Saturday, December 24, 2011

The extent of my Christmas baking

A lot of people go quite crazy at Christmas with baking - American blogs/podcasts talk about making all sorts of Christmas cookies and my sister-in-law goes into a biscuit baking frenzy at this time of the year.  In the case of the latter, that's OK as we usually end up with a lovely tin of assorted biscuits, including a Tassie specialty called Kiss Biscuits (but not this year and we are not happy!).  As for me, I don't feel an overwhelming urge to bake for weeks in advance and turnout vast quantities of anything, but I do make a few lots of almond bread.  This started over 20 years ago when our neighbour in Footscray gave us some almond bread for Christmas.  I loved it so much that I had to have a go at making it myself.  I originally used a recipe from the Women's Weekly cookery card series but over time I have adapted it somewhat.  I like to give it to people bagged in cellophane and ribbon as a Christmas gift, but always have to keep plenty for my family, who get cranky if they don't have some on Christmas day.  The best thing about almond bread is that it looks impressive, is almost universally loved (allergy sufferers excluded), yet it is so easy to make.  This is the recipe I use, based on the Australian Women's Weekly Recipe:

3 egg whites
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup plain flour - sifted
1/2 cup self raising flour - sifted
125g whole almonds with skin on or use half almonds with the other half made up of pistachios or roasted hazelnuts.  The pistachios give a lovely pale green outline but use whatever makes you happy.  If you really like glace fruit, use a half quantity in place of half of the nuts - the result looks pretty but I don't like glace fruit enough to bother.

Heat oven to 180C/350F.  Beat egg whites until stiff and beat in the castor sugar until dissolved.  Gradually add the flour and stir in the nuts.  Transfer into a greased bar tin (I use a tin 8.5cm wide and long and cook for approximately 40 minutes.  Allow to go completely cold and leave over night.  Slice into very thin slices (I get Stos to do this with a serrated knife) then lay out on baking sheets and dry out in a slow oven (150C/300F).  I find that about half an hour does it in my oven and the thinner bits dry out more quickly.  The slices should be dry, but still pale in colour.  Well that's the theory - I always find I have a few brown bits but they still taste good.  Once cold, serve with coffee and stand back and accept the compliments, or package as gifts.  The recipients will think you are a genius - if only they knew!

This recipe doubles quite well although the froth of 6 egg whites starts climbing up the beaters in the first stage of the recipe.  And if you hate waste like I do, the left over 6 egg yokes are the perfect quantity for the base of home made ice-cream.  Or use for proper egg custard for the Christmas pudding.  Enjoy!

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