You've decorated the tree, hung the stockings by the fire and hand-wrapped more unique Christmas gifts than Santa's elves themselves...now all that's left to do is sweeten up the holiday. Here, we chat to Maura O'Connell Foley to find out her absolute must-bakes for Christmastime.
2020 in many ways was the year of upskilling. Whether it was learning how to teach primary school maths, taking up running or discovering a skill for cooking, these hard times have made knitters, painters, and stress-bakers out of all of us. And it was the latter, in particular, that seems to have surged as a regular household activity. Between the mountains of banana bread and jars upon jars of homemade sourdough starters, our kitchens were no longer something that just came with the house. For good reason too; the act of baking also served as a delicious distraction from the stress and anxiety that was happening around us. Even the dreariest days of lockdown were brightened by a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies, our anxious thoughts suddenly vanished when whipping up a Dalgona coffee.
And whether you've kept up your love for baking or your loaf tins quickly vanished to the back of the cupboard, it's time to reach for those aprons because let's face it - Christmas isn't really Christmas without some festive baking. A sentiment that is shared by none other than the award-winning Maura O'Connell Foley. Having recently won two awards at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for her book, My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections, Maura has exclusively shared two of her favourite desserts to make at Christmas from her new cookbook.
Keep scrolling for two alternative Christmas desserts recipes.
Hazelnut Shortbread Biscuits
The perfect bake to make with the kids in your life this Christmas that double up as a delicious treat for Santa on Christmas Eve.
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g light muscovado sugar
- 450g butter
- 285g plain white flour
- 285g stoneground wholemeal flour
- 55g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped.
Preheat the oven to fan 160°C / fan 325°F / gas mark 4. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Reduce the mixer to a medium speed and gradually add in the flour, mixing until smooth. Then fold in the hazelnuts.
Lightly flour the work surface to roll out the dough. For rectangle or triangle shaped biscuits, roll out the dough into a rectangle shape (around 25x20cm / 10x8in) to a thickness of 1cm / ½in. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or 10 minutes in the freezer; this will help with cutting the biscuits. Cut the rectangle into smaller rectangles or triangles. Alternatively, for round biscuits, roll the dough into a large sausage shape, chill, then cut round biscuits off the log, around 1cm / ½in thick.
Place the shaped dough on the baking tray and prick once or twice with a fork. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden in colour. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Iced Coffee Parfait with Whiskey
An ideal dessert that's luxurious but convenient - it lasts one month so make it once and it's on hand right through the festivities.
For the custard:
- 425ml milk
- ½ vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
- 6 egg yolks
- 140g caster sugar
- 1 ½ tbsp instant coffee
- 425ml cream
For the sugar syrup:
- 570ml cold water
- 800g caster sugar
For the whiskey caramel:
- 500ml sugar syrup (above)
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 4 tbsp whiskey
For the whiskey cream:
- 140ml cream, for seving
- 1½ tbsp demerara sugar, or more to taste
- 55ml whiskey
- 2 small loaf tins or 1 large loaf tin
- Method Line 2 small loaf tins or 1 large loaf tin with clingfilm, leaving sufficient overhang to later cover the parfait.
- In a small saucepan, add the milk, vanilla seeds and pod, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer for 2 minutes stirring with a whisk. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse with the lid on.
- Use an electric mixer to beat the egg yolks and sugar together until light and creamy and the consistency of whipped cream. It should leave a little trail when lifted out. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk. Gradually pour the milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Return the custard to a clean saucepan and stir over a very low heat until the custard thickens. It should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the coffee until it dissolves. Cool the custard quickly over a bowl of ice, stirring constantly.
- Whip the cream to soft peaks, then fold the coffee custard into the cream. Pour the parfait mix into the prepared tin and seal well with clingfilm. Enclose in a sealed airtight container and set it in the freezer overnight, where it will keep for up to 1 month.
- To make the whiskey caramel: For the stock sugar syrup, in a small saucepan, add the sugar and water. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves then stop stirring, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Continue to boil for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar syrup is clear. Allow to cool completely. The sugar syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 month.
- Prepare a shallow basin of iced water sufficient for the base of the saucepan to rest inside. Simmer the sugar syrup over a low heat in a saucepan, not stirring. When the syrup starts to turn golden at the edges, swirl the saucepan occasionally until it goes a deep golden colour, then place the saucepan immediately into the shallow iced water to stop the cooking process for a few minutes. Return the saucepan to a very low heat and add the cold water to loosen the caramel, swirling the saucepan gently, being careful that it doesn’t splutter. The caramel should now be loose or liquefied; only then add the whiskey and swirl around gently over the low heat. Cool before serving with the parfait.
- To make the whiskey cream: Whip the cream and sugar together to soft peak stage, then fold in the whiskey. Turn out the parfait. Cut two slices measuring 1.5cm / ½in in width, then place one at an angle over the other and serve with a good dollop of whiskey cream and a drizzle of whiskey caramel around it.
My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections (RRP €35) is available directly from mywildatlantickitchen.com and selected independent bookstores nationwide.