It may be nearly the end of January but plenty of plenty of people, myself included, still have Christmas oddments sitting around the kitchen or secreted in the freezer.
People say Christmas is all about the children but I really it's adults who are fixated on having the twinkliest time possible. Or at least convincing themselves they've provided it. Kids are just in it for the presents.
Case in point: when my brother Adam and his family came to stay with us just before the big day I was determined that my three-year-old niece should have the festivest time ever. As part of the plan I had baked the flat-pack components of a gingerbread house. (I used an Edd Kimber recipe we were given at school which came with templates.)
Emma was reasonably diverted as her father and I built the house and pretty excited about the jelly tots, mini marshmallows and sugar snowflakes I’d bought to decorate it.
She, reasonably enthusiastically, put a row of jelly tots along the ridge of the roof and added a few marshmallows to one side. Adam suggested we add some snowflakes as well but apparently this was at odds with her design vision. When it came to gingerbread architecture it was her way or no way for Emma.
“You to finish it,” she said, gesturing vaguely in my direction. “With marshmallows and marshmallows and marshmallows.” And pottered off “to watch cartoons.”
Aunty Clare’s Magical Festive Gingerbread Funtimes had lasted a total of 17 minutes and naturally no one ate the biscuity building.
I stole the idea of using it up in a version of rocky road from my friend Helen Zaltzman who used to host a yearly gingerbread party. She'd bake hundreds of gingerbread people (gender is definitely an illusion when you're a featureless silhouette made of spiced dough), provide icing and let her guests loose on them. These are my efforts from a few years back (apologies for poor quality mobile phone pics):
Helen once gifted me a large box of rocky road made from the leftover and abandoned gingerbread and it was delicious. Sweet for sure, but with the spices undercutting any potential sickliness.
So here’s my version. It includes some stem ginger in syrup along with the cherries which provides a tiny bit of heat and I experimented with a tip I found online to freeze the marshmallows before adding them. They don't actually melt if you use them room temperature but a spell in the ice box does help them keep their shape and remain a bit chewier in the finished product. I didn't save any chocolate to make a neat layer on top but this is a good idea too if you care about presentation.
I used 2:1 dark to milk chocolate as I was giving some to friends with children so didn't want them to be too “grown up” (as if anything containing mini marshmallows can ever be classed as “adult”) but feel free to go all dark. I also think if I was doing it again for non-minors I’d soak the raisins in booze.
This makes roughly a baking tray’s worth which was about 40 small squares, just right for a sweet thing to nibble on with a cup of tea. I was pleased with the balance of chocolate, butter and syrup which gives a nice soft texture without being greasy. They're nicest if you eat them out of the fridge.
Gingerbread Rocky Road
- 200g dark chocolate
- 100g milk chocolate
- 100g golden syrup
- 100g butter
- 2 large spoonfuls stem ginger in syrup
- 50g mini marshmallows (stick them in the freezer for 10 minutes before using)
- 200g gingerbread
- 200g glacé cherries
- 200g raisins
- Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water along with the butter and syrup. Don't stir too much but make sure they're properly combined.
- Meanwhile put the gingerbread in a plastic bag and hit it with a rolling pin to break it up. I like a decent sized chunk to give a bit of bite but just carry on whacking if you prefer it crumblier.
- Stir the broken biscuits and other ingredients into the chocolate mixture and spread out on a greaseproof-lined baking sheet. Chill until set then cut into squares.
Ifs And Ands
- Soak the raisins in whisky or rum for a few hours before using.
- You can basically use any dried fruit you like here. Substitute some of the raisins for cranberries. Or the glacé cherries for dried sour ones. Try candied peel. Maybe even dried apricots, figs or prunes (which, despite their healthy-breakfast overtones are very good with chocolate)?
- Add some orange oil.
- Make a rocky road ice cream instead by making a chocolate ice cream base and freezing it wit the other ingredients stirred through.
RIP Alan Rickman. By coincidence, my Christmas cake had been a tribute to his role as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, my third-favourite festive film. As well as all the gingerbread there was a good third of this leftover too so I made it into ice cream. Just a plain base with a tot of whisky added and the cake and marzipan crumbled though (no icing, especially no fondant - the texture's too weird).
OK. There we go. I promise it'll be a salad next time...