Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas special #8: Christmas biscuits

Photo by Elena Heatherwick. Decorations by Recipe Rifle

Another Jamie Oliver recipe. The dough quantity here makes loads of biscuits - at least 30 depending on how big your biscuit cutters are.

I decorated these using Dr Oetker's writing icing, available from Waitrose, but any writing icing, sprinkles, or silver ball decorations will do.

So here we go:

210g plain flour
pinch salt
1tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarb soda
125g butter, cubed
100g sugar
1 egg
4 tbsp warm golden syrup

1 Preheat oven to 190C or 180 for fan ovens.

2 Mix together the first 6 dry ingredients. I recently learnt that swizzling dry ingredients with a whisk does pretty much the same job as sieving.

3 Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture is crumby then add the egg and the syrup and mix with a spoon - not a fork or a whisk or it'll all get stuck between the spikes and drive you mental.

4 You ought to have a fairly soft dough by now, depending on how accurately you manage to measure out your syrup. Too much syrup - very easily done - and you'll have to compensate with a bit more flour.

This dough at the best of times is quite soft and fragile. It breaks away and flops out of shape quite easily - so don't lose heart if you only manage to get 2 out of every 3 dough-shapes safely onto your baking tray. A useful tool to have at hand is a fish slice or any other slim, flat metallic thing to slide your shapes off the worktop.

This dough rises a bit, so best to roll it out quite thin - about 2-3mm. If you want to use these as tree decorations, poke a hole in the top before baking.

5 These biscuits are incredibly sensitive to individual oven strengths. Mine has a fan and is brand new and is a very unsubtle creature - she is the BA Baracus of ovens - and so I only needed to do these biscuits for 5 mins at 180C.

Your oven will be different. So my advice is to start off by baking one or two biscuits at 190 for 10 minutes and take it from there. What you're looking for is a nice golden colour but a still a fraction of give in the middle of the biscuit. When they come out of the oven, they will still be squidgy and will harden on cooling, so wait 5 mins before testing their done-ness.

Decorate when cool.

A note: Babies seem to go completely nuts for these, especially those teething. It's the ginger or something - and the fact that if you drool a lot over them they turn into a sort of cakey consistency. If you wanted to do them especially for a baby, you could halve the quantity of sugar, (or cut it out completely depending on how sensitive you are about that sort of thing), and then cut them out quite thick, like a rusk.


  1. Being an English girl living in America, golden syrup is hard to come by & if I can get it, it's quite pricey. Can you suggest an alternative or do I have to schlep out to Whole Foods & re-mortgage my house for some (please say the former!!)

    Thank you.

  2. Ah haaaaaa, that's a good question.

    I would say off the top of my head you can probably substitute Corn Syrup. Or, even more off the top of my head, half molasses - which I understand is a thing you can purchase in the US but not really in the UK - half corn syrup.

    Can anyone else be more accurate?

  3. The Twitmob says that dark corn syrup is practically the same thing.

  4. paying it forward blog style:

  5. Thank you! I will have a go with the dark corn syrup and let you know.

  6. Can I be geeky here and go on a little about golden syrup please? Ok. So golden syrup is a type of 'partially inverted sugar syrup' and quite recently I discovered that it is formed by adding an enzyme to a sugar solution which breaks some (but not all) of the sucrose into a mixture of glucose and fructose. It is called 'inverted' sugar syrup because it rotates light in the opposite direction to normal sugar syrup. I believe corn syrup is a good substitute, but some other christmas biscuits are made with honey (notably lebkuchen) which would also work.

    Thanks for the 'swizzling with a whisk' tip, I hate sieving!

  7. I love saying "Dr. Oetker". Especially putting on a cheesy advertising voice and saying "Ristorante, Dr. Oetker's authentic Italian pizza"'s lonely working on your own.

  8. I love your blog, so sweet and endearing and British.

    Oh, I am so, so pleased you are testing out recipes with a nuclear powered fan oven, it is possibly as ferocious as mine. I made gingerbread that was marked at 40 mins at 200 degrees in 25 mins at 180 (on the third try!) just recently. I was not amused. Aha, these biscuits I got to get right first time. You are a star.

    As to the syrup, I could possibly find some kind here in France, and I was tempted to just put runny honey. In the end I opted to throw another egg in and they look and taste perfectly acceptable. Probably not as good as the original, but fine enough and will ice up pretty as can be just the same.

    Thank you for saving me from more burnt offerings from that oven.

  9. Made these this morning, you're not wrong about what a soft dough that is! Worth it though, they taste great and my 3 year old loved decorating them. I didn't know when to put the sugar in? Guessed it was after the "crumbing"...?

  10. Hi Alison

    Sorry - that's a bit confusing. The sugar counts as a "dry ingredient" so you bung it in the bowl with the spices and flour at the beginning. But, you could add the sugar after the crumbing too and it wouldn't make much difference.

    E xxx

  11. Aha, I see - am too much of scientist cos I counted the sugar as the 7th dry ingredient! Worked anyway, thanks!