I'm not really a biscuit baker. A cake maker, yes. But biscuits? Not so much.
I've never been able to find or create the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I make excellent shortbread, but will only make it if I have access to Guernsey butter- it's so much more delicious that way. Viennese whirls are a firm favourite- but, admittedly, a little faffy. Oat and raisin cookies are a bit too healthy for a bake, as far as I'm concerned. Which kind of leaves me in the situation where I don't want to make biscuits, because I can't work out what I want to put in them.
I think it's because I'm a perfectionist. Cakes I can do. I can make them pretty, uniform, artfully messy, covered in chocolate... They're my comfort zone. And while I'm not exactly uncomfortable making biscuits... I just don't.
However. I now work in an enormous open plan office, and making biscuits is suddenly a much better idea. You can make an enormous batch of biscuits so much more easily than making a huge batch of cupcakes. They're far more portable. And even those on perpetual diets will often nibble on a biscuit.
So on Sunday afternoon, after I got back from visiting Charlotte and Jenny, I are myself to making some Christmas biscuits to take to work. Seriously- a monkey could make these. Or a small child, so if you have one (or a monkey) if suggest making these this weekend. And if you aren't a fan of spiced biscuits? Leave them out. Add lemon zest. Or almond extract. Or anything, really. You could sandwich these with Nutella or jam and buttercream. Or you can do as I did and turn them into a festive feast (or cut them into animal shapes/ letters/ hearts/ flowers/ boats/ cars, and make them appropriate for any occasion).
They're also super popular- I've been asked to make them again so many times, and been told they're a sign I'll be a great wife. Not sure what baking has to do with being a great materfamilias but hey ho. I'll take it is a compliment.
Makes enough to feed my office. Which means "a lot".
200g caster sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Splash vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of a clementine (or tangerine/ satsuma/ orange)
275g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Red fondant/ smarties/ m&ms/ skittles
Festive shaped cookie cutters- I used stars, trees, and a gingerbread man
A piping bag
Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Place your bowl into the fridge until your dough is firm and stiff enough to roll out. If it isn't cold and firm, the shapes will spread in the oven and be a huge disappointment. Be patient. And preheat the oven to 170C
When your dough has firmed up, lightly flour a work surface. Grab a handful of your dough, and roll it out thinly. Cut out shapes and bake on a lightly oiled baking sheet for 10 minutes or until golden. You'll need to batch bake, so get a little assembly line going here- while one batch cools, get another in the oven and roll out a third. Leave any unbaked dough in the fridge for as long as possible.
When your biscuits are baked and cooled, decorate using white icing. Mix icing sugar with a small amount of water until a VERY thick paste forms. Spoon into a disposable piping bag, snip the tiniest hole in the end, and let your imagination run wild! Star biscuits make pretty snowflakes, gingerbread men are a classic, and trees can be done by zigzagging the bag down the length of the tree and plonking a star shaped sprinkle at the top.
To make a rudolf though... Turn your gingerbread man upside down. Pipe antlers on the "legs" turn the "arms" into ears, and dot eyes and a big red nose on to the head. Et voila! Reindeer, without a reindeer cutter. Genius.