Christmas… ‘Tis The Season of Giving

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

The build-up to Christmas was upon us again. Naturally we were caught up in the excitement of it all, and were inspired to make baked gifts!

I made gingerbread cookies for a friend who had kindly agreed to take care of Molly, our little Cavalier King Charles spaniel, as we made the annual pilgrimage back to the family home in Malaysia. I decided to call them the Gingerbread “Super” Men and Ladies, because that’s what they looked like after we piped on little ‘bibs’ to make the letters stand out. Pretty cute : )

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Hello, I’m just your average Joe gingerbread man

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    With my house…

The gingerbread recipe was based on Sweetapolita’s, although I increased the flour and sugar ratio to give the gingerbread more crunch. I also changed the ratio of molasses as I prefer my gingerbread a little lighter but still retaining the taste of treacle-y goodness.

    “Suped up” and super grateful gingerbread men and ladies!

For her office’s Secret Santa present swap, Kit made a hamper full of festive goodies – maple pecan granola, spiced mixed nuts, black plum & apricot jam, cranberry, and white chocolate & cranberry cookies.

Handmade and made to be eaten… can’t think of a better Christmas present to get!

    Purty presents!
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    Maple and granola – a great breakfast combination : )

Recipes are provided below.

PS. Sorry that this post is a little (or very) late. We have lots more posts to work on post-holiday period… Hope you enjoy!

Gingerbread “Super” Men (and Ladies)
Recipe adapted from Sweetapolita’s Jumbo Gingerbread Folk
Yield: 20 medium-sized cookies

Ingredients
4 cups / 512g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons / 6g cinnamon
2 teaspoons / 6g ground ginger
1/2-3/4 teaspoons / 5g salt
1/2 teaspoon / 3g baking soda
1/2 teaspoon / 1.5g ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup / 1 sticks / 114g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup / 176g packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup / 100g granulated sugar
1 large egg, cold
3/4 cup / 125 ml molasses or treacle
1 teaspoons / 5 ml pure vanilla extract

Instructions
1. Sift together the dry ingredients – flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, baking soda, cloves and nutmeg.
2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and beat in the egg (one at a time if multiplying recipe), scraping sides of bowl between additions. Add molasses and vanilla and beat until completely incorporated.
3. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Dough should be soft (not dry or crumbly) but not sticky. If sticky, add a few tablespoons of flour until desired consistency is achieved.
4. Remove 1/2 of dough from bowl, make a ball, and place on a large piece of plastic wrap on counter.Wrap the sides of wrap over the ball, then press down with the palm of your hand and make a disc about 2″ thick. Finish wrapping the disc with the plastic wrap. Repeat with 2nd half of dough. Chill both discs of dough for at least 2 hours.
5. Remove and unwrap one disc. Place on top of a large piece of lightly floured parchment or wax paper, then place two 1/4″ wooden dowels on either side of your dough, then another sheet of parchment paper.
6. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) until it’s flush with dowels. This ensures that your dough is even thickness.
7. Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C. Slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or freezer for 15 minutes (or more).
8. Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters or template of choice, placing them on a baking tray lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment paper), leaving about 2 inches around each cookie and the edge of the tray. Put the tray & cookies into freezer for 15 minutes before baking.
9. Bake for 7 minutes, tap tray on counter, and return to oven, rotating the tray. Bake until edges just start to brown, about 6 more minutes. (Be careful not to over-bake, or cookies will be dry.)
10.Cool cookie sheets on wire racks for 20 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling. If cookies are too fragile, you can cool completely on trays.
11. Decorate the gingerbread men and ladies with royal icing as you please! (Yes, the feminist in me insists on not forgetting the ladies!)

Royal Icing

Ingredients
2 cups / Approx 227g confectioners’ or icing sugar
1 1/4 tbsp/ 10g meringue powder
Approx 1/5 cups / 45ml water
Clear-coloured flavoring / extract, e.g. almond, rosewater, clear vanilla extract

Instructions
1. Wipe down electric mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) using a paper towel and a few drops of lemon juice.
2. Combine all ingredients (except water) into the mixing bowl and mix on low speed for 12 minutes.
3. Slowly add the water 1 tbsp at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.
4. Keep royal icing covered at all times with plastic wrap or a damp towel. The icing can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 3 days.

Maple Pecan Granola
Recipe adapted from Martha Strewart’s Maple Granola
Yield: 7 cups

Ingredients
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried unsweetened coconut chips or shredded coconut
1 cup pecans, quartered
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup cranberries or other dried fruit (optional)
Dried fruit isn’t normally an “option” for us when it comes to granola, but in this case it was omitted since there was a lot of fruit in other parts of the hamper : )

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 300°F/150°C.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, nuts, syrup, oil, sugar, salt, and nutmeg.
3. Spread granola in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
4. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, for 40 minutes. This granola was made pretty crispy so it was baked a little longer. Granola burns easily and it can be easy to burn the nuts or other components earlier too, so it’s important to keep an eye on it.
5. If using dried fruit, add it in the last 10 minutes of baking.
6. Let cool completely. Preferably let the granola cool in a room-temperature baking sheet, as the hot baking sheet will continue to cook the granola.
7. Granola can be stored at room temperature in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.

Spiced Mixed Nuts
Recipe adapted from Giada de Laurentiis’ Spiced Cocktail Nuts

Ingredients
Vegetable cooking spray or butter for greasing
2 egg whites
2 cups roasted and salted almonds
2 cups roasted and salted cashew nuts
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp Madras curry powder
2 1/2 tsp Tom Yum powder (available from most Asian supermarkets)
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp garlic salt
1 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions
1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 250°F/120°C. Spray or oil a baking sheet liberally.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the nuts and stir until coated.
3. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, curry powder, tom yum powder, cumin, garlic salt, cayenne pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon.
4. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the nuts and toss until coated. Arrange the nuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake for 45 minutes until golden and fragrant. Cool for 1 hour.
6. Using a metal spatula, remove the nuts from the baking sheet and break into bite-sized pieces. The nuts can be served immediately or stored in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

Black Plum & Apricot Jam
Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients
1 green apple, peeled, cored and chopped into 1 inch / 2cm chunks
4-5 overripe small black plums, pitted
4-5 overripe medium apricots, pitted
1 cup sugar
Approx 1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Instructions
1. In a small saucepan, cook the apples with 2 tbsp water over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until the apples have softened into a pulp. Apple provides pectin and gives the jam
2. Add the plums, apricots, sugar, cinnamon (if using) and remaining water to the mixture.
3. Cook, stirring continuously for approximately 10 minutes or until the jam reaches the desired consistency. Be sure not to overcook jam, and remember that the jam will thicken as it cools.
4. Store in sterilized jam jar(s). Jam will keep for 2 weeks at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge.
5. To sterilize the jam jar(s):

  • Carefully fill a tub with hot (boiling water)
  • Put in your jar(s) of choice, ensure that the jar fills up with water so that it doesn’t float to top.
  • Leave the jars in the hot water for 5 minutes.
  • Using a pair of tongs, fish out the hot jar(s).
  • Fill the jar(s) with jam – remember that the jam and jar(s) must be the same temperature, otherwise the glass jar(s) might crack.
  • White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies
    Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s book, “Baking – From My Home to Yours”
    Yield: Approx 20 cookies

    Ingredients

    Instructions