oven and leave to cool completely.
3 Once it’s cool, take the meringue disc out — you can keep it in an airtight container for a couple of days or freeze for a month. When you are ready to assemble the Pavlova, invert the cooled meringue disc on to a large plate or a stand you can serve it on, and peel off the baking parchment. Whip the cream until thickened, but still soft, and pile on to the meringue — on the squidgy part that was stuck to the baking parchment — spreading it to the edges in a swirly fashion.
4 Cut the passionfruit in half, and scoop out the seeds, and any pulp and juice, into a bowl. Peel the fresh lychees (if using) over the bowl to catch any juice, then remove the stones, tear the lychees into pieces and let them drop into the passionfruit. Tear the drained, canned lychees (if using) likewise, and drop them in, too. Leave the passionfruit and lychees sitting in their bowl for a moment, while you liquidise the raspberries with the icing sugar in a blender.
5 Dollop the cream-topped Pavlova with the passionfruit and lychees, and their juices, then zig-zag some red, red, red raspberry sauce over the top, putting the rest in a small jug for people to add to their slices as they eat.
MAKE AHEAD TIP: Make the meringue disc and store in a deep, airtight container for up to 2 days or freeze for up to a month. Thaw, if necessary, in a cool room. About 3 to 4 hours before serving, top with whipped cream and keep in the fridge. Just before serving, add the fruits and raspberry sauce.
Australian Christmas pudding with hot chocolate sauce
My great-aunt used to make something called Australian Christmas pudding, which was, in effect, all the ingredients from a Christmas pudding stirred into vanilla ice-cream and set in a pudding basin. It was rather curious, but I have fiddled with it to turn it into something I love. First step: remove the candied peel. For me this is crucial. And I’ve reduced the bits and pieces, using only a mixed bag of dried fruit (without the peel), but otherwise go for currants, raisins and chopped glacé cherries. Importantly, for the look and taste, after soaking the fruit in rum, I fold it into chocolate ice-cream rather than vanilla. Thus it looks like Christmas pudding.
Serves up to 12
● 375g luxury mixed dried fruit
● 175ml dark rum
● 2 x 500g tubs chocolate ice cream
● 1.7-litre/3-pint plastic pudding basin with lid
Put the dried fruit and rum into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and gently simmer for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and allow to cool. Or just pour cold rum over the fruit and leave to steep overnight. Add slightly softened, but not runny, ice-cream and mix to combine. Spoon into your plastic pudding basin, cover with the lid and freeze. When it’s almost time to eat, take it out of the freezer and let it stand for 20 minutes or so, to help unmoulding, then unmould and, if desired, put a sprig of holly on top or scatter flaked or chopped chocolate over on serving.
deliciously creamy HOT CHOCOLATE-CHESTNUT SAUCE
● 250g sweetened chestnut puree
● 125g dark chocolate, chopped into chips (or use little cooking buttons)
● 250ml double cream
● 2 tbsp dark rum
Spoon the chestnut puree into a heavy-based pan, tip in the chocolate chips, pour in the cream and heat gently to melt together. Take off the heat, stir in the rum, then take to the table and let people pour it generously over their pudding. You may have some left over. Don’t complain.
Another fixed item in my Christmas repertoire is my clementine cake. It is a wonderfully damp, dense and aromatic flourless cake. It tastes like one of those sponges you drench, while cooling, with syrup, only you don’t have to. This is the easiest cake I know.
Serves 8 to 10
● Approx 375g clementines (about 4)
● 6 eggs
● 225g sugar
● 250g ground almonds
● 1 heaped tsp baking powder
1 Put the clementines in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the pips. Then pulp everything — skins, pith, fruit — in the processor (or by hand, of course).
2 Preheat the oven to 190c/gas 5. Butter and line a 21cm springform tin. Beat the eggs, then add the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Mix well, adding the pulped oranges. I don’t like using the processor for this and, frankly, you can’t baulk at a little light stirring.
3 Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for an hour, when a skewer will come out clean. You’ll probably have to cover with foil or greaseproof paper after about 40 minutes to stop the top burning. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack, but in the tin. When the cake’s cold, you can take it out of the tin. I think this is better a day after it’s made, but I don’t complain about eating it any time.
NIGELLA SAYS: I’ve also made this with an equal weight of oranges — and with lemons, in which case I increase the sugar to 250g and slightly anglicise it, too, by adding a glaze made of icing sugar mixed to a paste with lemon juice and a little water.
Chestnut chocolate pots
I’m almost embarrassed by how easy these are. It’s true that you do need a processor, though you could just chop well and whisk using a lot of elbow grease.
● 175g best-quality dark chocolate
● 125ml double cream, plus more to serve if you wish
● 125ml full-fat milk
● 1 egg
● 250g sweetened chestnut puree
● 2 tbsp dark rum
1 Crush the chocolate to smithereens in the food processor. In a saucepan, heat the cream and milk until just about boiling and, with the motor off, pour into the processor through the funnel over the chocolate. Let it stand for 30 seconds, then process for 30 seconds.
2 Crack the egg down the funnel and process for 45 seconds. Add the chestnut puree and rum through the funnel and process until everything is incorporated. Remove the blade and, using a rubber spatula and a spoon, fill 6 x 125ml glasses. If wished, put a jug of unwhipped double cream on the table and let people pour it over their pots as they eat.
Gleaming maple cheesecake
This pudding makes converts of even those who claim never to want something sweet. It’s a cheesecake (baked in a bain-marie, which is the smartest route to the lightest, most delicate set) sitting on a base made of digestives, pecans and a dash of maple syrup, the cheese layer itself smokily sweetened with the syrup. The one thing I need to be strict about is that the cream cheese is taken out of the fridge a good 2 hours before you start.
Serves 8 to 10
FOR THE BASE:
● 8 digestive biscuits
● 75g pecan halves
● 75g soft butter
FOR THE TOPPING:
● 600g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
● 50g sugar
● 2 tsp cornflour
● 125ml maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
● 4 eggs
● ½ tsp cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 Preheat the oven to 170c/gas 3. Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until they turn to crumbs, then add the pecan halves and blitz again to a crumb mixture. Add the butter and process everything together until it clumps up, and then press into the bottom of a 20cm springform tin to make a smooth base. Sit the tin in the fridge to chill while you get on with the topping.
2 Put the cream cheese into the cleaned processor bowl with the sugar, cornflour and maple syrup. Turn the motor on and, with the engine running, break the eggs down the funnel, processing until you have a smooth mixture. Add the vinegar or lemon juice and pulse to mix.
3 Take the springform tin out of the fridge and line the outside with a layer of special ovenproof cling film, bringing it up around the top outer edge of the tin; this is to make a waterproof layer for when the cheesecake is cooked in a water bath. Do the same again, over the plastic wrap, with a double layer of foil, making sure that this, too, is brought right up to the top edge of the tin.
4 Sit the foil-wrapped springform tin in a roasting tin, then pour in the smooth filling. Fill the roasting tin with freshly boiled water, to come about halfway up the wrapped springform. Bake the cheesecake for about 1 ¼ hours, though start checking it after an hour; it should be set on top but still have a hint of a wobble in the middle.
5 Take the whole shebang-marie out of the oven and carefully lift the cheesecake out of its water bath. Peel away the foil layers and let it cool in its tin on a rack. Once cooled, refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours, or, ideally, overnight. The following day, or up to 2 days later, let it come to room temperature before springing it out of the tin. Sit it on a serving plate and pour some maple syrup over the top of the whole cake, drizzling a little more over each slice as you serve it.
- Recipes adapted from How To Eat, £14.99 (published by Vintage Classics), and Nigella Christmas, £26, both by Nigella Lawson, published by Chatto & Windus. © Nigella Lawson. To buy any of these books at 20 per cent discount, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640. P&P is free on orders over £15. Spend £30 on books and get FREE premium delivery. Discount valid until December 15, 2018. With additional photography by Lis Parsons.
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