Christmas cookie swap: festive caraway and cinnamon biscuit recipe

Christmas Cookies - Ink Sugar Spice

This year I’m participating in the festive cookie swap run by the wonderful (and award winning) blog “Jul’s Kitchen“, and thanks to a Twitter invite by the lovely Lucy Antal. Juls has stated that 230 people worldwide have participated this year, from countries as diverse as Taiwan and Argentina. Bakers only have to swap with those in their own country though.

If you’d like to read Jul’s blog post for the 2019 challenge you can here, though it’s now too late to join up for 2019. Perhaps set yourself a reminder for early November 2020 your calendar to get involved next year? Jul’s Kitchen is a collaboration between Giulia Scarpaleggia, a Tuscany-based food writer, photographer and tutor and her partner Tommaso Galli, who runs the communication, marketing and assists with tutoring.

The premise is to share the festive love! Bake a couple of batches of biscuits and dispatch them across the country, and you’ll receive cookies back. What’s not to love?! Sharing, having an excuse to bake, feeling festive, giving and receiving gifts and connecting with others.

If you want to look out for what the 230 participating people have shared then search for the hashtags #cookieswap2019 #julskitchen

I was delighted to receive some gorgeous Lancashire tosset biscuits from Lucy Antal and some Calzoncelli biscuits (in a little jar, with a cute pot of lemon curd!) from Katlin Stevens. Thank you ladies!

Here’s my Christmas biscuit recipe that I’ve developed and used for this cookie swap. It produces a relatively dry biscuit, as they did need to get posted. So, this recipe is idea for gifting – through the post or wrapped beautifully and hand delivered with love.

Notes

  • Makes about 35
  • Instead of dusting with icing sugar, for extra luxe dip in melted chocolate to finish

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Large bowl
  • Two baking sheets, lined
  • Fine sieve
  • Wire cooling rack(s)
  • Wooden spoons, scales

Ingredients

  • 70g of olive oil – I used Filippo Berio’s Classico (your choice of oil to meet your taste preference, but anything from a mild to an extra virgin will work: anything more special/rich/highly flavoured will affect the taste too much)
  • 112g black treacle
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 345g plain flour, preferably tipo 00
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 80g soft brown sugar
  • 1 medium – large egg
  • zest of one orange
  • plus you may need 15-20ml milk (depending on the size of the egg you used and humidity/dryness of other ingredients)
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Method

  • Warm your oven to 190° C fan / 210° C conventional or 400° F and set the shelves to the middle of your oven
  • Prepare two baking sheets with greaseproof paper or baking parchment
  • Weigh the black treacle and the olive oil both out into the saucepan and then add in the caraway seeds
  • Warm the treacle and oil over a low heat, while stirring with a wooden spoon, until the treacle softens and you can stir the two together (they naturally do not want to combine until warmed). Do not turn the heat up or the treacle will bubble
  • Once mixed, turn off the heat – do not keep on the heat longer than necessary
  • Weigh out all the other ingredients into your mixing bowl: flour, baking powder, all three spices, cocoa, vanilla extract, orange zest, sugar and egg and roughly mix them together
  • Using a sieve over the mixing bowl, pour out the oil and treacle mix so that the caraway seeds are captured in the sieve. (They’ve flavoured the oil and treacle but are now not needed)
  • Mix all the ingredients together
  • You may need a little extra milk if your ingredients feel powdery and are not coming together (this is normally due to a smaller size egg, but other things like lack of humidity in your kitchen etc can effect this). Add 15 ml of milk at first, and see if that is enough. Add a little more in tiny increments until you are satisfied – the mix should be robust but clump together well
  • Take a walnut-sized amount of dough (if you wish to be more precise, 20g of dough is a perfect size) and roll it in your palms to make a rough ball
  • Slightly squash the dough ball, so it becomes more disc-shaped and place on the baking tray
  • These biscuits do not spread much, so you can place them about 1-2 cm apart
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes
  • Transfer to wire racks to cool and dust with icing sugar when completely cooled
Christmas Cookies - Ink Sugar Spice

Chocolate-hazelnut spread sandwich biscuits

Gorgeous and deceptively easy to make sandwich biscuits. I normally waffle on for ages before my recipes, but there’s little to say except go make these! They only take about 20 mins of actual preparation (ignoring the rest-in-the-fridge time and cooling) and bake even quicker.

Use any gianduja, Nutella or similar spread for this. It’s unlike me to not make everything from scratch, but I needed a quick show-stopper cookie and a jar of pre-made saved a lot of time.

Notes

  • These biscuits get a little extra ‘snap’ with the addition of semola/semolina flour (made from hard durum wheat). However, you can just use ALL plain flour instead (so use 270g plain flour) or you can substitute rice flour for the semola
  • I cut out the little shaped holes in the biscuits before baking, but I also re-cut them after they had just been baked (when still warm) to give a sharp definition as these biscuits do spread a little
  • If you don’t have a tiny cutter for the centres on the top halves, then you can use the large end of a piping nozzle.
  • Makes about 13-14 finalised sandwiches (about 26-28 actual single biscuit shapes)
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Equipment

  • 2 large baking sheets, prepared with baking parchment/greaseproof paper or silicon sheets
  • Rolling pin
  • Small palette knife (or use the back of a spoon) for spreading
  • Large palette knife or fish slice (for lifting)
  • Large biscuit/cookie cutter – mine is 2.5 cm x 7.5 cm (3 Inch x 1 Inch), but use what you have available
  • Smaller cutter for the middle cut-out (I used a small flower shape but any small cutter, approximately 1.5 cm in diameter will do, or substitute a piping nozzle)
  • Wire cooling rack

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter – 200g
  • Caster sugar – 100g
  • Plain flour or Tipo 00 flour – 220g – plus extra for dusting
  • Fine semolina flour (semola) – 50g (see notes above: can use all plain flour or substitute rice flour)
  • Salt 1/2 tsp
  • Vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract – 1 tsp

Plus:

  • Choc-hazelnut spread (gianduja or Nutella or similar) – about 200 – 250g

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the biscuit dough together (all but the choc-hazelnut spread). Aim for a smooth dough but don’t overwork it
  2. You’ll need to dust both your work surface and your rolling pin quite liberally with flour for these biscuits (due to the high quality of butter in them)
  3. Roll out the dough to about 4mm thick and cut out the biscuit shapes with your cutter
  4. Make the biscuits in pairs: one solid biscuit and one biscuit with a little cut-out, using the smaller cutter (or piping nozzle tip)
  5. Re-roll any scraps (including those produced by little cutter) and cut out more shapes until you’ve used all your dough.
  6. You need to have an even number of biscuits to make the sandwiches, but don’t worry if there’s one rogue one, it can be eaten on its own or replace one that may have snapped!
  7. Make sure that for every complete biscuit there is a biscuit with a little shape stamped out
  8. Using the large spatula/fish slice gently place them on the prepared baking trays
  9. They will spread a little (especially if you miss out the next step of chilling) so leave some space between them
  10. Chill for 15 minutes, and while they’re chilling put your oven on – fan oven at 180˚C, or 200˚C conventional or 400˚F
  11. Bake in the bottom or centre of the oven for about 14 minutes. They should just be starting to brown at the edges
  12. Leave to cool for one minute – no more – and while they are still in the trays, use your small cutter to go over the cut-out shapes to sharpen them up. Leave tidying up these trimmed bits until the biscuits are fully cooled or you may risk denting the biscuits
  13. Leave to cool in the trays for a further 15 minutes and then transfer to the wire rack. Ensure they’re fully cooled before filling so they won’t melt the spread

To assemble

  1. Firstly, gently poke out any bits of biscuit within the cut-out areas to smarten them up
  2. Spread a thick layer of the chocolate-hazelnut spread over the bottom half biscuit (ie a biscuit with no hole in it) with a small palette knife or the back of a spoon
  3. Gently place one of the tops (a biscuit with a shape cut out) onto the biscuit base you’ve just covered
  4. Repeat for all of the biscuits and place on a baking tray or in any container and chill in your fridge for at least 10 minutes (this stops the spread melting into the biscuit and making it soggy, and helps with storage)
  5. You can keep them in the fridge, but they’ll also keep in an airtight container well providing it’s not in too warm an environment (otherwise the spread will start to melt)
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Sticky crumble topped gingerbread

imageSearching for a gingerbread recipe can be a bit confusing – for a start gingerbread can be a rich loaf cake, a pain d’epices, or it can be a crisp biscuit for gingerbread houses or little iced biscuits (see my own recipe for Gingerbread foxes). This is neither! Inspired in part by Grassmere gingerbread (a Lakeland classic) this is a gooey, soft biscuit with a spiced crumble topping and perfect for a Christmas treat.

Notes

  • Makes about 22 triangular biscuits, but you can chop them into any shape.
  • This is a double bake recipe, that is you need to bake shortbread first, then use this shortbread as part of the main bake.
  • These make awesome foodie Christmas gifts.

Equipment

  • small saucepan
  • small baking tray (about 18 cm x 24 cm)
  • parchment/baking paper/silicon mat
  • large bowl and a smaller bowl or cup
  • scales, measuring spoons
  • wire cooking rack
  • wooden spoon

Ingredients for the shortbread base

  • Plain flour – 145 g
  • Ground almonds – 30 g
  • Caster sugar – 70 g
  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 110g

Other ingredients

  • Light brown sugar or demerara – 70g
  • Ground ginger – 2 teaspoons
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
  • Golden syrup – 40 g
  • Treacle – 30 g
  • Unsalted butter – 50 g
  • Crystalised ginger – 55 g
  • Lemon zest – zest of half a lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C fan / 200 °C conventional
  2. Place some greasproof or baking paper in your baking tray
  3. Crumble the ingredients for the shortbread together in a bowl, mixing it in with your fingers until you get fine sand
  4. No need to roll out the shortbread – you are going to bake this as crumbs
  5. Tip the crumbed shortbread dough onto your baking sheet and spread it out so it’s in one thin layer
  6. Bake for 13-14 minutes until it’s starting to go a nice golden brown
  7. Remove and leave to cool a little
  8. Do not turn off your oven
  9. Crumble the cooked shortbread back into the bowl – leave the baking tray with the greaseproof paper to one side as you will use it again (and there is no need to lay a new piece of paper down)
  10. To the bowl, add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and the light brown sugar
  11. Mix thoroughly and ensure there are no large pieces of shortbread
  12. Spoon out about 25% of this crumble and put it to one side in a separate small bowl or cup
  13. Into the remaining shortbread crumble mix (still in the bowl) add in another teaspoon of ginger and the zest of half a lemon
  14. Finely chop the crystalised ginger and add that to the bowl as well
  15. In a saucepan, melt the additional 50 g butter with the treacle and golden syrup
  16. When melted (don’t let it bubble or boil) tip this into the crumble mixture in the bowl and mix it all together
  17. Pour this mixture out onto the lined baking tray and press it down so that it makes an even layer
  18. Bake for 10 minutes
  19. Remove the tray from the oven, sprinkle the reamining crumble (that you kept aside) all over the gingerbread. Even it out with your fingers or a fork and then press the crumble down slightly into the gingerbread (with your fingers or the back of a spoon)
  20. Bake for a further 4 minutes
  21. Leave to cool and cut into triangles or squares

image

 

Montelimar nougat

Nougat2.jpg

Now, I can’t deny it, nougat is one tricky thing to make. Strictly speaking it’s not actually difficult, but there is a lot of boiling hot sticky liquid and much concurrent multitasking.

I have made nougat a few times before and you can throw any nuts and glacé fruit in, add flavours and colourings, however Montelimar nougat should be almonds and pistachios only and no extra colouring.

As it is homemade and doesn’t include preservatives or other nasties, don’t expect it to last long as it will start to dissolve over time. To counteract this, keep it covered in the fridge. Another tip is that I always place rice paper in my tin and a layer of rice paper on top of the nougat: it seems to help.

Equipment
  • Two medium-large saucepans
  • Electric hand whisk or stand mixer (this will be nigh-on impossible by hand unless you’re Popeye)
  • Sugar thermometer (crucial)
  • Spatula
  • Bowl
  • Cake tin, roughly 20cm x 20cm (smaller and your nougat will be tall, bigger than this and you’ll have only a tiny thickness of nougat)
Ingredients
  • Honey (any) – 200ml
  • Granulated sugar – 250g
  • Liquid glucose – 25g
  • Water – enough to just cover the sugar and glucose
  • Blanched (peeled) whole almonds – 100g
  • Pistachios (unsalted) – 50g
  • Egg white – 1
  • Caster sugar – 1 tablespoon
  • Rice paper (optional, but does help)
Method
  1. Line the cake tin with rice paper, as you would if you were using baking paper. A good tip is to dot butter or margarine on the tin to stick the paper to it. Alternatively you can line with thick cling film (don’t use the cheap stuff or it will melt) – check the box if it can be used for blind baking it can be used here
  2. Cut an extra piece of rice paper, if using, the same shape as the tin base and leave to one side. You will use this to put on the top of the nougat
  3. Whisk the egg white with the tablespoon of caster sugar until stiff peaks, leave accessible to one side
  4. Warm the pistachios and almonds either in a saucepan, the oven or the microwave. They should NOT be toasted, just warmed through (heating them stops the nougat from seizing/hardening too quickly when you add them later)
  5. Heat the honey in one saucepan to 125C
  6. Heat the sugar, glucose and water (without stirring) to 140C
  7. Whisk the heated honey into the egg whites
  8. Now whisk the sugar and glucose mix into the honey too and continue whisking until it is starting to cool and begins to get very thick. This will be about 4-5 minutes (and is why it’s best not to try whisking by hand!)
  9. Now add the nuts and swirl through
  10. Pour the nougat into the tin. It will self-level
  11. Once level, top with the extra piece of rice paper
  12. Leave to cool thoroughly – a minimum of a couple of hours
Extra notes
  • When cutting, it is useful to run a sharp knife under a hot tap and to only lightly dry it – you’ll find cutting the nougat is easier this way
  • If it proves very sticky and goes runny quickly you probably didn’t get the sugar up to the correct temperature. Rolling in a little icing sugar may help
  • Keep the nougat covered and in the fridge. You’ll need to eat it within a couple of days. Usually not a problem, but it does mean that if you are giving as a gift you can’t make it too long in advance