From Denny: Nigella Lawson is such a joyful spirit and I always enjoy watching her. Her recipes are easy too. These cookies are so easy she says that they can't be ruined when children are involved in the merry making. Now there's nothing better than that endorsement! You don't have to stress about perfection and the kids don't have to stress about getting criticized for making a mistake. This cookie dough is very forgiving - as we all should be this holiday season. :)
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Video: Nigella's Tasty Christmas Treats
Edible Christmas Tree Decoration
From: Nigella Lawson
Makes: approx. 35-40
Nigella: I couldn’t have Christmas without these, or at least, not happily. Rituals are essential to give us meaning, a sense of ceremony, and making these peppery gingerbready edible decorations is how I have always marked with my children that Christmas had begun.
For the cookies
• 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
• Pinch of salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
• 1 stick (8 tablespoons) soft butter
• 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
• 2 large eggs, beaten with 1/4 cup runny honey
For the icing and trimming
• 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 2 tablespoons meringue powder
• Edible gold or silver sprinkles
• Florists’ ribbon for hanging
Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and pepper in a food processor and, with the motor on, add the butter and sugar, then, slowly, the beaten eggs and honey, through the feed tube, though don’t use all of this liquid if the pastry has come together before it’s used up.
Form two fat discs and put one, covered in plastic wrap or in a resealable bag, in the refrigerator while you get started on the other.
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Then dust a work surface with flour, roll out the disc, also floured, to about ¼ inch, and cut out your Christmas decoration with cutters of your choice, which could include fir-tree shapes, angels, stars, snowflakes, and so on.
Re-roll and cut out some more, setting aside the dough scraps from this first disc, well covered, while you get on with rolling out the second. When you’ve got both sets of leftover clumps of dough, roll out and cut out again, and keep doing so till all the dough’s used up.
Now take a small piping nozzle and use the pointy end to cut out a hole just below the top of each cookie (through which ribbon can later be threaded).
Arrange the pastry shapes on the lined cookie sheets and bake for about 20 minutes: it’s hard to see when they’re baked, but you can feel; if the underside is no longer doughy, they’re ready. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Mix together the confectioners’ sugar with the meringue powder and 3 tablespoons water, beating it until it’s thick enough to be able to cover the cookies with a just-dripping blanket of white. Carefully ice the cold decorations, using a teaspoon (the tip for dripping, the back for smoothing), and scatter sparkles or sprinkles as you like. When the icing is set, thread ribbon through the holes and hang on you tree.
Christmas Chocolate Cookies
From: Nigella Lawson
Makes: approx. 24
Nigella: I love these dark, fat patties of chocolate shortbread exuberantly topped with festive sprinkles. There’s something so cheering about the sight of them, but they have more in their favor than looks: They are a doddle to make, and meltingly gorgeous to eat.
• 2 1/4 sticks (18 tablespoons) soft butter
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
For the festive topping
• 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 1/4 cup boiling water, from a kettle
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Christmas sprinkles
Preheat the oven to 325 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl and, when you have a light, soft whipped mixture, beat in the 1/3 cup cocoa powder (sifting if it is lumpy) and, when that’s mixed in, beat in the flour with the baking soda and baking powder. Or just put everything in the processor and blitz, if you prefer.
This mixture is very soft and sticky and I find it easiest to form the cookies wearing my disposable vinyl gloves, so pinch off pieces about 1 tablespoon in size, roll them into balls, then slightly flatten into fat discs as you place them, well spaced, on your cookies sheet; you should get about 12 on at a time.
Bake each batch for 15 minutes; even though the cookies won’t feel as if they’ve had enough time, they will continue to cook as they cool. They will look slightly cracked on top, and it’s this cosy, homespun look I love.
Remove the cookies sheet to a cold surface and let it sit for 15 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack, with a sheet of newspaper under it (to catch drips while topping them).
To make the topping, put the cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, water and vanilla extract into a small saucepan and whisk over a low heat until everything’s smoothly combined. Take off the heat for 10 minutes.
When the cookies are cool, drizzle each one with a tablespoonful of chocolate glaze — to glue the sprinkles on in a minute — using the back of the spoon to help spread the mixture, though an uneven dribbly look is part of their charm. After you’ve iced 6 cookies, scatter with some of the Christmas sprinkles, and continue thus until all the cookies are topped. If you ice them all before sprinkling, you will find the cocoa “glue” has dried and the sprinkles won’t stick on.
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