Carpe diem

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Right, let’s do this.

I don’t usually get the Christmas decorations out until about a week before the big day but this year, which let’s face has not exactly been vintage – corked more like – I feel the need to squeeze every last merry drop out of the festive period.

The thing is, everyone (me included) keeps banging on about what a shocker 2016 has been, but really the shit hasn’t hit the fan yet. It’s going to get a whole lot worse – next year and beyond – before it gets better.

So I say carpe that diem. Embrace the tinsel, big up your baubles and party like it’s your last (which of course, it could well be). In any case, the world seems an infinitely better place when illuminated by fairy lights.

The best Christmas gingerbread ever

img_3386This recipe is based on one given to me by my marvellous mum-in-law, who every year makes the most amazing gingerbread house that actually tastes as good as it looks. Roll the dough out thick and bake quickly and it has a moreish fudgy texture, or roll it thinner and it’s as good as those spicy little flower biscuits you can buy from IKEA.

This recipe probably makes enough dough to fashion a small house, although I wouldn’t know as I’ve never tried (nor do I intend to), but the scaled down amounts (in brackets) will make a batch of smaller biscuits enough to decorate your tree or dunk in tea for at least a couple of days.

  • 250g (85g) unsalted butter
  • 200g (70g) dark muscovado or dark brown sugar
  • 7 tbsp (3 tbsp) golden syrup
  • 600g (200g) plain flour
  • 2 tsp (3/4 tsp) bicarb of soda
  • 4-5 heaped tsp (2 tsp) ground ginger (more if you like it hot)
  • 1 heaped tsp (1/2 tsp) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp (pinch) ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp (pinch) ground nutmeg or equivalent of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 level tsp (generous pinch) saltimg_3388

 

  1. Heat the oven to 180°. Line two large baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, bicarb, spices and salt, then stir in the melted butter mixture and mix to form a stiff dough, adding a splash of water if necessary to help it along. Wrap dough in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for 30 mins.
  4. Roll out dough to the thickness of 2 pound coins (or thinner for a crispier biscuit) and cut out desired shapes. If using the biscuits as tree decorations, cut a hole in each biscuit (I used a pen lid), then bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes (12 minutes for larger slabs) until golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack, re-punching the holes if necessary while the biscuits are still warm. When cool, string through ribbon, hang on the tree and admire your work while polishing off all the ones that, ahem, “broke” in the process.

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