Tiny Tasty People

Apart from ginger flavoured baked products, my other favourite thing about Christmas is that it is socially acceptable to eat tiny baked people.

I feel that eating such people head first is the kindest way, because it ensures a clean and quick end to their misery, and is also the weakest point of the biscuit.

Squishy sogginess It was too squishy to make into a single ball

Given how I feel about this, you’d think I would be the first to blog about the spiciest gingerbread (people) biscuits, but the fact is that I haven’t yet found a homemade gingerbread biscuit that I liked. I enjoy eating gingerbread biscuits that other people have made, but if I’m going to make them myself, I want something really dark and spicy. And crisp, not cakey or chewy. So, in lieu of gingerbread people, I get my eating-tiny-people fix from other other baked goods.

But. As with all baked goods requiring the use of cutters, mince pies are a pain in the behind.

Yes that's a koala. My bookmark. Yes, that's the hobbit. I'm going to watch the movie this weekend (in 3d!)

First you mix up the crust dough, then you chill it. Then you take it out and roll it a bit. It refuses to cooperate and sticks to the table because you used too little flour on the surface and it’s warm outside. You put it back in the fridge. Repeat this about 6 to 8 times, and you will feel how I feel about making biscuit cutter snacks.

I think it’s something about Christmas, I magically forget every year what complete bullocks these types of foods are to make and how they take 3 hours or more and how I get so sweaty and angry that I very seriously consider feeding the remainder of the raw dough to my dog (try not to do that, it might not be good for dogs depending on what you’ve made).

These are the standard (larger) pies

I suspect it’s because I usually freeze my mince pies after baking them earlier in December, so by the time I get to eat them on Christmas day, I have forgotten how much the process of making them irritated me.

Pretending to be an angry cannibal, ginger spice, and Christmas. Some things in life just go together.

And these are the mini pies. Meet the Fat Man and Spooky Lady

Christmas Mince Pies

Crust adapted from the Patchwork Apple Pie recipe (doubled).

2 jars of mince pie filling – I used Robertsons, vegetarian and alcohol free
1 small red apple – the addition of apples is my way of bulking up the mince pie filling
1 small green apple

500g flour – I used gluten free
100g sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Pinch of salt
250g butter – cold and cubed
2 large eggs

Extra flour for rolling
Egg wash – an egg beaten with a little milk
Copious amounts of patience
A cup of tea – to prolong aforementioned patience

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C, for half an hour
Yield: 36 mince pies – I had 24 large and 12 slightly smaller pies, as well as a little family of shortcrust people

  1. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the lemon zest.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the butter cubes and flour mixture until the texture of the mixture looks like sand.
  3. Turn out into a bowl. Directly crack in the 2 eggs, and use your hands to get everything to stick together. You have to keep going for a quite a bit, I realise last time I probably stopped a bit early which is why my dough never came together.
  4. Cover dough and put it in the fridge to firm up.
  5. Peel and core your apples. Cut them into 8ths, then slice those 8ths into thin strips. Mix into the mince pie filling in a big bowl.
  6. Flour a surface and roll out your dough. You need quite a lot of flour because it’s a bit sticky, watch out!
  7. Use a round biscuit cutter / your mother’s fancy dinner party wine glass to cut out rounds. Put each into a hole in a greased cupcake tray and press in.
  8. Spoon in a little mince pie filling / apple mixture.
  9. Use a fun cutter to cut out the pie cover, and carefully place it on top of the filling. It doesn’t need to touch the sides of the pie, or be crimped or anything complicated. I used stars, hearts, trees, fat men, and spooky ladies. I have squirrel and snail cutters somewhere too but I couldn’t find them.
  10. Dab with egg wash, and stick it in the oven for half an hour.
  11. Cool in the cupcake tray.

Notes: freezes well in an airtight box layered with baking paper.

Happy unsuspecting pastry family

On the reasons why I bake, in particular Chocolate Biscuits

Today’s biscuits are to say thank you. Also to say, hope you feel better. To separate people, of course. It doesn’t detract from the gesture at all because I did everything at the same time and made everyone the same thing, right?

Learning to bake was a conscious decision that I made because I think it’s a useful skill. I find baking pretty difficult, and I’m not that good at it. It’s not like normal cooking, where you can throw things in and it usually turns out alright because it can be “fixed”. With baking, once it’s gone in the oven, that’s that. You can only stare through the door willing the cake to rise, or the biscuits not to burn. Because if you open the door, bad things happen.

Ready to bake!

But, I realised that it’s a good skill to have. People seem to appreciate home made things 1000x more than anything you can get in the shops, even if they don’t taste as good. Also, it’s an easy way to say hello, thank you, please like me, hope you feel better, or basically any other  sort of relatively friendly sentiment. It’s also a relatively cheap present that people seem to find especially meaningful, because you did it yourself. Never mind that it actually took less time and effort to bake up a tub of cookies or a nice springy cake than go to the shopping centre and pick out a present.

If you leave them out in the humidity they soften

Hah. This is one post I hope too many people don’t read. Or it might not work anymore. See, I’m honest. Hrm.

I plan to reduce the sugar to a total of one cup next time…I felt these were still a bit sweet.

Chocolate Wafers

A Joy of Baking recipe, but I plan to make some changes next time and will update! To get as many biscuits as in the picture, I doubled the recipe.

1 cup / 130g flour
1/2 cup / 50g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teasp baking soda
1/4 teasp salt
3 tablesp / 45g butter – at room remperature
3 tablesp / 45g margarine
2/3 cup / 140g brown sugar
1/2 cup / 100g white sugar
1 teasp vanilla extract
1 large egg white

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C

  1.  Beat butter and margarine until mixed well.
  2. Add sugar and vanilla extract, mix.
  3. Beat in egg white.
  4. Mix up the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Dump in the flour mixture  into the butter mixture and beat until just combined.
  6. If you are in a hot climate like me put it in the fridge for a bit to harden….
  7. Either:
    1. Make logs and wrap them in cling wrap, then put them in the fridge for a bit, or in the freezer for storage. When ready to cook, slice about 5mm thick and dump on a lined baking tray.
    2. Take a spoon and plop little biscuitlets on to a lined baking tray.  Try to make them approximately the same size, and flatten the tops a bit.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes, remove and cool. The tops should have puffed up and cracked a little. They harden as they cool.

Note on humidity: these don’ t do too well if you leave them out in the tropical heat, the humidity turns them into brownie-type cookies. Still good, but I like mine a bit crunchy.

Chocolate Colgate Cookies

I truly believe mint and chocolate are one of the best pairings in the universe. Naysayers don’t know what they are on about. Mint chocolate is the classy lady of chocolate, the one with the long silk arm gloves and the little cigarette on a stick sitting in the large leather armchair in the lounge. Drinking tea. I like tea.

However, it hurts me deeply to admit that in this instance the mint essence that we had chosen did taste like colgate. But well, who wouldn’t want to brush their teeth with chocolate? Add some fluoride and I can see a market for these at the chemist. Jokes aside, after a day the mint flavour evened out and they tasted like the mint cookies they were born to be. And I recommend that you buy a better quality mint extract than we did. A real proper fancy one (three cheers for Fairprice!)

Chocolate Colgate Cookies

Loosely based on Smitten Kitchen: Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Flour – 2 cups
Cocoa powder – a couple of table spoons
Baking soda – 1/2 teaspoon
Salt –  1/2 teaspoon

Melted butter – 3/4 cup / 170g
Brown sugar – 1/2 cup / 100g
White sugar – 1/2 cup / 100g
Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
Peppermint extract – 1 teaspoon
Whole egg – 1
Egg yolk – 1

Chocolate chips – the more the merrier

Oven temperature – 165°C

  1. Preheat your oven. It is not appropriate to use a charcoal oven as one might confuse one’s cookies with the briquettes.
  2. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. It’s best to use a sieve.
  3. Cream melted butter, and brown and white sugar until well mixed.
  4. Best in the vanilla, peppermint, egg and egg yolk. Mix into the sifted dry ingredients until just blended.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and stir by hand. More chocolate chips will result in more chocolate power.
  6. Plop cookie dough on to oven sheets a tablespoon at a time. They will look rather suspicious. Plops should be about 3 inches apart.
     
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, more or less depending on the size of your cookies. These were about teaspoon sized and  they came out fine.  Cool fully on a wire rack for a crunchy chewy minty fresh chocolate cookie.

A word of warning: when opening the oven to remove the cookies, CLOSE YOUR EYES! Else you will be blinded by the minty freshness that is the mint extract fumes. Unless you have fire-proof eyes, please close them, it’s painful!