festive baking

brunslibale

brunslibale

brunslibale2

brunslibale2

fruitcake

fruitcake

christmascake

christmascake

I've had some requests for these two wonderful Christmas recipes - I've modified both to be gluten free, although the brunsli bale cookies are pretty much grain free to begin with. With both recipes the quality of the ingredients is pretty important - I feel passionately about finding fair trade dark chocolate free from soy emulsifiers and palm oil (and gluten of course!), chemical free nuts and organic dried fruit and local honey. It does make the finished product somewhat luxurious - but then if you're going to savour (and gift) sweet treats at Christmas you may as well do it right.

Brunsli de Bale (Swiss style Chocolate Hazelnut +Spice cookies)

3/4 cups white crystallised sugar1 pinch of salt250g ground hazelnuts (you can also use almonds or mix of both)1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon1/4 teaspoons of ground cloves2 tablespoons flour (I use rice flour)2 fresh egg whites (70g), lightly beaten until frothy100g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat egg whites until frothy but not stiff. Add egg whites to dry ingredients and mix. Next melt dark chocolate and pour over other ingredients and mix well. Using clean hands knead dough into a ball. On a lightly "sugared" surface roll out dough to 1cm thickness and cut into desired shapes - if your cookie cutter gets too sticky, rinse in cold water. Arrange cookies on trays lined with baking paper and air dry for 5-6 hours or overnight if possible. Preheat oven to 180'c and bake cookies for 10 minutes (they will hardern as they cool down). Once cool, store cookies in an airtight container - they will last 3-4 weeks if stored like this.

Traditional Fruit Cake250g dried sultanas, 250g dried currants 250g dried cranberries 100g dried apricots, chopped 100g dried prunes 60g candied citrus peel 140ml brandy 270g softened butter 40g slithered almonds 200g plain gluten free flour (I use 50/50 rice flour and tapioca starch) 40g ground almonds 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp mixed spice 200g rapadura sugar or brown sugar 5 large eggs, beaten 2 tablespoon honey whole blanched almonds (for decorating) Stir brandy through dried fruit and peel and leave to soak overnight. Next day preheat low oven to 150'c. Grease a deep round cake tin (or loaf tins) and line with two layers of baking paper. Combine flour, almond meal, baking powder and spices in a bowl.  In a separate (large) bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, followed by flour mixture. Stir in soaked fruit, honey and slithered almonds. Pour mixture into prepared tins and gently press whole almonds on top for decoration. Bake for 3 hours (if a whole cake) or 2 hours if doing smaller cakes. To test if the cake is done, insert a skewer and if it comes out clean it is done - if not, reduce the oven temperature to 110'c and bake for a further 10-15 minutes and check again. Let cool completely in the tin. Wrap cake in paper and foil and store in an airtight container for as many weeks (or months) till Christmas!

There is so much fruit and sugar in these cakes that they will last a good long while and improve in flavour the longer they are left!