To peel the almonds, drop the almonds into a saucepan of boiling water and boil them for two minutes or until the skins loosen, then drain them. Put the almonds into a tea towel, gather up the edges tightly and rub the almonds to remove the skins. To toast the almonds, spread them out on a baking tray and bake them in a hot oven, 230°C, 450°F, Gas 8, until they are golden — approximately 5-8 minutes. To peel the hazelnuts, spread them out on a tray and bake them in a hot oven, 230°C, 450°F, Gas 8, for approximately 5-8 minutes, until the nuts toast and darken and the skins loosen. Remove the skins in a tea towel in the same way as the almonds, and pick the hazelnuts out from the rubbed-off skins.
While that is setting (supported with a matchbox or something similar, if necessary), pop it into the fridge to chill for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, stick the remaining 8 crosses together in pairs in the same way and allow the pairs to set. Remove the base from the fridge, add another teaspoon of melted chocolate and put the next largest pair of crosses on top (cross 8 and cross 7), angling them so the branches are arranged alternately. Continue to assemble the pairs of crosses until the tree is finished — however, do it gradually: it is essential that each section is completely set before topping with another layer. To serve, decorate the plate with Christmas decorations, and dust the tree lightly with sieved icing sugar. Note: If you’d prefer to make a Rice Krispie Tree, use 250g (9ozs) of chocolate and 110g (4oz) Rice Krispies. Melt the chocolate, fold in the Rice Krispies and proceed as described above. BALLYMALOE MINCEMEAT CRUMBLE CAKE
For the crumble topping, you will need: A little melted butter, for greasing the tin 4oz (110g) self-raising flour 3oz (75g) caster sugar 3oz (75g) chilled butter, diced 1oz (25g) flaked almonds For the cake, you will need: 110g (4oz) softened butter 110g (4oz) soft brown sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 175g (6oz) self-raising flour 2 tablespoons milk 560g (1 ¼ lbs) mincemeat Icing sugar Softly whipped cream, to serve You will also need a 21 ½ cm (8in) springform tin. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Butter the tin with melted butter, making sure the base of the tin has been turned upside down so that the ‘lip’ around the edge of the base is pointing down. When the cake is baked, you want to be able to slide it off the base onto the serving plate
First, make the crumble topping. Put the self-raising flour and the caster sugar into a bowl. Rub in the diced chilled butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the flaked almonds. Set aside.
Next, make the cake. Cream the softened butter in a bowl. Add the soft brown sugar and continue to beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one, then add the vanilla extract and stir in the sifted self-raising flour and the milk.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin. Spread the mincemeat over the cake mixture. Sprinkle the crumble mixture you set aside earlier evenly over the mincemeat. Bake the cake on one of the lower shelves in the oven for 45-55 minutes, until it is golden on top and feels softly set in the centre.
Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to stand for ten minutes, making sure, while it is standing, to slide a sharp knife around the edges to free the cake from the tin. Remove the sides of the tin and slide the cake onto your chosen serving plate, then dredge the cake with icing sugar.
Serve warm, with softly whipped cream. CHOCOLATE YULE LOG
You will need: 5 eggs 175g (6oz) caster sugar 175g (6oz) dark chocolate, broken into small pieces 3 tablespoons water For the filling, you will need: 250ml (9fl oz) cream 2 tablespoons rum, whiskey, brandy, orange liqueur, or an Irish cream liqueur such as Coole Swan or Baileys or a dash of vanilla extract or finely grated orange zest 2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted, plus a little extra for dusting You will also need a shallow Swiss-roll tin 30cm x 20 cm (12in x 8in). Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Line the Swiss-roll tin with a piece of parchment paper that is slightly larger than the tin itself, making sure it comes up the sides as well.
Separate the eggs. Put the egg yolks and the caster sugar in a bowl and whisk, using an electric beater, for a couple of minutes, until the mixture is quite thick and pale in colour.
Put the dark chocolate and the 3 tablespoons of water in a bowl, sitting over a saucepan with 2 ½ cm (1in) of simmering water, and allow the chocolate to melt, stirring it every so often.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form peaks. Stir the melted chocolate into the egg-yolk and caster sugar mixture. Stir a little of the whisked egg white into the mixture, then carefully fold in the rest of the whisked egg white. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook the cake in the preheated oven. Bake the cake for 12-16 minutes, or until it is almost springy to the touch around the edge, but still slightly soft in the centre.
Soak a clean tea towel with cold water and wring it out thoroughly, then cover the cooked cake mixture in the tin. This is to prevent a sugary crust forming. Leave the cake to cool thoroughly. Provided the cloth is kept damp, the cake will keep, in a cool place, for two days.
To serve, whip the cream until it is stiff and fold in the rum, whiskey, brandy, orange liqueur, or Irish cream liqueur, or the dash of vanilla extract or the finely grated orange zest, whichever you are using. Add the sifted icing sugar to sweeten, then set the flavoured cream aside in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Remove the damp tea towel from the cake, then dust it well with some sifted icing sugar. Turn the tin upside down onto another sheet of parchment paper that’s larger than the cake.
Remove the tin and peel the attached parchment paper off, but don’t discard it. Spread the chocolate layer with the flavoured cream. Finally, with the longest end of the roulade closest to you, begin to roll away from you, using the parchment paper to prevent the cake from sticking to your hands, but don’t roll the paper into the roulade.
This cake is lovely as it is and can be eaten any time of the year. To give it a Christmassy twist, make it into a festive log by cutting off a quarter of the roulade at an angle, then placing it on the side of the roulade, so that it looks like a branch sticking out.
Dust the yule log generously with sifted icing sugar and decorate it with a sprig of holly. Rachel’s hair by Ellie McGrath, The Edge Hair Design, Cork, using L’Oreal Professionnel Tecni.Art Make-up by Roisin Derrane for Lancome Paris, see lancome.ie, or see facebook.com/lancome