Yes, I know. It’s three in the morning, and here I am on my blog. I’d like to say that this is because my meringues are cooking, but that is sadly not true, because my meringues were a disaster, and I’ve decided to turn them into Forgotten Pudding (cheat’s pavlova) instead.
Actually, I’m online because it’s three in the morning and it’s still 30°C out there, and as it happens, I still have Christmas presents to make and wrap, and it isn’t as though I can sleep in this weather, so…
Anyway. Since I am engaged in last-minute gift making myself, I thought I’d write about what I’m making for Christmas presents, and suggest a few other quick and easy recipes that can be made on Christmas Eve and will look as though you meant to do that anyway…
(also, none of them involve you standing over a stove for more than five minutes. Because you Europeans and Americans may be having a lovely time baking right now, but we in Australia are baking in an entirely different way and really do not need to heat up our houses any more than they are already heated…)
So. Everyone likes lemon meringue pies, with the exception of people who can’t eat eggs (who might still like such things, but can’t eat them, and I’m sorry, I am not very witty at three am), but they are not something you can really make in advance. But you can give someone a DIY Instant Lemon Meringue Pie kit for Christmas, and really, who doesn’t want one of those?
Your kit contains three components:
1. Lemon Curd – I have a pretty good recipe here, and it makes enough for 1 large kit or 2 small ones. Make the curd, and while it is still hot, pour it into hot sterilised jars (easiest way to do this is put the jars and their lids through the dishwasher, then dry them out in an oven heated to about 80°C until you are ready for them, and refrigerate.
2. Little Meringues – there’s a recipe for these below the lemon curd recipe. I recommend using the curliest piping nozzle you have for lacy-looking meringues.
3. Tart Shells – fear not, we are not making pastry today. What you do is get a packet of butternut crunch biscuits (or gingernuts, for that matter), and a patty-pan tin. Lay one biscuit over each hole in the tin, and put the tin in an oven pre-heated to 160°C for about 3-4 minutes, or until the biscuit goes a bit soft.
Quickly pull out the tin and use two fingers to press each biscuit down into the bottom of its patty-pan hole. It will set that way, and you will have a cute little biscuity shell, suitable for any kind of lemon meringue tart.
Package up your meringues and tart shells in separate cellophane bags, and put in a little basket or box with a jar of lemon curd for your DIY lemon curd tart kit.
Try using chocolate ripple biscuits for the shells and package with caramel sauce for very decadent tarts. Throw in a packet of Maldon Salt or other really lovely salt flakes, so that the recipient can sprinkle a flake or two over the caramel for salted caramel tarts. Yum.
Alternatively, use the chocolate ripple biscuits again, and make a jar each of white chocolate and dark chocolate ganache for chocolate truffle tart fillings. For ganache, you will need equal parts chocolate and cream (or rice milk, or coconut milk). Chop the chocolate fairly well and put in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream just barely to the boil over the stove, then pour it quickly over the chocolate, making sure all the chocolate is covered. Do not stir! Let sit for a minute or two, then gradually stir the melted chocolate into the cream (this will help it form a nice emulsion rather than separating).
Other Easy Recipes that make good last-minute gifts
Rocky Road – Customise it to the preferences of your recipient with vegan marshmallows, their preferred types of nut or chocolate and their preferred confectionery or freeze-dried fruit.
Mini Vegan Christmas Puddings – Definitely ice these if they are gifts. Package them in little truffle cases, put six of them on a small plate and put a sheet of clear cellophane underneath. Draw up the corners and tie with curling ribbon and a cinnamon stick to decorate.
Chocolate Crackles for Grown-Ups – It’s difficult to make these look posh, but everyone likes them anyway. Myself, I’d be tempted to give them the edible silver star treatment, or you could use those miniature silver cachous they now sell in pourable containers at the supermarket.
Bake-Anytime Choc-Chip Cranberry Cookies – The bake-anytime part is embodied in the fact that you are giving someone a ready made cake mix. In a jar, layer 100g brown sugar, 100g vanilla sugar, 100 g rolled oats, 90 g of chopped good dark chocolate, and 150 g flour (gluten-free if preferred) mixed with half a teaspoon each of cinnamon, baking powder and bicarb of soda. Put a re-sealable bag containing 90g dried cranberries on top. Instructions should say to put everything (including the cranberries) in a bowl, and add 75g melted butter, 60 ml canola oil and one egg. Mix very well, roll into small balls and place on a lined baking tray. Bake at 180°C for ten minutes (until golden but still soft), and cool on the tray for 5 before removing to a rack.
I trust I have now solved all your last-minute baking problems! I’m now going to bed, so that in the morning I can solve the rest of mine…
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
This time last year…Recipe: Raw Vegan Mini Christmas Puddings Farmers’ Market – Last Market for 2011!