I’ve been doing a bit of baking and thought you might like to try these cookies. They’re tasty and sweet and go down well with a good coffee. They’re not so much dunkers but are moist and chewy – try them for yourself.
Every year I buy a few tree decorations. Do you find that no matter how carefully you put yours away there’s always some damage to them? This year I bought a little robin on a bell. Robins are special to me. They remind me of my mother. We didn’t have the greatest relationship and now she’s gone. Her childhood was very sad. Her own mother had died on a Christmas Eve and she had ended up in care. Her life wasn’t easy and she didn’t get a lot of love.
She always tried to make Christmas happy, though. And she loved birds, especially robins, so decorating my tree with them is one way I honour her memory and wish her a Happy Christmas to let her know she will never be forgotten and is in my heart.
And so I spotted this sweet little robin and soon had it perched in my tree:
Remember the Fat Face robot santa – here he is!
I bought a couple of other Christmassy bits – I have to confess I bought the snowman for the tin and not the shortbread. He is so cute and will come out again next year – he’d make a great jellybean tub!
I got some linen pieces out to practice embroidery stitches and found some nice little things I’d been working on a while ago. I want to work on some new stuff and am inspired by a book I got for Christmas, ‘Zacca Embroidery’ by Yumiko Higuchi. Watch this space!
The Christmas cake finally got marzipanned so good progress there. And now for the ambitious bit. I want to make some gingerbread panels in the shapes of houses and trees to go around the sides and a mini gingerbread house on top.
First step was to measure the circumference of the cake to find out how many and how big each panel should be. I then measured the depth. I don’t mind the houses and trees standing a little proud of the cake but not too much.
Next step was to sit down with Illustrator and design the panels to the size of the cake. Here are mine:
I’m going to make up the gingerbread dough and cut around the outer shapes and bake them. The houses will be stuck to the cake with Royal Icing. The trees will stand slightly in front in ‘snowfalls’ of icing.
When it comes to decorating the panels those mavens of the internet recommend that the gingerbread be left for two to three days to soften slightly. Then comes the genius bit – prick the design through the paper and either dust over the top of the paper with sifted icing sugar to leave an outline or remove the paper and join the dots of the patterns by scratching them together with a pin. Then you have your guide lines for piping icing. Brilliant.
To decorate the top of the cake, I want to make a miniature gingerbread house. Here is my template:
I’m going to say right here and now that the lacy-edged roof panels won’t happen! I got a bit carried away on the frilly detail there. They will be rounded off for sure! The panels will be cut from gingerbread and ‘glued’ together with royal icing.
What’s left to say?
Would you like the recipe?
275g / 9.75 oz Plain Flour
100g / 3.5oz butter
90g / 3.25 oz Golden Syrup
75g / 2.5 oz sugar
40g / 1.5 oz Treacle
1 Egg Yolk
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1.5 tsp Ground Cinnamon
0.5 tsp Ground Ginger
0.5 tsp Ground Cloves
Mix the butter, syrup and treacle into a large saucepan over a low heat until melted and blended together. Stir in the spices. Take the mixture off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes then stie in the egg yolk. Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda into the mixture and blend well.
Take the mixture out of the bowl and wrap it in clingfilm. Put it in the fridge to firm up.
When the mixture is ready, roll out as evenly as you can and cut out your biscuit shapes. Place them on a baking tray with more space than you’d usually give for other types of biscuits (this mixture tends to spread) and then put the tray into the fridge for ten minutes or so.
Finally, bake at 180 fan oven or gas mark 5 for 10 to 15 minutes.
Leave them to cool thoroughly before icing. If you want to prick your design, leave them for two to three days, by which time they will have softened to make this a relatively easy task.
ROYAL ICING FOR PIPING AND FLOODING
2lbs / 900g Icing Sugar
4 Egg Whites
2 fl oz / 60 ml Water
Whisk the ingredients together in a large bowl. For piping thin lines, see how many seconds it takes for the surface of your icing to smooth over. Between 9 – 10 seconds is a good consistency for piping. You’ll need a fine piping nozzle for this.
For flood icing, to fill in between the piped lines, the icing will smooth over in approximately 6 seconds. You don’t want it to be watery and runny but gently flowing and pourable. I use a coffee stirrer – those wooden lollipop sticks you get in Starbucks to spread the flood icing.
Obviously, you will make more or less depending on the quantity of biscuits you make.
I will make more to cover the cake and will add some gelatine to it to stop it from setting like concrete. The consistency for that will not smooth over and will stand in round peaks if slapped with a spatula. I want it to look rough and snowy. It will coat the cake and will constitute the adhesive for sticking the panels on with.
So, you have my ambitious plan and the templates and the recipes! Maybe you have a go – I’d love to see the results and yours will probably be a lot better than mine! Wish me luck and on that note, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas.