Have you ever been on the BakingMad.com website before? It’s jam packed full of tons and tons and TONS of recipes, loads of inspiration and a cakesbakesandcookies.com cake or two! (See here and here if you’re interested!) They’ve really revamped the website since the last time I was on there. Now there’s an array of baking images to greet you from the get go. And if you’re looking for a touch of Christmas baking gift inspiration – I’m thinking teachers here, then there’s loads of choices there too.
Beau and Darcey always want to give ALL their teachers a Christmas gift, so that’s their class teacher, the teacher who has them when their class teacher is planning, the teacher’s assistant, the teacher that helps them with extra maths or English…. the list goes on and on and let’s face it I’m not made of money and I love to bake, so it’s a no brainer really. Enter Bakingmad.com and their gingerbread man wreath. How cute it this? Such a simple idea.
So, you can imagine how excited I was to be set the challenge of making one of their Christmas recipes to share with you guys (in exchange for a box load of flour, essence and some yummy Bilington’s sugars- thanks you guys!)
When the BakingMad team asked me which recipe I was going to make I said the peppermint candy canes, then the chocolate fudge cake and then finally I decided that it had to be this wreath. I have actually made the chocolate cake too but more on that in another post! The wreath was super easy to make. You simply cut out the shapes – I made some from gingerbread men and snowflakes. Place the biscuits on a sheet of silicon paper. I used circles of paper so I could follow the shape of the paper and keep it neat. Once all in position I gave the holding hands a gentle press just to make sure they stuck together whilst baking- and they did. I was surprised how well the wreath held together once baked but then I did make pretty thick biscuits!
Once out of the oven I threaded ribbon through the gaps. I made a few extra gaps with a metal skewer and finished off with a bow. Cute hey? I have to say that I really enjoyed making these. I was singing away to myself the whole time!
So, that’s the teachers sorted – now for the rest of the family!
So what are you guys making for gifts this year? I’d love to know.
This week I have been baking non stop! First when we had friends come to stay at the beginning of the week and then all day Thursday and Friday with my mum for the big Summer Fete at the Synagogue (Shul) which is happening today. And on Friday I baked a birthday box of cookies for another good friend.
Keeping Kosher means that you don’t mix meat meals with anything with dairy in it (yes that means no cheeseburgers) and as there’s going to be a BBQ later on today at Shul all the food has to be dairy free or what we call parev (ok to eat with meat and milk meals). I was asked to get involved with the fete and bake some cakes and of course I enlisted the help of my super mum.
I had to come up with some cake suggestions that could be made to eat on the day as well as some to sell for people to take home with them. I have to say that I didn’t know where to start. I mean, I can think up loads of cakes but when it comes to quantities I was flummoxed! In the end the lovely, patient organisers ( I say that as I kept going AWOL on shoots in the lead up to the event and was a bit difficult to get hold of- sorry ladies!) made the decision and then during baking me and mum changed it all!
60 Choc chip cookies (half on sticks for the wigglers)
In place of butter we used a kosher, dairy free alternative called Tomar for all the bakes. It’s a vegetable spread in butter or margarine form and I have used it quite a lot for desserts after a meat meal, but I thought I had better try it out on the cookies as I didn’t want them to be a big sticky mess on the baking sheet at shul.
I was right to test them out! They did spread and turned really greasy. So I had to adapt my regular favorite cookie recipe by reducing the Tomar and adding more flour. Bingo! That worked a treat – but they did need more chocolate chips as the butter flavour was missing. End result. Really good!
So here it is.
Parev / Dairy free chocolate chip cookie recipe
(Makes around 60 cookies- but you can freeze some to bake later)
200g Tomar – at room temperature
350g light brown sugar
100g golden caster sugar
1 egg- lightly beaten
2 tsp spoon vanilla essence
500g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g dark chocolate chips
To make the cookies
Mix the Tomar and sieved sugars together until pale and fluffy. With a food mixer this will take around 2-3 minutes.
Add the egg and sieved dry ingredients to the butter mix and blend well.
Add the chocolate chips
Roll into balls and chill in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight if you are baking them without freezing.
To Freeze: place the balls of cookie dough on a baking tray and place them in the freezer. Once completely frozen place the balls in a labeled sandwich bag ready for another baking day.
If you want the cookies on sticks then add them before they are chilled. Stick them in the centre of a dough ball. As the cookie flattens during baking it will form a perfect circular cookie on a stick.
To bake: Heat your oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan) and line a baking tray with silicon paper
The cookies will spread so place each dough ball on the baking tray leaving plenty of space around each one. I bake 9 on each tray. If baking from the fridge bake for exactly 10 minutes. If baking from the freezer bake for exactly 12 minutes. The cookies will look like they aren’t cooked but don’t worry they are. They may also appear a bit puffy. The puffiness will deflate and leave a lovely cracked or chocolate chip yumminess on each cookie.
Once baked remove the tray from the oven and place it on the cooling rack. Leave the cookies on the baking tray for five minutes then carefully place them directly on a cooling tray. The cookies are very soft when they come out of the oven so don’t attempt to remove them from the tray until they have cooled a bit. They will just squish into a big gooey mess if you touch them too soon.
Eat them up while they are still warm. That’s when they taste the best.
My girls had seen so many test runs that you would think that they would be sick of the sight of cookies. But no. They still want them EVERY DAY!!!
I’ve been wanting to practice my cookie icing skills recently and there’s no better time than when there’s the arrival of a new baby to celebrate. In fact there were four babies within the space of a week at Easter! I made these for two of my friends who obviously had boys. One was Benjamin and one Harry, so I added B’s and H’s to make them a touch more personal.
The cookies were made from Vanilla Cookie dough (recipe below) and I used the technique as described by Ruth Clemens from The Pink Whisk to get the consistency of the Royal icing just right. She says that you make the Royal icing till it forms a ribbon trail. Lift your spoon up and let one of those ribbons drop across the middle of the bowl and count how long it takes to completely disappear. It should be 10 seconds. You can see the video here. This was really helpful to me as I never seemed to be able to get the consistency of the Royal icing quite right and I also always had different results. This way the end result is always the same.
Vanilla Cookie recipe
(Makes around 20 biscuits)
200g unsalted butter- at room temperature
200g caster sugar
400g plain flour
1 egg – at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
To make the cookies
Place the butter in a bowl. Add the sugar, flour, egg and vanilla essence.
Mix all the ingredients by hand. I always mix biscuits by hand as the warmth from your hands means that it’s all being blended really well and for some reason they taste much better than when mixed with a machine. You can always start the mixing with a wooden spoon if you don’t like gloopy hands.
Be careful not to overmix biscuit dough. It will not only become tough, but the biscuits will spread more when baked and we want them to keep their shape perfectly.
Once it is nearly all blended I turn the dough out onto the worktop and knead it till it all holds together nicely.
Wrap the dough in cling film and pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This allows the gluten in the flour to do it’s stuff. Without chilling the cookie shapes will definitely contort when baked.
Remove from the fridge and knead a little on a lightly floured surface. Roll out using spacing sticks to ensure that your biscuits are all the same thickness.
Cut out the cookies then remove the excess first. This way you can pick up the biscuit without denting it.
Place on a baking tray lined with silicon paper and pop back in the fridge for another 30 minutes. This ensures the cookies bake slowly and don’t spread. It’s the easiest way to make sure each design is exactly the same.
Pre-heat your oven to 160°C then bake for 12 minutes or until the biscuits start to brown on the edges
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Royal Icing recipe
3 heaped tsp of Meri White (dried egg white substitute available from cake decorating shops and Amazon)
3 tbsp water
300g icing sugar
How to make Royal icing
Start by dissolving the Meriwhite in the water in a large mixing bowl.
Add the icing sugar and mix till combined. You will need to scrape down any sugar that has stuck to the sides of the bowl. Continue to mix for around 10 minutes until the icing sugar is smooth and glossy.
Royal icing dries out really quickly so pop it in an air tight container as soon as it’s ready.
Add colour with a toothpick then fill your piping bag. Make sure you make enough to line and fill your cookies. It’s hard to match a colour if you run out.
How to decorate your cookies
Pipe and outline on each cookie. This should be the same colour as the one you will fill it with so for the baby bottle the bottom should be white and the teat part yellow.
Leave the outline to dry for around ½ an hour. This will give it a chance to set and you’ll be able to handle the cookie much easier. I damaged loads of the outlines as I handled them too soon.
Add a drop or two of water to the royal icing mix to make it a bit more runny and fill in the cookie. If there are any bubbles pop them now with a toothpick. Leave to dry completely. This may take an hour. It may take longer.
Once completely dry pipe an outline on each cookie and any extra details like measurements on the bottles and details on the baby grow. Again, leave to dry.
These cookies will last a week in an air tight container so bake and decorate on one day so you can give them as a gift and they will last a bit longer.
My mum has a famous Kichal recipe- well, it’s famous in our family anyway. Whenever she needs to make some biscuits to take to someones house these are what she takes. She cuts them in a crinkly circle and adds either a slither of chopped almond or a tiny piece of cherry on the top and she keeps them nice and thin. That’s the secret. To bake them long enough to be cooked right through but not so long as they go too brown. If truth be told I am the first to eat the ‘burnt’ ones as they are just as tasty- they’re just the wrong colour! Then she piles them high. They never last very long!
When my mum gave me this recipe I wrote it on the inside cover of the red book. The back cover has a pancake recipe on it. (I have had this book for a very long time!) I was talking to my sister about it and it turns out she has mum’s recipe written inside her red book too. I think I feel a family tradition coming on!
Almond biscuit recipe
Makes around 50 biscuits
226g (1 cup or 2 sticks) butter at room temperature
460g (3 ½ cups) Self raising Flour
226g (1 ¼ cup) caster sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp water
½ tea spoon almond essence/ extract
How to make Almond biscuits
Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature- especially the butter and eggs.
Pre- heat your oven to 160ºC (140ºC Fan) and line your baking sheet with silicon paper
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until it forms a ball of dough. You can use a food processor or stand mixer but the best way to mix is with your hands as their warmth will combine the ingredients in a way that makes them taste the best. I’ve tried it all ways and by hand always wins- hands down!
This makes quite a lot of dough so I will often knead two balls and freeze one. It will defrost in about 30 mins and it’s always great to have some ready to go. Whether you want to chill or freeze, wrap the dough in clingfilm. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
Once you are ready to roll out, lightly dust your surface and knead the dough. If it’s really sticky add just a little flour. The dough will soften quickly as you handle it so handle it as little as possible.
For really thin biscuits roll out the dough to a depth of around the size of a coin then cut out your shapes and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes then turn the baking sheet around inside the oven so the biscuits bake evenly. Bake for a further 5 minutes. You know they are done when the edges start to brown ever so slightly. Watch them like a hawk if you don’t want them to burn.
Place the cookies on a cooling rack and try to resist eating them hot!
Now, I know that I said this was a Valentine free zone this morning, but I couldn’t resist sharing with you my cookies for AchicaLiving.com. Have I mentioned that I write for them? Well I do. They asked me to do a recipe for Valentines day and these are what I came up with. I did some hearts as they are more generic but I also did some words. You can see the post complete with recipe and more designs here.
For a modern twist on a mince pie these swirls are easy to make. What’s more you can assemble and freeze them ready to bake straight from the freezer on Christmas day. They taste best when warm from the oven with a dollop of cream. I’ve made them 5 times so far – testing the best combinations/ types of mincemeat & pastry / how thick the marzipan should be etc and I think I’ve really nailed it. My sister tried them and siad “they were the best thing I had made in a long time” I’m not sure if that means they taste really good or everything else I have made recently hasn’t tasted good! I’m going with the deeelish option!
225g Butter at room temperature
460g Self Raising flour
225g golden caster sugar
1 egg (+ 1 egg to make an egg wash)
1 tbsp water
½ table spoon vanilla or Almond extract
Jar of good quality mince meat (I used M&S’ finest one)
100g flaked almonds
icing sugar to dust
How to make Mince pie Swirls
To make the pastry place all the ingredients into a bowl. Mix until it forms a firm dough. Do the last bit of mixing with your hands. You can use a food processor but make sure you don’t over work the dough or it will become tough. Cover with cling film and leave to firm up in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper and warm your oven up to 180ºC (160ºC fan oven) Knead and roll out the pasty into a large rectangle and set aside
Roll out the marzipan (use icing sugar to stop it sticking to the surface) till it’s really thin. Thin enough to see through.
Lay the marzipan over the dough and roll them together.
Spread the mince meat over the pasty. Avoid going too near the edges as it will spill out whilst baking. I cut the dough into a neat square to make it more even to cut. Roll the length of pastry, tucking in as you go.
Cut the swirls from the roll around 2cm thick. Use a sawing action, rather than pressing down with a knife when cutting to keep the shape as round as possible. This was one of my first attempts. As you can see they look pretty squishy. If you place the roll in the fridge for half an hour (or even overnight) it will be really firm and a doddle to cut.
Mix up an egg and use a pastry brush to cover each swirl with egg wash then cover with almond flakes.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Leave for a minute or two before transferring from the baking tray to the cooling rack. If you pick them up too early they will break.
Once cooled a little sprinkle icing sugar over the top and serve while still warm.