Spiced Christmas cookies

Jules Durrant has been Christmas baking, and shared this recipe for classic spiced cookies. Great as an edible gift or transformed into tasty tree decorations, we think they are rather lovely. Nice one, Jules.

I first started decorating my tree with homemade cookie decorations while living in London and being under the spell of a cold Northern Hemisphere Christmas. I continue the tradition now that I am home in sunny South Africa because people just seem to love them – they always comment on how pretty they look hanging amongst the fairy lights, plus they make for a great after-dinner snack for festive entertaining! They are simple to make so I would encourage you to give these a try and give them to your friends and family to hang on their own Christmas trees.

Ingredients (makes about 20):

400g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
100g treacle sugar
200g salted butter softened and diced
80g golden syrup
A splash of water or half a beaten egg

Method:

1. Making dough in a stand mixer or food processor (with a paddle attachment) is a dream but you can also make it by hand. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a mixing bowl, then add the sugar and mix to combine.
2. Drop in your cubes of softened butter and mix on low speed until it resembles fine bread crumbs. You can also do this by using the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the flour.
3. Once the butter is evenly mixed through, pour in the golden syrup. At this point it is easiest to stop the mixer and use your hands to bring the mixture together to form a soft dough. Combine everything lightly and if it feels too sticky and is too crumbly, add a splash of water or half a beaten egg.
4. Lightly bring the dough together in a ball and divide in half to form two flat discs to be rolled separately (it’s just easier that way). Handling the dough as little as possible at this stage will make rolling and cutting much easier.
5. Roll your dough to a thickness of 5mm. Rolling the dough between two sheets of greaseproof paper instead of using flour, and in two batches, stops it becoming dry.
6. Cut out your shapes with the Christmas cookie cutters. Dip each cutter into flour before you cut to make it easier. Skewer a hole through the shapes you would like to make into decorations.

10. Place each shape onto a greased baking tray or Silpat mat (I use the greaseproof paper I rolled the dough between to line the tray) leaving plenty of room between each to allow the heat to flow around them for even baking.
11. Once the shapes have all been cut, place the baking tray(s) in the fridge to chill for at least 20-30 minutes before baking. Chilling the dough ensures that the shapes don’t ‘bleed’ and keeps a nice, sharp edge to the designs.
12. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
13. Bake the cookies for roughly 15 minutes – they will darken ever so slightly around the edges and your kitchen will smell delicious when they are ready.

Icing the cookies:

1. Once the cookies are done, transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely before icing.
2. While they are cooling, mix up a batch of royal icing to the consistency of toothpaste (similar to what you would use for the outline of flood-iced biscuits)
3. Now comes the fun part – colouring the icing. I use gel colours as the pigment is much stronger than regular liquid colouring, plus it won’t dilute your icing mixture. Choose a few Christmassy colours like green and red, and leave some icing white as well.

4. Decant the coloured icing into separate piping bags with small, round tip nozzles or, even better, use the squeezy bottles from the Cuisipro Cupcake Corer Decorating Set which I highly recommend.
5. Gently pipe your design onto each cookie – I always think a simple outline looks pretty but you could just as easily flood-ice them or add detail to the cookies in the form of polka dots, stripes or swirls.

6. If you want to add silver balls or edible glitter, do so while the icing is still wet to give it a chance to adhere.
7. Leave to dry overnight before threading with lengths of 2-4mm cotton ribbon and hanging on the tree to be adored and admired!

Download the print-friendly recipe if you are keen to give these gems a try. We love them and have some hanging on our Yuppiechef office Christmas tree. Happy, tasty days.