Friday, February 23, 2024

Christmas crowd-pleasers

What better way to celebrate the Season of Splendour than with some sweet and savoury staff favourites. We asked the EastLife/Times team to whip up easy-to-make, appetising Christmas treats and they came up with some wowzers!
From a show-stopping Antipasto Wreath that had us all wreathed in smiles to Merry Meringues, Festive Fudge Cake, Asparagus and Brie Puff Pastries, White Christmas Tree Pops, and a Cheesy Christmas Tree, they were show-stoppers all. A snapshot of some of the Christmas crowd-pleasers.

Cream Cheese and Chives Christmas Tree

Fold herbed cream cheese in a clingwrap and roll it into a Christmas tree shape. Refrigerate it for 3-4 hours till it gets a bit firm. Uncover it and add cranberries and slivers of almonds to it. Roll the Christmas tree in chopped chives till it is covered in green. Top with a cutout cheesy star. Serve with choice of crackers.

Antipasto wreath

Assemble green olives, red olives, cherry tomatoes, salami or pancetta and either feta or mozzarella balls onto cocktail sticks.

Lay out sprigs of rosemary in a circle and place the cocktail sticks on top with the pointy end facing inwards.

Hazelnut Meringues

› 6 egg whites
› 2 cups caster sugar
› 120g ground roasted hazelnuts
› 300ml cream, lightly whipped
› Raspberry Sauce
› Fresh fruit such as strawberries, to      decorate

Preheat oven to 150°C.
Whisk egg whites until stiff peaks hold their shape. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time, until the mixture is thick and glossy. Fold through hazelnuts.
Shape onto a lined baking tray. Bake for 60 minutes. Once cooled, decorate with whipped cream, raspberry sauce, and with fresh fruit.

Asparagus & Brie Puff Pastries

› 3 bunches of asparagus, trimmed
› 2 sheets of ready-rolled frozen puff pastry
› 125g wheel of brie, thickly sliced
› 1 lightly beaten egg
› Honey Dressing
› 1 lemon, zested and juiced
› 1 tsp honey
› 1 tbsp extra virgin
› olive oil
› 1/2 tsp thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan-forced). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Blanch asparagus in the boiling water for 30 seconds or until just tender. Drain. Rinse under cold water to stop the asparagus cooking further. Drain well.
Quarter each pastry sheet into 4 squares and place on tray. Top each square with asparagus and a slice of brie.
Brush pastry edges with a little egg, then fold over to enclose filling. Brush pastry with egg.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and crisp.
To make the honey dressing, place the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Season with pepper. Serve puff pastries with honey dressing.

White Christmas Tree Pops

› 550 white chocolate,
› chopped 100g cophia
› ½ cup pistachio kernels, toasted, chopped
› ½ cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
› ¾ cup desiccated coconut
› 2½ cups puffed rice cereal

Grease a 6cm-deep 22cm round base springform pan.
Place 500g chocolate and copha in a large microwave on high, stirring halfway way through until melted.
Add pistachios, cranberries, coconut and puffed rice cereal. Stir until well combined.
Press mixture firmly into pan. Refrigerate for an hour. Remove from pan, cut into wedges and serve.

Fudge Cake

›  125g butter
› ½ cup brown sugar
› 1 tbsp cocoa
› 1 x egg (lightly beaten)
› 1 x 250g Vanilla
› Wine Biscuits (crushed)
› Few drops vanilla essence

Place butter, sugar, cocoa and vanilla essence in large saucepan melt over medium heat, stirring all the time, bring to the boil.
Remove from heat, add lightly beaten egg and stir quickly until thick.
Add crushed wine biscuits to chocolate mixture, stir well until combined.
Press into a sponge roll tin.
Once set, ice with chocolate icing and decorate as required, cut into slices. Can sprinkle with coconut or turn into Christmas trees.

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