This is the recipe for the biscuits that my mother (and now I) make each Christmas. They are part of the traditions I have for this time of the year.
Once cooked these biscuits are hung on the tree and spread their glorious spicy aroma through that room. During this time they go from hard and crispy (and not so flavoursome) and become softer and chewier and the taste develops.
Makes approximately 36 big biscuits, and a similar number of small ones.
My mother halves the quantities, I don’t as I just love these biscuits and often give them as gifts.
Time: approx 6 hours
- Preparation ~ 1 hour,
- Resting for 3 hours or more,
- Baking in batches ~ 1 hour,
- Decorating time an hour (or more)
Ingredients for the biscuits:
- 200g (7oz) Icing Sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon each of ground ginger, cinnamon, ground/grated nutmeg, and ground cloves
- 70g (6oz) honey
- 1 flat teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 480g (17oz) plain flour
- Egg for brushing
This recipe was written in Imperial measurements, and I’ve included them in this as the conversion to grammes is rough.
- Heat oven to 200C (400F / gas mark 6)
- Large bowls
- Whisk (preferably an electric one)
- Cookie cutters (simple shapes work best as the biscuits spread)
- Baking trays
- Cooling trays
- Knitting needle
- Sift together the flour and the bicarbonate of soda.
- Whisk the eggs with the sugar until very thick and creamy.
- Beat in the powdered spices
- Warm the honey in a small thick saucepan until tepid (warm enough that you can comfortably dip your finger in).
- Pour the warm honey into the egg mixture, whisking all the time.
- Beat in flour.
- Knead resulting paste until smooth (it is fairly soft and sticky).
- Pat into a round and cover with a cloth (clingfilm) and leave in a cool place for at least 3 hours.
- After resting, knead the paste again briefly (to warm it up).
- Roll out on a well floured board to 1/4 inch thickness.
- Cut into shapes or make pretzels and place on a baking tray (covered with baking paper) leaving room for expansion (they grow)
- Pierce biscuits with thick knitting needle (or use a smaller shape, which is what I do).
- Brush with egg.
- Bake for 7 mins or until golden.
- Leave them to cool for 30 seconds on the baking tray. They’re really gooey when really hot and this stops them distorting when you take them off the tray.
- Clear or enlarge the hole with the knitting needle whilst they’re still warm.
- Set on a rack to cool
Keep them in an air tight container until they’re ready to hang. They can keep about a week in a box, and last up to a week on the tree before they become a bit stale (still taste good, just not quite as good).
This is where you can get creative, and when I was a child we used to pipe each of the biscuits with icing and add slices of glace cherries, strips of candied angelica and edible silver balls to them. This took quite some time and kept me amused for most of an afternoon (How much my Mother enjoyed it I don’t know). You could colour the icing if you wanted and can get really fancy.
However, I don’t make that sort of icing for my Christmas cake (and my piping skills are a bit rubbish). Instead, I use ready-to-roll icing to decorate, as I often don’t have time to do anything fancy and I like the simple white. I use the same size star shapes to cut the icing, which I’ve rolled as thin as I can. I use homemade quince jelly warmed and brush it onto the biscuit to stick the icing on. Sieved apricot jam would work just as well.
I then use gift wrapping ribbon to thread through each biscuit so it can be hung on the tree. This is another reason I have the large cut outs: easier to thread.
So that’s my Christmas tree biscuit recipe.
Let me know how you get on if you decide to do this yourself.