Decorative biscuits, truffles and chutney make lovely homemade presents
Edible Christmas tree decorations
Gold, frankincense and myrrh they may not be, but who actually believed Jesus was grateful of them anyway? I’m sure he would have much preferred these multifunctional marvels, and so will your friends and relatives.
For the biscuits:
100g light soft brown sugar
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
For the icing:
2 tbsp warm water
125g icing sugar
Food colouring (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 180°c.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and then beat in the egg. If you hate the taste of Christmas and aren’t using cinnamon, add ½ a teaspoon of vanilla extract or some orange zest at this point.
In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon if you’re using it). Add these to the wet ingredients and mix to a soft dough.
Flatten the dough a bit, wrap it in cling film and stick in the fridge for an hour or so.
Once chilled, roll the dough out on a floured surface to just over half a centimetre. Use cookie cutters to cut out Christmas shapes and poke a hole in each.
Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
Pour the water into a bowl, sift in the icing sugar and mix. If you’re not flavouring the cookies with cinnamon then you could use the juice of half a lemon here instead. If you want multicoloured cookies, divide the icing between as many bowls as you want colours and mix in enough food colouring to make the icing as garish as possible.
Once the cookies are completely cooled, you can do the fun, messy bit. Smother some with icing and cover in sprinkles, or pour some icing into a piping bag and decorate that way. Make them personal, they are gifts after all!
The hole you poked into each cookie earlier wasn’t just my way of sabotaging your otherwise beautiful biscuits; push some ribbon through it and tie a knot to transform them into the perfect decorative adornments.
These truffles can be smartened up with toasted, crushed nuts, a melted chocolate coating or a simple dusting of cocoa. Present them in a little box with ribbon for a simple but deliciously rich gift.
150g dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa
150ml double cream
Grated nutmeg to taste
1/2 tsp salt
Almonds, chopped (to decorate)
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed on top of a saucepan filled with boiling water. Don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water! Meanwhile, heat the cream in a small saucepan. Add the ground or grated nutmeg and the salt to the cream while cooking so it infuses.
Add the cream to the chocolate a third at a time, stirring thoroughly to mix in. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then pour into a lined tray. Leave to set in the fridge for 3 hours or more, then scoop out the mixture and roll quickly into even balls, using cocoa powder to stop it sticking to your hands. Roll the shaped balls immediately in bowls of the coating. If using chocolate as a coating, melt white, milk or dark as before over a pan, then dip the balls in and leave to set on a non-stick surface.
Apricot and Orange Chutney
From the Queen of home cooking HRH Delia Smith’s Christmas Book this is a tasty festive relish ideal for an xmas hamper that shows homemade is best.
400g no-soak apricot cut into small chunks
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
225g of brown sugar
425ml cider vinegar
1 chopped medium onion
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 chopped cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Grated zest and juice of 1 small orange.
Put the coriander seeds in a warm pan and toss them around to toast. When they splutter tip them out and crush them lightly. Bring them to a simmer with all the other ingredients in a big saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover and simmer for 45 mins – 1 hour until the apricots are tender but chunky and the consistency is not too thick nor like a liquid jam. Spoon into jars (that have been washed or put in the oven at 150 for 10 minutes/run through a dishwasher to sterilize).
Top Tip: Make sure the jars are still warm so they don’t crack as you fill them.