Nibble on a festive and edible savoury or sweet Christmas tree
It’s a new take on the decorative item which is taking social media by storm
Christmas is the one time of the year when food can be fun, and this year social media has been abuzz with variations on the novel idea of an edible Christmas decoration — two pastry cut outs in the shape of a tree, with a filling of your choice, either sweet or savoury — and the choices are as interesting as the idea.
The fun part is cutting the “branches” on the filled pastry, which are then twirled before baking. The clever idea is also versatile: it can be an appetiser with a difference and certainly a talking point; or sweet with the classic filling of choice, that more-ish chocolate hazelnut spread. You could even add a sprinkling of toasted nuts or finely chopped glace cherries and raisins, soaked before in a little brandy if you fancy, to the chocolate filling.
Whatever your pick, it’s a hot and super-trendy idea. My plan is to make a savoury one and serve it with the Christmas pud, a cheese board and the essential shot of fortified wine.
Cape Town food photographer extraordinaire, recipe developer and stylist Hein van Tonder, listing his top recipes for the year on his popular Instagram @heinstirred, where he shares how to make it step-by-step, said his take is a pesto Parmesan pastry tree.
Describing it as a festive and easy appetiser with maximum reward for minimal effort, Van Tonder uses bought basil pesto and grated Parmesan (a cheddar, mozzarella or feta would also work) and suggests ringing the changes with a red pepper or sun-dried pesto. His sweet route ideas are chocolate hazelnut spread and tahini topped with finely chopped chocolate.
Using leftover pastry from the cut outs, he uses a star-shaped cookie cutter to make shapes to bake alongside the “tree”. Before you start, preheat the oven to 200°C and, just before baking, brush the pastry all over with lightly beaten egg and bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown.
A tip is to fill and cut out the shape on a baking tray instead of trying to move it from the counter to the baking tray. Or cut it out on a piece of greaseproof paper and then move both paper and pastry to the baking tray.
As the idea has caught on, you may find difficulty sourcing puff pastry from the supermarket. You can replace with short crust pastry. The end result won’t be as puffy or flaky but it won’t affect the flavour.
There’s a new vegan chocolate hazelnut spread on the market. Okja offers no compromise on the yummy flavour but is dairy-free and contains no palm oil. Available from Takealot and selected Spar stores.
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