What’s not to love about Christmas tree decorations which look fantastic, taste fab and are fun to make (especially if you have some helpers for the decorating part)?
This recipe – which has a hint of orange to balance out the festive spices – makes 40-odd biscuits and keeps so well you will probably only have to make one batch of dough to have enough fresh biscuits right through to Twelfth Night. It’s even freezable for the real in-advancers.
The biscuits need to be strong enough not to break once hung on the tree, which is why I use a recipe containing treacle. A biscuit which starts off soft won’t last long at all.
400g plain flour, plus a few tablespoons extra
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp ground ginger
2tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g dark muscovado sugar
125g black treacle
zest of a large orange
1. Sift together into a large bowl the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt.
2. In a different bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and smooth. Mix in the egg, treacle and orange zest. Add the flour mixture and use a spoon to bring it all together. It’ll start off being quite sticky but then as the flour gets to work the stickiness will go. Bring it into a dough with your fingers.
3. Lightly dust your work surface with a little flour. Tip the dough out, roll it in the flour and briefly knead the dough until smooth.
The dough will need to rest for a few hours or overnight before you bake with it – that just makes it easier to roll out. This is also the point when you have to decide how much of this mixture to use at one go. I split it into three. Each third will give you probably a dozen biscuits, which is as many as I want on the tree at any given time. Wrap each piece of dough in clingfilm. Put the one you’ll be baking with first and one other in the fridge. It will be fine to use up to a week after initial making. Put any other dough in the freezer and just remember to take it out to defrost the day before you want to bake with it.
When it comes to baking time, you will need:
– Biscuit cutters – think trees, stars, angels etc.
– Whatever colours and edible decorations tickle your fancy. Glittery ones look lovely with the tree lights.
– Ribbons or string to attach your biscuits to the tree.
– 2 baking trays lined with baking paper
– Rolling pin, palette knife and cooling rack
– Drinking straw
2. Dust some flour onto the worktop and get rolling. Roll out the dough 2-3mm thick, carefully cut out your shapes and use the palette knife to lift them onto the baking trays.
3. Now is the time to make the hole that you want to put the ribbon through to hang them from – if you only make the hole after the biscuits have been baked then they are bound to break. Gently put the end of the straw wherever you want the hole to be. A teeny-tiny star cutter works well too.
4. Bake for 6-8 minutes – until nicely brown and crisping up. It is absolutely fine if the biscuits are slightly soft when they come out as they will harden up as they cool. The ribbon hole will have closed up slightly, so as soon as they come out do the straw again. Lift onto a cooling rack – the biscuits must be thoroughly cooled before storing or else they’ll go soft.
Once the biscuits have cooled down you can get to it decorating them. We like to use those small squeezy tubes of icing – they’re great for letters or drawing the features onto a snowman. With some ribbon or string threaded through, you’ll be all set to hang the biscuits on your tree, stand back and go ‘ahhh’.
They’ll last – and can be eaten – for up to a week. After that there’s handily more dough already done in the fridge/freezer to make some fresh ones with.