Monday 29 December 2008

Christmas spice biscuits

OK, enough preserving for now. Time for instant gratification I feel! I wanted to make some pretty basic (but yummy) Christmas themed biscuits to take into work and turned to Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess for the basic recipe. I needed the biscuits to keep their shape rather than spreading out so chose the Butter cut-out biscuit recipe. I adapted it slightly and so I'll give you my recipe below. I wanted a variety of Christmas shapes, but was limited to stars because they are the only shape I have! I really wanted a snowflake, but no such luck!

UPDATE 30/12/08 I've found a tub of biscuit cutters, too late for this year, but they'll be good for next year - I'll have to put them somewhere 'safe' (and try to remember where that safe place is in 12 months time!).

To make my biscuits more interesting I decided to make window biscuits too, they always seem to impress people. I had a go at decorating some of the plain ones, but I was short of time and my decorating skills aren't up to much so I won't embarrass myself by publishing a photo of the attempt!

You can see the different colours in this one really well - I was quite impressed! Actually breaking up the sweets was really difficult. I don't know whether I bought particularly hard sweeties, but they took real force to smash and either went to dust or stayed as stubborn big pieces as you can see below.

Anyway, onto the recipe:

Butter cut-out biscuits
90g soft butter
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
spices of your choice; I added 1/2 tsp mixed spice, a pinch of cloves or allspice a quick shave of nutmeg
some grated orange or lemon zest would be a good addition

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 (you needn't do this yet, as the dough rests for an hour but I'll forget to put this later)
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and spices in another bowl.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix gently until all combined. If the mixture seems too soft add a little more flour, but mine was fine.
- Form the dough into a flat disc and wrap in clingfilm before chilling in the fridge for at least an hour (I found that it wasn't as much of a pain as I'd imagined because I was doing other things in the meantime - preserving, tidying, well perhaps not, or wrapping presents).
- Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to a thickness of about 0.5cm on a floured surface.
- Cut out suitably Christmassy shapes and put onto a baking sheet.
- Bake for 8-12 minutes until pale golden around the edges. Allow to cool for a minute or so before removing carefully to a wire rack to continue cooling completely.

Makes around 25-30 depending on size of cutter.

If you want to make window biscuits:

- Cut out biscuits as above, but make sure you have two sizes of the same shape cutter. Cut a smaller biscuit out of the middle of the larger biscuit and fill with smashed boiled sweets in various colours. You can do a mixture as I did, or stick to one colour if you've got a theme going. Green and red would (obviously) be very festive!
- The sweets were hard to deal with. I ended up with a sheet of clingfilm, with a sheet of silicone baking paper on top with the sweets on top of that. Fold over the baking paper and clingfilm to form a parcel and then bash hard with a rolling pin. NB Don't do this on a delicate surface - my wooden chopping board now has lots of dents in it!
These went down well wherever they went, which included work, home for J, T and A and then to a larger family gathering a few days after Christmas. I'm looking forward to making them next year with some more festive shapes and hopefully some more interesting decoration.

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