Becs: I know Whittakers has featured here before but they do make great quality, affordable chocolate. My current favourite is their new Berry and Biscuit (love the name!) Basically like black forest but not as sickly sweet as the Cadbury version. If you live in the South Island Whittakers is on special this week at New World for 2 for $6, I for one will be stocking up on their Dark Ghana for last-minute Christmas baking.
Libby: I tried this Paneton sweet short pastry at a Julie Buiso class in Auckland a few months ago. Yes, even the professionals use the bought stuff sometimes and why not when it's this good? It has a lovely biscuity texture and comes pre-rolled so it's very easy to use. After finding it wasn't available in anywhere in Wellington I asked Moore Wilson (several times!) if they could please find room in their freezer to stock it. I also emailed Paneton to ask if they could get Moore Wilson to stock it. And a few weeks later I heard back to from Paneton to say Moore Wilson had come round! Wellingtonians, you've got me to thank for this one!
I used some to make these delicious wee frangipane-topped fruit mince tarts... cut pastry into circles, press into the base of muffin tins (or shallow patty tins if you have them), spoon in a tablespoon of fruit mince (I used Ruth Pretty's recipe here), top with a dollop of frangipane (cream 50g butter and 50g sugar, add an egg and 50g ground almonds) and slivered almonds and bake at 180 degrees C for 15 minutes.