Keeping Cool

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ahem. So, Malaysian Monday was not just late, it was sort of non-existent. Actually, I was trialling something which didn’t quite work out but I do hope to try it again over the weekend. In the meantime, here’s a little something I prepared earlier.

I saw this layered ice-cream cake on the cover of the latest ABC Delicious magazine, and couldn’t wait to try it out. The visiting in-laws provided an excellent excuse even though the weather wouldn’t cooperate.

For something that looks so impressive, it’s actually very simple to make and requires no churning! I’m all for keeping it easy right now.  At the start of the year, there are always grand plans for getting really organised by December. Forget sugarplums, visions of perfect hand made gifts all wrapped and ready, dance in my head. A list of things I must. bake. this. year. grows and grows.

Then reality hits. Activities pile up, unexpected situations crop up (as they will), and I find myself getting really stressed.  And judging by the aggressiveness on the roads and in the shopping centre car parks, stress levels of the rest of the population are soaring too. I’ve seen too many harried, grumpy, rude people scurry around and decided - I want no part of this. What happened to “peace on earth and goodwill to all men”?

Why does everything have to be perfect anyway? It’s all a bit silly to get worked up about just one day, and lose focus on everything else. Like a bride so intent on the wedding day she forgets that she actually has the rest of her married life to work on.

So this year, I’ve adopted “Let it go, let it go, let it go” as my personal Christmas carol (sung to the tune of “Let it snow”). Didn’t get around to sending out thoughtful Christmas cards? Let it go. The people who care will definitely understand, and those who don’t, well tough. Didn’t get around to making a handmade card for the class teacher as I’ve done every other year? Let it go. A store-bought card works just as well, it’s the message inside that counts. Didn’t get around to fruit cake, or mince pies, or stollen. Let it go. At least we made gingerbread, and actually had fun doing it together.

Trees for the kindy teachers. Blinged up by MC Junior.

MC Senior had loads of fun making these. We used broken pretzels for the antlers, and pressed them into the gingerbread dough. (Idea from Bakerella). They tend to fall out during transport though, so try to keep them flat. The eyes are white chocolate and dotted with a food colouring pen, the nose is  a Jaffa stuck on with white chocolate. Word of warning though, if it is hot, use royal icing instead as the chocolate melts and the noses fall off!

That’s the upside of all that letting go. Extra time snatched to read, or sit and have a coffee, or  do craft with the kids, or catch up on much needed sleep. There’s extra time to do the really important things. Like hang out with precious friends at the beach, then stumble home in the dark way past our bedtime, and then deciding to stay up even later so we can drive around and look at Christmas lights.

It’s always the spontaneous, unplanned things we do that seem to leave the most lasting memories. And being spontaneous involves a lot of letting go. I can live with that :)

Instead of Christmas cards, MC Senior folded star-boxes for her classmates this year. Good instructions found here, and simple enough for an almost 9 year old to fold easily and quickly.

For our friends (who we hung out at the beach with), I folded these boxes with lids. Slightly too difficult for MC Senior, but quick and easy for older hands. Great info here on U-handbag.

Enjoy your weekend and keep cool. If you need some help chilling out, here’s Valli Little’s Ice-cream cake from the December 2011/Jan 2012 issue of ABC Delicious.

You’ll need:

1 small sponge cake for the base (I made mine using the recipe provided in the mag, but in the spirit of letting go, store bought should work just as well).
600ml thickened cream
395g can of sweetened condensed milk
1 vanilla bean (the recipe uses vanilla extract instead)
500g peeled, chopped mango (the recipe uses rockmelon/ cantaloupe instead)
125g raspberries (I used frozen)
1/2 cup caster sugar
Mixed fruit and mint leaves to serve. (I used a mix of dice mango, lychees, diced peaches, cherries, mint leaves and sweetened coconut chips. The recipe also includes pieces of honeycomb)

Lightly grease a terrine (I used a loaf pan), and line it with baking paper. Leave overhang to help with lifting out later. I actually double lined the pan so there were no gaps.

Whip/ beat the cream until soft peaks form, then slowly drizzle in the condensed milk and whip until incorporated and thickened (about 1 minute).

Divide the mixture into half, and stir in vanilla seed or extract into one half. I actually vagued out at this point and stirred vanilla through the whole lot, but it didn’t matter in the end.  Take the non-vanilla half of the mixture and divide evenly between two bowls, cover and stick it in the fridge until needed.

Take the vanilla mixture and carefully pour half of it into the prepared terrine or loaf pan. Place the pan in the freezer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to firm up. Cover the rest of the vanilla mixture and pop it in the fridge.

In the meantime, puree the mango and pass it through a sieve. You’re meant to only collect the juice, but I just squished the whole lot through. Fold the mango puree through one of the reserved bowls of cream in the fridge. The colour of the mango isn’t as pronounced as the rockmelon, and in restrospect, I should have added a drop of food colouring to boost the colour but I suppose au naturel is best. When the vanilla layer in the freezer has firmed up, pour the mango layer on and return the pan to the freezer for another 1-2 hours.

Puree the raspberries, sugar and quarter cup of hot water, then pass through a sieve. Let it cool then fold it through the remaining bowl of cream mixture. Pour this pink layer onto the firm mango layer and return to the freezer again for another 1-2 hours. Finally, pour the reserved vanilla mixture over the raspberry layer, and return to the freezer for about 30 minutes. Cut the sponge cake to size, and when the vanilla layer is just firm (but still a little tacky), press the sponge cake onto it, then wrap the whole lot in clingfilm and return to the freezer for at least 3-4 hours or overnight. (I left mine overnight).
To serve, soften the terrine in the refrigerator for about about 15 minutes, then carefully use the paper overhang to lift the cake out and transfer either to a serving plate or chopping board. Cut into slices, scatter the fruit artfully over the top and serve with love.

I know it sounds like a lot of time, but if you’re pottering around doing other things in between, the actual time spent on the assembling is very small. The only drawback with this cake is that it does get icy over time, but the solution is simple - eat it up faster!


chocolatesuze said...

the star boxes are super cute! and love the look of the reindeer cookies!

Fiona said...

Shaz, I HEAR YOU!! You are truly a woman after my own heart. I can already hear your friends saying 'Star boxes? Origami gifts? Handcrafted gingerbread and reindeer cookies? If this is Shaz letting go, think what a hurricane of activity there would be if she didn't!'

I also find it very hard to 'let it go'! Always thinking what I could fit into that spare hour!

Thanks for a really wonderful reminder to enjoy Christmas just as it is. We're having a party tomorrow, had planned miniature home-made pavlovas and a hundred other home-baked treats but I think in the spirit of 'let it go' I'm going to cycle to the bakery in the morning and see what they've got.....

Have a wonderful Christmas with your family!

Cheers, Fiona

Norma Chang said...

Agree, we stress ourselves out for that one day. Got to learn to let go. Love your reindeer cookies and your gift boxes.

Hungry Dog said...

What sweet little crafts and what sweet little helpers you have! The gingerbread cookies are gorgeous and I'm sure delicious. Merry Christmas, shaz!

Lora said...

The gingerbread and the little one - adorable!

grace said...

i'm fanatically obsessed with layered desserts, and this one is extra special! i'm loving the rudolph cookies too--very clever!

shaz said...

Thanks folks!

Fiona - in ful swing, I can definitely be a bit OTT!Hoep the party went well :)