Cooking for everyone at Christmas can get overwhelming very fast. But thanks to Jo Pratt, we have a selection of edible Christmas gifts and snacks which are easy and quick to prepare.
These are called star biscuits for many reasons, firstly and obviously because of their shape, but they are also stars in the kitchen because of the way in which you can handle them. The biscuit dough is very robust as once made as you can’t over knead it. You can re-roll it as many times as required, which is particularly handy when kids are involved in helping!
The dough can be stored in the fridge or freezer once made and cooked on demand.
You can change the flavours to suit, plus you can make it vegan friendly (see flexible…).
Once cooked, they will keep crisp for well over a week, and also travel well without crumbling up. I could go on about why they deserve their title but how about you give them a go and see for yourself.
Time Taken: 25 minutes plus 30 minutes resting
Makes: approx. 20, using a 4-5cm cookie cutter
- 140g ground almonds
- 125g granulated sugar
- finely grated zest of ½ orange
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 25g cocoa powder
- 25g icing sugar
- 1 egg white
Put the almonds, caster sugar, orange zest and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder and icing sugar and mix together to combine.
Add the egg white and mix well until you have a smooth dough, turn onto the work top and knead lightly for a minute until smooth.
Shape into a disk, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge to rest for about 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 5.
Once rested, roll the dough between two pieces of parchment, to about ½ cm/ ¼ inch thick. Using a star shape cookie cutter, or in fact any shape you fancy, cut out the dough shapes. Bring together the trimmings, re-roll and continue until all of the dough is used.
Sit the cookies on parchment lined baking tray. They won’t spread when cooking so you should get them all on the same tray. Cook for 12-14 minutes, until the bases are slightly crisp but the middles remain just a little soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. As they cool they will firm up even more. Store in an airtight container. They should stay crisp for up to 2 weeks.
Vegan/Egg-Free: Swap the egg whites for 1 tbsp chia seeds mixed with 4 tbsp. cold water. Leave to thicken for 10 minutes before mixing into the dry ingredients. The biscuits will probably need a further 1-2 minutes of cooking time until they are firm on the base with the middle still a little soft. They will firm up more when cooling.
Festive Spice: add ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground ginger and ¼ tsp ground cloves to the dry mixture, either with or without the orange zest.
These are delightfully easy to make and a great savoury alternative to sweet biscuits for children to have a go at making.
I like to use a combination of flavours and toppings to the biscuits to vary them up, and get children interested in trying new flavours.
Time taken: 40 minutes
Makes: approximately 20
- 160g plain flour (all white or half and half wholemeal if you prefer)
- ½ tsp ground paprika, or ½ tsp English mustard powder, or 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 100g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into dice
- 100g mature cheddar cheese, finely grated
- 1 large egg yolk
To decorate (optional):
- Roughly chopped walnuts or pecan nuts
- Finely grated parmesan cheese
- Sesame seeds or poppy seeds
Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 5.
Put the flour, paprika, mustard powder or rosemary and butter into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheese then add the egg yolk, mixing with a fork. Once the mixture starts to form clumps, bring it together with your hands. Kneading lightly to form a ball.
Tear off two large sheets of baking paper and roll out the dough to about 3-5mm thick and cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Using a palate knife, lift onto the baking trays, leaving just a small gap between each one. Re-roll any trimmings until you’ve used all of the dough.
Bake in the oven for 16 minutes or until they are lightly golden – depending on the thickness and size of cutter you may need to add a few more minutes of cooking time.
Cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Hot Chocolate Stirrers
These are so much fun to make and the end result looks amazing. Customise them with different chocolate and toppings and wrap in cellophane bags, tied with ribbon. Store in a cool place once made.
Time Taken: 30 minutes plus 3-4 hours setting
- 300g dark, white or milk chocolate, or selection of all
- A selection of mini fudge pieces, mini marshmallows, chocolate chunks, sprinkles, freeze dried raspberry pieces, smarties etc
Plus you’ll also need:
- Silicone mini muffin cases, large ice-cube tray or clean and lightly oiled empty mini yoghurt pots
- 12 small paper cake cases
- 12 wooden lollipop sticks or wooden teaspoons
Gently melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of gently simmering water, keeping them separate if you are using more than one type of chocolate.
Carefully pour or spoon the chocolate into the moulds, using just one type of chocolate or swirling in a mixture.
Scatter over your chosen toppings and place a lollypop stick or small wooden spoon into the middle. Pierce a slit/hole in the middle of the base of the paper cake cases and slide a cake case over the top of the sticks to hold them in place. Chill in the fridge to set.
Once set, carefully remove the chocolate sticks from the moulds and wrap in your choice of packaging, with a label attached reading ‘stir into a cup of hot milk’
Festive Spiced Apple Wine
Tine taken: 15 minutes
- 1 bottle white wine
- 400ml cider or apple juice
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 2 star anise
- 8-10 cloves
- 100g demerara sugar
- Strips of rind from 1 orange
Put all of the ingredients in a saucepan. And place the pan over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and continue to heat for about 10 minutes until all of the flavours infused.
Make sure you don’t allow the wine. To boil otherwise you will lose all of the alcohol. Serve in heat proof glasses and enjoy.
For more fabulous recipes from Jo, head to her website.