Christmas Cookies, or anytime-spiced-iced-cookies

At the recent sugar craftnight in TOG (our annual Xmas party where the crafters eat too much cake and biscuits and hot chocolate), I had a go off proper icing, with an icing bag and all, and decorated a rather dapper velociraptor (raptor made by Becky).  It was also my first go off making royal icing for decorating, and I quite enjoyed the whole thing, so went out and got icing gear and a Christmas tree cutter so I could keep icing at home.

Cookies

Christmas jumpers are only for cookies, not grown humans

So far as I can tell, the only thing consistent between royal icing recipes is that it contains egg whites and sugar. The methods aren’t all consistent, and things like the addition of lemon juice or glycerine seem optional, even the eggs to sugar ratio varies from page to page.  If you’re using the icing to decorate a cake, there’s probably a lot more effort to be put into beating it to make it stiff, but for piping on to biscuits and doing a flood fill, things are a lot more flexible.  Also, use gel food colourings if you want proper colour, the liquidy ones only work when they’re what your using to hydrate the icing as you’d need to add to much for a vibrant effect.

You can buy bags of powdered royal icing in the shops, so you can make up as much as you need.  Thin it out with lemon juice so you can pipe with it, and thin it out even further for flood filling areas that you’ve piped around the edges (see the Xmas trees, the edge is the boundary to stop the flood fill rolling off thet cookie).  The advantage of the powdered royal icing is that the egg whites are dried and mixed already, meaning you don’t have to mess around separating egg whites and feeding raw egg to people who don’t want it (and may not recognise that it’s in icing).

Pretty trees

The trees were flood filled after piping around the edges. They were decorated when the flood was mostly dry, so the icings merged a little.

Of course, what’s the point in iced cookies without cookies! Many thanks to Carri for the recipe which I have duly modified by chucking in some spices.  I’ll probably be more heavy handed the next time, but at this ratio, people who normally don’t like cinnamon or ginger did their best to eat the whole batch. You could also use vanilla in place of the spices, though I think cinnamon should be added to every baked thing (within reason, maybe).  Leave some undecorated for the people who don’t care for icing.

 

  • 225g butter
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 450g flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line some trays with baking paper. Get the wire cooling rack ready and a plate for cooled cookies too, as the cookies will constantly be going in and out of oven and you’ll need somewhere to put them. This recipe makes a LOT of cookies.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices and add to the mix. Knead briefly and roll out to about 5mm thick. Cut out with your preferred cutters, place on the baking tray (they don’t spread too much during cooking, but leave a little space between them anyway). Bake them for about ten minutes, until they are a pale golden colour. Let to cool for a minute before transferring to the wire rack (they’re a little fragile straight out of the oven). When they’re cold, move them off the rack to a plate, as the next batch will be out of the oven shortly.

showing off

The cookies should be golden before you turn them into instruments of sugar delivery

When the cookies are all made, make up the icing according to the pack. Take some of the icing into a new bowl and add the colour and thin with lemon juice until you can pipe it. If you want to floodfill, go round the outside of the area you want to fill, then thin the icing even further with more lemon juice so it’s pourable and you can fill the space on the cookie. The floodfill ends up paler than the outline if you simply thin the outline paste without adding more colour. Let the icing to partly dry at least before you move on to the next step. These cookies lasted about four days from baking, well they were finished within four days, so I’m not sure how long they’d last beyond it.

Modifying the lemon drizzle cake, a little

I love lemon drizzle cake. It’s really wonderful, and not so hard to make, and in my experience, (almost) everyone loves lemony cake. As I make this cake often enough, I made some adjustments to it, to see if the people who like it a lot could find it in them to like it even more!

Inspired by my labmate’s love of lemon and poppyseed cake from the canteen (I’m impressed, they didn’t mess up the cake), I threw a teaspoon of poppy seeds into the cake batter and baked like normal. The seeds give a gentle bite to the cake, it’s really wonderful.

Poppy seeded lemon drizzle cake

Lemon drizzle cake filled with poppyseeds and super tangy drizzle for my sister’s graduation

In addition, my beloved’s favourite part of the cake is the lemon drizzle part (and quite a few other people, I’ve found), so I doubled up on the lemons to make his face pucker up even more. I used the juice of two lemons for the drizzle but the same amount of sugar. The centre of the cake is the most dangerous for those of us who like moderately (rather than insanely) tangy cake, I have yet to master the art of getting the drizzle to hang around the edges. As the cake top is a bit wetter with the extra juice, only dust it with icing sugar right before you plan to show off.

The above pictured cake was dusted with icing sugar twice, once before heading to the university for my sister’s graduation (yay! she’s got a PhD now, in microbiology though, yucky), and then again when we got home and were about to eat the cake. The cake didn’t last long, but that’s ok, cause when you get a PhD, many people make cake, so there was carrot cake, caramel squares, and cheesecake too!

Lemon shortbread (for dipping in lemon curd)

Obsession with lemons you say? Who? Me? Surely not….

Intending to make lemon cake during the week, I bought a net of six unwaxed lemons in the supermarket. Sadly, I didn’t get around to it in time for my final day in my most recent lab rotation. So there were six lemons staring up at me for the past few days. Now, much and all as I love lemons, using all six at a go was going to be quite the feat, so I’ve done an experiment in lemon preservation (details to come shortly) and also made some curd. The curd used up two lemons. I used the zest of these two lemons to make the shortbread that follows (I decided I dont much like the bits of zest in curd, as my zester makes them too big).

Normally, Darina is my go to girl for kitchen help, but this time I followed Prue’s directions for shortbread, save that I substituted the rice flour for cornflour as I had that to hand. Rice flour and cornflour have no gluten in them, so when mixed with the wheat flour serve to reduce the overall gluten content of the biscuit to make it much lighter. Generally about a quarter of the flours is gluten free and the rest is wheat flour. Reducing the gluten content too much can result in a biscuit that disintegrates.

Lemon shortbread dough

Lemon shortbread waiting to go into the fridge. Admire my quality fork-pricking of the dough...

  • 110g Butter
  • 55g Caster sugar
  • Grated zest of two lemons
  • 40g cornflour
  • 125g plain flour

I used my Aldi chopper to speed things up, if you have a proper food processor, use that, if not bring your mixing arm to the gym…

Beat the butter to soften it. Cream in the caster sugar and then mix in the zest. Sieve the cornflour and flour together and add to the creamed sugar/butter mix (I dont tend to sift flours when using the chopper, it’s fiddly and I’m lazy…) Blitz until it just about comes together then turn out and give it one last mix. If you’be been doing it by hand, it’ll come together into a nice smooth paste round then.

Roll the shortbread dough out to about 1cm thick on some greaseproof paper (if you try to do it on the worktop, it’ll just smush into place and stick, even if you flour it). Cut into your desired shape (I went with fingers, for good dipping times). Lay on greaseproof paper on the baking tray. Prick with a fork all over, and right through to the tray. Put the biscuits in the fridge to chill until firm. Pre-heat your oven about now to 170°C (I used 160°C as we have a fan oven, damn, I miss conventional ovens).

When the shortbread has firmed up, sprinkle on some caster sugar, for that authentic shortbread look. Pop into the oven for about 20 minutes, until the shortbread has turned a pale golden colour. Prue recommends scooshing under the shortbread with a palette knife (who owns a palette knife like) after they come out of the oven, leaving to cool for 5mins and then transfering to a wire rack, but I just slid the baking paper off the tray on to the wire rack. Be careful though, hot shortbread is fragile, so if they overhang the rack, they’ll break or if you try to move them without COMPLETELY supporting the underside, they’ll break. When they’ve cooled they’re much more robust.

Serve with lashings of lemon curd and some coffee!

Lemony delight (where “y delight” = bars)

For Easter my lovely fella’s lovely mammy invited me over for dinner, so I had to bring something tasty. I’ve been meaning to make something lemony for a while, and so lemon bars were made. Unfortunately, they’re awful tasty, so I had a couple for breakfast, leaving not quite enough to go round after dinner….

The base is a sort of lightly crispish base, like that of the caramel slices, and the topping is a lovely sweet lemon curd. I’d imagine dropping some of the sugar or increasing the amount of lemon juice should increase the tang, or making icing using the juice of another lemon should get a proper wince going.

Lemon Slices

A tray of lemon bars after some had been taken away for *cough* ehhh, testing....

  • 175g plain flour
  • 125g butter
  • 50g granulated sugar (though I used caster and it was grand)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour (I used self raising even though recipe called for plain)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Juice and grated rind of one lemon
  • Whatever you’d like to top it with (icing sugar/icing/fresh air)

Preheat your oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin (mine was 18cm, first time I’ve ever bothered to measure).

If you have a food processor/chopper, you can use it here or you can do it by hand. Rub the butter into the 175g of flour until it’s like breadcrumbs, and then mix in the sugar (the 50g lot). Pour the crumbs into the tin and press down firmly. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.

While that’s cooking, prepare the curdy topping. Into your food processor/chopper/big bowl, add the sugar, flour, baking power and salt. I like to leave the wet ingredients until the base is nearly ready to come out of the oven. So you can use this time to get the rind off the lemon (this is a damned fiddly job, and I keep meaning to upgrade my zester). When the zest is off (add it to the dry mix above), roll the lemon firmly on the counter, and then juice over a sieve into a bowl (apparently rolling is supposed to get extra juice out by breaking up the insides a bit, either way rolling gets extra lemon smell onto your hands). Beat the eggs and add to the mix along with the lemon juice and whizz/beat well.

When the 20 mins for the base are up, it should be a nice light golden colour. Pour on the curdy mix and put back into the oven for another 20mins. The recipe reckons the middle of the cake should have a slight wobble and then it’s done, but I overcooked mine (25mins instead of 20) so no wobble (still tasted good though).

Leave to cool in the tin. You can dredge with icing sugar, or put a nice lemon icing on top, or you can do nothing like I did (I was running late, I’d probably have tried harder if I got up earlier). Slice into bars and serve with a bucket of coffee. The recipe claims 24 bars, but I think about fifteen good size bars is more like it.

Lemon curd buns

Inspired by a very tasty lemon curd muffin I got in the Kinsealy garden centre last week, I decided to make lemon buns and curd to go on top of them.

For the buns I used the recipe for lemon drizzle cake and spooned it into 15 bun cases and baked for about 20 minutes until set.

Happilly my net of lemons contained three, so after adding one the cake mix, I had two to make the curd. I had never made curd before, so I ended up scaling down Nigel Slater’s recipe and reducing the sugar for extra wince-inducing tang.

  • Juice and zest of two lemons
  • 90g sugar (even with 100g it will still be tangy)
  • 50g butter
  • One egg and one egg yolk

Set up a pot of simmering water with a bowl set over it so the bottom doesnt touch the liquid. (Lacking a proper sized bowl, I drop a tall cookie cutter into my smallest pot and balance my pyrex jug on top). Put the juice, zest, sugar and butter in to melt while you separate and beat the eggs. When the butter is fully melted, add the eggs, and stir with a whisk.
Stir regularly and cook the mix for about ten mins (according to Nigel, I ended up going closer to fifteen) until the mixture starts to thicken (like custard) and “coats the back of a spoon”. Then pour into a jar and leave to set, stirring occasionally.

Sadly mine was a little runnier than I’d have liked, but hopefully with enough time in the fridge, that won’t matter too much. The plan is then to smush it on to the buns and delight my lab colleagues tomorrow.

A glass ramekin of lemon curd

Deliciously face-scrunching lemon curd

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake

I have another lemon drizzle cake cooling in the kitchen right now.  Very very tasty and filled with the goodness of two lemons! (it’s not my fault if vitamin C is a delicate compound that doesnt like being heated…)

  • 125g/4oz butter
  • 175g/6oz caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 175g self-raising flour (sifted)
  • 2 lemons
  • 20g of sugar for the syrup
  • Icing sugar to dust

Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Grease and line a cake tin (the book suggested 16cm, I used a 20cm circle and made a flatter cake).
Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the beaten egg, a little at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour after each addition. Then add the zest and juice of one lemon, mix well, and pour into your tin. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until golden and set. You can leave it to cool in the tin on a wire rack or turn it out, both work grand sure.

Zest the remaining lemon and keep aside. Add the juice of the remaining lemon and the 20g of sugar to a pan and heat gently (the original recipe suggested 25g, but 20g works out grand). When the sugar is dissolved, simmer for 4mins. Poke lots holes in the cake with a cocktail stick and pour over the syrup. When the cake is cooled, dust with icing sugar and sprinkle on the zest.

Nom nom nom!