Spice Up Your Christmas (Tree!)

The festive season means many things, but to me, on the inevitable taste and sensory level that I seem to have as a default mode, December means spices. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, oranges, all spice, and so much more. Jewelled colours, rich aromas, and warmth to counteract the wintry chill.

There are so many ways to incorporate this – strategically placed bowls of satsumas, a pot pourri made of dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and juniper berries, and of course, spiced biscuits!

I love making these gorgeous spiced biscuits that can be used as decorations for a few days before being eaten.

Although based around a gingerbread recipe, if you don’t like gingerbread, leave the ginger out and use other spices – all cooking should be adapted and a creative therapy in itself.

This is a lovely family activity, both creatively and food skills and health-wise. Spices are wonderful for health, as are herbs. Sprinkle around liberally, and add to everything!

Christmas Spiced Tree Cookies

175g dark muscovado sugar
85g golden syrup
100g butter
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
350g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat the sugar, golden syrup and butter until melted. Mix the spices and flour in a large bowl. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in 1 tsp cold water. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the melted mixture, the egg and the bicarbonate of soda solution. Mix well. At this stage the mix will be soft but will become firmer as it cools in the fridge.

Cover the surface of the biscuit mix with cling film and leave to cool in the fridge for about 1 hr or until it is firm enough to roll out.

Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to make a little more pliable. At this stage the dough can be wrapped and kept in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen. Roll out to around 2-3 mm thick. Cut into your favourite seasonal shapes, then transfer to baking trays, leaving room for them to spread. If you plan to hang the biscuits up as decorations, make a small hole in the top of each one using a skewer. Repeat until all the dough is used, or freeze any leftovers for later, to keep the decs going all Christmas – they will get eaten after all!

Bake for around 12-15 mins until they colour a little. If the holes you have made have closed over while baking, remake them while the biscuits are warm and soft using a skewer or knife. Cool for a few minutes on the baking tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool and allow them harden up completely for decorating. Decorate with icing, edible glitter, or any other decorations you fancy.

If hung up on the tree or around the house, the biscuits will be edible for about a week, but will last a lot longer as decorations. Maybe make in the few days before Christmas for decs that last through the celebrations for some new year nibbles!

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