Candy Cane Cut-Out Cookies

It was time for a post festive season clear out of the snack-shelf* and I came across the remnants of the candy canes. A little the worse for wear and held in shape only by their cellophane wrapping.
Most normal people would have just dumped them in the bin, but I’ve never in my life claimed to be normal so it was into the kitchen they came to be used in ….. something…. The something turned out to be cookies, not your ordinary cookies, but cut out cookies of course!

I have a nifty little cutter that cuts holes in the centre of your cookie shape, but if you dont have one all you need is one large ( 4-5 cm) and one small (2-3cm), which will do the job perfectly.

This is a great bake to do with small people it’s a lot of fun with tasty and good looking results. We got a little carried away ( I know, you’re stunned) and decided to colour our dough as well, this is not strictly necessary, but it is really pretty 🙂

If you don’t happen to have any candy canes kicking about in your kitchen then any kind of boiled sweet or hard candy will be fine.

This recipe should yield between 20-30 biscuits
*it started out as small persons snack box, but has gradually grown and taken over a whole pantry shelf. Oops.

Candy Cane Cut-Out Cookies

225g Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
150g Butter
75g Sugar
25g Icing Sugar
1 beaten Egg
5 Candy Canes ( or a handful of boiled sweets )

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Cube the butter and rub into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and stir in then sift the icing sugar and mix well. Mix to a stiff dough with the beaten egg then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed well.

The next step is optional 🙂

Split the dough into 3 roughly equal parts and add a few drops of food colouring to each part and kneed until you get an even colour. ( it’s advisable to wear some gloves at this point unless you want technicolour hands for the rest of the day.

Place the dough into plastic bags and chill for at least 30 minutes.
roll out dough
Roll out your dough to between 1/4 and 1/2 cm thickness, cut your shapes and place onto greaseproof paper (VERY important not to bake them directly on the baking tray /cookie sheet).
place cookies on paper
Take your candy canes or boiled sweets and smash into small pieces, place a small piece of candy into the hole of each cookie.
place sweets in centreNow… you can of course reuse the ‘middle bits’ and re roll, or… you could place them along side and have lots of very cute tiny biscuits too 🙂
Place in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees and bake for between 10 and 15 minutes. Take them out as the cookie begins to brown and the candy is a bubbling liquid.
take out of oven
Leave then on the tray for 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack as this will allow time for the candy to solidify.
cool on paper first
Once completely cooled store in an airtight container, or just eat them straight away!!

yummy cookies

Advertisements

Cranberry, Orange and Cinnamon Muffins

Happy New Year!

Yes I know, it’s a little belated but we have all been under the weather here in the last few weeks, fortunately Christmas itself was sickness free, but we’ve been making up for it since…

Now that the veil of flu is lifting from HillyWillys house, it’s long past time to get back into the kitchen.

After the most wonderful Christmas eve meal small person and a sumptuous dinner from Hubby the kitchen has been a relatively HillyWilly free zone. Time to put that right 🙂

But what to cook? After the excess eating of Christmas and new year I thought perhaps I should try something slightly less …. decadent, but still super tasty of course so I have opted to give you some healthy, low fat muffins, I can assure you they are still delicious and as they are lower in fat that means you can eat more of them…… 😉

Cranberry, Orange and Cinnamon Muffins.

300g flour
1tsp Baking Powder
25g Brown Sugar (plus a little extra to sprinkle on top)
1tsp Cinnamon
1 Orange (zest and flesh)
100g Dried unsweetened Cranberries
100ml Skimmed Milk
100ml Orange Juice
1 Egg
25g Salted Butter ( melted )

About an hour before you are ready to bake soak the cranberries in the orange juice. This will give them a nice plumpness and add a bit of sharpness to the flavour.

20130108-162305.jpg

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Add to this the zest and flesh of your orange and the drained cranberries and stir well.

20130108-162430.jpg

In a separate bowl beat the egg and add the milk and orange juice and stir well. Melt the butter and whisk it into the liquid. If you wish to substitute the butter for sunflower oil you can do so, but don’t forget to add a generous pinch of salt.

Add the liquid to the dry bowl and beat until fully combined.

20130108-162524.jpg

Divide the mixture into muffin cases ( this amount should make 12) and place in a preheated oven.bake at 200degrees for 20-25 minutes.

20130108-162638.jpg

When the muffins come out you can if you wish add a sprinkle of brown sugar to the top, or if you are being really good you can skip this step 🙂

20130108-162729.jpg

Allow to cool and enjoy.

A Bientôt.

Flu.

Just a few quick words today. Flu is completely rubbish.
We are playing a family game of pass the virus at the moment. Thankfully it would seem that my turn is coming to an end, but it’s hubbys turn now…. Normal service will be resumed when the sick room is less busy than the kitchen…..

Until then I wish you all health, good food and happiness.

A Bientôt

Chocolate Chestnut Chili Torte

I had this idea a while ago and thought it would be a most excellent dessert for christmas.  I’ve been  Waiting ever since. Amidst all the preparations all I could think about was finally getting to make (and more importantly, eat) my pud, and hope it was as nice as I thought it was going to be.

Well the waiting is over and I can assure you it was most definitely worth the wait 🙂

There are a few flavours in here, but they complement each other wonderfully well.

Chocolate Chestnut Chilli Torte

  Chilli Pastry

200g Flour
100g Butter (diced)
50g Chilli sugar*
1 Egg (beaten)
Icing sugar to roll out pastry and sprinkle.
(* if you don’t have any chilli sugar there is a method here, or you can add 1tsp of chilli flakes and 1/4tsp of chilli powder to regular granulated sugar)
 Chocolate torte

200g Dark Chocolate

100ml Cream

100g Marzipan

50g Chestnut paste

7 whole cooked Chestnuts

Icing sugar to dust

Cut together the butter and flour until there are no large lumps left. I have this nifty little pastry cutter gadget, but a knife works just as well, but a bit slower. Finish by rubbing the flour and butter through your fingers until the mixture looks like sand. Add the sugar and mix well.

Gradually add the beaten egg and bring together with a fork. You only really need a few spoonfuls of the egg s you don’t want your pastry too wet. When it starts to go sticky on your fork use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball. If its too dry add a little more egg, if it’s too wet add a little more flour.

Kneed well until smooth and crack free, place in a polythene bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour before rolling.
roll out pastry to 1/2cm
Once the pastry is chilled roll out to about 1/2cm thick. You will need the pastry to be relatively thick as there is a point with this torte when you will be using your hands and you don’t want it to fall apart when you pick it up.
Press gently into a greased and floured tin and blind bake* for 25 minutes.

*To ‘blind bake’ you need to cover the uncooked pastry with a sheet of baking paper and weight it down with pastry beads or uncooked rice and place in a pre-heated 180degree oven.
cover and blind bake pastry
Take the pastry from the oven when it has started to brown around the edges and allow to cool completely. When it is completely cold remove the beads/rice and paper .
baking rice
Roll out marzipan to about 1/4cm and line the pastry shell.
Spread a generous layer of chestnut puree on top of the marzipan.
The reason for the marzipan, should one be needed, is to stop the chestnut puree soaking into the pastry and making it soggy. And it tastes fantastic.

chestnut paste

Place the dark chocolate in a bowl over boiling water and when it has melted stir in the cream. It takes a few minutes for the cream and chocolate to combine so stir gently until the mixture is smoothe dark and runny.

heat chocolate and cream

Take from the heat and stand for 5 minutes before pouring into the pastry shell.
???????????????????????????????
Now you have to be patient. Set aside to cool for an hour and when the top of the ganache is set arrange your chestnut pieces gently on top. Now leave the torte to cool completely either in a cool place overnight or in the fridge for a few hours.
???????????????????????????????
When the torte is solid, you are free to enjoy 🙂

I would recommend serving with a little cream or creme fraiche. The pastry is not overly hot and the chocolate ganache complements the hint of chili without ambushing it completely. But in the wise words of small person “don’t eat the pastry on its own…get me some water”!

???????????????????????????????

A Bientot.

Red nose Reindeer Biscuits

It’s become something of a tradition that I bake a batch of christmassy biscuits for small ones class just before the holidays and I saw these and thought they were perfect.

But I must begin with a confession.

This blog post features my 2nd attempt at these biscuits.

When I made the first batch they didn’t turn out so well.  I saw pictures posted on-line by the lovey Alex at Sugar Plum Patisserie and got over excited, grabbed the cookie dough that was languishing in the bottom of my fridge and started baking.

Well had I actually thought about it I would have realized that the dough in my fridge was far to soft and would totally lose any shape that I had moulded it in as soon as I put it in the oven, and the decorations would not stand up!
The results were tasty, but the look was … not quite as intended.
In the ever sobering words of small person “I like your biscuits mum, but why have you made them with big bushy eyebrows?”

Time for a second attempt.

Red Nose Reindeer Biscuits (mark 2)

For the sugar dough

sugar dough ingredients

400g Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
225g Butter
200g Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla essence

For the decoration

decorations
Chocolate chips
Salted pretzels (traditional knots snapped in half)
50g dark chocolates (melted)
Small red sweets (smarties, jelly sweets, foam strawberries. All are fine!)

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, add a teaspoon of flour with each egg to avoid curdling.

making the dough
Add the vanilla essence and beat well.
Sift the flour and baking powder and fold in gradually.
When the mixture comes together turn out onto a floured surface and kneed till smooth.

Dough!
Place the dough in a plastic bag and refrigerate for minimum of an hour.

Roll out your dough and cut into triangles.
Place the triangles on your baking sheet and pinch the top corners to make ear shapes.

pinch to make 'ears'

Bake at 170 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until just turning golden brown.

Now you have to work fast.

First take your pretzels (2 for each biscuit) and push them into the top of your biscuits to make the antlers. Then take chocolate chips and press into the biscuit to make the eyes. This must be done when the biscuit is still soft, or they will fall off when you move them.

pretzels and choc chips

Allow them to rest on the baking tray for 5 minutes, then move them to a cooling rack.

When the biscuits are completely cool, melt the chocolate and spread a small amount on the bottom of your triangle.

chocolate nose

While the chocolate is still warm press a red sweet into it, then allow the chocolate to harden completely.

Rudolph!
Not a bushy eyebrow in sight.

These are such a fun Christmas treat for kids and also great for kids to make with you.

I hope you enjoy them as much as small persons classmates did!

A Bientôt.

Cinnamince PIes

Cinnamince Pie

Mmmmmm Mince Pies

I’m just putting it out there; I LOVE mince pies.

One of the best things for me about the build up to Christmas is the smell of mincemeat gently bubbling inside a crispy pastry shell. Oh just thinking about it makes me want to sing carols and stuff my face with pies – not at the same time obviously, that would be gross.

For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about,  the humble mince pie is a singularly British concoction that starts to appear around mid-November, hangs around for the festive season then disappears for the rest of the year. It is a small sweet pastry shell filled,  not with minced-meat, but with mincemeat. I hope that’s cleared that up.

I’ve been making my own mincemeat filling for a few years now, as it tastes so much better than shop bought,  and of course you can monkey around with it till it tastes just how you like it .Home-made mincemeat is VERY easy to make, but rather time consuming so its best to prepare it reasonably well in advance. The joy of this is that when it comes to actually making the pies, it takes a matter of seconds to fill the pastry cases.

You also get to monkey around with the pastry shell. Some people favour puff pastry, but my preference is definitely shortcrust and of all the different types I’ve tried out, my absolute favourite for mince pies is sweet cinnamon pastry.

This is my favourite mince pie combination to date, I hope you enjoy.

Mincemeat
(can be made up to 3 months in advance… definitely jar it and  leave it overnight before baking. This recipe makes around 1kg.)

200g Apples ( peeled cored and finely diced)
100g shredded suet
175g raisins

100g sultanas

100g currants

175g Brown sugar

1 Orange ( rind and Juice)

1 Lemon ( rind and juice)

2 tsp mixed spice

½tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

4 tsp Armagnac

4tsp Amaretto

add juice to fruit and nutsSimply put all of the ingredients, except the brandy and amaretto, into a large bowl, mix well and leave covered with a cloth for at least 12 hours.

place in an ovenproof dish and bakeStir the mixture well and place in a large dish and bake at 120 degrees for 2- 2&1/2 hours ( dont let it get too dry).

Take it out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

jar and top with greasproof paperOnce cooled stir in the brandy and amaretto and spoon into sterilised jars. Top with greaseproof paper and seal jars.

Cinnamon pastry

200g Flour
100g Butter (diced)
50g Cinnamon sugar*
1 Egg (beaten)
Icing sugar to roll out pastry and dust finished pies. .
(* if you don’t have any cinnamon sugar there is a method here, or you can add 1/4tsp ground cinnamon to regular granulated sugar)

ingredientsCut together the butter and flour until there are no large lumps left. I have this nifty little pastry blender gadget, but a knife works just as well, but a bit slower. Finish by rubbing the flour and butter through your fingers until the mixture looks like sand.

blend pasrtyAdd the sugar and mix well.

Gradually add the beaten egg and bring together with a fork. You only really need a few spoonfuls of the egg as you don’t want your pastry too wet. When it starts to go sticky on your fork use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball. If its too dry add a little more egg, if it’s too wet add a little more flour. (reserve the remaining egg to brush the pastry).

gradually add egg

Kneed well until smooth and crack free, place in a polythene bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour before rolling.

ball pasrty dough, then refrigerateWhen your Pastry is cold and a little stiff, sprinkle your work surface with icing sugar and roll out to desired thickness ( I like about 1/4cm). Cut a large circle and a star for each pie.

roll and cut pastryGrease and flour your baking tin ( I prefer to use a deep tin as this tends to minimise spillage from over boiling in the oven), lightly place your pastry circle into the tin then spoonabout 1&1/2 to 2 tsp of mincemeat into each case. Gently place your star on top and brush with beaten egg.

fill and top piescook  in a 200 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brow. Remove to a wire tray and allow to cool for 5 to 10  minutes.

Cinnamince PiesWhen still warm, dust with icing sugar and eat immediately. You’ve waited long enough 🙂

You can serve with cream or crémé fraîche and i can assure you that they are just as tasty cold ( if they make it that far)

A Bientôt.