A weekend of test runs: Santa Hat Brownies & Red Spiral Biscuits

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
2 eggs
300g soft light brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
15g cocoa
1/2tsp baking powder
Pinch salt

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(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.

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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.

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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.

Spiral Biscuits - the uneven layers are revealedRather unattractive log of goo, complete with pretty sprinkles Looking relatively good, if slightly uneven

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.

Oops.  A bit crowded.

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.

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A bit odd-looking but tasty, and valuable for the lessons I have learned in the process.

 

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