So, it’s exactly one month until Christmas day. Also, it’s a month minus two days until my birthday, in case you were wondering. You weren’t? You don’t care about my neglected and forgotten ill-timed December birthday? How very dare you and so on.
I always worry about Christmas presents. I am slightly uneasy with the consumerist mindset of buying loads of people loads of stuff that they don’t necessarily want in an arbitrary way. I know there are dozens of local charities that need my money more than my uncle needs a new sweater. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I buy things and I like giving gifts: I think Christmas can be a great opportunity to treat someone to something they have been really wanting or needing. But the fact is that you don’t necessarily know everyone in your ‘gift circle’ well enough to get them that perfect, meaningful, useful, lusted after Thing. And you feel rude showing up to someone’s house empty handed, especially when you know that they will have bought you a present. So you panic (or I do, at least) and end up buying them some perfume, or a book, or a gift voucher. And it’s well-meant, and I’m sure it’s appreciated. But it’s not necessarily something they really needed or wanted. And don’t we all just have too much stuff anyway?
I am also, to put it mildly, not exactly burdened by the weight of huge wads of cash. I simply can’t afford to go buying glamourous and exotic presents for every person who I’d like to show I care about at this time of year. The obvious solution is to do what I did last year and make a load of food instead. Yes, you are correct: this is my solution to all problems. But it made sense. I spent days making lots of gift food and packaging it all up in hampers for friends and family. It was less expensive than buying everyone proper presents, and while you don’t know if people are going to have already read that book you bought them, you can be confident that at some point they would probably like to eat some food.
This year, though, I’m doubting myself. Don’t home-made presents stop being desirable and adorable once the giver is past the age of six? What if everyone already has far too much food at this time of year and they’re gritting their teeth and smiling politely while inwardly groaning at having even more to get through? Will I look like a cheapskate giving people this stuff when they’ve actually spent proper money on gifts for my husband and I? Surely people are sick of me giving them food when I literally do that all the time?
I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. There isn’t a proper conclusion to this post.
Except this recipe for white chocolate, cranberry, and pistachio fudge. This is the sort of thing that would make a charming and thoughtful gift for people around the festive season. Or would it? I don’t know. Help me.
It’s really tasty though. I can attest to that because I ate a lot of it this week. Well, I did before I had my wisdom tooth taken out. Now I can’t really eat anything.
Notes: Obviously you can add any fruit, nuts, or chocolate you like. But this, believe me, is a winning combination.
I have a thermometer for testing the temperature of meat and sugar and things like that. I’m not pretending it’s not useful here – they are not expensive and if you do any cooking on a regular basis they are a good investment – but you can most definitely make this fudge without a sugar thermometer if you don’t have one to hand.
This is actually an incredibly simple and easy recipe, but it does require your fairly undivided attention for around twenty minutes. Listen to a podcast or something while you stir.
500g double cream
500g golden caster sugar (gives it a better colour and flavour, I think, but white caster will work if that’s all you have)
3 tbsp liquid glucose (this sounds like a frightening ingredient but Dr Oetker do tubes of it you can get from Sainsburys)
1 tsp salt
100g good white chocolate (I like Green & Black’s)
75 shelled pistachios
100g dried cranberries
- Put your cream, sugar, and liquid glucose into a big (this is important, a small one will not work), non-stick saucepan. Stir it all together and pop the pan on a low-medium heat so that the sugar can melt. Stir it occasionally (I find a silicone spatula works best for this) and make sure it’s not catching on the bottom. Meanwhile, grease and line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment. Chop your chocolate into big chunks. Chop your pistachios coarsely. Have your cranberries ready to go. Get a spoon and a glass of cold water and keep it by your pan, or get a sugar thermometer ready.
- When the sugar has melted and the mixture no longer seems grainy, whack that heat up and boil your fudge mixture hard. Now you have to keep stirring all the time. This is why a big pan is needed, because it’s a lot of mixture and it will be bubbling and splashing around and you don’t want it all over everything (especially your hands, because it will burn you – wear an oven glove if you are nervous). You need to keep bubbling it away until it reaches soft ball stage, or around 118C. To test for soft ball stage, spoon a little mixture into your glass of water and it should form a soft ball you can squidge between your fingers. It will take a good ten or fifteen minutes – depending on your heat and pan – to get to this stage, so make sure you have reached it or your fudge won’t set.
- When you’re there, take it off the heat. Stir in your cranberries, pistachios, and salt, and keep stirring for five minutes to let the mixture cool and thicken. Scatter in your white chocolate, stir roughly once, and immediately tip your fudge mixture into your lined tin and smooth it out – your white chocolate will melt and marble slightly, but if you over-stir it then it will just melt entirely into the mix (which will still taste good but look less pretty).
- Your fudge should start setting pretty much immediately. I left mine on the counter for half an hour, then froze it for half an hour, and it set completely in the hour. When you’re happy, cut it into squares. It will keep for a couple of months (as long as you don’t let me anywhere near it), but don’t leave it in the fridge because it will go soft.