Food blogs have been awash with cookie recipes recently – those to eat, then & there, those to share with visitors and those to pack up and post off to deserving friends and relations. I have been busy with a variety of recipes this year – some new and some old. But rather than describe all in detail, here is a round-up of my Christmas baking:
Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies
These come from a book purchased in America – appropriately enough, the The All-American Cookie Book, and have been a favourite for some time. They are apparently from a bed and breakfast known as Dairy Hollow House, and guests would be presented with one giant cookie in a little bag for their journey home. They are subtly spiced with ginger and cinnamon, and are crispy with just a little chewiness at the centre.
Inspired by Orangette‘s Meyer lemon sables, and by the Buy One Get One Free offer on Marks & Spencer‘s clementines, I made these little chill-and-slice shortbread biscuits. My genius discovery is that sanding sugar, used for decorating cakes and cookies, especially in America, can be very cheaply and easily substituted by preserving sugar.
I have never made gingerbread men before, but the Christmassy-ness of them, plus the opportunity to play with icing faces and buttons proved too much to resist. I came across various ginger biscuit recipes at Chocolate and Zucchini, 101 Cookbooks and in several of my books, but in the end, I stuck to Nigella’s Britishness in How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. My only adjustments to her recipe were to reduce the black pepper, and to replace this by ground ginger. The biscuits were appropriately stiff and plain, but the spices developed beautifully over time, and now, a week since baking, they are very fragrant – although the icing did end up sticking them together in the cake tin.
I love chocolate macarons de paris, and have bought them from many places, including Miette bakery at the Ferry Plaza building in San Francisco, and from the Yauatcha concession at the Taste of London exhibition this year. However, since my first attempt at baking them myself at cooking school came out badly, I haven’t really attempted them again. The main problems are 1) that characteristic smooth and shiny top and 2) the requisite chewiness combined with good chocolate flavour. There is no doubt that it is much easier to make them in the UK, where finely ground almonds are easily obtainable than to grind them yourself. This time I followed Flo Braker’s quite precise instruction in her book Sweet Miniatures – some worked very well, others stayed crackly, but they all tasted pretty good 🙂