Dan Lepard's edible Christmas gift recipes | Food (2024)

Weekend Christmas food and drink special 2012

Show you care – and save a bit of cash – with homemade gifts from chestnut chocolate cookies to fresh mint truffles

Dan Lepard

Fri 30 Nov 2012 18.00 EST

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Chestnut chocolate cookies

These are great served alongside abowl of vanilla ice cream covered in hot fudge sauce (see recipe below). There's an old company in France, Clément Faugier, that makes a beautiful blend of puréed chestnuts, sugar and vanilla, which is what I used here – it's available in some supermarkets and delis, and online. You can make something similar by mixing 150g very finely puréed chestnuts with 100g brown sugar and the seeds from a vanilla pod. Iuse a large piping bag with a star nozzle to make the cookies, creatinga snake-like swirl with pointed grooves trailing through it, but you can just use a spoon to spread the mixture on to the tray in ovals or rounds. Makes about 15-20 large cookies.

125g unsalted butter, softened
250g tin sweetened chestnut purée
125g dark chocolate, melted
75g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
225g plain flour

Line two baking trays with foil – scrunch it tight around the edges, so it will keep steady when you pipe on the biscuits – and heat the oven to 170C (150C fan-assisted)/335F/gas mark 3. Beat the butter until light and creamy, then stir in the chestnuts, chocolate, icing sugar and yolks. Sift and stir in the flour, then take a large piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe 5cm wide x 10cm long zigzags of the mixture on to the tray. Bake for 35 minutes, or until crisp. Store in an airtight container.

Hot chocolate fudge sauce

A great standby, because it can cope with a little mucking about both before bottling and when you serve it. You can thin it, reboil it, cool it, reheat it with more liquid and still end up with a rich, luscious, intensely chocolaty sauce. Unopened, it will keep for a few months in the cupboard.

1 tin sweetened condensed milk
125g brown sugar
25g cocoa
50g golden syrup
100ml milk, plus extra if needed
125g unsalted butter
275g dark chocolate
3 tsp vanilla extract

Prepare two 450ml jars with tight screw-top lids, all washed in hot, soapy water and left to dry. Just before the sauce is ready, put the lids to one side and sit the jars in a hot oven for a few minutes.

Put the condensed milk, sugar, cocoa, golden syrup and milk in a saucepan, and heat, stirring all the time, almost until boiling. Add the butter and broken pieces of chocolate, stir, bring to a boil and cook for four to five minutes. If it gets too thick, thin the sauce with more milk; if the sauce is too liquid, just boil it longer. When the consistency of the sauce is to your liking, take the pan off the heat, leave to cool slightly for a few minutes, then pour into the prepared hot jars. Immediately screw on the lids tightly – use a cloth, as the jars will be scalding hot – then stand the jars upside-down on to a tea-towel and leave for five minutes. Turn the jars the right way up and leave until cold.

To serve, just scoop some of the sauce into a saucepan, add a little milk to thin it, bring to a boil and pour over vanilla ice-cream.

Homemade fresh mint truffles

The combination of fresh mint andmint extract in these brings amuch brighter and more complex flavour to the white chocolate creamfilling than extract alone. Imake mine the size of golf balls, utterly supersized, meaning that after just one you feel quite content.These are surprisingly easyto make, and they'll keep foracouple of weeks without refrigeration. Disposable rubber gloves make the shaping and dipping much less of a bother. Makes about 18 very large truffles.

1 large handful washed mint leaves
100ml double cream
400g white chocolate
50g unsalted butter, softened
2-3 tsp peppermint extract
25ml brandy or rum
300g dark chocolate

With a sharp knife, very finely chop the mint leaves so they're almost minced, then add to a saucepan with the cream and bring to a boil. Break the chocolate into small pieces, then over a very low heat leave them to melt into the cream. Spoon into a bowl, chop up the butter, then leave this to melt through the chocolate. (Don't worry if it seems very oily and separates a little at this stage.)

Once the mixture is only barely warm, add the extracts and brandy, beat gently until it looks slightly creamy, leave to cool, then chill until very firm. Scoop the mixture into balls, place on a tray lined with nonstick paper and freeze.

Once frozen, melt the dark chocolate (over a bain-marie or in the microwave), then, using two forks, dip the truffles once or twice into the chocolate, drain off any excess and leave to set on a tray lined with nonstick paper.

Sugar crusted chocolate biscotti

These are a little different from American-style giant biscotti, and more like the ones I ate by the boxful in Milan as a teenager: grainy, brittle and delicious. They're slightly tricky to make, because you have to be so delicate when folding the mixtures together, to avoid the eggs losing their aeration. The best tip is to stop folding while you can still see streaks of egg mixture, and then spoon it carefully on to the tray without stirring. Makes about 50.

5 medium eggs
350g caster sugar, plus more to finish
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
500g whole shelled almonds, with skin on
75g ground almonds
200g plain flour
50g cocoa
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g semolina or polenta

Cover two large trays with foil, and heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted)/350F/gas mark 4. Separate the eggs and, using an electric mixer, beat the whites to astiff froth. Gradually add half the sugar and beat to a thick meringue.

In another bowl, beat the yolks with a little of the remaining sugar until they begin to turn pale and slightly thicken, then gradually add the remaining sugar and beat until the mix thickens more and the sugar is almost dissolved. Pour the vanilla and almond extract in with the yolks, stir gently together, pour this on top of the meringue and fold gently together. Before it's fully mixed, add the whole and ground almonds, then sift the remaining ingredients into the bowl and fold everything together very gently until barely mixed through.

With a large spoon, scoop the mixture on to the trays in strips no more than 5cm wide and about 25cm long, spaced about 5cm apart – you should end up with four strips on each tray. Dredge with caster sugar, then bake for about 40 minutes, until set in the middle.

Leave to cool on the tray until the following day, then slice into 1.5-2cm biscotti, place back on the foil-lined trays and bake again at 160C (140C fan-assisted)/320F/gas mark 2½ for about 40-50 minutes, until the almonds have toasted.

Chocolate muscovado macaroons

The great thing about these is that you can use any nut because the rich chocolate colour dominates. They're very chewy and keep for at least a month in an airtight container. Makes about a dozen.

250g shelled pecans, hazelnuts or almonds, plus more to finish
150g muscovado sugar, light or dark
1 tbsp cocoa
2 egg whites
100g dark chocolate
2 tsp vanilla extract

Grind the nuts, sugar and cocoa in a food processor until smooth. Mix in the egg whites, chocolate and vanilla, scoop into balls and press on to a tray lined with nonstick paper. Press whole or slivered nuts on top. Bake at 180C (160C fan-assisted)/350F/gas mark 4 for 25 minutes, until dry on the outside and slightly puffed.

Fiona Beckett's wine recommendation

If you're giving food as a present, it's anice touch to give a bottle to go with it. In the case of Dan's indulgent chocolate treats, that could be a bottle of port or sherry, such as the sweet, rich, figgy Lustau East India Solera Sherry (£9.75 for 50cl, Ocado, Waitrose; 20% abv) or the truly delicious Visciolata del Cardinale (£16.95 for 50cl, The Whisky Exchange; 14% abv), a sweet wine made from cabernet sauvignon infused with dried sour cherries.


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