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POLAR BEAR PEPPERMINT CREAMS; FOOD.

Byline: with CASSIE BEST

For those of you who love to give a Christmas present that has the personal touch, I've got some ideas for you.

There's something for every level of cook here - you could let older children make the polar bear mint creams and hot chocolate stirrers by themselves (under-10s will need a little help), and they make the perfect present for a teacher or grandparent.

If you fancy making something yourself to give to a favourite friend, or take to a dinner party, have a go at this addictive fudge.

You'll need a sugar thermometer - if you don't have one already it's worth buying one as this homemade fudge is better than any you'll buy in the shops.

You can add chocolate chunks, crumbled biscuits, nuts or a splash of booze if you like, but it's just as delicious simply flecked with vanilla and a few sea salt flakes.

We're in love with these cute minty treats that the kids can get involved in making. If you want a more classic cream, coat pieces in melted dark chocolate

250g icing sugar 1 egg white, beaten few drops of peppermint essence 15 chocolate sweets (we used Waitrose blue and green chocolate beans)

1 Sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl. Mix in the egg white, a little at a time - stop adding it when you have a soft dough that feels like Plasticine.

2 Add 3 drops of the peppermint essence, mix well and taste. Add another drop if it isn't minty enough.

3 Roll half the mixture into 15 balls, about the size of cherry tomatoes, then flatten them with your hand to make the bear heads.

4 Place on sheets of baking parchment on a large board or tray. Using half the remaining mixture, make blueberry-sized balls and flatten them out onto the heads to make snouts. Add chocolate sweets for the noses.

5 Use the rest of the mixture to make the ears.Shape them into tiny balls and press them gently into the top of the heads with your fingertips. Use a cocktail stick to shape the eyes.

6 Leave the polar bears to dry for 3-4 hours, or overnight. Eat within 1 month.

Save any large jars from the kitchen to use as vessels for your gifts.

Wash them well in hot soapy water to remove labels and glue, fill, then decorate with homemade labels.

For more, see the new issue of Good Food out now or visit bbcgoodfood.com

VANILLA FUDGE

Homemade fudge makes a fabulous gift wrapped up for Christmas, or any special occasion. Our recipe for these buttery sweets is well worth the effort

450g golden caster sugar 400g double cream 50g butter 1 tbsp glucose syrup 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

1 Line a 20 x 20cm cake tin with baking parchment. Tip the sugar, cream, butter and glucose syrup into a medium/large saucepan. Heat to dissolve the sugar and melt the butter, stirring now and again.

2 Once dissolved, put a sugar thermometer in the pan, making sure the end is completely covered by the syrup - if not, transfer the mixture to a smaller pan (with enough space for the syrup to bubble up). Increase the heat and bring the syrup to a steady boil. Keep bubbling, stirring occasionally to stop the sugar from catching, until the mixture reaches 116C - this is known as the soft ball stage.

3 Remove the pan from the heat and leave to sit, undisturbed, for 5 mins, until the temperature drops to 110C. Stir in the vanilla and a good pinch of salt.

Keep the sugar thermometer in the pan and begin beating the mixture with

a wooden spoon, quite vigorously, until the temperature cools to about 60C. By this time the fudge will be really thick and will have lost its glossy shine. Remove the thermometer and continue beating for a few minutes more. This process is very important when making fudge, as it creates small sugar crystals, which give the fudge its lovely smooth and creamy texture.

5 Before it sets completely, quickly pour the fudge into your prepared tin and smooth over the surface. Leave to cool at room temperature overnight - don't put the fudge in the fridge as it will become sticky and won't set properly. Cut into bite-sized pieces and pop in a box to give as a present. The fudge will keep, in a sealed container, for up to two months.

PREP: 10 MINS COOK: 40 MINS PLUS OVERNIGHT COOLING CUTS INTO 36 PIECES a time

HOT CHOCOLATE STIRRERS

We all know a few die-hard chocolate fans - make them one of these hot choc stirrers as a gift and they'll never want to use powdered cocoa again

sunflower oil, for greasing 300g dark, milk or white chocolate (or a mixture), broken into squares

TO DECORATE selection of chocolate buttons, hundreds and thousands, mini fudge pieces or chopped peppermint candy canes

YOU WILL NEED

6 cupcake cases, pencil, pastry brush, 6 empty 47g fromage frais pots (washed and dried), 6 wooden lolly sticks, cellophane and string or ribbon for wrapping, 6 gift tags

1 Push a small hole in the middle of the cupcake cases with a pencil and put aside for using later.

2 Dip the pastry brush in the sunflower oil and paint a very thin layer of oil to cover the insides of your fromage frais pots.

3 Put the chocolate in a bowl and heat in the microwave in 30-sec bursts until runny, stirring after each blast. Or melt it in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (get an adult to help you). If you're using different types of chocolate, you should melt them separately.

4 Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the pots.Put a lolly stick in the middle of each and sprinkle your chosen decorations around it.

5 Sit a cake case on top of each pot so that it covers the chocolate and the stick pokes through the hole. Put them in the fridge so they can set overnight.

6 The next day, carefully pull the chocolates out of the pots and throw away the paper cases. Wrap each one in cellophane tied with string, and write a tag to read: 'Simply stir into hot milk'.

PREP: 30 MINS NO COOK MAKES 15-20 PREP: 10 MINS COOK: 2-3 MINS MAKES 6 PREP: 10 MINS COOK: 2-3 MINS MAKES 6 PREP: 10 MINS COOK: 40 MINS OVERNIGHT CUTS INTO PIECES
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Dec 15, 2018
Words:1086
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