Pastry perfectionist Kirsten Tibballs is best known for her extraordinary work with chocolate. Her Savour School is in Melbourne’s Brunswick but she has an extensive and devoted international following. She is also a massive Christmas lover so I am thrilled to share two of her recent Christmas creations this week and next, plus her tips for a great Christmas.
Kirsten uses a stand mixer but I’ve added Thermomix instructions below so this recipe is very multi-denominational! I will also say that this shortbread recipe can be simplified. You could just cut circles rather than hoops, you could eliminate some of the decorations, you could even just make shortbread and top it with ganache and raspberries it will be just as delicious and pretty!
A Christmas Chat with Kirsten
What’s your approach to planning a Christmas meal?
I always aim to impress which takes some planning. Christmas is my favourite time of year, so I start to plan mid-November and being the control freak that I am, I don’t let anyone bring anything. I always do a test run on all the dishes I’m creating if I haven’t made them before. I always over cater and like to give everyone multiple options, especially with dessert.
What are some of the great Christmas dessert flavours or ingredients?
Ooh, so many to choose from. I will be upfront with you: I always incorporate chocolate and I love combining that with fresh fruits or Christmas spices. This year I am planning a panettone and white chocolate bread and butter pudding with my speciality Eggnog (recipe to come), Bombe Alaska and a Christmas-inspired Trifle for the seven of us!
What are some ways to stay calm and low-stress in the Christmas kitchen?
As mentioned, I like to test the recipes I am making prior to Christmas day or stick to tried and tested recipes. Choose recipes that can be pre-prepared, so you are not spending as much time in the kitchen. I also recommend checking out my Savour Online Classes, where I teach over 350 video tutorials that are perfect for all skill sets and levels of expertise. You’ll find a series of festive online classes that are perfect for those at home wanting to brush up on their cooking and baking skills ahead of Christmas and create desserts that are sure to wow guests.
We’ve all had a crazy year and people won’t always be able to celebrate with the people they wish they could…is there anything that we can do with our Christmas menus and occasions to make it extra special or soften the blow of 2020?
It has been a crazy year! It’s a year where the best-laid plans were thrown out the window. I think we have all adjusted very well to the sudden changes to our lifestyles. But I think Christmas is different – it’s steeped in tradition and it’s a special time spent with family, but maybe not this year for everyone.
I suggest looking at creating some nostalgic favourites, dishes that you would typically enjoy with your family. This will assist in bringing a sense of comfort and help to remind you of some of the fabulous times you’ve had with your loved ones. Even if you can’t see your extended family, I recommend sticking to family traditions such as baking Christmas cookies, or serving Christmas pudding – whatever it may be, remember to celebrate – even if it is with family and friends on Zoom.
Further information about Kirsten’s Savour Online Classes.
Time: 3 hours
Coconut Shortbread Pastry
- 75 grams (2.6 oz) unsalted butter, chopped and at room temperature
- 50 grams (1.8 oz) pure icing sugar
- 25 grams (1 oz) egg (1 small egg, lightly whisked, then weighed)
- 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
- 130 grams (4.5 oz) plain flour
- pinch salt
- large pinch baking powder
Cinnamon & Nutmeg Ganache
- 140 grams (4.9 oz) thickened cream (35% fat)
- pinch ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 60 grams (2 oz) milk chocolate
- 75 grams (2.6 oz) dark chocolate
- 100 grams (3.5 oz) your favourite chocolate
- 10 glace cherries
- 36 whole almonds, skin on
- 10 pistachios
- 36-40 whole roasted hazelnuts
- icing sugar, for dusting
Coconut Shortbread Pastry
1. Place the butter and icing sugar in mixing bowl and beat until smooth. In a Thermomix, 30 sec/speed 3. You may need to scrape down and mix again if not incorporated.
2. Add egg and coconut. Mix until combined or for 30 sec/speed 3.
3. Add flour, salt and baking powder. Combine, or in a Thermomix 20 sec/speed 3.
4. Once the pastry has come together, press into a neat, flat square and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Cinnamon & Nutmeg Ganache
5. In a saucepan, boil the cream, nutmeg and cinnamon.
6. Place both the milk couverture and dark couverture in a bowl.
7. Pour the hot mixture over the couverture and whisk by hand until the chocolate has fully melted.
8. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap touching the surface. Leave the ganache at room temperature for approx. 1-2 hours until it reaches a piping consistency.
Rolling the Pastry
9. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F). Lightly dust the bench with flour and cut the pastry in half.
10. Roll the pastry in two batches. Lightly dust the top of the first half of pastry and roll out to a 3mm thickness with a rolling pin. Keep moving the pastry and dusting it as you go to ensure it doesn’t stick.
11. Using a 70mm cutter, cut out discs. Cut the centre out of each disc with a 40mm cutter to create rings. Place the rings onto a silicone mat on top of a baking tray (perforated if you have one) or an aluminium tray lined with baking paper.
12. Reserve any offcuts and add them to the second batch of fresh dough. Repeat the process until you have 30 discs in total.
13. Bake for 10-12 minutes 160°C (320°F). Remove from oven and allow to cool at room temperature.
14. Transfer the ganache to a disposable piping bag fitted with an 8mm round piping tip.
15. Pipe a layer of ganache onto the ring. Place another ring on top and gently press it, ensure you don’t press it too hard or the ganache will spill out. Pipe another layer of ganache and set another ring on top.
16. Temper the couverture chocolate. In a Thermomix, warm chocolate to 50°C (120°F) by mixing 6 min/50°C (120°F)/speed 2, or until melted. Then stir without heat on speed 2 until temperature reduces to 37°C (100°F). (You can watch me temper chocolate when I’m making truffles.)
17. Quarter the glace cherries and cut the pistachios in half.
18. Prepare a paper piping cone (you can watch me make one in this ice cream video) and fill it with a small amount of tempered chocolate.
19. Pipe a drop of chocolate onto the nuts and cherries and decorate the top of the wreath, using the chocolate to secure them.
20. Dust with icing sugar prior to serving.
- Feel free to simplify this recipe by leaving some elements out or cutting a simpler shape.
- Use flour liberally when rolling out shortbread.
- See my Christmas Menu for more festive ideas.