Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet treats for the Christmas table – recipes (2024)

Christmas is a time for the cook of the house to push the boat out, but not so much that you end up so stressed and exhausted that you don’t have the energy to enjoy the celebrations. This applies to bakes and puddings as much as to the roast turkey and all the rest: the trick is to mix easy and quick (well, easy- and quick-ish) dishes with more elaborate ones, leaving you free to bask in the plaudits for another job well done.

Orange and saffron shortbread stars

Stars are gloriously festive, but use whatever cutters you have. These biscuits keep well in a sealed container for up to 10 days, so are a great option if you’re planning on giving any baked goods as presents. Makes about 40 biscuits, depending on the size of your cutter.

360g Italian ‘00’ flour, plus extra to dust
70g white rice flour (the grainy variety, such as Bob’s Red Mill brand, not the finely milled Asian sort)
165g caster sugar
⅛ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp finely ground star anise (from 2-3 whole star anise; use a spice grinder)
1 tsp flaked sea salt, lightly crushed
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
Scraped seeds from ½ vanilla pod
250g fridge-cold, unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten
40g pistachios, finely chopped

For the saffron syrup
⅓ tsp saffron threads
1 tbsp water
2 tsp caster sugar

For the icing
190g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water
¼ tsp orange blossom water

Sift the flour, rice flour, sugar, baking powder and star anise into a large bowl. Add the salt, orange zest and vanilla seeds, mix to combine, then add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mix is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Gradually mix in the egg, using your hands or a wooden spoon, until the dough comes together, then shape into a rectangle, wrap tightly in clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour to firm up. You can make the dough up to this point a day ahead and leave it in the fridge overnight but, if you do, let it sit at room temperature for half an hour before rolling. (You may also need to bash it a bit with a rolling pin, so it’s nice and malleable: if it’s too cold, it will crack when you roll it.)

Heat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 2½. Cut the dough in half and, on a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half to just under 0.5cm thick. Using a cutter, cut stars out of the dough and transfer to baking trays lined with baking paper, making sure the biscuits are spaced 1cm apart: press together all the scraps, roll and cut again, and repeat until you’ve used it all up. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake for 15-16 minutes, in batches if need be, rotating the tray halfway through, so they cook and colour evenly: they should be golden brown on the edges, lightly golden in the centre and have a golden brown underside. Transfer to a rack and leave to cool completely.

For the syrup, put the saffron in a small saucepan with the water and caster sugar, and bring to a boil. Stir for 30-60 seconds, until the mixture goes syrupy, then take off the heat.

Whisk all the icing ingredients in a bowl until smooth and the consistency of thick but spreadable honey (if it’s too thick, add a little water), then leave for half an hour to firm up. Use a teaspoon to spread the icing on the stars, then return the biscuits to the rack, dab each star with a drop of syrup and swirl it gently through the icing. Sprinkle each star with half a teaspoon of pistachios, either all over or just at the tips, then leave the icing to harden. Store in a sealed container.

Cinnamon pavlovas with pear, chestnut and walnut

Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet treats for the Christmas table – recipes (1)

The pears and the meringue can both be made well in advance (meringues keep for a week in a sealed container, and can also be brushed with chocolate in advance; the pears can be made a day ahead), but put it all together as close to serving as possible. Serves six.

75ml dry white wine
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
Finely shaved skin of ½ lemon
95g dark muscovado sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out, pod reserved
2 ripe williams pears, peeled, cored and cut lengthways into eight pieces
80g egg whites (ie, from 2 large eggs)
80g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
80g walnuts (40g finely chopped, 40g lightly toasted and roughly chopped)
280ml double cream
50g dark cooking chocolate (70% cocoa), finely chopped
250g sweetened chestnut spread (I use the Clément Faugier brand, which is widely available in supermarkets)

Put the first five ingredients in a bowl with 20g muscovado sugar and the empty vanilla pod. Mix to combine, then add the pieces of pear and stir to coat all over. Cover with clingfilm and set aside for at least two hours, stirring once or twice.

Heat the oven to 100C/210F. Put enough water in a medium saucepan to come a quarter of the way up the sides, and bring to a boil. Put the egg whites, caster sugar, the remaining muscovado sugar and the ground cinnamon in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk to combine. Turn down the heat under the pan, so the water is simmering, then put the mixing bowl over the pan (make sure the base doesn’t touch the water). Carry on whisking for four minutes, until the egg whites are warm and frothy and the sugar has melted. Transfer the bowl to an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place, and whip on a high speed for four minutes, until the meringue mix is cool, stiff and glossy.

Fold in the finely chopped walnuts, then transfer the mix to a piping bag and pipe out eight meringues on to a large oven tray lined with baking paper. Use the back of a spoon to lift up the sides a little, turning the meringues into 6-7cm-diameter nests, then bake for 80 minutes.

When the meringue is cooked, make the toppings. Put the cream and vanilla seeds in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip on high speed for a minute, until it forms stiff peaks (take care not to overwhip).

Put the chocolate in a small bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water (make sure the base isn’t touching the water) and stir occasionally until melted. Leave to cool slightly, then gently brush all over the insides of the cool meringue nests (take care not to get any on the sides), then leave to set.

To assemble, spread the chestnut puree in the dip of each nest, spoon the cream on top, place two pieces of pear on top (discard the juices) and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

Spiced pumpkin pie

Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet treats for the Christmas table – recipes (2)

Kabocha squash (or Japanese pumpkin) has a hard, knobbly, deep-green skin and intensely yellow flesh. Its texture is moist and fluffy, and the flavour is super-sweet, so it works really well in a pie. If you can’t find it, use butternut or another sweet small pumpkin instead (large ones tend to be full of water and don’t have the intensity of sweetness you need here). If you want to get ahead, both the filling and tart case can be prepared up to two days before baking. Once baked, though, this pie is best eaten on the day. Serves eight to 10.

For the pumpkin filling
1 small (1kg or so) kabocha squash (or butternut)
80g caster sugar
320ml double cream
4 eggs, lightly whisked
170g honey
1½ tsp ground cardamom (to make your own, blitz 25 whole seeds in a spice grinder, then sift through a sieve)
2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
Finely grated zest of 1 medium orange
1 tbsp cornflour

For the caramelised orange slices
1 medium orange (use the one you grated for the pumpkin filling)
30g caster sugar

For the tart shell
320g all-butter puff pastry

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Prick the pumpkin all over with a small sharp knife, put it on a baking tray and roast it whole for about an hour, until the skin has split and the flesh is soft all the way through. Remove and, once cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh. Discard the seeds and skin, and put the flesh in a muslin-lined colander set over the sink. Leave it there for half an hour, so some of the moisture can drain off (if using butternut, give it a fair old squeeze to get the water out). You should end up with about 320g of flesh.

Meanwhile, use a small sharp knife to top and tail the orange, then cut down the sides, following the fruit’s natural curves, to remove what’s left of the skin post-grating and the pith. Cut the flesh widthways into 0.5cm-thick slices and discard any pips. Lay the slices in a medium Pyrex dish, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning them once or twice, until caramelised.

Turn down the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Roll out the pastry into a 36cm-wide x 2-3mm-thick circle and use this to line a 26cm-wide x 3cm-high tart tin. Prick the pastry in a few places with a fork and lay a large piece of greaseproof paper on top. Fill with baking beans and blind-bake for 25 minutes, until the edges of the pastry are golden brown. Remove the beans and paper, and bake the tart shell for eight to 10 minutes more, until golden brown all over (if the pastry starts to rise up in the oven, just press it down with a clean tea towel), then leave to cool.

Transfer the pumpkin puree to a bowl and add the sugar, cream, eggs, honey, spices, orange zest, cornflour and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk until well combined, then pass through a sieve to remove any stray seeds or fibres. Pour into the tart shell, tap to smooth out, and bake for 25 minutes, until half set. Top with the orange slices and bake for 10 minutes more, until set and starting to rise. Leave to cool a bit, and serve warmish or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Spiced cranberry and red wine tiramisu

Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet treats for the Christmas table – recipes (3)

Desserts don’t come more festive than this: it’s Christmas in a bowl. I’d be inclined to make double the amount of cranberry caramel, because it’s lovely to have around over the holiday, to spoon alongside any meat. As is the case with most tiramisu, the eggs in the cream are not cooked, so make sure you use the best-quality and freshest you can afford (and let any pregnant or elderly guests know the dish contains uncooked eggs). Make this at least a day ahead, because the flavours improve: it will keep in the fridge for up to three days. Serves 10.

For the cranberry caramel

240g caster sugar
300g frozen cranberries, defrosted and blitzed in a food processor
240ml red wine (a light and fruity rioja)
8 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole nutmeg
2 star anise
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped
2 oranges – shave the skin of one with a vegetable peeler, finely grate the skin of the other
300ml pure cranberry juice

For the mascarpone cream
50g caster sugar
3 eggs, separated
500g mascarpone
60ml Grand Marnier
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

To assemble and serve
200g sponge finger biscuits
2 shots espresso (about 60ml)
¾ tsp cocoa powder
⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

First make the caramel. Tip the sugar into a 20cm-wide, heavy-based pan and cook on a medium heat for five minutes, until the sugar has melted and started to brown at the edges – resist the urge to stir, but instead tilt and swirl the pan. Cook for 90 seconds or so longer (keep a close eye on it), until the sugar has turned a dark, amber caramel, then take off the heat and add the cranberries: take care, because the caramel will bubble and spit when the cold berries go in.

The caramel will harden, so return it to the heat for five more minutes, stirring occasionally, until it melts again. Once it has melted, increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine, cloves, cinnamon, whole nutmeg, star anise, the split vanilla pod and shaved orange rind. Cook for five minutes, so the wine reduces, then add the cranberry juice and 60ml water. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mix is the consistency of runny jam, then leave to cool. Pick out and discard the spices and orange peel.

Once the caramel has cooled, make the mascarpone cream. With an electric whisk, whip the sugar and egg yolks on a high speed, until pale and fluffy. Add the mascarpone and whisk again, but only until just combined – about 20 seconds. Take care not to over-whip, otherwise the cream will go runny. Transfer to a large bowl, then wash the whisking bowl. Add the egg whites and a pinch of salt, and whisk on a high speed for three minutes, until they form stiff peaks. Add to the mascarpone bowl with the Grand Marnier, orange zest, vanilla seeds, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg, and gently fold together until well combined.

To assemble, line a 1.5 litre-capacity pudding bowl (about 20cm wide at the top and 12cm wide at the bottom) with clingfilm: you want a bit of overhang, so don’t skimp on the clingfilm. Spoon a layer of mascarpone cream into the base of the bowl (you want it to come about 2.5cm up the sides). Taking one sponge finger at a time, dip the biscuits in the cranberry mixture until completely covered and softened, then arrange in a single layer on top of the cream.

On top of the biscuits, put enough of the cranberry mixture to cover and to brush some all around the edges of the bowl. Drizzle a tablespoon of espresso over the top, then repeat the layers until you have four in total, finishing with a layer of mascarpone cream. Pull the excess clingfilm over the top of the cream, to cover, then refrigerate for 24 hours, or at least overnight.

To serve, unwrap the clingfilm and invert the tiramisu on to a large plate. Dust with a mixture of cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg, and serve.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet treats for the Christmas table – recipes (2024)


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