Sweet Swap this year ... OK, well it was actually Daddy's idea. He's a keen foodie and a food blogger, and has also participated in the Sweet Swap with a sweet creation of his own. We thought it might be fun to do this swap together, and fun it was! The deal is that for a tiny entry fee (which is donated straight to charity ... love that!!) you are given the names and contact details for 3 other participants. You then bake/cook/prepare a sweet treat, and send it to all 3 participants, then sit and wait. In the following days, you excitedly await the arrival of sweets from 3 other participants ... excitement to the max!! I mean really, who can say no to an offer to receive 3 lots of sweet goodies in the mail from keen sweet foodies, not to mention (and for me the MOST fun bit) a chance to cook up a storm of sweet goodies to send to 3 new friends.
I love home-made gift-giving, and for that reason I decided to revisit a sweet treat that we did as a gift to our friends and family a couple of years ago at Christmas-time...we have a tradition of baking at Christmas for our friends and family, and try to think of fun and funky ideas each year! Whilst this sweet treat (Hazelnut Brittle) is yummy and fun in itself, we coupled this with an inexpensive mini-cleaver we found at our local asian grocer. Very handy in smashing the brittle into edible-sized pieces, and serves as a fantastic cheese-knife after the brittle is all done and finished. The recipe I used actually suggested a small hammer as a gift idea, but I shopped and shopped and couldn't find any small-enough, affordable enough, cute enough hammers for the 25ish serves of this we would be giving out that year. When I stumbled across these cleavers I thought they were just perfect!
- 400g hazelnuts (I found it worked better with 250-300 grams ... makes a slightly thinner, more attractive brittle as all the nuts fit in the pan in a single layer!!)
- 2 1/2 cups white sugar
- 60 grams butter
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Grease a 3cm deep, 18cm x 28cm slice pan. Line base and sides with baking paper, with a 2cm overhang around the edges. (I used a silicon sheet, with slits in the corners to help it fit the base of the pan. I found this MUCH easier when trying to remove the brittle once it's cooled. I attempted it once with baking paper, but ended up with paper stuck all over my brittle that I could not get off...not sure if this is just the particular paper I used or not, but either way, I would suggest using a silicon sheet if you have one!!)
2. Place hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a tea-towel and fold up to enclose the nuts. Rub the tea towel to remove the skins and discard the skins.
3. Place sugar and 1/2 cup cold water in a large, heavy based saucepan over a medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, without boiling for 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high. Bring to the boil. Boil, without stirring, for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture is golden and thick. Remove from the heat ... (watch it like a hawk, it starts to turn slightly golden, then very quickly becomes a dark golden .... too long and it tastes burnt, not long enough and it's too pale!)
4. Working quickly, stir in the butter and hazelnuts.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and tap gently on the bench to settle the mixture.
Set aside to cool completely. Lift from the pan and remove the baking paper (silicon sheet). Serve.
We found that one whole tin of this was a little too large-a-serving for a gift for 1 person, so we decided to cut it in half down the middle. This was a much more manageable size, and much more post-able for this swap. I just wrapped the brittle in clear cellophane wrap, and tied some twine around it with a little tag. Can't beat the simple-funkiness of that. Especially when coupled with the little mini-cleaver...too cute!
OK, so the other part of the swap ... the sweets I received! I was sent beautiful, delectable goodies from 3 lovely people. My first parcel arrived before I had even finished my baking ...
I received a package of these absolutely divine Italian Ricciarelli Cookies from Giulia of Love at Every Bite. These were a little too moorish ... I absolutely could not stop at 1, or 2, or maybe 3. Thank you Giulia ... I hope to see your recipe on your blog soon ... would love to give these ones a try ... the perfect accompaniment for a cup of Italian coffee I think! Oh, and Giulia also sent some honeycomb, but unfortunately it didn't travel so well so I haven't taken any pics of it ... I blame the horrendous amount of wet weather we had at the time this beautiful package was sent ... really not fair to any sugar work ... hoping my brittle travelled OK to it's recipients!
My next package was from the lovely Mary from Beyond Jelly. Oh my goodness, was this a favourite package at our house for the short time the deliciousness lasted!?! Mary made Twix Tartlets ... just imagine, mini pastry tart shells, filled with thick, sweet, rich caramel and topped with chocolate ... does it get any better than that! Bethany was especially in love with this one! Yummo! Oh, and thanks Mary for your kind comments in your note about my School night Dinner Series ... I haven't forgotten recipe number 5 ... hoping to get it posted in the next week or so!
My final package was simply adorable ... A beautiful little brown paper package tied up with string from Di of Life is Di-licious. Di sent some gorgeous mini rum balls ... yummo! They are teeny-tiny, and so yummy. Thick, rich, flavoursome, and again another perfect accompaniment to a cuppa ... but really, what's not the perfect accompaniment to a cuppa!?! Thank you, thank you Di....I love a parcel wrapped up in string too, and was humming away to the Sound of Music classic tune the whole rest of the day! Oh, and I've been checking out your new blog page ... I'd love to get some chickens too, and we're currently working out exactly which part of our yard would work best for a little coup ... might have to get in touch and talk chook-keeping with you some time!