Bloody hell, it really is Christmas.
I have a repeated nightmare that’s based around Christmas. The big day suddenly comes into being without any prior warning. Everybody has shopped and planned without me and I sit down to lunch, faced with boiled carrots because I wasn’t there to patronise everybody on the fact that roasted carrots are far superior. Oh, and the brussels sprouts – always overcooked, and where are the chestnuts and pancetta – what the hell would Nigella say?! Then I wake up in a cold sweat because there’s nothing more traumatic than losing control over vegetable cooking times.
It is odd, how we all clamour for the perfect Christmas, or more precisely, our arrival at that highly anticipated state of festive nirvana: when one feels, officially, “Christmassy”. The road to this sacred place is traditionally marked by dried fruit, mulled liquids and low-level lighting. But like many forced attempts at emotion, sometimes it just doesn’t go to plan. Much like Christmas 2011’s failed roast potatoes – despite meticulous research on the preferable fat (thanks a bunch, Jamie) – at times we have to accept that it’s possibly all going to go to shit.
On that note, I would like to introduce you to a recipe that really was a success: Dan Lepard’s mint cream chocolate biscuits. Now these did push me a little further along that well trodden festive road, if only because they taste a bit like an After Eight.
Mint cream biscuits, from Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet
75g unsalted butter, softened
75g caster sugar
75g good dark chocolate
125g plain flour
1 level tbsp cocoa
¼ tsp baking powder
150g icing sugar
50ml double cream
8-10 drops peppermint oil
Beat the butter and caster sugar until fluffy, then melt the chocolate and beat this through, too. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder, and beat in.
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted)/350F/gas mark 4. While the mixture is still fresh and relatively soft from the mixing, make teaspoon-sized balls (10g-15g each) and carefully press on to a baking sheet lined with nonstick baking parchment. The pressed dough balls should sit about 0.75cm high, and though the dough will crack around the edges as you press, it bakes firmly.
Bake for 25 minutes, then remove and leave to cool on the tray. For the filling, beat the icing sugar with the cream and mint oil, then sandwich the biscuits together.