Through the wonders of Pinterest, I have found a couple of festive baking projects I want to serve this Christmas but I am always keen to do a test run of something new, to get my inevitable rookie mistakes out of the way so that I’ve got a better chance of achieving something lovely the second time.
My first festive baked treat is Santa Hat Brownies. I only used the original recipe for its presentation idea, opting for a tried-and-tested brownie recipe (the best I’ve found so far) instead of the recommended one:
90g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
150g unsalted butter
300g soft light brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
1/2tsp baking powder
(Preheat to 180c; Bain Marie chocolate & butter then cool a little; beat eggs then add sugar & vanilla; fold in chocolate; stir in dry ingredients; bake in lined tin for 25mins.)
Instead of the usual vanilla extract, I used this paste, in which you can see the teeny tiny vanilla seeds. Lovely flavour and worth investing in.
I used a small round cutter to create canapé-sized bites. The original recipe used buttercream to create the white fur trim on the Santa hats but I suspect this might be a bit of a sugar overload so I have chosen whipped cream instead. It’s brilliantly simple: pipe cream onto each brownie bite, top it with a (in my case, environmentally-unforgivable Egyptian) strawberry, and top that with a whipped cream bobble. Pleasing.
The other idea I half-inched from Pinterest was one for festive-looking red spiral biscuits. The recipe was written by an American blogger (with gorgeous culinary ideas), so required a little conversion/translation into UK terminology [yes, I know cup measurements are not British but we can at least get cup measures here which, to the best of my knowledge, is not the case for cake flour]:
2 cups cake flour (measure 2 cups plain flour, remove 2 tbsp from each cup and replace with equal amount of cornflour)
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup unsifted icing sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
283g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp flavouring (e.g. strawberry – I didn’t bother with this)
½ tsp food colouring
Hundreds & thousands
Have a 2 tbsp flour on hand in case your colouring and flavouring knocks the texture out of whack.
This recipe required a little creativity as I don’t have a food processor. I started by using a stick blender, which I hoped would do the same job but unfortunately its little blades got rather clogged up with the butter and it started to buckle under the pressure of the job, so I used a combination of wooden spoon and Kitchen Aid to finish combining. The batter is pretty sticky which makes it tricky to handle at times, but it produces a wonderfully light,short, buttery biscuit. Must remember next time to roll the layers more thinly (and more precisely) so that it’s easier to roll up into a uniform spiral.
Must also remember next time to give each biscuit much more space, because they spread quite a lot when baking. Square-ish spirals – not so pleasing.
Also must line the sheet – as the recipe states – with baking paper rather than Lakeland’s wonderful foil-backed parchment, as the edges of the latter start to curl in the oven and push the edges of the biscuits back, which does not a perfect batch of biscuits make.
A bit odd-looking but tasty, and valuable for the lessons I have learned in the process.