Note : I have had to re-publish this post as something weird happened to my computer and I lost it from the blog. Have no idea why or what happened. Sorry!
I can’t believe how close Christmas is and life is one big rush. It seems I haven’t sat down in days……………….. running from work to shopping to wrapping to blogging to driving my daughter from one activity to another (I cannot believe an 8 year old can have such a manic social life!)………. and finally to baking.
I have a whole list of things that need to be cooked and ready in time for Christmas. Breads, mince pies, trifle sponge, biscuits, sausage rolls, stuffing, mousse, fish cakes………… the list goes on and on. When you can’t eat gluten, it is tricky to get any of that stuff ready made and truly enjoyable, so for Christmas, you really can’t cut corners and the kitchen gets a lot of use. Doing a job right up until Christmas Eve adds to the pressure, so I try to pace myself as best I can and prepare and freeze as much as possible ahead of time.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some festive, decorated biscuits, so I have made some very tasty, sparkly Christmas trees to add to the spirit of the season.
Almond is (for me) somehow synonymous with Christmas. I have no idea why, other than to put it down to a flavour association with marzipan in Christmas cakes and Amaretto in trifles and those delicious little Italian amaretti biscuits. Whatever it is about, I have taken this connection as necessary to the time of year and have given these biscuits a strong hit of almond and combined that with one of my favourite pairings – cherry.
I made two batches of the biscuits – the first using freeze dried sour cherries. These biscuits were perfectly crisp as the dough was slightly ‘drier’, and the cherries gave a wonderful tartness against the rich, sweet, creaminess of the almond.
If you prefer a slightly softer, sweeter biscuit, the second option is a perfect alternative. I made batch two with some home-made candied cherries which I had in the fridge, preserved from earlier in the year. The recipe for the cherries can be found here and was originally sourced from The Perfect Scoop (David Lebovitz). Although these cherries were originally linked to ice cream making, providing you drain them thoroughly (you can use the syrup to make and colour your icing decoration), they work really well in biscuits too.
These biscuits have an almondy, gentle bite, interspersed with chewy sweet cherry pieces which make them last just that little bit longer and feel just that bit more satisfying. If you don’t have either cherry option available, any other type of preserved cherry will work just as well.
I decorated my trees with pretty sparkly stars made from shop-bought ready-to-roll icing into which I kneaded some edible glitter (as well as pressing a little into the top).
I think they look very pretty – my little sparkly pink Christmas forest! They taste wonderful too………..
I am entering them for three challenges this month………
My first AlphaBakes run by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes. The challenge letter this month is ‘X’. Perfect! Is that a fluke or what? Well ‘Xmas’ is good enough for me!
And finally, Family Foodies, the brain child of Louisa at Eat Your Veg and Vanesther at Bangers & Mash. December’s theme is ‘Kids Christmas’. Trust me…… my little one can’t keep her hands off these…… I am sure it is the taste she likes as much as the sparkle!
Almond & Cherry Biscuits
- Line 3 baking sheets with baking paper and preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- If you are using candied cherries, drain any excess liquid, by leaving in a sieve over a bowl for half an hour. Gently squeeze the cherries with the back of a spoon against the sieve to get as much liquid out as possible, before chopping them.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the almond extract and vanilla and beat thoroughly to combine.
- Weigh and mix the flours in a separate bowl, making sure any lumps are broken down.
- Add the flour and cherries to the butter-sugar and mix with a spoon until fully combined. You should now have a stiff dough.
- Roll out the dough to a depth of about 5mm on a large sheet of baking paper, sprinkled liberally with rice flour. It may help to also sprinkle the surface with flour or coat the rolling pin in flour.
- Using a cookie cutter, cut the biscuits into your chosen shapes and place on the baking trays. If the dough is too soft to lift easily, place in the fridge (on the baking paper) for about half an hour to chill and harden slightly (after rolling) as this will make it easier to form the biscuit shapes and transfer them. If you use freeze-dried cherries, you will get a firmer dough than if you use wet candied cherries.
- Continue the rolling and cutting process until you have used all the dough.
- Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the edges of the biscuits are just beginning to brown. Swap the position of the trays in the oven half way through the cooking process to ensure an even bake.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on the trays.
- Decorate as you wish once the biscuits are cold, or just eat as they are.