Just before Christmas 2010, Hotel Chocolat finally opened in Newcastle, nestled among the jewellery shops on Blackett Street. The staff welcomed shoppers with trays of complimentary chocolates and remained friendly and helpful each time I “popped by” that day. This year as an early Christmas gift, Hotel Chocolat offered me more free chocolate from their Christmas menu and sent me a tin of Milk Chocolate Cinnamon Almonds.
My family love nuts. We eat nut roast on Christmas Day. My grandparents used to get extra nut rations during the War, claiming to be vegetarian (to be fair, they were). And a favourite Christmas treat when I was a child was a wooden bowl filled with almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and brazilnuts in their shells, which my mum would crack open while we watched TV. Looking back, I can’t quite see why this seemed so much fun. Maybe it was the novelty. Maybe it was because we didn’t have Xbox.
Thankfully the Hotel Chocolat almonds came ready shelled and - joy upon joys - caramelised and coated in milk chocolate. They have “a warm hint of cinnamon” – to be honest, if this were a hint to a crossword clue I’d be asking for another, but not everybody likes cinnamon as much as I do.
A fellow Newcastle food blogger had written a great review here of the very same almonds and had had the brilliant idea of baking them in biscotti.
I wondered what I could bake with the almonds that I hadn’t already eaten. Eventually I opened a little-used cupboard and the answer was staring me in the face: I didn't need to bake. I have an ice cream machine.
Recipe: Milk Chocolate Almond Cinnamon Ice Cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 100g caster sugar
- 300ml milk
- 300ml double cream
- 1tsp vanilla essence
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon (I WILL have my cinnamon way)
- 125g Hotel Chocolat milk chocolate almonds, roughly chopped. You can use more if you haven’t <ahem> eaten the rest
- Slowly heat the milk to boiling point in a pan and whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar in a bowl
- While still beating, pour the milk into the egg and sugar mixture
- Return the pan to the heat but do not let it boil or the mixture will separate. Stir constantly until the custard is thick enough to form a film over the back of a spoon.
- Leave to cool. Once cold, add the cream, vanilla essence and cinnamon and pour into the ice cream maker
- Once the ice cream has started to thicken after about 10 minutes, add the chopped almonds
I was left with four egg whites, a perfect excuse to make meringues. I piped them in the shape of Christmas trees and added some tiny silver dragees.
The result was a perfect Christmas treat - chocolate, almonds, cinnamon and meringue – masquerading as a snow globe. Happy Christmas!