As Christmas approaches, many of us in Cairo will split our time between shopping for gifts, decking the halls of our homes and preparing delicious holiday food in the kitchen. People who celebrate Christmas know very well that gaining a few kilos is inevitable, so in the spirit of Christmas we’ve decided to share some of our favourite sweet recipes with you.
Peppermint Bark: This yummy peppermint bark gives chocolate a festive holiday twist. Don’t like white chocolate? An easy fix is to double the amount of milk chocolate instead. If you can’t find candy canes anywhere, chopped nuts are a yummy substitute to the mix. The bark is as pretty as it is tasty, so it makes great holiday gifts for your friends!
Directions: Melt 1 bag of chocolate chips or several large chocolate bars of good quality. If you use a microwave, heat the chocolate in short increments and stir often. When the chocolate is smooth, pour it into a baking sheet lined with wax paper and refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened. Melt white chocolate as you did before and stir in ¼ cup of crushed peppermint candy or chopped up nuts. Pour this directly over the hardened milk chocolate. Sprinkle the top generously with more crushed peppermint candy and refrigerate until hardened. Remove the slab of chocolate from the pan and break it into pieces.
Gingerbread: In its many forms, gingerbread is the quintessential Christmas baked treat. Here, we’ve given you a recipe for a simple but delicious gingerbread cake. We love it plain or with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
Directions: Preheat your oven to 350F (175C). Beat 1 large egg with 1 cup of hot (not boiling!) water. Add 1 cup of molasses, 1 cup of sugar, 2 ½ cups of flour, ½ cup of butter, 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda, ½ teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger, ½ teaspoon of powdered cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of powdered cloves. Mix together with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are smooth and pour into a glass or metal baking ban. Baking time should be about 35 to 40 minutes. If you poke the centre of the cake with a fork and the tines come out clean, remove it from the oven and let it cool.
Almond Crescents: These bite-sized cookies are a traditional favourite. They are nutty and sweet, their shapes are perfect for dipping into a warm holiday drink, and let’s face it: the dusting of powdered sugar is probably the closest that we’ll get to a white Christmas in Cairo!
Directions: Preheat your oven to 350F(175C). Soften 1 cup of butter to room temperature. Sift 3/4 cup of powdered sugar and incrementally combine with the butter. Mix the butter and sugar until they are creamed. Combine with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest and 1 cup of ground blanched almonds. Add 2.5 cups of flour and knead by hand until thoroughly mixed. Roll the dough and chill it. When the dough is cold, cut slices from the roll and form a crescent shape by lightly pushing in one side of the disc. Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the colour darkens slightly. Let the cookies cool completely before sprinkling (or rolling) them in powdered sugar.
Rock Candy: So, this recipe isn’t particularly Christmas-themed, but it’s fun and educational for kids! It’s easy to flavour the candy by using flavour extracts (peppermint and vanilla work well) or add colours to make a pretty candy bowl for Christmas. Keep in mind that it can take almost a week for the candy to finish forming, so make this one well ahead of time.
Directions: For this recipe you’ll need jars, string, pencils and paper towels or plastic wrap. Tie a piece of string to a pencil and cut the string so that when you prop the pencil along the top of the jar the string hangs just shorter than the jar’s length. Dip the string in water, roll it in sugar and lay it flat to dry. For each jar, you’ll need about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water depending on the jar’s size and twice that amount of sugar. Boil the water in a sauce pan and begin to pour in sugar, one cup at a time. Stir thoroughly between each additional cup. When the sugar is completely dissolved, boil the mixture for a few more minutes. If you want to add flavour or colour, do so now (a teaspoon of flavour per jar or a few drops of colour should suffice). Remove the mixture from heat and let it cool for about ten minutes. Pour the sugar syrup into jars, set the pencil on top, with the string hanging straight down the centre of the jar and lightly cover the jar with plastic wrap or a paper towel. Sugar crystals will begin to form within a few hours and will continue to grow over the next few days. Remove the string and voila! You have homemade candy.
Layered Bars: This basic recipe will instantly become a family favourite as these bars are rich in both texture and flavour. You’ll find yourself baking seconds in no time.
Directions: Preheat you oven to 350F (175C). Melt a stick of butter in a small baking pan, and spread 1 cup of crumbled digestive or graham crackers on the bottom of the pan. Layer 1 cup of flaked coconut, 1 cup of chocolate chips (or crumbled quality chocolate) and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk in that order. Sprinkle 1 cup of chopped nuts of your choice on top and bake the mixture for 35 minutes. Cool the pan thoroughly before cutting into small bars.