If the weather outside is frightful – but your fire is quite delightful – then get cooking some Christmas treats for Santa and Rudolf to go under your tree.
I’d like to say that the tradition of leaving cookies and mulled wine for Santa Claus is lost in the mists of time, but unfortunately, Wikipedia has well and truly rained on that mystery parade. eHow even has a guide of how to set up your milk and cookies under the tree.
This year, I’ve decided to make a double treat for Santa. Rich gingerbread biscuits inspired by Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and some luscious orangey mince pies for Santa.
Rudolf Gingerbread Biscuits (aka cookies)
100g dark brown sugar
25g caster sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground ginger
3 tsps of black treacle (Molasses)
500g plain flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
Milk for mixing
Royal icing for decorating
Ginger caramel sauce for putting your cookies together
A few cranberries for noses
Preparation – line two a baking trays with parchment or greaseproof paper and heat your oven (see temperature below).
1. Put your sugars, butter, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, ginger and treacle into a pan and bring to a gentle boil. Leave to boil for a few minutes before removing from the heat.
2. In the meantime, mix your flour and baking powder together.
3. Make a well in your flour and add the treacle mixture and beaten egg.
4. You’ll need a combination of spoons to work this together. Stir around in your well until the flour gets caught up – a bit like a whirlpool.
5. If the mixture doesn’t come together, then add in drizzles of milk to form a soft, squishy dough.
6. Leave to rest for an hour in the fridge.
7. Roll out onto a floured surface.
8. I kept mine quite thick so I could get chewy cookies, but you can roll them thin to get crispy thin biscuits.
9. Bake in the oven at 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for about 10 minutes.
10. When they are cool, roll out the royal icing and cut more snowflake shapes. Use the ginger caramel to fix the icing to the biscuit and more to fix on the cranberry nose.
11. Ta da! Gingery biscuits.
Orange zesty Mince Pies
The pastry for this recipe was taken from Nigella Lawson – who always turns what was already delicious food into something even more magical. This pastry is buttery and spiced with cinnamon, orange zest and brought together with orange juice.
I always treat my pastry with cold hands and a cold knife and try not to touch it too much. I find a cold marble surface also helps when rolling it out.
1. First of all – get yourself some cold hands. Hang them out the window, run them under a cold tap or press them on the window.
2. Put the butter, lard, flour and sugar into a bowl and rub through your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. Lift the flour and butter mixture into the air while you do this so you keep everything nice and airy.
3. Throw in your orange zest.
4. Pour in the orange juice a bit at a time using a knife to bring it all together.
5. Leave to chill in the oven for 30 minutes.
6. Roll out and cut into circles.
7. Butter a cupcake/muffin tin and pop your circles in.
8. Fill with mincemeat.
9. Put either lids or pastry shapes on top and brush with egg.
10. I cooked these for around 15 minutes at 175oC / Gas Mark 4.
I used some old mince pie mixture that I made last year and used this recipe. But you can use store bought mincemeat too.
Apparently, mince pies used to contain odd things like herring, in the 1600s they used tripe and in Victoria’s time – beef. Yuk!
And there they are nestled under our enormous Christmas tree.
To serve: Grand Marnier (orange liquer) whipped cream
The results: Oh you can tell when pastry is good when you lift the little pies out of their baking holes and you get a powdery residue on your fingers – the sign of a flaky buttery pastry. The whipped cream helped to cut through the rich mincemeat and the little orangey zing was lovely.
Growing up – Christmas always meant a new book. Usually an addition to our Tintin or Asterix collection or a Judy Blume or Paula Danziger. These days I get lovely big cookbooks like Momofuko or Heston Blumenthal’s wonka-like creations. Boxing day is usually spent salivating over the pictures. I’ve listed a few new and nostalgic children’s books to read this Christmas.
Letters from Father Christmas (JRR Tolkien)
I stumbled across these by accident in my research. For 19 years, The Hobbit author, penned letters from Father Christmas to his children telling them about the misadventures of the North Polar Bear and Illbereth the Elf. I had never hear of these before – but they are now on my Christmas wish list.
Click here for a slide show that was posted by the New York Times with some of Tokien’s drawings.
(Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler)
These are beautifully illustrated by Axel Schiffer of Gruffalo fame. I actually found this book a bit sad, especially when his family are alone on Christmas morning without the daddy stick – because a dog has stolen him. There is a LOT of peril in this book – but thank goodness Father Christmas comes to the rescue. I think I like this so much because the pictures are so rich and ‘meaty’.
Babar & Father Christmas
(Jean de Brunhoff)
I always looked up to Babar, King of the Elephants as he dealt with the pesky Rhinos. They all had very 19th century French names like Ernest, Celeste, Pom, Flora and Alexander. It was quite a colonial series of books. Wikipedia even goes as far as calling Babar a ‘benevolent dictator’ who has lots of advisors, but does whatever he wants anyway – its just luck that it always seems to benefits the other elephants. In this book, Babar goes on a quest to find Father Christmas and discovers that he lives in a land called, Bohemia!
This Parisian boarding school always seemed a great place to be. With lots of identical beds and adventures around the city. I loved the giant oversized books from the Madeline series – the pages were so big you could almost get lost in that old house in Paris that was covered in vines, with twelve little girls in twelve little lines.
In Madeline’s Christmas – Madeline ends up looking after all the other flu-ridden kids, until a mysterious stranger bearing mysterious rugs allows them to all have a great adventure.
“That’s it. There isn’t anymore.”