Christmas Sweets Back in the Family Hearth

What triggers the nostalgic feeling of “home” for you? It’s probably something very specific. For me, it’s the smell of rain hitting warm earth, or the slightly dusty, musky smell that permeates the air at sunset in the tropics. It’s the distant sound of prayers from the neighborhood mosque. Or it’s the familiar view of the nearby lake that greets me whenever I sit at the family dining table while I have breakfast.

Making the trip back to Malaysia for Christmas is usually quite an endeavor as it involves waking up at ungodly hours to beat the Singapore / Malaysia immigration traffic, but it’s worth it when we see Mum’s happiness at having us at back home, even if it’s just for a while.

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Chocolate orange truffles served on Mum’s beautiful traditional crystal tea platter

For us, family Christmas is all about the food. And I do mean lots of food… It’s usually a couple of days of cooking, not including the grocery-shopping and preparation time. Mum makes her signature turkey, which she does extremely well without fail every year (maybe there are some failures in her eyes, but she’s reached a level where her failures are still incredibly yummy). There was one year where Mum tried to get out of roasting a turkey but she was bullied into submission by her children and nieces & nephews. ; )

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    Truffles galore!

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    Truffles, XMas M&Ms and wrapped French Nougat with Glazed Cherries & Pistachios

She also makes (by tradition and popular demand) her rockin’ chicken and beef satay (i.e. Malay-style barbecued meat on skewers), as well as a to-die-for peanut satay sauce. Yes, I know that everyone says that their mom’s cooking is the best, but my mum’s peanut satay sauce is really the best I have ever tasted. It’s spicy, sweet, crunchy from the peanuts and just has this finger-licking good quality that makes you want to eat it with everything. Suddenly everything tastes so much better with satay sauce!

I haven’t put any of Mum’s recipes here (because I don’t think she would agree to spill her secrets), so the recipes I’m providing will be for the sweets and desserts that we made. Maybe one day I’ll be able to persuade her to let me write down the recipe…

So, after a very long preamble… on to dessert! I kept mine relatively simple as I was also making a couple of salads for dinner… Thai-style beef salad and French coleslaw, but this is a baking blog so lets focus!

I made dark chocolate orange truffles for an aperitif or something to munch on. Kit took care of the main dessert dish by making pumpkin pie with crumble topping and whipped maple cream. It was a toss-up between apple crumble (and old favourite) and pumpkin pie, which we had been craving ever since we watched Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Pie Throwdown on the Food Network. Oh all these festive cooking shows…!! ;D

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Pumpkin Pie with Crumble Topping in all its Maple-Whipped glory!

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Serving the Snowman Santa… Even if there’s no snow in Malaysia!

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    Pumpkin pie before it gets demolished! Against the night scenery of our childhood…

Chocolate Orange Truffles
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles
Yield: 20 truffles

Ingredients
1 cup hazelnuts
100g / 3 1/2 oz good bittersweet chocolate
100g / 3 1/2 oz good semisweet chocolate
120g / 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau

1 tablespoon prepared coffee
1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F / C.
2. Chop the hazelnuts and place them on a sheet pan. Roast them in the oven for 10 minutes. (If the hazelnuts have skin on them, roast them for 25 minutes.) Set aside to cool.
3. Chop the chocolates finely and place in a bowl.
4. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it boils. Immediately pour the hot cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the bowl with the chocolates. With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. (If the chocolate doesn’t melt completely, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir for a few minutes just until it melts.)
5. Whisk in the hazelnut liqueur, coffee, and vanilla.
6. Cover and chill for 45 minutes to 1 hour until pliable but firm enough to scoop.
7. With 2 teaspoons or a 1 1/4-inch ice cream scoop, make dollops of the chocolate mixture and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
8. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, until firm enough to roll into rough spheres.
8. Roll the chocolate in the chopped hazelnuts and chill again. Truffles are best when they’re allowed to set overnight in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Maple Cream and Crumble Topping
Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay’s Throwdown Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups finely ground digestive biscuit crumbs
6 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly warm
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pumpkin Filling
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (canned)
1 1/2 cups thickened or double cream
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved

Crumble Topping
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, cold

    Maple Whipped Cream

1 1/4 cups very cold heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Directions

For the crust
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F.
2. Add all the ingredients for the crust to a food processor and pulse until combined; it should feel like wet sand, and just come together.
3. Spread the mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie pan, using your finger tips or the flat bottom of a glass. Firmly press the mixture over the bottom and sides of the pan.
4. Put the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the crust is light brown and firm to the touch, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the filling:
1. Preheat the oven to 135 degrees C / 275 degrees F.
2. Whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugars in a large bowl. Add the butter, canned pumpkin, cream, spices, salt and vanilla seeds and whisk to combine. Strain the mixture into another bowl.
3. Pour the strained mixture into the baked pie crust and bake until almost set, about 1.5 hours.
4. Remove and let come to room temperature. You can refrigerate until chilled, if preferred.

Cook’s Note: The filling makes more than what is needed to fill the pie shell. You are able to freeze the excess. We made a double batch and it filled 3 pie shells very comfortably.

For the Crumble Topping:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F.
2. Pulse all the ingredients (except the butter) in a food processor to evenly combine them.
3. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture just comes together in large granola-like clumps.
4. Evenly spread out the mixture onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
5. Allow to cool completely before topping the pie with the crumble.

For the Maple Whipped Cream:
1. Combine the cream, vanilla seeds, syrup and bourbon in a large chilled bowl and whip until soft peaks form.
2. Using a star tip, pipe borders around the pie (on top of the crumble) and towards the centre.

Enjoy!