Ok…… I know Christmas is still a way off, but November always signals the need to at least start thinking about the big event, and in particular the annual present-choosing saga. With each passing year, I seem to find it harder and harder to get my head around what to buy for who. It seems that these days we live in a society where people buy what they want, when they want it. Money seems more easy come – easy go…… which means less stuff ‘on the list’ when we ask ‘what do you want for Christmas?’.
So what to do? Edible and home-made presents seem to become more popular the older you get and are always well-received. They show thought, care and love, not least because someone has spent precious time and effort making them with you in mind.
Chutneys, jams, sweets and of course, biscuits make for great home-cooked presents, because they tend to have a reasonable shelf-life and can be wrapped and presented with all sorts of creativity.
I love to dress up edible presents with pretty cups, plates, plant pots, glasses, etc which will have good use after the Christmas celebrations. Christmas decorations – baubles, tree decorations, candles and the like add colour and festive spirit to the seasonal presentation.
With that in mind, I have started to plan for and test possible Christmas present fare……. These biscuits are a perfect gift. I have made them gluten free (of course), but I am sure that with a couple of minor tweaks and substitutions, they can be made with usual plain wheat flour.
The flavours in these biscuits sing Christmas……. plenty of sweetly warming spiced cinnamon and ginger……. a hint of exotic nutmeg…….. all carefully balanced with a mingling of tangy orange and contrasting nutty pecan.
The aromas in the kitchen as they bake are a clear indication that it is time to embrace the steady movement towards the annual celebration…….. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and orange are so intwined with culinary Christmas expectations, that their olfactory significance is unmistakable.
This bake is soft, but still quite crisp. It melts creamily in the mouth with a comforting soothingness that is perfect for cold winter days and hot fireside nights. Coupled with the slight crunch from the nuts, they are the perfect adjunct to soft mousse or ice cream………. ideally matched with a steaming cup of coffee, chocolate or tea……. and hand-dippingly addictive eaten just as they are, straight from the biscuit barrel.
The orange-infused white chocolate drizzled across the top adds an extra touch of decadence, which marries amazingly well with the alluringly-spiced biscuit, and draws out and highlights the orangeiness hidden within the main bake.
Add a touch of edible glitter to make these biscuits really special and full of festive sparkle!
On the presentation-front, I found some delightful little Christmas snow-flake mugs in Sainsbury’s. Being more traditionally ‘teacup’ shaped, have an extra-wide rim, making them ideal for filling with and displaying the biscuits. I also found some very cute little yarn elves in Tiger, which were too adorable not to pop in alongside.
I am sharing these amazing biscuits with a few challenges this month :
Treat Petite, this month being hosted by Stuart at Cakeyboi (with Kat at The Baking Explorer), who invite us to share a foodie ‘Thankyou’. These tasty, pretty stars make a perfect gift, however you dress them up.
Christmas Spiced Star Cookies (makes approx 30 to 35 medium star biscuits)
1 large egg
210g gluten free plain flour mix
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (Note : slightly reduced amount following updated testing (18.11.17)) – Leave out if your flour blend already contains Xanthan Gum
½ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
good fine grate of fresh nutmeg
30g pecans – finely chopped
White Orange-Chocolate drizzle
100g good quality white chocolate
¼ teaspoon orange extract
edible glitter to decorate
- Cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg, vanilla and orange extracts and orange zest and beat to thoroughly incorporate.
- In a separate bowl, weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and chopped pecans.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir thoroughly with a wooden/silicone spoon or spatula until you have a thick, even paste.
- Divide the mixture in half and wrap each in cling-film. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the dough to firm up.
- When ready to roll, line 2 to 3 baking sheets with baking paper.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out each half in turn on a sheet of baking paper sprinkled with cornflour to prevent sticking, using a rolling pin (dusted with cornflour) to a thickness of about ¼ inch.
- Using a cookie cutter, cut shapes from the dough and place on the baking sheets with a small space between each (the dough should not spread much when baked). Bring together any remaining dough, re-roll and cut until all the dough has been used (if the dough becomes soft and sticky, chill to firm again before re-rolling).
- Chill the dough shapes before baking in the fridge for about 20 minutes and pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Bake for 6 to 12 minutes (dependent on the size of the cookies) until the edges are very slightly darker and set. You may have to bake in several batches dependent on how many cookies you have made.
- Leave the hot cookies on the tray to cool and firm. For the crispest cookies, turn the oven off when all the cookies are baked and place the cookies back in the oven as it cools.
- When the cookies are cold, make the chocolate drizzle by melting the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl either over a saucepan of simmering water or in the microwave (set to medium on 20 to 30 second bursts) stirring frequently until smooth and liquid.
- Stir in the orange extract until completely combined and then quickly drizzle over the cookies.
- Sprinkle with edible glitter (if using) and leave to set completely.