I’ve always had a fondness for Christmas. As a kid, I used to look forward to the 1st of December, when we would get to decorate the tree and the house. Back then our tree was a very 80s, very plastic tree with ombre green tips sticking off textured faux-timber branches, which I would adorn with as many baubles as humanly possible to hang from the plastic branches, and my favourite Christmas lights – a set of teeny, tiny plastic nativity scenes houses in different coloured half-baubles. I’d string tinsel from corner to corner in our living room, meeting in the centre of the room where another fabulous display of multi-coloured baubles would hang.
I’d eagerly await the delivery of our Sunday paper so that I could scour the TV guide to highlight all of the Christmas shows – Carols By Candlelight, The National Lampoons Family Vacation, Home Alone 1 and 2.
I’d trawl through my mothers Christmas cookbooks and magazines, selecting all of the dishes I wanted to help her make.
The house for the next 24 days would be an oasis of shiny, sparkly adornments; Christmas carols on repeat and cinnamon wafting from the kitchen.
But somewhere in amongst the Hallmark Christmas I adored and aspired to, my views got a little tarnished. Family break-ups and the loss of some people I loved dearly meant that Christmas no longer was that shiny, happy time of year where you spent the day with loved ones. In fact, Christmas became a time of year to dread and hope would pass quickly.
While I’m old enough now to know that Christmas is not what it’s made out to be on TVs, I still do love that idea of Christmas that I had as a kid. I still have mixed feelings about Christmas day itself, but the idea of Christmas, the magicalness (which my spellcheck tells me isn’t a real word, but I’m leaving in anyway) of it and the sense of excitement and joy in the air.
So I still watch Love Actually in the lead up to Christmas.
I still watch Nigella’s Christmas special.
I still bake.
And I still listen to Christmas carols. In fact, I have a pretty cool selection of festival favorites on Spotify which would make the perfect soundtrack for your Christmas baking time ;)
These Christmassy bliss balls are partly inspired by what Nigella calls the “trifecta of aromas that is Christmas” ; fruit, cinnamon and cloves.
I wanted a little snack that I could enjoy without feeling too heavy or like I’d over-indulged – because lets face it, with all of the celebrating and catch ups of the Christmas and New Year period, there are going to be plenty of other occasions for that.
These bliss balls are made a little differently from the standard throw-everything-in-the-processor bliss balls that you may be used to. By taking a little extra time to whip the dates into a creamy paste, and then the same with the nuts, you’ll end up with a really fudgy bliss ball that tastes a lot more decadent than what it actually is. I use this method for most of my bliss balls these days (except when Im feeling super lazy ;) and it really makes so much difference!
- 10 Medjool dates, pitted
- 1½ cups raw cashews (and/or hazelnuts)
- ⅓ cup raw cacao powder
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Pinch each dried ginger, ground cloves and grated nutmeg
- A few drops of good quality orange essence (or substitute Orange zest)
- Remove the pips from the dates, and add to food processor. Process until blended and creamy. The dates will first break down and then come together as a ball - keep processing past this. The ball will eventually break down and become creamy date butter.
- Scrape out the bowl, and place the date butter to the side.
- Without washing the bowl, add the cashews and do the same - note that it will take longer to turn the cashews into butter than the dates, and you may need to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. In my machine it took about 12 minutes to get a nice creamy butter, including time to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the date butter back to the processor bowl, as well as the cacao, salt, spices and orange flavouring.
- Process until well combined.
- Shape into balls and roll between your hands, and then place on a tray and freeze 1 - 2hours, or refrigerate overnight.
This also works well with hazelnuts (fresh or roasted), in place of (or 50/50 with) the cashews.
Wishing you all a fun, safe and delicious Christmas!