With an onslaught of Christmas merchandise in the shops from September I sometimes find I have been overexposed to premature merriment by the time December comes around and struggle to find my festive spirit. But there is always one activity that never fails to get me in the festive mood and that is a good old fashioned Christmas baking session. I love to stick some cheesy Christmas songs on in the background and whip up a massive batch of mince pies then liberally dust my kitchen with icing sugar to get the full on ‘it’s snowing’ effect!
I also think edible treats can provide great gifts for friends and relatives and I can often be found making rum spiked truffles or gingerbread tree decorations at this time of year. Last year for Christmas I received a build your own Christmas tree biscuit making kit and so thought this year I would combine my festive baking session with a bit of Christmas decoration creation. The kit contains 5 star shaped biscuit cutters of increasing size as well as a base and wooden rod to construct the tree about.
I decided to use 2 different biscuit recipes, an orange and a chocolate recipe and cut out three of each sized star in each of these flavours. Once cooled I stacked these biscuits up over the wooden rod, sandwiching a little glace icing between each layer. Finally I decorated the tree with drizzles of the left over glace icing before dousing the structure in green glittery sprinkles. And voila a great centre piece for any Christmas table (I’m taking mine as a contribution to a friend’s Christmas party).
The same effect could easily be achieved without a pre-bought kit and you could use cookie cutters you already have available, such as a series of concentric circles, or alternatively make some star shaped templates out of cardboard and use a knife to carefully cut around these to mark out the biscuit shapes. Then you could use something like a chopstick down the middle of the tower to provide a little extra stability, just remember to punch a small circle in the centre of each biscuit prior to baking so that there is a little hole in the centre of each. And decorate with whatever you have lurking in your cupboards. For a more traditional bit of Christmas baking, the following gingerbread recipe would also make a great base for this activity:
300g plain flour
100g spelt flour
¾ tsp baking powder
2tsp ground ginger
2tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
25g crystalline ginger
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g soft dark brown sugar or dark muscovado sugar
50g maple syrup
75g golden syrup
Sift both of the flours, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and allspice in a large bowl.
Put the butter and sugars into a separate bowl and beat together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Then beat in the egg, the maple syrup and golden syrup until combined.
Finally add the dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon tom combine everything together until a stiff dough is formed.
Wrap the dough in cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour before using. Alternatively you can freeze the dough at the stage and dig out for later use.
When ready to make your biscuits pre-heat the oven to 170°C (325°F).
Lightly flour a surface and roll the dough out to about half a centimetre thick. Cut out into your desired shaped and transfer to a baking tray lined with non-stick baking parchment.
Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden in colour.
Julia Calderwood continues to share her creativity in the kitchen via her blog Something Missing, which you can follow here