Festive Favourites: Christmas Semifreddo and Orange Spice Cake
This Christmas will be my fifth hot Christmas of the thirty something Christmas’ I’ve celebrated in my life. Christmas is one of the hardest times of year to be away from family. I know it’s my choice to be here and I love it for 364 days of the year but for one day of the year I wish I could whisk my way back to the cold for 24 hours! For this reason I swing between two polar opposite feelings at this time of year. One minute I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening and the next I want to go all out and try and start some festive traditions.
We’ve tried the seafood Christmas, and are starting to think it isn’t Christmas without a crazy trip to the fish markets. We’ve also done the barbecue, and not any old barbecue, last year we did a whole suckling pig on the spit. We’re still trying to work out what the savoury Christmas tradition will be, but unusually for me I have started a tradition that revolves around dessert. For the third year running I have made Christmas semifreddo. I was calling it ice-cream, but as I was doing some surfing the other other day I learnt the difference between ice-cream and semifreddo and I now know that this recipe is most definitely a semifreddo.
So what is the difference between ice cream and semifreddo? Well, an ice cream has a custard base to which to add the flavour, it then has to be churned to ensure it becomes creamy and to stop the ice crystals forming. The semifreddo on the other hand has a sabayon base, mixed with whipped cream. This negates the need for an ice cream maker, which I haven’t yet added to my kitchen kit. If you require further explanation than that have a look here at the Gourmet Traveller article.
Why semifreddo? Well I don’t have a particulalry sweet tooth, but I am partial to a little ice cream from time to time, and the spices in this ice cream instantly remind me of Christmas (they are similar to the spices in mulled wine) and not many things evoke the same feelings and memories at this time of year.
In addition to the ice cream, I decided to pop my CWA cherry and try some Christmas baking. I just need to pause here to allow my regular readers to pick themselves up off the floor. Yes, you read correctly, I attempted some baking for Christmas. The obvious choice was to select one of the eight fruit cakes that fill the pages of the baking section of the Country Women’s Association Classics, but I’ve never been a fan of fruit cake whether it be served up for a wedding, christening or Christmas. The recipe that caught my eye was the orange spice bar. I like orange (it also reminds me of Christmas as satsumas are the Christmas fruit where I come from, not cherries) and when I read the recipe further I realised the spices used were very Christmassy (also akin to mulled wine, is there a theme going on here?!). With a few tweaks to suit my tastes and to make it even more Christmassy I present my recipes for Christmas Semifreddo and Orange Spice Cake:
Christmas Semifreddo (adapted from a Gourmet Traveller recipe)
600ml thickened cream
300g creme fraiche
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla paste
9 egg yolks
250g caster sugar
100g mixed peel
Start by whipping the cream, creme fraiche and spices until it thickens and forms soft peaks. Put in the fridge to keep cool. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and brandy in a heat proof bowl, over a pan of hot water, until it thickens. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until cool. Fold into the cream mixture then fold through the mixed peel and transfer to a container for freezing.
Orange Spice Cake
100g softened unsalted butter
150g rich brown sugar
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp orange juice
200g plain flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
100g dried cranberries (craisins)
80g silvered almonds
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a 23cm slice tin with greaseproof paper.
In a mixer, beat the butter until soft then add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add the orange zest and juice and continue to beat. Lightly beat the eggs then add gradually so they don’t curdle.
Combine the dry ingredients and add to the butter and egg mixture.
Finally, fold through the cranberries and almonds and put in the prepared baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven for thirty minutes or until cooked.
And there you have it, my first official Australian Christmas tradition. I’ll have settled on a savoury one by next year I hope.